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He'd never admit it, but standing in the kitchen with a split lip and his father screaming at him - little flecks of spittle dotting his face and arms - all Theon could feel was relief. He lifted his chin and willed his face to do its impression of what fury might look like. Defiance. Outrage. Pride. But like always, he was having trouble keeping a straight face.

"You may be my son, but you are no Greyjoy!"

And the old man was more right than he knew when he blamed his son's degeneracy on his relationship with the Stark family. Specifically Robb Stark. And more specifically, the way Robb Stark bit his lip.

They'd both been drunk, but looking back on it Theon supposed he must've been way ahead of Robb, as usual. Theon hadn't even been invited to the party; but Robb had and it was pulling teeth to get him to go.

"You know that's really not my scene."

Theon rolled his eyes. "Yeah, well until you figure out what is your scene - and being in bed by 10 on a Friday is nobody's scene - you should just take me to the stupid party.

Robb raised one of those very arch eyebrows and said, "Do you actually care if I go, or is it just that you want an excuse not to go home tonight?"

And damn, that was sharp. Theon looked down at his sneakers then up at his friend. He told this particular lie more than any other one, and yet it never stopped exhausting him. "I don't mind going home tonight; I just figured we could use a bit of fun is all."

If Robb saw through it, he didn't let on. He just sighed heavily, which Theon knew meant surrender.

“Fine. But I’ll not be saving you from getting herpes or a broken nose anymore.”

Theon laughed and Robb couldn't stifle a smile. As they got dressed, Theon decided that making Robb smile - like, full-on smile - was a kind of superpower that he had.

They always looked ridiculous when they showed up to a party together; Robb inevitably overdressed in a suit-jacket and dress shoes, and Theon very deliberately looking like he'd been wearing - and sleeping in - the same jeans and T-shirt for the past three days.

It turned out to be a better time that Theon was expecting. Almost all the kids from the north side were there, and although none of the guys had any kind words for a Greyjoy, none of their girls seemed to mind that he'd come.

It happened when they found themselves alone in the basement.

"Don't you want to go have a smoke with the rest of them?"

Theon was aware that the only thing keeping him upright was the wall they were both leaned against. The inside of his mouth was dry and tasted of a sickly jaeger-and-tequila mix and he damned himself for not just sticking to beer. The wall was cool concrete and he pressed his cheek against it.

"Naw..."

Robb laughed. It had been almost a year since Theon had noticed it last winter. The air stung their lungs; their breath was white. Theon had managed to slip a handful of snow down the back of Jon's shirt. Jon stood there, unable to do anything but pout furiously, while Robb clapped Theon on the shoulder and the two of them doubled over in laughter. It was the same laughter they'd shared almost since Theon could remember, and yet suddenly it had hit him full-force. You want him. And since then, Robb's laugh was a sound that stirred something in Theon's chest, but he always managed to ignore it. This time, though...

This time, you are hopelessly schlitzed.

This time Robb bit his lip, and it was all Theon could even see, those perfect teeth - damn those perfect teeth! - pressed against lips stained with wine.

Although he could barely keep his eyes focused, Theon's brain was running through a number of possible strategies. The trouble was, Theon had no idea where to begin putting the moves on his best friend; he knew what worked on girls, and he knew what girls did that worked on Robb, but those were disparate things and neither of them felt right. He thought about touching Robb, or maybe a premeditated stumble to bring them chest-to-chest. Aw fuck it.

"Robb?"

"Yeah?"

"We'll always be mates, right? No matter what?"

Theon could barely hear his own voice over the locomotive of his pulse.

"Now and always."

Robb's lips were warm and sweet.

"Whoa, what the hell are you doing?"

It was as though his heart had suddenly turned into a stone and dropped into his guts. He felt Robb's grip on his wrist, felt a hand against his shoulder pushing him away. When he opened his eyes, Robb was smiling, but Theon recognized it right away as Robb's Pity Smile, mingled with a touch of Robb's Confused Smile, and that was what hurt the worst.

"Theon, what-"

"Nothing." He felt like he was on fire; it was all he could do to stay standing. "Nothing. I'm sorry."

The next thing he knew he was stumbling up the stairs. He remembered the hot crush of bodies giving way to the cool night air, the grass pressed against the backs of his arms. A girl - she had dark hair and a trashy accent. He pretended to be charmed by it. He brought her home, even though he wasn't supposed to do that. It was loud and awful and seemed to go on forever. He's going to kill you for this. His knees still burned from crawling down the hall to the bathroom, retching violently for several minutes, first into the toilet, then into the shower. When he returned to his room, she was passed out and his phone glowed with an incoming text. From Robb, of course.

"Dude, where are you?!"

He lay down and his phone buzzed again.

"Tell me you didn't go home shitfaced as you are."

Theon had never been so glad to fall asleep.

When he woke, she was gone and the weight of the previous night made it difficult to breathe. His father only hit him once, but it was hard enough to drop him to the floor. Theon started to dry heave. Balon stood over him, fuming, but all Theon could think about was Robb. Such a fucking idiot. A fucking drunk piece of shit. He couldn't even tell sometimes if these words were coming from inside or out. Please let this not be real. Please let me try again.

When Balon told Theon that he would finish his senior year at reform school, Theon had pretended to be angry. He'd even thrown his glass of orange juice against the wall. But when he locked himself in his bedroom, all he felt was that empty relief. He was aware that tears were running down his face, but he was grinning. You must be a total head-case. Yara was knocking at his door.

"Theon?"

"Fuck off!"

"Fuck you then!"

He heard her stomp away down the hall, some brief shouting. He looked at his phone. Another text from Robb.

"Please call me."

He wiped his eyes and typed, "Wow. Last night was fucked, huh? You should've heard the accent on this girl."

He deleted it and tried again.

"I'm sorry."

Theon stared at the words for a minute before he discarded the message and turned off his phone. At least he would never have to see Robb Stark again.

Chapter Text

Ramsay Snow was bored out of his god. damned. mind.

It wasn't some big secret that absolutely everyone at Deepwood Academy thought he was crazy - and not crazy in the sexy way, but crazy in the totally batshit way - but if they thought his head was full of gruesome fantasies, they'd probably be disappointed by just how goddamned bored he was. Ramsay wasn't convinced that he was crazy, but he couldn't say for certain that he wasn't, and being thought insane had the advantage of everyone else leaving you the hell alone. So it was something he kindled, a sort of low-burning ferocity that he supposed he'd always felt, if he cared to think about it too deeply.

He'd heard rumors that the last of the Greyjoy boys had just been transferred for the remainder of senior year. The rumors hadn't been directed at him, of course, but he'd twisted around in his seat to scowl and say, "Another prick with a rich last name; that's exactly what this school needs."

The two girls just blinked at him before carrying on a graphic supposition about the size of the Greyjoy kid's cock.

Jesus Fucking Christ.

Anatomy was Ramsay's 6th period class, and he was beginning to think he'd escaped having to interact with anyone new; not that he didn't - sort of strangely - enjoy the look that crossed his peers' faces when they realized they'd rather not talk to him anymore, but getting to that point was tiresome.

The bell rang and Ramsay took his seat, which was not accidentally flanked on all four sides by empty desks.

When Theon Greyjoy entered the room - like he owns it, what a total cocksucker - Ramsay Snow felt a sudden heaviness in his chest, followed by an inexplicable exhilaration as he realized that Theon had no choice but to sit near him. Ramsay could tell three things about Theon instantly: one was that he was stupidly attractive. The second was that someone - probably his father - hit him, regularly. The swollen lip was obvious, but more subtle were the fading bruises on his arms and wrists. The third thing was that the second thing made the first thing even more true. Something about that excited Ramsay; the feeling made him uncomfortable, so he pressed his palms against the cool surface of his desk and splayed out his fingers. One two three four five six seven eight nine ten. Relax.

He was skinnier than Ramsay expected, and paler, wearing his uniform shirt untucked and not buttoned all the way. His hair was messy and almost red and his eyes were blue and quick and Ramsay felt them light on his face for a moment as Theon chose the desk to Ramsay's left.

You should say something.

No.

Look at him.

Ramsay turned to Theon. He spoke so rarely that his voice tended to creak.

"Hey."

A tiny curl appeared in the corner of Theon's lips.

"Hey."

"Do you need-"

Ramsay had lifted his textbook and was trying to ask, "Do you need someone to look on with?" but the girl in front of Theon whipped around in her chair and asked, "Hey, do you need a book buddy?"

Theon's eyes lingered on Ramsay before he turned. "Yeah."

Theon smiled and Jesus were his teeth crooked.

She scooted her desk back and tossed her hair, and Theon leaned in to hold the book open and Ramsay hated how easy it all was. Theon looked at the page and then at her and back to the page.

"You know, you'd look really cute without so much make-up."

Give me a fucking break.

She let out an airy giggle and blushed. And then Theon winked at Ramsay, which was so bizarre that Ramsay couldn't think of anything to do besides concentrate on the cool desk against his palms.

* * *

The next day, when the same girl passed Theon a folded note, he tucked it into his pocket without looking and turned to Ramsay.

"Hey, what's your name?"

After class, Ramsay spotted the unopened note lying in the trash,

"I had a lot of fun with you yesterday. ;) Call me."

* * *

If anybody asked Ramsay what he thought of Theon Greyjoy, he would've said, "He's an asshole." But nobody ever did, so he said the words to himself every morning as he got ready for school.

He was excited to begin pig dissections, which was one of the few things he felt genuinely interested in. As usual, he was working without a lab partner, which suited him fine.

Theon ended up with one of the girls who refused to touch the pig, leaving him to make a real hack-job of it, in Ramsay's opinion. Theon licked his lips when he was trying to focus, which Ramsay had first noticed during a quiz and which had caused him to answer "B. Tendons" when he'd clearly meant to circle "C. Ligaments."

"Damn, you're really good at this."

Ramsay looked up from the tiny heart he was examining and glanced at Theon's pig, which had been pretty well mangled. He laughed, and the whole room went silent for a second.

"Yeah, I know."

Theon grinned. "Can you show me how you did that? I'm really fucking up over here."

"Sure." Then in a lower voice, "It's because they don't let us have real scalpels." Ramsay slid over to Theon's station. "But I brought my own."

"Can I see it?"

Ramsay held out his knife to Theon, and Theon's finger slipped as he took it.

"Fuck!"

There was a small flash of red and Theon stuck his finger in his mouth.

"Oh my God, are you okay?" asked Theon's lab partner.

"I'm fine," said Theon, not looking away from Ramsay.

Ramsay imagined Theon closing the space between them, pressing his bloody finger to Ramsay's lips, the taste of it on his tongue.

"So how do I cut this thing?"

Ramsay cleared his throat and picked up his pencil, holding it delicately between his thumb and forefinger.

"It's a surgical blade," he said. "It's already sharp enough to cut flesh." He smiled. "Obviously. You don't have to muscle down on it like a butcher knife. Think of it more like a feather than a sword."

Theon drew the instrument lightly across the pig's abdomen and Ramsay reached over and peeled the layers back. Theon pinned them to the board. He returned the scalpel to Ramsay, mindful to give it handle-first and carefully.

"Thanks."

Ramsay's heart seemed to leap upward. "Hey, do you smoke?"

"Do I smoke what?" Theon asked wryly.

Ramsay fought to control the blood that seemed to rush madly toward his face.

"Do you want to come over and smoke after school?"

"Yeah. Sure."

Ramsay knew Theon was still looking at him, so he kept his own eyes on his work and focused on the smell of formaldehyde.

"You know Ramsay's a total freak right?"

Theon turned to face his lab partner. "That's what I keep hearing."

Her voice lowered so that Ramsay had to strain to hear it, and he saw her hand resting on Theon's arm.

"No, I mean, he's like, fucked up. Like, seriously psychotic; you don't want anything to do with him."

Bitch, I will slit your fucking throat if you say one more word about me to him.

Theon looked at Ramsay and back down at the pig.

"I think I can handle it."

Chapter Text

Theon recognized the house; two stories of black granite peeking from behind a thick tangle of ivy. He remembered hearing rumors about the boy who lived here; Ned Stark telling him that it was best not to play too near this house, which seemed far too dreary to imagine growing up in.

No wonder everyone thinks he’s disturbed.

“I thought your last name was Snow.”

A dark look crossed Ramsay’s face, then vanished.

“Snow was my mother’s name. Roose Bolton is my father.”

Ramsay pushed aside a clump of ivy and pulled out a key. The door was old, like the house. It slammed loudly behind Theon.

“Don’t worry though. He’s like, never home.”

Jesus, what a tomb.

Looking around, Theon saw no sign of Ramsay. The interior of the house was dim and sparsely furnished. In the living-room was a massive hearth, an all-leather sofa set.

“Your mom is…?”

“Dead,” said Ramsay, a little too matter-of-factly for Theon’s liking. He stopped at the top of a set of stairs and turned on a light. “Come on; I’m in the basement.”

Theon felt reassured when he saw that Ramsay had a Wii and an Xbox and a nice speaker system, though he didn’t seem to have much music to go with it. Ramsay took a cigar box from his bookshelf and pulled out an old pill bottle. Theon grinned.

“I wouldn’t have taken you for the stoner type.”

Ramsay fell back onto the couch beside him and began packing a glass pipe with his pinky finger. He raised an eyebrow but didn’t look at Theon. “I’m not.”

“Oh really?”

Ramsay handed the pipe and a lighter to Theon, who took a deeper hit than he would’ve if he hadn’t felt the need to prove himself.

“Really, I’m not. But I wanted you to come over, and I knew you would if I offered you a smoke.”

Theon felt a sudden, strange thrill that caused his stomach to tighten. He watched Ramsay take a hit and decided he might as well play along.

“Well, if you’d asked me this morning what Ramsay Snow thought of me, I’d say you thought I was an asshole.”

Ramsay’s laugh turned into a smoky coughing fit.

“You are an asshole.”

Is he joking?

“Can I show you something?” asked Ramsay, his voice surprisingly soft.

“Ma-a-aybe… As long as it’s not your dick… or a picture of your dick.”

Theon was gratified to see that he’d made Ramsay blush, but he burst out laughing when Ramsay said,

“Poem about my dick? I don’t think we’re there yet.”

“Well, everyone keeps on insisting you’re like, such a freak, so I’m waiting for you to do something freaky. I hope I won’t be disappointed.”

Ramsay shook his head and left the room, returning moments later with a tiny brush and a compact.

“What’s that?”

Ramsay bit his lip and Theon had to shake off a raw memory.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but have you ever tried using concealer?”

“Concealer? Like, make-up?”

Ramsay nodded. “You know, for the bruises?”

Theon felt a lump in his throat and looked away. He hadn’t been expecting this kind of humiliation. He looked down at his wrists and yeah, it was so damn obvious. Jesus, the whole school had probably noticed them, like a big fucking stain. He folded his arms into his chest.

As though reading his mind, Ramsay said, “I’d bet money nobody else has noticed. Too busy discussing your junk.”

Theon snorted. “You noticed.”

Ramsay locked eyes with Theon, which Theon realized had never happened before. Ramsay’s eyes were icy and gray; they gave Theon goosebumps.

“I only noticed because I’ve got some experience covering up bruises.”

Theon relaxed his shoulders slightly and Ramsay grabbed his elbow, drew his arm forward. He opened the compact and began brushing on the concealer. Relief washed over Theon as he watched the splotches of purple disappear and asked,

“Your dad smacks you around sometimes?”

Ramsay shook his head and kept his eyes on Theon’s hands. “No.” He paused before deciding to go on. “I had this sitter when I was younger. He was…” An odd, unpleasant smile slipped across Ramsay’s mouth. “He was something else.”

It bothered Theon, the fact that he couldn’t read Ramsay, couldn’t tell what he wanted or what he meant by inviting him here and covering up his bruises. He was unsettled by the realization that if Ramsay were a girl, they would definitely be at second base by now, and he found himself wondering idly if Ramsay was a virgin.

He must be.

Then why did Theon feel like prey right now?

And why do I like it?

“There.” Ramsay snapped the compact shut. “The color’s a little off. You have a sister, right?”

“Yeah…”

“She probably has something closer to your skin tone.”

Theon chucked. “You clearly don’t know my sister.”

“Then keep this.” He pressed the case and the little brush into Theon’s palm.

“Oh no, man, I don’t-“

“You’re going to need it.” Then with a smile, “'Nother bowl?”

Theon felt grateful for the change in subject. “Sure. Hey, which way to the bathroom?”

“Upstairs, down the hall on the right.”

He was pissing when he felt his phone go off. It was a text from Robb.

“Stopped by your house. Balon said you hadn’t come home yet. Hope school’s going OK. Call me when you can.”

Theon sighed. He still hadn’t spoken to Robb since that goddamn...

Whatever that was. Whatever you thought you were doing.

He erased the message.
* *
That night when Theon slipped his hand down the front of his shorts, he tried not to think about Ramsay.

Chapter Text

Around campus, they were called The Mountain and The Dog, being respectively enormous and ugly. And although the Clegane brothers almost never spoke to one another, they both had an understanding with Ramsay Snow, ever since the first week of freshman year when Gregor called Ramsay a fairy and Ramsay stabbed him three times in the neck with a drawing compass.

Ramsay recalled sitting in the dean’s office with his still-bloody hands folded in his lap, doing his best to look contrite while his father did all the talking. He never did decide if Roose was disappointed in him.

Sandor Clegane had never crossed Ramsay – he always did have the better instincts – but that didn’t stop Ramsay from setting fire to his locker just to be sure.

The difference between them was slight, and yet Ramsay and the Cleganes were worlds apart. They all preferred to be alone - and hell, The Dog hardly had much choice, looking just a couple shades handsomer than Freddy Krueger - but somehow nobody ever called Sandor and Gregor “psycho” or “freak” or “head-case.” Ramsay supposed it was the difference between enjoying violence and enjoying pain.

He was watching when Theon made the mistake of passing too close to The Mountain in the hallway. And why should he know any better, the proud little thing?

“Watch yourself, faggot.”

It was as though time had frozen; the hallway fell silent and two dozen faces turned to watch as Theon stopped mid-stride and spun around. If he was startled to be facing a boy nearly a foot taller and a hundred pounds heavier than himself, he didn’t show it.

Theon stood on his tiptoes and pressed a hand into Gregor’s chest.

What the fuck are you doing? Walk. Away.

And then there was another part of Ramsay that was looking forward to what he knew was about to happen.

He couldn’t help but notice the contrast; Theon’s long fingers splayed across Gregor’s shirt, Gregor’s thick, meaty palms curling into fists. Theon’s neck as he strained upward – smiling - to whisper something into The Mountain’s cauliflower ears.

Without thinking Ramsay pressed his own hand against his collar bone.

The wind-up was so massive that Theon was able to dodge the first blow, but it didn’t matter. Suddenly the hall roared to life again as people fell over themselves to get out of the way. Theon landed a fist against Gregor’s stomach, but it was like punching a stone. An upper-cut sent Theon stumbling backward and a hook dropped him to the floor.

You can stop this. Anytime you want.

But he found himself mesmerized by it, even as the other students had scattered, some of them calling out for help. Theon was on his hands and knees, trying to stand while blood trickled from his lips and onto the linoleum. Ramsay felt his breath hitch in his chest as Gregor delivered a kick to Theon’s ribs.

By the time he’d resolved to intervene, it was too late; The Dog had come between them, shoving his brother’s back into a locker.

“Enough!”

Gregor grabbed Sandor by the throat and they stood there like that for a moment, neither blinking.

“Let it go. You’re going to kill him.”

Gregor looked over his brother’s shoulder at Theon who was still lying on the floor, gasping and spitting blood. He pushed Sandor away with a growl and bent down beside Theon.

“If you ever touch me again, I will.”

Theon looked up at him and smiled.

The Dog pulled Theon into the men’s room just as the bell rang. Suddenly the corridor was empty, except for Ramsay, standing outside the bathroom, holding his history book to his chest and listening.

Theon’s voice: “Don’t- Ah, Jesus! Don’t fucking touch me, alright, just back off!”

“I think your jaw might be broken.”

“It’s not, okay? Thanks for getting him off me, but I’m fine, yeah? I’m fine!”

A faucet turned on.

“You’re Theon Greyjoy, aren’t you?”

“Yeah, I am. Please just leave me alone. I got this under control.”

Ramsay heard paper-towels being torn out of the dispenser, and footsteps as Sandor walked towards the door.

“Stay away from my brother,” he said. “I don’t know what you said to him, but he wasn’t joking about killing you next time.”

A few more footsteps, and then in a quieter voice, The Dog added, “And hey, I know it’s none of my business, but stay away from Ramsay Snow too.”

Ramsay felt a burst of anger, followed by an intense regret that he hadn’t acted fast enough, hadn’t been the one to save Theon from the Mountain and hadn't pulled him into the bathroom and kissed him until both their lips were wet with blood.

Oh God, what if that's what's happening right now?

“Why is it that nobody thinks I can take care of myself?” asked Theon. “What’s so goddamn awful about Ramsay?”

“I can’t talk about it. But I’d rather take my chances with Gregor, if I were you.”

Sandor nearly plowed into Ramsay exiting the bathroom, and they stood there for a moment, eyes locked.

Yes, I just heard everything you said. An no, I won’t be pretending like I didn’t.

The Dog looked away and stepped around Ramsay.

Ramsay watched him disappear into a classroom. He dropped his book to his side and cleared his throat before walking into the bathroom. Theon was bent over the sink, bringing handfuls of water to his mouth and spitting them back into the basin. The waste-basket was overflowing with reddened paper towels.

“Theon? Holy shit, what happened?”

Theon glanced up at Ramsay and smiled, and Ramsay felt his heart jump.

Jesus.

“Just Gregor Clegane is all.”

“You want me to kill him?”

Theon let out a cynical little laugh.

He doesn’t think you could.

“Thanks, man, but I’m gonna live.”

“Do you- Would you want to come over? We could watch a movie or something. I just downloaded the entire Saw series.”

* *

“What a fucking mess.” Theon stood in front of the mirror in Ramsay’s bathroom. He pressed his fingertips tenderly to his jaw, then pulled them back with a hiss.

Ramsay leaned in the door-frame, holding a frozen steak in a Ziploc bag.

“What did you say to him anyway?”

Theon grinned impishly. “I told him if he wanted to fuck me, he’d have to say ‘Please.’”

Ramsay swallowed, then laughed. It was an unfamiliar sound, and it filled the bathroom before cutting off abruptly.

“You’re lucky he didn’t break your skull. Once I saw him snap a kid’s arm. Like, in half.” Ramsay held his elbow out from his shoulder.

Thunder began to rumble outside, and Ramsay turned off the basement lights and pressed “Play” on the DVD. Theon was lying on the couch, his cheek resting against the steak and his knees curled just enough to leave room for Ramsay to sit. He let out a low moan.

“You okay?”

“Yeah, my face just really fucking hurts.”

Ramsay did his best to focus on the film, really. But all he could think about was Theon. Theon, spitting blood on the floor. Theon, lying on his couch, so close that his toes were curled up against Ramsay’s thigh.

What is it that you want, right now?

I don’t know.

Yes you do.

By the time the credits were rolling, Theon was asleep. His right leg had slipped off the couch and he was snoring softly. Outside the sky was gray and rain drummed on the window.

“Theon?”

Ramsay reached out, slowly. He touched the rough inseam of Theon’s jeans, followed it up past his knee to his crotch. He pressed his palm – gently at first – against the zipper.

Theon hummed and stretched out his body, pushed his hips upward against Ramsay’s hand.

Oh fuck…

Ramsay felt Theon’s cock hardening beneath the denim and was reaching for his waistband when Theon’s eyes shot open. He grabbed Ramsay’s wrist but didn’t say anything, just wet his lips and stared fixedly at Ramsay.

Ramsay smirked. “Was The Mountain right about you?”

Theon pulled Ramsay’s hand toward his face.

“Would you like it if he was?”

Ramsay swallowed as Theon spit into his palm.

He’s not thinking about you, you know.

Ramsay’s motions were slow and deliberate at first; Theon threw his head back and closed his eyes, fingers knotted in his own hair. The entire right side of his face was starting to swell and change color.

He will.

Theon’s jaw went slack and his breath quickened as he began to thrust into Ramsay’s fist; he gripped Ramsay’s forearm with his left hand and with his right hitched his shirt up over his chest. Ramsay reminded himself to breathe, Theon’s back arched as he came with a sigh.

Ramsay wiped his knuckles on the carpet and Theon looked around in vain for something to clean himself with before settling on one of the throw pillows. They regarded each other again and Ramsay was suddenly aware of his own aching need. He must’ve made a face, because Theon laughed and reached for his belt, but Ramsay pushed his hand away.

Theon shrugged. “Suit yourself, but I thought you’d-“

Ramsay grabbed Theon by the hair on the back of his neck and the shiver of pain he felt excited him.

“I want you to suck me off.”

Theon blinked at Ramsay as though they were just meeting for the first time.

“I- I can barely open my mouth right now.”

“That’s the idea.”

For a second, Ramsay worried that he’d overstepped, tried for too much, too soon. Theon raised an eyebrow, but behind the apprehension was something else, something dark and curious. Theon smiled that lopsided smile, but his hands shook a little as unbuckled Ramsay’s belt.

Oh my fucking God, you have got to keep it together.

He didn’t know why he’d assumed that Theon Greyjoy had never sucked a cock in his life, but he was clearly mistaken. Theon’s mouth was wet and his palms were burning hot against Ramsay’s thighs, and when he had to stop for a few seconds to rub his jaw, well, that was the best part and Ramsay had to bite down on the back of his hand.

You’re being ridiculous right now.

He heard distantly the sound of the front door opening and closing, his father’s footsteps upstairs.

“Don’t. Fucking. Stop.”

Theon nearly gagged when Ramsay came.

“A little warning would have been nice,” he muttered, wiping his lips his shoulder. Then, softer, “Can I stay here tonight?”

Ramsay shut down the voice that said, Yes. Stay the night. Don’t ever go home. He stood up and adjusted his clothes. “No, I’ve got some stuff to take care of.”

Theon wilted slightly and stood up to leave, but Ramsay caught him again by the hair. His breath was hot against Theon's neck.

“Soon though.”

Chapter Text

One of the things Theon loved most about Robb was that Robb never asked about his family. Stark's longest interaction with any of them was the time Yara gave them a ride to the bowling alley; that was when she was chain-smoking and when Robb asked if she would mind not smoking so much while they were in the car, she just cranked the volume on the radio and rolled the windows up. Although Theon couldn’t remember it, he supposed it was impossible that Robb hadn’t at least met Rick and Maron and Balon. But they never talked about it.

And now that there was no more pretending to be Robb Stark’s brother, the Greyjoy home seemed even gloomier and more suffocating than ever. So Theon was surprised when he came home that evening to the smell of lobster cooking and the sight of Yara actually setting the table.

Jesus, is someone dead or something?

He stood in the doorway for a moment before deciding to make a go for his bedroom. He was halfway up the stairs when a loud creak announced his presence and Yara said,

“Theon! Come down for dinner!”

Theon sighed and stomped down the stairs. He really just wanted to go to his room and think about Ramsay – specifically what the hell was Ramsay’s deal, anyway?

“Glad you could join us,” said Balon in an obvious – but painful – attempt at congeniality. “How was school?”

Theon shrugged and slumped down into one of the uncomfortable kitchen chairs. “It was fine.”

“Have you made any friends yet?”

Theon shot his sister a dirty look.

“What is that supposed to mean?”

Yara rolled her eyes and set a steaming plate of lobster in front of him.

“It means: Is there anyone at school that’s not a complete waste of space?”

As much as Theon disliked his father, Yara was ten times as exasperating. With Balon, things were pretty simple; Theon was a perpetual source of disappointment and Balon was a bitter, humorless tight-ass. But with Yara, he never knew where he stood; she could be a real bitch when she called him lazy, selfish, such a user but sometimes he’d catch her smiling at one of his raunchy jokes. She was also the only Greyjoy that Theon could remember hugging, though that had been a long time ago.

Theon thought about Ramsay but didn’t consider actually mentioning him.

“No, not really. It’s like public school but worse.”

Yara smiled kind of sadly and cracked into her dinner.

“Well, at least you’re a senior. It’ll be over in a few months.”

Yeah, and then what?

A few minutes passed, filled with the sound of exoskeletons and teeth and forks scraping plates. Theon found it almost unbearable. He stared at Balon, but his father never looked up from his meal. Looking down at the lobster, Theon wondered how unlucky any given lobster was – like, what are the odds? - to end up as dinner. He ate a few bites and cleared his throat.

“So, what’s with the lobster?”

Yara straightened her back and opened her mouth to answer, when suddenly she reached her hand across the table towards Theon’s face. It was too late when he realized what she was doing.

“Is this- Are you wearing make-up?”

Balon’s grip on his fork tightened.

“No.” Theon swatted her hand away.

Ah shit.

His mind raced to find a plausible lie, but came up with nothing.

As soon as she saw that Theon was irritated, Yara started laughing and pulled her sleeve over her hand to scrub at his cheek.

“Oh my God, yes you are!

“Yara, fucking stop it!” He cradled his jaw in his hand.

Abruptly, she sat back in her chair, her eyebrows knit.

“Jesus, Theon, what happened to you?”

Theon looked down at his lobster again.

I know how you feel, buddy.

“Theon!” Balon’s raised voice demanded an answer.

Yara lifted her hand. “Ssshh! Theon, spit it out.”

I’d get fucking slapped if I ever shushed him.

“I got in a fight,” he said bluntly, gritting his teeth.

“With who?” Her hand was fisted around her napkin.

“The Mountain.” He pushed a square of butter around on his plate.

“Clegane? I’ll fucking kill him.”

Where are you when Dad goes off on me?

“I’m okay. Really.”

“Why did he hit you?” asked Balon. His voice was monotone, but Theon heard the edge beneath it.

“He called me a faggot.”

He could feel his father’s relief, and for just a second toyed with adding, “And speaking of, I also sucked Ramsay Snow’s dick this afternoon” – just to watch the old man drop over dead – but he decided against it.

“And anyway, you never said what was with the lobster.”

Yara beamed, which unsettled Theon. Like Balon – like all the Greyjoys except Theon, really - she was a stone-faced person whose terrible posture belied an incredible physical strength; a smile on her face looked as unnatural as a frown on Theon’s.

“I’m joining the SEALs. I got accepted.”

“What, like the cute, furry ones?” Theon tried desperately to be flippant, even as he felt his appetite disappear.

She rolled her eyes. “No, dumbass, like the ones that wear black and do special ops.”

Theon cast a glance at Balon, who was also doing an approximation of a smile. He looked at Yara and then had to look away and something about the lobster – cracked open, half-eaten – made him break down.

Oh God, I can’t believe you’re crying. You were spitting blood this morning, but you weren’t fucking crying. Yeah, things are gonna be really great around here with just you and Dad in the house.

He sniffled and swiped at a tear with his sleeve.

“Well, I guess I’ll see you at the funeral then.”

“Goddamnit, Theon!” Balon rose and slammed his open hand down on the table; the flatware jumped and Yara’s wine-glass toppled over. She threw her napkin over the stain that formed.

“No, Dad, it’s okay. Don’t be mad at him.”

Theon felt that ugly voice rising up, the voice that lied and lashed about looking for any way to cause a wound.

“Yeah, Dad, it’s okay. Yara’s just going off to join Rick and Maron in the noble fucking hereafter that all your children run to rather than stay here with you.”

The slap that stung his cheek came from Yara, and she immediately put her hand to her mouth as she remembered his jaw. Balon’s hands clenched into shaking fists.

That’s the worst thing you’ve ever said.

“Theon, what is wrong with you?” Her lip started to quiver. “Why can’t you just be happy for me, that I’m doing what I want? Why do you always have to be such a selfish little bitch?

“Yeah, that’s awesome Yara.” He sneered and folded his arms. “I’m so fucking happy for you, that you’ve decided to go and do the same goddamn thing’s already got half of us killed. It’s a really great idea, because it’s not like I ever n-needed-” He choked so hard on his own tears that he couldn’t finish, so he just held out his hands uselessly.

“Get out.”

They both turned to look at Balon, who still stood with his fists at his sides.

“Dad, he just-“

“Get the fuck out!”

Theon rose and walked out of the kitchen, never fully turning away from his father.

He will beat you fucking bloody once he’s had a chance to think about it.

He ran up the stairs into his room and began shoving clothes into his backpack.

Socks. Underwear. Cigarettes. Blanket. Shit, what else?

The kitchen was empty when he came downstairs, but dinner was still here, as though it would be there forever. Yara was waiting for him by the back-door. She pulled him into a rough hug before he could say anything.

“Why do you have to push everyone’s buttons all the time?”

Theon let out a sad little laugh. “I don’t know. I don’t think you should go.”

She sighed and slipped a $20 bill into his hand. “I leave for Illinois two weeks from tomorrow. Will you call me? I want to see you before-“

“Yeah, sure.” And he brushed past her out the door.

* *

The night air was cool but not chilly, and the stars were bright and the moonlight made the street seem like a stage.

Well, now where the hell am I supposed to go?

He tried to set a course away from the Stark House, but somehow ended up there anyway.

You can’t just not return his messages and then show up asking for a place to stay.

Theon thought about maybe just looking through the window, but he knew what he’d see there.

Cat and Sansa setting out dinner. Ned trying not laugh as Arya shoots peas at Bran. Rickon with potatoes or spaghetti sauce all over his face. Jon looking like a fucking martyr. Robb…

What would Robb be doing?

Kicking you under the table, smiling. Saying, “I’m glad you could stay for dinner.”

And suddenly he was back outside in the dark, just standing dumbly on the sidewalk.

He thought about stopping by Ramsay’s house, but Ramsay said he couldn’t, and anyway it was just too pathetic an idea to entertain.

You don’t want to show up looking like a damn lost dog.

So he walked around for a while until he remembered that he knew a girl who lived nearby. They’d fucked a few times last summer, mostly in her little brother’s bedroom for some reason.

What was her name? Jenny? Jessie? Julie? Something like that. Just wing it.

A woman in a bathrobe and slippers answered the door with a smile.

“Oh! Jackie, it’s for you!” she yelled over her shoulder. Then to Theon, “Come on in.”

Ah, Jackie.

He stepped into the foyer, took a deep breath and ran a hand through his hair.

Alright. Shook up, but still on top of the world, right? You’re in trouble, you know, but she can fix it.

“Theon!”

Jackie was wearing penguin pajamas and had her hair in a towel; he loved the way girls looked when they’d just showered.

“Hey, nice PJs.”

She looked down and blushed.

“Oh, they’re… they were a gift from my grandma.”

He reached out ran a finger over the soft flannel on her thigh. “I was being serious. I like ‘em.” He bit his lip and lowered his voice. “I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately.”

Chapter Text

He waited for Ramsay by the bleachers, but Ramsay never showed. The late bell rang. Theon ground out his cigarette with the ball of his foot and tried to convince himself that he didn’t care one way or the other if Ramsay came to school.

God, I just want today to be over.

I just want to see him.

He rubbed his eyes and plodded back into the building. He hadn’t exactly slept well. Jackie had invited him to stay over again, and he’d said, “Maybe. I’ve got a lot of stuff going on today.”

On his way to third period, he rounded a corner and nearly slammed into The Mountain. Theon held his breath and braced himself.

I can’t believe it’s only 10 o’clock.

Gregor’s eyes met his only for a second before they shot to the floor and he grunted and pushed quickly past.

What the actual fuck?

As the day went on, his relief at avoiding an encore of yesterday's beat-down turned into a dull headache between his eyes and an unease that crept over him like a chill. It wasn’t just The Mountain - nobody would look at Theon. (And yet he also felt like everyone was watching him.) Theon resolved to find The Dog and demand some explanation.

In anatomy class, he took the same seat as always, but the girl who usually sat in front of him pursed her lips before choosing a desk two rows away.

“Hey!” he whispered.

She didn’t turn around.

“Hey!”

“Mr. Greyjoy, do you have an announcement for the class?”

Theon's cheeks burned as his classmates’ eyes bore into him, for the first time in his life feeling like a complete freak.

“No.”

After the bell, he cornered her outside the classroom. Her hair smelled like lavender and her breath smelled like Juicy Fruit Gum. Her posture was irritated – one hand on her hip, the clutching the strap of her bag – but her eyes swept the hallway around them nervously.

“Hey, talk to me for a second.”

“What? What do you want?”

“I just- why is everyone acting all weird today?”

She rolled her eyes and snapped her gum. “Nobody’s acting weird.”

Theon pushed aside the urge to throttle her.

“They are! I ran into The Mountain today and he wouldn’t fucking look at me. I've been looking for The Dog all day, but I can't find him. Have you seen him around?”

She leveled her eyes at him for a moment. “I don’t know, but I heard he’s in the hospital.”

“The hospital?” Theon blinked at her.

“Listen, everyone knows you and Ramsay are friends or whatever, okay? And everybody knows that Ramsay is fucking psycho.”

“So what, that makes me psycho by association?”

She snapped her gum again. “No, it means you’re off limits.”

Theon scoffed. “And are you actually saying that Ramsay Snow - all 140 pounds of him – put fucking Sandor Clegane in the hospital? That’s the dumbest shit I ever heard.”

Then where is he?

She shrugged, but something in her eyes quivered.

“I have to go. I can’t- Just don’t talk to me anymore, huh?”

Theon felt sick. The sound of an incoming text on his phone seemed surreal as she stepped around him and hurried away. For once, he wished for a message from Robb. But this one was from Ramsay, and Theon felt a little flutter of adrenaline as he read it.

“Come over. I want to see you.”

Man, he must really think you’re easy.

And even though he couldn’t stop thinking about Ramsay – and even though he had absolutely nowhere else to be – he answered,

“Maybe.”

Outside the building, he paused to light a cigarette. The sky was overcast, but the air was dry and hot and Theon started thinking, first about where he might spend the night, and then about Yara. He thumbed through the pictures on his phone; about half of them were photos of girls he’d been with, taken by themselves when he was out of the room. One of himself sleeping – (no idea who took it.) A photo of the Stark family that he’d promised to send to Cat but never did. Some graffiti on a train car. Plenty of shots of Robb, mostly drunk and out of focus, or posing sexually next to pieces of public art. And the photo that was Robb’s caller-ID: Robb lying on a couch with a fever and a thermometer in his mouth, giving Theon the finger.

His phone buzzed as someone yelled,

“Theon!”

He looked up and nearly dropped his cigarette.

“Jon?”

“Oh my God, I’ve been looking for you all day!”

Jon Stark was wearing a Refused t-shirt with those damn tight girls’ pants that left nothing to the imagination. He had a courier bag slung over one shoulder and a pair of cartoonishly large headphones around his neck. And as always, the X's across the back of his hands in black marker. It didn’t escape Theon that everyone around them was downright gaping.

I guess he didn’t get the memo.

Jon could be such a pussy – and a snitch and a killjoy and such a fucking virgin - with a self-righteous streak a mile wide and terrible taste in clothing, music and pretty much everything else. Theon smiled in spite of himself. It was hard not to love the bastard, if only because it was so entertaining to make him uncomfortable.

“Man, what the fuck are you doing here? This place is for serious fuck-ups, not little bitches.”

Jon shrugged and smiled half-heartedly. “You’d know if you ever called my brother back.”

Theon looked at his sneakers. “Yeah. I’ve been meaning to. I’m just really busy, you know?”

“Sure.” Jon looked over his shoulder. “Speaking of that, is it me or is like, everybody here afraid to look at you? Have you given the entire school the clap already?”

Theon shook his head and laughed. “Just the freshmen. I had to start at the bottom since I’ll be eighteen soon and… Don’t worry though, I’ll give you a rain-check.” Then quietly, “Hey, did Robb say anything about me? About the party we went to last month?”

Jon frowned and brushed his hair out of his eyes. “No. He just said you got really schwasted and disappeared and he hasn’t heard from you since. He started seeing this girl – Talisa – a couple weeks ago.”

Theon wasn’t surprised, but that didn’t stop him from feeling like he’d just been punched in the stomach. For a moment the whole world sort of stopped and tilted; Jon’s mouth was moving but no sound was coming out.

Is she… what is she like? Does she make him smile?

“I know he wishes you were around so he could talk to you about, you know…”

“Fucking and stuff?”

“Yeah.”

Theon’s phone vibrated. Jon raised an eyebrow. “You got a girlfriend?”

Theon snorted. “Not exactly.”

“Boyfriend?”

“Oh fuck off, Stark! Anyway, you still haven’t said what the most boring and uptight person I know did to get sent to the Deepwood Academy for the Compulsively Violent and/or Sexual.”

Jon sighed and leaned on the wall beside Theon. “Nothing exciting. Nothing you could rub in my face, anyway. My dad got a job in the capitol.”

“Damn.” Theon flicked his cigarette butt into the street; Jon rolled his eyes, bent to pick it up and tucked it into his pocket.

“So yeah, he left with the girls and the next day when I woke up Cat told me I was enrolled at Deepwood and I should pack my bags, because I'm moving in with Uncle Ben. Which could be way worse, you know?”

“Yeah.”

You could’ve been put out with nowhere to go.

The two of them stood there silently. Theon lit another smoke and remembered his phone. His fingers were sweaty and left thick smudges across the screen. Both messages were from Ramsay.

“You don’t get to say maybe to me, slut.”

And then, “But seriously, come over.”

Theon took a drag and scratched his head, squinting at the message. Jon leaned over to get a look at the screen, but Theon jammed the phone into his jacket. He frowned and debated whether to say anything to Jon.

“What?”

“Have you ever, like, met someone and you couldn’t tell if they were joking? And like, if they are joking, it’s kind of funny and maybe sexy, but if they’re not, they’re like, totally fucking certifiable?”

“No. I don’t think so.”

Theon picked up his backpack and threw it over his shoulder.

“Look, I’m glad you’re- I mean, I’m not glad you’re here, but it’s good to see you.”

Jon smiled and Theon was reminded that once the kid filled out a little and lost the faggy hair-cut, he was going to be a fucking stunner. He shook the thought out of his head and went on,

“But- and like, please don’t take this the wrong way, like I don’t like you or something – but you should… you should probably stay away from me here.”

Jon’s smile evaporated and Theon hated those big dark goddamn puppy-dog eyes.

“Man, I didn’t expect you to be my best friend or anything.” And with a little bile, “I wouldn’t expect that kind of charity from you, Greyjoy.”

“Jon, don’t be like that. It’s just… I know it sounds dumb, but somebody with balls the size of your head just got really fucked up because of me, and-”

“Does this have to do with Funny-Haha vs. Funny-Farm?”

“Yeah.”

Jon nodded solemnly. “Okay. I get it. But I’m not going to just like, never talk to you.”

“Jon-”

“No, I’m sorry, but if I need to say something to you, I will. And if you don’t call Robb soon, I will say something to you.”

I give up.

“Okay. I’ll see you around.” He walked backwards for a few steps. “I gotta get going.”

“Hey Theon? Be careful, yeah?”

“Sure.”

Theon heard the distant peal of thunder as the sky finally gave way to a drizzle. He flipped his hood up and tried to ignore the way his stomach felt like it was upside-down.

* *

Roose Bolton answered the door and stood there regarding Theon wordlessly for what seemed like an inappropriate amount of time. They had the same ears, he noticed, and Roose looked over his reading glasses with the same icy, unsettling eyes; other than that, Ramsay must take after his mother.

“Is Ramsay home?”

“He is.”

Roose glanced past Theon, but when Theon turned to follow his gaze, there was nothing there.

“Um, can I like, come in?”

A voice carried up from the basement. “Hey, Dad! Is Theon here?”

Roose arched an eyebrow and removed his glasses.

“Greyjoy?”

“Yeah.”

“Dad, just let him in!”

Bolton smiled, which was more of a tight-lipped, long-suffering rictus than an actual smile.

“Mustn’t keep him waiting,” he said.

Oooookay. Looks like being fucking weird runs in the family.

“No, sir.”

No sir? You’ve never called anybody “sir” in your fucking life.

Theon stepped past Roose, but he felt those gray eyes trailing him until he closed the door to the basement behind him. As he reached the bottom step, his forehead smacked into a pull-up bar mounted on the doorframe there.

“Ow! Jesus fuck!”

He heard Ramsay’s strange little laugh and started laughing at himself.

“Yeah, I guess I could’ve mentioned that I put that there.”

Theon rubbed at his scalp and tried to imagine Ramsay doing pull-ups.

“Jesus, what happened to you?”

Ramsay’s left eye was black and swollen halfway shut, but he smiled. Theon wondered if that was what he looked like to other people.

“Got in a fight last night.”

“No way. With who?”

“Just some asshole. I was out, you know, just walking around and this guy starts giving me shit.” He shrugged. "It happens. People underestimate me."

Theon wanted to ask more questions, but then again, he didn’t. Ramsay took a step towards him.

“Did anything interesting happen today?”

Yeah, today was crazy.

But Theon didn’t mention The Mountain or Jon, or anything else. Instead he reached his fingertips out to touch Ramsay’s bruised temple and said,

“Nah. You not being there was about the only thing different today.”

Ramsay stiffened as Theon’s hand moved to clasp the back of his neck; Theon closed his eyes and pulled Ramsay toward him, thinking, more than he would like,

I need you.

He barely restrained a whine when instead of Ramsay’s lips on his, he felt a cool, clammy hand grasping his jaw. He opened his eyes. Ramsay looked amused, as though he didn’t know that his grip was painfully tight; he turned Theon’s face to the side and asked,

“Did you think about me?”

Theon was appalled to hear himself let out what he could only call a whimper.

“You know I did.”

And then an inexplicable thought came storming into his head.

He knows. He knows about Jon. He knows you thought about fucking Jon.

Only for a second. There’s no way he could know.

He knows.

Theon fought the urge to confess –and what, actually, was there to confess? – everything about his day. Spending the night with Jackie, talking to the girl in the hallway, hating the feeling of being ignored, noticing that Jon dressed to the left… It was all filling his head and his mouth, but Ramsay interrupted.

“What did you think?”

“I thought about seeing you. I thought about… yesterday.”

I thought about letting you fuck me and you letting me stay the night.

“Did you get my last texts?”

“Yeah.”

“Why didn’t you answer?”

“Because I was already on my way.”

Ramsay released his hold on Theon’s jaw and ran his fingers through that strawberry-blonde hair. Theon thought about The Dog.

”He’s in the hospital.”

He tilted his head away from Ramsay’s touch.

“Why did you call me a slut?”

Ramsay blinked at him and a strange smile tugged at his mouth.

“Because you are a slut, aren’t you?”

Theon was dumbfounded. He felt heat rising in his face. He couldn’t exactly deny it - Isn’t that like, your thing? - and it wasn’t as though Ramsay was the first person to think so. Robb had called him a womanizer and a player and even – once – “Can’t we just go out somewhere without you being such a total man-whore all the time?”

But that was different, because that wasRobb.

“I- I mean, yeah, I guess I am.”

Theon tried not to look down as Ramsay’s hand slid up beneath his shirt and tried not to shiver at the feeling of fingernails in his skin. He reminded himself to breathe.

“You are what?”

You could just leave and prove him wrong.

But he’s not wrong.

“I’m a slut.”

Ramsay pulled Theon into him and his kiss was all teeth. It felt like being eaten alive. Theon moaned and Ramsay swallowed the sound of it. For the first time since he was 12, Theon didn’t know what to do with his hands; touching Ramsay’s face seemed dangerous. Ramsay undid Theon’s pants and pushed them forcefully down around his thighs and Theon wondered if Ramsay just intended to fuck him. And yeah, so he’d intended to let it happen, but didn’t think it’d be taken so for granted.

He felt his back against the wall, but couldn’t recall having moved his feet. When Ramsay pulled away, his eyes were dilated, his cheeks tinged with red and his right hand pressed lightly against Theon’s throat.

“Have you ever played the Choking Game?”

Theon couldn’t help but roll his eyes. He was painfully hard; he could feel Ramsay’s erection pressed against his hip. It all seemed pretty obvious, so what was with the fucking questions?

I wish you’d stop being so goddamn bonkers and just get on with it.

“Is that where one of your brothers chokes you while the other one punches you in the stomach until your sister makes them stop?”

Ramsay laughed. “No, not quite.”

“Then no, I haven’t.”

Ramsay looked away and then back at Theon with a wicked sort of smile.

“Do you want to play?”

“Does it involve me getting off?”

“Yeah. And it’ll be like, the hardest you’ve ever come in your life.”

Theon tried to look incredulous, but couldn’t hold back a grin. “Yeah? Then show me.”

Ramsay tugged Theon forward by his shirt until they were standing beneath the pull-up bar. He kissed Theon hungrily as he undid his own belt.

“Just remember that I know what I’m doing.”

Theon tensed as the leather tightened around his neck.

Well, what did you think was going to happen?

Ramsay gave a hard tug on the fixture. "My dad bought me this when I was thirteen."

Ramsay fed the end of the belt over the bar and smiled crookedly at Theon before giving it a tentative pull. Impulsively, Theon’s fingers went to his throat. Ramsay took his hands - gently – and brought them to rest by his sides, running his index finger along the veins in Theon’s wrists.

“You-” Ramsay couldn’t seem to find the words to finish his sentence, but from the way his eyes slithered up and down Theon’s body before coming to rest on his face, Theon knew what it meant.

Theon laughed as well as he could with the pressure on his windpipe.

“You look fucking terrifying.”

Looking back, Theon felt stupid for making the assumptions he did about Ramsay; especially the assumption that he would be the one getting under Ramsay’s skin.

He’d imagined Ramsay blushing, asking him to go slow. He’d imagined having to take Ramsay’s hands in his own and put them where he wanted, Ramsay trembling beneath him as he whispered hotly that everything they were doing was totally normal.

He was starting to get light-headed; the belt was wrapped around Ramsay’s left hand, and his right hand was two fingers deep into Theon’s ass as he sucked a mark just below Theon’s ear, pausing occasionally to mumble curses. Ramsay’s cock pressed against Theon’s stomach and Theon felt his knees beginning to buckle. He struggled to stay standing.

He vision began to fade and it occurred to Theon that he might die before he could come.

“Please…”

“Please?”

He could smell Ramsay’s sweat.

“Please let me…”

Ramsay only had to touch Theon’s prick and Theon lost himself. He felt like he was caught in an undertow. He clutched at Ramsay’s hair, at the doorframe. His climax passed through his body in a surge and he managed to rasp, “Fuck!” before he fainted.

Chapter Text

Good days always made Ramsay nervous, and he tried not to have too many of them. The moon was just past full and cast a square of light onto the floor beside the bed where Theon was – Ramsay was reasonably sure - pretending to sleep.

He could’ve slept on the couch, but Ramsay just said,

“You can sleep on the floor.”

Because I want you close. But not too close.

“And leave your clothes on.”

And Theon had nodded.

Ramsay stripped down to his boxers before collapsing into his bed, and Theon noticed the scar. It was old – almost 8 years – but it still looked raw and sore, and Ramsay tried not to feel offended by the face Theon made.

Christ, it’s not that fucking ugly.

Ramsay was thirteen when his father discovered the scar - or more specifically discovered Ramsay in the utility closet with one hand on his cock and the other hand tracing over and over the thing. That same year, Ramsay’s PE teacher ordered him to change out in a stall rather than the open locker room since some of the other boys had claimed that it “made them sick” to look at.

And when they met, Theon’s skin looked like most boys’ skins; his scars were modest little things on his knees, knuckles and elbows, mostly from skateboarding. Balon only left bruises; they faded out in a week, usually.

“Did you have heart surgery or something?”

Or something.

“Nah.”

“Who did that to you?”

Ramsay chose to read something into that question, some deeper concern or… jealousy?

Are you going to tell him?

Ramsay had been sitting on the edge of his bed when Theon pushed him back into the comforter and straddled his hips. It had been so long since he felt the weight of another person.

“Can I touch it?”

Ramsay assumed he meant with his hands, but when he nodded assent, Theon bent down and ran his tongue over the big, rough “X” that extended from Ramsay’s collar bones almost to his nipples. Ramsay inhaled sharply.

Careful there.

He bucked his hips and threw Theon off the bed.

“Okay, so the scar’s off limits?”

For now.

“Until I say so.”

Theon pulled a sulky face and rolled back onto his pillow. He propped himself onto his elbows and asked,

“What are we, um, doing?”

“What do you mean?” replied Ramsay, feigning cluelessness.

Theon rolled his eyes.

“I mean like, what the hell was that shit with the belt? And are we like, you know-”

“Together?”

“Well, yeah.”

“Not if you have to ask.”

And part of him desperately wanted to say I'm yours. It was inevitable, really, like gravity.

Theon groaned and tossed fitfully onto his back. Ramsay lay there listening to Theon’s breathing and waiting for it to sync with his own.

“Hey Ramsay?”

“Yeah?”

“Where, um- Where did you learn that?”

Ramsay rolled over to face Theon; all the color was gone from the room, and Theon’s eyes and hair took on a silver appearance. It was almost painful to look at. Theon made Ramsay… thirsty, but unquenchably so.

“From the same person who gave me this.” He tapped at the nexus of his scar. “Did you like it?”

Theon hesitated.

He did. He doesn’t want to admit it.

Ramsay remained silent for a moment. He never spoke about Heke to anyone, because Heke had been his and he had been Heke’s, and they had made a promise…

“Nobody can understand you like I do.”

“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to,” offered Theon.

“Remember that sitter I told you about?”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Theon’s eyes went wide, which was becoming a familiar and cherished expression.

“He did that to you? Like, choked you out?”

“He liked when I did that to him.”

A moment passed and Theon said,

“Fuck, I’m sorry man.”

Ramsay laughed. “Don’t be sorry. He taught me everything I know. And I taught him a few things, when I got big enough.”

The truth was that Ramsay still missed him sometimes. He thought about saying so, but it sounded so weak.

“You know how sometimes someone just…fits? Like, they make you make sense?”

“Yeah, I know someone like that.”

Ramsay couldn’t decide if that was a calculated remark or an off-hand one, but either way it lit a fire in his chest and he had to hold down the desire to pin Theon to the floor and make him forget that he had ever known anyone but Ramsay. He went on with difficulty:

“Well, it was like that.”

“You were just a kid though.”

Ramsay yawned. He ran his fingers across it again. “He gave me this so I’d remember him.”

“Does it still hurt?”

“Nah. It’s- I mean, it’s sensitive. Like, with your tongue. That felt good.”

“Then why did you make me stop?”

Because it’s how he gets what he needs.

Because you need to learn to tell him “no,” even when you want it.

Ramsay didn’t answer and pretended to be asleep.

* *

He woke to the sound of an incoming call on Theon’s phone to the ringtone of Lonely Island’s “Spring Break Anthem.” Theon wasn’t in the room, and Ramsay could hear the hiss of the shower from down the hall. He swung his torso off the bed and grabbed for the phone, rubbed his eyes and read the caller ID.

“Robb.”

Ramsay hesitated for a second before answering.

“Theon! Where the hell have you been? I’ve been trying to get a hold of you for like, weeks!”

Ramsay couldn’t think of anything to say so he remained silent.

“Theon? Can you hear me? Hello?”

Ramsay hung up and realized that his heart was racing. He flicked back to Robb’s contact info and held his breath as he looked at the picture ID there; and even though Robb looked terribly sick, it was easy to tell that he was-

“What are you doing?”

You didn’t even hear the shower stop?

Theon was leaned in the doorway, a towel around his waist. Ramsay couldn’t tell whether he was upset or amused or maybe both.

“Just playing around on your phone.” He exited the screen and chucked the thing at Theon’s chest, trying to act like his mind wasn’t filled with the name. Robb. Ramsay stood and stretched, watched Theon check his phone and then slip it into his backpack and noticed the purple mark that wound its way around Theon’s neck like a collar.

You did that to him, not Robb. You put that there. And he let you. And he liked it.

“Did I say you could take a shower?”

Ramsay could feel the heat radiating off Theon’s still-wet skin.

“Um, sorry? I guess I just thought it would be okay.”

Ramsay leaned in as though to kiss him, but instead he just inhaled, willing himself not to touch.

“You smell like soap.”

“Um, yeah?”

“I like it better when you smell like sweat and cum.”

Theon laughed, but it was a soft, uncertain laugh. “You want me to go to school reeking like sex?”

“I think you always reek like sex. But I like that about you.” Then in a whisper, “And I really like this.” Ramsay allowed his fingers to ghost over the bruising on Theon’s throat, which was a mistake because then it was his lips there instead and it was Theon pushing him away, looking in the mirror, muttering,

“Aw shit.”

Ramsay dressed as Theon smothered the mark with concealer. He quickly grabbed Theon’s uniform shirt and put it on and threw his own in a crumpled pile with Theon’s things.

“I don’t see why you’re freaking out; you come to school with hickeys all the time.”

Theon pulled Ramsay’s shirt over his head.

“Yeah, but this isn’t exactly a hickey, is it?”

* *

Ramsay could count on one hand the number of birthday presents he’d ever received from his father, but the one he got on his 16th birthday almost made up for it. It was a 2011 black Mustang GT, and Roose had been pretty damn unceremonious about it, for how beautiful a thing it was. Ramsay was on his way out the door to wait for the bus when Roose had called his name.

“Yeah?”

“Happy birthday.”

He barely looked up from his newspaper to hand Ramsay the keys, but Ramsay hadn’t been expecting anything - and was frankly surprised that his father knew how old he was - so he hardly cared for presentation. (And the real present – though he never even said “Thank you,” or mentioned it to anyone – was the vanity plate that read “BOLTON.”)

It was the kind of car that, in a movie at least, would’ve solved all Ramsay’s social problems; he would’ve been the champion of late-night illegal drag races and surrounded by beautiful, willing women. And he did notice girls staring at it – and at him – but none of them ever came up to lean into his window or ask for a ride home in the rain. (If Theon was impressed, he hadn’t said anything.) So instead he’d go for drives sometimes, and imagine letting the wheels drift up onto the sidewalk of a busy street.

“Have you thought about what you’re doing after graduation?” Ramsay asked as he put the car in gear.

Theon gazed out the window and Ramsay could just make out the reflection of his eyes in the glass.

“No,” he said, so softly that it was almost a sigh. “Sometimes I wish somebody would just figure out my life for me and wake me up when it’s over.”

Ramsay shifted into third and put his hand on Theon’s knee. Theon turned to look at him; he was squinting, but a smile was sneaking its way across his lips. He twined his fingers through Ramsay’s and pulled them up to his crotch and leaned over to lick at Ramsay’s ear and whisper,

“What about you?” He pressed down hard on Ramsay’s hand. “Big plans?”

Fleetingly, Ramsay fantasized about steering the car into a building.

“I guess I’ll probably go to college. Do something medical.” Theon bit down on his earlobe and Ramsay tightened his grip on the wheel. “Or maybe like, forensic science or something. Or vivisection. Is vivisection still a thing?”

“I have no fucking idea what you’re talking about.”

Theon moved his mouth along Ramsay’s jaw and Ramsay struggled to keep his eyes focused. He glanced down at his own hand between Theon’s legs.

“Ah- Don’t stop.”

“Eyes on the road,” said Theon into the hair on the back of Ramsay’s neck.

By the time he pulled into the Deepwood parking lot, Ramsay was shaking so badly that his foot slipped off the brake and the front-end bumper collided with the brick wall of the gymnasium as the engine cut out painfully.

“Oh!” Theon abruptly pulled away from Ramsay and turned to grab his pack out of the back seat. “We’re here! That was fast, huh?” He winked - motherfucking winked, the whore - before opening the door and stepping out of the car.

You should’ve just pulled over and made him choke on your cock.

Ramsay practically leapt out of the driver’s seat. He stormed around the rear of the car and intercepted Theon there, grabbing a fistful of his shirt and slamming the back of his legs against the fender.

“What do you think you’re doing?

Out the corner of his eye he saw a girl stop walking to look at them, and when he shifted his gaze toward her she hurried through the doors.

“Going to class?” said Theon with a shrug.

The pitch-perfect innocence in his voice was too much for Ramsay to bear. Theon dropped his bag to the asphalt as Ramsay bit him just above the collar. Theon pressed his palms against the tail-lights.

I will fucking teach you to think you can act like this with me.

The make-up tasted chalky and was applied so thickly that Ramsay could feel it coating his teeth.

“Stop…”

That wasn’t very convincing.

Theon pulled Ramsay away by the hair.

“I asked you to stop.”

“And I asked you not to.”

Theon shoved Ramsay away and bent to look at his neck in the rearview mirror.

“Jesus fuck!” He whirled around and it was the first time Ramsay could recall seeing Theon Greyjoy actually angry. The red in his cheeks only made the bruising look darker, and Theon worried at it with both hands.

“What the hell is wrong with you?”

Ramsay wiped the make-up off his mouth with the back of his hand and smirked.

“Don’t you think you’re over-reacting a little?”

Theon gave him a shove. “Over-reacting? Fuck you! You know-” He lowered his voice and brought their faces close enough that Ramsay could feel Theon’s saliva, “You know it embarrasses me to show up here looking like somebody’s - anybody’s - bitch! And everybody here already acts like I’m fucking diseased since we started hanging out. ‘Stay away from Ramsay!’ ‘He’s fucking psycho!’ And I say I can take care of my fucking self, and you watched me cover up this- this fucking freakshow bullshit-”

“Didn’t you bring it with you?”

Theon seethed. “No, I didn’t bring my fucking make-up to school with me, you asshole! And now I have to- I have to walk around all day looking like a dog that you keep on a fucking choke-chain and pretending like I can’t hear everyone saying, ‘Well, we tried to warn him!’ ‘He must like getting strangled!’”

This was going much better than Ramsay expected. A small cluster of people had gathered on the other side of the lot, leaned into each other, whispering. Theon hadn’t noticed them yet.

“Are you telling me you don’t enjoy it, even a little?” He clasped Theon again by the shirt and ran his eyes down and back up Theon’s body. “Because I know you do. Even if you’re too proud or too stupid to admit it to yourself, you’ve admitted it to me - there’s a part of you that fucking loves being humiliated, because deep down, you know that it’s what you deserve.

Theon pushed him away. “You’re out of your fucking mind.” He stooped to grab his backpack.

“I’m just saying, if my dad sent me to school looking like a punching bag, I’d fucking kill him. But you- you just take it. There has to be some kind of reason for that.”

Ramsay expected Theon to hit him, but he didn’t try to avoid it. His vision went black for just a second, and then he felt blood welling up inside his lip; when he pressed his tongue against his teeth, one of them felt loose. Theon’s blood was beginning to trail down his fingers as he clenched and unclenched his fist. His shoulders rose and fell sharply, and – to Ramsay’s delight – tears hung in the corners of his eyes.

You have got to be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

Theon winced sharply when Ramsay tackled him against the car and jammed his thigh between Theon’s legs. He held Theon with one arm across his throat, and saw the astonishment in his face.

He didn’t expect you to be strong.

Nobody ever does.

With his free hand, Ramsay swept his thumb along Theon’s lips.

They stood like that for what seemed like minutes. Ramsay could feel Theon’s heart pounding, could hear the rage in his breathing. His eyes were a blazing blue. Slowly, Ramsay withdrew his arm and moved his hand to cradle the nape of Theon’s neck. He almost had to stand on his toes for their lips to meet and when Theon bit him, it was more of a surrender than anything else.

Ramsay pulled away just enough to say, “I want you. All the time. It doesn’t go away,” before filling Theon’s mouth with his bloodied tongue.

“Theon!”

Theon’s eyes shot open and over Ramsay’s shoulder, but when Ramsay looked at the crowd gathered there, he couldn’t see who had spoken. He squinted. A new face. He was young and pale and pretty like a woman, with thick black hair. But he wasn’t looking at them. He was twisting away from a red-head who’d grabbed his arm; they seemed to be having a spat of their own.

He turned back to Theon and slipped his left hand down the front of Theon’s jeans. “Do you really care what they think, anyway?”

Theon bit his lip and carefully avoided looking anywhere near Jon. His eyes closed as Ramsay’s fingers encircled his cock and his head lolled back and smacked against the roof of the car. He groped beside him for the door handle and once he found it broke away from Ramsay just long enough to open the door and pull him down into the driver’s seat.

It was a small interior. Cramped actually, and by the time Ramsay managed to take Theon’s shoes and pants off, the windows were glazed with condensation. They reclined both the front seats and Ramsay sat with his back pressed against the dashboard. His pants and boxers were bunched around his thighs.

Ramsay grabbed Theon by the back of the neck and pulled him into another toothy kiss before tilting his eyes downward expectantly.

It wasn’t exactly a graceful blowjob; when Ramsay looked down again, his entire lap was wet with spit and sweat and pre-cum. But Theon’s mouth was warm and his fingernails drew blood as he took Ramsay as deep as he could. Ramsay kept his hand fisted in Theon’s damp hair and closed his eyes. Theon hummed.

“Jesus fucking Christ….”

He felt his orgasm building up too quickly and pulled Theon’s lips away.

“Did I do something wrong?”

Ramsay grinned. “No, it’s just… enough of this kindergarten shit.”

Theon crawled forward until he straddled Ramsay, the parking brake digging into his left leg. He wrapped one hand around the wheel and held onto Ramsay’s shoulder with the other as he lowered himself onto Ramsay’s erection. Theon gasped and Ramsay bit down hard on his own lip to capture a moan.

Neither of them lasted long, which was fine with Ramsay. There would be plenty of time for stamina contests later. But this- Theon Greyjoy riding his cock in the school parking lot, gripping himself lightly, his hair clinging to his skin, the mark on his neck no fainter for being momentarily forgotten – this was something Ramsay didn’t feel a need to overcome just now.

Theon leaned forward and the movement caused him to tighten around Ramsay.

“Oh fuck-”

“You like that?” He rocked back slowly and Ramsay nodded soundlessly as his hands kneaded at Theon’s thighs. “Tell me you want me.”

Ramsay regained enough of his composure to raise an eyebrow and lay a hard backhand across the left side of Theon’s face.

“Try again.”

Theon winced and his eyes welled with tears. He clenched his teeth as he spoke and Ramsay could hear the pain caged there.

Please tell me you want me.”

Ramsay held tightly to Theon’s hips and deepened his thrusts. “I want to fuck you until we’re both dead.”

Theon shook as he came all over his stomach and thighs and Ramsay followed him, arching his hips so high that Theon’s head slammed into the dome-light. Theon rubbed his scalp and bit his lip; Ramsay expected him to lose it, but after a moment Theon laughed shakily.

“Can I take a shower in the gym?”

Ramsay smiled. He ran his fingers through the seed on Theon’s stomach and then wiped them through his hair, and Theon knew the answer.

Chapter Text

Theon glanced at the clock as he entered the coffee shop – it was 4:22, which meant that it had been exactly one hour and seventeen minutes since he had last seen Ramsay. It wasn’t sneaking out, really; Ramsay had smoked himself asleep and once he heard that deep breathing, Theon tip-toed upstairs and out the back door.

He felt light as he walked down the sidewalk, as though he were filled with air instead of blood and bones. He was almost starting to get used to passing through a crowd without anyone noticing him, except perhaps to step away. Nobody at the Academy had spoken a word to him for days. Jon seemed to be fitting in better than expected and was always hanging around that red-haired girl; sometimes – in the hallway or the cafeteria – Jon’s eyes would find Theon’s and Theon would always break away first.

Wouldn’t want anyone getting the wrong idea.

He half-hoped Yara wouldn’t show up, but she was waiting when he arrived, sitting in a leather lounge chair and already sipping at her coffee, eyeing him with an unsettling intensity as he opened the doors. And it was so typical that she would walk into a nice cafe and order a mug of plain old black coffee that she could pick up for 50 cents at the diner across the street.

The barista smiled at Theon as he shuffled up to the register.

“What can I get for you, babe?”

She was cute – about five feet tall with a face covered in freckles – and the way she looked at Theon made him kind of uncomfortable. He took a step back from the counter.

“Um, can I get a tall sea-salt caramel latte with whipped cream?”

“Sure thing.” She glanced at him over her shoulder as she started the drink. “You must have a sweet tooth.”

Theon jammed his hands into his pockets and realized that they were empty.

Shit!

“Here you go, babe; that’ll be $4.25.”

“Um…” He checked and re-checked his pockets and he could feel his face burning as she rolled her eyes and raised an eyebrow at him. “I’m really sorry, but I-”

“Keep the change.”

Yara slipped a five dollar bill across the counter and handed Theon his latte.

“Thanks,” he said quietly as he took a seat in the chair across from hers.

She smiled, but he could tell from the way she leaned forward with her fingers laced that she was worried. Theon sipped his mug and waited.

“You feeling okay?” she asked finally.

“Yeah, I feel great.”

She’s going to call bullshit on you, you know. She’s Yara.

“Really? Because my little brother would’ve walked away from that with a free drink and a phone number.”

Theon shrugged. “I guess I’m just off my game today.”

She snorted and leaned back. “And what happened to that twenty I gave you?”

“I spent it all on booze and lube.”

“What about condoms?”

“I’m down to the bare necessities right now.”

She chuckled and then the space between them was filled with the sounds of ceramics clinking together, keyboards and someone trying to stifle a cough.

“Theon, I-”

“I really don’t want you to leave.” He looked down at the whipped cream melting in the top of his drink and stirred it with his straw. “I know we’re not, like, best pals or anything, but I don’t want you to just be gone.”

Yara looked hurt, which was an expression Theon could hardly fathom.

“I’m not just gone. I’ll be back. You know I wouldn’t say so and then not.”

“Rick and Maron thought they’d be back.”

She nodded solemnly. “Yeah, but this is me. And I promise I’ll be back.” Then softly, “I’m sorry if you ever felt like I didn’t look out for you. I tried, you know?”

“I know.” Theon wasn’t sure he could take this much longer, sitting in this damn café with all these other people and trying to act like he didn’t wish the whole world would just disappear already. “I’ve got-” He paused to choose his words carefully, “I met someone who takes care of me though. So don’t worry about it.”

Yara’s eyes went dark. “You mean Ramsay Snow.”

Uh oh.

Theon acted as though he didn’t detect her disapproval.

“Oh, how did you hear about Ramsay?”

“Sandor told me.”

Theon had seen The Dog just this morning, his fierceness only slightly compromised by a set of crutches that he used to clothesline anyone who didn’t move out of his way quickly enough. He wanted to say something, maybe a belated “thank you,” but he was sure he was the last person Clegane wanted to talk to.

“I forgot that you and him had a thing,” said Theon with a smirk.

“It wasn’t a thing.”

“Then what was it?”

“It was-” Yara sighed and threw up her hands. “It was a thing.”

“You’re just like all the girls.” Which he knew was absolutely the best thing to say to piss her off.

“What does that mean?” she bristled.

“It means that at the end of the day, you just want a fucking barbarian to throw you over his shoulder, take you back to his cave and bang you senseless.”

“So what does that make you?”

“Make me?”

You did this to yourself, jackass.

Yara leaned closer and Theon reactively leaned toward her. Her voice was low, and there was no malice or humor in it when she said, “Do you think I can’t smell it on you? You stink like five days of sex and – if I’m not mistaken – just a little bit of piss. And you have jizz on your right shoe.”

Theon wet his thumb and bent to rub at the toe of his sneakers, hoping the red in his face would pass quickly. “I’m sorry-” he mumbled.

Yara grabbed his arm.

“I don’t care if you have cum on your shoe, I just wish it was someone else’s.”

“I think it’s mine, actually.”

“You know what I mean.”

Theon finished his latte and began scooping up the whipped cream with his straw. “Listen, I’m not dumb, okay? I know he’s… I know he’s a little uneven-”

“That’s a kind fucking way to say it.”

“I’m just saying, like, I get that. I’m not stupid. I just- I can’t explain it to you, you know? He’s sort of the only thing that makes sense to me right now.”

“That’s code for amazing sex, isn’t it?”

Theon looked at his feet, but a familiar, nasty grin crept across his face. “Maybe.” Then his eyes lit up. “Hey, how about this: I’ll stop seeing Ramsay if you don’t join the SEALs.”

Yara smiled resignedly. “Sometimes I forget how much the same we are.”

“Fucking stubborn?”

“Yeah.”

“What would you have me do instead?”

“Roller derby?”

She laughed, and Theon felt a little surge of pride because making Yara laugh was like winning a damn ribbon.

“So where exactly are you going?”

“Someplace called Great Lakes. That’s only for a few weeks, and then I spend most of the training in San Diego… assuming I make it through Hell Week.”

“Is that like, the part where someone screams in your face while you do push-ups until you puke and then they make you eat the puke?”

“Yeah.”

“You’ll make it. You’re like, the biggest badass I know. I mean, you’ve fucked Sandor Clegane for Christ-sakes.”

Yara smiled at the bottom of her empty mug. “Thanks. I’m excited. But I’m nervous too, you know?”

Theon’s phone rang.

Ramsay.

He looked at the clock.

Fuck, how is it five-thirty already?

But as he turned his phone to vibrate, he glanced at the screen and saw that the call was from Robb. He looked at Yara and tucked it back into his pocket.

Theon waved a hand dismissively. “Please. Our shitshow brothers made it, and you could kick both their asses.”

The words, “I’ve always been jealous of you,” threatened to leap out of his mouth, but it was something he’d never admit out loud.

The phone chimed that a voice mail was left, and then started buzzing immediately. Theon checked it. Robb, again.

“Is that him?”

“Ramsay? No, it’s Robb.”

A terrible feeling began to overtake Theon, as though his skin was constricting around him and making it difficult to breath. He tried to ignore it but his mind was ticking off an awful list of reasons Robb might call, leave a message, call again.

“I’m really sorry, but-”

Yara stood and took Theon’s empty mug to the counter.

“It must be really important,” she said, just as the buzzing resumed.

Theon glanced at the phone, then at Yara.

“Will you call me sometimes?”

“Sure.”

She pulled him into a tight hug, the phone in his pocket vibrating between them.

“Be good, yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“And take a fucking shower. You smell like a whorehouse.”

Theon stepped into the cooling evening air. The streetlamps were just beginning to flicker on. He inhaled deeply.

“Robb?”

“Theon!” was the only word he could make out. Robb’s voice was low and flooded with tears.

“Robb? What’s going on? I can’t understand you!”

And Robb howled, deep and raw and it rang in Theon’s ears. As he held the receiver slightly away from his face he could tell that Robb was retching, and in between the sobs, he was able to piece together,

“My dad- he’s dead.” And then another animal sound. “Oh my God, my dad is fucking dead!

* *

When he first met the Starks, Theon was just a small boy – he must’ve been because he could remember losing a tooth during a sleepover at Robb’s and finding 50 cents beneath his pillow the next morning.

“What’s this?”

“It’s from the tooth fairy!” Robb exclaimed.

“What’s the tooth fairy?”

Back then, Ned Stark seemed so impossibly tall and broad that to Theon he was nothing short of a god. And he was steady, too, and gentle in the way that Robb was growing up to be. Recently, Theon had noticed little glimpses of Ned within Robb – the way Robb spoke to people, the way he led with his shoulders when he walked, the way he hummed when he disapproved of something.

For all the goodness that Ned tried to impart to his son’s best friend, it never did stop Theon from skipping school and smoking weed and pulling girls; but he sometimes thought about not doing those things. Theon was pretty sure that Ned had more than a couple talks with Robb about how he mustn’t always do everything Theon did.

“Does your dad hate me?” Theon asked once after Ned banned him from the house for a week.

“Nah. He just doesn’t want you turning me all…”

“All what?

“All cigarettes and boners and shit. I think-” He paused. “I think you kind of remind him of Bob.”

“Bob Baratheon?”

“Yeah. And they’re like, best friends, like us. So I don’t think he hates you.”

And Theon tried – God help him – actually tried to be good, because when Ned would say something like, “Thank you for doing the dishes, Theon” or “Robb, why can’t you be ready on time? Theon’s been ready for an hour,” it felt almost shamefully good. And however much Cat hated the way he kept Robb out past curfew and Sansa hated the way he leered at her friends and Jon hated, well, pretty much everything that came out of his mouth, there was always an extra table setting, an extra movie ticket, room on the sofa. (It had even become a joke: anytime where was an extra of something – “Oh, that’s Theon’s.”)

How can Ned Stark be dead?

Theon could hardly hear his thoughts over the drumming of his heart and the reverberation Robb’s mangled voice. The walk to the Stark House aggravated the low-burning pain in his ass and thighs and the climb up their front steps was embarrassingly difficult. He rang the doorbell and waited, brushed his hair out of his eyes and checked his shoes again.

What do I say? What can I say? Oh fuck, I’m not ready for this.

The door opened and he braced himself; to his relief, it was Robb who answered. He couldn’t bear the idea of seeing Cat or Sansa right now. He’d been imagining this moment the whole walk here, and now that it was happening, it still seemed unreal. Robb’s entire face was red and swollen and his eyes looked like cracked glass.

Oh my God, he’s broken.

Theon had always considered himself the one in need of mending, and it was Robb who would go trailing after the little pieces of him as they rolled in every direction, Robb who somehow made sense of them again. Theon felt a burning rising in his chest.

Robb opened his mouth to speak, but his lips quivered and his eyes welled up, so he grabbed Theon by the front of his jacket and pulled their bodies together, and if he noticed the smell, he didn’t say so. Theon held his hands out, away from Robb.

Am I allowed? I want to touch him so bad. Please let it be okay to touch him.

What the fuck is wrongwith you?

Carefully, he wrapped his arms around Robb’s back. He closed his eyes and when his lips pressed against Robb’s cheeks, Theon tasted the salt there. Robb’s breathing was ragged and wet against his neck and he clutched Theon so tightly it seemed impossible that they had ever not been together. Theon passed his right hand over Robb’s shoulder to wipe at his own eyes.

“Robb, I’m so-”

“Don’t say you’re sorry. Just say you’re here.”

“I’m here.”

I’d stay here forever if you’d let me.

When Robb pulled away, he was shaking. He looked at Theon and wiped his nose and when that tiniest of smiles crossed his lips, Theon felt something coming undone inside his chest.

“Do you want to come inside?”

Theon looked apprehensively at the door, then over his shoulder at the street.

What are you, fucking paranoid?

“Can we stay out here?”

Robb sniffled and nodded. He sat heavily down on the porch-swing, barely able to hold himself up and Theon thought he looked like a marionette. He sat down beside his friend, rolling his ankles to rock the swing slightly. Robb clasped his hands together between his knees and took a few quick, shallow breaths. The moon had risen and a breeze kicked up, chattering the wind-chimes all down the block.

Theon tried to look at Robb, but ended up looking at his own fingers.

“What, um, what happened?

“We don’t- I don’t know exactly yet. He was-” Robb broke off and shook his head, bit his lip, pounded a fist into his thigh. “He was fucking murdered.

Theon looked at the places that the paint was chipping off the swing. He opened his mouth to say something, but closed it instead.

“The police said it m-m-might have been a mugging. Which is such bullshit,” Robb added scornfully. “It c-can’t just be that.” He looked at Theon with an expression that pleaded for him to somehow undo it all, make it not true.

“Robb, I-”

Little fragments of thoughts flurried through Theon’s brain.

I can fix it. I can make it so you never hurt like this. I promise. Let me.

Don’t you dare. Don’t you dare say that bullshit to him.

Robb cocked his head and laughed hoarsely. “You look like shit. I mean, I kn-know I probably don’t look so hot right now, but you look fucking terrible.

“I know.” Theon smiled weakly.

“It must really be real then, if you don’t have anything- and snappy put-down for me.”

Don’t ask me to be that Theon right now.

“Robb-”

“I feel like I can’t- like I can’t stand up, ever again. Like I just want to lie on the ground until I’m dead.”

“Don’t say that.”

“It’s how I feel,” said Robb, dropping his head into his hands. “And I just don’t want to feel anything. Ever. I just want to be asleep, but I don’t want to dream.”

The wind-chimes tinked in response and Robb leapt up.

“Fuck! Fuck these fucking things!” He tore the chimes – and the hook – out of the alcove and threw them into the garden. He turned back to Theon, embarrassed.

“Sorry. I just-”

“I get it. Wind-chimes are fucking gay.”

Robb laughed, and it was full of phlegm but it made Theon’s heart ache. For a moment he felt paralyzed, and then he grew conscious of the growing darkness beyond the reach of the porch-light. He thought of Ramsay.

Wondering where you are. Who you’re with.

“Robb, I should-”

“Don’t go.” Robb’s voice was so small, it sounded like a child’s. “Not yet.”

Fuck Ramsay.

Robb sat back on the swing, and Theon continued rocking it.

“Can’t we-”

“Yeah?”

“Can’t we just stay out here for a little while? You don’t have to say anything.”

“Sure.”

Robb draped his head back against the swing.

“I’ve missed you,” he said.

“I love you,” Theon almost said.

Instead he casually laid an arm along the back of the swing between them, not touching, but close enough that he could feel the heat from the back of Robb’s neck against his knuckles. His phone started vibrating and he turned it off without looking at it, thinking You’ll pay for that later, but not really caring.

He didn’t even notice when he drifted off to sleep with his chin slumped forward against his chest. When he woke up, the moon was much higher and Robb was a silhouette standing in front of him.

“I should go in and go to bed.”

Theon tried to stand but his right foot had gone numb and he stumbled forward into Robb. Robb caught him by the arm with a grip tighter than necessary.

“You’re welcome to stay… You can stay in my room.”

“I can’t. I shouldn’t. Your family-”

Robb sighed and nodded. “I know.”

Theon regained the feeling in his foot as they walked together towards the door. "I'm not ready for this," said Robb, running a hand through his curls. He paused in the threshold and exhaled loudly.

“The funeral is the day after tomorrow,” he said, as though he were talking to no one in particular. “At noon at the family plot.”

Theon knew the place; he and Robb got drunk once and ended up there, and Robb had rattled off the names and stories of all the dead Starks while Theon searched for the least offensive place to take a leak. And now Ned Stark would be there too, and there would be no story, at least not between Robb and Theon.

“I’ll be there,” he said, even though he knew in his heart that he wouldn’t.

“Goodnight, Theon.”

He’d forgotten how good his name sounded from Robb’s mouth, and he stood there for a moment after the door had closed, turning it over on his own tongue. And then Robb’s name, and he thought how often they were the same name; Ned Stark’s voice bellowing down the hall,

“Robb! Theon! It’s one a.m.! Go to bed!”

* *

All the lights were out at House Bolton, but somehow Theon could feel that Ramsay was awake. It stirred a sort of dread in him, but also a strange comfort at being waited for.

He’s going to want to know where you were.

Don’t mention Robb.

As he closed the back door behind him, he thought he heard someone stirring on the stairs, but the house was so dark he couldn’t see past his nose. He fumbled for a light-switch but didn’t find one.

“Ramsay?”

He felt for the edge of the first step with his toe, then tapped each step with his heel as he made his way down, clutching the railing. He had taken five steps – which meant there were five more to go – when he bumped into the warmth of Ramsay’s chest.

“Christ!”

He felt Ramsay’s breath across his face.

“Where were you?”

Heat in the shape of a hand pressed against his heart as though it was listening and could hear everything he kept hidden there. Theon wished that other hand was accounted for.

“I went to have coffee with my sister. She’s leaving town tomorrow.”

“It’s after ten.”

Ramsay removed his hand, and somehow not being touched by him was much worse. The basement was so dark that Theon still couldn’t see anything. Trembling, he reached forward into the blackness and felt nothing.

“Ramsay?”

Something wrapped around his ankles and before he could think, his feet were pulled out from under him and his back landed painfully on the stairs. He couldn’t breathe and as he lay there gasping, he was aware that Ramsay had crawled over him, his hands gripping the stair just above Theon’s shoulders, his legs straddling Theon’s hips. Just as his lungs recovered their rhythm and began to fill with air, Ramsay smothered his lips in a kiss, bit down hard on his tongue.

“You’ve been with Robb.”

How does he know about Robb?

He knows everything about you.

“Who’s Robb?”

Ramsay growled and yanked on Theon’s hair, slamming his head into the edge of the wood there.

“I’m not fucking stupid. He’s been trying to get a hold of you.”

Theon’s stomach flipped as he recalled all the times he’d left his phone within arm’s reach of Ramsay.

“I had to. His dad-” He tried to twist out of Ramsay’s grip, but it only tightened. “Fuck! His dad just died.”

“So why did you lie to me?”

You can. not. tell him.

He shivered as Ramsay licked a stripe from his ear to his Adam’s apple and damned himself for the ache rising between his legs, even as the word “Stop” hung on his breath.

“I- because I know you’re… protective of me and I didn’t want you to be, um, you know-”

“Jealous?” Ramsay bit down on Theon’s throat and Theon moaned.

“Yeah.”

“So you knew what it would do to me and you went anyway?”

Theon’s brain struggled to find the right answer, the answer that would make Ramsay keep kissing him and quit hurting him.

“I didn’t- I didn’t mean to make you worry. That’s why I lied.”

Ramsay’s right hand crept up under his shirt to rub along his collar bone and then slid around to the small of his back. Theon swallowed hard as he felt Ramsay’s mouth brush over his nipple before enveloping it. His back arched up and he gripped at the rail.

Are you out of your fucking mind?

But this feels so-

“Fuck. Stop. Oh fuck…”

Somehow he could tell that Ramsay was smiling as he tugged at the front of Theon’s jeans. Ramsay pulled down on the waistband of his underwear and Theon’s eyes snapped closed when he felt Ramsay’s fingers wrap around him.

Ramsay’s voice sent pinpricks down his spine.

“Which is it? You want me to stop, or you want me to fuck you? Or do you just want me to do what I want?” His grip around Theon’s cock constricted and Theon could feel his brain shutting down. “I’m letting you stay here; don’t think that means you can just come and go whenever you want and then tell me to ‘stop.’ And don’t ever think you can lie to me, because I’ll know.”

The whole thing felt like a dream, and Theon was grateful that Ramsay couldn’t see his face, couldn’t see him running his own fingers along the edges of his teeth. He felt his climax mounting, starting to fill his muscles and his spine. He thrust into Ramsay’s hand and ignored the stairs that dug painfully into his shoulder blades.

“I want you to fuck me,” he said into the darkness.

“I know.”

Theon’s body clenched and head snapped forward. He was so close…

And then Ramsay’s hand was gone and the air above him was cool and empty. Theon grabbed his own cock and light flooded the stairwell.

“Ah- fucking- Ramsay!” Theon came with a strangled moan, and Ramsay grinned crookedly from the foot of the stairs, his finger still resting on the light-switch. He watched Theon’s head drop back, watched him wipe his hand across his jeans and tuck himself back into them.

And in the light, things looked much worse. The stairs gnawed at Theon’s back and his head was pounding and the world was small and filthy. He thought of Robb…

And you, jerking yourself off on a staircase.

Ramsay’s expression was unreadable as Theon struggled to stand, pulling himself up along the railing.

“I wanted you to-”

Because it’s the only time I don’t have to think about anything.

Ramsay reached toward his face, and Theon was ashamed to feel himself flinch slightly. Ramsay passed a thumb over Theon’s cheek. “I would’ve, but I can smell him on you.”

He kissed Theon, and it was so soft and chaste that Theon said,

“I’m sorry.”

Even though he didn’t know why he would be.

“I forgive you.”

“Can we go to bed? I’m really tired.”

“You want to take a shower?”

Theon nodded, perhaps a little too eagerly. “Yeah.” He hooked a finger in Ramsay’s belt. “You wanna take a shower with me?”

Ramsay shook his head and smiled. “You’re fucking pathetic, aren’t you?”

Fuck you. What am I supposed to say to that? Am I supposed to say anything at all?

You’re the one with cum all over your pants.

Ramsay opened a closet and threw a towel at Theon.

“I’m going to watch you take a shower, and when I think you’re clean enough, I’m going to fuck your brains out.”

“Well, what if I don’t feel like it?” Even if he did.

Ramsay smirked, like it was some kind of unfunny joke. “Then you won’t enjoy it as much.”

Chapter Text

Although Theon found House Bolton just a sofa and a flat-screen homier than a crypt, to Ramsay it had always been a castle. But Theon grew up with Greyjoy brothers and Stark brothers, and he’d never shared a tiny studio apartment with his mother and a broken-down heating system. Ramsay remembered standing outside the massive, dark door of his father’s house, holding a paper grocery bag full of clothes while the social worker who’d delivered him spoke to Roose.

Ramsay had smiled up at his father, who made no expression at all, but placed a hand on his shoulder and led him to his new room. In the hallway, they paused outside a locked door.

“This is your home now,” Roose had said, “And you can go wherever you like, except for this room. This is my study, and it’s of no concern to you. Do you understand that you’re not to enter it, under any circumstances?”

Ramsay clutched his bag to his chest and nodded, already resolved to find a way inside.

Over a year passed before Ramsay was finally able to break in, and in the meantime he came to know every inch of his father’s house. His favorite places were the ones most children avoid – the space beneath the stairs, the utility closet, the attic. And Roose was gone so often that Ramsay couldn’t help but think of the house as his, and everything in it, including whatever was in that study.

Ramsay had a gift for taking things apart. When he finally managed to pick the lock, he opened the door and a musty, oil smell filled his nostrils. A shaft of light halved the room and in it, Ramsay watched the dust particles dance their way to the floor.

At first, it looked like a typical fatherly room; there was a desk, as he’d expected, and an overflowing file cabinet.

Boring.

Mounted on the walls were all manner of things, animal heads and skins, but also knives. One entire wall of knives and swords and when the sunbeam hit that wall, the whole thing lit up like a movie pirate’s treasure. And there were guns, too – a shotgun and a pair of rifles, a handful of antique-looking pistols – but Ramsay wasn’t interested in them. He stood in front of the wall of blades for some time that day, looking them over, wanting to touch them but not yet daring. His eyes settled on a small one that was just out of his reach; it was thin and delicate like a woman’s finger, with three garnets set into the hilt.

He left the room as he found it and locked the door behind him.

He returned often, working up the courage to remove that little knife from its mount. Naturally, he’d run his finger along the blade and drawn a fine red line there. He started carrying it in his pocket when he felt his father wouldn’t notice it. And at recess he would sit alone on a swing or under the big tree and – if no one was around – he’d take it out to look at.

One afternoon, he was so enthralled with it that he failed to hear the approaching footsteps of a classmate, who kicked Ramsay’s ankles and said,

“What’s that?”

“It’s my knife.”

“You’re lying. That knife is too nice for a little bastard like you.”

The wail of the ambulance filled the principal’s office, interrupting the first of many conversations between Roose and school administration.

“Any idea how your son came across this knife?” The principle handed the bloodied thing over to Roose, who held it familiarly.

“Yes. This is mine.”

“Your son.”

Roose was silent the whole ride home, but then Roose was silent most of the time. He’d never hit Ramsay, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t, so Ramsay braced himself for whatever punishment might come. When they arrived home, Roose grabbed Ramsay by the scruff of the neck and led him upstairs to the study. He took a special rag from a drawer in his desk and wiped the blade clean before gently replacing the knife. He passed his finger over the stones in it and without looking at Ramsay said,

“This is a flaying knife. It’s not for stabbing, least of all stabbing your classmates.”

“What’s flaying?”

“Flaying means that you cut off someone’s skin.” He scanned the wall and removed another knife, a dagger with serrated edges. “This is for stabbing.”

He handed the knife to Ramsay, who weighed it in his hand for a moment.

“Are you mad at me?”

“I’m mad at you for disobeying me.”

“I’m sorry.”

Roose shook his head as he took the knife from Ramsay and returned it to its place.

“I don’t really think you are.”

It was after that Roose hired Heke to look after his son when he was away, and five years after that that he dismissed Heke after coming home early to find the man kneeling between his son’s legs while Ramsay held that same flaying knife at Heke’s throat.

Ramsay had begged – he shuddered to remember – actually begged - his father not to send Heke away, but Roose replied stonily that it was time for Ramsay to start acting like a man and a Bolton.

“What does that even mean?

“It means that you stop acting as though you can do whatever you want to whoever is misfortunate enough to be close to you, and start considering how your actions reflect on your family.”

So it was natural that Ramsay felt his stomach twist when he came home and found Theon sitting across the dining table from Roose with a cribbage board between them and a pile of empty sugar packets next to Theon’s coffee cup.

Oh fuck no, you do not get to do this to me.

“What are you doing?”

Thinking the question was directed at him, Theon answered, “Oh, your dad was just teaching me how to play cabbage.”

“Cribbage,” corrected Roose, taking off his glasses to look at his son. “How was your day, Ramsay?”

“Theon, go downstairs.”

Theon glanced at Roose, then back at Ramsay and quirked an eyebrow.

“Can’t I just count my hand first?”

“No. Downstairs. Now.

Theon sighed and laid his hand face-down on the table-top. Ramsay kept his eyes pinned on his father as he waited to hear the door close at the top of the stairs.

“What the fuck are you doing?

Roose swept Theon’s cards back into the deck and began putting the board away. Ramsay felt anger welling up inside his jaw as he watched his father shuffle and re-shuffle the cards without looking up.

“Fucking answer me!”

Nobody else would dare fucking ignore me.

After the cards were tucked back in their box, Roose stood up and approached Ramsay until they were uncomfortably close. Ramsay was as tall as his father now, maybe even taller, and yet somehow when Roose regarded him like this, those inscrutable eyes flitting over his face, searching, Ramsay hated how small he felt.

“I was playing cards with the boy you’ve been keeping in my basement.”

“Well, he’s mine, okay?”

Roose looked amused, as though it was only true because he allowed it to be.

“I’m sure he is yours.”

Ramsay found Theon standing at the bottom of the stairs reading titles on a book-shelf and hoped he hadn’t heard any of it.

“Everything okay?”

Ramsay shoved him against the wall and held him there. A little uncertain smile played across Theon’s lips before he leaned forward for a kiss. Ramsay caught him beneath the jaw.

“What did you talk about?”

Theon rolled his eyes. “Well, we spent the whole time talking about you and the way you like to put your cock in my-”

Ramsay’s eyes widened and he tightened his grip.

“Ow! God! He just taught me to play a damn card game, okay? He asked me about school and if I liked it at Deepwood and how my father is. All I said about you was we met in anatomy class.”

Ramsay held his grip and watched the pain in Theon’s face.

He’s telling you the truth.

“Are you lying to me again?”

A shadow passed over Theon’s face, and it was so fleeting that Ramsay couldn’t even give it a name, but it sent a ripple of goosebumps over his body and a rush of blood to his groin.

Theon sighed.

“I swear I’m not lying.”

Ramsay released his hold, but Theon kept his back against the wall and regarded Ramsay with puzzled eyes.

“Do you really think I’d, um- You don’t think I’d actually fuck your dad, do you?”

It sounded so ridiculous, out loud and in that painfully entertained tone of voice, and Ramsay felt ashamed that he’d shown such an obvious weakness.

“Oh, does the fact that Roose is my dad make you less of a slut?”

Theon reached out tentatively to push a lock of black hair behind Ramsay’s ear. And Ramsay cursed himself again for leaning ever-so-slightly into the touch.

“I think you know that I haven’t exactly been making the rounds since we started… whatever this is.”

“Not even once?”

Theon’s eyes slid sideways as he toyed with the truth for a second.

“Once,” he offered quietly.

Ramsay felt as though his whole body had ceased to function, and Theon went on:

“It was forever ago. You said I couldn’t spend the night. I had nowhere to go.”

Ramsay swallowed the urge to break Theon’s teeth and mustered his most benevolent voice as he shrugged and said,

“A dog does what it has to do to keep a roof over its head.”

A flash of pride flared in Theon’s eyes, then faded.

“You’re not mad?”

Ramsay grinned. “Of course I fucking am.” He reached out and crooked his finger under Theon’s chin, pressed his thumb against Theon’s lips until they parted and he could feel the edge of Theon’s teeth. “But you’ve been so good since then.”

Theon nodded and bit down lightly.

Ramsay felt the warmth of Theon’s mouth, the sharpness of his teeth, the softness of his lips.

* *

Ramsay knew about Ned Stark, of course; it was all over the newspaper, which announced that, among others, Eddard Stark was survived by his eldest son, Robb. It wasn’t exactly a stretch to assume that Robb Stark was Robb and so Ramsay waited for Theon to ask to attend the funeral.

“No. Of course you can’t go. Why the fuck would you ask me that?”

“Isn’t this just an excuse to see Robb?

What if he just announces that he’s going?

Then you make him stay.

In the end, Theon never even mentioned it, and Ramsay wondered if he wasn’t being a little irrational. Still, he made sure that Theon was too exhausted – and too sore – to even consider it. And they’d been loud as hell, or at least Theon had; loud enough that Ramsay felt certain his father hadn’t slept much. When he went up for breakfast in just his boxers and Roose lifted his eyes to meet his son’s, Ramsay couldn’t quite contain a very self-satisfied grin. He half-hoped his father would make some comment about it so he might go into grotesquely explicit detail about all the ways he’d made Theon say his name, but Roose hadn’t even raised an eyebrow before returning to his coffee.

Fine. Don’t say a damn thing.

As he returned to the basement carrying two bagels and two glasses of orange juice, Ramsay reflected that he hadn’t even told Theon to say his name; Theon had wrapped his legs around Ramsay’s waist and all that moaning and filth and his name just came pouring out and for a moment it felt so good that Ramsay forgot to ask himself whether it was real.

When he opened the door to his bedroom, Ramsay nearly dropped the breakfast he was carrying. Theon had sprawled out on the bed with one hand on his cock and the other gripping the top of the headboard. His teeth dug into his bottom lip, but that couldn’t quite disguise the familiar smirk there. Ramsay swallowed and slid the plate shakily onto the dresser, feeling contemptibly easy.

You should do something to show him that he can’t just play you like this.

But as he took a step forward he felt the weakness in his knees and in his chest.

Or just give him what he wants. What you want. God, the only thing you want.

“On the floor.”

Theon kept his eyes on Ramsay as he knelt on the carpet and the deep redness of his erection bobbed against the pale skin of his stomach. For the first time that he could remember, Ramsay Snow felt actually and acutely helpless.

He stepped around Theon and stared down at his back – at the way his hair fell against his neck, the way his shoulder blades twitched, the fresh tracks left by Ramsay’s fingernails, at the fading bruises and bite marks. Ramsay fell to his knees and yanked Theon off-balance so that the only thing holding him upright was his back against Ramsay’s chest. Theon let his head fall against Ramsay’s shoulder, and his breath hitched as Ramsay nipped at the juncture of his jaw and his neck.

“Trying to take your mind off something?”

“No,” Theon lied.

Ramsay slipped two fingers into Theon’s mouth and shuddered as Theon held them there between his teeth, sucking gently before Ramsay removed them and pressed them against Theon’s opening, running them in circles before pushing inside.

“Is it working?”

Theon nodded. His hands clutched at Ramsay’s thighs and the moan that shook his body was enough to drive Ramsay’s arousal to an excruciating intensity. He added a third finger and sank his teeth into the flesh of Theon’s shoulder.

“Isn’t this better than wherever you were thinking of?”

Theon swallowed hard. “Yes.”

Theon was on all fours when he came, and lurched forward onto his elbows, fingers gripping at the carpet threads and the word “Please…” balanced on his lips. Ramsay followed him over the edge, fighting back whatever humiliating sound he could feel building in his chest.

“Fucking. God.

They lay there for a moment, Theon on his stomach on the floor, Ramsay above him, a slick of sweat and cum between them. Ramsay had been waiting for the right moment, and this one seemed as perfect as any. He ran his lips along the cartilage of Theon’s ear.

Don’t ask; just tell him. He can’t say “no” if you don’t ask.

“Get an apartment with me after school is over.”

Theon rolled over onto his back and his voice was soft.

“What do I have to do? What do you want from me?”

Ramsay smiled sharply.

“I don’t want anything from you. I just want you.

Theon lifted his face towards Ramsay’s and ran his tongue over Ramsay’s bottom lip before biting down, hard.

“So take me.”

And Ramsay knew he was being used, but when Theon raked his nails over Ramsay’s scar, it didn’t really matter.

Chapter Text

Over the years, Theon had a thousand different fantasies about what it would be like to graduate, and none of them was coming true because all of them included Robb Stark.

He couldn’t remember precisely the first time they met, but he remembered the first time he noticed that Robb was special. It was in first grade, when Robb’s eyes were impossibly huge and Cat kept his curls cut short. Theon’s hair was lighter then, and touched his shoulders and even his baby teeth had been pretty crooked – something his classmates learned the hard way not to mention. And they were nothing alike, he thought. Robb got straight A’s; Theon got in fights. Robb was good at exams and Theon was good at forging his father’s signature on report cards.

“I thought you were such an asshole,” Robb told him later.

“And I thought you were a prick,” said Theon with a smile.

“We were both pretty spot-on, huh?”

It was during art class; the teacher asked each student to draw their favorite animal, and Theon didn’t miss a beat putting his pencil to his paper. He enjoyed drawing actually - before Maron snatched his little sketchbook and threw it out the car window – and he was so absorbed with it that he mislaid a line when a voice interrupted,

“What is that?

Theon had known Wendy Gibson since before he could remember and she had always delighted in pointing out his endless mistakes and failings. He loathed the days when he had to pass a spelling quiz to his right for her to correct, since she put little smiley-faces next to each error.

“Oh gross, it’s a squid!” said another girl.

“It’s not a squid.”

“Then what is it?” Wendy put down her pencil and folded her arms.

“It’s a kraken.”

Robb hadn’t stopped drawing, but now Theon saw him glancing up quickly. He squinted over the table at Robb’s paper.

A wolf. It’s pretty good.

“A kraken isn’t a real animal,” Wendy scolded. “We’re supposed to draw our favorite animal, and a kraken doesn’t count.”

Theon clenched his teeth and was just about to tell Wendy to stop being such a little bitch, when Robb spoke without looking up from his wolf.

“It is too a real animal.”

All three of them turned to stare at Robb.

“But, it’s-”

“It’s a real animal, Wendy. My dad told me he saw them all the time when he was in the Navy.”

(Theon didn’t piece together for years that Ned Stark had never been in the Navy and that this was the first of countless lies that Robb would tell on his behalf.)

Wendy huffed and returned to her own drawing, knowing that Robb was always right and so krakens must be real. Theon peeked at her animal, which was a horse.

At least a kraken isn’t boring.

Theon cocked his head and watched Robb, who was so focused that he was drooling a little out the corner of his mouth.

You should say something to him.

“Nice wolf.”

Robb looked up at him and grinned, and

Jeez, nobody’s ever smiled at me like that before.

“Thanks. I really like your kraken. Are you gonna keep it? ‘Cause if you don’t, I want it.”

And that was Robb, and Robb never changed. As they grew up, he swore and drank a little, and sometimes he’d sleep with a girl or break a rule, but he was always so good - and he was always good to Theon. When they turned fourteen and suddenly Theon’s teeth seemed to fit his face and his acne cleared up overnight and his puppy fat dropped off, Robb was the only person who didn’t treat him any different. And when he showed up to school with the occasional black eye, and started sleeping with any girl he could – including Wendy Gibson – and then maybe a guy once in a while if he was drunk, Robb didn’t say anything about it except,

“How are you doing, man?”

And when they finally graduated together, Robb would put an arm around Theon’s shoulder and his smile would be brighter than all the camera flash in the room and he would say,

“We made it.”

But now Theon was sitting at Deepwood Academy’s graduation ceremony and it didn’t mean a goddamn thing. The band was playing “Pomp and Circumstance” about a hundred damn times through, and since it was a reformatory and fifty percent of the people in the class were probably going on to start dealing drugs to the other fifty percent, the atmosphere was less-than-celebratory. For once, Theon was relieved that Balon apparently couldn’t care less about his only remaining son; Ramsay might not be able to sit next to Theon during the ceremony, but of course he made sure to put a mark on Theon - four small, dark bruises on the left side of his throat and one on the right that had left him gasping for air. And of course he hadn’t let Theon shower for three days…

It was humiliating, and then it was also comforting. Theon sighed and ran his own fingers down his neck.

Ramsay.

The name occupied his mind for hours on end; sometimes he found himself whispering it aloud when he was alone. And being alone made him anxious; being anywhere without Ramsay made him anxious, as though Ramsay was some touchstone and without him Theon might as well have disappeared off the face of the earth.

I think I’m in love with him.

You know you’re not.

Then what’s the word for it when you want someone like this?

When the ceremony ended and Theon found himself lost in a crush of bodies, he made his way to the side of the gymnasium to wait for Ramsay. Instead, he found himself pressed up against Jon Stark.

“Theon! Hey! Congratulations!”

Jon smiled and then pursed his lips, self-conscious suddenly about their proximity and trying not to seem baffled by the way Theon smelled.

Theon searched frantically for a pair of freezing gray eyes, but he couldn’t see them, couldn’t feel them. He looked back at Jon, who was wearing black slacks and a black collared shirt and he thought briefly how easy it would be to grab Jon by the arm and disappear out through the parking-lot and push him up against the wall of the gym and-

“What are you doing here?” Theon had to shout over the din of the crowd.

Jon pointed his thumb over his shoulder at the band risers, which were covered with other Deepwood students in black slacks and shirts.

“I’m in the band. We had to be here for this. To serenade you.”

“What do you play?”

“Clarinet.”

“Could you be any gayer?”

“I could be sleeping with a man,” retorted Jon.

“Touche.”

Theon scanned the crowd again. “Hey, what about that red-head I always see you with?”

“Ygritte? Oh, she’s in orchestra.”

Theon rolled his eyes. “I meant, what’s up with you and her?”

“I dunno. I like her.”

“Yeah, she’s fucking hot.”

Jon cringed visibly.

“She wants to like, have sex.”

“With you, or just in general?”

Jon blushed. “With me.”

“Duh.”

“What?”

“I said, ‘Gross.’”

There was a dense pause, and then Theon said,

“I’m really sorry about your dad.”

Jon’s eyes quivered and his jaw locked for a second.

“Yeah. Me too.”

Way to wreck the kid’s night, dumb-ass.

“Hey, I heard there’s going to be a crazy after-party. You should go.”

Jon smiled sheepishly and fiddled with the top button on his shirt. “I don’t- You know I’m not really into that stuff.”

Who does that remind you of?

“And anyway, I don’t think freshmen are invited.”

Theon shrugged as though he hadn’t already imagined a scenario in which Jon got too schnockered for his own good and maybe he needed a little help getting himself home and maybe on the way he stumbled into Theon-

What the fuck are you thinking? It’s Jon.

“Yeah, you’d probably kill the vibe handing out PETA literature or whatever it is you do at parties.”

A delicate smile played at Jon’s mouth and he ran his fingers through that wild black hair.

Fuck. Me.

And suddenly a little shiver ran up Theon’s spine and he knew that Ramsay had spotted him.

“Gotta go.”

He turned away from Jon and didn’t look back.

Ramsay’s face was flushed with the heat rising in the room; he was starting to sweat through his shirt and his hair stuck to his forehead.

“Jesus Christ, let’s get out of here already.”

He grabbed Theon by the wrist and started to walk towards the exit, but Theon didn’t budge. He looked up at the strip lighting on the high ceiling and the whole thing seemed so terrible. Inexplicably, his eyes began to sting with tears and Ramsay’s grip on his wrist tightened.

“What are you thinking about?” To anyone listening, it might have sounded like concern.

I just want you to take me home now. Take me home and do whatever you want to me.

Theon clenched his eyes shut and shook his head. He looked at Ramsay and aimed for a careless grin.

“Just some bullshit.”

They pressed through the double-doors and out into the cool spring air. Ramsay unbuttoned his sleeves and wiped at the sweat on his temples. Theon regarded him differently for a moment, trying to remember what he’d thought about Ramsay that very first day at Academy.

You thought it was cute how awkward he was when you winked at him.

Would you even be withhim if he wasn’t fucking nuts?

Theon couldn’t answer that, and it bothered him. He found a mangled cigarette in his pocket and brought it to his lips.

“Wanna go home?”

“Fuck this thing!” Ramsay pulled his shirt over his head and threw it on the pavement. He wore an old beater underneath and Theon saw his scar peeking out from the collar. He resisted the urge to touch it, and instead fiddled with his lighter.

“Take me home?” he repeated.

Ramsay bent to pick up his shirt and tossed it over his shoulder.

“We’re going to the after-party. I heard it’s gonna be off-the-chain.”

“Can’t we just go home?” Theon hooked a finger into Ramsay’s belt and gave a hard tug.

“You sound like a fucking child right now,” replied Ramsay. And then, “Is it the way you smell? Is that why you don’t want to go?”

Theon turned red and coughed. “Is it- It’s pretty bad?”

Ramsay laughed. “Yeah, it’s pretty fucking bad.” He didn’t even bother to look around before grabbing Theon by the collar and licking him from his chin to the corner of his jaw. “But you know what it does to me.”

Theon whimpered and pressed the heel of his hand against Ramsay’s crotch. Ramsay pushed him away.

“Later.”

* *

Theon tried out several different lies about how he lost his fingers before settling on “frostbite” as the most believable – if mundane – explanation. Hearing those lies turned Ramsay on. It was usually a child, asking,

“Hey, what happened to your fingers?”

Theon would recoil and shove his hand into his pocket and mumble something like, “Oh, they got slammed in a garage door,” and he’d feel Ramsay’s hand against his thigh or the nape of his neck and he knew that as soon as they got home, they’d barely make it through the door before Ramsay had Theon’s back against the wall.

And Theon, for his part, would moan and tremble and feel whole for a few seconds.

It confounded Theon that Ramsay decided to go to the after-party, considering that if “Most Likely to Go Totally Postal and Kill Every Last Person in School” were a yearbook category, Ramsay would’ve won it hands-down.

There was a terribly awkward silence when they entered the house, and Theon squirmed under that uniform gaze. It only lasted a second though, before someone in the kitchen spilled his drink and someone else yelled,

“Party foul!”

And everything roared back to life.

Well, now what?

Theon looked at Ramsay questioningly, and Ramsay smiled in a way that made Theon nervous.

He left Theon sitting alone on one side of a love-seat.

“I’ll get us some more drinks.”

I don’t think I should have any more.

“Okay.”

That was thirty minutes ago, Theon realized as he struggled to read his watch. His feet and hands felt clumsy, and he knew he was smiling, even though nobody had spoken to him all evening. The room was hot and some girls had used it as an excuse to take off their shirts; Theon watched them with interest, and shifted uncomfortably.

Two of the girls were talking with a guy; one had black hair and perfect tits, and she kept laughing and snapping her friend’s bra-strap and Theon noticed that the guy’s hands were shaking.

You’re just psyching yourself out, dude.

Well why don’t you go show him how it’s done, asshole?

Theon sighed.

I can’t be here anymore.

He rose from the chair and the blood rushed from his head, dragging him back down.

Whoa. Pretty damn drunk.

Theon squeezed through a crowd in the kitchen and out the back door. For the first time that evening he felt like he was breathing, and although he didn’t dare leave, he thought about it. There was no moon, but the stars were clear and sharp. Theon lit a cigarette and blew a little ring of smoke up at them.

“Can you show me how to do that?” Robb had asked.

“You’ve never had a cigarette. You won’t be able to do it.”

But he had insisted and Theon had lit one and passed it to Robb, who just started coughing and laughing-

The memory was interrupted by the sound of someone puking violently. Theon looked to his left where a figure braced himself as he heaved again, right into the bird bath.

Theon snorted.

I guess I could be that guy.

“Hey man, are you okay?”

He stepped off the porch and when a voice slurred,

“’M ffffine,”

No fucking way.

Jon’s knees buckled as he turned to face Theon and he landed awkwardly in the grass.

“Fuck. Fuck fuck falling. I can’t stop ffffalling.”

Theon stood still as a strange mix of derision, pity and embarrassment stirred in him. He watched Jon try to pull himself up using the edge of the bird bath, but he couldn’t seem to get his feet and his knees lined up.

You poor fucker.

“Alright, come on.” Theon reached both his arms out and a goofy grin spread across Jon’s face.

“Thhhheon! I’m so glad you’re here!”

Theon rolled his eyes and pulled Jon up to his feet. Jon brushed off his shoulders, and Theon had a sinking feeling that nothing was ever going to be quite like he wanted it. He hesitated before touching Jon again, but finally grabbed him by the shoulders and peered into his face.

“Jon, get your damn hair out of your eyes.”

Jon giggled and blew a puff of air upward across his face. He pushed a handful of hair back and Theon looked into his pupils.

He’s seeing double.

“How much have you had to drink?”

Jon scratched his chin and stared up at the sky for about fifteen seconds.

“Um, I lost count. I thhhink like, maybe seven.”

“Seven what?

Another fifteen seconds.

“Seven of those um, the little glasses…”

“Jesus, you had seven shots?”

“Yep.” He bit his tongue and counted out seven on his fingers, holding them in Theon’s face until Theon batted them away.

“Okay. Did you come here with anyone?”

Jon nodded.

Who, you jackass?”

“Ygritte. I haven’t seen her for a whhhhile though.” He rubbed at his left arm with his right hand. “I thhhink I embarrassed her.”

“Yeah, you’re pretty wrecked right now.”

“Am I?” Jon toppled forward again and resumed throwing up at Theon’s feet.

Theon glanced up at the windows, praying not to see anyone there. They were empty, so he knelt beside Jon and put an arm across his back, swept up his hair and held it out of the way in a loose fist. He looked up at the stars.

Please don’t do this shit to me.

After a couple minutes, Jon’s stomach went dry and he wiped his lips on the back of his hand.

“I’m- I need to lie down.”

Theon bit his lip before pulling Jon up by his armpits. “Let’s find someplace for you to do that.”

Jon felt heavier than Theon expected, and as he walked Jon carefully up the steps and into the house, it occurred to him that this was the same boy that was barely out of diapers when they’d first met. But now he could feel the lean muscle beneath Jon’s t-shirt, and as they wove their way through the pack of other drunk boys and girls, Theon’s mind was doing circles.

You’re an idiot. He’s too drunk.

You’re drunk too.

You’re too drunk.

He’s right here. It would be so easy.

Robb would kill you if he ever found out.

He’s a lot like Robb, isn’t he?

But he’s not Robb. He is fifteen and a virgin and he is too. fucking. drunk.

It would feel so good though. Get your dick sucked for a change. Are you seriously going to pass this up?

Ramsay’s here somewhere.

And somehow that seemed to settle it. They lurched down a hallway and Theon nudged one of the doors open with his foot. The light from the hall spilled in and showed a mattress on the floor, a disused fish-tank and a pile of old text books.

“Okay, Jon, I think you need to get some rest, yeah?”

Jon dropped onto the mattress and began tugging uselessly at his shoes. Theon scoffed and bent to untie them.

“You are a lost cause, man.”

“Thhheon!” Jon grabbed at the front of Theon’s shirt and pulled himself up until his mouth was hot against Theon’s ear. “Can I tell you a secret?”

Theon swallowed. “Sure, if you want to.”

“You reek.

Theon felt like he’d been slapped in the face, but Jon just fell back onto the bed laughing, pulling Theon down with him so that Theon had to twist sideways to avoid ending up on top of him. The laugh stopped abruptly and Jon cocked his head at Theon and reached out unsteadily. He laid his hand on Theon’s throat, biting his tongue as he matched up his fingers to the bruises there, and his touch was light and warm and nothing like Ramsay’s.

“Does he do this to you?” asked Jon with wide, disbelieving eyes.

Theon froze.

This is some of what he does to me, yeah.

He nodded and without thinking put his own hand over Jon’s and held it there, gently.

Something shifted in Jon's bleary eyes and his fingers slid to the back of Theon's neck and suddenly his mouth was on Theon's and a shadow appeared in the doorway.

Theon pushed Jon away so forcefully that they both went backwards. Jon began laughing again, but Theon felt a kind of fear that bordered on pain.

The light behind him made it impossible to see Ramsay’s face clearly, but Theon didn’t need to see to know.

Oh fuck. Oh Jesus, you are done for.

You should’ve left Jon alone. Just left it alone.

And then a surge of guilt.

“What’s wrong?”

Jon blinked up at Theon and Theon realized that Ramsay was gone.

I’m going to be sick.

Theon rose and staggered down the hallway.

“Ramsay? Has anybody seen Ramsay Snow?”

Nobody answered, but the crowd parted slightly as Theon made his way towards the back door. It was beginning to smell like rain outside. Theon took a few uncertain steps down the little sidewalk that led to the alley, then fell to his knees and retched into the bushes beside the garage. He was startled – but not surprised – when a strong pair of hands grabbed him by the shirt and hauled him through its darkened door.

I’m sorry. Oh God, I’m sorry. Please take me home.

Chapter Text

What were you thinking, bringing him to a fucking party?

You knew this would happen.

You knew this would happen…

Ramsay threw Theon forward into the darkness before finding a light switch and slamming the door to the garage behind him. The place smelled like grease and fuel, and along one wall ran a workbench covered in tools and oil rags.

He could tell by the way Theon tripped over his own feet and tugged at his shirt that he was blitzed. Not that Ramsay wasn’t drunk –- and also pretty stoned –- but he felt overcome with an awful clarity and his head was pounding and his palms were sweating and if he didn’t know himself better, he’d swear he was on the verge of a panic attack.

Well, what are you going to do now?

Theon opened his mouth to say something, but Ramsay interrupted with a hard cross that sent Theon reeling backwards, clutching at the edge of the workbench to stay upright. Ramsay closed in on him, spun Theon around and pinned his hips against the wood. He grabbed Theon's hair and smashed his head face-first into the bench and when he jerked Theon's head to the side, a trickle of blood seeped out of Theon's nose. Ramsay tried to catch his breath but felt a different kind of excitement overtaking him.

“I didn’t -- I didn’t mean for that to happen." Ramsay held Theon's cheek against the table. "I swear. I was just trying to help --”

He seized Theon’s right arm and twisted it painfully. Theon yelped.

“Don’t talk if you’re just going to insult me.”

He had started to cry, and for less than a second, Ramsay thought about kissing him.

“I’m sorry! Jesus Christ, I’m sorry!

As though he sensed that softness, Theon pushed back against him, and Ramsay tightened his grip.

This is what you get for being weak.

You can’t make him love you.

I can try.

Theon’s left hand was splayed against the grain of the workbench, just a few inches from his nose, and Ramsay felt a strange elation as his fingers curled around the handle of a hammer and brought it down there. He felt the pain jolt through Theon’s whole body like lightning and the adrenaline in his own blood that made the hammer seem almost weightless as he dropped it again and again with a precision that surprised him.

Theon didn’t scream, but only because he couldn’t breathe. His eyes and mouth were blown open in shock, unable to do anything but watch as his little- and ring- fingers were reduced to a mess of blood and skin and fingernail and bone. The dull thump of the impact was the only sound in the world. When Ramsay finally cast the hammer away across the cement floor, his whole body shook. He pressed forward against Theon and leaned down to whisper,

Please come home to me.

But Theon’s eyes had rolled back into his head, and when Ramsay released his hold, he slumped onto the floor, unconscious. It infuriated Ramsay, having the game end so soon with the ache still between his legs. He left Theon there on the floor and returned to the party.

* *

When he opened the door, Ramsay saw Jon hard asleep with his mouth open and his hair in a tangle. Ramsay’s chest burned as he tried to discern what it was that Theon wanted with the boy. He’d been searching for Theon when he heard it: “You reek,” and that laugh. It flashed in front of him again – Jon’s soft lips on Theon’s, his eyelashes fluttering against cheeks red with intoxication.

You forget that you’re not the only person who wants him, Ramsay chided himself.

He took three steps forward into the darkened bedroom. His anticipation -– The things I’m going to do to you, sweetheart –- died away when he heard a soft metallic click to his right and felt the cool touch of a pistol against his temple. All he saw in his periphery was a barrel and a set of fingernails painted with glitter nail- polish.

“Get the fuck out,” said a girl’s voice, calm and yet razor-sharp.

Ramsay smiled and kept his eyes on Jon, who mumbled something and rolled onto his side.

Tonight is the luckiest night of your life, little boy.

Ramsay put his hands up slowly and took a step back.

“Come near him again and I’ll blow your fucking brains out.”

Three more steps back and Ramsay was in the hallway again; the door drifted closed and he stood there silently for a moment, listening. He heard the creak of a mattress, then nothing.

* *

He has to come back. Where else would he go?

It was already one in the afternoon and Ramsay was still nursing a wicked hang-over. He lay on his father’s expansive leather couch, nearly immobile, watching cartoons and downing his third glass of orange juice; he had his phone balanced on his stomach and he stared at the screen, willing it to light up with a text.

Just go find him.

No. He has to come back by himself.

Roose came home for lunch and side-eyed Ramsay from the dining room before asking,

“Where’s your friend?”

Ramsay scowled. “He’s not my friend, okay?”

“You didn’t answer my question. Did he find someplace else to stay?”

Ramsay sat up to glare at his father, but lay back down when his stomach churned.

“I’m sure he didn’t.

Ramsay’s phone chimed. “Text from Theon.”

He allowed a feeling of giddiness to pass before reading.

“At the hospital. Please come get me.”

Ramsay drove so fast that he had to pull over in an underpass to vomit up all the orange juice he’d had. When he entered the emergency room reception office, he threw open both glass doors and everyone in the room turned to stare.

Ugh. I fucking hate hospitals.

“I’m here for Theon Greyjoy,” he blurted.

The receptionist raised a penciled eyebrow at him. She typed something into her computer and peered at the screen. Ramsay drummed his fingers anxiously on the counter-top.

“Greyjoy… Greyjoy…”

Oh my fucking God…

“It’s ‘Grey’ with an E.”

“Oh, Greyjoy.” She double-clicked. “Looks like he’s recovering from surgery.”

Surgery?

“Well, where is he? Can I see him?”

He caught the look of amusement that crossed her face.

Bitch, I will break your fucking skull if you do not let me in.

“And who are you? His emergency contact has already arrived.”

Fuck.

Ramsay swallowed and pushed his hair out of his face. “I’m Ramsay Snow. I’m his-– he’s my boyfriend.” He held out his phone. “I just got this text from him. Please. Please let me see him.”

She examined the screen and then sighed. “Let me print you a visitor pass.”

Ramsay was so relieved that he didn’t bother to say thank you. He had to fight his own body not to run down the corridor. Instead he walked briskly with his head down, feeling the eyes of all the orderlies and nurses passing over him as he went. He stopped outside the recovery room and wiped his sweaty hands on his jeans.

When he opened the door, Ramsay’s heart stopped.

Robb.

Robb Stark sat beside Theon’s bed with his fists clenched and his jaw set, and Ramsay could feel the recoil in him, knew that in Robb’s mind, Ramsay was already begging for mercy. But he made no movement.

And Theon…

Ramsay had never seen anything so beautiful. His hair had turned the color of new snow and a smile was just leaving his lips. His left cheekbone was nearly black and the white of his eye was red with a burst vessel. The beeping of the heart-monitor increased urgently; its cords disappeared beneath his hospital gown and an IV drip hooked into his right arm. Blood had saturated the thick bandages around the place where his pinkie and ring-fingers used to be.

“Ramsay!”

Theon glanced from Ramsay to Robb and back again, overwhelmed.

Ramsay moved to touch him, but Robb rose from his chair and brought his body between them. He lifted his chin and sucked his teeth, leveling his eyes at Ramsay. Ramsay sneered and tried to step around him, but Robb put his hands on Ramsay’s chest and gave a light shove.

I’ll kill you. I will straight up fucking kill you if you don’t get the fuck out of my way.

Robb’s tone was even but deadly when he said, “Theon was just telling me about what happened.”

Ramsay fought to control the pitch of his own voice. “What did happen?” he asked, eying Theon over Robb’s shoulder. Robb took a step to obstruct his view.

“You don’t talk to him. You talk to me.”

Who the fuck do you think you are?

Ramsay rolled his eyes petulantly and looked up at Robb, who he wished wasn’t quite so many inches taller. “So you tell me: what happened?”

“Well, Theon says he got jumped at a graduation party.”

“By who?

Robb cracked his neck.

“I don’t know,” came Theon’s voice, quiet and broken and obviously humiliated at being asked to repeat something that everyone in the room knew was a lie . “Just some random guys from the Academy, trying to start some shit with me.”

“I’ll kill them,” said Ramsay, his eyes trained on Robb’s.

“It’s an understandable feeling, isn’t it?”

And do you even know who I am?

“Yeah.”

Robb lashed out suddenly, grabbing Ramsay’s throat just beneath the jaw. Ramsay gripped Robb’s wrist and he could feel the heat of Robb’s blood.

“Robb-–” Theon pleaded.

“I mean, if you love someone, you’d do just about anything for them, right?”

“You need to get the fuck out of my face.”

And say the word “love” one more time …

Robb lifted Ramsay’s chin until he could hear Ramsay’s breathing turn raspy.

“When you love someone, you do stupid, crazy bullshit, like tell obvious fucking lies to your best friend to cover up what a totally worthless piece of shit they are.”

“Robb, please don’t.”

Robb brought his face so close that Ramsay could’ve bitten him.

“The only reason you aren’t bleeding on the floor right now is that he begged me not to hurt you. So my respect for Theon is the only thing between you and a fucking wheelchair.”

Ramsay felt like he was going to catch fire from the inside out. His entire body shook.

“Are you fucking done?

“Are you fucking taking notes, asshole? If I ever have to see him in a hospital bed again – even if it’s an accident, even if you were a thousand miles away when it happened – I will fucking end you.

He released his hold on Ramsay and turned back to Theon, who had tears running down his face. He clasped Theon’s left hand, and Theon pulled it away and offered his right.

“Oh for Christ's sake.”

Robb held his hand and didn’t give Ramsay so much as a glance. And suddenly it was as though Ramsay wasn’t even in the room; it was just Robb and Theon, and for a horrible moment, it made sense that way.

“Call me when you need me.”

And Theon nodded weakly. “I’m okay. I promise. Don’t worry about me.”

“I always will, though.”

Robb squeezed Theon’s hand. He didn’t look at Ramsay as he left the room, but clipped him hard with his shoulder as he brushed past, and was gone.

Neither Ramsay nor Theon spoke for a moment; Ramsay rubbed at the place Robb’s hand had been. Theon’s electronic pulse slowed , and Ramsay took Robb’s chair and shuffled it closer to the railing on the bed. He reached for Theon’s left hand, but Theon pulled it away and laid it across his chest. He turned his face away to hide his tears.

Say something.

But it was Theon who broke the silence in a voice that was soft and bitter and cracked.

“Why do you hate me?”

Ramsay ran a finger through that ghostly hair.

You’re perfect.

“You’re the only thing I care about.”

Theon turned to look at him with an expression that was equal parts affection and confusion and pain.

“Then why –-”

“You know why.”

Theon inhaled and let out a shaky breath. “Will you still take me home with you?”

“You’re still mine, aren’t you?”

Theon smiled and Ramsay felt like his body was tearing in half.

“Yours.”

* *

That evening, Ramsay helped a heavily medicated Theon down the stairs to his bedroom, and he was grateful that his father was already asleep. He sensed that Roose disapproved of the entire thing; not because of how Ramsay treated Theon, but because he insisted on making such a fool of himself over it . The last thing Ramsay needed right now was a lecture.

Theon lowered himself onto the floor and bunched his hoodie beneath his head. Ramsay hesitated before offering his bed.

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

He watched Theon struggle to his feet.

Don’t make it a regular thing.

“Just for tonight. I’ll sleep on the couch.”

Ramsay flicked on the bedside lamp. Theon sat on the edge of the bed and leaned forward to untie his shoes, but when he saw his left hand grasping at the laces, he broke down. He sank back onto the comforter, trying to cover his face with his good hand while he held the mangled one as far from himself as possible.

“I look like a fucking freak,” he sobbed.

“You look fucking incredible.”

Ramsay knelt to untie Theon’s shoes and threw them across the room. He pulled off Theon’s socks and pants, and reached for his shirt, but Theon curled away. The light from the lamp was dim but warm, and it lent a bright glow to Theon’s hair when he laid his head on the pillow. Ramsay couldn’t stop himself from touching it as he bent to kiss Theon’s forehead.

“Do you want me to leave the light on?”

Theon nodded.

Ramsay turned and began to pull the door closed behind him when he heard a sniffle.

“Ramsay?”

“Yeah?”

Theon took a deep breath that came out in a flutter. He bit his lip.

“Don’t go.”

You shouldn’t.

Since when did that matter?

It had never been like this.

When Theon kissed him it was soft and simple and felt like a little spark against his lips. And when Ramsay tried to take a breath, Theon only pulled him closer and opened his mouth. He slid his hands beneath Ramsay’s shirt and Ramsay shivered when he felt rough bandages where smooth fingers were this time yesterday.

“Sorry.” Theon pulled his hand away, but Ramsay just growled and pressed it back against his chest.

Theon grinned before slipping that hand up Ramsay’s neck and into his hair, pulling him down for another kiss, and this one was shamelessly desperate and Ramsay had to warn himself not to lose it, not to bite, not to choke him until he begged. Instead he ran his tongue down to Theon’s collar bone and then laid a line of kisses across his stomach until he came to a stop with his lips just barely brushing Theon’s erection.

Do not make him think that you enjoy this.

He glanced up at Theon, who had lifted his head to gaze at Ramsay. His eyes were wide and hopeful and made even bluer by the stray strands of white that fell just between them; they snapped shut when Ramsay’s mouth closed around him. Theon’s whole body convulsed, his knees squeezing Ramsay’s ribcage.

When he couldn’t bear it anymore, Ramsay dragged Theon down to the foot of the bed so both his legs hung off the mattress. He’d never wanted anything so painfully, and when he entered Theon he felt close to passing out. Theon gasped as his back arched, his left hand splayed against Ramsay’s stomach, and his eyes travelled between that hand and Ramsay’s face and back again.

“What are you thinking about?”

“If I wanted to fuck a girl, I’d be fucking a girl.” It was a tease and a challenge.

Ramsay grabbed at Theon’s hand and deepened his thrusts. “Would you?”

“Ah-– Jesus. No.” He pulled himself up, his nails digging into Ramsay’s shoulder, and Ramsay shuddered. Theon placed another chaste kiss at the corner of his mouth before whispering, “Nobody fucks me like you do.”

Theon came with a sigh, the word “fuck” said so faintly that it was almost nothing. A sudden and deep terror seized Ramsay just before his climax hit, and when he came he was appalled to actually hear himself moaning like a whore. He fell forward onto his elbows and didn’t dare open his eyes. His breathing slowed and when his shoulders began to ache, he let his head rest against Theon’s chest, listening to the heartbeat there. Theon combed his fingers through Ramsay’s hair, and Ramsay was drifting off when he jerked back awake and said,

“If you ever touch anyone else again, I’ll kill you… You know that, right?”

Theon kissed the top of his head, and Ramsay pulled Theon’s ruined hand against his scar.

Chapter Text

And even though it was never quite like that again, Theon clung to the memory of Ramsay’s breath across his chest, tracing the edge of Ramsay’s ear with his fingertips until they were both asleep. Later on, when Theon found himself saying,

“No. I don’t want to.”

“Please just stop.”

And Ramsay would say,

“Did I ask how you feel about it?”

Theon would pretend that this time was that time, and then it wasn’t so bad after all. It was almost funny, the energy Ramsay spent threatening him and hurting him to make him stay.

If you just fucked me like that again, I’d never even think of leaving.

Not that I do.

He never did get used to lying about his fingers, which he knew was the reason it was such a perennial turn-on for Ramsay. But he learned to lie about the smaller things without batting an eye, like telling Yara he couldn’t Skype with her because his camera was broken, or telling Ramsay that he hadn’t left the apartment all afternoon when he’d actually gone downstairs for a smoke and maybe even said “Hey” to the guy with the bright green eyes who lived in 4B.

They’d moved in a week after graduation, though it was Ramsay whose name was on the lease and Ramsay whose father saw the $800 per month rent as a small price for getting Ramsay – and his “pet,” as Roose had taken to calling Theon – out of the house. Somehow, everything fit into the back of the Mustang and Ramsay had shooed Theon inside, insisting that he move everything himself and Theon could do all the unpacking.

After he’d made the bed, Theon flopped onto his back and put his hands behind his head.

Now what?

“Hey, what did I say about doors?”

“I’m not allowed to close them?”

“So you’re just being disobedient.”

Theon bit his lip. “You’re smiling.”

Ramsay grabbed Theon by the hips and pulled him off the bed, wrestling him to the carpet. He brought Theon’s left hand to his mouth and kissed that still-tender spot that used to be fingers. Theon shivered.

So fucking nasty.

It made him sick, but it also thrilled him somehow.

“I’m smiling because it means I just get to keep on punishing you.” His grip tightened until Theon winced and tried to pull away.

“Do I get to sleep in the bed with you?”

“Don’t be stupid.”

Ramsay leaned forward and bit down hard, drawing an embarrassing whine from Theon’s throat.

“We’re going to have to be quieter here,” said Ramsay, his index finger alighting on Theon’s lips. “Someone might actually hear you scream.”

“I thought you wanted everyone to know that I’m your bitch.”

And I am. God, I am.

Ramsay wedged his thigh between Theon’s legs. “I just don’t want them calling the cops.”

“Why, are you afraid I’ll have sex with the cops?” taunted Theon, bracing himself for a slap.

It stung enough that Theon rubbed his cheek, but not so much that he didn’t smile straight through the pain. It was that old, impenetrable smile, and when he saw the slight change that crept over Ramsay, he knew it was about to get fucked clean out of him.

Ramsay snarled and covered Theon’s mouth with his own, then pulled away just enough to say, “I think that’s my favorite thing about you.”

Theon swallowed. “What is?”

“The fact that you never fucking learn.

* *

For a while, he didn’t know what to do with himself. Roose had given Ramsay a job, which Theon had only asked about obliquely. Whatever it was, it took Ramsay away from him at odd, unpredictable hours; sometimes he came home exhausted and smelling like soap, and other times he came home sweaty and tense and practically tore Theon’s clothes off.

Despite the strange schedule he kept, Ramsay managed to keep close tabs on Theon and texted him at least three times an hour. And every time his phone buzzed, Theon felt a tide of adrenaline. He learned that Ramsay liked the apartment clean, but also hated having his things misplaced, and that small mistakes would usually be forgiven if he gave Ramsay a blowjob and/or made breakfast.

That wasn’t always true, of course. But that didn’t stop him from deliberately provoking Ramsay from time to time; jerking himself off on Ramsay’s bed and leaving the sheets tangled and filthy, or “accidentally” sending a text to the effect of “I want your hands on me now” to Ramsay’s work number. And maybe taking a shower when he’d been explicitly forbidden. And for every time that Ramsay held his throat too tightly or that Theon found his own blood on the couch cushions afterward, there was a time that he came so hard his eyes crossed.

It was a dreary day, he remembered later, and he’d been out to buy cigarettes; it was the only reason Ramsay ever let him leave the apartment unattended, and that was probably why he smoked through a pack so damn fast. He came home to find Roose Bolton sitting on the recliner, and Ramsay leaned forward from the sofa, smiling so widely that Theon became instantly nervous.

“Theon,” said Roose, turning and allowing his eyes to dwell on Theon’s hair and the bruises on his wrists.

Theon looked at his feet and shoved his hands into his pockets.

You know he could hear you getting fucked every night for like two months, right?

“Mr. Bolton,” said Theon, resisting the urge to make eye contact. Instead he looked to Ramsay, who tried to smother his smile but only managed to warp it slightly. “What – um, what’s going on?”

Roose opened his mouth to answer, but Ramsay interrupted.

“Nothing interesting. Just talking about work. And the news.”

“Oh.” Theon lifted one of the windows open and leaned against the sill to light a smoke, but Ramsay rose and slammed the window closed. He rolled his eyes toward his father.

“Not inside the apartment, remember?”

But I always smoke in here. And so do you. That Febreeze isn’t fooling anybody.

Theon blushed. “Sure. I’m sorry.”

He opened the door onto the tiny balcony and stepped outside. He gave his lighter a flick and let his eyes drift back to Roose, who returned his gaze for a few seconds before leaving. Theon turned his back to the door and pretended not to be curious. He watched the traffic lights change at the intersection two stories below.

In 5. 4. 3. 2. 1…

“You know we signed a no-smoking lease,” chided Ramsay, as he slid the door open, that bent smile still on his face. He grabbed Theon’s hips.

“Yeah?” Theon pulled Ramsay in by the collar and exhaled heavily, laughing when Ramsay erupted in a coughing fit.

Ramsay plucked the cigarette from Theon’s mouth and kissed him hungrily, swallowed the gasp Theon made when he felt the ember touch the flesh of his forearm before Ramsay tossed it over the edge of the balcony.

Fuck! Fucking crazy bastard!

Ssshh. Be careful.

A little welt flared up almost immediately, and Ramsay ran his thumb over it before bringing it to his lips as though he could suck out the burn.

“Come inside. I want you.”

“You’re in a good mood.”

Ramsay nuzzled him behind the ear. “Mmmm. I guess I am.” Theon felt Ramsay’s breath in his hair. “You should probably take advantage of that.”

“Does it – oh fuck – does it have anything to do with why your dad was here?”

Ramsay grinned rakishly before dragging Theon back into the apartment, nearly tripping him over the threshold. He backed up to the recliner and pulled Theon down into his lap.

Jesus, he’s already hard.

Theon bent forward and took Ramsay’s face in his hands, flicked his tongue over Ramsay’s lips. He felt those cool hands all over his body, almost frenzied, pushing up under his shirt to rub across his ribs, his chest, his shoulders, like Ramsay needed to touch every damn inch of him at the same time. Theon felt light-headed.

Why does he want you like this?

Do you care?

God no.

Theon reached for Ramsay’s zipper.

“Tell me what to do.”

Ramsay closed his eyes and splayed his fingers over Theon’s thighs.

“Suck me.”

Theon’s favorite thing about giving head was the way Ramsay forgot to breathe sometimes, like he still couldn’t quite believe his luck; he knotted one hand in Theon’s hair and struggled to keep his eyes open as Theon pressed the heel of his palm against his own need.

“Let me see you touch yourself.”

Fucking finally.

Ramsay swatted Theon lightly on the ear.

Left hand.

And this was another thing Theon wasn’t sure he’d ever get used to. Ramsay treated that hand like – like it’s his. Ramsay’s eyes were glazing over and his grip on Theon’s hair began to hurt.

“Is this what you want?”

“I want you to come with my cock in your mouth.”

Afterwards, when he had choked down the last tremor of Ramsay’s orgasm and wiped his own mess around on his stomach before giving up, Theon laid his head on Ramsay’s thigh and closed his eyes. He could fall asleep like this…

“My dad had some news that’ll interest you,” said Ramsay. His voice quavered strangely.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.” Ramsay ran his finger along a seam in the leather, trying to subdue a smile. “Apparently your friend Robb died in a car accident. Three days ago.”

You fucking asshole. That is not funny.

Theon sat up and all the blood rushed from his head. Ramsay grinned crookedly and continued trailing his fingers through Theon’s brittle hair. Theon ducked from beneath his touch and knocked his hand away.

“That’s not fucking funny.”

“I’m not trying to be funny,” replied Ramsay, irritated. “Robb Stark is fucking dead.

Theon stood and stepped back, his fists at his sides.

He’s fucking with you. There’s no way Robb – He’s just fucking with you.

“Say that shit to me again and I’ll break your fucking face.”

Ramsay barely managed to contain a laugh. He rose from the recliner and brought himself a breath’s distance from Theon before reaching around him for a newspaper Roose had left on the coffee table. He cleared his throat theatrically before reading:

“Robb Stark, 18, was killed in a car accident in the early morning of July 11, 2013. Robb graduated this spring from Winterfell High and had planned to attend North State in the fall. He is dearly loved by his mother, Catelyn, and siblings Sansa, Arya, Brandon and Rickon. Robb was preceded in death by his father, Eddard Stark. Services to be held July 14, 2013.”

Ramsay blinked at Theon. “That was this morning, wasn’t it?”

Theon’s vision hazed as he tore the paper from Ramsay’s hands. And suddenly, he couldn’t read. He squinted at the words, but they curled and bent on the page. He recognized the picture, though; it was actually a picture of Robb and Theon, taken last year on a field trip to the aquarium. Robb had his arm around Theon’s shoulders and Theon was giving The Shocker with one hand and holding a towering ice- cream cone with the other. But of course all of that was cropped out, leaving a picture of a boy with inviting eyes and those damn perfect teeth.

No. Please. Anyone else.

Ramsay pulled Theon close and Theon twisted away. He saw a flash of anger in Ramsay’s eyes.

“Don’t fucking touch me.” Then, with a whimper, “Please. Just don’t.”

You’ve got to get out of here. Just get out before he sees you break.

He doesn’t need to see it. He knows.

He snatched his keys and his hoodie, glancing back at Ramsay as he opened the door. He faltered; part of him intended to never come back, and part of him only wanted to stay. He paused there, waiting for Ramsay to make the decision for him, command him to come inside and close the door, tell him to get the fuck out, but Ramsay just stood there, unreadable.

“I have to go,” said Theon finally.

Ramsay said nothing.

* *

His feet moved him towards the cemetery, by turns unbearably light and dragging. He wanted to hurry up and find out the truth, and some other part of him already knew and wanted to not know for as long as possible. As he walked, he dialed Robb on his cell. The call went straight to voicemail. Theon hung up and tried again, and again and again until his fingers shook and his eyes were too blurred to see the screen. He made one last attempt.

“Hey, this is Robb. I’m not able to answer my phone right now, so leave a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Thanks!”

Theon’s voice cracked when he said,

“Robb! Robb, it’s Theon! Please pick up the phone.” He sniffled and wiped his nose on his sleeve. “Please please answer. Oh God, you were right, okay? Ramsay hurts me. All the time. I need you. Come and get me. Please.

It was nearly dusk when he arrived at the cemetery. The air was warm and still and all the sounds of the city were muted. He checked his phone one last time before passing through the gate, and though his mind was numb and heavy, his feet remembered the way.

Theon’s knees gave out when he reached the grave and he crumpled to the ground. His cheek pressed into the soft, fresh earth and he wanted to scream, but there was no heart left in him. Instead he lay there with tears dropping down into the dirt, and he felt like such a small thing.

Three days. The world’s spun around three times since you’ve been gone. How could I not know?

He twirled a blade of grass between his fingers and thought about everything that had happened in the past three days – every time he’d laughed, lit up a smoke, kissed Ramsay…

You were dead. You were dead and I was smiling and fucking like any of it mattered. Like there was anyone but you.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered.

He almost hadn’t gone on the aquarium trip; it seemed like a good opportunity to skip school and get high. But Robb had been weirdly adamant about it.

“Come on, you love sea creatures.”

Theon rolled his eyes and took a drag. “Yeah, when I was like six.”

Robb looked wounded for a second. “I guess I thought you still liked them.”

“I do. I mean, sea shit is cool, but I was gonna skip out with Emma Ryan and, you know…” He raised an eyebrow.

“There’s a touch pond,” offered Robb. “With sting-rays.”

Theon sighed and ground out his cigarette on the pavement. “And what’s pussy compared to sting-rays, right?”

Robb could never tell that he’d already won, so he added, “I’ll buy you ice- cream.”

Theon tried not to smile, but when he saw Robb biting at his lip and eyeing him hopefully, he laughed and headed towards the bus.

He held that image for as long as he could; the way Robb’s hair changed color in the light, the way his smiles always started at the corners of his eyes before they ever reached his mouth. He lost track of how long he lay there; the sky faded to sepia, then black, and that light breeze kicked up and the leaves on the trees seemed to fill the air with a sigh. He only registered the sound of footsteps after they stopped.

He’s here. He followed you here.

When Theon rose, his flesh felt like dead weight on his bones. Ramsay cocked his head slightly as though lying in the dirt was a curious over-reaction on Theon’s part.

“How long did you know?” asked Theon. “How long did you wait to tell me?”

Ramsay shrugged. “I told you as soon as I could.” An eerie little smile played at the corner of his lips. “Trust me, I couldn’t have kept it from you for three full days.”

Theon knew that Ramsay only allowed him to land the first punch. He hit Ramsay square in the jaw and barely had time to register the pain in his hand when Ramsay’s fist collided with his teeth. Theon stumbled back and when he brought his fingers to his mouth he felt a gap there. The next blow landed in his eye and knocked him to the ground. Ramsay was on him faster than he could blink, flipping him onto his stomach, straddling him and pressing his chest against Theon’s shoulder blades.

Time slowed to a crawl. Theon tried to buck and roll and thrash, pounding into the fresh dirt with his fists, but Ramsay’s weight stayed on him, solid and inescapable; the crush of it made each breath shallower than the last until Theon rasped,

“Please. Not here.”

“You really aren’t getting this, are you?” He felt a thread of blood drop from Ramsay’s mouth and onto his ear, felt Ramsay’s hips lift just enough for him to snake a hand to the front of Theon’s jeans.

Theon bit back a yelp as Ramsay yanked his pants and his boxers down to his thighs and shivered at the night air against his ass.

“Fuck! Get the fuck off me, you fucking bastard!” He wrenched his neck to look up at Ramsay’s face. “You can fuck yourself if you think I’ll let you do this to me here!”

Ramsay smiled as he bent forward to bite Theon’s throat. “Fucking stop me, then.” And the dull edge of his teeth was replaced with a sharp, cool line; a thin knife that Theon had never seen before pressed so gently against his pulse.

“You like this?” Ramsay asked, his voice touched with just the faintest tremble. “It was a house-warming gift from my dad. And you’d be stupid to think he doesn’t know what I’ll do with it. He doesn’t care what I do to you. There’s nobody left to care what happens to you.” He kissed Theon just above the blade. “Only me.”

When Ramsay entered him, Theon’s vision went black for a second. He might’ve screamed, but he wasn’t sure. It hurt like being stabbed in the guts, over and over again. But in some awful way, he was grateful for the distraction from that other pain.

Theon’s eyes rolled up and he could just manage to read the headstone.

Robb Stark – 1995-2013
Beloved son, brother, friend.

Ramsay’s eyes followed his gaze.

“He would never let you fuck him, would he?” Ramsay panted, his lips drifting over Theon’s cheek. He grinned. “In fact, this is probably as close as you’ll ever get.”

It occurred to Theon that this was Ramsay actually getting what he wanted, that everything up until this moment had been a compromise.

I want this to be over. Please just let this end.

“Answer me!” Ramsay ground Theon’s face further into the dirt, pressed down on the hilt of the knife.

“Yes.”

“Yes what?

The pain was duller now, but each time Ramsay pounded into him, Theon choked back a shout; his eyes were so overrun with tears that all he could see were shapes and shadows.

“Yes, I wanted him.”

Maybe this time he’ll just kill you.

“You wanted to be his the way that you’re mine.”

Yes, but he never would.

It burned when Ramsay came, and Theon held his breath, waiting. Ramsay held himself up on his elbows, removed the blade from Theon’s throat. Theon’s hair was soaked with sweat, and Ramsay passed his fingers through it. He pressed a kiss to Theon’s temple and then rested his forehead there.

“You are my whole fucking world.”

Theon said nothing.

“Theon?”

He’d never hated the sound of his own name this much.

“Theon, say something.”

Theon swallowed and remained silent.

Ramsay kissed him again before standing. He zipped his fly and dusted the soil off his thighs and shook it from his hair. His cheeks were still flushed, his hands shaking. Theon remained prone, staring off into nothing. Ramsay crouched beside him, ran a thumb over his ear.

“Come home soon,” he said before he rose and walked away.

* *
When Theon looked down at Robb’s grave, he could see an impression of his own body there, the ridges made by his jeans, the faint outline of his cheek in the dirt. As though a ghost lay there still.

Save me, you asshole. I’d rise from the dead for you.

Theon stopped and ran his hand through his hair as he exited the cemetery. He sighed. Everything looked the same as it had when he had come, and everything was irreversibly different.

Well, what are you going to do?

You know exactly what you’re going to do.

Fuck. Oh fuck. There’s not going to be anything left of you.

There’s not much left of you anyway.

His hands shook as he lit a cigarette and started walking.

Chapter Text

Ramsay fell asleep on the couch with the newspaper open on his lap. He hadn’t bothered to ice his jaw, just poured himself a rum-and-coke, packed a bowl and re-read Robb Stark’s obituary until he could recite it from memory.

You should go to bed, he’d thought as midnight came and went. He’ll come home. Just go to bed and he’ll be there on the floor when you wake up.

But however much he knew that Theon was his – irrevocably and absolutely his – he couldn’t quite ignore that voice that gnawed at him:

What if something happens to him?

What if he doesn’t come home?

He didn’t hear the door or the light switch; when Ramsay opened his eyes, the apartment was pitch black and a weight pressed down on him. It was Theon – Theon’s teeth sinking into his lip, Theon’s hands tilting his head back until his mouth opened and Theon’s tongue sliding inside. It felt like a dream about drowning.

This is one of those times you should say no.

Theon shifted in Ramsay’s lap and let out a soft moan against Ramsay’s lips. The smell of him was overwhelming.

Fuck that.

“I’m sorry I made you wait.”

Ramsay felt a rush of air as Theon tore his own shirt over his head. And when he’d removed Ramsay’s, Theon traced over that scar, so lightly, before dragging his nails to Ramsay’s navel; Ramsay shivered, and for a moment he was paralyzed with want.

You can’t be for real.

When he couldn’t take it anymore, Ramsay wrapped his arms around Theon’s waist, pulled himself up to suck a mark over Theon’s heart. Theon’s fingers curled into Ramsay’s hair and his head dropped back.

“Tell me you want me,” said Ramsay, hoping it sounded more like a command than a plea.

“Who else could I want?”

Ramsay smirked and nipped at Theon’s stomach.

Exactly.

Theon shoved Ramsay back against the sofa, reached down and deftly undid Ramsay's belt buckle. Ramsay hissed at Theon’s touch and Theon devoured the sound, covering Ramsay’s mouth with his own until Ramsay laid a hand on his chest and pushed him away, breathless.

“You wish you were better than this, don’t you?” asked Theon roughly. His fingers left streaks of dirt and sweat down Ramsay’s throat.

It was the kind of insolence that should earn him a backhand, but Ramsay had lost the will to do anything besides nod and claw at Theon’s thighs and choke back the part of him that begged to be undone already.

Please don’t ever stop.

This is all I ever wanted.

Don’t stop.

Theon stood just long enough to shuck his pants onto the floor before crashing down onto Ramsay again; he grabbed at Ramsay's hands, placing the right one on the crest of his hip and bringing the left one to his mouth to nibble at the tip of Ramsay's thumb. Theon raised his hips and lowered himself slowly onto Ramsay's cock.

"Oh Jesus."

He saw a joke play out in Theon's eyes, but it caught just behind Theon's teeth. Theon rolled his hips and Ramsay let out a shameful whine.

"Touch me." Theon spit into Ramsay's palm. "Please."

Ramsay smirked and wiped his hand down the side of of Theon's face, all the way down his neck and chest to clutch Theon's erection with an almost painful grip.

Theon came without a sound, holding himself up by Ramsay's shoulders.

"I feel your hands on me, even when they're not," he whispered as he collapsed forward.

Ramsay’s whole body seized and his head slammed back.

“Oh my fucking God –

He tried to wrap his arms around Theon, but Theon stood up and Ramsay ached at the emptiness above him. Theon picked up his jeans and rifled through the pockets for his cigarettes and lighter. He opened the window and rested his elbows on the sill, his back facing Ramsay, and blew a puff of smoke out into the cool air.

Ramsay peeled himself off the leather. He approached the window, and Theon tensed for just a second before leaning back against Ramsay’s chest. Ramsay slipped his hand over Theon’s and nabbed the cigarette from between his fingers. He passed it over Theon’s shoulder to his own lips, exhaled into the hair on the back of Theon’s neck.

“Come to bed with me.”

* *

It was two full weeks before Ramsay let him shower, before the smell of his body overpowered the sight of the dirt still under his fingernails. Ramsay watched, of course.

“To make sure you’re clean enough for me,” he’d say, even though there was something else. There was a time – before the graveyard – when Theon would’ve walked into the living-room naked, pretending to forget that the curtains were open just so Ramsay would tackle him to the floor. But when Theon closed his eyes and leaned back into the water, Ramsay was pretty sure that was just Theon – Theon without Ramsay – and the sight transfixed and terrified him.

So he watched. Rarely, Theon would open the curtain with shampoo still in his hair and say,

“You wanna jump in with me?”

And Ramsay would usually reply,

“Nah. I showered at work.”

He showered so often at work that the skin on his knuckles was starting to crack and bleed.

Roose made good on his son’s character and put him to work that would freeze most men’s veins, collecting on his debts in one way or another. And though he paid Ramsay well to take care of the messier parts of his affairs – at which Ramsay excelled with what Roose might hesitantly describe as “talent” – Ramsay’s greatest pride was the fact that his father had some use for him after all.

He forbade Ramsay from discussing his duties with anyone, of course.

“Including your little Greyjoy pet.”

Hearing that word drip softly from his father’s lips irritated Ramsay almost as much as the idea that Roose had any say at all in regards to Theon.

“Why?” He stripped out of his red-soaked clothes and stepped into the concrete shower that was tucked at the back of the auto-body shop which Roose owned partly for profit and partly as Ramsay’s office. “He’d never do anything to hurt me.”

Although a partition stood between them, he knew his father was rolling his eyes and sighing.

You just wish you had someone like that.

“He already knows too much about you.”

When Ramsay stepped out of the shower, Roose had moved closer and stood there examining him. And however much Ramsay tried to take his own damn time getting dressed, he couldn’t help but hurry and quake and trip over his pants. He felt like an animal on a dissection table and his father’s gaze was the knife.

“You look like your mother,” observed Roose.

What is that supposed to mean? Do you even remember what she looked like?

“You can’t carry on like this with him forever,” he continued as Ramsay toweled off his hair one last time. “You need to start thinking ahead. Think about starting your own family someday. Your own business. Think about how to end it… gracefully.”

Ramsay leveled his iciest stare at Roose.

“What if something were to happen to you? What if you end up in prison because of something he does, something he says? What do you think would happen to your little whore without your protection?”

“Don’t call him that.”

Ramsay saw his own surprise mirrored in his father’s face, and before he had time to think he’d moved in as close to Roose as he could ever remember being. He noticed that he was most definitely taller now, but it brought him only a sliver of satisfaction.

“He’s not that to you,” he said through his teeth. “He’s nothing to you.”

Roose grabbed Ramsay’s chin between his thumb and forefinger, turned his son’s face to the side and felt the smoothness of his jaw. Ramsay’s heart raced.

“Sometimes I forget that you’re still just a child,” said Roose. “Still willing to make another man’s weakness your own.” He smirked. “If you’re not careful, you won’t even be able to bed a woman.”

That night, Ramsay fucked Theon from behind like a dog and smashed Theon’s face into the headboard so hard that another of his teeth shattered.

* *

Sometimes Ramsay Snow caught himself smiling for no reason; sometimes he felt like he couldn’t breathe.

He walked into the bathroom one morning to find Theon scrutinizing his own reflection. He was poking his tongue out one of the two gaps in his teeth and brushing that pale hair out of his eyes.

God, I hope it never turns back.

“What are you thinking?” asked Ramsay.

“I don’t look like Theon Greyjoy anymore.”

Ramsay squinted at the mirror.

“What makes you say that? I mean, you don’t, but it’s not like you just woke up this morning looking like a total freakshow .” He leaned in to kiss Theon behind the ear. “My own private freakshow.

Theon’s eyelashes fluttered. “I overheard the lady from next door talking about us.”

“Oh really?” said Ramsay in a tone that made it clear he didn’t care. “What did the bitch have to say?”

“She said we look like animals.”

Ramsay bit down on the cartilage of Theon’s ear and breathed heavily. “She’s just jealous because we fuck like animals.”

“I don’t think my dad would even recognize me anymore.”

Pay attention to me or I will make you pay attention to me, goddamnit.

“Is that a bad thing?”

Theon’s eyebrows pinched together as he adopted an impression of Balon’s voice:

“You may be my son, but you are no Greyjoy!” He laughed humorlessly. “I think he hated that about me – that I looked like a Greyjoy. More than my brothers.”

I wish he could see you now.

Ramsay threaded his fingers around Theon’s left hand, but Theon shook them away and held that hand out in front of him; he frowned at his three fingers.

“Why are you still so hung up on that hand?” Ramsay teased, running a thumbnail down Theon’s throat.

Theon smiled faintly. “I guess I just hate that there’s less of me to belong to you.”

And Ramsay loved that. He loved the Theon that knew how to say all the right words, the Theon that existed only for him. On occasions when Ramsay’s father paid him a visit, this was the Theon that sat silently on the sofa beside Ramsay, not once looking at Roose, however much those cold eyes bored into him.

And even though Theon had behaved himself perfectly – or perhaps because he had – those were the nights that Ramsay took him roughly, left bloody bite-marks on his shoulders and dark bruises on his wrists, called him a whore and a bitch and a tease. And those were the nights that Theon would pull the blankets up to his chin and say,

“Kiss me?”

And Ramsay would shake his head and say,

“Nice try. On the floor.”

But he hungered for the nights that Theon fought him, cursed him, threatened to leave him. Those were the nights that he’d fuck Theon as slowly as he could endure, that he’d allow himself to whisper Theon’s name. And afterward when Theon growled and tried to climb out of the bed, Ramsay would catch him by the waist and pull him back down and say,

“Stay.”

Those nights were getting scarce; for every rule that Theon learned to follow, Ramsay had to make a new one for him to break. And he was less apt to break them now.

There are two of him.

Ramsay had noticed it when he’d still allowed Theon to talk on the phone with his sister. There was the old Theon, the Theon who winked at Ramsay that first day in anatomy class, the Theon with the wicked smile and smart mouth, the Theon who made Ramsay jealous with just a glance; and there was the new Theon, who was mangled and beautiful, who smiled all wrong, who said “yes” and “please” and “can I?” and who completely confounded Ramsay. Each of them unleashed a very different monster in him and he surrendered to them both.

He loves you.

He never says so.

He would if you told him to.

But then he’d know.

The only thing Roose Bolton and Heke had in common was a lesson:

“Never let anyone know the things you want,” said Heke when he’d sworn Ramsay to secrecy. “As soon as you do, you’ve lost them.”

* *

Ramsay was in the shower when Theon knocked on the door and announced that he was going to the store for a pack.

“Can’t it wait a minute? I’m almost done in here.”

“I’ve been jonesing since this morning.”

Theon cracked the door and stuck his head in. Ramsay pulled the shower curtain halfway open and it was the Theon who bit his lip as his eyes raked over Ramsay’s chest and shoulders.

“I’ll be back as fast as I can,” he said. “Don’t even bother getting dressed.”

Ramsay tried to look exasperated, like he wasn’t a slave to those eyes, that mouth. “Fine. Be quick about it.”

Theon grinned. “I’ll see you in fifteen,” he said, closing the door.

When Ramsay came out of the bathroom, he grabbed his phone and stepped out onto the balcony where he could look down at the corner intersection. It was rush-hour and the street was busy. Theon stood on the fringe of a small cluster of people, staring at his feet and waiting for the signal to change. Ramsay took a photo, then typed:

“You’ve got until 6:21. Every minute you’re late is a spanking. And you KNOW my spankings ain’t your daddy’s spankings.”

He held his breath as Theon pulled his phone out of his pocket and scanned the text. The light changed and Theon began to walk through the crosswalk, where he paused for a moment to turn and gaze up at the balcony.

“I’ll take my time then!” he yelled with a smile.

A group of pedestrians crossing in the opposite direction stopped to stare at Theon and then up at Ramsay, whose face had split into a raunchy grin.

You ballsy little slut.

It was less than two minutes later that the doorbell rang. Ramsay grimaced and re-tied his towel around his waist, wondering what the hell the old man wanted that couldn’t wait until tomorrow. When he opened the door, though, it was a woman; a stranger with a face he would know anywhere.

Chapter Text

Theon was surprised to find the door locked when he returned, and as he reached into his pocket for his keys, he noticed a piece of notebook paper peeking out from the threshold. He looked down the hallway but saw no one.

This must be some new game.

He crouched to grab the paper.

“Theon –”

He felt dizzy as he recognized the tight, anxious script that all the Greyjoy children had in common.

“Theon –
Please read this note carefully, then tear it up small enough to flush down the toilet. When you open the door, don’t touch anything. I know you’ll want to, but DON’T. Just call the police. Ask for a lawyer and DON’T say ANYTHING until you have one.
I am so sorry it has to be like this.”

Theon’s hands began to tremble; his fingers were sweaty and the keychain clattered to the floor. The sound seemed deafening and his head filled with the roaring of his blood.

Oh no. No no no no no.

He held his breath as he pushed the door open. The curtains flapped against the sill and the air smelled like rain. Everything was just as he’d left it, except the sky was a little darker, except…

Oh God.

Ramsay lay on his back, his arms extended as though he were a doll dropped on the floor mid-play; the towel had come untied from his waist and just barely covered him. Theon pitched forward onto his knees and his hands hovered over Ramsay’s chest for a moment.

Don’t touch him.

But he needs me.

He needs me.

Ramsay’s skin was still hot from the shower, his hair still clinging damply to his cheeks. Theon brushed a lock of it from those wintry eyes.

This has to be a trick. This has to be some kind of game. He’s doing this to see how you react.

“I get it, okay? You win.” He passed a thumb over Ramsay’s cheek. “You can stop now.”

But Ramsay’s gaze stayed fixed on the ceiling.

“Fucking stop this, you twisted fuck!” Theon grabbed Ramsay’s shoulders and shook him furiously. “Wake up! Goddamnit, Ramsay! Wake up!

Ramsay’s head lolled to the side and Theon heard the sickening sound of bone rubbing against bone. He recoiled and buried his face in his hands, staring at Ramsay’s body through the gap where his pinkie- and ring-fingers used to be.

Oh God. Don’t do this to me. You can’t do this to me.

When he laid his head on Ramsay’s chest, it was unbearably silent and so still. He reached across Ramsay’s stomach and wove the fingers of his left hand through Ramsay’s right.

Please stop.

* *

When Ramsay’s skin started to feel cool against his cheek, Theon sat up and wiped the saliva from his chin. He used his sleeve to wipe the rest of it off Ramsay’s sternum and then stood. His legs burned. He stooped to pick up the note, but couldn’t make himself read it again before he tore it up and flushed it down the toilet. He found his phone and dialed 911.

“911 – What is your emergency?”

He couldn’t seem to take his eyes off Ramsay and he knew he was barely coherent as he said,

“My – my – Oh God. He’s dead.”

It was only after he hung up that Theon realized Ramsay was naked.

That can’t – He wouldn’t allow that.

He found a pair of sweatpants in the hamper and a hoodie on the bedroom floor; he looked away as he pushed the sweats up over Ramsay’s thighs, and when he pulled Ramsay up by the neck to slide his arms through the sleeves, he felt the vertebrae grinding together just beneath his fingertips. The sensation roiled his stomach and he used the towel to wipe up his vomit before throwing it in the trash can. He returned to kneel over Ramsay and carded his fingers through Ramsay’s hair; it was almost dry now. Theon wanted to turn Ramsay’s face toward him, but couldn’t tolerate that rasping bone sound again, so he bent and planted a kiss at the corner of Ramsay’s mouth.

“Mine?”

“Yours.”

The wail of sirens rose in the distance.

* *

“So tell me what happened tonight.”

The interrogation room at the police station smelled like mildew and piss, and the constant flicker of the overhead strip lighting gave Theon a headache. He was hungry and thirsty and a chill had settled over him in the back of the squad car.

“Will I get to see him again?” he’d asked. “When can I see him?”

“No,” said the detective. “His father will identify his body.”

Just kill me.

He couldn’t remember the detective’s name, although they’d shaken hands. It seemed like a strange occasion for a handshake, and the detective had visibly shuddered at Theon’s smell; his hands were clean and his hair was sandy-blond and Theon called him Detective Green-Eyes and wished he would leave.

“Can you tell me what happened?” he repeated, lowering his head to meet Theon’s downcast eyes.

You are so fucked. All of this is fucked.

I don’t even care anymore. I can’t do this anymore.

“I came home and he was dead,” Theon replied, and his own voice sounded like it was coming from behind a wall. He ran his fingers over a scratch in the table.

“Do you know how he died?”

Theon shook his head. “No.”

“Do you know who might’ve wanted Ramsay Snow dead?”

Everybody. Everybody wanted Ramsay Snow dead.

They think you did this, you know.

I don’t care.

“Did he do that to you?” The detective nodded toward Theon’s hand and Theon retracted it quickly beneath the table-top. He chewed the inside of his cheek and felt distantly indignant.

He doesn’t understand.

“He loves me.”

“Can you tell me why you waited so long to call us? Why you moved him?”

“He was – he was naked,” answered Theon plainly. “He wouldn’t, um… He wouldn’t want everyone seeing him like that. Everyone looking at his scar.” He absently passed his fingers over his own chest in the shape of an X. “He doesn’t like people staring at it.”

“Theon.”

Theon glared at Detective Green-Eyes and folded his bad hand into the crook of his right elbow.

He’ll kill you for looking at me. For saying my name. He’ll kill you for taking me away from him.

“Theon, you need to tell us what happened.” The detective sighed and leaned forward in his chair. “You need to tell us why you did it, or we can’t help you.”

Theon blinked. “Did what?”

“Snapped his neck.”

God, I’m so tired.

“You must have had a reason,” continued Green-Eyes, standing and pushing a notepad and a pen towards Theon. “Just look at you. What he did to you.”

“I didn’t. I’d never –”

“Then who did?

Theon laid his head down on the cool metal of the table. “I don’t know.”

“You know we found your saliva all over him? And your blood under his fingernails?”

Theon couldn’t quite cut off a derisive laugh. He sat up and lifted the hem of his shirt to his shoulder, exposing the fresh quatrain of marks there.

“I’m sure you’d find a lot of him on me if you turned on one of those stupid black-lights.”

He smirked as the detective’s cheeks flushed red and his eyes darted to the floor, then back up at Theon. Theon bit his lip and ran his fingers over his chest before pulling his shirt back down.

“He fucks me. He fucks me like you just wish you could fuck me.”

Green-Eyes rose stonily and left the room without looking at Theon again. Theon was laughing, delirious, and then just as suddenly he was sobbing, his face buried against his forearms, his breaths short and sharp. He heard the detective’s voice from beyond the door:

“He’s a fucking lunatic.”

* *

“They’ll go easy on you,” Green-Eyes had assured him like it was some kind of mantra. “A judge would understand that a man can only take so much –” He held his hand palm-up toward Theon and Theon sneered.

“So much what?

“You can only take so much abuse,” he replied carefully. “You do what you have to do to survive. A judge knows that.”

Is that what you think?

“I didn’t kill him,” said Theon flatly for what must’ve been the thirtieth time. He crossed his arms over his chest.

They’d forced him to shower; the water was scalding and it stung in the freshest cuts on his chest and his hips. They photographed every inch of him: his hands, his teeth, every burn and scar and bruise, the crude little “R” inked on the inside of his thigh with an X-Acto blade and a Bic.

“– just asking to get raped,” he heard someone say as he was being processed.

But they’d put him on suicide watch and he had a cell to himself and it was quiet and calm there.

“We should move somewhere.”

Theon had his head on Ramsay’s lap and Ramsay had rested the base of his bong on Theon’s forehead to take a rip.

“Spill that shit on me and I won’t even look at your dick for a week.

“I’ll stick it in your fucking eye then.” Ramsay smiled and a cloud of smoke seeped from between his teeth. “You don’t like this apartment?” He broke down coughing.

Theon rolled his eyes. “Somewhere far away. Somewhere we can walk down to the ocean. We could change our names.”

“To what?” Ramsay reached across Theon to set the bong on the coffee table.

“Whatever we want.”

Maybe we can go by the Bastard and Bitch of Bolton, he almost joked, before thinking that it would probably put Ramsay in a mood.

“Who would you be?” asked Ramsay.

Theon shrugged. “I dunno. I’d let you pick.”

* *

Three days passed, but there was no way for Theon to mark the time and no reason either. He waited. In his sleep and in his waking mind, he saw dark hair falling over eyes the color of ash, saw a smile like a blade. He had a memory – he couldn’t say from when exactly – but just a snapshot of Ramsay’s hand draped off the side of the bed as he slept, and he recalled thinking how strange it looked, like a sleeping monster. And that memory led down a tunnel of others – all the times he’d flinched away from that hand in fear, all the times he’d arched towards it, wanting nothing more desperately.

He’ll come for you. Be good and he’ll come.

On the morning of the fourth day, he’d been lying on the floor in a stupor when the door rumbled open and two guards entered, followed by Detective Green-Eyes.

“Theon Greyjoy.”

Theon didn’t raise his eyes.

“Theon!”

“What?”

“Your sister has confessed to Ramsay Snow’s murder. The city is dropping the charges against you. You’re free to go.”

…And if that wasn’t a fucking joke, he didn’t know what was.

God damn you, Yara.

He sat up and rubbed his neck.

“Can I see her?”

The detective nodded, unable to look at Theon’s face for too long. “She’s at the precinct. She asked to see you. I can take you there.”

* *

She looked like hell, with dark circles beneath her sea-blue eyes and her hair pulled tight in a greasy, too-short ponytail. She rose as the detective opened the door to the interrogation room, as though she knew that Theon would come at her. But he was weak and his feet so unsteady that she easily side-stepped his fist as he lunged forward, then collapsed against her.

The detective moved to restrain Theon, but Yara waved him back, shaking her head. She held Theon fast to her chest, even as he tried pathetically to push her away, and he could smell her laundry detergent and her menthols and the smell that was just…

Sister.

He pressed his forehead into her shoulder and wrapped his arms carefully around her waist, ever-afraid of where to put his hands. He felt her grip like iron on the back of his neck as she rocked him gently.

“Theon.”

When he straightened himself to look at her, Yara’s gaze settled on his mouth and the tears she’d been fighting spilled down her cheeks.

“It’s not as bad as it looks,” he offered softly.

She reached out to him and brushed his hair out of his eyes, cradled his cheek in her palm. He’d forgotten how rough her hands were, and what it was like to be touched without wondering why.

I wish I was strong like you.

They sat beneath the flickering lights. Yara opened her mouth to speak, but her lip quivered so instead she said nothing and ran her fingers over the scratch in the table-top. Theon kept his left hand in his pocket.

“Theon –”

“Why did you do this to me?”

She took a breath and sat up straight, and something hardened in her eyes. Her hands clenched into fists, then relaxed again.

“I came to surprise you,” she said finally, wiping her nose on her sleeve. “I was on leave and I heard you were living in that building. So I went to see you.” She leaned forward as though she was asking for forgiveness. But Yara would never do that. “You stopped returning my calls. You wouldn’t Skype with me. You didn’t even fucking text anymore. I wanted – I needed to make sure you were okay.”

I don’t want to hear this. I don’t want to know.

“I was crossing the street towards your building and I almost slammed into someone – it was you –” She splayed her fingers across the table and took a deep breath. “Jesus Christ, I didn’t even know it was you. I didn’t see you. But I heard your voice. I turned around and it was you, with no fucking teeth, with hair like an old man –”

Her jaw set and her eyes were blazing now.

“And I looked up and saw – saw him, smiling down at you with all his teeth in such a straight, sharp fucking row. I went up to your apartment and I –”

“Stop.”

“Theon –”

He covered his ears with his hands and shook his head, saw the shape of a gasp on her mouth when she looked at his left hand.

“Stop stop stop! I don’t want to hear any more.”

Except…

Did he say anything? he wanted to ask Did he say anything about me?

But he knew Yara wouldn’t have given Ramsay the chance to say anything at all.

“Why did you do this to me?” he repeated, trying in vain to squelch his tears. “Why did you – take him away from me?”

Yara wilted slightly, held her sides as though her ribs ached.

“Because of what he did to you. Because he was going to fucking kill you.”

She’s not wrong.

“He loves me.”

He watched Yara choke back on the rage that threatened to overwhelm both of them.

“That son of a bitch,” she muttered. Then, softer, “Oh, Theon.”

Why can’t you understand? Why can’t you let me keep that at least?

“He loves me,” Theon said again, helplessly. “I’m his. You can’t change that. Goddamnit, Yara, you should have – you shouldn’t have tried to change it.”

“He treated you like a fucking dog,” she spat. “Worse than a dog.”

“I was a dog with a home,” he said quietly.

A silence settled between them and Theon could hear his sister’s ragged breathing, and his own so light that it was almost nothing.

“What’s going to happen?” he asked.

Yara stared down at her hands as though they belonged to a stranger.

“I’ve already given my statement,” she said rigidly. “I’ll plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter.”

“What does that mean?”

She smiled weakly. “Well, it means it’s not as bad as murder.”

“Are you gonna go to jail?”

“Yes.” She paused, then said it again almost to herself. “Yes.”

She’s terrified.

It hit him in the chest: she wasn’t Yara Motherfucking Greyjoy; she was just Yara.

“For how long?”

“I don’t know. It could be ten years. It depends on the judge, I guess.”

“Oh God.” He cradled his face in his hands. “I should’ve called you back. I should’ve texted you. Then you wouldn’t have –” He smiled cynically. “I didn’t want to Skype with you because I didn’t want you to freak out when you saw – Oh God, this is all my fucking fault.

“No. Theon, look at me.”

He swallowed and brought his eyes up to hers.

“I killed him,” she said. “And I’d kill him again, the first time he laid a fucking hand on you.”

But I liked it. That first time. I liked it.

The door opened.

“Miss Greyjoy. It’s time to go.”

Theon’s lip trembled as the detective clapped a pair of handcuffs on his sister’s wrists.

“On the plus side, you look like a total badass right now.”

Yara smiled, and it was the realest thing Theon could remember.

“You look like shit,” she said.

* *

“Mr. Greyjoy?”

Theon tried to concentrate, but he kept fiddling with the top button on his shirt.

Yara’s attorney pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose and blinked expectantly.

The shirt was a deep red with onyx buttons; it belonged to Ramsay, though he never wore it in front of Theon.

“Why do you own this?” Theon teased. “Are you cheating on me?”

“How could I cheat on something that belongs to me?” sniped Ramsay without looking up from his phone. Theon’s rank, tattered t-shirt landed on Ramsay’s face, and when he pulled it off, Theon was just buttoning up the collar of the red shirt. Ramsay crawled to the edge of the bed and made a grab for him, but Theon took a step back and grinned.

“Oh, so now you see me?”

Ramsay snarled and when he pulled Theon onto the mattress he nearly tore the shirt off him. He’d wrapped the sleeves of it around Theon’s neck and pulled until Theon’s face was almost the same color as the fabric. Afterwards, when Theon had used it to wipe the mess off his chest, Ramsay looked at the tag.

“It’s dry-clean only,” he groaned.

“You sound like your dad.”

Ramsay had grabbed him by the jaw and kissed him until his lips were swollen.

The shirt wasn’t the right size for Theon; too big in the shoulders and too short in the sleeves. But it was the only nice shirt in the apartment, and when he put it on, he felt calmer somehow.

“Mr. Greyjoy!”

The courtroom was silent, save for the whirring of the ceiling fans that hung too high to relieve the thick heat in the air. Theon sat in the witness box clutching at the railing and felt a bead of sweat roll down the inside of his arm. He tried to take a deep breath, but his chest felt too tight, as though someone had placed a stone on it. He thought he might faint.

I can’t do this. I can’t do this.

You have to.

“I’m – I’m sorry. Theon Greyjoy. G-R-E-Y-J-O-Y.”

A look of disgust twisted over his father’s face.

Dad, please.

Balon sat in the row behind Yara. Aside from the hardness of his expression, he looked fragile somehow – almost smaller. As Balon turned his eyes to meet his son’s, Theon averted his gaze to the back of the courtroom where he saw Roose Bolton, sitting with his arms folded and an inscrutable look in his eyes.

Oh God, he probably recognizes the shirt.

He probably bought the shirt.

“What is your relationship to Yara Greyjoy?”

Yara sat with her fingers laced together and her chin held high, somehow managing to look like the most dignified person in the room despite the shackles and the orange jumpsuit.

“She’s my sister,” said Theon with a tinge of pride.

The thinnest of smiles appeared on Yara’s lips.

“And what was your relationship with Ramsay Snow?”

Theon turned his eyes back to Roose, who raised an eyebrow.

“Um, we’re – He’s my – I’m his.”

“You were his what?”

“His,” Theon said too faintly.

The lawyer sighed. “Mr. Greyjoy, please speak up. You were his what?

“Just his,” said Theon as loudly as he could muster.

The stenographer’s hands hung poised over his machine.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Greyjoy, but I’m going to ask you to be more specific.” The attorney was thin and looked to be in his fifties, but when he approached the witness box, Theon leaned back in his chair. “You and Mr. Snow were involved romantically, yes?”

That’s too fucking funny.

“Yeah.”

“The two of you were sexually intimate?”

Theon snorted and gave half a smile. “All the time.”

Balon Greyjoy rose suddenly and Theon was surprised to see Sandor Clegane sitting in the next row. Sandor looked up at Balon, stared after him as he stalked down the aisle and out the doors, the sharp crack of his footsteps filling the courtroom for a second after he was gone. Yara sighed and raked her fingers through her hair, and Theon perceived the pain that flashed across The Dog’s face.

He wishes he could touch her. He’s thinking about killing everyone in the room – especially me – and taking her away.

As though nothing had happened, Yara’s lawyer brought out a large display board and placed it beside Theon, faced it so that both the judge and the court could see.

Theon felt sick. It was a photo enlargement; a face looking out at him from some other time, a boy with almost copper hair and a sharp smile and eyes the color of the sky after a sudden summer storm. He was beautiful, and there was a brightness about him that caused Theon to look away, caused him to put a hand over his chest as though to cover a hole there.

“Mr. Greyjoy, what can you tell me about this image?”

I could tell you that I was high as fuck that afternoon. I could tell you that Robb took this picture, and that’s why my smile looks so fucking stupid.

“It’s me,” he replied.

“And can you tell me when this was taken, approximately?”

Theon counted back carefully.

“2011… May, I think.”

“So almost three years ago?”

Jesus Christ.

“Yeah.”

Relief flooded over Theon as the photo was removed; the display beneath it was so much easier to look at, comforting even. Someone in the room gasped. Yara looked at it briefly, then at the tops of the trees outside the window. The judge leaned forward over her bench and squinted; her eyes widened as she sat back.

“And what can you tell me about these photographs?”

Ramsay will hate this. He’ll make you pay for this later.

“That’s me. From when I got arrested.”

“Why were you arrested?”

Theon stole a quick glance at the judge, whose eyes darted from the witness box to the board and back to Theon.

“I was arrested for murdering Ramsay.”

“But you didn’t?”

“No.”

“What did the police say to you about Ramsay’s death?”

Theon felt everyone in the room straining to hear him. “They said they’d understand it, after – because of what he does to me.”

“Can you describe what we’re looking at in these images?”

The blood rose in Theon’s cheeks.

This is his, you bastard. This is for him to see.

“Um, this is me. This is what I look like under – under here.” He tugged at his collar.

“Bite marks,” said the lawyer, addressing the court. “Bruises. Burns. Scars. Can you tell me what this is?” He gestured to the photo of Theon’s thigh.

“It’s a tattoo.”

“An ‘R’ for ‘Ramsay’?”

Theon nodded. “Yeah.”

“And you asked for that tattoo?”

“No.”

“Fucking hold still or I swear to God I will cut you somewhere worse.

No, but I loved when he ran his thumb over it.

“We were both drunk,” he added, addressing Yara more than anyone.

“Ramsay Snow used a hammer to crush your fingers so completely that they had to be amputated, is that correct?”

Theon hesitated before answering. “Yeah.”

“Mr. Greyjoy, please hold that hand up for the court.”

Fuck you, asshole.

Theon raised his hand as high as he could bear and then let it drop heavily to his side.

“And that’s when your hair changed?”

Theon nodded. “Yes.”

“And your teeth? How did you lose them?”

God, I can’t take this for much longer. I can’t say any more.

His shirt was drenched in sweat.

“Once, he punched me in the mouth. The other time he slammed my face into – into a table.”

“Why didn’t you leave him, Mr. Greyjoy?”

Theon blinked. “Leave him? How could I?”

* *

Six fucking years.

She’ll be almost thirty.

And you’ll be the same as you are now.

As the guards escorted Yara from the courtroom, Sandor Clegane grabbed her and held her fiercely until the court officers pried him away. He glared at Theon and shook his head before he stormed away down the corridor.

Thank you, Theon thought uselessly.

The courthouse emptied quickly, and every single person who’d gaped at Theon – and at the photos of his body – averted their eyes and brushed past him as though they hadn’t meant to come here at all. He thought he was alone in the hall when he felt a familiar prickling on the back of his neck.

Please. Oh please.

“Ramsay?”

Roose Bolton grinned.

“I’m afraid not.” He put a hand on Theon’s shoulder and Theon froze. “You did well.”

Theon swallowed but said nothing.

“Let me give you a ride.”

Yes. Please take me home.

He nodded, even as something in him fought the urge to run.

Theon’s bones felt leaden as he sank into the passenger seat of Roose’s 2011 Lotus Elise. The car purred as they exited the parking garage, and Theon pressed his hands between his knees, chewing his lip and trying to think of something to say.

Say the right thing, he thought desperately, even though there was no right thing anymore.

“I’m sorry,” he said at last, casting a quick look at Roose before returning his gaze to the buildings that rolled by outside.

“There were times I didn’t even think he was my son,” said Roose in that mild way he seemed to say everything.

He worshipped you.

“You have the same eyes,” said Theon, much to Roose’s amusement.

The car pulled up to a stoplight and Theon felt his pulse quicken.

“Are you, um – are you angry with me?”

Roose smiled that weird, tight-lipped smile. “Why would I be?”

Theon pulled out his cigarettes, then remembered where he was and tucked them back into his pocket. “I – Yara’s my sister. If I hadn’t – if I had never met Ramsay, he’d still be here. If I hadn’t let him –”

“What Ramsay did to you, he did to himself.” Roose accelerated through the green light. “I warned him that there would be consequences for that kind of… indulgence. I hoped he would kill you and then take his own life as well.”

I hoped that once too.

“Why didn’t he? Kill me, I mean.”

“Because you were the only thing he felt he didn’t owe to me in some way.” He smirked. “Though he did, of course.”

Theon wasn’t sure why Roose was telling him all this, but somehow none of it surprised him. They were quiet the rest of the drive, until Roose downshifted outside the apartment complex. Theon stared up at the balcony and sighed.

“You can keep the apartment, if you want. And the Mustang. I’ve no use for them.”

Theon didn’t even startle as he felt Roose’s hand alight on his knee. He turned to look at Ramsay’s father – that cold, unreadable face, those eyes that felt like home – and then down at Roose’s long, slender fingers that slid up along his thigh. His touch was so unlike Ramsay’s – so light, almost delicate – yet somehow just as terrible.

He felt his eyes drift shut; his head dropped back against the seat.

This could be so easy…

Theon let out a low hum as Roose’s hand came to rest between his legs.

It’s not like anybody else is ever going to want to touch you.

He opened his eyes. Roose watched him expectantly, still impassive except for the dilation of his pupils.

You can’t. Ramsay won’t allow it.

Where else will you go?

Theon’s breath hitched as Roose unzipped his pants and wrapped his fingers around Theon’s half-hard cock. He heard the automatic locks engage and felt thankful that at least the windows were too dark for anybody to see in.

“You can think of my son, if you like.”

Roose’s hand began to twist and pull and Theon clutched at the door.

“All you have to do is say yes and you can stay for as long as you want.”

Theon squirmed and bit his lip.

Say yes to what?

He was fully hard now, and Roose’s grip on him was tighter. Theon grabbed a fistful of his own hair and pulled, as though the pain might give him some clarity instead of sinking him that much deeper.

“Yes, okay?” he said through clenched teeth.

Theon let his head fall to one side and reached a hand up his shirt to drag his nails across his chest. But it didn’t feel the same, didn’t sting quite as bad. Roose passed his thumb over the head of Theon’s cock and Theon arched his hips, opened his eyes again to ask with a drowsy smile,

“You could come up with me?”

Roose shook his head. “I can see why he found it so difficult to say no to you.”

Theon came with a moan and a name clinging to the roof of his mouth.

* *

The apartment looked the same. Ramsay’s pipe sat half-packed on the coffee table, as it had been when he answered the door. In the bedroom, the sheets were a tangle.

“Look at this fucking mess,” he’d have said. “I was going to bring you to bed tonight, but I guess I’ll just have to fuck you somewhere less comfortable.”

Theon fell asleep on the floor beside the bed.

Chapter Text

Theon tried to lock himself in the bathroom once. He was naked, and he remembered feeling a chill as he braced his back against the door and his feet against the cabinet. Ramsay never knocked like a normal person but pounded the door with his fist, and then threw himself at it like an animal, by turns threatening to kill Theon and asking him almost sweetly:

“Open the door, Theon. Please? I just want to see you. You know I need you.”

And then he’d start kicking the door as hard as he could and Theon would open it just to make the noise stop.

Now the apartment was unbearably quiet, and Theon waited for Roose Bolton’s light, formal knock. He waited for Roose to come collecting for the rent, for the spending money stuffed in an envelope beneath the door every week. And even though he never came, it made Theon’s hair stand on end – counting out hundred dollar bills on the coffee table and blowing just as much on video games and weed and cigarettes as he did on food and clothes.

He rarely left the apartment, and when he did, he wore thick black sunglasses and a ski cap pulled down as far as he could manage.

“Take that shit off,” Yara said as he sat down in the cold metal frame that passed for a chair in the visitation room. “You look like the fucking Unabomber.”

Visiting her every month was the one thing he forced himself to do, however terrible it made him feel.

It’s better than you deserve.

Sometimes he got there before The Dog, and sometimes he’d walk into the room to see Sandor Clegane’s massive hand pressed against the plexi-glass and a smile on Yara’s face like he’d never seen before. Sometimes, Theon would catch Sandor’s eye and each of them would look as though he was trying to puzzle out what was so damn special about the other.

It was a year and four days after Ramsay’s death that Theon found himself staring through that scratched, dirty window at his sister’s face and trying to make conversation like he had anything worth talking about. The Dog waited his turn on one of the benches bolted into the adjacent wall, his eyes fixed in space.

“I wish he’d learn to read so he could bring a damn book,” mumbled Theon into the receiver that connected him to Yara.

She grinned, though he could tell she tried not to. “Don’t be a dick. Besides, prison sex is nothing like your pornos would have you think.”

Theon blushed. He hadn’t touched himself in a year. He brought a hand up to fidget with the phone cord and Yara’s face darkened as she glimpsed the skin on his wrist. He pulled his sleeve up, too late.

“Who did that to you?”

“Nobody,” he said a little too quickly. He looked down at the grimy countertop, then back at his sister. “Nobody. I just – I was just playing around.”

I was just trying to feel like I was good again.

“Theon.” The way she said it reminded him of the way Balon used to say his name, back when it was a stern warning instead of a furious shout. She leaned forward, her knuckles white around the receiver. “Promise me you won’t ever do anything… stupid.

“Little late for that,” he said with a weak smile.

Promise me that you won’t fucking off yourself.”

“I can’t promise that.”

The Dog – unable to continue pretending not to listen – rose suddenly and before Yara could say anything, he’d grabbed Theon by the front of his shirt and lifted him clear off the ground. The chair clattered onto the linoleum.

“If I thought it would get her out of here, I’d load the gun for you myself,” he growled.

Theon clasped at Sandor’s wrists – so thick he couldn’t even wrap his hands around them – but remained still. “Do you think I’m afraid of you?” he asked.

The Dog’s face softened almost imperceptibly. He lowered Theon to the ground but held firmly to his shirt. “No,” he replied, studying Theon’s face carefully. “I’m sure you’re not.”

Yara stood up and slammed a fist against the glass, still straining to hear, but Theon’s receiver hung forgotten off the wall.

Sandor released his grip on Theon with a light shove and Theon heard a tremor in The Dog’s voice.

“You don’t even know how lucky you are.”

He hates you. He wishes you were dead.

“I think I do.”

“Then don’t be that pussy that kills himself the first fucking moment that he’s free to do so.”

The Dog spat onto the floor and shot Yara an apologetic look before taking his seat again and resuming staring at the opposite wall. Theon shook as he righted the chair and scooted it closer to the glass, tried to ignore the disgraceful way his body still reacted to the threat of another man’s hands.

“I promise,” he said, though what he meant was:

I promise I’ll try not to.

“Don’t make me sic him on you,” she said, nodding towards The Dog.

“Aren’t you afraid I might steal him away?” he joked emptily.

And when he closed his eyes for just a second, he could feel Ramsay’s hand on his throat, Ramsay’s breath in his ear.

“You like it when I’m jealous, don’t you?”

Sandor Clegane scowled audibly and Theon and Yara both laughed abruptly.

“I don’t think he could handle you,” she said.

* *

July 11th seemed to always be a warm, clear night – the kind that made it impossible to fall asleep, that made any season but summer downright unthinkable. Someone had posted a little solar light beside Robb’s headstone, and this year had left a handful of tea-lights around the base. Theon never brought anything, but lit a smoke and blew a couple rings up toward the moon.

So how is it, being dead?

There was no trace of what had happened here; the grass grew in thick and lush and erased any sign of a boy struggling in the dirt. Theon finished his cigarette and tucked the butt in his pocket before lighting another one immediately.

It feels like you’ve always been dead.

You should’ve kissed me back.

He heard the crows stirring in the trees before he heard the soft footsteps behind him.

“Theon?”

Oh no.

It was hard to believe that Jon was about the same age Theon had been when all Ramsay’s crazy bullshit was still just heady and thrilling, and for a fraction of a second, Theon felt a pang of sympathy for his 17-year-old self.

Jon smiled at Theon and it was the brightest smile since…

“It’s good to see you,” said Jon, before his eyes fell on the grave and the smile faded from his lips. “I’ve been wondering about you lately.”

Theon felt the urge to leave, quickly. He didn’t want to take some goddamn trip down memory lane; he didn’t want to be reminded of – of anything he might’ve done, or tried to do.

He probably doesn’t even remember.

So Theon just stood with his hands in his pockets, trying not to look at Jon, trying to pretend Jon wasn’t even there. But he could hear Jon’s breathing, smell Jon’s sweat through the black long-sleeve he was wearing in the middle of summer, for some fucking reason. Theon tugged at the frayed edge of his ski cap.

“Is it?” he said.

“Is it?” repeated Jon, confused.

Theon smirked. “Is it good to see me? Looking like a total freak, stoned off my ass at your dead brother’s grave on the anniversary of his death?”

He expected Jon to scowl and stutter, but Jon let out a cynical little laugh.

He’s different now.

Jon had grown a few inches, had some of Ned’s broadness about him now; but he also had gauged ears and a labret, a pathetic attempt at a beard and hair cut short enough that Theon could see the raven tattooed on the back of his neck, its wings stopping just short on either side of his Adam’s apple.

“I didn’t see you at the funeral.”

Theon thought about telling Jon that he hadn’t known – about Robb, about the funeral. He thought about telling Jon everything.

“I’m sorry,” was all he said.

“He was drunk,” said Jon after a moment.

“What?”

Theon glared at Jon. Jon gave a forced shrug and rubbed at his tattoo.

“He was drunk. Like, twice-the-limit drunk. He was driving home totally shit-canned from a party at the Freys’ and slammed into a parked car going 60, like a fucking dumbass.” Jon’s dark eyes caught the shock on Theon’s face. “I assumed you knew.”

“No,” Theon said, as though he could say for certain that Jon was wrong. “No. Robb never – Robb never did that kind of shit.”

Jon smiled and Theon had to close his eyes for a moment.

“He wasn’t perfect. I know you always thought he was, but he was an asshole sometimes.”

No. You don’t know.

Theon shook his head. “I should’ve been there. I should’ve been with him.”

“Why?” scoffed Jon. “So you could’ve climbed into that car with him and ended up having your own shitty funeral attended by your own shitty family?”

What more could I ask for?

“You want a cigarette?”

Jon shook his head and pulled down on the collar of his shirt to reveal another tattoo – the letters “sXe” just over his heart. “Nah.”

“You’re going to regret that,” said Theon seriously. “One of these days you’re going to figure out how good bad things feel and you’re going to look like an asshole.”

“How good do the bad things feel?”

Jon blew a stray curl out of his eyes, and Theon imagined grabbing Jon Stark by his pretty hair and putting some of his own marks into that snow-white skin.

I could show you. Let me show you.

“I don’t suppose you ever got anywhere with that one chick? The ginger?”

“Ygritte,” said Jon, irritated even as he was blushing. “Yeah, I mean, we’re – we’re together. We’re not exclusive or anything –”

Theon raised an eyebrow and tried to ignore the lump in his chest.

“She doesn’t think relationships should be exclusive. She says it’s based on this concept of possession and that our bodies are organs in the body of capitalism –”

“Sounds like bullshit,” interrupted Theon, perhaps too pointedly.

“I give up,” said Jon, rolling his eyes. Then quieter, “I, um – I heard about Ramsay. I think everyone at the Academy breathed a sigh of relief when they found out.”

Fuck all of you. He was better than all of you.

“But I’m sorry about your sister.”

“Yeah, me too.”

“So, where are you living these days? Everyone thought you left town after – you know…”

And God, it seemed so humiliating all of a sudden.

“I still live there. In our apartment.”

And Roose Bolton’s hand on his cock and envelopes of cash and the entire days he spent barely able to move from the couch were just too shameful to mention.

“Isn’t that – doesn’t that get kind of weird, sometimes?”

Theon laughed faintly. “Not as weird as it got when he was alive.”

Jon looked down at his feet, chagrined. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bring it up.”

Theon’s voice quavered. “I miss him.”

Jon looked startled but said nothing.

“He just – he just knew me, without even trying. He saw me and he knew what I was, what I wanted. He took me and he took care of me – I know it sounds… insane.” Theon reached for another cigarette, but the pack was empty. “But Jesus, I miss him so fucking much. More than I miss my fingers, more than I miss my hair or my teeth. I miss him –”

Oh fuck. Oh God.

“I miss him more than I miss Robb.

Theon didn’t dare look at Jon, and he jumped when he felt a hand on his shoulder. Jon’s brows were knit and his mouth drawn into a frown, as though he wanted to understand but couldn’t bear to try.

“Then why are you here?

Theon waited for Jon to remove his hand, but it stayed there, firmly. He looked at the headstone.

“I guess because I feel like Ramsay is with me all the time. Like wherever I go, I can feel him. On my skin. But Robb just – Robb just kind of fades away a little bit more every day. Like all of it – me and him – was just a dream I had. And I don’t – I don’t want that.” He rubbed at his eyes. “I’m sorry I’m being such a bitch right now.”

“You mean as opposed to the rest of the time, when you’re not sorry?”

Jon smiled tentatively and Theon couldn’t stop himself from smiling back, forgetting for a second about the gaps in his mouth. Jon’s face lit up and he reached around into the back pocket of his jeans – still just too damn tight – and handed Theon a piece of paper.

“What’s this?”

“It’s a flier for my band. We’re playing a release show this weekend. You should come.”

Theon snorted and used his broken hand to pull off his ski cap. He tried not to feel hurt by the way Jon flinched. “I don’t exactly go out a lot these days, you know?”

But Jon swallowed and waved a hand dismissively. “Are you kidding? You look punk as fuck.”

Theon blushed and then damned himself for it. He glanced at the flier again.

“‘Take the Black’?”

Jon nodded proudly.

“You play clarinet in a band? You must get all the pussy.”

Jon rolled his eyes. “I play guitar. And sing sometimes.”

“Of course you do.”

Before he left, Theon awkwardly offered Jon a handshake, but Jon seized his hand and pulled him into a hug. Theon’s breath caught in his throat and he kept his arms stiffly by his sides, battling the urge to touch Jon’s back or shoulders.

“I’m glad you’re… doing okay,” said Jon. “And I’m serious. I’d love for you to come to the show.”

“What kind of music is it?” asked Theon, as though he hadn’t already made up his mind.

“It’s kind of like screamo but with crust-punk lyrics.” Jon stuck his tongue out the corner of his mouth and smiled. “You’d hate it.”

“You’re such a fucking pansy.”

* *

Theon shoved a couple shirts and a few pairs of socks into his old backpack, and he was almost out the door when he paused in front of the refrigerator. There was a grocery list that only said “Food” and a photo; it was the only photo of the two of them, and really, it was only a photo of Theon. Ramsay had taken it when Theon was sleeping – still in the bed after a particularly rough night – and the blood on his lip and his eyebrow was still wet, the bruising on his throat and his shoulder just beginning to show.

Theon took the picture and tucked it carefully in the outside pocket of his bag.

He gripped the steering wheel so tightly that by the time he arrived in front of Roose Bolton’s house, his palms were slick with sweat. He wiped them a few times on his jeans before giving up and ringing the doorbell.

He held his breath.

The door opened, and if Roose was surprised to see Theon on his porch, he didn’t show it. As always, his face was impassive except for a thin smile that might have been nothing at all.

“Theon. Would you like to come in?”

If he squinted, Theon could just make out the outline of the door to the basement at the back of the main hallway.

Yes. Yes, more than anything.

He shook his head mutely for a few seconds and Roose sighed.

“Then what can I do for you?”

“I’m moving out,” said Theon, holding out the keys and trying to ignore the way they jingled in his trembling fingers. “Here’s the keys to the apartment. And the Mustang.”

Roose raised an eyebrow as he took the keys from Theon and weighed them in his hands.

“What brought about the change in heart?”

Theon could hardly bear to look at him.

“No change in heart. Just – I waited for you, and you never came back. And I can’t stay there anymore.”

“What about the car? You can still keep it.”

Theon glanced over his shoulder and for a moment imagined the window rolling down to reveal Ramsay’s face.

“In the car. Now.

He turned back to Roose and shrugged.

“I suck at manual. He never let me drive it anyway.”

Roose smiled – definitively smiled – and Theon shivered.

“He didn’t deserve you,” said Roose. He tucked the keys into his pocket. “If you ever change your mind – if it ever gets too hard for you – you know where to find me.”

Theon nodded. “Yeah, I know.”

* *

“Why do you keep this picture up?”

“Because I like the way I look in it.”

When Theon jolts awake to an unexpected touch in the darkness, he reminds himself that it’s only Jon.

It’s only Jon. Jon doesn’t hurt you.

And he wonders why.