Remember Your Name
His hand was calm and steady as he moved the blade across his master's cheek. Even the tremor had stopped. All along with his urge to think. Because thinking did him no good, and too much of it caused him trouble.
Last time he'd done it, as he'd thought about what he was doing, as he bore in mind the situation he was in, his hands started to shake again and he'd cut the skin right above Lord Ramsay's jaw.
It had cost him a toe. So, no more thinking.
“You want to hear something funny?” his master said, his eyes shut close, still completely relaxed under his hands. “The King of the North, no title he deserves if you ask me, he might stop howling anytime soon now. Did you hear about that?”
Ramsay loved his riddles and usually Reek let him keep talking, did not respond, yet this time it stirred something inside him. Something rotting so deep, it shook awake no more than a dull feeling. And yet.
This name had opened a small lock in his mind about a man he once knew. A man who'd been in love with Robb Stark. Who'd called him his brother and sometimes even more. He remembered them kissing in the godswood, remembered them touching each other behind the stables with white snow glistering in their hair, lying with tangled limbs beneath thick furs in nights so long gone, they felt like from another life.
But this man had died, and it seemed, Robb would soon follow him.
Reek didn't know how he felt about that.
Just then did he realize that he'd stopped moving his hand and Ramsay had opened his eyes.
“He will die Reek.” His gaze was cold as ice and yet his voice held the smallest sign of a laughter. “He trusted the wrong people, and now he will die at his uncle's wedding.”
He will die. And you should be with him.
The muscle below his eye started twitching, like something broke free beneath it, more memories, feelings and thoughts.
Theon Greyjoy would have never let that happen. He would have fought for his king with all his might till his last breath. But Greyjoy had died. He had to die, or Reek would have suffered more. Lost more. Theon Greyjoy meant thoughts and thoughts meant pain.
“Reek?” Ramsay’s voice was demanding, almost suspicious as he noticed his violently shaking hands. Though now, it was too late. “You know what happened the last time you –”
It was a choice without thinking as he cut his throat with a single slice of the blade.
And clinking it fell to the ground, his eyes wide open as he looked down on the man sitting in front of him, coughing blood and realizing that this was his death.
Scrambling on his feet, Ramsay clutched his hands to his throat, turned around, tried to yell at him, curses and threats, his free hand clenched to a fist, but no real sound came out of his mouth. Only a miserable cawing. And blood, there was so much blood. Running down his hands, staining the floor.
Disgusted, Reek took a step back. Shocked that this was caused by his own hands. And then Ramsay collapsed on the cold stones. Dying.
What have you done?
He stared at the bleeding man, the corpse, his breath fierce in short bursts, a bitter acid came up, deep down from his stomach. He opened my mouth and spat the little food he had held on the ground at his feet, trembling and scared. His blood turned cold, his knees seemed unable to support his broken body.
What have you done?
But he had to act fast. If Skinner or Sour Alyn would find him here, his death wouldn’t go as quick as his master’s.
So, driven by a foreign voice in his head, he put the knife in the waistband of his tattered and far too wide breeches. And then he ran. Ran through the Dreadfort like the Bastard’s girls were after him. Ran until his lunges burned, until he finally got out in the open.
He still had a bitter taste in his mouth, wiped the back of his hand over his lips but then suddenly stopped. There was something new. Metal. He looked at his hands and saw to his own horror that they were covered in blood. His master's blood.
“Shit, where you come from? Have you eaten those rats again?”
Someone barked and slowly he rose his head, staring straight into the dark eyes of Ben Bones, receiving a look of disgust in return by the old man.
Panic spread inside him. Lie, and tell him it was a rat, Reek thought, but thinking like this was still so unfamiliar. He didn't get a word out. Just stood there and looked at him from huge hollow eyes. When he gets the dogs, they'll smell it, their master's blood.
But then Bones just shook his head and walked past him. “Rancid freak,” he mumbled. And left him alone.
Reek looked after him, a little relieved, but the danger was still within reach. Then his eyes drifted to the stable. Theon Greyjoy had once owned a horse. A black stallion. Smiler. Lord Ramsay had set him on fire.
Hastily he limped across the courtyard, no one paid him any attention. Most of them were already in the hall or on their way there, getting ready for dinner. A few of the horses whickered as they smelled him. But a reddish-brown mare in the corner remained calm, looking at him only from warm familiar eyes. Reek walked straight towards her and took the reins.
He had heard people gossip about the young wolf who had married a false woman in mourning for his brothers. He won every battle but lost the war because of it. Now his uncle had to pay the price and marry the Frey daughter who should once have become queen.
The concept of time was something Reek didn't know anymore, however far it was to the twins he couldn't say. But he had to try. Saddled the horse as fast as he could and rode off.
His body remembered how to ride, even if his mind did not. The cold wind whipped him around the ears, crawled in his bones through his thin clothes. He could only continue to hold the reins because his hands were already numb, fingeres frozen, impossible to move. But he did not stop, paused just briefly to water the horse, did not sleep, did not eat. The moon had come and gone twice when he finally saw them.
In front of him lay a sea of tents, the grey direwolf on a white field, the sigil of House Stark was waving towards him on huge banners, mystically illuminated by a few torches here and there. The battle had not yet reached the soldiers, or had it not even begun? Reek couldn't tell.
He crept like a shadow between the tents, as he had often slipped through the dungeons of the Dreadfort, in front of him the castles gatehouse. The portcullis was pulled up and the drawbridge lowered to span the swollen trench. The gods had mercy with him.
Loud music rang from the stone walls of the castle over which the flames of other torches danced like ghosts. Music that made a shiver run down his back. The song of the lion, ready to restore his dominance, killing his enemies to the last man, till there was not a soul to hear.
Reek had just made it unnoticed over the bridge into the castle grounds, when he heard another noise. Pressed himself against the cold wall as footsteps came closer, trampling on the hard floor, marching soldiers stamping past him. He stopped breathing. Closed his eyes. He'd already come this far.
Then suddenly a hand shot up and grabbed him by the ankle.
He froze in shock, didn't gave a sound, just stared down with his eyes wide and saw there a man. A man in brown leather with a shaggy fur cloak, a northerner, whose eyes now also widened as he recognized his face.
“Greyjoy,” he rasped, his voice broken, barely touched with life.
That name. How long had it been since anyone called him that name? He was once called that, wasn't he? And finally, he could tell the man who was lying there in front of him, bleeding from a deep wound in the stomach, where the dagger that had caused it was still stuck. The miller of Acorn Water.
He knew it was fate to meet this man on his deathbed.
The man, whose wife he had fucked, the man whose sons he had killed. He had killed them. He himself.
No ghost of a man he had once known, a man he had believed to be dead, whom Ramsay had killed. But no, he hadn't killed him, he had broken him. Had torn him to small pieces, leaving him no choice but to let Reek take his place. Because he was weak. He deserved the name.
But still his name was Theon Greyjoy.
A choked cry escaped his mouth, too loud, for him to put his hand in front of his lips, shocked at his reaction, shocked at his thoughts. What had happened to him? His chest rose and fell violently, panic spreading inside him. He had killed Ramsay. Killed him to save Robb. Robb who he’d betrayed, whose home he had stolen.
“Please,” the man at his feet begged, tore him from his mind back to reality, back into the cold night and an upcoming battlefield. “Have mercy.”
And Theon knelt down beside him, took his head in his lap, as gently and soft as with a newborn child, brushing his sweaty hair from his forehead. If only this man knew what he owed him and could never repay.
He would never see his sons laugh again; he would never be able to sleep with his wife. But neither would Theon. Life was as cruel as it was this night.
“Forgive me,” he whispered, pulled the knife out of his breeches and released him from his suffering.
After he had closed his eyes, he took his coat, his belt and his boots. The cloak was huge, but it protected him more than his thin rags, had a hood that hid the white strands in his black hair and hid the dagger as well, which he’d pulled out the dead man’s stomach and put in his belt. The shoes were too small, but he barely felt his mutilated feet anyway, just a dull pain with every limping step he made.
Going further into the grounds, still disguised in the darkness, pressed close to the walls he groped his way forward. And finally discovered a glimmer of hope.
A longbow and a quiver full of arrows stood next to a soldier on the dirty ground. Right next to them a stable he seemed to be guarding. And from this stable suddenly a loud growl was heard. A growl Theon had never heard against himself but against innumerable others. A sound that shook him to the core, a wild animal calling for its master.
Why wasn't he with Robb? What madness had driven the king to lock him up outside?
He had to free him, and he needed that bow.
Sneaking closer, so he could almost reach for the quiver, Theon was still full of panic, but his thoughts were clearer than he could ever remember. As if the wolf had felt his presence, he released another shattering howling that echoed throughout the courtyard, drowning out the music for a brief moment.
The soldier turned around in shock and Theon struck. Pushing the dagger into his chest, immediately pressing a hand over his mouth to muffle his call for help. It was one of three deaths in such a short time and yet the first to make him feel nothing but relief, and certainly not the last for the night.
Slowly he laid the body down on the ground, pulling it into the shadow behind the stable, wherein Grey Wind walked restlessly up and down, as soldiers on horses rode past them across the yard towards the bridge. Then Theon held the keys in his hand.
Kyra and her keys.
Without meaning to, Theon put a hand to his cheek, felt the bone that Ramsay had broken and which had never grown back together properly.
She had been so brave that night and yet so frightened, not wanting to let go of his hand, not wanting to part with him, none of them knowing that they had never stood a chance in the first place. It had been the night when Theon had really understood who Ramsay Bolten was. It had been the night he'd taken it. It had been the night he had heard Reek's voice for the first time in his head, begging him to die so the suffering would end.
But now was not the time to ponder this. The music had turned into loud beats of a drum, screams and uproar was heard from the open windows of the hall. A prophecy that the battle had begun.
He stared around the corner of the stable and noticed that the yard was empty again, but this being just a matter of time. They were surrounded by enemies, soldiers, who would soon storm the castle, who would knock down every northerner crossing their path. And with enough manpower they would also make the wolf succumb. Theon had to prevent that.
With a soft squeak he opened the gate and yellow eyes stared at him from angry slits, gleaming dangerously out of the darkness.
He took a step back and raised his hands.
“I know what I did doesn't deserve forgiveness, but we must find Robb.”
He seemed to have said the right thing when the wolf jumped past him and ran towards the open passage leading inside the castle. And following without thinking, he stumbled after him, the animal was much too fast, no companion but only a guide through the cold damp walls.
Though he wouldn't have needed one, the sounds of the battle increasing, drums and screams, agony of death. Theon was as if his heart was jumping out of his chest, tearing his ribs apart, occupying every room and squeezing out the air for him to breathe.
The great doors to the hall were wide open, he heard voices, Lady Catelyn’s cries. “Go to him. Now. Robb, walk out of here.”
Lord Walder snorted. “And why would I let him do that?”
There was no opportunity for anyone to answer, as the giant beast jumped into the hall, attacking the first soldier next to Robb and ripping out his throat. Arrows flew and Grey Wind howled loudly, but attacked further, claws and fangs stretched down one Frey after the other, but there were too many.
Theon stood behind the door, watching the scene with big eyes and trembling hands. It was a massacre. Lucas Blackwood cut down, Dacey Mormont next to him with a giant axe in her stomach, the Smalljon Umber no more then ten feet away from her, head separated from his body.
He felt the bitter taste of bile coming up again, but he had to stay awake now, no room for weakness, not now.
Theon Greyjoy had been an excellent hunter, the best archer in Winterfell. You must be a hunter.
Catelyn Stark, with a gaping wound on her back, had a man in her arms, with grey hair, a dagger at his throat, trembling but determined.
Robb stood in the middle of the hall, a bolt in his side, a second in his leg, a third through his chest, with Grey Wind to his right, barely able to stand on his feet anymore.
Everyone else was dead. At least he had to save them. And he wouldn't have much time left for that. When the soldiers came back from outside the walls, no chance was left.
His gaze fell on the musicians in the gallery, five crossbows aimed at Robb and Grey Wind. That's your quarry.
He closed his eyes, imagined foliage surrounding him, the ground below him the damp moss of the wolfswood. Slowly he shuffled his feet.
He was hunting, and they were only geese.
Theon reached behind him and stroked the feathers of his arrow with his fingers. How long had it been since he had shot such an arrow? But he knew what to do, every shot a hit, and now was not the time to think.
A wolf is not threatened by a herd of geese.
His arrow shot through the air, hit the first musician right between the eyes, for him to tilt forward from the gallery, falling directly on Ser Hoster Frey. The remaining people looked around frantically for the shooter as the next arrow flew, and a second goose died.
Three - four - five.
Chaos erupted, and Grey Wind took a run-up, made a huge leap and jumped at Walder Frey, who screamed for his life as the wolf tore him to pieces.
Catelyn Stark cut the throat of her hostage the very moment Robb collapsed, and Theon rushed to him, saving him from falling. Causing his blue eyes to go wide when they met his black, a choked breath as Robb clung to his coat with an iron grip. “You,” he whispered in disbelief and reached for Theon’s face.
“There’s no time,” Theon replied as Catelyn joined them, recognizing the man holding her wounded son in his arms.
“Greyjoy,” her voice dripping with hatred and contempt.
“We must get out of here. Now.”
Theon begged all the gods who might hear him for her to trust him, that she would help him, the longer they waited, the closer they came to death. And she did.
“To the river,” she said, and so they stumbled out of the hall. Pressed against cold walls, lurking in the shadows, Robb's rattling breath, his painful moaning so close to Theon's ear. Grey Wind and Lady Catelyn in front of them sneaked down the stairs to the boats' pier.
It was madness that nobody had discovered them, that they had managed to steal a boat, all crowded close to each other, with the weight of the wolf the edge almost flat to the water surface. But disguised under Theon's cloak and wrapped in the darkness of the night, they drove away and left the twins behind.
He didn't dare close his eyes, one hand firmly clawed around his bow, the other around Robb's wrist, feeling his pulse getting weaker and weaker, but still there. Though still too scared to be relieved. But it seemed like they made it.
When the first rays of the sun appeared over the horizon and light formed over the thick coat to their heads, Theon dared to peer out from behind the fabric.
The river was calm, but they couldn't risk drifting on the water any longer. Now that the night was over and the darkness no longer disguised them, they were such easy prey. They had to seek shelter in the thicket of trees surrounding them.
Still covered by his coat, he took the bow to steer to the shore, stopped when he could feel the ground and climbed outside.
Catelyn did the same, helping him to pull the boat ashore despite her obvious pain, while Grey Wind looked around the forest, ready to protect them from their enemies at all times.
Theon watched the Lady of Winterfell as her beautiful dress wrapped itself around her legs, soaked with water and colored brown from the mud. He remembered a time, when he’d made sure this didn't happen. When he had lifted her by the waist, to set her on dry steps, as water lapped only around his boots.
Now he couldn't even pull the boat on his own. Robb moaned at every resistance, but finally they had it back on solid ground.
Theon sighed, closed his eyes. As he felt cold metal at his throat.
“You killed my sons.”
She stood behind him, every tremor flowing through her body reaching his as well. Her voice cawed, exhausted, full of rage and grief.
“I didn't,” Theon whispered, “they ran away.”
“Liar!” Catelyn screamed. A flock of crows rose from the treetop beside them into the air and flew away.
Theon sobbed, “I couldn't find them.” The memories of that night suddenly so close in front of him, his despair, his exhaustion, Reek and the plan. “We killed the miller's boys, burned their bodies so no one would know. They weren't Bran and Rickon.”
Their names hurt violently in his throat. The memory even more so. It was his worst crime, added to a long list of wrong choices.
But the grip around his neck loosened as Catelyn took a step back. He turned around slowly and watched her from sad eyes. Theon had always thought her beautiful, but now her light skin was pale and grey, her long auburn hair ruffled and dirty and those deep blue eyes filled with madness and grief. “Where are my sons?”
“I don’t know,” he whispered.
“WHERE ARE MY SONS?”
What should he tell her? Even if he hadn't killed them, he had robbed them of their home, made them plunge into wilderness in the middle of the night. They were as good as dead by his hand.
Her gaze was begging, but he could not give her any relief. “I'll regret it all my life.” Like that was enough.
She opened her mouth and Theon knew she was about to summon his death, when a faint gasp demanded her attention. “Mother.”
They both rushed to the boat, his skin pale as a ghost, the arrows still in his body, he had already lost so much blood.
“You take care of him. We need horses. I'll get them.” Even when he had spoken to his mother, his eyes lingered on Robb, who weakly raised a hand and Theon took it. “I promise I'll come back. This time I'm coming back.”
He let go before he did something he regretted, didn't turn around, ran straight into the thicket. The wolf would watch over them, there had to be an army to get past him. Theon prayed to all the gods, old and new, drowned or not, that they would spare Robb, at least for now.
It wasn't long before he came across a path in the forest, wheel tracks were still fresh in the mud, they would lead him to a village or at least to a camp.
Then all the memories he had repressed for so long came to him like flashes of light. How they had played in the woods as children, his first time with a woman, his first stag he had shot. Robb’s lips on his secretly hidden among dense trees, flushed, shy and happy.
It gave him a stabbing headache and Theon sank to his knees, pressing the ball of his hand against his eyes as images shot through him. Hands, touches, kisses. Laughing. Robb's laughter so warm and clear in his ear. It was a different time, a different life. And Theon was not allowed to stay here, in a place which no longer existed.
The forest thinned out and he saw smoke rising, a small hut lay in front of him, a farmer presumably, with a large barn behind the house.
Sneaking around the wood, Theon tried his best not to make a sound. But what had worked out well the last night, with all the men and noises around him, was now barely possible. Once he had been able to walk through the forest like a ghost, but now every step hurt, he was not light but clumsy on his feet. Heard the noise of the animals, who smelled him from afar.
The horses neighed loudly as he tried to open their stable with trembling fingers. Cracking branches and the rustling in the straw behind him made him wince and he hastily turned around, bow stretched, ready to knock down the intruder. It had come to him as naturally as breathing. And yet he felt his whole body tremble.
An old man stood before him, grey matted hair, a metal bucket full of water in his hand, clattering to the ground as he raised both hands in shock. Fear of death stood in his face when he saw Theon, as if a ghost, a monster, had crossed his threshold.
“Please, please don't,” he pleaded, “my wife is sick. She has only me.”
Pushing the tip of his boot against the stable gate, it opened slowly, and Theon took a small step towards the man. “I don't want to hurt you,” he said as calmly as possible, but his voice was rough and shaky, “I need these two horses.”
The old man just nodded.
It probably didn't look at all dangerous as he swung himself in the saddle with aching limbs, held the reigns of the other animal as tightly as he could and rode off. Heart still beating heavily, but the gods seemed to be in a witty mood.
When the adrenaline left him, the pain came stabbing and more violent than he remembered it. His throat was burning, and he steered the horses to the river for a drink.
Yet as he kneeled down, he expected a man but saw instead a wild beast staring at him from the surface of the water. A black nest on his head, caught with leaves and branches, streaked with white strands, dirty. Cheeks sunken, eyes hollow. Dried blood smeared around his mouth, black pupils large and confused.
It hardly looked like a human being.
And yet he hesitated. Reek hated taking baths. Reek was usually punished after he bathed. Reek earned his name. But what about Theon. Did he deserve it, too?
Disgusted, he finally started to rub water into his face, stronger and ruffianly, scratching at his skin, tearing at it with all his strength. First only the face, then his arms, then the whole body, until every spot was covered with water. He felt so filthy, he stank.
What has he done to me?
A hand drove to his groin, and it was the first time since it happened that Theon allowed himself to think about it. What pain he had suffered, what had been taken from him. Not from Reek, but from him.
And tears like fire ran down his cheeks as he put his head underwater to muffle his screams. Screams so painful, they were about to tore him apart, suffocated by the waves and the noise, until he had no more air.
Shivering as he sat back on the shore. Staring at his scarred hands, nine fingers, only the gods knew how long it would have been until they’d become eight. Until he couldn't have walked at all. Until he had forgotten everything. When no Theon had been left for resurrection and there’d only been Reek.
Disgusted and ashamed, he finally got back on the horse. It would have been all for nothing if he couldn't save Robb, so he had to keep going. And even if Robb was going to die, he had to be with him.
So, he made his way back.
The horses felt the presence of the wolf first, Theon noticed how they became restless, they concentrated not on the path lain before them but only on their surroundings. Then he saw the grey fur, the yellow eyes flashing between the trees, and he knew he was almost there.
They were sitting where he’d left them. Robb's head in his mother's lap, one hand in his hair, the other firmly closed around her dagger. The arrows had disappeared, a black bandage wrapped around his leg. For the coat he had left them to be now only half as long, covering Robb's torso as well as it could.
And to Theon's surprise, Lady Catelyn looked almost relieved as she spotted his figure between the leaves, a small sigh escaped her mouth, then she whispered something into Robb’s ear.
But they didn’t manage to lift Robb onto the horse at the first attempt, nor at the second, his painful moaning a constant companion to their pitiful attempts. When they had finally did, his injured body pressed against Theon's chest, he was barely conscious.
He turned his head to the side, watched Lady Catelyn sitting on the horse with an iron expression and determined, her maltreated hands tightly clasped around the reins. As with his own wounds, the concern for Robb's survival suppressed her pain, Theon was sure. The question was only for how long. When would the rush subside and the strain of the last hours, of the last days, show its effect?
Without saying it, they knew their destination, knew that there was only one place nearby where they would find protection.
When they escaped from the twins, they had been drifting south on the Green Fork for quite a while, but neither Lady Catelyn nor Theon had any plans to ride further along the Kingsroad. Instead they crossed the lands between Oldstones and Fairmarket, still intent on going off the beaten track. Grey Wind always a bit ahead, watchful and guarding.
It were places that held so many memories that it almost took Theon's breath away. Long evenings by the fire, laughing soldiers, stories and jokes about women, shit and gold. When they had gone to war, Theon had thought the world was at their feet. A king and a prince ready to conquer them all. What a proud fool he’d been.
He pressed Robb even harder against himself, felt how his strength slipped to keep them both on the horse, to keep them both alive as they crossed the Whispering Wood. Sometimes he caught himself with his nose buried deep into Robb's auburn curls, closing his eyes and longing to go back to an earlier time. Where they left battles only as victors and then fell upon each other with the blood still boiling in their veins.
Though each time he tore himself away from these thoughts. They were fading dreams, because Theon was hardly more than a shadow of his former self and Robb's life was hanging by a thin thread.
“Hold on,” he whispered over and over, “just a little longer. We’re almost there.”
A deep sigh, which he did not know he had held back for so long, came out of his mouth when he finally recognized from afar the great castle with its red sandstone walls, rising sheer from the water, its battlements crenelated with arrow loops.
Then suddenly a horn resounded through the air, made Theon's blood freeze, an ominous sound. He looked around hastily, almost letting go of Robb, who was sagging limply forward, and Theon had a hard time steering the horse further and holding him tightly.
The horn again. He flinched.
Even if he knew it could not be his master, the thought of Ramsay's blade gave him a tremor that ran from his feet up into his remaining fingers.
But Ramsay was no longer his master. Ramsay was dead.
The watchman blew his horn again, then called out to them from above from his tower. “Who rides there?”
“Catelyn Stark, daughter of Hoster Tully.”
The relief brought exhaustion, brought the pain and blocked his senses. The world around Theon suddenly spinning, when black dots formed before his eyes.
“We're save,” he whispered into Robb's curls, when his arms lost all strength and they both fell off the horse.
“Someone get the Blackfish,” a voice called from far away.
And then the world turned into darkness.
He didn't know how long he had been absent, but when he regained consciousness, Robb was gone and so his dirty clothes, now replaced with clean white cloth.
It was not a dungeon and there were no shackles either, yet Theon was imprisoned, locked up, told not to leave his chambers until Robb would reawaken and the king's decision could determine what sentence for him to expect.
They gave him all kinds of names. He heard them echoing through the halls, whispered when they brought him his food, even the Maester had punished him with contempt every time he treated his wounds. But he deserved it. He deserved all of it.
He deserved to die and only wished that Robb would be merciful. Give him a quick death by the sword or the rope. Robb was kind and fair, he would not make him suffer.
It were these thoughts that accompanied Theon as he watched the river outside his window, which flowed steadily, regardless of whether the sun shone in the sky or the moon illuminated the night. Theon Greyjoy had to die, he wished to die for it all to end, but there should be no Reek left to take his place. The gods couldn't be this cruel.
A knock behind him released him from his thoughts and turning his head he saw the door open a crack. The stick on which he leaned came first before Robb's body followed, his face still twisted with pain but not as pale as it had been days before. Grey Wind remained outside as Robb closed the wood behind him.
“You’re awake,” Theon said and got up. The day seemed to come, his end now standing in flesh and blood before him.
Robb didn't answer, just stared at him with his deep blue eyes, his jaw clenched, and Theon felt like he was shrinking under his gaze. He’d been able to make him feel that way before. But what had once caused anger and reluctance in him was now only painful and stabbing.
“Tell me why,” he breathed then. Theon couldn't look at him. “Tell me why you did it.”
“I was a fool who believed to be more than he was.” He finally looked up, his hands clawed to fists around his thin blouse. “Will you make it quick?”
Robb's gaze revealed no reaction.
And Theon felt the urge in him to fall to his knees to ask for forgiveness, to confess and plead, the desire that Robb understood which devil had driven him. But he would not understand, because Robb was good, and Theon was not. “Please make it quick.” The only words that left his lips.
And when their eyes met again, black and blue, Robb's face became softer, sad, no anger, no disgust. Only sadness, and Theon hated knowing he was responsible for it. As much as he had loved to make Robb laugh back then.
“You will not die by my hand, not today and not tomorrow.”
“Is it true what they say? What happened to you?” Robb had come even closer now, stood so close in front of him that Theon could sense his smell, steel and leaves and parchment and him.
It was now up to him not to answer. He was too disgusted with himself, what had become of him, what he let happen. Pressed his eyes shut tight as Robb reached for his hand and stroked his thumb over the spot where his pinky had once been. Far too gentle, it made Theon tremble, and yet Robb did not let go.
“Then it's also true that you saved me,” he went on, put his finger under Theon's chin and forced him to turn his head. “Look at me, Theon.”
That name. The way Robb said it, his name, calling out to him. It cracked something in his chest, so painful that Theon couldn't contain the sob escaping his mouth.
“Please, don’t make me,” he whimpered, “put an end to this.”
Lips, so sweet and tender, lay on top of his instead, let the tears burn behind his eyes. It was a touch so long forgotten, buried even deeper in him than his name, his title, all that he had been. So painful that he could hardly stand it, that he wanted to scream and run. Being far more cruel than death.
But Robb held him tight with his one hand, his firm grip wrapped around his bicep.
“I missed you so much,” he breathed, kissed Theon once more, on his lips, on his wet cheeks, his closed eyes. “I forgive you Theon, I do. Please look at me.”
He had no right to deny him anything.
And finally, full of fear, he looked up again, his vision blurred and hard to bear, but he forced himself, trying to hold Robb's gaze as long as he could.
“I forgive you.”
“You shouldn't,” Theon whispered.
“And yet I still do it.”
How could he, after all he'd done. Theon did not deserve forgiveness. He deserved death, redemption only by the blade. Maybe a part of him was still selfish enough to demand it. Because he could no longer live in this world, where there was no place for him left.
He seemed to have spoken his thoughts out loud, as Robb's face softened, Theon's whole body tense and frozen as Robb gently let a strand of his hair slide through his fingers. “Your place is at my side, I should never have let you go.” He stroked the strand behind his ear, let his hand linger there for a few more heartbeats. “I was so angry and hurt. Alone, with no one to understand how I felt. But you came back like you said you would. I thought it was a fever dream, but here you are.”
“Please,” Theon begged again. “I did terrible things. I deserve it.”
Robb's hand vanished as he took a step back, swaying slightly on the thin stick carrying his weight, frowning at him with anger in his eyes. “Then what do you expect? An execution for saving my life?”
Theon wanted to scream at him, beat him, for being so stubborn and not understanding. That he gave him hope where there was none. That he didn't want to see what Theon had done, the worst crime. Treason. “I betrayed you Robb, I deserve it,” he said again in a thin voice. For the first time in so long that he dared to say that name, let the syllables roll over his tongue. It felt so much like home, it broke his heart.
“And you paid for it, didn't you?” The touch again on his missing finger, like a warm breath, protecting, caressing. “A wrong choice for a high price. As was mine, that it had nearly cost my life. If you hadn't been there.” Robb made a small pause, then came closer again, their chests now pressed against each other. “Please.”
And Theon surrendered. No backing down, when Robb's lips found his again. Kissed him back, clumsy and shy, for he had forgotten what it was like to be kissed. What it was like to feel desired, for how could it be that someone still did this.
Robb's fingers buried in his hair, clinging more strongly to him, trying to feel alive. But Theon was afraid of that thought, because what if he would go further and only to realize that the abyss lay before him, nevertheless.
As Robb's grip hardened, one hand in his neck, the other on his shoulder, also because he could not carry his own weight, hissed with pain and effort, Theon finally led them to the bed. He laid them down gently, cautious out of consideration for Robb's wounds that had not yet completely healed.
They separated again, only slightly, paused with their lips just barely touching, breathing in each other’s air. Something that ones had caused a dizziness akin to arousal, back then in another life, now frightened Theon to the core and he flinched violently, when he felt Robb roll his hip.
“Don’t,” he panted, “I can’t.” He wanted to move away again, turning his head, but Robb grabbed him by the chin, turned him back to himself.
“I want to see you,” he whispered, stroking the outline of Theon's lip with his thumb.
For Theon to shake his head, no words in his mouth to describe how ashamed he was, how disgusted. And how much he wished Robb would remember him the way he once had been. But Robb was a wolf and a young man and hungry, and showed it to Theon by stroking his neck, licking the tender skin under his ear, fingertips carefully pulling the cloth from his breeches.
“During the last days the world was just blurred, hot and cold at the same time. And I knew that the fever would strike me down, but I chose a different path,” Robb continued in a low voice. Licking, nipping, biting. “Because of you, Theon. Because I love you. Whatever time it is, whether we are apart or together, at war or at peace. I will always do.”
“Robb,” he moaned. He moaned. As an overwhelming feeling chased through his body, caused his fingers to tingle, the few toes he still had left to curl. Strong hands splayed across his chest, then ghosting over every scar tissue, leaving a trail of shivers behind.
“You’re still so beautiful,” Robb purred, began to fumble with the laces of his breeches while grinding his groin hard against Theon's hipbone.
He snapped his wrist with a jerk. “Don’t.” Because this was too much.
Blue eyes looked at him uncertainly, trying to find something inside him, a deeper meaning, but it wasn’t there. “Please, let me see you.”
Theon shook his head.
“Then at least let me touch you.”
“It's, it's horrible,” he stuttered.
Robb watched him, as warm and pure as only he could. “I saw horror,” he said then, swallowing hard. “My men beheaded beside me, my mother almost stabbed to death, my own blood leaving my body. But this,” he let his hand settle slowly between Theon's legs, “this is no horror, but only a scar.”
Only a scar.
It was now Theon who brushed their lips together, swirling his tongue around Robb’s, accepting his fate, may he drown between Robb's hands and be at his mercy. It was the first time in so long that he felt a bit like his old self again and he almost choked on it, so hard to bear, too overwhelming, too powerful it was.
Screwing his eyes shut tight, he then concentrated only on the tongue on his neck, which sucked and left bruises, marking him in the most beautiful way possible, as Robb slowly opened the laces and pushed one hand down.
His fingers were running so lightly over his damaged skin, like a breeze, like a breath of wind, no one had ever touched him so gently, and yet Theon's chest trembled with tension, his heart was beating hard in his ears. And then he uttered a shameful moan, as Robb added more pressure, rubbing his thumb along the place where is cock once had been.
He touched him like a common wench and yet Theon couldn't help but lay his head back on his neck, whispering soft curses, turning into a desperate whimper as Robb's hand disappeared again. Still only for a short time when he heard the sound of spitting and it was back, greedier, faster, accelerating the pace due to the better friction of saliva.
Deep inside him there was a voice telling him that he had to do something, help Robb to get some relief as well. But instead, he couldn't move, just panting and writhing, too overwhelmed by the feelings, the warmth, the touches. Robb growled next to him, pressed his hip even harder against Theon's leg, “gods, I’ve missed this so much.”
While Theon shuddered, biting back another moan, as he slowly felt the sensation in his feet, crawling up his legs, wrapping itself around his balls, his skin prickling. He was dissolving into pleasure, as everything around him was cutting to a white noise.
And then he came with a chocked cry.
Not shooting like before, Robb's whole hand covered with it, but only something small and wet left the stump between his legs. And yet one shockwave after another ran through his body, while he did nothing but tried to keep breathing.
Dazed, he noticed Robb losing his rhythm beside him, pressing his face deep into Theon's neck, groaning, a deep growl like that of a real wolf, when the tension finally left his body. He uttered a shaking breath. And moving slightly, a loud groan followed.
To his dismay, Theon saw a red spot had formed on Robb's back, the wound had reopened due to the amount of motion. He wanted to stand up, make room for Robb to lay down properly, but he held him back, even if with much less strength than a few seconds before.
“Please don't go,” he pressed out between clenched teeth, face pale and hair sweaty, sticking to his forehead.
Theon nodded then, arranging them on the bed so that Robb could lie down on him, his face laid on his chest, his ear right next to his still violently beating heart. He felt the sigh through the thin cloth that covered his skin as the body next to him burrowed himself closer to Theon, curling into the warmth.
“You should go before someone finds you here,” he hushed.
“No one will come. Grey Wind guards the door,” Robb replied, which spurred another question in Theon.
“How come you're not so close anymore?” Theon said then without thinking. Caused Robb to snort, although he was still lying there, obviously relaxed with his eyes closed.
It took him a while to get an answer. They had known each other for too long for Theon not to notice how Robb chose his words carefully, but then spoke what Theon wished would have remained unsaid.
“Jeyne was anxious around him most of the time.”
A stab as violent as the cut of a blade shot through Theon's chest, making him twitch without being able to restrain it. “You must miss her,” he said then and his voice sounded hollow and foreign.
“I should, shouldn't I? And yet I don't. I wasn't myself when I married her.”
“And yet you're a married man,” he replied bitterly, feeling Robb reaching out his hand, grasping at it. And though it felt wrong, Theon let him.
“I am no longer married, nor am I longer a king. This man was killed at the Twins, butchered by his own men.” Robb's voice sounded husky, as if a lump in his throat was making it difficult for him to speak. “What's left is a man ready to go home where he can mourn and heal in peace.”
At least you still have a home. At least you're still a man.
The head on his chest rose. Even though it obviously took him the greatest effort, it seemed important for Robb to look at him. “You'll come with me, won't you?”
How could he want that, how could he bear the thought of Theon at his side after all that? In his home, the one Theon had stolen. He would be a burden, a weight on Robb's heels, from which he would better free himself. But he could not tell him, could not refuse him when he looked at him like that, full of affection. He had never been able to do that before. So, he nodded, feeling the smile on his chest as Robb lowered his head again.
Maybe there was some hope after all.
Then nights came and went, long nights full of screams and agony. In which Robb woke up bathed in sweat, chased by dreams of blood and arrows and clucking laughter. Just to see that the bed next to him was empty, that Theon was instead lying on the floor, because he couldn’t stand sleeping on soft feathers, shaking heavily with whimpering noises.
Most of the time he would take the blanket and lie down beside him, calming his own restless mind by listening to Theon’s breathing and Theon's while he stroked his fingers through his dark hair in constant patterns.
It took them a long time to heal.
There were always days when Theon didn’t remember, or when it was just too painful to do so. Days when Robb could not hold on to himself in anger and sorrow, when he fought everything and everyone around him and yelled and screamed till his throat hurt and his lungs burned.
But they went through it together and that's what counted.
Because though they were broken, there were many things far worse than that.