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intro to knots (or, alternatively, the psychology of growing up)

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Theon Greyjoy has spent the majority of his life thinking about things that aren’t.

Home. His family. Shit like that.

He doesn’t think about it in a depressing way – or maybe he does, sometimes, but then Robb does something stupid and makes him laugh or he spots a hot girl from across the bar who’s giving him the look and he’s over it, you know? Mostly. Almost completely.

He spends six out of seven nights per week pouring shots for drunk arseholes then becoming the drunk arse himself, and on the seventh night he sleeps in bed with Netflix and a bowl of takeout and sometimes, if he’s a little pissed and a little – fuck, not lonely, but a little bit of another feeling that’s somewhere along those lines – then sometimes he might call one of the nameless girls (metaphorically nameless, obviously) he has saved in his contacts and try to fuck himself into distraction.

Theon spends the majority of his time contemplating what isn’t.



That’s the thing about Sansa Stark.

She very much is.



When he sees her for the first time in two years –

Needless to say it’s not his proudest moment.

She walks through the door, and Theon says, “Holy shit,” at the exact same time that Robb shouts, “Sansa!” and he hates – hates the glare his best friend sends his way.

(Problem for another time.)

She’s standing in the front entrance of his dusty, dimly-lit bar in this pristine fucking white dress and she’s smiling, smiling at him, and Theon’s immensely grateful for the way Robb rushes over and wraps his sister in a bear hug, breaking their eye contact.

Those eyes. Those ridiculous, massive blue eyes. They’re going to be the death of him one day, he’s sure of that.

“Gods, I missed you,” Robb says, and Sansa laughs.

Like fucking wind chimes.

“It’s only been six months, you dork.”

“Six months too long! I thought you weren’t getting in until tomorrow?”

“I wanted to surprise you!”

Clearly the surprise worked – Theon’s pretty sure he’s never seen Robb this happy, and feels for a moment that he’s intruding on something he shouldn’t be a part of. That’s a pretty neat summary of his life with the Starks.

“I would have picked you up from the airport, Sans! Did you cab alone? Does Mum know you’re here?”

“No one knows. I – Jesus, Robb, you’re suffocating me!”

“Good,” Robb says, but he still concedes and takes a step back. “That’s what you get for leaving me alone with this prick for so long.”

They’re looking at him again. They’re both looking at him, and Theon knows this is his cue.

Sansa bites her lower lip.

Fuck. He’s fucked.

He’s fucked, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s Theon Fucking Greyjoy, and he’s better than…whatever it is that she’s doing to him.

(Or, at least, he’s going to pretend like he is.)

“Now,” he steps out from behind the bar, approaching it with a dramatized sort of swagger that he typically reserves for women who decidedly aren’t his best friend’s little sister, “what’s a pretty little thing like you doing in a shithole like this?”

Far from his smoothest line – hardly even a line at all – but Theon’s pretty sure his brain stopped working two minutes earlier and it’s the best he can manage.

Robb whacks him across the face with the dirty dishcloth he’s been holding.

“In your pants, Greyjoy!”

He holds his hands up by his head in mock innocence. “Oh, it’s in my pants alright. Want to check?”

The wink he sends in Sansa’s direction is worth the smack he gets from Robb, worth all the shit that he’s going to get from him once his sister leaves.

Sansa –

Sansa laughs again, and she hugs him almost as tightly as her brother had hugged her.

He’s completely fucked.



The story of Sansa Stark’s two year sabbatical from his life is not a happy one.

It involves shitty ex-boyfriends and even shittier bosses, people who’d seen her sweetness as an opportunity to offer her the world before tearing her to shreds. It involves her deleting her social media, cutting contact with essentially everyone in her life but her family.

They’ve all got their shit, but Sansa…

The story of Sansa Stark’s two year sabbatical from his life isn’t one he knows well, but he knows enough.

They don’t talk about it that first night – it’s a Monday, and the bar is quiet, and the three of them laugh and joke and sometimes Sansa looks over at him with this warmth in her eyes (in those ridiculous, massive, heartbreaking eyes) that makes him trip over his words.

He’s known her for most of his life, all of the parts of his life that have mattered, and they’ve never been close but they’ve been friends, or something near that. Something indefinable, but always familiar.

She’s never looked at him like that before.

That’s something new.



“She looks good.”

Yara is talking about Sansa, of course. Everyone is.

She’s been coming into the bar nearly every night, with Arya, or Arya and Gendry, or Arya and Gendry and Jon, or that Tyrell bitch who Robb can’t stop drooling over – the one who looks at Theon a little too suspiciously for his liking.

Everyone is talking about her, because…well, because how could they not? She had stormed back into town with hardly any warning, hair red like fire and skyscraper legs, and she’s in his dingy pub laughing and smiling and charming every soul who crosses her path, and it’s been nothing short of fascinating to watch.

He’s known Sansa Stark for most of his life. Theon might be an immature, idiotic little shit (Yara’s words, not his), but he knows the kind of effect she has on people.

“She’s always looked good,” he says with a shrug. “She looks like Sansa.”

Yara snorts into her beer, and Theon knows that sound.

“Something you want to say?”

“Come on, Theon. Everyone knows. Waters knows, and he’s as perceptive as a fucking brick.”

“Waters doesn’t know shit.”

“You’re an idiot, Theon, but you’re not that much of an idiot.”

He glares at her, the way that she smirks as she sips her beer (the one that she refuses to pay for). “Let’s just say that I am.”

“So you running and fucking Ros the second Sansa left town – just a coincidence, then?”

“Exactly a coincidence. Have you seen Ros’ tits?” Knowing Yara, and knowing Ros, she probably has. “And if you’re going to go on about some shit like that, then what about Snow?”

Everyone knows about Jon and his thing for redheads. Theon mocks him for it, they all do, but honestly –

He looks back over at where Sansa’s sitting at a booth in the corner, where Margaery is telling a wildly dramatic story and Robb is staring at her like the whipped dog he is. He looks over at Sansa, chin in her hands, listening to her friend talk with rapt attention and an expression of wistfulness on her face like she used to get when she watched those ridiculous Disney films in the Stark basement –

(Honestly, he gets it.

He’ll never admit as much out loud, but he gets it.)

“Snow doesn’t look at her like you do.”

Shit. He hadn’t even realized how long he’d let his gaze linger, and when he turns back to his sister he knows that he’s already lost. The battle and the war, most like.

“Look at her like she’s a hot girl, you mean?”

“Snow hasn’t been in love with her since he was fifteen.”

Christ, she looks smug.

“I refuse to justify that with a response,” he says, knowing that he’s already just told her everything she needs to know. Still, Theon jabs at the beer that she’s just finished as if emphasizing his point. “You’re paying for the next one.”

She doesn’t.

He’s so busy staring at Sansa out of the corner of his eye that he hardly even notices.



Okay, so –

So, fuck, maybe Yara’s right.

There’s a slight, but not insignificant, chance that Theon has been in love with Sansa Stark for a while. There’s a chance that he’d spent some time when he was a teenager imagining their wedding like a twelve-year-old fucking girl, that he’d watched as Sansa lay out by the pool at the Stark family’s summer home and thought –

Thought about a lot lot of things. Things that he still thinks about, sometimes, more often than he’d like to admit.

Things beyond just the sort of things that he normally thinks about when he thinks about women.

Sansa isn’t women. She’s just…Sansa.

So there’s a slight chance that Theon’s at least a little bit in love with her, but then again – then again, everyone is in love with Sansa Stark. Later that night she leaves her corner booth to approach the bar, and as she does he watches Clegane get so distracted following her with his leery fucking gaze that the poor bastard spills beer all down his front when he goes to take a sip.

She leans across the bar and smiles at him, that bright fucking smile, and – yeah, okay, maybe Yara’s more than a little right.

He’s starting on her mojito before she even asks.

“What you’ve done here, Theon,” she says, her already delicate voice softer than he’s used to hearing it, “it’s amazing. Really amazing.”

It’s such a perfectly Sansa thing to say.

Gods help him, he loves her.

“Spend six nights of the week on this side of the bar and you might change your mind, sweetheart.”

“What about the seventh?”

What about the seventh?

“Careful, love. If I didn’t know you I might think you were trying to get in my pants.”

“And if you didn’t know me?”

If it weren’t for her teasing tone, he might actually allow himself to think she means it. He might allow his mind to wander off into the territory that he’s built a massive brick wall around, the part of his mind where Sansa isn’t his best friend’s little sister and he’s not such a useless prick and they –

Well. Maybe not as tightly sealed off as he thought it was.

Still, she’s looking at him expectantly and Theon knows he’s stuck. “Why do I feel like I should be frightened?”

She avoids his question – of course she does. “When’s your next night off?”

“I’m always on, baby. Especially at night.”


Fuck. He really thought that’d get her to drop it, but she’s got that no-nonsense look in her eyes, the one that she inherited from her mum, the one that he knows for a fact he doesn’t stand a chance against.

“I’m off Sunday.”

She grins, grins like the cat who caught the fucking canary, and he hates her for it.

(No, he doesn’t.)

“Great!” Sansa snags the mojito off the bar the second he places it down, and if their fingers brush for half a second she doesn’t seem to notice. “I’ll swing by yours at eight?”

She’s gone, back to her table before he can say no.



Yara laughs at him for the next ten minutes, and he figures he’s earned it.



Unsurprisingly, Sansa’s plan for the two of them doesn’t involve an Eyes Wide Shut-style orgy or a trip to Theon’s favourite strip club.

He hasn’t been there once in the three weeks since she’s been back.

The two are definitely not related.

Instead, she shows up at his door with a bottle of rosé (for herself), a six-pack (for him), a ridiculous amount of take-out (from his favourite seafood place, the only one in Winterfell that does calamari even close to the stuff at home), and her hair is in a ponytail and her face is free of makeup and she looks –

(She looks like she did the last time he saw her all those years ago, before she left.

The Starks had thrown her a party the night before, one in celebration of her getting a two year internship at Cersei Lannister’s fashion house in King’s Landing, and she’d spent that night a little bit tipsy, face flushed with happiness and wine and hopes of something brighter in her future.

The next morning – the next morning, after he’d crashed on Robb’s floor like they were fifteen again, she’d hugged him goodbye in the front door and he’d almost told her…

It doesn’t matter now, he figures.

It probably wouldn’t have then, either.)

She looks beautiful.

“Robb told me you like to spend your nights off alone,” she says, not making any move to come inside.

“Not alone. Just with a different sort of company than the kind he offers.”

Sansa wrinkles her nose adorably, and he tries not to laugh.

Fails miserably, of course, but at least he tries.

Gross. Tonight you’re getting my company instead.”


He doesn’t mean to ask it. He really, really doesn’t, but it’s just that they’ve never been close enough to hang out just the two of them, usually always having Robb or Jon or fucking anyone as a buffer between the two of them.

The thought of a night alone with Sansa, just Sansa, in his apartment, with wine and beer and her looking like that – it’s going to kill him.

“Because I’m bored. And lonely,” she says, shrugging as if it’s the easiest thing in the world to admit, “and I know for a fact that you are too.”


How the fuck is he supposed to argue with that?

Robb is probably off with Margaery and Yara’d given him a rather disturbing wink after announcing she was going to see Daenerys tonight; Jon is being a mopey bastard with his mopey bastard work friends and really, he thinks, that’s kind of the entirety of his social circle.

He steps aside from the door to let her in, trying to act as though he’s annoyed rather than charmed when she emits the most ridiculously girly squeal he’s ever heard.

“This is only because that food smells a hell of a lot better than the shit in my fridge.”

The way she looks at him lets him know that she’s aware he’s lying, but she doesn’t say a word.

The way she looks at him –

He’s going to need that beer.



The night is…

It’s nice.

Theon doesn’t have nights like this. He doesn’t have nights curled up on his couch with someone else at the other end, eating greasy food and laughing over shitty movies, getting a little bit drunk, spending time with a woman who isn’t his sister and not expecting anything to come out of it.

“Why haven’t we ever done this before?” Sansa asks, when she’s three-quarters of the way through her bottle of wine and he’s feeling the beer a bit more than he’d like to admit.

“Gotten pissed together? Sans, we’ve done that lots of times.”

“No, you arse,” she’s laughing, quiet but enough for him to know that she doesn’t mean it. “Why didn’t we ever properly spend time together? I’ve known you forever, and I swear I can count the number of times we’ve spent just the two of us on one hand.”

She’s right about that. She’s right about most things.

It’s just that he can’t tell her the answer.

(The answer is that he’s in love with her, and he can’t spend too much time alone with her because she scares the shit out of him, but that’s a terrible fucking answer.

Also – also, he’s a fucking idiot, but that’s a pretty bad answer too.)

“You were Robb’s little sister.”


“Fuck, you know what I mean.” She’s silent, clearly waiting for him to elaborate, and he heaves a long-suffering sigh before continuing. “First you were an annoying little girl, then you were less annoying but still a girl, then you were hot and not that little and Robb would have killed me if I spent more than a minute in a room alone with you.”

“I wouldn’t have let him. And you wouldn’t have done anything.”

Again: she’s right. He knows she is.

“Still. We didn’t exactly have much in common, Sans.”

“And now?”

Isn’t that a fucking question.

“Now,” Theon takes a swig of his beer, finishing off the fourth of six and already reaching for another, “we don’t have much in common, but we’re both just the right amount of irreparably fucked up that it doesn’t matter.”

Sansa throws her head back and laughs, louder this time, reckless and completely free, and he knows that for once in his life he’s somehow managed to say the right thing. Somehow, he looks at Sansa and knows exactly what he’s supposed to say.

He can’t remember that ever happening before. It’ll probably never happen again.

“I missed you, Theon.”

Now’s his turn to be confused. “You just saw me last night. Never took you for the clingy type, Sans.”

“I missed you when I was gone, I mean. Kings Landing is – I mean, it’s shit. It’s so bloody hot and filthy and everyone there is such a selfish prick, you’ve got no idea. On the first day of my internship Petyr Baelish tried to convince me that we had a ‘private orientation’ arranged in his office, and he wasn’t even the worst of them.”

He doesn’t have the slightest fucking idea who Petyr Baelish is.

He wants to kill him.

“I hated them,” Sansa continues, and he’s grateful for it; otherwise he’d just spend the rest of the night contemplating ways to murder a man he’s never met. “I hated them so much, and when I was feeling like shit I’d think about home, and you were always one of the people I thought about the most. I tried to imagine all of the ridiculous things you’d say and the idiotic jokes you’d make about them and it made things bearable, you know?”

Theon pauses for a moment, because he doesn’t know, and he doesn’t know what it is he’s supposed to say. He doesn’t know what it is she wants him to.

(He knew it wouldn’t happen again.)

“My jokes aren’t idiotic.”

Sansa snorts, unladylike and somehow still gorgeous, and she smacks him on the shoulder in a way that’s far too reminiscent of her brother – except it feels different, somehow, like her hands are softer or the touch lingers half a second longer than it should.

“They are,” she says, with such fondness in her voice that it almost overwhelms him. “They are, and I missed them terribly.”

She missed him.

She missed him.

“You could have called. I almost definitely would have probably answered.”

Sansa quirks an eyebrow with him. “Phone calls are for friends, Theon.”

“Aren’t we friends? You wound me, Stark.”

She laughs, just a bit, but doesn’t concede. “I thought I was just Robb’s little sister.”

“You were.”

“And now?”

They’ve come full circle, haven’t they? They’ve made it right back around, and this time – and this time he’ll give her the right answer, but it’ll be the honest one, too.

“I missed you too, Sans.”

She smiles, bright as if she’s just won the lottery, and Theon’s not sure what the fuck he’s done to deserve this. Maybe he hasn’t done anything at all.

But he’s got it, and it’s enough, and he’s not going to fuck it up for anything.



And here it is, the plot twist of the God damn century:

Sansa Stark, somehow, becomes one of his closest friends.



One month, two weeks, three days, and several longing glances (on Theon’s part) later, Robb seems to notice that something is up.

“Would you stop that? Jesus, man.”

Theon knows full well what he’d been doing – grinning at his phone like a little girl instead of helping Robb get the bar ready to open. It’s not his fault, really, just that Sansa had sent him a photo of a plush octopus she’d bought for his office and it’s so fucking cute and so perfectly her, so he can’t even bring himself to be ashamed.

“What in the bloody hell are you on about, mate? You look like you’re having a fucking embolism.”

That!” Robb waves vaguely in his direction, looking like the over-dramatic lunatic that he is. “Mooning over my little sister!”

“Oi! I’m not mooning over anyone. That’s Snow’s job.”

“You’re absolutely mooning, you prat. You’re a full-blown Man in the Moon right now.”

These bloody Starks. They’re going to be the death of him.

“You sound insane.”

“Insanely right.”

They’re at an impasse, obviously – Robb, stubborn as shit, and Theon, equally as stubborn and equally as unwilling to give Robb any sense of satisfaction.

“Just…don’t hurt her, yeah? She’s been through a lot.”

“Robb, I’m not –”

“She’s different, Theon. She can’t just be another girl to you.”

This is, Theon thinks, a moment for the record books. This is Robb Stark, looking sincere, looking scared, looking at him without even a hint of a smile. Robb, imploring, waiting for an answer that’s fucking terrifying but an answer that Theon knows he has to give.

“She’s not, mate. She never has been.”

“She’s way too good for you.”

He scoffs. “Don’t have to tell me twice.”

“You going to do anything about it?”

This time, it’s Theon’s turn to roll his eyes. “Haven’t for the past ten years. Wasn’t planning on it any time soon.”

Robb sighs.

He pours himself a beer and drinks.

And drinks.

And, suddenly, that’s the end of it.



Except, of course, nothing is ever the end of anything.

Not with the Starks.



The next few months are a blur.

They fall into a routine. Sansa comes into the bar as often as she can – not to drink, just to spend time with him and Robb and whoever else is working, except most of the time she sits closest to him, pays the most attention to his stories, laughs the loudest at his inappropriate jokes, and it might just be wishful thinking but it really, really doesn’t seem like it.

She comes over every Sunday night with cheap takeout and cheaper booze and they talk about everything and absolutely nothing at all. She teaches him about fashion and tells him about the boutique she and Margaery are planning on opening; he teaches her how to make a kickass fucking martini and tries not to laugh when she sputters and coughs it up after one sip.

They watch their favourite movies (hers is the version of Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightly, his is John Wick) and absolutely do not make fun of each other’s taste, not even a little bit.

She steals his sweaters.

She falls asleep on his shoulder.

He’s more in love with her than ever.

(He’s completely, totally, fucked.)



It’s ten-thirty in the morning on a Sunday, and he’s getting ready for his night off with Sansa until there’s a knock.

Margaery Tyrell is at his front door.

He’s hallucinating.

“You,” she says, shoving past him and into his front entrance, “are a fucking idiot.”

(Or…maybe he’s not.)

“How’d you get my address?”

She ignores him, slipping off her shoes – how the fuck can anyone walk in those? – and settling comfortably in his living room as if this is the most normal thing in the world, as if they’re old friends who hang out all the time and not near-strangers who he’s pretty sure mutually can’t stand each other.

If the vaguely murderous look on her face at the moment is anything to go off of, then he’s very sure.


“Explain what?” She’s looking at him like he’s lost his mind, and that’s fine, Theon thinks – he’s pretty positive that he’s the sane one in this situation. “Did Robb tell you about that night in college? Because it was definitely just once, and I’m pretty sure neither of us were even really into it, and –”



“What? Nothing.”

“I’m – hang onto that thought, because I’m definitely not done with that.”


“I’m here about Sansa.”

That, admittedly, makes a lot more sense.

Still, Theon doesn’t like the sound of any of this. If Margaery is here to talk to him about Sansa then that means that there’s something wrong – there has to be, something that she can’t talk to Robb about, and Theon’s mind races through every possible conclusion.

Except…except, honestly, he can’t think of any.

“Is she okay?”

“She’s been singing Taylor Swift in the shower for the past two weeks. Does that sound okay to you?”

He doesn’t know the answer to that, but based off of the, well, everything of this situation Theon has to assume that Margaery’s giving it to him. “No?”

She looks satisfied, and he thanks every fucking god in the sky. An angry Tyrell is not something he feels like dealing with right now.

“If I have to listen to her sing Love Story again, I’m going to tear out my own eardrums.”

“Seems a bit dramatic.”

“Robb told me he talked to you about her.”

Theon flinches at the memory – just a bit, but enough so that he’s sure she notices. “A bit, yeah.”

“Robb’s a fucking idiot. You both are, but Robb especially.”

Now that – that, he hadn’t expected.

“He told me you said you’re not going to make a move,” she continues, and Theon’s grateful for the fact that she’s not giving him a moment to speak. He’s really not sure what he would say. “Which is fucking ridiculous, frankly, because I’ve had my eye on you for a while –”

“I’ve noticed,” he snaps, thinking back to her glares from across the bar.

“I’ve had my eye on you,” Margaery says, somehow managing to both treat him like he isn’t there and speak directly to him all at once, “because compared to Joffrey and Harding and that Bolton prick you’re practically Chris fucking Hemsworth.”

“I don’t,” Theon interrupts, shaking his head, “I don’t know what half of that means.”

“It means that Sansa’s had her heart broken by a lot of pricks, but none of them have looked at her the way that you do.”

“And how’s that?”

“Like you love her.”


“You sound like my sister,” he mutters, and Margaery grins.

“So I’m guessing she’s the clever one of the two of you, then?”

He refuses to give her the satisfaction of an answer.

(She and Robb are fucking soulmates, really.)

“Even if you’re right,” he says, ignoring the fact that she most certainly is, “and even if I do love her, it doesn’t change the fact that she doesn’t feel the same way.”

Margaery sighs, dramatic and exhausted, as if he’s missing something entirely obvious. “Taylor Swift.”

“Are you capable of just saying what you mean like a normal fucking person?”

“She’s. Singing. Taylor. Swift.” Her tone has slowed, slowed as if she’s speaking to a child, and honestly in the moment Theon feels like one. “She keeps wearing that perfume you complimented the other week. Yesterday she spent an hour picking out the perfect outfit for the bar that would make her seem, and I quote, ‘casual, but in a cute way, like she was trying but not trying too hard.’”



“Holy shit,” Theon says, and it’s far from his proudest moment.

“Holy shit,” Margaery echoes, but for the first time since she arrived she’s smiling.

Sansa’s going to be at his flat in nine hours and eight minutes.

Sansa’s going to be at his flat, and she’ll be there because she’s in love with him.

He’s completely, totally, fucked.



She arrives exactly on time, and she’s beautiful and perfect and he’s in love with her.

He’s going to tell her.

Honestly, he is.

Except she’s standing in his doorway and smiling, and Theon has always been a bit awful with words – his favourite ones are shit and fuck and he doesn’t think either of those exactly convey what it is that he’s feeling at the moment.

So he could tell Sansa Stark that he loves her, that he’s always loved her – ever since he was fifteen and she was thirteen and she’d kissed him on the cheek when he brought her lemon cakes while she was feeling sick. He’s loved her and he’s been such a dick because he knows he’s not good enough to love her, that no one is, but she makes him want to be good enough –

She makes him feel like he might be.

He could tell her all of that, but he’s shit with words and she’s there, right in front of him, and he freezes.

“Theon?” she says, sounding properly concerned, and fuck, he doesn’t deserve her. “You were expecting me, right?”

He doesn’t know what to say.

He doesn’t know what to say, so he kisses her.

Theon Greyjoy might be shit with words, but let it never be said that he doesn’t know how to kiss – let it never be said that he doesn’t kiss Sansa with every single thing he’s wanted to say for the past ten years but hasn’t. He kisses her like he means it, because he does, and he’s so focused on making sure that he tells her everything he wants to in that kiss that he almost doesn’t notice how she hardly hesitates for a second before kissing him back.

It’s somewhere between two minutes and fifteen years before he pulls away (honestly, it could be either), and they’re both quiet for a moment – it’s a long moment, and it’s full of something that he can’t quite begin to understand.

She’s looking at him.

She’s looking at him with those ridiculous, massive blue eyes, and she’s looking at him he looks at her.

She’s looking at him how she always looks at him.

Like she loves him.

(How the fuck did he miss that?)

“If you’re quite finished,” she says, when the moment has passed and the silence has allowed them to say everything they wanted to, “I brought Thai.”

“I love you,” he says, because he can, and because she knows.

She laughs, like wind chimes, like music, like the fucking sun.

“Careful, love,” she says, sweet and soft and perfect. “If I didn’t know you, I might think you were trying to get in my pants.”

“Have been for the last ten years, but thanks for noticing.”

This time, Sansa Stark kisses him.

And when she does, she kisses him like she loves him.