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confined in mountain halls, we got too close to the flame

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i.

Theon is watching TV and he is also drinking his way through a bottle of vodka. Neither of those things is so unusual, and yet, the situation is not a typical one. The vodka is nicer than the things Theon usually drinks. Asha’d brought some by the last time she visited in her fucked up attempt to fulfill her so-called sisterly obligation.

Utter bullshit, in Theon’s opinion. His family has never exceeded expectations in anything besides being fuckups, and while Asha tries her best to ascend the norm, it’s unlikely that any of them can escape the gifts the proud Greyjoy family bestowed them with.

Well. There was someone who made Theon think that maybe he was better than his druggie deadbeat brothers and his criminal dad… But that person…

Theon brings the bottle to his lips and takes a deep gulp, closing his eyes to feel the burn wash down his throat, and wash away memories of a boy with blue eyes and gingery hair. He doesn’t even like vodka - he’s always been more of a beer man - but he’s got a decent enough tolerance (years of drinking has given that, at least) and Theon’s well aware that he has to make it through the bottle before he pukes, in order to get the kind of sweet respite from his fucking feelings that he is looking for.

The TV yammers on, a static-y connection on a bunny-eared set from the days before flat screens and all the shiny glittery gloss products there is no way that Theon could ever afford. It does its job though - it has decent enough coverage of football (that was important before - before -), and now, the constant gibber gabber of the 24-hour news is enough to ease Theon’s nerves. He’s had a thing about being home alone, ever since he was a kid. Which is yet another weird little bullshit issue he has, because he spent most of his childhood wishing he could just be alone, but… especially now, the empty spaces where Robb isn’t are deep enough to drown in.

“The bodies of three young women were found late last night in an abandoned warehouse near the docks, marking the fourth of a series of gruesome discoveries in the area. In all cases, the women were young, and affiliated with the sex trade. All of them were tortured and mutilated, but the state in which the bodies were found suggests that the cause of death was starvation.”

The lady on the telly talks with a sort of glued on smile. It reminds Theon of his own. It’s not a pleasant thought. The pictures of the most recently found girls flash on the little screen, smiling colorful photos of pretty young things with fake blonde hair wearing short dresses. Even though all three- Kyra, Sara, and Willow- are smiling huge white teeth smiles, the photos are colored by the sad quality that only photos of the deceased can have.

Theon shifts his position on the old tatty sofa, wincing as he rolls his neck. There are still bruises that flower across his chest and neck, and while he’s no stranger to bruises, it feels as if they hurt more than any before. Because now, maybe, they’re not from drunk brothers. They’re from - from Robb. From the only one who ever mattered.

Theon drops the bottle on the ground, watching as it shatters in a thousand slivers on the scratched linoleum floor. What did he do to lose Robb? What did he do to deserve him? He had always been broken, a damaged product, and if Robb thought he was anything else, they were both looking for a crisis.

Except that - should it really have been so easy? So many nights, curled together in Robb’s bed, one arm under another and legs tied in a knot, breaths mingled in the moonlight. So many afternoons, mornings in soft sunlight and rain. So much time, together. So much time, to be a damaged product.

Theon doesn’t even think he is crying until he tastes salt on his lips, and then he cannot hold his sadness back. His sadness, and his anger. He had nothing, and then Robb came and gave him everything he could want. Robb, the sunlight lighting up his gold-red hair in a halo. Robb, smiling at him. Robb, shouting at him-

I did it all for you , Theon thinks desperately. Or maybe he is screaming. He thinks that in the past he has wanted to take some things back, but nothing compares to It.

To the moment when Robb turned to him, eyes burning, and told him to fuck off. And that was it. Ten years, ten thousand smiles, and all Robb had was a snarl and a shout.

Didn’t he get it? Theon flexes his fingers and there are still faint cuts spidering across his thick fingers. A man was beating Bran, beating the kid that Robb loved so much - and he was expected to just stand there when he could intervene?

So okay. Maybe he fucking went overboard a little (maybe he shouldn’t have broken his nose....). But didn’t he only want to help out? Didn’t he only just want to do the best thing he could?

Theon punches the sofa pillow next to him, and wishes he hadn’t dropped the vodka bottle. His head pounds but his heart still hurts more, so he can’t possible be drunk enough yet. If he needs to spend the rest of his life wasted until he can’t think about Robb any more, so be it. He never expected to live a long, glorious one anyway.

A quick glance in the mirror leaned up against the far wall reveals that Theon is, at least, fully clothed in things that he can wear out of the house. He’s no fashion plate, that much is for sure, but. Well. It’s not like any one at the pub round the corner would care how he looked, and all he plans to do is get well and truly shitfaced.

Theon stumbles a little as he gets to his feet. Maybe the vodka did a little more than he thought?

He’s got on slept-in black sweatpants and thick socks, and the only T-shirt that doesn’t make him think of Robb- a dark blue one with the logo of the band his dad was in, years and years ago.

It’s not properly winter yet, but there’s enough of a chill to the air to make another layer worth it.

Theon pulls his sweatshirt on, stuffs enough money to get drunk in his pocket, and leaves.

vThe pub is only a few minutes from his house, and it’s not late enough to make the streets empty. People laugh and shout all around Thoen. He stares at the ground and fast walks until he’s thrown himself onto the seat at the far back of the smoky room. Theon tries hard not to remember when it was him and Robb, and sometimes Renly and Loras or Arya or Jon or anyone else with them. Trying hard not to think about things is almost as painful as actually remembering them, so Theon splits the difference and let’s his eyes roam over the men around him. A ginger here, a laughing man with eyes nearly as blue as Robb’s, and it’s almost like they’re at the pub together, sharing a pint and bitching about their days.

“You doing okay?”

Theon looks around quickly, but nope, he’s the only one in the dismally dark corner of the bar where he is knocking back his fourth shot in an hour - there is no one else the question could be directed towards.

“Mehegh,” he mumbles, not looking up. He’s never been terribly good at conversations with people, even people he knows well. On a good day. Theon has no doubt that at the moment, his social skills are about a negative eighty.

“That good, huh?”

To Theon’s surprise, whoever spoke to him before hasn’t gone away. He glances up to see a bloke sliding into the empty seat next to him. He’s got a drink of some sort clasped in a meaty hand, and when he turns to look at Theon, his eyes are oddly pale, like two chips of muddy ice.

“You know,” Theon shrugs. There’s something captivating about the guy next to him. It’s not that he’s attractive exactly, but there’s - there’s something. Something that, at the very least, doesn’t make it weird that there is someone intervening in his attempt to drown his feelings in alcohol. His face doesn’t look like it should all go together, but it does, somehow. Thick, almost girlish lips, on a wide, fleshy face. A broad nose, blotchy and pink, and those eyes, those light eyes, too far apart, and too small, and yet… “I broke up with my boyfriend two days ago.”

Theon has no idea why he says it, and it’s not like he’s even said the words before. Something about the strange man next to him makes him want to talk, want to vent. “I was in love with him, I was… I thought-” Theon brushes against his tears angrily. It is one thing to cry alone in an empty house, quite another to sob his eyes out in front of a perfect stranger in public. It has been years since his older brothers were around to call him a little girl, but Theon feels as though they are next to him, laughing, once again.

“Oh, baby -” the pale-eyed man sighs, and then he reaches a fleshy hand to stroke Theon’s shoulder. It would be creepy in any context - it is creepy, of that Theon is aware. But he’s always been a whore for touch, and without Robb, alone in his house… It feels so good to be touched by someone, so good that Theon feels himself melting in the touch.

He feels his glass being loosened from his white-knuckled grasp, and then the hand that is not on his shoulder is calming the tremors of Theon’s hands. They’ve always been shaky, since he was a little kid with too many fears.

“It’s okay, I’ve got you know. Go ahead, cry,” the man’s voice is soft, so soft, and then he is lifting Theon’s glass back up his mouth to let him drink, hands still rubbing and stroking and touching. “It’s all gonna be okay now.”

The hum of the pub feels far away, and Theon knocks back his drink in a single gulp. Maybe it’s the effect of all the alcohol, or maybe it is the odd pale eyed man still beside him, but Theon suddenly wants to talk. “His name was Robb. He was perfect. He is perfect, I mean,” Theon laughs, although he has no idea why. “He’s not dead. At least, I don’t think so. I mean. He wasn’t. Two days ago.”

“And he broke up with you?” The man blinks at Theon, and hands him another drink. Theon figures he ordered it while he was rambling, and he doesn’t hesitate before taking a long sip. It’s not what he would normally drink. Sweet, he realizes a second after downing half of it. And- strong. Theon blinks a few times, clearing his vision from the odd ripples that threaten to spill across his eyes.

“I was defending his brother, but he didn’t like what - how - I did it. He was so angry, so so angry…” Theon is used to people being angry with him. It’s basically a perquisite for being part of the fucking Greyjoy family, but Robb was always there for him, even when he wouldn’t have been there for himself. And now... now everyone is gone. He has no one left. No one. A strangled sob fights it’s way from Theon’s shut lips, and he lets his head fall into his hands. No one left.

“Oh, sweetie…” The man smiles, a strange twisted smile with his too-thick lips. “You poor thing.”

Theon looks up, blinking. His words are sympathetic enough, but he looks oddly… happy? Excited, perhaps?, by the sadness Theon knows is in his own speech. The man is still staring at him, those light eyes unblinking while they regard him.

Even through the muck that is Theon’s drink-muddled mind, he gets that this is weird. And that he should go home. Like, right now.

Bracing himself against the greasy counter, Theon pushes himself to his feet. He’s well and truly slammed now, he realizes, as a step forwards awakes a wave of nausea in his belly. Another step, and an odd sweep of darkness masses at the corner of his vision. Odd, Theon thinks to himself. He’s drunk a lot in lifetime, but never have things been so…

“Careful there, sweetie.” The light-eyed man is looking at him still, a sort of twisted smile on his face. His lips are thick and wet, and Theon is feeling more and more freaked out. All he wants to do is go home and curl up and sleep until Robb is only a faded memory. The man laughs, and it’s not a pretty sound. “Baby, I wouldn’t try to leave now if I were you.”

Theon stops. His heart is fluttering madly, and there is a cold dread in his veins. He knows himself well enough that he can’t run now. Not after all he’s drunk tonight.

“But then...” The man licks on lip, and Theon has never seen anything so terrifying. “You can try to get away. But then it’ll just be more fun.”

The lady from the TV talking about the bodies of the whores is in Theon’s head again, but there’s something... off. It’s the lady, with the glued on smile but her eyes are all wrong. Too small and too pale.

Theon takes a step forward but his legs can’t carry him without the counter for support. He goes down, hard. His knee burns where it hits the ground, but everything feels... odd. Numb. Theon blinks a few times, and he has the oddest feeling that nothing is real. He’s just an observer.

...Tortured and mutilated.... Theon wonders if this shame, this weakness, is how the girls felt when whatever psychopath took them. He almost laughs aloud, because he doesn’t have time to worry about them. He has his own psychopath to worry about. Theon’s ribs hurt too much to laugh, though, and he can’t seem to keep his thoughts straight for long enough to worry about that.

The light-eyed man is squatting down next to Theon, of that he is dimly aware. The wet smile is still on his face, and for a second, Theon catches a glimpse of the man he had been just a few minutes earlier. He leans down with one finger, and runs it down the side of Theon’s face.

“You poor thing,” He says, and his voice is so soft Theon almost cries. “It’s so good you have a kind master like me now.” He leans over and before Theon knows what he is doing, two moist lips are pressed to his forehead. There is nothing inherently scary about the gesture, but Theon shudders all the same. His heart is beating too fast, but everything in his body still feels too slow. He is trapped.

The man pulls away one more time, and then in the blink of an eye, a fist hurtles down towards Theon’s face.

Everything burns for a second, and then Theon is released into blissful blackness.

ii.

Sometimes, emptiness is evident even without seeing. Theon does not even need to open his eyes to know that where he is, is not the right place. His head is muddled enough that Theon doesn’t immediately feel fear, but rather... confusion. Waking up hungover is not even close to a new experience for him, but Theon is used to his own bed, narrow and lumpy as it is, or better yet, Robb’s, with an arm wrapped around him and gingery hair by his face.

Certainly not... wherever he is now. Some sort of warehouse, it looks like, white floors and towering metal shelves arching upwards into the gloom above.

Theon cranes his neck to look up, to perhaps work out where he is, and then he comes upon two realizations. One; that he has the worst hangover, ever, and two; that his arms are bound to the chair he is sitting on, and his ankles to the chair legs.

“H-hello?” Theon curses his rasp of a voice, and even more the churning it awakes in his stomach. Everything about his body just feels... off. “Hello? Is anybody here?”

“Oh, hello, darling...” A soft voice floats from a few paces down the room, behind a towering heap of what look like black shipping containers. A voice that is far too soft.

Theon feels sick. The light-eyed man from last night? Earlier? - walks slowly towards him, his thick lips twisted into that same wet smile. He’s dressed far better than he was in the pub, or perhaps now, Theon is finally seeing him. He is a thick-middled man, “big-boned”, the polite term would be, (but fuck knew Theon doesn’t care about politeness), and his hair, wavy and dark, is thick and greasy. He is also wearing a pale-pink silk dinner jacket, which would be hilarious if he wasn’t so terrifying. When he turns to face Theon, a red jewel winks in his ear.

“Where am I? What’s going on?” Theon feels as though he is in some sort of B-grade horror film, the kind that he and Robb would watch late at night while eating chocolate and pretending not to be afraid even though they both were terrified. But he must be panicking, because these things just don’t happen in real life.

“Oh, sweetling, it doesn’t exactly matter where we are now,” the man says. “But I think it matters who we are.” He drops down to sit on the floor opposite from Theon, pulling his knees into his chest like a child. “Do you know who you are?”

“Of course I know who I am!” Theon has nothing if not the identity his family has given him, with blows when not with words. “I am Theon Greyjoy, son of Balon Greyjoy.”

“Oh, darling.” The man looks terribly sad for a second. “Theon is gone. Theon was in the pub but you - you are not Theon Greyjoy.”

“Yes, I am!” Theon struggles to free his arms, but all he gets for his troubles is a hot burn as something cuts into his wrists. “What are you talking about? Of course I’m still Theon Greyjoy!”

The man gets up. “No. No, dear, you’re wrong. And because you’re wrong, you get punished.” He reaches into the folds of his jacket and pulls out a switchblade. A very pretty switchblade, to be fair, with some sort of inlaid design, cream and red on pink. But a switchblade all the same. Theon’s breath hitches in his throat as the man comes closer and closer, the knife cradled in his fleshy hands. He never had been a very brave child, and when his brother’s beat him, they took joy in how fast they could make him cry. His heart is a caged butterfly in the corset of his ribs, and it feels as though someone is pounding on his forehead with a hammer.

A second later, though, there is a new pain to distract from that. The man leans over Theon until his ice white eyes are level with Theon’s. There is no anger in them, Theon realizes with a shudder. Only a sort of blank indifference, and beneath that... pleasure.

He reaches out and so gently - he looks as though he is putting the finishing touches on the Mona Lisa -, the man carves a line down Theon’s face, from his forehead towards his lips.

Theon hisses in pain, but he knows from experience that it will hurt far worse later on. He feels blood trickle down his face, and the salty scent of blood, combined with his queasy, hung over feeling, prove too much. Theon realizes with a start that he can’t do anything, can’t lean over or turn away, thanks to the bindings between him and the chair. He gags and then vomits, his own sick falling thickly on his chest and lap.

“Baby,” cooes the man, smiling once again.

Theon closes his eyes, swallowing hard against the taste of his bile in his mouth. It hits him, then, that he is alone, tied up, with a madman in an abandoned warehouse.

A hand is reaching up to brush against his mouth, and Theon’s eyes snap open once more to see the man, a pinkish handkerchief loosely held between two fingers, dabbing at his mess.

“I know you didn’t mean to get sick. I know you didn’t mean for that to happen.” He puts down the cloth. “Did you?”

“N-no,” Theon mumbles. He can feel his sick starting to dry, itching on his face. He would give anything to be clean, to feel the shame dirt washed away from him.

The other man doesn’t say anything, but he leans over and presses a sticky kiss against Theon’s bloody cheeks. When he pulls away, there are red blotches flowering on his lips, like sores or volcanoes. Theon’s body clenches, and for a second he wonders if he will throw up again. Kisses are too pure for this- this madman to take from him. To take from him and to take from Robb, whose fingers were so soft and so gentle as they caressed Theon’s lips and the curve of his hipbones. Robb, whose name brings hot tears into Theon’s eyes.

“Oh, don’t cry, little one,” Theon’s tormentor croons. “I am so kind. And-” his voice turns hard, “You don’t want to be ungrateful, do you? Ungrateful to you kind master?” With each word, he presses the knife closer against Theon’s cheek, first at the pillowy skin beneath the bones that were once the chubby cheeks of a child, and then the fine taut expanse besides Theon’s eye.

The cold of the blade makes Theon shiver and shake, and craning his eyes to see the blade only makes his head hurt even more than it did before. He doesn’t say anything.

The man doesn’t lower the blade, but he doesn’t press it any deeper in. “Now that we know who you are, dear, it’s time we know who I am.” He smiles, his lips smacking together. “My name is Ramsay. Ramsay - Bolton. You call me Master, though.”

Ramsay Bolton. Theon is sure that his brain can’t possibly be at peak function at the moment, but the name sounds familiar. Ramsay Bolton, Ramsay Bolton. Why did that sound so- so ominous? He is sure he’d heard the name before, but he can’t quite place where...

“Did you hear me, darling?” Ramsay shakes his head, irritated. “I thought you were better than this. I thought you understood.” He lowers the blade and shakes his head, sighing sadly.

“I - I do understand,” Theon whispers. His throat is raw and burns when he tries to clear his throat. He doesn’t even know what he is professing his understanding for, but Theon has disappointed enough people in his life to know that the best move is always to attempt to prove innocence.

“No! You don’t!” Ramsay’s shout is even louder than it would be in the silence of the warehouse. His anger echoes off metal racks and comes back stronger as it bounds down empty aisles and the smell of blood. He raises a hand and fast as a whip, a sharp backhand cracks across Theon’s face.

The cuts that are already there pull apart further, and Theon feels his blood, warm and so wet, on his face, in his eyebrows and in the space between his eyes and his nows. The pain in his body is a pulsing burn, aching on the offbeats and hissing through him like molten lava in time with Theon’s heartbeat. There are tears on his cheeks and snot dripping down, and his vomit is still a mess across his lap.

Unbidden, an image of Robb pops into his mind, Robb, the first time they met. Him eight, Theon barely nine, smiling in their classroom on Theon’s first day of school. Theon imagines Robb bursting in, with Jon, maybe, and Arya with her fencing sword. Knocking the pretty switchblade from Ramsay’s hands, and untying him.

“Thinking about your Robb?” Ramsay’s voice is soft again, and when he say’s the name, it sounds like a prayer. A prayer for death, from a sinner doomed. His light eyes shiny. “Are you, my pet?”

Not his Robb, not anymore. Theon nods, a tiny motion that still sets his face on fire once again. “Y-yes, Ramsay.”

Clearly, that was not the right thing to say. Ramsay shakes his head, slowly. “What did I tell you to call me?”

“M-master.” Theon realizes his mistake too late, and then he is jerking backwards, the force of Ramsay’s backhand hard against his face. The force of the slap combined with his involuntary backwards thrust proves too much, and gravity lends a helping hand to overbalance the chair Theon is bound to.

They tumble backwards, man blood and metal, and Theon feels only a dull whoosh as his back collides with the hard, cold ground. His head, though - there is a sharp crack, and Theon feels a horrible ache for a second, before pain like fire shoots up from near his ear through his skull. He doesn’t even mean to cry out, but after a minute, he hears screaming, and after two, he realizes that it is his. He can’t stop, though. Something inside of him is broken, and hot tears trace down his face as Theon gasps for breath between sobs ripped out of his heart.

“Sweetling, I know you were thinking about Robb, but, darling-” Ramsay - no-Master - sits down next to Theon, legs crossed like some terrifying overgrown child. “Look at yourself!” Master (the word has a bitter taste but not as bitter as the ten thousand needles of pain that race through Theon’s body) widens his light eyes, shaking his head slowly.

He reaches down and runs along finger down the cut-open side of Theon’s face. His nails are ragged and Theon feels cold fire in the caress. He shivers, and chills tingle through his body, but he forces himself to stay still.

Master pulls his finger away and it drips blood and snot and other grime. “You aren’t the person Robb wanted anymore. You are filth. You are not Theon Greyjoy. You are disgusting, and Robb will never want you now.”

Master lowers his finger until it is just above Theon’s mouth. Theon squirms but he can’t move. He is still tied to the broken chair, digging into his back. His body hurts too much, and all it takes is a second of frantic movement for Master to clamp a heavy hand on Theon’s shoulder, pinning him to the ground. He smiles wetly. “Eat it.”

“E-eat what?” Every word is pain yanked from Theon’s dry cracked lips, but Master only smiles wider. He presses down even further on Theon’s arm, smiling wider at the hiss of pain Theon can’t stop.

“They say ‘you are what you eat’, dear. So...” He laughs quietly. “You’ll eat- this.” Master looks at the snotty red mess on his finger with disgust, before pressing it towards Theon’s mouth.

Theon knows better to try and resist. He’s on his back, in more pain than he’s ever been in before. He can’t do anything. A few more tears worm their way down his cheeks, sticky on the dried mess there. The salt burns in the cuts.

Master sticks his finger into Theon’s mouth, and Theon can do nothing as the... grime... drips into his mouth. It’s vile. Theon gags but Master keeps one arm pinning his shoulder down, and the other pressed against his mouth.

Theon isn’t sure if he loses consciousness, but when he blinks his eyes open, Ramsay is standing over him, wiping his hands on his silk jacket. They leave red handprints, small and drippy.

“Oh, baby, don’t look so sad,” Master coos, looking down with wide light eyes. “I do this because I care about you, more than Robb or anyone else. You are mine, sweetling, so long as you don’t forget who you are now...” He pauses, leans down once more so Theon feels his hot breath on his face.

“Because, now, darling, you are mine.”

Master leaves, smiling still, and Theon lies, bound, on the cold ground.

iii.

Theon has never been good at dealing with pain. As a kid, when one or both of his brothers (or sometimes even his dad, in the shadowy half-forgotten years before he went to jail) beat him, Theon would cry and Asha’d come and fix him up, and eventually, Robb graduated to that role.

Theon doesn’t think his pain can be any worse, but he is quickly proved wrong on two counts. The first is when he lets his mind wander to Him. To Robb. It’s easy, really, to associate his pain and humiliation with Robb gently fixing his hurts, because how many years has it been? More than ten, now. More than ten years of soft hands and bright eyes cleaning up Theon’s cuts and bruises, more than ten years of another body curled up besides his. But Master was right, Theon knows. Master - or Ramsay?

Theon is no one’s bitch. He’s proud of that. Shame courses through him every time Ramsay appears in his mind as Master, but added onto the filth coated on his body and the hard points of pain from the bindings still tying him down, and a little more misery is just a drop in the bucket. In the end, the man that tied him and beat him was right. Robb did not want him before, and certainly would not want Theon now.

Time passes slowly, and then fast, and sometimes, the concept slips away from Theon altogether. He is aware that the outside world is going on with its business. Inside the warehouse, the flickering white lights never change, the still air doesn’t stir, and his pain hovers in a dynamic equilibrium. Sometimes this, sometimes that, but always there, and always constant.

Theon prays for sleep, and then he prays for death. Anything, to end the pain and the shame and the hard press of reality on his heart.

It could have been hours or perhaps minutes before footsteps begin to echo from the far ends of the warehouse wasteland. Theon listens as they come closer and closer to him.

“Well, well, well,” says a nasal voice form a point far enough behind him that Theon cannot actually see the source. “You must be Ramsay’s new bitch?”

The Theon from before - could it only have been a day ago, at most? - would have made a joke. The Theon of now only grunts something, and his throat screams even with that.

The man laughs, stepping forward so that Theon can see him properly. Not that from his awkward bent-angle from the ground he has terribly good angle, but it’s something.

The bloke is as skinny as Ma -Ramsay is fleshy, and he holds himself like a coil of wire, all hard bent angles and a sort of ferocious twitch. “A quiet one, eh?” He edges out a boot-clad toe, poking it hard into Theon’s ribage. Harder than one would think possible from such a slight man, and Theon hisses at the sudden stab of pain.

“That’s better.” The man smiles, looking off into the distance. “Much better.” He shakes his head quickly, as though shaking away some distant thoughts. “Now, Ramsay has taken a liking to you, little bitch, so he’s asked me to take you... to take you to him now.”

Theon shudders, but his body is too spent to move very much. It’s more like he feels a shudder in his heart, in a kind of cold wet vise tightening around his throat.

The man leans down and lifts Theont, as easily as lifting up a cat, or some little kid. He frowns, revolted, at the mess of blood and sick now caked to Theon’s clothes, but he does nothing. Theon supposes that he should be grateful, considering what would happen if the man dropped him down on the concrete floor. Not death, certainly. That would be too good.

Instead, Theon is placed back down, chair and all, with a jaw clenching gait. The man kneels down and slices open the ties that kept him bound.

For a moment, Theon wonders why they aren’t expecting him to run away. He lifts a foot experimentally, but the skinny man laughs. “You think you’ll be able to get far, after being tied down like that?” He snorts.

Theon places his foot back on the ground. The man has a point.

“And anyways -” the man reaches into his jacket, a ratty black denim thing that is almost too stereotypically gangster-ish to be taken seriously, a pulls out a small black pistol. “This baby is called ‘strike one’ by the Russian bastards that make ‘em.” He smiles proudly at the sleek contraption, revealing a row of smarmy looking teeth desperately in need of orthodontia.

He flicks it, a motion Theon recognizes from years of shithole Greyjoy family living as turning off the safety. Then, his smile growing, he places it at the soft fleshy juncture between Theon’s arm and his shoulder.

“If you try to run, little bitch, I’ll shoot you here first. I won’t kill you - oh, no -, and then if you try again, I’ll pick somewhere else. We’ll keep going until you stop trying to get away.” He smiles again. “But don’t be a little vigilante -” he pronounces it vig-il-eyent, which Theon would find hilarious under other circumstances (because bloody hell, the irony of some sort of psycho murder helper not knowing how to say that particular word is almost too much) “- because I know how to shoot without killing. You’ll be in a lotta pain, that’s for sure. But I won’t kill you. Oh, no.”

Theon doesn’t move. The muzzle of the gun winks at him in the light, black and shiny and cold like some exotic snake.

The man doesn’t add anything, merely gives Theon’s wrist a tug, yanking him into a standing position. The blood rushes from his head and for a second, Theon is nearly blinded with dizziness. The man guides him forward though as he stumbles, his ankles tingling from the bindings, arms like bolts of iron at his sides.

The warehouse seems to go on forever, but finally, they stop in front of an incongruous gray metal door. The skinny man grunts, and reaches into the folds of his baggy jacket once more. His hand emerges after a few seconds grasping... a sock?

He lowers the gun for a moment, a bony arm still braced against Theon’s neck as he fits the sock-thing over his captive’s head. It smells about as lovely as one would expect a stretched out black cable-knitted rag to smell, an odd mix of blood, sweat, and what can only be described as sex. Theon fights not to vomit once more, although his stomach is so empty he doubts much would come up.

The man guides him along, the muzzle of the gun still cold against Theon’s shoulder. The physical sensations are the same, the throbbing ache at the back of Theon’s head, the muted fire in his face. Being blinded is far more disorienting, though.

Theon supposes he is more in tune with his body, which would be why everything hurts more. He figures they are outside when he gets a gulp of air that does not taste like blood and copper, and instead, smoke. Theon never thought he would be so grateful for the effects of industrial shit and smog, but thick ashy air has never smelled so lovely. Tears are in Theon’s eyes while he takes in deep open-mouthed breaths. It’s a cliche that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, but Theon feels its reality in every pulse of his quiet heart. There seems to be nothing suggesting that he will not die in the house of Master, of Ramsay, of whatever the twisted man decided he would be called. In the face of such a fate, Theon is more than thankful for the air on his face and in his lungs.

He only has a few seconds of air, though. Soon enough, a sharp knee is in his thigh, and the Theon is being roughly pushed down onto what feels like a bench of some sort. The air has changed to a metallic scent, mixed with rubber, and a moment later, Theon feels a rumbling beneath him. He is in a car.

Theon is alone in the back- he stretches out his arms to both sides, and feels only hard plastic walls and a dull burn when he tries to roll back his shoulders. It isn’t the skinny man from the warehouse driving, though.

“Ya got the lil bitch?” A new voices bounces backwards, and then a faint curse as the car swerves violently. Theon is thrown against one wall, moaning softly when his battered face slams into something hard.

“Oh, yeah, I got him.” The familiar nasal voice of the skinny man responds, followed by a snort. “He won’t last long, this one. Little pussy, down to the bone.”

The other man laughs, a laugh as throaty as the skinny man’s is nasal. “Skinner, you always think they’re pussies.”

Theon shudders. Skinner. A terrifying name for a terrifying person. Then the next words ring in his mind. You always think they’re pussies. There is no doubt, then, that Theon is one of many. A small piece in a sicko’s game, a little toy to be used until he’s broken. The thought makes Theon more scared than death. After all, he has been raised to know that what is dead may never die. It appears that Theon won’t be getting that particular privilege for a while, though.

A second later, there is a soft grunt, and then music flicks on, humming with the quiet static of an old radio. It’s Bon Jovi.

“She says you got to hold on to what you got - it doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not- we’ve got each other and that’s enough for love....”

Theon sniffles, unable to stop a flood of salty tears that rim his eyes. Robb loved Bon Jovi. How many nights, driving home in his dark blue Mazda, had they sung along, high off each other? (And in Theon’s case, sometimes weed.)

It’s almost like some new torture, Theon thinks, sitting bound and veiled and being driven to his certain death, and listening to such a happy song, with so many blissful memories attached. Theon leans his head back, happy to find that while the seat is hard, there’s a sort of ledge at the right level for him to rest it on. Exhaustion weighs at his body, and while every ounce of his being urges Theon to stay awake, the gentle rocking motion of the car seems more powerful than his desperate grasps at clarity.

When Theon sleeps, he dreams. He always has, nightmares, when he was a child, and then the odd, disjointed and fragmented dreams when he finally outgrew his terrors.

In the back of the car, Theon dreams again. He sees Robb, next to him, smiling his wide eyed smile. Only, something is wrong. There are tears in his eyes, his blue eyes, and when he reaches up to brush his dark red curls aside, his hands are shaking. “Don’t leave me,” dream-Robb begs, reaching forwards. Theon wants to reach back, to grasp the hands he knows so well, but he is stuck, watching as Robb drifts further and further away. Don’t leave me... Don’t leave me...

Theon jolts awake, his body, if possible, hurting more than before. There are tears in his eyes, though, and he feels as though there is a flaming hole where his chest should have been. Theon curses the gods - each and every one - for seeing fit for him to dream of Robb. Death will be merciful when it comes, of that Theon knows, but any memories are no kindness. Robb would never want Theon now, and now Theon will never see him again. It is better that way, surely. Surely.

“C’mon. Get out th’car, bitch.” The man who is not the skinny man is yanking hard on Theon’s shoulder, pulling him out of the car.

Theon’s legs nearly give out beneath him when his feet hit the ground, but one of the men is pulling him up and forwards as soon as he starts to fall. They drag him forward, half on his feet and half in their power. They’re going too fast for him to get his legs to work, though, and Theon knows that sooner or later they will pull too fast and he will hit the ground, hard.

The black veil is still on his face, but Theon knows the minute they step inside. While before, there was a bite to the wind, in a second his skin is kissed only by thick humid air, oddly perfumed.

It smells like roses and something rotten while Theon is half-pushed half-dragged up a flight of stairs, his knees aching and back burning with every step. By the time he is set down, roughly, on a concrete floor, the air is still thick, but now, it only smells of rot.

A hand reaches down, calloused and rough, and yanks the black mask off. Some hair is caught in the process, and Theon’s eyes are watering in pain when his visibility is fully restored.

The room he is in is very different from where he was before. It takes a few seconds for Theon’s eyes to adjust to the flickering yellow light, after so long in darkness, but when his eyes clear, Theon sees that he is sitting on the floor of a small room. The walls are grey concrete, as is the floor and the ceiling. There is only one window, small and shuttered, and the room is lit with an assortment of dark red candles.

It’s like a fucking date set up, the way giggly virgins prepare to give away their V-card to some adoring lover, complete with a wide bed covered in silky pink sheets.

Except for, y’know, the psychopath seated in the middle of the bed, smiling fondly at Theon with ice-y white eyes.

iv.

“Hello there, darling,” Ramsay (master?) hisses, his lips wet and glistening in the dim light. “I see my boys brought you to me all right.” He leans over the side of the bed, and places a fleshy hand on Theon’s head. His fingers are worms as they wiggle on his hair, on the tender places where he can feel bruises and blood. Theon is petted as one would a dog. “See, precious, I treat you like a princess.”

Theon shudders. His head hurts but that’s not even why he’s upset. (At this point, he is somewhere above and to the side of his body, hovering and unfeeling). It could be Robb’s hands in his hair, if Robb’s slim fingers, always cool to the touch, were ever so sweaty. It be could be Robb’s hands in his hair, but Robb would never grab his chin and force his head up to look him with burning white eyes.

“I want an answer, dear,” Ramsay hisses, spittle flying. His hands tighten in Theon’s hair pulling hard enough that tears well up in Theon’s eyes. “What do you say to someone who is so kind to you?”

“Tha-thank you,” Theon says, and it’s a whimper but he can’t manage anything else at this point. His brothers would laugh.

“Is that all?” Ramsay drops a hand to rest in the hollow space in Theon’s neck. It’s gentle. Almost. It’s gentle, but for one nail edge pressed against Theon’s pulse.

Is that all? Theon wracks his mind for something else to say. As far as he knew, a simple ‘thank you’ generally suffices...

Then again, nothing Theon knew is helping him out much. “Thank you - k-kind Master,” Theon croaks. His throat is dry and every word is like a stab wound, but he says it.

Ramsay beams. He drops his hand from Theon’s neck, and pets him on the head, the way one would a particularly sweet puppy. “Good, dear. Very good.” He leans over, and his breath smells like rotten flowers and blood.

Theon holds his body still as Ramsay leans closer to him. Up close, his eyes are like empty marble pits. The room is chilly and damp, despite the candles. Through the small window at the corner of Theon can see faint light, but only through the metal bars that guard the glass.

When Ramsay pulls Theon’s head up and presses a hard kiss, all teeth and rough lips, on his mouth, Theon is almost too shocked to move. When he does squirm, though, his Master answers with a knee to the gut.

“Darling, you are so lovely. Don’t try to fight me, though, because I’ll...” Ramsay licks his lips slowly, and takes out his knife again, his pretty pink knife. “I’ll play as well.”

He leans over. The light is dim, but Ramsay twirls the blade above Theon’s eyes and he can see it perfectly.

There are no pretty patterns, no pink and red flowers, as he had thought before. There are human figures, flayed and bleeding, their pink skin and red blood set in gems on the hilt of the blade. Theon feels sick again. There is nothing now that he can, do, though. He is bleeding and bloody and filthy and there is no one that would want him now.

“Oh, darling, don’t you worry!” Ramsay strokes Theon’s cheek with the curved side of the knife. Gentle, almost. A lethal caress. “I want you. I’m the only one that wants you but, oh, I do, darling.”

Blood drips down Theon’s face from a new cut he feels glistening on his face. He doesn’t scream. He is too tired to scream, and too alone to bother. Hands that are too rough to pretend are kind pull him onto the bed, grabbing at his skin and his clothes and his hair. Hands that are too rough to be loving tie his hands to the sides of the bed with ropes that are not silk and are nothing like 50 Shades of Grey, or whatever the fuck was supposed to be the sexy version of this. (One time, Robb asked him if he wanted to try anything kinky ever. Theon wants to laugh and also cry when he realizes that this is what Robb would have wanted.)

Theon finds himself whispering something, a prayer, a mantra, over and over, as Ramsay rips away his shirt, his father’s band t-shirt, and strokes hard nailed hands along his ribs. While Ramsay forces him onto his stomach, when pain like knives and pokers and shame burn through the places on Theon’s body that should never, ever be touched like this, his whisper takes a form. Robb. Robb. Robb.

Theon has never really got religion - his youngest uncle is bible-slamming born-again type, and while the rest of his family mainly uses anything religious as an excuse for their homophobia, Theon himself has never really been into it. Now, though.... If a god exists, Theon begs for a way out. Through his haze of pain and panic and shame Theon hears a hoarse scream, someone begging nearby. It only gets louder when he realizes that it is him that is wailing.

“Don’t scream, darling...” Ramsay pulls away from him, his body glistening with sweat that beads in his fleshy skin. “It’s just… .so ... rude..” He sighs dramatically, looking for all the world like the hero in some sort of sappy novel. “I’m really too kind to treat you this way, after all, given how disgusting you look. And-” he sniffs the air, a bloodhound or a monster from a storybook. “You reek.”

Theon does not say anything, and he tries not to move. Every part of his body hurts now, but the layer of dirt above it all makes it all worse. he finds himself dreaming of nights in with Robb, when they ordered takeout because neither had the energy to cook and then took hot baths together while Robb gave him massages and then lay back on the sofa watching shitty movies, clean and warm and together. Clean. Theon tries to imagine his hair, soft and light and clean on his shoulders, and his skin, smelling like the sea salt and caramel body wash Robb’d gotten. In some alternate universe in which he can let the pain of Robb fall beneath the pain of everything else, Theon wallows in memories, memories of soft hands on his back and hot water on his forehead and a smile on his lips.

Ramsay is talking again, talking with a smile that is not soft or kind or happy. Talking with a smile that doesn’t promise affection, but rather, pain. Theon decides maybe he’d better listen.

“In fact... I think I’ll call you that from now on. Reek.” Theon doesn’t think about how long “from now on” will be. For some reason, the only thing he can think of is the nicknames his brothers had for him when he was little (and when he was not so little anymore, although those memories are too constant to need to be dredged up), all silly mean things that made him cry.

Reek. A new name for a man - a boy, really - who has worn many names, and fought hard for the least important one. Theon- or rather, Reek - thinks about it for a moment, and then, if he had any sort of strength left, he would have laughed. He tried so hard to be a Greyjoy, it’s almost fitting that now he is nothing.

“You know, Reek, my darling,” Ramsay pushes Theon up so he is sitting against the wall. His arse aches. A good fucking’ll do that to you, he knows. It’s not the right ache, though, not the good one. Theon feels like his back and bottom are on fire, a sort of slow pain that makes his eyes tear up when he shifts his weight ever so slightly. But the shame, the dirt - that’s all worse. Theon read a book once about girl who was - who was forced. In the book, the girl talked about showering for hours to wash away the feeling. He hadn’t understood it. Now, though, Theon feels it, feels it in the empty places where a few hours days lifetimes ago he had a heart. Theon wants to scrub off his skin, to rip off every place where He touched him, to burn away every dirty place that hurts more than anything.

Ramsay’s hands are huge and somehow soft, soft like a snake or a hissing cockroach. When he wraps them around Theon’s wrists and twists back, Theon’s mind goes white, and then it stops. Theon waits, barely breathing.

“Reek, my dear, I think I might let you take a shower. Can you do that for me, dear?” Ramsay reaches out and ruffles the hair at the back of Theon’s neck, the way one would a favorite dog.

Theon would cry in gratitude. “Oh. Oh yes, m-master. Kind master.” His tongue is heavy and he feels like an idiot, begging and tripping over his suckup words. But a shower- hot water and soap and then maybe clean clothes… If Theon was a dog he would be drooling. Now, he supposes that he must be crying. (His face is wet with blood and other things, and he’s lost track of everything else.)

“The thing is, dear, I trust you. But…” Ramsay sighs a sad sigh and smiles through his wet, pink lips. “Some people here might not.” He licks his lips once, and then leans close to Theon. “Will you let me trust you?”

“Yes, Master.” Theon stutters less, this time. Perhaps he’s learning.

Ramsay touches his face, his fingers thick but oddly light. “I think we shall play a little game, you and me.” He nods once, although it’s more to himself than anything then.. “If you win, I know I can trust you. If they win....” His dark hair is clumping around his forehead, and his eyes seem to be pure ice in the dim light. He leans backwards, shifting his weight so Theon must lean closer to hear his words.

“If I win, do I - do I get a shower?” Theon lips his chapped lips. His lips always dry up in the winter. Robb would tease him for a while, tease him about rough kisses and cracked skin, and then Theon would find sweet smelling balm by his pillow before bed.

Ramsay sighs, and its clear Theon’s said the wrong thing. “Reek, darling, if you thought this had a happy ending, you weren’t paying attention.” He blinks a few times, and tilts his head first from one side, and then to the other, thinking. Deciding. Soon, though, he clearly makes up his mind. He inspects his fingers for a second, and then curls his hand into a fist.

Before Theon can blink, there is a giant fist glinting with shining rings coming towards his face, and Theon throws himself to the side, eyes slammed shut. It’s instinct or it’s fear or it’s years of flying fists and no matter what it is wrong.

Ramsay’s fist is like a sledgehammer to the forehead, and his rings scream fire as they cut Theon’s face. There is more blood, and a dull throb that Theon can feel in his stomach and heart. “Darling-” Ramsay lowers his fist and unfurls his fleshy fingers. His hands, his soft hiss hands, come to cradle Theon’s face, blood and all. “Darling, you lost.”

After that, things are a blur of pain and snot and screams and sobs. Ramsay’s game is only fun when Theon is screaming, it seems, and Theon has no shortage of it.

Eventually, the screaming stops and all the world turns into wailing red flames and pitch black shadows. Theon’s mind swirls with fragments, bits and pieces of anything but the present. His body floats, it seems, some distance away, somewhere else in the dark. But what is his body, now? A broken stick figure, lines bent away and blood seeping out. Cracked. Torn. Beaten. Shamed.

Once, that was not so, or maybe it always was. There was the Theon before Robb, the Theon crying into the sofa with burns from cigarettes and hard pinches that left equally red burns on his soft baby fat, the Theon hiding in his sisters bed from the brothers that won’t let him be. And there was the Theon with Robb, the Theon with a bright smile and soft bed and actual dreams of a real live future. So in a way… Theon thinks it is almost fitting, full circle, that he end once again as a scared child. It is, after all, what he was born to be.

At some point, Theon left the bed, although by his own motion or something else, he can’t seem to remember. Where he is now, though, is not the bed. Theon lets himself dream of the bed for a moment, but then he remembers the mess he left on it, sticky with sex and blood and everything else, every other way his body betrayed him. Still, the ground beneath him is hard and damp, and Theon shivers as he curls into himself. His teeth chatter and there is a sort of fog on his mind. Nothing feels real, but everything hurts.

Theon supposes that he’ll die soon. He hopes, in fact. He can feel (Ramsay) Master’s hands on his body every time he shifts ever so slightly, feeling an ache and a burn and a fiery misery. More taunting is the other set of hands he thinks he feels sometimes, a set of hands that caress him in all the right places and kiss his hurts and tell him he’s home.

Home. What a fucking joke. When has Theon Greyjoy ever had a home? Certainly not the flat in the complex. In his dreams, maybe, the Stark house, on Winterfell, was home. Maybe - maybe the little studio Theon and Robb had was home, but Robb stormed off and Theon was sure, before this, before Ramsay, that he would move out.

How long ago was that? Theon casts his mind back as he lies shaking on the hard floor. Hours and minutes run together in bloody spirals, and he has never been all that good at sensing time anyway. The ache in his belly, the ache that comes from hunger and not pain, tells him that it has been longer than he thinks.

Theon rolls onto his side and prays that the broken parts on his body kill him before hunger does. At this point, relief would be sweet, whereas a slow death from starving, just a new torture.

v.

Theon doesn’t recall falling asleep, but when a kick to the head wakes him up, he supposes that he must have.

The ground is hard and wet when he drags himself off of it, and when he uses his left hand to push himself up he finds his thoughts go from words to feelings to colors, and the place where his fingers were is a pulsating explosion of fiery red and iron. Theon doesn’t bother to look at his hurt hands. It’s too dark, really, but even if it weren’t, he’s never been good with the sight of blood, even especially his own.

“C’mon, get up, Ramsay’s wanting you again.” The voice, nasal and reedy, comes from somewhere above his head. It’s unfamiliar, but the sharp pain that comes when Theon can’t get up fast enough is not.

Theon scrabbles against the smooth floor, his body screaming in pain as he is yanked upwards, by the hair, no less. Theon’s head is jerked back by rough fingers in his dark hair, his dark hair that he cared so much about. He hisses in pain, fresh tears coming into his eyes, but already Theon feels himself beginning to float out of his body, the way he did - the day before? The night before? (Time has become too much of a blur to properly differentiate.)

As soon as Theon is on his feet, another hood is draped across his face. It’s disorienting, to be sure, but it is almost calming to be led for awhile. Perverse, Theon knows. But holding on and being aware is hard, painful to keep in control of his bruised and bloody body. Letting go is almost like a breath of fresh air.

The hallway - or wherever they are - is oddly humid, and the air smells like flowers and blood. Theon feels nauseous, but whether from the smell or the pain or the lack of food in his gut he is not sure. The man leading him keeps a vise-like grip on his arm, while muttering under his breath. Theon can’t hear what he’s saying, and he doesn’t try to listen. His pain is fading to a sort of numb exhaustion. Every step, every second, hurts, but beneath that is the thrum of his heartbeat in his chest. Theon’s pulse pains him more than his bloody hands or broken fingers or cut body, because his pulse reminds him that he is still alive. Theon hopes he dies soon.

“Alrighty, here we are now.” The man releases Theon’s arm with enough force that Theon staggers backwards, still hooded, until his head thwacks against a wall. There is the sound of a door being wrenched open, and then the man’s talon-like hands are on Theon’s arm again, guiding him forwards.

The air smells different in this new room, Theon notices. The scent of flowers is gone, leaving only the acrid tang of blood and rotting things. He doesn’t have much time to contemplate it, though, because Theon’s hands are being pulled to each side, and tied to what feels like wood beams. His legs are next and- fuck.

Theon thinks he stops breathing when his legs are wrenched apart and his full weight dangles from crossbeams, but a second later, he wishes he had. The hood is wrenched off his head. The sudden brightness burns at Theon’s eyes and as soon as they adjust, Master Ramsay is standing in front of Theon, his cold smile on his fat lips.

“Did you have a good sleep, my dear?” His white eyes dance as he reaches out a finger and strokes the open cut on Theon’s cheek. There is salt on his fingers, and Theon can’t stop himself from jerking backwards on the cross-thing that he is tied to, a hoarse scream wrenching itself off his lips.

“No,” Theon whispers as the pain in his face begins to fade down once more.

Ramsay clucks, and reaches into the folds of his jacket. Theon notices with a lurch that it is the same pink silk coat, but now, it is streaked and spotted with blood. When he emerges again with the now-familiar decorated knife, Theon feels himself begin to shake. “Darling, you don’t smell too great either.”

Theon isn’t surprised. Blood and filth and vomit will do that to you.

Ramsay takes a few steps closer to Theon, close enough that when he reaches out the pink and red blade and presses it against Theon’s left hand, the point only just brushes the skin. “Who are you, dear?”

For a moment, Theon dreams he’ll die like the heroes in the games he played with Robb, brave and true and strong. In that moment, he speaks.

“Th-Theon Greyjoy,” he whispers, his voice shaking. But is he, really? His bravery fades and and he is left shaking in himself once more. Theon Greyjoy had a boyfriend and a dog and a sister and smooth skin. Whoever he is now is only a mess of skin and bones and blood and shame. He can still feel Ramsay’s cock in him when he shuts his eyes, feel Ramsay’s hands opening him and touching him and spreading shame in his body. That would never have happened to Theon Greyjoy.

It’s clear that Ramsay agrees. He sighs a little, and then stops forward. The knife in his hand hisses as it slices across Theon’s palm. Ramsay pulls the knife away after a minute, and Theon almost passes out when he sees the strip of skin on the edge of the blade. The pain is fire, but after a minute, it goes icily numb. Theon watche s his blood drip on to the floor for a second with a sort of trancelike focus. Blood loss, he figures. And shock. In a short while he will be feeling it, he knows that much.

“We’re going to play a game, you and I. Alright?”

Theon nods as much as he can, with a rope around his neck and a noose around his heart.

Ramsay has white hands that are soft when they stroke Theon’s sweaty forehead, but they are hard and sharp when he raises the knife to trace hearts at his neck. “If you can get your name right, you win. If not, well, darling, then...” He shrugs, a half smile playing around his lips. “You lose.” The smile disappears until all thats left are shark teeth glinting in the half-light. Ramsay drags the knife down in a single deft stroke, and Theon feels blood dripping from around his ear.

“Please- I- “ Theon’s eyes are shut tight but even if they were open they would be blinded by tears. “I know my name, I do.”

“I know you think you do, my dear. But I’m kind, so I’ll give you a chance to know it properly.” He leans down and his tongue darts out of the corner of his mouth, pink-red and glistening. Theon wishes he could move aside, move anywhere else or just away. He’s tied down though and too tired even to escape in his own head.

“Bolton, Mr. Bolton-”

A voice that is not Ramsay’s makes Theon blink. Ramsay pulls away just far enough that over the curved slope of his fleshy shoulders Theon glimpses of a short man, a skinny weed in dirty denim and leather.

“Yes, Skinner?” Ramsay’s voice is oily and soft. Theon can smell the danger there still, though, the hot jagged rocks hiding beneath the silk, can taste unshed blood against his skin.

“There’s a police raid. Armed. They’re downstairs now.” Skinner wears a tight, cruel look on his face, but there’s fear too.

“Police? Here?” Ramsay’s silk has dropped away, and when he turns, Theon can see the snarl on his face.

“They - they got a tip from someone. I don’t know who.”

Theon holds his breath. He wonders if he can hold it long enough to die. He’s seen enough thrillers to know that no one gets taken alive. If he’s lucky, he’ll get a clean death from a bullet.

Ramsay curses under his breath, and then rough hands are grabbing at Theon’s arms and his ankles, shoving him to the ground. “Get under the table, dear. The game isn’t over yet.”

Theon can’t walk and he can barely crawl and it takes Ramsay’s hands on his back and on his ass to shove him where he needs to go. His legs burn like lead in a fire and he is broken. Shattered. Even Ramsay’s heavy hands on the places that are still sore don’t hurt. Theon doesn’t own those places on his body anymore. His body is someone else’s and he can’t escape but it is not his space, not now.

Theon curls into himself on the floor and remembers the other times he has hidden. When he was a kid, skinned-knees and bruised elbows in the playground waiting for Asha to come and take him home. High school, being the odd gay kid who always wears variations on the same tatty clothes, waiting for Robb to come outside.

He has no one to wait for now, though. No one cares, and no one, no one, would want him now. Not Robb, not shining Robb. Theon doesn’t remember starting to cry but when he let’s a sort of twisted mewl out, Ramsay’s hand is around his face.

“What are you trying to do, you little cunt? Do you think they’ll come and rescue you? Are you a little damsel in distress?” His voice is low and sandpaper rough and when he ducks his head to stare at Theon, eye to eye, his breath smells like blood. “Let me tell you, I’m the only one that still wants you.” He lifts his knife again. In the dim light, it’s not nearly as pretty as Theon thought it was at first. How long ago was that? A different life time? A million years? The women on the handle freeze in a silent scream of terror. Ramsay places the blade in the hollow of Theon’s neck. “I’m kind, you know. You’re just some shit left over in this mess. I’m helping you.”

Theon shuts his eyes and in the darkness, he waits.

It could be five years or five seconds. Ramsay’s grip on his shoulders never loosens.

Just as Theon thinks that he is finally drifting off into the blackness, the door is flying open. It’s the light that’s the most jarring, really, bright white light from outside and form lanterns held aloft. Theon blinks the dark out of his eyes and once he can see again, he wants to cry, although from joy or misery, he isn’t sure.

Four fully armed policemen stand in the doorway, holding lanterns and guns.

“Hello, gentlemen,” Ramsay hisses, and Theon can hear his fear. They are pressed close under the table, crouching low as the wood pressing down on them both. “You want something I have, I believe.” He curves the blade enough that Theon feels a prickle and then blood. They’re not hiding, Theon realizes with a jolt that echoes dully through the place he thinks his heart used to be. Ramsay is willing to be captured, as long as Theon doesn’t get away.

“Unhand the prisoner.” It’s a command, not a question, from a tall man with dark hair that glimmers in the light. Jon. Theon would know him anywhere, know his voice and his eyes. He hopes Jon won’t recognize him, though. Not filthy and shamed and with a blade to his neck.

“One more step and-” Theon doesn’t dare turn his head but he’s sure Ramsay is grinning, smiling that shit eating smile even as he crouches in the half-darkness, “- this pretty little whore bleeds.”

“No, I don’t think so.” Another figure steps forward, small and curvy and yes- there’s a shimmer of red hair at the corner of her hood. Ygritte. Jon’s girlfriend. She raises a gun, and Theon hopes that she picks him.

No such luck. Ygritte’s bullet is fast and true and Ramsay crumples silently to the dirty ground, a smile on his face and a bloody hole dead center of his forehead.

Theon thinks for a second that it shouldn’t be that easy, before everything goes black for him.

vi.

Theon dreams of being a child, of being six and chubby and laying in Asha’s bed while she did her nails and told him stories about her friends at school. He dreams of sitting next to her again while she paints her nails, only the polish is red, too red, and when she turns to look at him her face changes until it’s Ramsay, Ramsay with bloody hands and he’s in the bed again and...

Theon’s eyes open as he feels Ramsay pushing into him, only it’s all different now. He’s in a bed with white sheets and a soft blanket and bandages around his hands and there is sunlight falling on the wall behind him. For a moment, Theon is lost, but everything comes back to him, like a fog falling on a river. Jon, Ygritte, Ramsay - Theon shakes when he thinks the name, and he hates himself for his fear, but he can feel rough hands on his body with every breath.

The room is so clean, so white, and Theon knows he must stick out. If people knew - if they could see the dirt that could never be washed away, the dirt He gave him, they wouldn’t let him stay here, would make him go back to the house. Maybe that would be better, Theon decides. He would never have to think about Robb again. Robb. Jon no doubt told him where they found him. That shame is bitter enough to choke on.

Theon pushes down experimentally. His fingers are on fire, or - Theon makes himself look at his hands.

Clean white bandages snake around the places where three of his fingers were before.

“Theon - you’re awake!”

Theon doesn’t look up, but he knows that voice, knows it in every cell, every broken shard of himself. He looks up as slowly as he can muster. (Why is he here? He is gone and he doesn’t want you and you’re dirty and, and-)

Robb stands in the doorway, looking like he hasn’t slept in days.

H-hi,” Theon says, staring at point just above Robb’s head. He shoves his mangled hands under the blankets, but there is nothing to shove his shame under. Theon knows he is ugly and broken.

Robb runs a hand through his hair and - is he shaking? “Theon,” he says again, his voice trembling.

“D’you - d’you want to sit?” Theon doesn’t really see why Robb felt the need to come. He feels calmer, now, the shock starting to wear off, but Theon is left with a sort of hollow disbelief; it’s a very Robb thing to do, visiting some hurt person, but him? They ended things. Robb ended things.

Robb crosses the room in two strides. He’s got on a faded pair of jeans and a hoody from the first concert they’d ever gone to together, Ironborn because Theon was desperate to impress Asha, back in high school. (Not like he's ever stopped, but he knows now that she is perfectly aware of how much he hates death metal...) Theon knows he’s been busy, if not only from his ragged attire, but also from the dark red stubble across his cheeks.

There’s a plastic chair next to the bed, a shitty plastic thing that screams hospital. Robb sits down hard, like a sack of flour. Up close, he looks like a broken man. Theon wants to curl himself around him like they did back Before. Robb liked it, back then, liked when Theon came and sat on his lap and wrapped his legs around Robb’s thighs. Theon’s missing fingers itch to rub Robb’s face, but- he’s not the same. Nothing would feel right, now. He’s not the same as he used to be, he can’t be the same anymore, and Robb wouldn’t want him anyway. Not like this.

“I’m not going to ask you if you’re alright because - because of course you aren’t.” Robb takes a shuddery breath and looks away, scrubbing at his eyes. “I-” He opens his mouth, sighs, trails off.

Theon lets his remaining fingers tap a beat on his thighs, under the table. He’s wearing soft sweatpants, he realizes. Theon wonders who put them on him, because at the house all he had were a pair of jeans stained with blood and grime. Theon looks at Robb looking at his hands.

“Why are you here?”, he asks, when the silence becomes a noose that threatens to choke him.

Robb’s head jerks up. His eyes are wide and so very blue. Theon can’t help but remember the first time he saw Robb’s poweder blue eyes, back in grade school. He wishes they were back there, now, sitting at a little table in Miss Arryn’s classroom.

“After- after I yelled at you, I talked to Bran.” Robb is tentative, so tentative, but his eyes never leave Theon’s face. “H-he told me what was happening. What that asshat was saying to him before I arrived.” Robb shakes his head, suddenly, his hair his dark red curls flopping in his eyes. His eyes are filled with tears. An ocean staring back at Theon. “I was so, so dumb, Theon. I didn’t even ask you what happened, and then-” He drops his face into his hands.

Theon has seen him cry before- they’ve been friends for far too long not to have, but he can’t remember ever seeing him looks so... destroyed. His hair looks so soft, Theon thinks, as the sunlight from the tall window falls on the glossy curls. He wants to reach out, to tangle his hands in it, but then he remembers that he is dirty and broken and his hands... Theon can’t even think about his hands, not yet.

After a moment, Robb raises his face, and his cheeks are wet. “I can’t even begin to tell you how scared we were- how scared I was. I went to your house as soon as I realized what had happened, but you were gone. At the pub- Asha’d told me to ask there-” Robb cracks what could be a smile, beneath his mask of pain- “-and some guy told me that you’d left with a man who said he was your boyfriend, that you passed out and he said he was taking you home.”

Theon closes his eyes, only for a second, and it’s only too easy to float back into the smoky room, the stickysweetsour taste of his drink and the smoke and Him , fleshy hands crawling on Theon’s skin and..... Theon feels himself start to shake, his hands twisting in the sheets. He can’t grip anything though, and his palms are slick with sweat besides...

“Theon-” Robb’s hands are shaky but they’re cool and rough from old callouses and they’re familiar, so familair Theon could cry. He blinks and he’s back in the sunny room with Robb grasping both his hands.

“Thanks,” he breathes, staring at the tangle of fingers and flesh that are his and Robb’s hands. Somehow, his hands crawled above the blankets and there they are, pale and pallid in the sunlight, swathed in bandages. Just the sight of all the taupe bandage where his fingers should have been makes him queasy. Robb seems not to mind, though, his thin fingers threading around his palms and absently tracing circles.

“Robb-” Theon’s voice is a croak, thin and barely above a whisper. “Robb? What happened to my hands?”

Robb doesn’t say anything at first, just continues tracing at the back of Theon’s hand. “When- when they brought you into the hospital-” his voice breaks and he swallows. “When they brought you in, your fingers were a mess. Bloody everywhere, and there was too much missing skin. They were infected already.” He looks up, his eyes clear now. Clear and bright. The blue flame, Theon thinks. The part that burns the hottest. “They had to amputate what was left of the damaged fingers.”

Amputate. Theon sucks in a deep breathe. The word is so antiquated. He thinks of playing pirates with Asha as a little kid. It’s a clean word, though, precise and sharp and it fits, somehow, with the white sheets and the pale sunlight. “Oh,” Theon says, because about that, at least, there doesn’t seem to be that much else to say.

“You’re so strong, Theon, you know that?” Robb never lets go of Theon’s hands, but he holds them tighter. It doesn’t feel too oppressive, though, and Theon is glad Robb isn’t leaning over him.

“Me, strong?” Theon would laugh if he remembered how.

Robb nods, looking at him like he is something beautiful. “You were in such bad shape. Blood loss, infection, shock- but your body didn’t give up. Once of twice they thought your heart would stop, but you kept going, through surgery and everything, and here- here you are.” He smiles, white teeth flashing and Theon knows Robb has the best smile in the world.

He doesn’t deserve it, though. The thought strikes him like a bullet and it lodges.

Theon clears his throat but there doesn’t seem to be enough air in the room to breathe. Robb can’t know what happened, he must not, or else - “Robb you - you don’t know what happened. He - he -” Shamed me. Broke me. Got me dirty in ways I can never wash away. Raped me. If Theon couldn’t breathe before, he certainly cannot talk now. Ramsay’s hands are on him again, on his mouth and his ass. No one wants you anymore.

“Hey - shh, baby, calm down -” Theon wants to scream for a second, because baby and darling and sweetling are His, but Robb’s voice is not silky or confident or deadly. Robb’s voice is low and thick and shakes as he leans close to Theon. He smells like home - vanilla and dog and woodsmoke. Theon feels himself begin to relax against Robb, his chin tucked into auburn stubble that scratches just the right way.

“I’m here, okay? I’ll never leave you again, not ever.” Robb is troking the back his neck, carding through his hair. Hands that touch him just the right way squeezing his shoulders, massaging his back.

Theon is dimly aware of the fact that he is on top of Robb, curled into his lap in a way that is quite possibly a little strange, but even as he cuddles closer Robb’s arms encircle his back, rubbing circles and hearts into the tight muscles that cord his neck. He’s crying, too, Theon realizes when he pulls away for a fraction of a second and spots dark tear stains on the grey fabric of Robb’s sweatshirt, but Robb hardly seems to care.

“I thought - I thought you were gone for good, Theon.” Robb doesn’t move away, and the vibrations from his voice thrum through Theon’s chest, warm and rich and cozy. He takes Theon’s hand in his... Three fingers and five, together. “It’s unforgivable how much of a dick I was to you- before - but I hope you know that I will love you forever, until the day I die, and gods be good that won’t be anytime soon for either of us.”

Theon takes a breath that shudders through him like the tide. The ghosts of his missing fingers throb where they used to be. Robb’s hands are steady on his shoulders. In the darkness when he closes his eyes, Theon can see him smiling while his knife drips blood, but before he can fall back into memory, Robb’s lips are at his cheek, petal soft as he whispers “I love you” over and over again.

Theon lets his breathes even out. Nestled in the cocoon of Robb that surrounds him, it’s easy to unclench his sore muscles, curl even closer.

“I love you, too,” Theon whispers, his heartbeat pounding in time with Robb’s.

“Now, and always,” comes the response, hazy and quiet and sure. Theon can feel Robb’s words against him rather than hear him.

“Now, and always,” he echoes.


Outside, the trees echo their whispers in the hush of a breeze, and the sun rises ever higher in the sky.