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An Absence That Cuts Deeper Than It Should

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“I heard that he died,” She breathes into his ear, soft and harsh all at once.

The words hold no meaning, more so in the way that Theon cannot quite understand or believe what is being spoken. First comes confusion, because who matters that much to Theon anymore anyway? Following confusion, quick on its heels comes a sharp stab of something that he doesn’t want to recognize. “Who died?”

Asha tilts her head slightly, looking at him with that disappointed look in her eyes. “Who else could I be talking about? The Bastard of Bolton. Rumor is he met his end at Winterfell just the other week.”

For a moment there is only the sound of thunder in Theon’s ears, racing and violent. It takes him a moment to realize it’s the sound of his blood pounding through his skull, because everything else inside him is numb, has been numb for some time. There is no correct reaction to this news, he doesn’t know what to feel, so he feels nothing.

“They say they fed him to his own dogs, frightful fucking beasts. I wonder if he screamed. The Bastard deserved it,” Asha continues, oblivious to Theon’s mental indecision.

He doesn’t know what is acceptable society norm after living in hell for so long. He should be celebrating, but relief and emptiness are at war within him. He wants to vomit. No one would understand. They can’t understand. How could anyone dictate what he should feel when he doesn’t even know himself anymore?

Instead of being glad, instead of thanking Asha for the tidbit of information, a small piece of him latches on to her words. That agony stricken piece of his soul rips out of his throat and rasps, “Don’t call him that. He wouldn’t like that.”

He turns on his heel awkwardly and leaves her standing there, a frown on her face. Perhaps if he leaves fast enough he can leave the words behind. Theon hates the words, because it feels like they came from a person who isn’t him, was never him.

He tries hard to disassociate from the person he was, the creature. He likes to think that all those horrible things happened to a different man. No matter how hard he tries, he is haunted by the memories he has, the ones that he convinces himself are not his own.

He feels like a part of his soul has been taken from him, a piece of him stolen away.

And it’s not fair.

 


 

The tavern he goes to that night with Asha and her crew is loud and packed with more people than he cares to be around. He wants the silence, he wants the misery because that is all that he deserves. He wants to drown in the liquor and fade into nothing because feeling what he feels now doesn’t feel right.

“I should be celebrating,” he mutters into his pint, feeling numb.

The ale slides down his throat, much like the way knives used to run down his chest and back. His sister is flirting with some girl across the room and Theon is glad that she is distracted. The last thing he wants is for her to be babysitting him with her judging looks. She expected to see relief, yet all she saw was…well nothing. Reek even jumped out and threw her words back in her face. Reek, faithful, loyal Reek. Theon shudders.

Theon is nothing, even when he tries to hide it behind this façade of who he once was. This mask of Theon, this skin he wears that feels like a costume of skin that he can tear off at any moment. It is almost as if he is wearing a flayed skin suit, one that Master made for him.

Each pint goes down easier than the last and Theon is feeling the buzz, the loss of control over his body. He likes the feeling of floating, it goes well with the emptiness. It reminds him of the time Ramsay let him drink some awful hooch. Reek hadn’t eaten much for some time, so he drank just to fill his belly, just as Ramsay urged him on. In fact, he forced him to drink more than he could handle, forced him to choke it down. “If you vomit, I’ll shove it back down your throat, you ingrate,” Ramsay had hissed as Reek gagged.

In a complete stupor, Reek had drifted away from himself when Ramsay took advantage of him, slicing in deep with his knives, taking large gulps of the drink himself while sneering in his typical fashion. “It’s so different when you aren’t screaming,” he had slurred at Reek, twirling the knife on his scarred belly.

Ramsay had taken him like an animal, right there on the floor. There was no pain and Reek had kept fading in and out during the entire occasion. He made noises he didn’t generally make and Ramsay had been drunk enough to make it less than awful. “One would think you are enjoying this,” Ramsay had moaned out, his forehead on Reek’s sweat covered back.

His left hand had gripped Reek’s hip hard enough to bruise, his nails digging in. His right hand ghosted over Reek’s scarred front, causing the creature to shudder and keen loudly in what could be agony and pleasure mixed into one horrid, shameful thing.

Thinking back on it, Theon believes he had enjoyed it to some extent, because at least it hadn’t hurt. He hates himself even more when he feels heat curl in his belly at the thought. He feels like a dog, trained to respond to something he shouldn’t respond to.

He takes another swig from his mug and a flash of black hair catches his eye. There, at the corner table, is a young man with hair black as night and a face that if he were to squint just right…no. No. Don’t look over there. Don’t look at anyone.

It’s too late. The young man has spotted Theon from afar, noticing the curious look. The man smiles and approaches Theon before Theon can hide his face in his ale once more. When the man is beside Theon, he notices that the eye color is wrong, he was mistaken, it’s not Ramsay. Theon is more than taken aback that somehow it feels like he had hoped for it to be so.

“Are you looking for some company tonight?” The young man asks with a soft smile on his face.

Ah. So a whore. Theon has some money for that, graciously donated by Asha. He just isn’t in the mood at all for this. “I’m not…I don’t. I don’t think so. Sorry.” Theon grates out, his voice thick with alcohol.

Good, loyal, faithful Reek.

No. Not Reek. Stop.

The man cocks his head to the side and gives Theon a sly look. “Don’t lie, shy boy. I saw you looking at me. For a moment there, you looked like a man about to die of thirst, looking at an oasis from afar.”

Theon’s eyes slide over to look at Asha to make sure she isn’t watching and the man smirks even wider. His grin is wide and very white, like a wolf. A wide smirk, like the white grin on the face of a flayed man. He follows Theon’s gaze. “Ah. You don’t want your woman to know you were looking at me? She does look fierce indeed. Perhaps sister is the better word, I see the resemblance. Nevertheless, you have the look of a man that needs to be rescued. I am no white knight, but I am willing to step up to the task.” 

Theon looks back at the prostitute in front of him and once more imagines that the eyes matched the shade of the moon instead of green like the forest. The eyes are light, not light enough. Theon never liked men. Theon liked women, he loved women. He doesn’t really have many options open at this point anymore and he is hungry and this man is close enough to fill the emptiness that resembles him inside Theon.

He can fill those shoes for a night perhaps?

Seeing something break inside of Theon’s eyes, the black-haired whore takes his hand and leads him upstairs, the stairs that are already teeming with an assortment of couples in various states of dress…

 


 

When morning comes, the bed beside Theon is empty and his head is throbbing. He groans and flops onto his back, his arm thrown over his face. The sun is blasting in through the window and Theon wants to hide from it and take all his sick depravities with him. The absence of aches and sharp pains is curious and Theon is confused, because last night…well.

Theon wanted it to hurt, but it didn't. Somehow, he is disappointed.

He feels like he did something horribly wrong and his stomach heaves. He pukes on the soiled sheets and gasps loudly as he continues to dry heave for some time. The room spins. There is a loud knock on the door, most likely the owner of the inn. “It is past breakfast, all occupants out!”

Theon isn’t sure he can make it out of bed, but he gathers his resolve, he wants out of this room, this room that smells like blood in his imagination. This room that looked like a different room in his mind, a room in a faraway place. Theon tries to forget the night before, because there is something fucking wrong with him, why is he so twisted inside and out? He leaves the inn and makes his way back to the palace, wondering if he can just never be seen again, wonders if his sister saw what he did last night.

Does she know how sick he is inside, how broken? Last night only proves how horrible he is, how twisted he has become. The world spins again and Theon sits quickly on a bench inside the Queen’s garden. He pants roughly, tries not to be sick. Servants pass him by with disgusted looks, but he pretends he doesn’t see them.

“Theon, is that you? Are you alright?” A voice asks.

He looks to his left and spots white hair and violet eyes.

“You are a quiet one, aren’t you?” The Dragon Queen says this with her bland look, the one she always saves for those she deems beneath her.

 “Yes, my lady,” Theon responds reluctantly, worrying that she can smell vomit on his breath.

“I have watched you skulking around the palace for some time now. I have always known you to be a sad creature, but it has gotten worse as of late. Your sister worries. My people are wary of you. They believe they see a dead man, too stubborn to know he is dead.”

Twitching slightly, Theon turns to look into her violet eyes, surprisingly kind for one known to be so fierce. “Perhaps they are not wrong, My Queen. I apologize for causing a disturbance. I will keep to my chambers.”

He is even more flustered when she sits beside him, her hands folded in her lap. “That is not necessary. Just because some fear you does not mean that you must live according to what pleases others.”

“It is not others I wish to please, it is their eyes I wish to avoid in peace. Their pity and loathing is too hard to swallow, though I probably deserve it,” Theon says, disgust building in his breast as he waits to see those emotions in Daenerys eyes.

What he is waiting for does not come. Instead, she cocks her head slightly and looks at him from under her eyelashes. “I hear you left someone behind some time ago, though the details have eluded me. Is this what weighs on your mind to make you more ghost than man as of late?”

At those sudden words, Theon’s stomach tosses and turns. He does not want this woman, this beautiful and strong woman to see his raw and aching shame bared. There are no words that form in his mind, for he sees grey eyes, like ice and moon, a flash in his memory. It repulses and attracts him all at once. 

Seeing his inability to respond, the Breaker of Chains continues on as if she has no idea that her conversation partner has retreated into himself. “I am not here to judge you. We all have our nightmares, the ones we hold close and do not let go,” Daenerys says simply, eyeing Theon gently. “Is their absence a nightmare or a gift?”

This is perhaps the entire root of the problem. This should be a gift, Theon wants it to feel like he has been set free, but instead he feels like he has been thrown in a cage of his own design. He wants to let go, he wants to forget, but he cannot forgive what happened to him nor can he get Ramsay’s knives out of his very being.

He has an abundance of scars after all. They are all reminders, marks that he was owned once. He belonged with someone once in a way that he belonged nowhere else.

Sighing and rubbing a mangled hand over his aching eyes, Theon simply whispers, “I simply want him to stop haunting me. Nothing more.”

“A man?” She says with something akin to shock except for the slight smile on her lips. “I had not taken you for the type.”

Somehow offended, Theon responds harshly, “I wasn’t…I’m not. There was only ever him.”

“So….tell me about him.”

Theon does not want to, but it might be easier to speak to someone who doesn’t know. She doesn’t know where his scars begin and where they end.

“He was not a good man, but neither was I. He…he made me this shell. I feel like I wear a mask filled with agony and purposelessness inside. He made me who I am today, in a way,” Theon says expecting the disgust to begin showing in the Queen’s violet eyes. “He stripped away all that made me who I was. He made me something new.”

Instead of seeing disgust, he is surprised by her next words.

She raises her eyebrows at him, a look of cool amusement on her face. “I grew up with my brother Viserys, did you know? He did what he could to keep us safe, to keep clothes on our backs. He was not kind to me, but he tried to take care of us in his own way. He was a violent man,” her eyes grew dark as she reminisced, an almost regretful look upon her face, “yet I loved my brother, in my own way. Even when I hated him.”

Theon does not know what to say, so he only nods in understanding. He can understand the violence, the inability to abandon someone just because they are cruel and unstable. How the fear and pain becomes the norm.

“What happened to this man that torments you so?”

As Theon speaks the words, he visualizes eyes steely and gray, “He’s gone.”

The Queen stands and runs a hand through his hair, which is growing stronger as of late. Now, inside her eyes there is pity. “Do you hunger for him more now that he is absent? Or are you so numb that you cannot feel the absence at all?”

Do you love me, Reek?”

“Of course, my lord.”

There is a smile at those words, sharp and unkind, yet fond, for the eyes that consume Reek’s scars hungrily are the only ones who love them for what they are.

Theon closes his eyes and does not answer. He waits for the warmth of her hand to disappear, he waits for the soft sound of her feet leaving him in silence.

He is not numb, he never completely was. He wants to find his grave and dig deep into it with his bare hands, letting his fingernails break and tear. He wants to lie in the bed of dirt next to the only person who refused to let him die.

 


 

 

The black-haired whore takes his hand and leads him upstairs, the stairs that are already teeming with an assortment of couples in various states of dress.

Theon is shaking, feels Reek stuttering inside of him already. He is not a man, he is not a man, and how can he do this? How can he shame himself this way, with his sister only down the stairs? He can’t even perform, what was he thinking?!

The whore leads him to a dark room, one dimly lit by only one candle and a sliver of moonlight. Theon hears the man sit on the bed, he hears the rustling of clothing as the whore disrobes. Theon stands as if struck dumb, but he doesn’t know if he can go through with this after all.

The prostitute begins to undress Theon quickly, shaking Theon out of his mental panic. As the man’s hand begins to brush over the front of Theon’s breeches, Theon grasps his hand roughly and says, “I…I…I would prefer it if you did not touch me there. Anywhere but there.”

The man pauses for a moment, his breath even still. He may even notice that Theon is missing fingers. “Alright. Don’t worry, I won’t touch you there. Are you alright with….behind?”

“I’m used to it,” Theon deadpans.

The man laughs. It is a nice laugh, kind and not judgmental. “This won’t be a horrid affair, I can assure you. You say that like you are preparing to go to war. You are not. You are going to bed.”

“I…” Theon starts to say, “I am afraid.”

He feels stupid once the words are out of his mouth, but he does not know what to expect. Reek is screaming inside, because loyal, faithful Reek would not let someone touch him this way.

“I’ll take care of you,” The man whispers, his breath hot on Theon’s neck.

If Theon concentrates hard enough, he can make that voice sound like wind and ice, like cold fire on his scars. He can almost imagine that voice belongs on someone else. He wants to believe it belongs to someone else.  

He presses Theon into the sheets gently, oh so gently that Theon wants to cry. His hands are strong and deft in a familiar way. Those firm hands knead Theon’s back and buttocks, pausing only for a moment upon feeling the devastation of his scarred skin.

The man’s cock is hard and hot against Theon, the feeling of his scars has not disgusted him yet.

“What should I call you?” Theon gasps out, relaxing under the calming hands.

The man is a figure in the dark, too hard to see with only a small candle lit. He could be anyone. The man slicks his fingers with oil and gently moves them between Theon’s rear cheeks. He presses into him, finding that spot that almost causes Theon to see stars.

“Whatever you want to call me,” the whore says finally.

So Theon does. He only has one name in his mind, after all.