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28 February 2012 @ 05:50 pm
fic, ASOIAF: we had the greatest expectations (Robb/Theon), R, ADWD SPOILERS  
Title: we had the greatest expectations [AO3]
Pairing: Robb/Theon (sort of. Very sort of.), implied Robb/Jeyne Westerling
Rating: R
Word count: 3600
Spoilers: for ASOS/ADWD, so if you haven't read those just steer clear.
Warnings: [highlight since some could be triggering and spoilery] mentions of past torture, implied past Theon/Ramsay non-con, PTSD, everything you'd expect if you read Theon's ADWD chapters.
Disclaimer: everything belongs to GRRM and the title is from Gaslight Anthem. I don't own.
Summary: where Robb doesn't die at the Red Wedding and Theon is still in the Dreadfort. Until Robb gets there with his army.
A/N: written for the second comment fic meme at got_exchange; the prompt was Robb/Theon happening in a verse where Robb hadn't gone to the Red Wedding but Theon still got through the Ramsay Bolton treatment, so just pretend that Robb hadn't been at the RW at all but everyone else that was there still died. There could be a sequel to this, if I can manage to sort out in my head what goes on after this is over. Also, angst galore.

The last thing Ramsay Snow says, before the blade of Robb’s sword meets his neck, is that there’s a gift for him in the dungeons.

You’ll recognize it, he had added. If you have doubts, tell your lackeys to follow the stench.

Robb goes himself after throwing Roose Bolton in one of his own cells. Whatever this is, it’s personal, and he won’t send anyone else to do the job for him.

He has to get to the deepest level of the dungeons in the Dreadfort to find out what the Bolton bastard had meant; until now, all the prisoners he had passed by had smelled bad, but no more than you’d expect from someone who has been staying in a dungeon’s cell for a while. But the moment he starts walking through an hallway that seems otherwise deserted and a stench so strong that almost makes him throw up fills his nostrils, he knows that this is the right place. He takes a second to compose himself and walks forward for a bit until he hears some noise.

It comes from a small cell, near the end of the hallway. Robb raises a hand, halting the two knights following him, then reaches for a key that hangs on the wall, just outside the cell, and sees if it fits. It does. The moment he opens the door, he hears a strangled whimper and then hurried shuffling.

He turns the torch he’s carrying towards the corner of the cell. There’s someone huddled over there, bare feet as filthy as the floor. Whoever this is, they’re hiding their face against the wall, they’re dressed in rags that look as if they’ll fall off sooner than later and they’re visibly shaking.

Then Robb realizes that whoever this is, someone cut off two fingers on both of his feet.

He takes a step closer.

“Who are you?” he asks.

The other man turns towards him oh-so-slowly, keeping his head bent down.

“Please don’t,” he answers, his voice itching, and Robb feels cold all of a sudden. It isn’t unfamiliar, but he can’t place it. “He sent you for a test, hasn’t he? Not that – don’t ask me that.”

Robb figures that he has to be Ramsay Snow.

“He’s dead,” Robb says. And when the other man’s fists unclench he sees that he’s lacking two fingers on his left hand.

“… dead?” the other man replies, confused, his voice small, and then he raises his head to look up at him, tentatively, and –

Seven hells, Robb thinks, it can’t be. He’s thinner, and his hair used to be darker, and he used to look at least ten years younger, and his voice never sounded that small, which is why he couldn’t place it before, but there’s no doubt of who this is.

Why would Snow even say that he was a gift for Robb, otherwise?

“…Theon?”

--

Robb paces all over one of the servants’ rooms – he wasn’t going to spend a minute in any room in this godsforsaken place where Roose Bolton or his bastard used to spend their time regularly – and he wonders what is he even doing.

He should have cut Theon’s head on the spot the second he realized who he was.

Theon probably had agreed, since the moment he recognized Robb he had just lowered his head wordlessly, baring his neck.

But there was a split second in which their eyes had met, and –

I want his head, not his skin, he had told Roose Bolton once (hadn’t he?) and now that he had seen what exactly had happened, he hadn’t been able to do it.

He isn’t sure that he won’t do it at all, and it’s not as if he owes Theon anything, but he just couldn’t do it in that cell, with that stench all around them, with his feet buried in filth; if he takes Theon’s head – fine, when he takes it – he’s going to do it with an audience. And while a part of him is arguing that Theon doesn’t deserve to die with dignity, Robb is still inclined to give it to him. It’s not even a question of deserving it; it’s that he wasn’t raised to enjoy degrading someone else or to enjoy taking someone’s head even if necessary.

Which is why he told his knights to drag Theon out, draw him a bath or ten and find him some clothes before sending him to Robb’s chosen room.

Robb isn’t even sure of what he’ll say. He isn’t even sure that he wants to ask Theon why he killed his brothers and destroyed his home, but he figured he’ll decide when it’s time.

Considering that it’s been three hours, it should be soon.

A minute or so later, one of the guards opens the door and they push someone inside before slamming the door behind him.

Theon visibly flinches as he stands up – of course, it’d be hard if you’re missing fingers on your feet.

The clothes they found him don’t fit – they’re too big, and the worst thing is that from what Robb remembers, they’d have been the right size… before. At least the stench isn’t there anymore. Theon stares down at the ground, not moving an inch; Robb can’t help noticing that his hair isn’t as dark as it used to anymore. Actually, it’s gray with a speckle of brown here and there, and Robb feels half-sick when he realizes that if they had arrived a month later it’d have probably been white. He’s keeping the maimed hand cradled against his chest, and Robb’s stomach clenches when he sees that the outer side has been skinned.

“Look at me,” he says, trying to keep his voice even, and when Theon does Robb feels at a loss. His face is thinner, and his eyes – Robb can only think about how his own had looked in a mirror when he had first looked at himself after learning about his mother’s death.

He already knows that he’ll give Theon a chance to explain himself, and he hates himself for it.

But gods help him, he had never asked for this. The only thing he had wished for so long had been to kill the man and to do it quickly and cleanly, the way his father used to, the way he had learned.

“Oh, for – sit down.” He gestures at a chair and Theon takes it, all his motions reminding Robb of the way dogs that have been kicked too hard and for too long usually move.

He’s going to regret this.

He takes another chair, sits in front of him, takes a breath.

“I don’t know what they told you,” he starts, “but Ramsay Snow is dead and his father is a prisoner. If you’re worrying about what they might do to you, stop right now and worry about what I will do instead.”

Theon gives him a curt nod, still looking down at his feet.

“Fine. Then answer me two questions. First, why did you kill them? Why did you even –”

“I didn’t,” Theon replies, his voice so small you can barely hear it.

“You didn’t?”

“You mean your brothers, I suppose. It’s not – they had disappeared. I think – from what I heard after – they had hidden in the crypts and escaped after Winterfell was destroyed. I had – we had searched for them. And we didn’t find them. I couldn’t go back without them or –”

He doesn’t finish that sentence, but Robb understands the gist well enough. What a poor figure he’d have made. He almost wants to laugh.

“It was Ramsay’s idea,” Theon whispers. “To – the two kids, they were the sons of a miller. I don’t know where your brothers are but – it wasn’t them.”

Robb breathes in deeply. He’s tempted to lash out and punch Theon straight in the face, but he has seen that some of his teeth aren’t where they should be and he just can’t.

“Fine. And why did you go and – fuck, I trusted you!”

Theon visibly flinches, his maimed hand curled against the cloak he’s wearing. “It wasn’t – I tried. My father – he burned your letter. And he didn’t – he didn’t trust me. When I arrived home it wasn’t – no one trusted me. He gave me a choice – it was either you or them. And I couldn’t – they’re… they were my family. I had to prove that I was on their side.”

He raises the good hand to his face and Robb has to look away. He isn’t sure he can take this.

“I thought that taking Winterfell would have been proof enough,” he says under his breath. “I was wrong.”

“Well, you were wrong. And why did you burn it?”

“I didn’t. That was – that was Ramsay, too. He stabbed me in the back. I thought it was help. I never ordered it.”

He’s shaking so hard that Robb doesn’t even take into consideration the idea that Theon might be lying.

“So what, you went and did that because you had to prove yourself?” He can’t help the venom lacing his voice.

And then Theon takes a deep breath and raises his head for the first time, and looks straight at him. His eyes are wet – fuck, he’s crying? – but his voice is firmer than before when he speaks.

“It’s not so easy. Robb, you have – you have all the rights to have my head. And believe me, I’ll be relieved when you take it. But – if we ever were – can I ask just one thing of you?”

“What would that be?”

“Imagine if it had been you,” Theon replies quietly. “Imagine if my people had invaded Winterfell and torched it to the ground when it was only you and Sansa, and then that you were brought to Pyke to make sure that your father wouldn’t raise his arms. You spend ten years trying to forget that you could die any moment, and then you go home thinking that you’ll have back the place that was rightfully yours. Then you go back to Winterfell to find out that everyone thinks you have salt water in you instead of blood, that even if you’re the rightful heir your sister might inherit because you’re not to be trusted anymore. Everyone treats you as if you were only an outsider. And then you’re told that if you want any hope of gaining back what’s yours, the only way is going to war against the people you’ve lived with for ten years. Who don’t trust you either except for maybe a handful of them.”

He stops again, breathes in a second time. “I regret what I did. I did it all wrong. And for nothing, since the people I did this all for left me to rot in that dungeon. But believe me when I say that when I brought your father your offer, I was hoping he would accept it. Picking them was a necessity. I thought that taking Winterfell was, too. It wasn’t that. I had time to think about it.”

“And what was it then?”

“A part of me thought that it was the only way I could ever have it,” he whispers, and Robb wishes that this didn’t change anything.

Theon still betrayed him, and it’s still his fucking fault that his home is half destroyed and that his mother his dead and his uncle prisoner (would he have bedded Jeyne Westerling if he hadn’t been sick with grief? He wishes he could say no for sure). But when he tries to do what Theon asked of him and to put himself in his position he can’t help admitting that the situation has become a lot more complicated.

“When we were in the dungeon. Why didn’t you want to answer when I asked you who you were?”

Theon stays silent for a minute.

“Do you remember that servant of Roose Bolton’s? The one they called Reek?”

“Vaguely. I heard about him, but I can’t remember meeting him. Why?”

“Well, he’s dead now. But that’s not the point. He – he started calling me like that.” Robb has to move closer to hear what Theon is saying by now. His voice is barely audible. “He wanted me to – he wanted me to answer to that name. Why do you think that he never let me wash? But – he knew it when I did it just because he wanted it. I think – I think he wanted me to really believe it.”

“What else did he do to you?”

Theon breaks eye contact and looks down again. “I can’t.”

“What else did he do?”

It sounded pretty heartless, but Robb can’t bring himself to feel bad about it.

Theon stands up, throws the cloak over his shoulder and manages to unlace his shirt with shaking hands.

His entire chest was flayed at some point. Some bits are healed, others are red and still raw, some patches of skin are deep pink, and fuck, Robb can see his ribs.

Theon doesn’t even bother lacing the shirt up again and covers it with the cloak. Then he takes a breath, looks towards the window and tells Robb about him and a serving girl having tried to escape and the entire thing ending with him losing one finger and the girl being eaten by Ramsay’s dogs. After hearing about that, the flaying, how Theon had had to ask to have his fingers cut and about how he lost his teeth, Robb thinks he’s going to feel sick.

“And – he made me – he made me –” Theon pauses. “He made me –,” he tries again, but then he shakes his head. Robb isn’t sure that pushing this is be a good idea. “Please, I can’t – I can’t go on. If you want to kill me just do it already, I deserve it and you have the rights, but I can’t.”

It’s the way Theon’s voice breaks on the last two words that seals it. Robb is sure that he has never in his life seen him cry, not even when they were children, but he is doing it now, small, uneven sobs that he’s obviously trying not to let out.

If he had really killed his brothers, and if he had been the one to destroy Winterfell, Robb would have still gone through with the beheading.

But as things stand, beheading Theon would just make him feel unnecessarily cruel.

“I can’t,” he admits. Theon looks up at him again, his eyes slightly widening.

“You – you can’t?”

“Damn you – I can’t do it. I never – I wanted you dead, not tortured. Killing you now wouldn’t make me feel better, and I wouldn’t even bring justice to my brothers, since they aren’t even dead.” He’ll have to organize search parties in the near future. “And any punishment I could come up with wouldn’t be worse than what already happened, anyway. Just – go. I’ll sort this out some way.”

The last thing he expects is for Theon to stand up and take a couple of steps towards him just to fall down on one knee the second later. His hands reach up and grab fistfuls of his cloak, and gods, this is so wrong, and Robb should move away, but the only thought that goes through his brain is why would he even bend the knee?

“If I could do it all over again I’d pick you over them,” Theon croaks, and Robb doesn’t even question the statement. Theon might have been a good actor when the point was fooling people into thinking that he was fine at any given moment, but this is no mummer’s farce and it’s plain.

“And you’re doing it now?”

“For what it’s worth, I’m yours.”

Robb had never wanted it to be like this. The way he had planned it, that offer would have been accepted, and their families would have had an alliance, and if the war was won then they’d stay allies, and they could have stayed friends.

As it is, the only thing that can even work is keeping him as an hostage all over again, and Robb wishes it hadn’t gone like this.

Nothing should have gone the way it had.

And when he realizes that his hand has covered Theon’s maimed one, he knows that in a short while he’ll be trying to find a convincing explanation to feed his bannermen to justify the lack of another head rolling in the yard.

--

The hostage plan does actually work. Robb is careful to phrase it right. Apparently Theon could invalidate that kingsmoot they held on the Iron Islands, but Robb convinced everyone to keep the entire affair private until the situation there is settled and they can make their move. And he made clear that for that purpose Theon is more useful alive than dead, and he gets the approval to keep him as a hostage for the moment. The truth about Bran and Rickon made it easier to swallow, at least, but he can feel that not everyone is happy about this.

When Robb, privately, tells Theon that it was the only way to settle things (as if he owed him an explanation – sometimes Robb hates himself for caring that much), Theon gives him a sad smile that doesn’t show his teeth and says that out of all the things he’s been in his life, Robb’s hostage isn’t the worst.

For some reason, it makes Robb feel horrible.

Sometimes he hates Theon for still being able to get so easily under his skin the same way he always has, since they were kids. Sometimes he hates himself for his own weakness. And whenever he sees Theon gritting his teeth while standing up or looking out of a window with vacant eyes he hates Ramsay Snow.

What worries him is that Robb doesn’t hate Ramsay Snow because he stole his revenge from him. He hates him because he can’t reconcile the Theon he grew up with and this one who’s glad of being his prisoner.

--

He should keep his distance.

He has a wife at Riverrun, a wife that he loves and who will give him a heir soon if the pregnancy goes as hoped (from the letters he receives, it isn’t going as smoothly as it could, but he needs to secure the North again and he can’t go back to Riverrun, as much as he’d like to), and he’s been merciful, but that doesn’t mean that he should care.

They might have been friends once (maybe even brothers, the same way he and Jon were), and they might have fooled together in the darkness of the stables and of their own rooms once or twice (fine, maybe more than that, but it was fooling). It doesn’t mean anything. Not when there’s been pain and suffering and betrayal in between. But he has to be around Theon because not all of his bannermen were happy with his decision, and being around Theon means seeing him wince when he eats and hearing him scream while he sleeps, and it means remembering the times when there was always a smile on his lips and some decidedly not funny joke on his tongue.

It means remembering a time when both of them were going to be lords, which only makes less sufferable a reality when Robb has to fight to reunite his kingdom and when Theon’s best option is being Robb’s hostage. Sometimes Robb thinks about it – it’s not even that being his hostage keeps Theon alive. It’s that he was right when he said that no one from his family ever thought about ransoming him, and it’s fucking sad to realize that Theon wouldn’t have another place to go even if he was a free man.

--

His old room at Winterfell was in the area that survived the fire.

He figures that spending a couple of nights there before regrouping and trying to get Deepwood Motte back from Asha Greyjoy won’t hinder them too much.

He doesn’t protest when Theon follows him up to his room and lies down on the ground, in the corner opposite the bed.

He should ignore it when he’s woken by a muffled scream.

But all he can think of is a couple of times when he was six or seven and had ended up sleeping in Theon’s bed on a particularly cold or bad night and this is all wrong.

“You can share the bed,” he says, making sure that his voice is audible. He knows that Theon has to be awake – he can tell it by the way he’s breathing.

“I can’t,” comes from the other side of the room.

“I offered,” he replies, and he knows he’ll regret this, but he still raises up the covers.

Minutes later, the mattress dips on the other side. Theon keeps himself there, not trying to inch closer.

Robb should leave it like this.

Instead he forces Theon to turn around and puts a hand on his hip.

He can still feel newly growing skin under his fingertips.

“What are you doing?” Theon asks tentatively.

“I wish I knew.”

Nothing else is said, but when Theon falls asleep again, Robb can’t help thinking that like this, he looks more like he used to back in the day. When he smiled at any given occasion and his hair was so very dark.

It might be that Robb is still not completely awake, it might be that he’s back home and somehow it changes things; when he leans forward and places a single kiss on Theon’s forehead, he doesn’t stop the moment before he actually does it.

He doesn’t stop himself when he does it again the moment when he feels Theon’s maimed hand reach blindly up for his shoulder.

He’ll have time to hate himself in the morning.

End.
 
 
feeling: okayokay
on rotation: rag doll - aerosmith