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Pen Your Pride

Chapter Sixteen

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AN) So I finally updated again, after having no ideas for this chapter for ages. Hope you enjoy it!

Disclaimer: I am very possibly a wizard myself, but even then I  can't claim any rights to this story, sadly enough.

It was Tom who first suspected something was up.

The now twenty-nine year old Lexi had been out hunting, as she often did when the meat supplies were running low, while Tom had stayed at home, peacefully picking apples from their apple tree and singing an old Nekross song that Lexi had taught him a long while back. If you lived for nearly twelve years with someone, you got to know their habits - and more than often sing their songs as well. It probably sounded better when Lexi sung it, her native tongue folding around the tricky Nekross language much easier than he can, but no one's listening to him sing here, apart from the birds in the trees who didn't really care - and make enough noise themselves at dawn anyway, for that matter, so they could hardly complain about his singing.

A slight rustle in the undergrowth from behind him signified Lexi's return, and Tom turned to greet her cheerfully. Oddly, the woman was pulling a face as she made her way back into their clearing, her bow and sheath of arrows hanging over one shoulder, with her long blond hair tucked over the opposite one. Another odd thing was that her hands were otherwise bare; she wasn't even carrying any of their usual diet component this time of year of three-legged birds, which were basically the easiest thing to catch due to their woeful incompetence in running terribly fast, apart from in circles or tripping over each other.

"Nothing going in the woods today, Lex'?" Tom wondered aloud, noticing the apparent lack of prey she had managed to catch.

Lexi swung her long bow off her shoulder and placed it carefully, as she always did, by the wall of their home, before sitting heavily down on the bench next to it. "Not really..." she said slowly, not really elaborating, but looking troubled even so.

Something else you learn from twelve years of living with someone is when they're acting out of the ordinary, and Lexi was definitely not normally like this. Tom approached her, sitting down beside her on the seat and casually passing her an apple from the basket that he held over his arm. Lexi shook her head, declining the offer. Another unusual occurrence - she loved the apples from their apple tree. Tom still remembered the time when they had first grown ripe enough to eat for the first time, and the look of almost rapturous delight on her face still stayed with him today.

"What's up?" he asked in slight concern. She was normally a very stoic person, and when she wasn't hiding something from him she was usually fairly upbeat.

"Nothing," she was quick to reply.

Tom rolled his eyes. Typical Lexi. "And now the truth?"

Lexi smiled despite herself at his frankness, leaning slightly into his shoulder. "I just feel a bit nauseous," she admitted after a moment. "I guess it just put me off my game today. I managed to miss that squirrel by miles, and I tripped on something hidden when I was trying to creep up on a purple spotted deer."

"Maybe you're catching a cold," theorised Tom. Lexi was very rarely ill, but occasionally it had to happen. Plus Lexi always took her hunting so seriously, and any mistakes she made during her couple of hours out in the forest would usually make her grumpy, however much she would deny it later. Now she just looked tired, her characteristic tiny frown creasing her forehead in thin strands. "You are allowed to be off your game sometimes, you know. Go have a lie down. I'll go see if I can catch some fish for tea."

Lexi looked slightly less worried at Tom's confident words. "I can help you fish," she offered. "I don't feel too bad any more."

"You don't feel too bad any more because you're sitting down," pointed out Tom wisely, gesturing to the ramshackle bench that they currently shared. "It wouldn't help you getting up and wandering around again. Go lie down, Lexi. Seriously. Anyway -" a small smile alighted on his features as he leant and pressed her lips lightly to her forehead. "You still can't fish for your life, even after twelve years of me trying to teach you."

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