9: Ruins of a Past Life

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Sophie stumbled down the hall, holding her head in her hand, feeling sick. A wad of tears was solidifying in her throat, and she couldn't breathe. The war ended about a fortnight ago. Dex could come home...so why hadn't he? Was he sick? Was he hurt? Was he... No, he couldn't be. Alden or Fitz would have told her... right?

The triplets were in the nursery still, as it was the middle of the day, so Sophie carelessly turned the doorknob, her bones barely able to hold her body up as her eyes blurred with water. Biana had insisted Sophie go to her room after Sophie confessed to her friend quietly in the middle of their tea with Lady Linh that she wasn't feeling too well, and immediately after Sophie excused herself and left the room, Sophie could feel the weight of her worries crashing down around her.

All it took was five questions about Dex from Lady Linh to get Sophie in such a state.
1. How old is he?
2. Does he have a special ability?
3. How long has he been gone?
4. Has it been hard to take care of the triplets in his absence?
5. When would he come back?

Sophie answered them as follows:
1. 20
2. Yes, he's a technopath
3. Three years
4. Yes
5. I don't know. Soon, I hope.

After that, Sophie tuned out the conversation and kept to herself as fear and worry and longing and heartache surged through out her veins. It didn't take for very long for Sophie to lose her grip on her grief and have to leave.

Sophie barely closed the door behind her before she took the last few sinking steps to the nearest bed and fell onto it, curling tightly into a ball. That was when finally, she could let it all out. Her breath hitched sharply and the tears spilled over from the edge of her eyelids, the cool, salty liquid sliding across the bend of her nose and getting caught between her lips. She squeezed her eyes tightly and listened as the sobs between her lungs came out of her mouth with a power that rivaled thunder, letting the sounds echo against the walls of her mind and fill the empty spaces of her heart. Her body racked with the years of pain she'd bottled up as it leaked from her heart like a ship with a hole cracked into the bottom, and she clutched at her chest. Dez hadn't come home yet. Where was he? Why hadn't he come home yet?

She wasn't sure how long she laid there, trying to think of an answer to her questions when someone practically flew in to the room to her side. A warm hand cupped her forehead and another rested against her quivering ribs.

"Sophie? Sophie? What's wrong? Sophie, please, tell me," Fitz asked worriedly, his soft voice set with concern.

It took her a little while before her lips could shape the words, "Why isn't he home yet? The war is over. Why isn't he home?"

At first, Fitz didn't answer and pulled a chair next to the bed. He sat down and took her hands in his carefully. She peeled open her eyes and watched his chest rise and fall, and then found that over time, the longer she watched, the more she settled down, eventually to the point where their breathing was in sync. Neither of them said anything for a while until Fitz asked, "Would it make you feel better if I told you that I'm going to the front in a few days, and that I can bring him a message?"

If Sophie wasn't so exhausted from crying, she would have jolted, but instead, she could only tilt her head to look up at him, "Really? You'd do that for me and my family?"

"Of course," he said softly, "it's the least I can do to help."

"Thank you," she whispered and looked away from him, her body suddenly feeling heavy, like she couldn't get up even if she wanted to. Gingerly, he wiped her tears with the side of his finger, and she continued, "For everything. With everything. Through everything."

Fitz smiled a little, "It's nothing really."

She shook her head, "It's not nothing. Quite the contrary, actually; it's everything. Kindness is everything, and it should never be undermined."

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