11: Worlds Collide

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"Is he injured as well?" Sophie asked, feeling her stomach start to slip down to her intestines.

"He is, but he may have a limp for a short time."

"That is better than being dead."

"Agreed," Fitz nodded, "he is an excellent fighter, the Neverseen just fight dirty."

"I never thought I'd ever have to see a day where he'd go to war," admitted Sophie wistfully. "He was always more of a creator around the children and I. He always made them little toys with scrap wood, metal, wire, and other things of the like. Sometimes he'd make me a new comb or washboard for the laundry." When a memory came to her, she smiled, "He even made me a necklace once, when we were fifteen. I'd never had one before. It was a little swan on a piece of twine and I loved it. I wore it all the time."

Fitz frowned, "What happened to it?"

"Soon after Dex left for war, I found Bex crying in bed one morning because she missed him so much. The necklace is one of the only things she could bring around with her. She wears it now."

"Don't you miss it?"

"I do, very much so, but I am glad Bex has it. She needs it more than I do."

He smiled, seemingly blown away by her words, "You sound like an aging mother."

"In a way, I am," Sophie laughed softly, suddenly feeling sad as she said honestly, "I've raised three children since I was thirteen and these past three years have been hard. In a few years I will be almost entirely unmarriageable and it will be difficult to find someone, because gentlemen don't like women who have previous responsibilities and attachments. In fact, Dex will have a hard time finding a spouse as well, however, it would only be easier for him if he pretended the triplets were solely under my care."

"Those who claim you unmarriageable will have to meet my sword first," Fitz patted the long, metal blade hanging from his waist.

"There is no need to go to such lengths-" Sophie assured him, getting a strange sense of deja vu, as if they had been in this situation before.

"There is every need. A young, beautiful, talented, intelligent girl such as yourself should not be persecuted for not being sixteen and for raising her siblings for a large portion of her life so far. If anything your accomplishments demand respect."

"Society does not seem to think so, but let us talk of happier things. The soldiers are home after three years!" Sophie brightened, "Oh the triplets will be delighted!"

"Just as you are now," chuckled Fitz.

"Yes of course. I feel as if though my knees are quaking and is pulling me down but gravity is lessening in the same moment and I am trapped in a stalemate."

"Do you need to sit down? Are you dizzy?"

Sophie waved him off, looking out at the road with wide eyes so she didn't miss a single second because it had been some time since the last horn rang out. The soldiers must be arriving any second now, "I have done enough sitting and I will no longer feel dizzy when I see my brother after three long, fearfilled years."

Fitz didn't say anything and rested his hand on her back at her waistline as a gentle support. After a few seconds of silence, Sophie craned her head up to look at him and waited a moment before resting her hand on his shoulder and saying, "Fitz..."

"Yes?" When he tilted his head down to look at her, she gingerly caught her finger tips under his chin as a quiet promise that he wouldn't move, rose up on the tips of her toes, and kissed his cheek meaningfully.

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