6: Assistance

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Sophie woke up to a gentle hand on the side of her neck, the thumb against the side of her chin, and the rest of the fingers spanning from her collar bone to just under her jaw where the pointer finger pressed against her skin hard enough as if the person was trying to feel her pulse. She was a little startled at first, but after she sharply inhaled, she relaxed, knowing it was Fitz, as he always smelled like vanilla, mint, and pine, no matter what he wore, and no matter where he was. When she opened her eyes, the crowned prince pulled away, and she propped herself up on her elbows with a frown, "What's going on?" When Sophie looked around, she noticed that she was in Fitz's office, and that she was laying on the blue velvet lounge chair with Fitz's champagne-colored cape laid over her. Suddenly, the argument with Dex came back to her, and that her last memory before she woke up was crying behind Fitz's desk... and now she was laying in his lounge chair with his cape. Sophie flushed when she realized how weird and awkward it must have been for him to find her, asleep behind his desk.

"I was hoping you could tell me," Fitz looked at her intently, his teal eyes swimming with concern. "I found you behind my desk, asleep from crying for gnome knows how long, Please, tell me what happened, I want to help somehow."

Sophie sat up the rest of the way and pulled her knees against her chest, holding them loosely, trying to bide time and find the words to explain everything that happened and everything that she was feeling, "Dex and I... we got into a fight. He was upset that I haven't been spending more of my free time with the triplets, and that I was becoming a spectacle in court, insinuating that I was embarrassing myself. He basically said that I'm robbing the triplets by not giving them all of my free time, even though that was how it worked while he was at war, and they were completely fine with getting more time to play with their friends. It was all as if he was accusing me of not wanting to be part of the family anymore, and I do... I just..."

"You just, what?" Fitz asked patiently.

She tucked her hair behind her ear, looking up at Fitz hopelessly, "During the fight I realized that I don't really belong there. I'd only known Dex and the triplets for about two years before the ogres attacked, I didn't have to stay.. I mean, I love them, but I didn't have to give up my entire life for them."

Fitz seemed a little taken aback, and put his hand on her shoulder hesitantly, "You saw that they needed help, so you stepped up and took charge. There's nothing wrong with that, you were really brave, especially for a thirteen year old. It just shows you have a heart of gold."

Sophie sighed, "I know... but... I look around, and most girls my age are courting or married, and I just feel like I've been missing out." She turned to him, "Do you realize that other than you, Keefe, and your family, my only other friend is one of the cooks in the kitchen, Calla? I didn't have time to make friends at work, I had three mouths to feed, and my coworkers thought I believed myself too important to associate with them, so they all either hate, or steer clear of me."

When he didn't say anything, Sophie continued, trying to keep her voice steady as tears pricked in her eyes, "It was worse when Dex was gone and I was left on my own with the triplets, because I didn't really have anyone I could talk to except your father, and that was only when I cleaned his office twice a week. I was hardly ever truly happy, and what's terrifying is that I almost forgot the feeling... Things are better now, I have friends that I can selfishly call my own, and I don't have to spend all of my time on the family. I have a chance of having a life of my own with my family as only part of it instead of consuming it, and I want to take it, but Dex treats it as if I'm abandoning them. I want to be more than a caretaker, and in all horrible, horrible honesty... if I could go back in time, I don't know if I'd make the same choices I made back when I was thirteen. Does that make me a bad person"

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