10: A Knight's Heroine

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Dex leaned back in his chair and stared up at Biana's ceiling. The princess's nightmares had not relented since the last attack on the palace, so it was a silent agreement between them for Dex to sit at her side and wake her up if he saw her start to get upset. To most, it may seem arduous, but Dex didn't mind. He could work on his invention sketches in his journal at her vanity by candlelight since Biana was a heavy sleeper, but some nights his working mind fell into a lull, and all he could do was stare at the ceiling and reflect on his day.

It wasn't very special, he woke up with the sun, checked Biana's curtains to make sure they were closed all the way, and popped into his room next door to change into a fresh set of clothes. He then went back to the princess's room, and went over the day's schedule in his head as Biana woke up a couple hours later when he would then flag a maid passing by to fetch Sophie, as well as quiet side request for the maid to tell the kitchen staff to prepare a cup of decaffeinated tea and an extra-caffeinated mug of coffee. As Sophie helped Biana draw a bath, Dex got the triplets dressed and brought them to the kitchen to be placed in the care of the nursery maids, who were already helping other servant children get food. There, Dex would grab the tea and coffee he ordered previously and bring it back to Biana, who would be sitting patiently at her vanity as Sophie styled her hair. He would then hand the princess her tea cup and Sophie wouldn't meet his eyes as he sat down with his coffee on the far side of the room, giving the girls space to chat, and try his best to focus on the sketches from his latest invention design.

When she was finished, Sophie would bid the princess farewell before going to meet Fitz to discuss what work they would handle that day before it was time for everyone to go to breakfast. After breakfast, Dex would spend the rest of the day trailing behind Biana, and surveying the area, looking for any potential signs of danger. There was hardly a time in a day when Dex wasn't with Biana - he was even allowed special permission in the Women's Room as long as he hung back and was present for safety reasons only. They ate all of their meals together, and had one another's first and last conversations of the day. Dex didn't really mind so much, Biana was always pleasant company, but he also got time away from his family, which, at this moment in time, was something Dex prefered.

The triplets hardly ever said a word around him, and only looked at him with dead eyes. It was like his very presence sucked away their joy. They listened to him when he helped get them ready in the morning and when he ushered them to bed at night, but even so, in that time, they mostly kept to themselves. Biana told him that the triplets weren't speaking with Sophie either, but, then again, Sophie spent so much time with Fitz that it was almost impossible for her to run into them. Sophie was also not speaking with Dex at the moment, but would occasionally give him a slight, polite nod, and that was something. He couldn't remember the last time her honey brown eyes met his, or the last smile she gave him. All he had to look back on were memories, but Dex tried his best not to on his own, as it only made him feel more lost and alone.

It was as if he'd turned into a ghost in his own life, or like he was living in some strange alternate reality - a new dimension possibly? Dex wasn't quite sure where past and future connected anymore, because even though his family was so close once more, it still felt like he was far, far away in some other life. It was a nightmare in the day, and all the guilt he carried from the war poured out of his siblings' eyes, ears, nose, and mouth to drown him every time he saw them. It was an instantaneous reaction - the guilt filled any room, no matter how big, and no matter how far away his siblings were. Probably the only things keeping him sane were his designs and Biana.

Being with Biana was like being pulled up from under the surface of deep waters so he could gasp for breath. She was a distraction in that it was his job to protect her, and she always kept the two of them busy with different meetings and social gatherings, but more so than that, in the quiet moments when it was just the two of them, she talked to him as if he was just a normal man; as if there was no burden weighing on his shoulders, no glory turned poison in his wine, and no regrets in his peripheral vision. She spoke as if the fractures in the Dizznee family were only temporary, and with enough confidence to ask what it was like growing up in the nearby village and raising the triplets in the palace. It was only in these times that Dex could slip into the past without getting lost or confused, because he was pulling specific memories instead of being dragged to the bottom of a dark and phantasmal pool he could obsequiously slaver for lifetimes. In addition, Biana acted as a barrier between Dex and his siblings, collecting their conversations and briefly summarizing them to Dex later in the day, updating him on their welfare. So, in a way, as he was protecting the princess, the princess was protecting him as well.

As this truth set in, Dex began to realize just how far his siblings were from him. It was as if they all had different lives now, and it was all Dex's fault. He was the one who separated them initially by going off to war, and then once more before the cracks in their relationships finished smoothing over with his loud, rude, and sleep deprived mouth. He shouldn't have said those things to Sophie in their argument, and he shouldn't have threatened the crowned prince to not hurt Sophie. Dex had realized where he'd erred almost as soon as he stormed back to Biana after telling Fitz off, and had quickly confessed his regrets to Biana, who assured him that Fitz wouldn't take it too harshly. It was clear that she was disappointed in her loyal knight, as he was in himself, but she also understood why Dex felt the need to storm up to her older brother and promise to hurt him if he ever dared to harm Sophie at the time. Biana then suggested that he write Fitz an apology, but because Dex could hardly read, much less write, it was a long-term project. The princess had offered to help him write it, but Dex wanted his hard work of shaping letters to show his sincerity, so he only ever allowed her to help him find and spell the words he wanted to stay. Besides, like Biana assured him, it was probably best if he gave the prince a wide berth for a while, and it wasn't until now that Dex was staring up at the dark ceiling in the middle of the night, days later, that Dex finally fully understood that he had been wrong about the crowned prince.

What had Fitz ever done to him? Been too polite? Too kind to his family? Nothing. Well, nothing to ever deserve Dex's uncouth and churlish behavior, at least. The death of Dex's parents was nowhere near Fitz's fault, or even Alden's, it was his own, because at the time, Dex wasn't strong enough to protect the people he cared about - he wasn't present enough in their lives to have a chance to save them. Dex used to always have his nose stuck in journal, planning out new inventions, when he should have planning for the future. After all, there was no room for dreamers in the midst of a war.

In addition to that, Dex didn't have the right to tell Sophie who she could and couldn't associate with - she was her own, strong, independent person. She was a level headed person, it wasn't as if she was a lune, she usually made the best choices for herself. Besides, even if a problem were to arise out of a choice she made, problems were made to be solved, and as a machine designer, Dex should have known that far sooner, as well as the fact that Fitz clearly made her happy; how could he try to take that away from her? No wonder she was so upset with him. At the time of the argument, Dex, in his overtired state, had been so afraid of losing Sophie that he pushed her away... which inevitably pushed the triplets away as well.

Before Dex could dwell on the harsh truth further, he snapped to attention as he heard Biana begin to cry softly in her sleep and her pregnancy-swollen fingers grip her pillow. Carefully, yet still blindly, he reached towards her, his hand soon finding hers, the one gripping her pillow, and he softly covered it with his own. Anxiously, Biana's hands wound up his arm like ivy on a trellis, pulling him closer to her. Slowly, Dex moved him his chair to sit on the side of her bed, and her hands only moved farther up his arm, holding it as if it could save her from whatever nightmare she was having. After a few moments, the princess's grip relaxed, but didn't release, so Dex leaned back against the headboard with a silent sigh. Though it wasn't part of the job description, he decided that if this was what helped Biana, then he didn't mind one bit, after all, she was the one comforting him nowadays,  and the least he could do was return the favor. Knowing he would be there for a while, Dex pulled his feet up onto the bed, resting them out in front of him, and closed his eyes, feeling at peace as he slowly, but surely, drifted to sleep.

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