A Tall and Small Collection | S2

Soren

Ashlynn stood by the edge of the counter, backside gently pressed against the counter by the once familiar stove. She couldn’t help but note the unforgivable pounding in her chest as she waited. The tingling sensation of Rey being in her hand was familiar. She had missed it. She missed him.

She missed Rey’s spunky personality and his zeal for life even after what happened to him all those years ago. She could still hear his whimpering cry from inside the bag he was placed in when he was caught on that wretched glue trap. She could still hear his pleading voice as he called out to Soren his brother to help him and for her to spare his life – not make him a pet.

How far they had come…

Ashlynn closed her hand instinctually to memorize the sensation she feared she had forgotten. Rey had gotten so much bigger, so much older. There were so many changes and yet he was the same. Ashlynn wondered what changes happened to Soren.

Was he any taller? Shorter? How was his leg all this time later? Had he changed at all? Would he have the same reaction to seeing her that Rey did?

She felt an odd sensation from behind her; like she was being watched. It was only for a moment, but it was still there all the same. Instinctually, Ashlynn turned around to see the golden hazel eyes of the one person she had longed to see more than any other.

Soren.

A nervous chill shot down Ashlynn’s spine from the base of her neck down her spine. A smile spread from one side of her face to the other as she breathed out nervously.

“Soren,” she breathed. Soren looked just as nervous as she did, which made her smile wider, but that didn’t stop him from smiling back.

“Ashlynn,” echoed Soren. He couldn’t believe it. There she was. It was like a day hadn’t passed between them. There were some elements which seemed different, like the way she held herself which seemed more confident. Still, Soren could instantly tell that she hadn’t truly changed.

Soren took another few steps forward, a nervous pounding in his chest keeping him hyper aware of his surroundings.

“Ashlynn, it’s so good to see you,” he said, disbelief saturating his statement. Ashlynn watched Soren approach, silently thrilled as she was no hesitation in his step from his once injured leg. The charged energy felt the same, but Soren still had a measure of control unlike his youngest brother. So, instead of reaching out to catch Soren, she laid her hand palm up against the counter.

With no hesitation, Soren stepped onto the outstretched fingers and used her thumb to brace himself as she brought her hand up to her chest and pressed her free hand against his back as he walked forward and leaned forward. There was no way his arms were wide enough, but it didn’t stop him from trying.

Being so close to each other brought a thousand thoughts and sensations and memories flooding over the both of them. Their embrace lasted for forever, yet only seconds in the grand scheme of things. Ashlynn pulled her free hand away and pulled Soren away to get a proper view of her first Borrower companion.

“Hey,” she breathed, keeping her voice low as she had learned to do once before. “It’s been a while.” Her voice was shaking. Was she shaking? Ashlynn felt her cheeks warm at seeing Soren, holding him, so close.

“Way too long,” smiled Soren as he instinctually sat down on her hand and leaned against her thumb. “Gosh. You haven’t changed a day.”

“Neither have you,” responded Ashlynn as she carefully leaned back against the opposite counter, keeping her hand steady for Soren. “How have you been? I’m sure Rey filled you in on what I’ve been up to, being a realtor and all. Rey told me some new families moved in and stuff. Getting along okay?”

Soren felt his ears burn and a clench in his heart as it began to race in his chest. Gosh… how was he going to do this?

“Yeah,” he responded, almost too eagerly. “I mean, we got along while they were here. They decided to immigrate when the other human families left. Speaking of which, Rey told me about everything that’s happening to the apartments. They’re really going to demolish the place?”

“Yes,” sighed Ashlynn. “I only just found out today and came here as soon as I could. I… well… I didn’t know if you would be here, but I wanted to make sure. Seems like it paid off.” At which point, Ashlynn brought her index finger down to brush against Soren’s back; a motion which he leaned into for only a moment before pulling away. Ashlynn, fearing she did something wrong, moved her slightly curled fingers away from the Borrower, noting that it was odd. Had she done something wrong?

The thing was she didn’t do anything wrong. Soren wanted to lean into it fully, but something in him brought out a pang of guilt he wasn’t expecting.

“Sorry,” he apologized before he even knew what he was doing.

“No. I’m the one who should be sorry. I should’ve asked,” dismissed Ashlynn. “Sorry. Um… anyway. The main reason for me coming. Are you… I mean… do you want me to help you all move and relocate somewhere? Or do you feel comfortable enough to come with me? I don’t want to force you into anything, but Rey seemed eager to come.”

“Right,” said Soren. “Yes. My vote is completely yes. I mean, I don’t want to make things inconvenient for you; and… it…” Soren felt the same pang of guilt seize his racing heart, which kept him quiet. Why was he having such a hard time saying what was on his mind?

Soren looked up into Ashlynn’s stormy blue-grey eyes and could see that she was getting curious, but keeping to their old rules of not asking too many questions all at once.

“Hey, it’s okay,” soothed Ashlynn. “And it’s never inconvenient. You could never be an inconvenience. Any of you. I’m just thrilled that you’re here and you’re alright. It’s going to be great getting the fantastic four back together under the same roof; as long as that’s where you want to go that is.”

Soren heard their old nickname – the one for their group – and knew things had come to a head. His mind drifted to what Dorian asked and knew he couldn’t hide anything; not that he wanted to hide anything from Ashlynn. He looked away for a moment before looking back up at Ashlynn.

“Actually, it’s… it’s not just the fantastic four… anymore…” said Soren, heart pumping nothing but air through his veins. Why was this so hard? Ashlynn’s eyes flashed in a momentary confusion before widening in surprise, but also something else. What was it? Melancholy?

“O-oh? You… what?” asked Ashlynn. Soren felt a flurry of panic seize him as he felt a slight tremor to Ashlynn’s hand around him. Nerves?

“I… um… well…” Soren felt his mouth and his throat feel incredibly dry. What was happening to him? There was no shame in it. It was natural. “I… one of the Borrower families who moved in was on her own… and… well…”

“Soren? Did you…” breathed Ashlynn. “Did you meet someone? I mean… not just… as friends?”

Ashlynn watched as Soren looked back and forth from looking up at her to bashfully glancing away. Immediately, she felt her chest hollow. He had found someone. He was with someone. On one hand, quite literally, she was genuinely happy for him. Soren was a great guy and he deserved someone great.

On the other, there was a sadness and perhaps even a moment of jealousy. There was one guy she had tried to be with after she moved away from the Borrowers, but things didn’t work out for various reasons. The hollowness began to fill her and she didn’t know why it bothered he so much, but a slight weight shift in her hand kept her tethered to the present.

“Ashlynn? Are you okay?” asked Soren, his hand reaching out and touching the pad of her thumb.

“What? Yeah. Yeah! I mean absolutely. That’s great news for you! I’m happy for you,” she said, meaning the words she said, though still harboring some of her secret stirring emotions deep in her chest. “What’s her name?”

“Lucy,” said Soren quietly.

“Wow,” said Ashlynn, pulling a smile onto her face. “That’s a lovely name.”

“It is a good name,” smiled Soren with a trace of reminiscing in his tone. “And… well… things happened…”

“Things?” Ashlynn echoed.

“Well… we… had a kid,” said Soren bashfully, cheeks pinkening as he looked away.

“A kid?” asked Ashlynn almost absent mindedly.

“Yeah, a daughter,” replied Soren.

“A daughter? What’s… I mean… what’s her name? How old is she?” asked Ashlynn.

“Mayzie. Her name is Mayzie. She’s eighteen months now and she’s walking and trying to use words and everything. Definitely going to be a great Borrower one day,” replied Soren quickly, as if he were trying to get rid of a verbal band-aid.

“So… that’s what Rey was trying to say. I… oh gosh… this is going to be interesting. I mean, does she know about our friendship and stuff? I mean, the whole being seen by a human thing is still bad, right?”

Ashlynn watched as Soren once again looked awkwardly off to the side, now looking very sad.

“I mean, yes; being seen by a human is still a bad thing. She… I told her about getting hurt and how you helped me get better, but it wasn’t something we talked about frequently,” replied Soren, who now leaned against Ashlynn’s thumb and held a long, somber look in his eyes.

Wait…

Talked… not talk? They “talked” about it.

“Soren? Is everything okay with Lucy?” asked Ashlynn. Soren, initially, began to nod before stiffening his jaw and shaking his head.

“She… There was a really bad sickness that came through. We all had it, but… Lucy…”

Soren didn’t need to finish for Ashlynn to understand what had happened. Suddenly, so much made sense.

Ashlynn didn’t want to overstep any boundaries, but Soren, whose shoulders were slightly slumped as he leaned against her thumb, looked like he needed it. Ashlynn cautiously brought up her free hand and pressed it against his shoulder while curling her fingers up and behind him. Soren didn’t shy away this time as Ashlynn’s fingers and instead wrapped his arms around them.

“Soren,” said Ashlynn softly. “I’m so sorry.” Soren, eyes closed, slowly nodded with a stiffness and composure which seemed to help him compose himself.

“It’s okay,” he muttered as he looked back into the comforting gaze Ashlynn held for him. “I mean… It’s a lot better than what it was before, but thank you. It… means a lot.”

“Of course,” smiled Ashlynn gently. For a few solid minutes, they sat quietly together before Soren gave a reassuring nod to Ashlynn that he was alright.

“Sorry,” Soren apologized with a bashful smile. “I didn’t mean for that to take a turn. It’s hard to talk about everything that’s happened since we’ve been apart without bringing them up.” Ashlynn chuckled breathily and nodded slowly.

“I get it completely,” she said, a new spark in her heart rekindled. “Do you… I mean… do you think I could meet her? Mayzie I mean. Or do you think she would be too scared?” Soren looked contemplative, then looked up to her.

“You want to meet her?” he asked. Ashlynn nodded eagerly, heart pounding excitedly in her chest.

“Of course. We can’t hardly be the fearsome five without me meeting her,” smiled Ashlynn. Soren, with a look of overjoyed relief and a gloss to his gaze, smiled back at her.

“Well, I guess introductions are in order,” smiled Soren. “Did you want to leave tonight? Or first thing tomorrow?”

“How much time do you want to get everything together?” asked Ashlynn, moving her free hand away from Soren to give him some space. Soren had to think about it for a moment.

On one hand, if they left tonight they would be able to start settling in. On the other hand, they would need a little more time to get a few things together. Ashlynn had offered to move them, but what all would that entail? Could she move their entire home in one go? Was it fair to ask Ashlynn to wait one more day just so they could spend one more night in their home?

No. This was a lot all at once. The needed time to adjust, and one last night in their home before the move would be nice.

“If it’s okay, could we move first thing tomorrow morning? Early? Mayzie gets up early for whatever reason,” suggested Soren, feeling a twinge of oddness at suggesting something to a human once again.

“Sure. I can get a hotel room nearby; and don’t feel rushed. Take the time you need. Seriously. I’ll be ready when you are,” replied Ashlynn. Soren gazed back up into Ashlynn’s eyes. Once again, an unexpected knight in shining armor to help save them from the woes of the world.

“Ashlynn you… you’re amazing. Seriously, you don’t know how much this means to me – to all of us,” complemented Soren. Ashlynn felt her cheeks pinken as she now looked away bashfully.

“Well, I can’t argue with you there. It means a lot to me too; you know, being back together. I… I’m sorry for being away for so long.”

Soren shook his head and leaned into Ashlynn’s thumb once again.

“It’s not your fault,” soothed Soren. “It’s just been one crazy ride for all of us.”

“You bet,” acknowledged Ashlynn. “But really though, I’ve… I’ve missed this – us.”

“Me too,” said Soren, the words leaving his mouth before he had a chance to think. Another pang of guilt made his heart ache. “I guess we’ll have some more time to talk on the ride to wherever we’re going next I guess. I really should get back and make sure the bobbins are packing.”

“Right, of course,” stammered Ashlynn as she began to lower her hand to the counter. “I guess I’ll see you first thing in the morning here in the kitchen?”

“Actually,” said Soren. “Our home is in the rafters in the back bedroom near the back wall. You may need something to help you get up there, but if you go and tap on the walls, we’ll be ready.”

“Perfect,” smiled Ashlynn as she laid her hand against the countertop. “See you then.”

“Ashlynn?” said Soren. “Thank you. You’re just… thank you.”

With one final nod, Soren turned and ducked into the walls.

Just as he was out of earshot, Ashlynn felt herself choke up and, just as she began to leave, she whispered to herself.

“I’ve missed you every day, Soren. I’m… I wish I never left you.” With that, she exited the apartment, more than ready to come back the next day.

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