Stuck With You - Chapter 5

Sol took her hand and held it out for her to see. "No! I mean all rainbowy! That means I'm important, right?"

Chapter 5
Fall 459, a few months ago

Sol scrambled up the stairs of Blythe's wagon and threw the door open. Then he scrambled again to catch it before it hit the wall. Blythe wouldn't be happy if he dented the wall. Again. It wasn't his fault that he was so strong and the door was so flimsy! He'd told her he'd make her a better door, one that could open in both directions and even close by itself, but she hadn't been interested. He carefully shut it behind him and eyed the doorknob to see if there was a way he could adjust it to bounce harmlessly off the wood paneling without her noticing that he changed anything. Rubber, maybe? No, that would be too soft to turn and if it was stronger, it would be too hard and damage the wall anyway. After he gave her this present, he would work on fixing her door as the next one.

Right, the present. That was why he was here! This was way more important than a dumb doorknob. "Blade! BladeBladeBladeBladeBlade!"

No answer. She couldn't not be home. She was always home when he needed her. Etri said it was because Sol was "her most frequent patient" and "she probably waited around for his inevitable daily disaster" and something about having a shelf of healing supplies with his name on it, but Sol had tuned him out by that point in favor of trying to get an itty bitty spring to have the force it needed to propel a toothpick. Etri worried too much about everything.

But today Sol would prove that he didn't need to worry. The toothpick launcher worked perfectly and he'd finished an entirely new invention and not once had it bit him or caught on fire or exploded or put a hole through the wall. No one could say he needed a healer today!

When the door opened behind him, Sol didn't take the present out of his pocket. He wanted to build up to the surprise. He was pretty sure she wouldn't guess this one. She was frustratingly good at guessing. It was almost like she could read his mind, but that would be silly. No one could actually read minds. The carnies who did that act always had a plant in the audience or planned this out with their picked person's friend before the show. Okay, so he'd believed it at first. That was until he caught Blythe smirking at him from backstage and he remembered that he told her practically everything. That was probably how she guessed at the presents he made her, actually. He probably just slipped and didn't remember slipping.

Blythe squeezed past him to get across the narrow room and dropped a pile of plant cuttings on the counter before lighting the weaving-lamps he'd made for her. She didn't know they were weaving, just really bright, but she used them all the time which must mean she liked them. He liked when she liked what he made. "You really only have to say my name once, you know. I could have heard you on the other side of camp. What did you need? You don't look hurt."

"I've been working on a thing." He knew what her grimace meant. She thought he meant the automatic waffle dispenser that had been the cause of the hole in the wall. "No, not the waffle-makey-shooty-thing. A new thing. A better thing! At first I couldn't get the spring to work without bending, so I thought maybe if I tried a different size that would work better, but then it didn't make it spring as far, so I decided to-"


"-Go back to the original size but use a different metal and after a few tries that worked, but then I wanted onyxes because they're all pretty and shiny like your eyes. Did you know Etri went by Onyx before? Our old troupe uses gem names and-"

"Thanks for the compliment. Now about the thing you wanted to tell me?"

"Right, I went looking for onyxes, but I couldn't find any so I had to use boring black beads instead and I hope they're okay because they're not really shiny enough. I thought about sticking glitter to them and-"


"The glue didn't want to set right so I dropped that idea and started painting your present instead. I think I got it the right color." He eyed Blythe's clothes. As usual she was wearing brown and that bleh shade of dark green she liked so much. He kept trying to get her to wear yellow because it was such a fun color, but she never went for it. "Yeah, I got it right. So once that was done I had to wait for it to dry and that took forever-"


"So I started drawing out plans for the smoke-sucker-outer I'm gonna build to keep the fires I make from bothering Etch. He coughs a lot when I'm working and it's distracting but I really really don't want him sick. You'd tell me if he was sick, right? Creators, maybe I should have built his present before yours. Or no, wait, I don't have all the parts for-"

Blythe reached up to snatch him by the ear, distracting him enough that his thoughts screeched to a halt. "Solei. Look at me. Where are you going with this? In eight words or less, please."

He stared at her and she stared back with eyes that were so dark brown they were pretty much black. Or onyx. He'd been going somewhere with that, hadn't he? "I don't remember?"

"You really need to work on focusing. You came here to tell me about..." She tugged at his ear again. He flinched, which made her stop pulling, but her fingers remained clutching his ear. "There's glue on your ear. Why is there glue on your ear?"

That Sol did remember! "I'm saving it for later so I can use it again."

Blythe tugged again, this time more gently, and her hand remained attached to the side of his head. "Of course. How silly of me to ask. I'm sure I have something to fix this."

She led him over to the sink where she poured something cold over his ear that came from a shelf labeled with his name. Huh, Etri was right. When her hand pulled free, Sol reached up to feel his ear. It was a little warm, like he'd been channeling his weaving there even though he hadn't, but more importantly the glue was gone. "Awww. You took it away."

"I'll get you more glue. You really don't need to store it for later, you know. Or if you do, can't you put it in a jar?"

A jar! He hadn't thought of that. He bet there was a way he could coat the inside so the glue wouldn't stick to the sides... or even better, he could put that on his neck so the glue wouldn't stick to him either. That would be perfect. That would be...

He stared at Blythe's hands as she dried them on a towel. Colors swirled around almost all of both, with only one fingertip remaining the original black mark she was born with. Sol still had those unchanged soul-marks on his right hand, his shin, and his ear... or maybe not his ear if Blythe was all colorful when her hand had been half-black five minutes ago. "Blade! You're all rainbowy!"

"Of course I am, that's been there for years."

Sol took her hand and held it out for her to see. "No! I mean all rainbowy! That means I'm important, right?"

"Etch and I always tell you that you're important, sweetie. You don't have... to... ask... Oh. That is new." She stared at it for a bit, watching the colors change from green to blue to purple to red to yellow, then wiped the towel against his ear, drying off the last of whatever it was she'd poured on. "It seems we were right in telling you that. I am wondering why this didn't happen the thousands of times I've patched you up before, but it's probably that healing touches don't count. Whatever. Now what did you want to show me?"

Sol stopped trying to look at his own ear and started patting his pockets instead. "Hold on, it's in one of these..."

Emptying out a dozen pockets revealed string, gears, a screwdriver, the bent springs in case he could use them again, half a sandwich- that's where he'd put that!- his favorite pair of pliers, a melted ball of metal, the stub of a candle, his second favorite pair of pliers... but no present. He was so sure he'd grabbed it before running out the door!

As he munched on the sandwich, trying to remember where he could have left it, Etri's voice came from the doorway. "Solei? You were taking this to Blade, yes?"

Sol scarfed down the last few bites and ran to his brother. He grinned when he saw the metalwork doll in Etri's hand. "Yeah! Thanks for grabbing her."

Blythe walked over to them and crossed her arms over her chest. "Her? You're not giving me a pet, are you? Please tell me you didn't find another monkey."

"Way better than a monkey." Sol held the present out and she took it with some hesitation, probably in case it tried to bite her. That had only happened once. Okay, twice, but the second time hardly counted. "See? It's you!"

Sol was quite proud of this. He'd even figured out how to soften lengths of wire so he could braid it like her hair. And that wasn't even the best part. Once she figured that part out, she'd be over the moon! Or was that under the moon? She couldn't really go over the moon unless she learned how to fly. Sol had flown once, but she'd taken his wings away after he crashed. What were a few broken bones in the name of a really smarfy invention?

She squeezed him so tight he thought his head might pop off like the doll's had until he'd soldered it on more tightly. He really didn't want to have to solder his own neck. "This is a little weird, but also sweet. You even gave it a tiny knife."

That was the part Sol was most proud of and the thing that had taken forever to sort out with the spring mechanism. Building the knife out of a toothpick had been the easy part. Making the arm do what it was supposed to caused him several bruised fingers. He flipped the doll over. "Yup! And look, if you push this it-"

She tapped the button before he could explain that she had to aim the doll first. The doll's arm whipped down and sent the toothpick hurling across the wagon. Etri stepped out of the way just in time to not get hit- unless it was his weaving that made it pass through him, Sol was never quite sure just how fast Etri could actually move- and the toothpick embedded itself into the wall.

Blythe pulled at it with no success, then turned to him with a raised eyebrow. "Okay, a little more weird than sweet, but please promise me you won't make anything that does this again."

Sol took the doll from her hand and pushed the arm back into position. "I think I can make it do something garden-y. That's a you thing, right? Would that be better?"

"Much. Plants won't impale your brother. Just no shears or trowels or shovels or... you know what, how about you just make it hold the plant?"

"I can do that. No, wait! I can reuse the spring and give it weed-pulling action. Or maybe I can put a bigger spring in it and it can actually pull weeds for you. No, wait, I got it! I'll be right back." He dashed out the door as Blythe shook her head. Oh yeah, he was full of good ideas.

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