He felt older than his nineteen years, suddenly, but he was home now, and all the armor he’d put on was beginning to strip away. She was right. He was home.
It was a truth of war that they never mentioned along with so many others for fear that voicing it aloud would make it real. They knew death like the back of their hands but putting it to words gave it power and allowed fear to settle over their hearts. They’d been in this war far too long to let it.
Tatiana had never been a coward. She’d gone plunging in to treat soldiers in the war when she was only sixteen years old. She helped with amputations. She was brave every single day that she was separated from the ones that she loved. Tatiana knew courage through and through – but no matter what, she always understood mercy better.
Their eyes were locked on each other, and both of their expressions softened simultaneously. His uniform and armor were stripped away, and so was her professional air. They were sixteen year olds, young and frightened, and so full of raw emotion that they could scarcely hold back.
The plan is formulating in her mind faster than she can stop it, and maybe it’s putting herself and him, and everything else that she’s worked for at risk, but she won’t let them torture a boy who’s her age, who’s barely old enough to even be in the war, without doing something about it.
“I’m going to get you out of here,” she whispers.
For all their training in dueling, the years of previous wartime, this war was different. One side had the distinct advantage of finality to their condition, while the other was forced to run and run until they eventually succumbed to the illness as well or died trying to avoid it.