Follow Sophie Foster as she pursues love with Fitz Vacker, her long-time crush. Will the two finally become official or will Sophitz come to a halt? Only Shannon knows, but we can take a pretty good guess!
Disclaimer: Any concepts used in this work belong to Shannon Messenger.
Author's Note: Hello, and thank you for taking the time to read my work. This is my very first fan fiction story, based on Shannon Messenger's Keeper of the Lost Cities. Essentially, this will be a continuation of Sophie Foster and Fitz Vacker's relationship after Flashback, and will be focused mainly on them, but other aspects of the books will definitely make an appearance. Without further ado, enjoy!
In almost all cases, the match was a normal rite of passage for elven teenagers. Fitz Vacker remembered picking up his packet from the Matchmakers' Office and intermittently filling out the hundreds of questions over the course of his Level Five year. Some of the questions seemed too broad to actually affect the lists, some so specific it seemed only one elf would ever meet the standards. It was still a wonder to Fitz that the matchmakers could make sense of it all, let alone use it to find compatible partners. It was said there was nothing more memorable than receiving your first list of possible choices; everyone had a specific name they hoped was on their list. The Winnowing Galas were where relationships began, and most of those relationships stuck. With so few bad matches in the Lost Cities, it was clear the match was extremely accurate. Still, Fitz worried.
He's long since completed his packet, but there was more than enough reason for him to wait to turn it in to the offices; one more aspect of the match was that only those elves who registered could be matched, and she was a year younger than Fitz.
Sweet, gorgeous, talented, amazing Sophie. Fitz had had feelings for her ever since he had known her, and even more so since they had become Cognates. He hadn't known until recently that Sophie had the same feelings for him. They'd been in Everglen's reception hall, talking about the matchmaking process, how Sophie might register. The two of them were alone, and Fitz had decided to tell her:
I want it to be you.
Sophie has seemed shocked at first, and Fitz had wondered if he had made the wrong choice in telling her then, but there was no turning back. Then Sophie spoke the words Fitz hadn't dared to hope for:
I've liked you since the day I met you.
The fond memory was still fresh in Fitz's mind. Later, they'd sat under Calla's Panakes and discussed what had transpired in that hall. Sophie had wanted to wait, saying she wasn't ready for a relationship yet, but it didn't make Fitz like her any less. He was content to wait as long as he had to if it meant Sophie was happy; even centuries could not deter Fitz.
Now, Sophie had decided to register for the match. Fitz was elated, of course. There was no chance of them being a bad match; he was sure she would be on his lists.
But what if she wasn't?
The word flitted around in Sophie's mind, repeating over and over. It was an ugly word, filled with so much sorrow to respond to the anxiety Sophie had felt up until now. Why was it that just when she was brave enough to register in the matchmaking system, just when things were looking up for her love life, something like this had to happen? It was as though fate didn't want her to be with Fitz. All those times, the moments she had with him, they were in some way interrupted. They could never seem to catch a break. The feeling of despair was almost eating away at her memories of Fitz.
"I'm...unmatchable?" Sophie said out loud, the words not nearly equating to her hectic thoughts.
The two matchmakers who were overseeing her registry seemed as shocked as she was, but were quick to mask their surprise, replacing it with businesslike indifference.
"This is unprecedented," said one of the matchmakers, Brisa. "We'll have to talk to one of the more experienced Matchmakers."
"Don't worry, Miss Foster," assured the other, Juji, "we'll get this sorted out. Ah...why don't you wait outside while we clear this up?"
Too numb to resist, Sophie allowed herself to be steered out of the room by Juji while the Brisa produced an Imparter, still looking at the woeful message that defined Sophie's match. The door closed behind them, and Juji led Sophie out to the atrium, where Grady and Edaline sat waiting for her. Juji left Sophie to her own and retreated back into the matchmaking room.
"How did it go?" asked Edaline as Sophie approached her. "You're back early, aren't you?"
"Where's you registry packet?" Grady inquired.
Sophie, still reeling from the results of her matching, gave the news bluntly.
"They said...I'm unmatchable."
"What?" Sophie's adoptive parents seemed shocked, and rightfully so. Sophie suspected that this was a rare occurrence, or even that it might never have happened in the history of matchmaking.
"The matchmaking algorithm said I'm unmatchable. I can't register." The realization of what had happened seemed to hit her parents like a wave. No matter what, they had always been supportive of her endeavors. Seeing Sophie crushed like this had just as large an impact on them as it did her.
"Sophie, I'm so sorry," Edaline said. "I've never heard of this happening. Grady, have you?"
"No, never. Not in the match's history," Grady reveled. "Sophie, I'm sure this was just a fluke. We'll get this sorted out with the matchmakers, okay?"
"Hold on a bit," Sophie replied, "the matchmakers said they're working on it. Hopefully they can figure it out."
Still looking worried, her parents agreed.
While the trio sat waiting for the matchmakers to summon them, Sophie had time to clear her head and get her thoughts straight. This will be set straight, she told herself. I've been through much worse and survived. The Matchmakers will figure this out. Then a thought hit her.
What about Fitz?
How would she break the news that she couldn't register for matchmaking? He had said he didn't care about the lists, but Sophie still worried. He was a Vacker, after all, and had a legacy of nobility to live up to. If a Vacker were part of a bad match, the Lost Cities would be talking about it for centuries! Would his family pride outweigh his feelings for her?
She was snapped out of their thoughts as she saw Ceri striding toward them. Grady and Edaline stood, obviously eager to know the situation.
"Miss Foster, we are sorry for the delay," Ceri apologized. "This has never happened before, and we were unsure how to handle it..." The Matchmaker trailed off ominously.
Not liking where this seemed to be going, Sophie held her breath. The only one of them that still seemed to be thinking straight was Grady.
"What about the match? Can she register?" her father asked.
"Unfortunately, we still need to clear things up. For the time being, we don't know."
"We don't know if Miss Foster will be eligible for the match."
“How can you do this? This is outrageous. It’s unfair!”
Grady put Sophie’s thoughts into words. The initial message was bad enough, but to hear it confirmed verbally was devastating. This could ruin Sophie’s chances of being with Fitz. In fact, it could ruin her chances of being with anyone; the match was an integral part of elf society. If Sophie wasn’t able to register for the match, there was no telling what would become of her love life. It felt so unfair; she had finally gathered the courage to register, deciding not to let her upbringing hold her back, but she’d been rejected by the system.
“We’re sorry, Lord Ruewen. We are doing all we can to resolve the problem. We think it has something to do with her unknown genetic parents. Right now, we’re going to need you to leave and await further notice.”
“No, you’re going to take care of this right now. At least let Sophie know if she can register. Do you know how much this means to her?”
Though appreciative of her father’s protective words, Sophie saw there was no point fighting it.
“Dad...let’s go,” Sophie said defeatedly. “Let them figure it out. I can wait.”
Grady hesitated, then relented. “Okay. If that’s what you want.”
It wasn’t what she wanted, but it was the best option right now. They probably wouldn’t figure this out in even a few days. The only thing Sophie could do was go home and wait.
The trio had Light Leaped home in silence. It was barely dark when they returned to Havenfield, but Sophie had gone up to her room. Her parents hadn’t stopped her; they understood how she felt after all she had been through.
Sophie hoped it would all smooth out tomorrow. The incident with the match was still fresh in her mind, and she lay in bed worrying about how her life would be affected. How would Fitz take it? She had hailed him before leaving Havenfield to inform him that she was registering for the match.
Fitz was still mulling over Alvar’s escape, and even more so over how Fitz had tried to kill him. He seemed more distant than ever these days. The few times Sophie had seen him, he had been studying or training with Grizel. Sophie worried about his sanity; elven minds didn’t handle guilt well. On occasion, she had tried to bring up the subject with him, but he evaded the topic as well as he evaded the throwing stars in his training sessions. Sophie supposed battle training was helping him take his mind off his actions, but he would have to face it sooner or later.
When Sophie had told him about registering for the match, Fitz had instantly perked up. Even though Fitz had said he didn’t care about the lists, they both knew the match would make their relationship much easier.
“The match?” he’d replied, elated, when Sophie spilled the news. “Sophie, that’s great. And don’t stress about it, okay? It’s super easy; all you have to do is answer a few questions and you’ll be out of there in no time.”
So much for that. Sophie was stressing even more after the incident. She felt so bad about doing this to Fitz, even though she knew it wasn’t her fault. Why couldn’t she be a normal elf like Biana or Linh?
What if Fitz chose Linh Song over Sophie? It was obvious he was impressed with Linh’s powers. A few times, Sophie even thought she had seen them flirting. Linh was Sophie’s friend, but Fitz was more than a friend. Even if they weren’t officially together, Sophie still liked him and, selfish as it may be, she really didn’t want him to start dating someone else. They were so close!
As Sophie was stressing over the match and her life and Fitz and Linh, a voice resonated in her head.
Sophie? Can you hear me?
Fitz! Sophie could almost see his teal eyes, anxious for an answer. She would have to have this conversation much sooner than expected, it seemed.
Hi. I think our training is really helping; I was able to reach you all the way from Everglen. Anyways, how are you? Did you register for the match?
Still shaken by the day’s events, Sophie decided to come clean.
No? Oh. Why not?
Sophie wanted to cry of shame when she felt the disappointment behind his words.
It wasn’t me. I wanted to register, really! The system wasn’t able to register me.
What? The system...failed? That’s horrible. I’m so sorry, Sophie.
Yeah. They think it has something to do with my birth parents.
I’m really sorry. Sophie?
I want you to know that this doesn’t matter. Not to me, at least. They’ll figure it out, and I don’t mind waiting. Even if they don’t, I won’t care. I won’t let a list of names dictate how I feel about you. Okay?
His kind words brought such relief to Sophie that she actually sank down in her bed. Fitz didn’t care about the lists. He would like her all the same if she couldn’t register. I’m the back of her mind, something opened like a floodgate and a tidal wave of comforting thoughts rushed out. Sophie knew the matchmakers would probably figure this out. She knew she would probably get her packet sometime soon. She knew that the matchmakers hadn’t told anyone, that no one but Grady, Edaline, Fitz and her knew. And best of all, she knew that Fitz would care. I won’t care, he had said. Sophie felt a rush of gratitude toward Fitz’s warm presence in her mind. Once again thinking logically, Sophie allowed herself to let it go until tomorrow.
Thank you. That means a lot to me.
Sophie, I’d do anything for you. We’ll get through this together. Don’t stress about it too much. Promise?
Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow.
Um...can we keep this between us? I don’t want people treating me weird.
Of course. You didn’t even have to ask, Sophie. My lips are sealed.
Sophie severed the connection, greatly calmed. There was no reason to worry about Fitz and her. Sophie resolved to tell him if the situation developed, but otherwise she would put it out of her mind. She realized she had been so overwhelmed with the Neverseen, the match, and everything else that she had been falling behind on her school and social life. She decided to go back to a normal elven life until she was needed back in the world of the Black Swan. She lulled herself to sleep with a slew of comforting thoughts.
No reason to worry...
Sophie awoke the next day refreshed and calm. Her echo hadn't made an appearance during all the fuss the day before, thankfully, but she took a sedative before sleep just in case. Her dreams had been filled with rainbows and ponies, but she was used to the bright imagery at this point.
When she Leaped to Foxfire, she was relieved to see no one treating her strangely; it was apparent that Fitz had kept his word. Magnate Leto's announcement yielded nothing new, and soon classes were underway. Sophie's first class was Inflictor training with Councillor Bronte. While neither Sophie nor Bronte was a fan of the class, they had grown to tolerate each other to the point where the class was productive.
"Take a seat, Miss Foster."
It was far from welcoming, but Sophie expected nothing more from the grumpy Ancient. Bronte had been extraordinarily disagreeable from day one. Sophie sat down on one of the two hard chairs in the barren room.
"What I want to do today is a simple Inflicting exercise. I want to work on how well you can target your ability."
Sophie agreed; she had no control over who she Inflicted, and it affected everyone in her general area. This had proven unhelpful in situations where she had had to Inflict the Neverseen with her friends present.
Sophie gathered all her negative emotion and energy into a mental knot and pushed it out towards Bronte. Other than nearly imperceptibly knotting his brow, Bronte seemed unaffected by the display. Discouraged, Sophie reined her emotions back in.
"You performed no better than our last session. Even being away from Foxfire for this long, you should have improved. There's something wrong."
Sophie felt Bronte's searching gaze on her, but did not answer.
"You do not have to tell me, but you need to resolve it, at least a little. Getting caught up in your emotions can hinder your abilities, especially Inflicting. If you want to be able to use this gift effectively, you need to give it your absolute focus. I know you may not think me the most reliable source of advice on emotional matters, but don't forget that I, too, was once young. I've found that many problems are superficial and can be resolved simply by communicating or accepting comforts. Once you realize that any and all things can be overcome, can be changed, you will be able to unlock your full potential not just in your abilities, but in your life. Sometimes, it is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. In your case, Sophie, I think you might become more powerful than any elf has ever dreamed of at the full extent of your mental capacity. Like I told you before, you are truly a special elf. All you need to do is let go of your fears."
Surprised by the inspirational talk coming from the Councillor of few words, Sophie didn't know how to respond. As she thought about what Bronte has said, it became clearer to her that she could work around her fears. She realized she had still been thinking about the match in the back of her mind, and suddenly saw how foolish it was of her to worry about it. The matchmakers were experienced in their field, and would be able to work her registry out. If it can to it, Sophie could ask Mr. Forkle to put in the names of her birth parents. Even if she still couldn't register, Fitz had said it didn't matter.
"I'll try to use your advice," she said to Bronte.
"Good. Now, try again."
This time, Sophie closed her eyes and diverted her energy from the worrisome part of her mind. When she gathered it into the knot, she was surprised at how much energy she spent centering on her anxiety. With the new reserve of mental energy open to her, Sophie pushed out again, this time able to concentrate more on one area. Opening her eyes, it was clear her improvement had caught Bronte off guard; Sophie saw him actually double over.
"Good. Good," he said when he regained his composure. "Use your emotions to empower your ability. That was much better. I think we'll be done for the day."
As if on cue, the bell rang after he said the words. Sophie left to go to her next class in amazement over her newfound energy.
After her eventful session with Councillor Bronte, Sophie attended a few more classes and then headed to lunch. She hadn't thought of Fitz all day with all the makeup class work she had to complete, but she realized this would be the first time they met in person since she tried to register for the match. Trying to focus on Bronte's advice and tune out her worries, Sophie entered the lunch hall.
The first thing she noticed was Fitz's captivating teal eyes searching for her from their usual table. The thought of Fitz looking for her made Sophie blush.
The other thing she noticed was Marella Redek staring at her strangely, as though analyzing her. Marella had been an on-and-off friend of Sophie's; they had had a falling out when Sophie got too caught up in Black Swan business, and had started to forget about Marella. They had made up, but things were still a little tense between them. Marella had a question in her gaze, but she kept quiet. Sophie got her food and sat down next to Fitz, minutely unsettled.
"Hey," she said, not sure what reaction their last conversation might entail.
"Hey, how are you?" Fitz said warmly, instantly erasing any anxieties Sophie may have had; it was clear he didn't think less of her because of the match incident.
"I'm fine. I'm feeling a lot better thanks to you."
Fitz gave her one of his movie star smiles, making her cheeks burn. "I'm glad. Don't sweat it, okay? It's going to turn out fine."
When the lunch hour ended, Sophie returned to her classes. The day seemed to fly by after that. Soon the final bell sounded and Sophie exited Elven History. On the way to her locker, she was stopped by a hand on her shoulder. It was Marella.
"Oh. Hi, Marella."
"Was that... actually, can we talk somewhere more private?"
"Sure. Let's go outside."
Unsure what had prompted such a meeting, Sophie went with Marella out to the school grounds. When they got to a sequestered spot, Marella stopped.
"Did you register for the match yesterday?"
The question was so sudden Sophie didn't know how to respond. "Well..."
"I only know because... well, I actually registered yesterday too."
It had never dawned on Sophie that one of her friends might have registered on the same day as her. But if Marella was there, that meant...
"So... you saw me there?"
"Yeah. It looked like there was something wrong, though." Marella's eyes held the same questioning look they had earlier. Sophie saw no point in hiding it if Marella already knew something had gone awry.
"I wasn't able to register. They need to know my birth parents."
Marella was as shocked as Grady and Edaline had been. "Sophie, that's horrible. I'm sorry. That's why you didn't say anything about it."
"Yeah. It was hard to find out. They're trying to fix it, but..."
"Hey, don't worry so much. It'll be fine. They'll fix it."
"That's what I've been telling myself."
"That's good. It's not healthy to worry too much. Sophie, the lists don't matter if you really love him. What matters is how you feel about each other. The match is just some dumb tradition. You don't need it if you already know who you want to be with. So what if the person isn't on your lists? So what if you don't even register? What matters is you and your choice, Sophie. If you really love them, it's worth being called a bad match. Don't ever listen to the people who hate on you. They do it because they've never had real love; they don't understand. You matter, Sophie, not what they, or the match, says."
Marella's outburst left Sophie speechless. She would never have suspected Marella, of all people, the popular girl, to be so opposed to the match. Nonetheless, Marella's words were a welcome consolation.
"Marella... thank you. It means a lot to me that you didn't act weird about it. You're a true friend."
"Any time. If you ever need to talk, let me know. You know I've always got your back, Sophie."
The encounter left Sophie in high spirits as she returned to her locker. By the time she Leaped home, her fears had all but abated.
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