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Superior Sense

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"I hardly remember my mother," Sophy said, her fingers carding softly through her baby daughter's fine hair. Little Marianne was a healthy child, pink and rosy-cheeked, and (Sophy had assured Drusilla) possessed of a handsome set of lungs, when awake. Babies were all fragile, Drusilla knew that and so did Sophy, but - even mere days old and fast asleep - Marianne exuded a vitality like her mother's.

 

Unconsciously, Drusilla's hand brushed her own stomach. She'd missed one monthly set of courses, and she was beginning to wonder - but she had never been quite as regular as she might have liked, and it had only been two weeks.

 

Sophy had named her daughter after her own mother, dead ten years of a fever. She had not been strong, Sophy'd told Drusilla, and too many sad disappointments had leached the life from her. Drusilla had seen a portrait, which Sir Horace assured her was a good likeness, and knew that Sophy herself bore no resemblance to Lady Marianne Stanton-Lacy, except for the shape and colour of her famously lovely eyes.

 

"I don't think I know how to do this," Sophy said quietly, drawing a light blanket over the baby's sleeping form. Miss Marianne Rivenhall stirred and smacked rosy lips, one tiny fist opening and closing, but did not wake.

 

"Uncertain?" Drusilla replied, even softer. "You?"

 

Sophy snorted, and then winced, one hand flying to her stomach. "Yes, thank you."

 

"All of London knows what a fine nurse you were to Amabel," Drusilla said. It had been the first story she'd heard of The Grand Sophy that had encouraged her to believe they might, as Gervase insisted, be able to form a friendship. She is like you, Gervase had said, taking Drusilla's hands in his and kissing her palms. Practical. She doesn't swoon or have hysterics, she acts.

 

"Nursing is not the same as raising a child." Sophy shifted uncomfortably; she still looked pale and tired, and Drusilla knew it had been a long labour. Her dresser had bullied Sophy into a loose old gown and an informal style for her glossy chestnut hair, but Drusilla thought it had not been difficult. Drusilla had called for news the previous day, and found Lady Ombersley alternately glowing with delight over her new granddaughter and praising Sophy's courage; Sophy herself had been fast asleep, Charles Rivenhall sitting up with her.

 

Drusilla looked sharply at her. "Sophy, are you well?"

 

"Merely uncomfortable," Sophy said, wincing. "And if you suggest laudanum, Drusilla-!"

 

"I did not," Drusilla said tartly. "But I think you should have more cushions. Here." She rose and picked up more cushions to tuck behind Sophy's back on the daybed, to support her neck, and tugged the ones that were already there into a more suitable placement. Sophy's strong, long-fingered right hand never left its position on her daughter's back, feeling the baby breathe, feeling her tiny heart beat.

 

Drusilla sat back down again. "Tell me why you worry about being Marianne's mother."

 

Sophy made a face. "Well, it is not like nursing at all, you see; for in nursing, your patient can often speak, and generally knows what they want, and frequently the problem is... obvious."

 

Well, perhaps, Drusilla thought, if you are accustomed to nursing bullet-wounds.

 

"And when you are nursing, you know, your patient is not your patient forever." Sophy sighed, and shifted again. "And... well, there is generally someone to tell you how to go on."

 

Drusilla looked at Sophy, who only had eyes for her daughter, and who was - despite the worry and exhaustion in her tone - smiling down at that infant so softly that Drusilla thought Marianne Rivenhall was probably the luckiest baby in the kingdom. "You have your Aunt Ombersley," Drusilla said.

 

Sophy made a face. "I know, but - it is not the same as having your own Mama, you know, Drusilla, and while I love my aunt dearly..."

 

Grey eyes and brown met in perfect understanding.

 

"Quite," Drusilla said dryly. "Well - I daresay I should not choose to raise my own children precisely as my mother did, but I will own she is a very valuable guide." She thought of her mother, scolding her for childhood scrapes, consoling her over a girl's first heartbreak, rejoicing with her and calming her nerves on her wedding day. Sophy had sailed through her girlhood with little more guide than her dresser's astringent remarks and her father's absent-minded care, and though she never betrayed nerves or trepidation, Drusilla had no doubt that it had not been as easy as she claimed. It made perfect sense that, faced with this greatest of challenges, Sophy should hesitate before sallying forth.

 

"Exactly," Sophy said, and gave Drusilla a slightly crooked, rueful grin. "Will you help me, Drusilla? You have so much more sense than I do -"

 

"You have plenty of sense, don't be absurd," Drusilla interrupted, tone testy to cover the way her heart was melting.

 

Sophy smiled and carried on. "- and I fear I am too much like my father; an excellent parent in many ways, but thoughtless. I should not like - I do not want that for Marianne."

 

Drusilla suppressed the urge to cry out against this self-description. It would not ease Sophy's fears. "Of course I shall help you, Sophy. Much as you won't need it."

 

"Will you be her godmother?"

 

Drusilla's breath caught, and her hands curled in the soft green material of her dress. "I thought you would ask Cecilia?"

 

"Oh, I have, of course." Sophy's eyes shone. "But a girl needs two godmothers - and I could scarcely think of a better guide for her."

 

"Of course I will," Drusilla said, "Sophy, of course," and Sophy hiccupped a laugh and tears slipped from her eyes, and then Drusilla was smiling and crying, too, and Miss Marianne Rivenhall woke and began to cry out of sheer confusion.

 

Gervase and Charles chose this moment to open the door to Sophy's sitting-room. Drusilla chuckled at the look of naked horror on Charles' face, and wiped her eyes with a handkerchief. Sophy snorted with undignified amusement, then let out a pained noise and clapped a hand to her stomach; Drusilla located a spare handkerchief and handed it to her. Sophy occupied herself in trying to dry her eyes and blow her nose with one hand, and soothe the baby with the other.

 

"Tears, my robin?" Gervase said, lighthearted. He at least knew the difference between Drusilla crying because she was happy, and Drusilla crying because she was not.

 

"You find us overcome by emotion, St Erth," Drusilla said, and smiled at him. "I don't think you have previously met Miss Rivenhall? Allow me to present my goddaughter."