When they are seven, Thea calms down a little.

Well. That's an inaccuracy.

What she means when she says that she calms down is that she stops flinging weapons at people left, right and centre.

This is partly because she doesn't see the point in doing it, now that she's made her point on the violent nature of the people they'll become if they follow the Victory Ground without question.

This is also partly because a certain boyfriend of hers, may a plague be on both his houses, decides to steal all of her metal knives and move them to where she can't get at them. He doesn't leave her completely defenceless, though, although Thea's sure that he'd argue that she doesn't need it, given the many times that she's bested him in the courtyard. Adam might know more than he initially lets on, sure, but Thea's been doing this for far longer than he has. He uses her very glory against her to argue that her knives are unnecessary. She could take down another man with her bare hands.

That's true. She could. She could, but she doesn't want to.

In this place, the chances her that one's opponent will be armed to the teeth. If they do not do the same, then they stand at a disadvantage, because Victory Children will do anything to ensure victory is won. Not even the greatest warriors from rival nations can compete against a Victory Child who's been at the Victory Ground long enough for that frightful mindset to become ingrained in their brains.

So yes. Thea doesn't like not having her knives, but she doesn't make a fuss of it. Adam wants her to be more diplomatic. Thea doesn't know how to tell him that she hasn't got a bone in her body that doesn't know how to play the game of war. She'll never be diplomatic, and neither will any of her peers. Thinking about it, the War Ground do a far better job at defending and protecting the next generation, to ensure that family lines carry on for decades. They send just as many children to war, but more of the War Children come back. There's something to be said about that.

She gets her knives back when she's training. She doesn't care that Adam doesn't want her to have them; she knows that she won't survive against all the people who will try to take her down if she doesn't. None of them is particularly inclined to solve matters by diplomacy. All of them prefer a fight, and Thea does too. The Captains understand Adam's argument when Thea explains it to them, but then they shake their heads. They completely disregard it, and Thea gets her knives back. The first thing she does is throw three of them at Jack's head because even though she doesn't need to do it anymore, the sensation that bubbles up inside as Jack ducks to avoid the path of a flying dagger is far too good to miss.

She doesn't really throw knives at Freddie anymore. Sure, she still hates the damned boy, at least he doesn't go out of his way to antagonise her. Jack still does that all of the time, so Thea's far more inclined to throw knives at him. She does, and Jack's not particularly happy about it, but Thea doesn't care. She doesn't really understand the Spencer-Reynolds feud, especially not the way that all the old families that have the same sort of dissonance. The families allow and joust, and though the Reynolds have the support of most of the families in the Victory Ground, there are a couple that still back Thea. Though the Reynolds and Spencers have one of the most significant rivalries, Thea could name at least a dozen others. Though Isaac Hatford isn't particularly on her side, the Hatfords have almost the same fierce dislike for the Reynolds that the Spencers have. They form a fragmented network, ever compounded by the arrivals of new children, who form bonds and in the process, change the course of history.

Outside of the training grounds, though, Adam has to find another solution to keep Thea occupied and to keep the urge to hit Jack in the head from manifesting in such a destructive way, because the bastard doesn't stop antagonising her once training session have finished, oh no. It carries on, right up until the moment that she splits up with him at the end of the day, because the Captains apparently think that such fierce passion is a good thing, something to be nurtured and to be used once it's reached its full potential. Thea wants to tell them that she's just really tired of hating someone so constantly, but she can't say that, of course. Not if she doesn't want to sacrifice her reputation and her chance of safety once she's at the age of majority.

Adam, clever boy, does find another solution. She doesn't know how; she can only assume that he put in a request with the Captains and that he'd made a good enough argument to make them comply with it. She doesn't know how, given that the solution is so damned ridiculous that she despairs at her boyfriend's thought processes. They're not wired the same way, she and Adam. He's much better in the classroom, a true academic; put anything you can think of in front of him and he'll handle the thing with ease, but Thea will always be better than him at the physical. Adam's moving up the ranks of the morning run - he's around 500 now - but Thea's consistently in the top 20, and heading towards top 10. She always falls a little when the number of miles changes, and she knows that when the miles increase every year she'll struggle a little, but for now, Thea's at the top and she intends to stay there.

Adam finds a solution, and Thea can't help but burst out laughing every time that she thinks about it.

Adam's solution is to replace her absent knives with coloured beanbags, things that Thea had never seen in her life before Adam plopped three into her tiny hands; one blue, one yellow, on red. When she'd looked up at him, Adam had merely smiled sarcastically, as if to say, I win.

She'd stared right back at him, asking him what she was supposed to do with these things that she'd never seen before. That had led to an overly awkward conversation in which Adam had seemingly realised for the first time that Thea - or any of the Victory Children, for that matter - had not had the most normal of childhoods. He'd then proceeded to spend a good half an hour going through all of the things he'd experienced over his own short childhood. Thea learns a lot more about Adam during that conversation; that even though Adam is a spy, he'd spent the first six years of his life in a small cottage in Edinburgh with his father. It seems a completely alien world to the one that Thea's always known. She's seen the world depicted on a map, but when she asks Adam how many people there are in the world, and he replies around seven billion, she realises quite how big it is.

She doesn't know if she'll ever leave this place, but if she does, she wants to study the world and how it works, how all the little pieces fit together to make the big picture, how people take that process of exploring the unknown to the boundaries of human imagination to explore the things that don't make sense. The Universe, in general, does not make sense. Even looking at her own environment, the only thing she's ever known, Thea knows that things don't make sense; though the laws of the universe still apply, she also knows that when she looks around at all the people around her and tries to imagine them on a planet of seven billion.

Thea takes that wonder, compares it to the one she feels when she stares up at the stars and finds that they're practically the same.

She looks down at the three beanbags in her hands and throws all of that wonder, all of that longing, into them. She can't feel those things in this place, can't be distracted from the ultimate goal that she's set her sights on. She bleaches those feelings from her skin, but she can't quite bear to get rid of them, so Thea keeps them locked away in soft missiles that she can throw far away from her. Adam's given these to her for a reason; they're to replace the knives with something that might cause a lot less damage, even though the sensation of the beanbags hitting their target is almost the same as that of a knife.

Thea doesn't know if Adam intended his beanbags to be used for that purpose when he asked there Captains to obtain them, but Thea figures that it doesn't exactly matter; she's got them now and she'll use them as she sees fit. She'll never tell Adam about her hidden usage, but she does smile and thank him for them.

Thea uses her beanbags as the year progress, as the old family rivalries, some previously dormant for their generation, begin to emerge. They antagonise Thea and everything her family stands for, and Thea responds by chasing them off in the best way that she knows how. It's less effective than the knives; though the knives may have caused more damage, Thea can't help but think that that was sort of the point. She flings her knives at people because she doesn't want them to come close. The beanbags don't really do that in the same way and the thud as a missile lands home isn't quite enough to make up for the fact that Thea has been deprived of her only defence mechanism.

She mentions this to Adam, one day. He asks her why she needs such a destructive defence system, why she can't just talk diplomatically like the rest of the world does.

Thea loves Adam, she really does, but in moments like that, she almost wonders how they ever ended up together; their viewpoints on the world are not the same. Adam doesn't understand the true nature of the Victory Ground like Thea does, doesn't understand that this place is every man for himself. Family's nice, if you have it, but a Victory Child so rarely still has a family by the time they're conscripted that the sooner a person learns to stand on their own two feet, the better, as far as she's concerned.

She doesn't even need anyone to start her on the fact that Adam's purposefully ignoring the endless number of conflicts that have raged all over the world because people couldn't just talk diplomatically. Perhaps it's hard on him, not growing up on the island, not having the same viewpoints and knowledge base that Thea's accumulated over the years, but that doesn't stop the damning thoughts from firing in her brain. Thea can't help but think that if Conrad Ashbridge had not refused to fight, he might have stood a fighting chance against the armies that were invading, but he didn't. The Ashbridge family is not an aggressive one, choosing to rule only through an interest in what was best for the people.

Thea thinks about Frederick Ashbridge, and what he would think of the beanbags in her hands if he were alive and here to see them. She wonders what sort of a king he would have grown up to be if he'd had a half decent chance at it. She wonders what he'd say to her and her longing for her knives, even if he knew about the Victory Ground's nature, even if he'd heard her best arguments as to why she needs her knives around. Thinking about it, really thinking about it; she's not too sure that Frederick would approve of her demands. Thinking about it, Thea doesn't really approve of her demands either.

Thea makes a compromise between the people around her who encourage peace and those who encourage war. She won't give up her knives entirely; to do so would be to open herself up to attack in a world where the boys around her would take any excuse to rip her down and feed her to the sharks at a moment's notice. Thea can't stoop low enough so that they might creep within reaching difference, that they might get so close that they might grab her coattails and pull her down so that she falls into the rabble below. She will not survive in this place if she does that.

But she won't go on with the same fervour that she did before. That's not how she's going to win the respect of her peer and soldiers when she eventually has them. She's had a childhood of obeying out of fear, highlighted most by that one trip that didn't quite go as Captain Seabury had expected. Though a few of her men will be Victory Ground born and raised, the rest of them will be there due to the mass conscription that sweeps the entire nation. Thea won't allow them to be exposed to a leadership style that they're not used to, one that she knows will only cause dissonance if she doesn't make that tight leash quite tight enough.

Thea moves further away from the person the Victory Ground is trying to make her, and instead moves towards a newer, better version of herself. She doesn't know how much she succeeds, and she doesn't know quite how her approaches will translate once she reaches adulthood, but she figures that she's got over a decade before she even has to worry about that.

She's not happy with the person she is right now, but she's proud of the person that she's becoming.

When she enters the main training hall one day to see beanbags being thrown all around the room, a crate of them in the corner, she can't help but feel a little glad that even though she didn't directly make a difference, she was the catalyst for an action that she hopes will bring some damage control to this weary place, something that will bring them into a new era.

It's in moments like that that Thea remembers why she was so enamoured with Adam in the first place. Even though he may come from a different world entirely, she thinks that perhaps that's what's needed to pull the Victory Ground out of their centuries-old traditions.

She can't say that she would have dealt with things in the same way, but she certainly appreciates Adam's. It shows that fierce originality that she saw in his eyes when he handed the beanbags to her, the same one she saw that first day she met. Thea loves it. She absolutely loves it.

That. That's why they ended up together.