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a cage for your own bird

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There’s something so nice about doing the laundry-- the boys will whine and moan when Titania asks them for help, but Mist loves it in a way she can’t really describe. She and Titania will sit across from each other, not needing to speak, not needing to think beyond the little space they make for themselves behind the fort.

Some days, Rhys seems like the only boy in the company who doesn’t cause chaos that Father and Titania will have to clean up. Titania’s always understood Mist in a way not even Ike or Father could, so she appreciates this time they get together.

Titania stops wringing out one of Soren’s older robes (threadbare, but beneath the grass and mud stains it looks sort of like one of Rhys' robes) to frown at Mist when she says all this. It’s late in the afternoon, and Titania had made an offhand comment about how eager Mist always is to help.

She sighs, plunging Soren’s robe back into her bucket to scrub at it again. “I’m sorry if you feel that way, Mist.”

Mist frowns. “What do you mean?”

“You, um…” Titania grimaces, a look Mist isn't used to seeing on her. “You don’t seem to be friends with a lot of girls your age, Mist. If you ever want me to, I can try introducing you to some the next time we go into town.”

Mist wrings out one of Ike’s ratty capes before setting it aside. She hadn’t really considered it. “I’m not lonely,” she says.

“That’s good. If you ever get tired of playing with the boys, though, you can let me know.”

“It’s not that. I, um, have friends outside the mercenary company too.”

Mist hears the sound of scrubbing quiet down, and when she looks up Titania is looking back at her, head tilted with a little smile.

“You didn’t tell me you made a new friend, Mist! Do I know them? You can indulge this old lady with some gossip more often, you know.”

Mist grins back. “You’re only thirty-four!”

“Hmm…”

Mist giggles. One of her dresses joins the basket. From the dry basket, she fishes out one of Oscar’s favourite shirts stained with something like cooking oil and gets to work.

“But in all seriousness,” Titania says, carefully inspecting what's left of Soren’s robe. “I’m glad you were able to make more friends your age. What are they like?”

“I don’t really know if they’re my age. Actually, um…”

“Hm? What is it?”

“...Promise you won’t laugh?”

Titania looks up again, letting her forearms rest against the edge of her bucket. “Of course I won’t laugh, Mist. You can tell me anything.”

Mist lets Oscar’s shirt sink to the bottom of her bucket. She swishes it around with one hand and watches the colourful fabric swirl around.

“Ever since I was little, I’d have these dreams... I’m always standing in a big field of wildflowers that stretches past the horizon. And for as long as I’ve had those dreams, I haven’t been lonely, because my friend was always there with me.

She always sings and dances and tells me stories before I wake up. At first she didn’t really look like anything, just this voice that sang to me while I sat in that field. But after a while, she started to look just like…” like me. “...Like a little girl.”

Sometimes the girl will tell her stories of incredible warriors wielding twin blades, of beautiful beasts and dragons, of songs sung by a sad and lonely man to keep track of the days passing. They're beautiful, even if Mist can't really remember them upon waking. These are the days Mist wakes up feeling warm from the inside out, like someone has held her heart close for a long time.

Sometimes, though, the girl sings of terrible fires and a forest burnt to ashes. A pale and emaciated woman barely visible under a raggedy blanket, locked in a room littered with feathers. And, just once, a murderous glint in her father’s eyes.

But the girl is kind, Mist thinks. She has to be. She always keeps Mist company when she feels lonely. And the girl always seems so lonely too, with her eyes looking into the distance like she expects someone to come.

So Mist likes singing with her. She sings her mother’s old lullaby whenever they meet, and the voice sings back with her long hair flowing in the breeze as if she doesn’t have a care in the world.

Mist doesn’t say any of this out loud. Titania gives her the same look she gives the budgets or rusty weapons sometimes before sighing quietly, and Mist knows she doesn’t believe her.

“I’m being honest,” Mist whines.

“I know you are. That’s just… not what I expected," Titania says.

Titania’s never been patronizing with Mist before, so she can’t really get mad at her for not believing it. It’s frustrating, even if she means well. Mist picks Oscar’s shirt back up and gets back to work.

“Just know my offer still stands, okay?" Titania says. "I can take you into town the next time we need supplies.”

“I know. Thank you, Titania.”

Mist feels Titania’s eyes on her for a moment, then hears her toss Soren’s robe into the basket.

“You’re very welcome,” she says.