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There’s nowhere quiet on this stupid pirate ship. Below the deck’s alight with the cacophony of camaraderie; above’s awash with creaking wood and crashing waves and the same camaraderie, only somewhat muffled. Clicking and smacking and crunching and thudding and NOISE at every turn. What Miriam should have done was lie, say she has a headache and go “hey could you guys keep it down” and turn in early or something, but then that invites questions and concerns and conflict when all she wants is QUIET.

Her legs already carried her halfway up the mast, anyways. Miriam grits her teeth and climbs and resolutely ignores the warped wood scratching her palms and the too-salty air twisting in her throat and the swaying of the ship beneath the rungs. The crow’s nest itself is empty- thankfully- so she tucks herself firmly against the railing and breathes . Closes her eyes, buries her head in her knees. Just breathe . Both hands snake through her hair before firmly latching themselves over her ears. Long breaths, deep breaths. She forces the tension out of her shoulders. Nothing’s wrong, you just got upset over stupid, arbitrary nonsense again. Everything’s fine. Her next breath comes out a little shakier, and she narrowly bites back a groan over how dumb she’s being. LITERALLY nothing’s wrong!-

“Miriam?” Nothing holds back the groan this time. If anyone on this boat would notice her sudden disappearance, it’d be Kiwi. Why wouldn’t they. Maybe if she doesn’t respond they’ll just forget to look for her. Head back below deck to have fun with their real friends-

A feathered cap peaks it’s way into the crow's nest. “Miriam? Are you okay?” She tenses. “…You left in a hurry, so I thought maybe-“

“GGRHRGRRRAAH OF COURSE! OF COURSE YOU’RE HERE!” She throws her arms up in the air, because why not! Now Miriam gets to talk about her pointless little feelings with the loudest and nosiest ‘pirate’ on board! Hey, why not get the rest of the crew in on this heart to heart, really add to the little peanut gallery they’re building up here! But sure! Guess it's time to spill her guts to, of all people, Kiwi!

…Her dear, frustratingly transparent friend Kiwi; who’s watching her with open concern and apprehension and a bit of poorly hidden hurt.

“…Sorry, I didn’t mean that, I just!-“ She growls at nothing in particular and curls tighter into herself, ignoring her friend's gaze like the great person she is. “I just need some quiet. Sorry.”

“…Do you want to be alone?”

Kiwi’s uncharacteristically low volume throws her off enough to not be completely flabbergasted by how her gut answer wasn’t a resounding YES, PLEASE LEAVE. She runs through responses in her head a couple of times before shrugging. “You can go have fun with everyone else. If you want.”

Miriam hears the slight shuffle of cloth without the echo of a creaking ladder. She half-braces herself for Kiwi to start talking, or humming, or drumming, or something oh so typical to the noisy bard; but the only sign they’re even there from the admittedly limited vantage point of her knees is their soft, steady breaths. Breaths that, if Miriam weren’t so frazzled and on edge, she definitely wouldn’t have heard.

Whatever. She hears it now. It's fine. Their breathing is definitely less annoying than all the other noises, at least. There was no consistency with the roar of conversations, or oceans, or wind. Always pushing and pulling and demanding Miriam’s attention at undefined intervals, keeping her on edge. Kiwi’s breathing was steady, as if even in silence they were keeping some invisible tempo. It’s… kinda nice. Calming.

Little by little, tension ebbs. Each sweeping wave feels the smallest bit tamer. Miriam pulls her hands away from where they’d curled over her ears again with a soundless grumble. Brisk ocean winds ruffle her already-ruffled hair, more refreshing than aggravating this time. She straightens out and chances a look over at her companion only to see them transfixed by the stars rather than her embarrassing plight, silent as before. Watches them for a moment longer. “…Don’t know if I’ve ever seen you be quiet for this long.”

The star’s spell was broken instantly. Kiwi swivels back to her absolutely steeped with worry. “Are you feeling better?”

She winces. “Good enough.” Mild headache aside, she really was fine. A little tense, a little tired, but fine nonetheless.

Kiwi scoots a bit closer, nervously studying the wood grain. Visibly gathers their words.

“… Did someone do something to upset you?”

“What! No! Everyone’s been super nice!” And they have been! Sure, Lucas was exhausting to be around and she doesn’t have a good read on Lou at all; but Penny hasn’t seemed to mind their more one-sided conversations, and Francisco was fun to commiserate with. Plus, she gave Nina a ride with her broom that one time, which the small pirate had since gushed about to anyone who would lend an ear her way. Embarrassing. The pirates were definitely more Kiwi’s friends than hers, but she’d found herself actually starting to relax around them this trip. 

“Then what’s wrong?”

Miriam squirms. Almost runs a hand through her hair, but catches herself. Hisses. “It’s just- It’s. It’s stupid, but-“

“No it isn’t!” Kiwi’s indignant cry carries much further than either of them were ready for, and at Miriam’s dull glare they’re kind enough to look at least a little bit sheepish.

“…You don’t even know what it is.”

“Nothing that upsets my very dear friend Miriam is stupid!” They affirm with enviable confidence.

Dork. She rolls her eyes in an almost involuntary manner, then sighs. Keeps her eyes trained to the middle distance.

“…Sometimes, when there’s too many noises, like people talking, or dishes clinking, or furniture shifting, or WHATEVER; it just- it’s too much. Stresses me out like, way more than it should. Been that way since I was little.” The memories of her earlier peculiarities are largely distant and second-hand, something her grandmother occasionally brings up to tease Miriam with; but she herself remembers a solid stretch of time where she dreaded going to the market with Grandma Saphy until she was tall enough to see eye to eye with most anyone there and old enough to go off by herself without much fuss.

“…Yeah?”

She blinks, then shrugs. “Yeah. Have no idea why. When it gets really bad it’s a toss-up as to whether I’ll… cry, or, blow crap up or something, so I just. Find somewhere quiet to cool off.” Miriam looks over to an extremely guilty looking Kiwi and wilts. “And sometimes- you’re a really vocal person and it… I take that out on you. You don’t deserve that. Sorry.”

“It’s okay!”

“It really isn’t, but okay.” She doesn’t fight them. Maybe some other, better night they can work on Kiwi’s weird complexes for a change.

Kiwi looks away. Picks at their gloves. “…Did it get bad tonight?”

“Meh. It’s been worse. It’s pretty loud out here too, which didn’t help, but.” Miriam sighs, more resigned than anxious this time, and leans back against the railing. Traces idly over the still-unfamiliar constellations with her eyes. “I’m fine.”

Her response is met with silence, Kiwi fidgeting in her peripheral.

“Look,” she bristles, “it’s really not that big of a deal! I managed! I’m fine!”

“…Okay.” Kiwi hums, and scoots back to mirror Miriam. “You’d tell me if it got bad though, right?”

“Ugh. I GUESS, if that makes you feel better.”

“It does!” The note of genuine happiness in their voice alleviates some of her creeping self-consciousness, and she listens to their satisfied shuffling as they return to stargazing with her heart notably lighter, if a little wrung out.

Kiwi’s… a good friend.

“…So, Miriam.” They start, hesitant yet optimistic. Miriam, ever fond of her closest friend, mourns the companionable quiet only briefly. “Y’know how I talk in my sleep?”

“Not following this particular segue,” A wry smile inches onto her face. “but go on.”

“Growing up, my mom was a pretty light sleeper. I’d wake her up ALL the time with my sleeptalking- or singing, or whatever it is I do. I never meant to! But, I guess I was bad enough that she went and bought herself earplugs, heh.” They trail off.

Cyan hair scuffs against her cheek as she turns to them. “…Yeah?”

Kiwi brightens and meets her gaze with muted excitement. Or, at least, muted for Kiwi. Their smile is still blinding enough it’s hard to look at, directly. “Yeah! Do you think that could help?”

She scoffs. “What, the earplugs?”

“Mhm!”

“Beats me.” Miriam’s expression feels… heavier. Harder to keep. She looks back at the sky. “Besides, I don’t really need ‘em. Shouldn’t need them. Just need to…” Her mouth twists uncomfortably. “Get over whatever dumb brain thing’s going on.”

A startlingly affronted gasp squawks its way out of Kiwi. “…Do you think my mom just needed to get over not getting sleep??”

“What! No!” Her typical scowl starts to peak itself through. She can see the trap Kiwi’s trying to get her to fall into, and she’s not playing that game. “That’s not the same!”

“Isn’t it?”

“It for sure is not.”

“Why not?”

“I’m different! Your mom’s different! It’s two entirely different issues!”

“How come?”

“…You’re insufferable.”

“Aren’t I?”

“Grrrrggh.” Dang it. She’s smiling despite herself. Miriam runs a hand down her face, but she can tell by the glint in Kiwi’s eyes that she didn’t school her expression fast enough. “…I’ll think about it.”

“Okay!” They sit up, doofy grin front and center.” We can pick some up in Chismest together! I used to grab them for my mom when we went shopping, so I know where to find them, don’t worry. There’s all sorts of different kinds, and different colors, and they’re pretty affordable! At least I think so. I never really paid attention to the price tags, actually. Mom was the one who bought them, but we can ask her-“

Gonna cut them off here, I think. “And if I don’t need them?”

“Then you can just blow them up!”

“…YEAH??” She couldn’t begin to hold back her sudden, barking laugh.

Kiwi’s smile devolves into matching giddy laughter, still breaking through their words as they wave their arms defensively. “You never get to blow things up anymore! You must miss it!”

The two’s snickering flows freely for a moment, then ebbs out with a breezily beleaguered sigh from Miriam. “…You know, I really do.” A yawn escapes from her before she’s quite aware of it herself, and she takes the moment to blink and truly appreciate how heavy her eyelids are.

Between said blinks Kiwi appears to have hoisted themself back to their feet, and turns back to her with their hand held out. “Ready to head back down?”

“In a sec. I’ll probably turn in for the night once I get down there. I’m tired.” She admits, as if it were something to admit, and not something that the two of them were long aware of and simply not acknowledging.

“Sounds good!” Kiwi readjusts their hat and straightens their cloak, once again brimming with some sort of inconceivable energy that Kiwi seems to just, naturally produce. “I’ll let Lou know you’re okay. He was asking about you.”

“…He was?”

“Mhm!”

She blinks. Reassesses. “Huh. Okay.”

Her dearest friend nods and scampers over to the ladder, disappearing beneath before poking back up again. “Good night, Miriam!”

“Good night. And…” Miriam hesitates. Flounders for a second, before landing on a simple- “Thanks.”

Kiwi shoots her a thumbs up and an earnest smile in lieu of a response, and begins their steady descent down the mast. The smile is returned with an unusual ease to the empty crow’s nest, and Miriam closes her eyes to hear the warbling of the settling ship, to taste the tangy gentle breeze, to feel the sturdy weathered wood beneath her; and she breathes.