Fandom: Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn
Word Count: 1,101
Prompt: 1 Beauty provoketh thieves sooner than gold - As you like it
Summary: Titania hires Heather for a job.
Note: Belated holiday exchange gift for Bonnefois. I really hope you enjoy this! Thank you to Phrenotobe for previewing it.
“Oh, horse dung!” Keeping her face smooth, Titania reaches to untangle the fabric. In an instant Heather’s scowl transforms into a wide smile.
“What a pleasure, Dame Titania,” she says as if they’d come across each other in a tearoom. It doesn’t surprise Titania that someone with Heather’s abilities found out about her past, but it stings to be addressed as anything but a mercenary when treating with thieves.
“A pleasure indeed,” Titania says. “You brought what I asked?”
“All business, huh? I can’t say I mind that in a woman.” Titania stares at her evenly, and Heather’s smile drops as she pulls folded paper from her belt. Titania pockets it without unfolding it. “Aren’t you going to check it?”
“No. I trust everything I asked for is there. I’m sure we’ll be having another word if it isn’t.”
Heather tosses her head, leaves falling from her hair. “Oh, it’s there. It just worries me to see you trusting in thieves. What if some man swindled you?”
“I can’t imagine anyone would take this job for their own gain. We can’t afford to pay you as much as the risk involved in information gathering warrants.”
It takes all of Titania’s willpower not to twitch her hand toward the paper. Guiltily she thinks of Mist, who she left picking wildflowers by the lake, none the wiser about Titania’s dealings. The forest almost sheltered them from everything that’s happened since Mist’s youth, but Mist’s hair draped in a loose ponytail over her back, and she hummed an unfamiliar tune.
Even Greil had dealings with worse than thieves. Neither he nor Ike had thought to tell Titania.
“I just wanted to help out,” Heather says. “Honest!” Titania strokes the top of her braid, which weighs down her neck. “I have to admit, I hadn’t expected one in your line of work to be so charitable.”
“You wound me, Dame Titania. You won’t find a more charitable lady around! Unless you take a gander at your reflection, of course.”
“My apologies. As you suggested, some skepticism is healthy.” These days, she has to provide her own share of it. When she first hired Heather to gather information, she doubted Heather would resist some thieving on the job, considering the low fee. She doesn’t ask if that’s the case.
Business has distracted her, but she realizes now that she’s still standing close from when she freed Heather’s cape, practically cornering her as Heather’s back is pressed against the trunk. Heather doesn’t seem to mind, considering she’s folded her arms behind her head like this is a natural place to lounge. It makes her hair splay against the bark and accentuates the muscles of her arms. What would it be like to spar against her?
The forest seems as humid as those in Gallia. Titania steps back, ashamed at her lack of decorum, even as an employer in these circumstances.
Heather drops her arms and leans forward. “If you must know, I mostly took this job because I like helping beautiful ladies. Especially lady knights.”
“You were mistaken,” Titania says, keeping her gaze steady despite her hot cheeks. “I’m only a mercenary.”
“Even better. You can be less…fussy about your affairs.”
Her hand creeps around Titania’s back. Titania moves in an instant, grabbing Heather’s arms and turning her around, forcing them behind her.
“If you’re after anything else, I suggest you say so,” Titania says. “Otherwise, I think our business is complete.”
As she checks Heather’s hands, she feels something soft spread against her neck. Realization strikes before she can whirl: Heather has palmed the band that held Titania’s braid.
“I take it back,” Heather says. “You’re the fussiest. I wasn’t going to keep it.”
Releasing Heather, Titania takes the band and pockets it alongside the paper, which she’d momentarily forgotten. Her cheeks haven’t cooled. “I apologize for my roughness,” she says while Heather rubs her wrists. “But without knowing your motives, I can only be cautious.”
“If you must know, Ma’s sick,” Heather mumbles. “Medicine doesn’t buy itself. You might be a cheapskate, but you’re not as disgusting as other employers. I thought we could arrange a steadier deal.”
Thinking of Rhys, Titania softens. “I’m sorry. I had no idea.”
“Of course you didn’t. Who cares where a rat’s pay goes?”
“Still, I feel I’ve taken advantage of you. If I’d known you needed the money…” Come to think of it, the jewel she’d seen at Heather’s throat at their last meeting is absent, probably already sold.
“The deal is done. I won’t be pitied now.”
“Understood. I’m sure I’ll need you for another job. In the meantime, will you at least join us for supper? Mist is quite the cook.”
Heather tosses her head, her smile returning as she looks over her shoulder. “I’d never turn down food with a pair of lovely gals.”
On the walk back, Heather moves silently, making Titania aware of the leaves crunching beneath her own feet. She wonders if the retreat would be a better place for a sick mother than wherever Heather lives now, but that’s a topic to be broached later.
Having run out of distractions, she takes out the paper and unfolds it with a slight shake in her hands. Her eyes devour its contents. Immediately her shoulders relax, though she rereads the report like a plant trying to suck nutrients from dry soil.
“You know,” Heather says, startling her, “if a guy slips off, and you need a spy to locate him…”
“I know.” Titania pockets the paper again, aware Heather won’t forget her lapse in composure. “I just had to know they were safe.”
“Now that that’s settled, why don’t you worry about your own safety? You did invite a thief into your home.”
With the source of her tension done, it’s Titania’s turn for a teasing smile. “A thief who’s after pretty women and money for medicine—and will be assured of both if she doesn’t tarnish our trust.”
Despite the promise, Heather scowls. “Right on the mark, Dame Titania. Have you thought about a second career switch?”
“I’m satisfied where I am, thanks,” Titania says, collecting herself before stepping into the clearing.
She only realizes once the sun is warming her face that her braid is still coming undone behind her.