"I won't have it! I won't! That- that freak here, tainting our son!"
"What if they're watching us?"
"Let them watch! First thing in the morning, before work, I'm taking it to an orphanage!"
Petunia Dursley nodded tightly before heading off to check on her own son, sending one last venomous look at the basket with the sleeping infant.
Vernon Dursley got up earlier than ever that day, the stairs groaning under his feet in protest as he descended and walked into the kitchen for the basket with the squirming baby. He scowled down at the wriggling child, shaking the basket scoldingly. "Now you be quiet, you little burden. I'll have none of your freakishness here."
No one else in the neighborhood was awake yet, and Vernon willingly skipped breakfast to shuffle himself and the tiny wretch he was holding into the car. He went well out of his way to find the orphanage furthest from the house he could get to that wouldn't make him late to work. The sun had barely risen when he opened a wrought iron gate, cursing softly as the rusted metal caught on his suit and delayed him. He set the basket on the front step, the baby inside beginning to whimper in earnest after being ignored for an entire night.
With no doorbell and time pressing on him ever harder, Vernon backed away as the infant's mouth opened and he began to cry. Loud and distressed, the wailing broke the fragile silence of the morning and Vernon fled, closing the gate behind him and retreating to his car. At just after dawn the day after his parents had died, Harry Potter's uncle left him on the doorstep of an orphanage as he drove away, never looking back.
Isria Commings woke to the sound of a baby crying its lungs out. Jerking upright and sleepily stuffing her feet into her house slippers, she motioned her waking husband to go back to sleep. She yawned as she checked the nursery, frowning when none of the children made a peep.
More awake and with dawning realization, she turned from the room and headed downstairs, following the sound of the wailing. With a familiar sinking feeling, she opened the front door and found a basket on the stoop, a squalling, desperately squirming bundle inside.
Isria sighed and knelt down to scoop the child up, holding the babe to her chest and shushing it- him, if the blue blanket meant anything. Tiny hands that had wriggled free from the swaddling waved until they touched her shirt before closing, clinging desperately. Isria felt her heart melt as the babe's desolate wails trailed off into quiet whimpering. She smiled at the small thing and, even with tears in the strikingly vivid green eyes, the baby smiled back, copying her.
With the child tucked into the crook of one arm, Isria grabbed the basket with her free hand and carried both inside, closing the door behind her with her foot. She shushed the baby, upper body rocking slightly in a soothing motion she had practiced many times since she'd first opened her home to unlucky children. A quick, practiced change showed that the new little one was indeed a boy. On the opposite side of the basket she'd set on the dining table, she paused, a pop of color catching her eye from the folds of the blue material. On one corner of the blanket, in warm gold thread, were the initials HJP.
The babe was quiet at last, safe and warm in her arms. Isria idly watched the sun rising with the new baby.
Isria turned to the doorway with a smile. "Good morning, early bird."
Michelle limped to the table, blinking sleepy eyes before focusing on the bundle in the woman's arms. "What-"
"Meet our newest charge."
"What's his -or her?- name?"
"His. And I'm not quite sure yet. There was no note and this is the only hint I have to go on." She pointed to the monogram.
Michelle wiggled in the chair. "Ooh, what are you going to name him, Matron?"
Isria smiled at the young girl before turning her attention to the boy cradled against her chest. She carefully traced her finger near the vivid, branching cut on the baby's forehead. It would probably scar, poor thing, but it wasn't the first child she'd taken in who'd been hurt. HJP. She hummed. "What do you think of 'Haden'?"
Michelle nodded, leaning over in her seat to get a better look at the new baby. "I like it~!" she stage whispered, trying not to wake him up.
"Haden Jason," Isria decided, using her husband's father's name. She'd always liked it. "P-P-P." She popped her lips, trying to think of a suitable last name for the child abandoned on her doorstep in the cold. "Purnell? Persices..."
"Prevail." Michelle squirmed in place when her matron's eyes turned to her. "He- he's going to have a lot to overcome, right? With being an orphan, and that cut. Some of the other kids pick on the ones with scars." She would know, fingers tapping nervously against the mangled flesh that had once been her knee, the leg below it gone.
Isria smiled sorrowfully at the shy girl. "So they do... And that name is very fitting. Welcome to the family, little Haden."
In her arms, Haden Jason Prevail snuggled against her chest in sleep.
"This isn't funny, Misha!"
"I didn't say it was funny, I said it was cute."
The little dark-haired boy's face was so red it hurt, small hands clenched in the hem of the skirt his 'big sister' had forced him into. There were no small girls in the orphanage at the moment, and Haden had been at the exact wrong place at the wrong time when the older girl had been struck with the urge to play dress up with the unused girls' clothes in the attic. The other boys picked on him enough for his scar and without looking like a girl on top of it!
"I hate you so much!"
Michelle hugged him to her chest. "But you're so cute! You look adorable, Haden."
Haden wasn't sure how he did it, but he was sure his faced managed to blush three shades darker. "They'll make fun of me..."
"They make fun of us all the time anyway. I besides, I bet the Eds won't."
Haden hesitated at that. Edward and Edwin were the only ones who didn't make fun of him, really. Well, them and Misha. It had started out with just the usual teasing, mostly about his scar- until the things began happening. When Haden had accidentally run into one of the older boys and spilled juice on him, all the boys old enough to have rooms instead of sleeping in the nursery had chased after him. They'd chased him around the back of the orphanage and Phillip had managed to grab Haden's arm in a bruising grip when it'd happened. He'd wanted- needed to get away, to be anywhere else except in the other boy's hold, and then suddenly he'd been up in the tree in the orphanage's back yard.
In front of a group of no fewer than six older boys, he'd disappeared from the fingers of one of them and somehow ended up in the upper branches of the tree. Haden had waited until they'd left to fetch Matron before carefully climbing down out of the tree. And that hadn't been the only incident of the... whatever it was, happening, either.
When Timothy had stolen Haden's one stuffed animal -they were each given one stuffed toy of their choice- Haden had gotten so upset and angry that he couldn't think and the next thing he'd known, there had been a windstorm in the middle of the nursery. Blankets and pillows had been swept up in the chaos, others' toys whipped about in the storm. It had all ended when the wind had picked up footwear and Timothy had gotten hit in the head with a heavy rain boot. Haden had screamed for Matron and spent the rest of the day hidden under his covers, clutching his stuffed dragon.
Calls of 'scarface' had quickly changed to 'freak'. The little girls -before they'd been adopted- had been terrified of Haden. The older girls avoided him like he was contagious or something, and the older boys... Haden really preferred when they were scared, actually. Fear of what he could do was a safety from whatever they could inflict on him. Only the brothers, Edward and Edwin, and Michelle weren't afraid. Only the two Eds and Misha.
Edward and Edwin thought Haden's outbursts were 'wicked awesome!'. Edward wrote them all down and tried to come up with an explanation for them all.
It proved handy when they began to show signs of the same kind of something that Haden did. Edwin accidentally tripped down the stairs and sat at the bottom, crying with all his might until Haden and Edward got to him, and before their eyes, the bruises and scrapes disappeared. Edward was thrilled, looking around for his journal to write it the incident down in and unable to find it. Comforted that was okay, Edwin helped look. One of the older boys snickered at them and it became obvious they wouldn't find the book. They retreated to the nursery and Edward had thrown himself on his bed, crying tears of frustration.
The crying hadn't lasted long before the anger kicked in and he sat up, fists tight as he walked back and forth in the room and ranted about the stupid, juvenile simpletons they were forced to share a building with. "Bumbling fools can't get their heads around anything more complicated than eating- and they fail at that half the time, too, if Isabel's complaints on washing duty count for anything! Bloody imbeciles!" Angry tears coursed down his cheeks and he'd stopped in the middle of the floor. "I just want my j-journaaal!" On the last, desperate wail, Edward held out his hands, and the book was suddenly in them.
Absolute silence pervaded the room as he looked between the startled gazes of Haden and Edwin, looking back at his journal and cautiously thumbing through the pages. It was the real thing. The three boys had traded awed looks and a silent promise. Tell no one.
They hadn't told anyone how they'd managed to get the journal back, but Edward had held it up mockingly at the dinner table, David's face going purple at the defiant act. Phillip had gone white. "H-how-"
Edward had ignored them all; Haden hadn't, smirking victoriously, mockingly, green eyes alight. Edwin had stubbornly ignored them all and made a quiet comment to his brother. Haden was the one to see the dark look on Timothy's face and knew that war had just been declared.
Haden sighed and went limp in Misha's hold. "Yeah, okay."
The older girl beamed down at him and grabbed her crutch, motioning for him to lead the way and hobbling behind him. Haden pulled open the trapdoor and peeked out of the room, seeing no one in the hallway below. He shuffled down the ladder and called up softly, catching the crutch tossed down to him and waiting as Misha crawled down, watching the odd hop-step she always had to employ. Haden nervously smoothed out the short, ruffly skirt. He shifted in place, the leggings clinging to his legs far closer than any pair of pants ever had.
The nursery was downstairs, which meant there was a greater chance of someone else seeing him, but at least he and the Eds were the only ones in it at the moment.
"Morning, gimpy!" Haden stilled, mortification draining the blood from his face. Oh, please no. Anyone but Tim. Anyone but Tim. "And who have you got with you? New girl?"
Misha dropped the last three rungs and took her crutch from Haden's frozen form, turning scathing blue eyes on Timothy. "What business is it of yours?"
Haden tensed, shoulders pulling in to make him look smaller. He heard the heavy sound of boots against the floor and Misha huffing as she was pushed, stumbling back into the wall. Timothy grabbed Haden's shoulder and turned him around, face going slack in shock and stumbling back himself. Haden's blush renewed itself as Tim stared at him in abject horror that, really, Haden felt far exceeded the actual situation. Tim glanced from him to Misha. "You- What kind of sick freak are you? You dressed him like, like a- You've turned him into a pouf!"
Haden didn't know what that was, but it didn't sound good. He looked back at Misha. "What's a poof?"
"It's a... a boy who likes other boys."
Green eyes blinked. "But... I like Edward and Win."
"Not friendship-like. Kissing like."
Haden frowned. "So... Matron is a pouf because she kisses the girls on the forehead?"
Tim made a strangled noise and looked apoplectic. Misha looked like she was doing her best not to break down giggling. "Not quite. Lip-kissing kind of like. The marrying kind of like."
Tim's expression was one of utter disgust and Haden frowned. "Well, what's wrong with that?"
Misha smirked at the older boy across from her. "Yes, Timothy, tell us, please. What is wrong with that?"
Tim looked at Haden like he was a hideous bug. "Do you actually like dressing like that?"
Well, no, he hadn't particularly. He didn't mind it, really, and it made Misha happy. But that awful tone of voice was the exact same one Phillip had used when he'd said that Haden should cut his hair because it made him look like a- He couldn't recall the exact terminology, but it hadn't been good. Haden replied the same way he had then, glittering green eyes narrowed dangerously. "And what if I do?"
"You disturbed little fuck."
Haden flinched at the venom in the voice, eyes closing on the surprising pain wrenching his chest. It wasn't any different than anything they'd said before really. He carefully swallowed his tears and glowered up at the towering moron. "The only thing disturbing me at the moment is you." Haden made a shooing motion, utterly condescending, and smiled. "Move along, now."
Tim's face darkened thunderously and he took a step toward him, coming up short with a grunt as Misha's crutch landed in the middle of his chest and shoved him back against the wall. Her smile was much meaner -she was the one who'd taught Haden how to do it- "You heard him. Move along."
Unwilling to stand up to the girl with a potential bludgeoning weapon, Tim scowled at them and retreated to his room.
Haden shivered as the effects of the confrontation wore off and left him trembling. He shook his head. Grow up. You already knew they hated you. He jerked when Misha put a hand on his head.
"Are you okay?" Her bright blue eyes shone with concern.
He brushed her off, determined not to show weakness. Misha had only one leg and she never showed any weaknesses. Haden couldn't do less than the girl he considered his sister. "I'm fine. Let's go find the Eds already. I want to get out of this get-up." It'd be stupid of him to walk around with a huge target painted on his forehead just because of the clothes he wore.
Misha sighed and followed him down the stairs. The brothers were in the nursery, Win sprawled out across his bed and reading a storybook while Edward sat on his own bed cross-legged with several notebooks and his journal open around him, blowing golden-blond bangs out of his face. Neither of them bothered looking up since no one bothered them in their sanctuary anyway.
"Hey, Haden, where have you been all morning? I came up with a new theory on the-" Edward trailed off as he finally looked away from his work and caught sight of the black-haired boy. He jumped off the bed and stood at attention, throwing a glare at Misha over Haden's shoulder. "Misha! Why didn't you say we had a new kid?"
Edwin jumped off his bed next to his brother with his normal happy smile. "Hi~! I'm Edwin, nice to meet you!"
Hid half behind Misha's leg, Haden glared balefully at the floor, fingers tight on the material of his sister's pant-leg as he felt a nerve in his cheek twitch. Misha leaned against the door frame, body shaking as she suppressed her laughter.
"And I'm Edwin's big brother, Edward!" Edward puffed out his chest and pointed his thumb at his chest. "So what's your name?"
Haden finally looked up from the floor, unmistakable, furious green eyes glaring at the duo. "It's me, you idiots!"
Edward staggered into his brother's side, burnished eyes almost the color of his hair staring disbelievingly. "H-Haden?!"
Edwin's jaw dropped, whiskey-caramel eyes wide. "You- uh..."
Face feeling like it was going to catch fire, Haden toyed with the hem of his outfit. "Do you, uh, like it?"
Win's mouth snapped closed and he nodded vigorously. "You look really pretty!"
Haden looked up through his bangs at them. "...Really?"
Misha's hand dropped on his head and petted him. "See? I told you so."
The blonde's mind finally kicked back in and he pointed an accusing finger at Misha's face. "You! What did you do to him?! You turned Haden into a girl!"
Biting the inside of his cheek in anger, Haden stalked forward and hit Edward over the head. "I'm not a girl, you- you-" He made an incoherent noise. "I'm not a girl just because I'm wearing a dress!"
Edward didn't even acknowledge the hit, focusing on the older girl still even as Misha smirked, gold eyes clashing with blue. "Matron isn't going to like this."
Matron liked it enough to take pictures. "But Matronnn!"
"Edward, don't whine."
Haden felt like whining himself as he stood on the stool for the best picture angle. "Matron, I'm hungry." He hadn't gotten to eat any breakfast with how early Misha had dragged him up to the attic. Matron handed him a pastry and Haden bit into it with relish. The two females cooed over how cute he was and took another picture.
"But Matron, Haden's a boy and Misha stuffed him in a dress!"
"Haden can wear dresses if he wants to."
Ed turned his attention to Haden finally, golden gaze wary. "Do you want to?"
There was that tone of voice again and Haden felt his shoulders stiffen. He carefully observed Edward from the corner of his eye. "And what if I do? Win says I look pretty like this."
Edward looked away sulkily, cheeks coloring. "I never said you weren't pretty. It's just- it's not normal."
Haden focused on his pastry. "I'm not known for my normalness now."
"Normalcy," Matron quietly corrected, finally putting the camera down and turning back to the stove and whatever she was making for lunch. Haden took the opportunity to sit down on the stool and finish off his snack while Edward looked away and thought about the whole situation.
Finishing the pastry, Haden licked the crumbs from his fingers and turned to Edward. "Would you marry me?"
The spoon Matron was stirring with hit the side of the pot with a loud clang and Misha held up her hands in surrender with a strained smile as she was pinned in place by their mother figure's sharp gaze.
Ed frowned in confusion. "Huh?"
Haden shrugged. "Something one of the older kids said. So would you marry me?"
"I thought you said that wearing a dress doesn't make you a girl."
"So I'd have to be a girl for you to marry me?"
"That's the way it works, doesn't it?"
"Why? If I like another boy and they like me, it's the same thing, right?"
Misha looked frantically between the two of them. "M-Matron, don't you have anything to add to this discussion?"
They all turned to the woman who studiously stirred the soup pot. "It's none of my business who they end up marrying." Her eyes narrowed and she shot Misha a speaking look over the top of the younger kids' heads. "Boy or girl, evidently."
Misha's shoulders dropped and she ducked her head. "Yes, Ma'am."
Haden looked up at Matron. "So we can get married?"
Matron smiled at him. "No, you're both far too young. Whether you will or not isn't up to me. You know I don't influence my children's decisions." That was something they all knew: Matron would answer questions for them if they asked, but she never pushed them towards any one decision. "The person you grow up to be is entirely up to you."
"I'll marry you if Brother won't," Edwin volunteered, looking up from his storybook.
Edward glared at the short brunet. "I never said I wouldn't marry him! Would you stop doing that?! I never said he wasn't pretty and I never said I wouldn't marry him."
"But you didn't say he was pretty and you didn't say you would marry him," Win pointed out.
"I'm still thinking, dammit!"
"Edward," came the mild rebuke.
Ed went rigid and a visible shudder ran up his spine. "Yes, Matron." Matron didn't care if they did curse, because it was something they chose, but she didn't tolerate it around herself.
"So do you think I'm pretty or not?" Haden asked, dragging the conversation back on track.
Edward scrutinized him and he very carefully didn't fidget as Ed circled him, golden eyes taking in the poofy black skirt and the lace petticoats giving it volume, up to the ruffled blouse and the large purple bow holding back his hair. Ed finished his circuit and stood in front of him with his arms crossed contemplatively. "Your outfit is aest- astic- Matronnn!"
Ed nodded. "Aesthetically pleasing." The blonde leaned in close to stare him in the eyes and Haden felt his face heating again. He let a breath of relief when Edward finally stepped back. "I wouldn't not-marry you." Ed scratched the back of his neck. "I mean, it's not like I know anyone else, really, and who knows what will happen by the time we're both old enough, but I definitely wouldn't say no."
Misha caught Haden's gaze over Edward's head and rolled her eyes. "Leave it to Edward to turn a limerick into an epic and give a whole speech when he could have just said yes."
Ed rounded on the older girl. "What was that, you harpy?!"
Misha leaned forward and flicked Edward's nose with a smile. "Didn't you hear me, mon petit?"
"What did you just call me? What does that mean? Hey! Don't ignore me!"
Edwin met Haden's eyes over his book and they shared a grin at the antics of their family.
"PSSST! Misha!" he whisper-yelled. "Misha, please, save me!"
The older girl lifted her head groggily. "Haden?"
"Save me!" he repeated.
"What time is it?"
"Real helpful, Hay. Go back to sleep." Misha covered her head with her pillow.
"Misha, please. Hide me! Ed's doing experimenting again."
"And why is that bad?" came from the pillow.
"...Because Ed was experimenting outside and we accidentally set a bush on fire?"
"Mmm, bush..." There was a two-second delay while Haden flailed helplessly, then Misha sat bolt upright. "Fire?! You set a bush on fire?"
Haden nodded very seriously. "We put it out, but Ed wants to experiment more to see if I can do it again."
Another second. "...It's out. You're absolutely sure you put it out? Completely?"
He nodded again.
Misha flopped back on the bed and covered her face with her arm. "You set. A bush. On fire."
"It was an accident!" He hadn't meant to! It was all Edward's fault, getting frustrated when Haden hadn't been able to do the place-changing thing. All the yelling and arguing and then pushing him into the bush- which was actually really prickly and scratchy and hurty and- and then whoosh, fire everywhere!
He'd thought the windstorm in the nursery had been bad, but it had nothing on the fire! Weird, green fire!
After a moment, Misha winced. "The bush, it wasn't one of Matron's magnolia bushes, was it?"
"No. I think it was Mrs. Smith's begonias."
She pulled her blankets up over her head again with a heartfelt groan.
"Misha. Misha!" She wasn't just going to leave him and go back to sleep, was she?!
She lifted the covers only enough to peek out at him with narrowed eyes. "You're lucky you're cute. You know that, right?" She lifted the blankets and Haden crawled up onto the bed with her. He shivered at the change in temperature and she pulled him close- then shifted back and looked down at him. "...Why are you wet?"
Had he mentioned yet that he'd been on fire? "Bush. Fire," Haden explained. Again.
"Right." Misha yawned and rubbed at her eyes, looking toward the window. Grey pre-dawn light was just beginning to peek through the curtains. "You guys got up in the middle of the night, to experiment with things you have no idea how to control, with no supervision whatsoever?"
Well, it'd seemed like a good idea when Edward first said it.
He buried his face against Misha's chest. "You don't understand." There were so many reasons to try and figure out the things they could do. They were the only ones they'd ever met who could do them, there was no one else to teach them, so they had to figure it out on their own. And beside that, they were alone. They had always been alone, but this connected them. No matter where they went or what they did with their lives, they would always share this- burnt shrubbery and all.
Even more, though, if they could master the things they could do... Haden could go places. He could go anywhere. Edward could call things. He wanted them (well, if he wanted them bad enough) and they appeared. But more than both of them, Edwin could heal. If he could master that, if he could figure out a way for it to work on other people...
Misha could have her leg back. All the people that picked on her, that called her names, they wouldn't mean anything anymore. She would never have to hear them ever again. She'd be able to do anything she wanted without being forced to use a crutch.
So when Edward had appeared at his bedside in the middle of the night with the idea to experiment, Haden had jumped at the chance, had been the one to help convince Win that it was a good idea. There wasn't anything he wouldn't do for Misha. She was the closest thing he had to a sister.
He'd still be out there now if it hadn't gone wrong. If he hadn't-
"Hey. Hey, now, what's wrong?" Misha pet him and Haden realized he was shaking.
He shook his head. "Am I bad?"
"No." Misha didn't hesitate at all. Didn't sound the least bit doubtful. "The flowers will grow back, and you guys are safe."
"I hurt people," he whispered, afraid. He was always messing things up. He'd hurt Tim when he'd gotten upset about having his dragon taken. And when Ed had pushed him into that bush, he'd been so mad, so powerfully angry and he'd, he'd almost-
"Shhh. It's okay." Misha shushed and rocked him while he cried and sobbed.
"I alm-most h-hurt them!" He'd been angry and the green fire had just been there. It hadn't set the bush on fire, he had. It had been him that was on fire, him that the green fire clung to, and the bush had just been in the wrong place, had been touching him. His best friends, and he had almost burned them up like that bush!
Haden shook in her arms. It hadn't seemed so bad at first. The brothers had run and gotten a bucket of water and poured it over him and the bush both. Edward had seen it as a success. They'd managed to do something (not what they'd intended, but still, something!) and he'd been more than willing to keep going, but-
"Win's afraid of me." It hadn't been long, really, but he'd seen it, the look in his eyes, the flinch when Haden turned toward him, as unthreatening as a soaking wet and cold child could be. And Edwin had flinched.
So no, Haden didn't want to experiment any more right then.
Misha sighed and sat up, pulling him fully onto her lap. "I'll bet you two nights' desserts that you're wrong. I don't know if you know this or not, but you aren't exactly the most intimidating person in the world. Or the house. You're not even the scariest person in this bed right now."
He let out a hiccuping, sniffly laugh. Haden cried until he couldn't. Until his nose was too stuffed up to breathe through and Misha's shirt was almost as damp as he was. "Sorry."
He didn't struggle when Misha shifted them to the edge of the bed. "Come on. You're still all wet and you'll get a cold if we don't take care of you. Up now. Go sit at the desk and I'll be right back."
Haden bit the inside of his cheek and nodded, shivering in the cold. He felt cold in his chest, too. He shouldn't have bugged Misha in the first place. He was being a baby. Worse, he was being weak. He sat at the desk and covered his head with his arms, hiding himself in the darkness there. His cheeks hurt and his eyes hurt and his nose was sore and his head thumped and made him dig his fingers into the painful spot.
Stupid, stupid, stupid! You're ruining things again! Tim's right, all you ever do is mess things up.
He jerked when something soft and fluffy was thrown over his head. "Your hair is a mess," Misha said from above, gently pulling him upright so she could properly dry it.
"It's always a mess," Haden mumble-protested as she put strength into the effort, the entire world made of flashes of white and gray as she tried to drown him with the towel.
Misha pulled him back and lifted the towel for just long enough to give him a stern look that didn't look stern at all. "No excuses!" Rub-rub-rub.
"Mi- Mish- Misha! Misha, you're smoff-smotehr- Misha!"
She paused again and let him breathe. "I'm what?"
Haden spit out the towel that kept creeping into his mouth. "Smothering me!"
She let the towel settle down around his shoulders and leaned over him, wrapping him in a hug and resting her chin on his head. "You look cute smothered. And in a dress. And soaking wet begging for help at my bedside. Probably look cute setting fire to helpless plants, too."
Misha quieted him by wiping off his face with the ends of the towel and kissing his forehead. "You're my Haden. No matter what happens or what you do, you'll always be my Haden."
"I-" His voice broke and he felt like crying again. He didn't have anything he could say to that.
With one last kiss, Misha pulled away, grabbed her hairbrush -the dark-wood one that Matron had given her for her birthday- and set to work on untangling his hair. Haden crossed his arms on the desk and rested his chin on them, leaning into the gentle brushing. Misha was the best at brushing hair, she never pulled ever and she didn't rush. She'd done it for the other, younger girls when they'd been there. (Haden was glad they were gone now and he didn't have to share her anymore.)
The sun was just beginning to color the sky pink through the curtains when Misha finished with his hair. She went to pull it back into a tail and Haden stopped her. "No- I don't-"
"My bangs. I like them down." He hated people staring at his scar. And they always did unless he hid it with his hair.
Misha hummed in thought. Slowly, she spoke. "I still have that purple ribbon from yesterday. Would you like me to pull your hair back with a bow like I did then?" She'd only pulled back the sides of his hair and the back to keep it from falling forward into his face, leaving his bangs free to cover his forehead.
A little bit of tugging and it was done. "It'll be okay," she promised him. Haden nodded helplessly and Misha patted his shoulders. "Well, that's your hair taken care of, but I don't know what we're going to do about clothes for you. Nothing of mine would fit. Even my smallest shirt would probably fall right off you."
Clothes meant going back down to the nursery. Meant probably facing Edwin again.
"Do you... still have the dress? From before?"
"I thought you didn't like wearing girls' clothes." He hadn't said that, exactly. He just didn't like being picked on for wearing girls' clothes.
Haden didn't complain as she helped him get out of his wet clothes and dressed him. The dress still felt awkward, but it was... better. It didn't bother him when there was no one around to make fun of him, and Misha would never do that- well, she wouldn't make fun of his clothes, especially when they were originally her idea. The black leggings were changed for white stockings, and he liked those better, too.
"Do I look weird?"
"I don't think so, but then, I'm not in the same situation. You tell me." She leaned on Haden to help get them both in front of the antique standing mirror.
The wooden frame was old but intricate and well cared-for. It had been Matron's, once upon a time, before she'd gotten married. Misha'd found it in the attic and gotten Matron's permission to use it. It was beautiful, and more than large enough to fit both their reflections comfortably within the frame.
Haden's heart thumped painfully at the image.
Two pairs of eyes, one green and one blue, from faces not so different- the childish roundness of Haden's face mimicking the feminine fullness of Misha's. Their hair was uniformly dark in the predawn light, their skin tones close in color. Even their clothing looked like it'd come from the same closet, black with frilled edges. They looked-
"We look like sisters," Misha murmured, arms crossing in front of Haden's collarbones and pulling him back against her affectionately.
It hurt to hear. It hurt so much because he wanted that so badly- more than anything. "I wish you were my real sister." The words came out broken and hoarse.
He envied Ed and Win. They had no idea how lucky they were to be here together. It wasn't fair, and it probably wasn't right since they'd lost their mom, but- But they had each other. That was more than Haden had. More than he'd ever had. Maybe they didn't have parents anymore, but they were still a family.
Family. All of them in the orphanage spent their time wishing for that, for family to love them. Someplace to belong. Somewhere they would always be welcome. A home.
"Who says I'm not your sister?"
He looked away from the mirror. It hurt to look into her bright blue eyes too long. "You know what I mean."
Misha raised her head slightly and held a finger against her chin. "Hmm..." Then she shook her head. "Nope. I was there when you first came in. I watched your first steps. Your first word was 'Mish'. If we're not siblings, then no one anywhere is. You're my Haden and I'm your Misha. I love you."
Haden covered his face with his hands and pressed hard on his eyes so he wouldn't start crying again. "Love you," he choked out.
She was right about one thing, she was his Misha. Misha had always been special.
Like Matron. There was Matron and Misha and the Eds and- that was it, really. Haden didn't like people, but they were special. Maybe Sid, too, but Matron's husband wasn't around often enough to really count. He was nice, though. The biggest person Haden had ever seen, and yet probably the quietest, but quiet didn't bother him much. Edwin was quiet, too.
"...You really don't think Win is afraid of me?"
"I think all three of you had a close call and are probably a little upset and trigger-shy at the moment."
"Ed is too oblivious to be bothered by something so trivial as potentially setting the house on fire."
Haden's snort caught him by surprise and he covered his mouth to keep from laughing too loud. That sounded exactly like Edward.