A.N.: Not much to say here. Just a quickie about my favourite character.

She likes mornings, the first sunrays tickling her eyelids before she can sense anything else. Reality starts building up quickly, but there's always that small instant, before she draws in weary smell, before exhaustion and anxiety sink in again, before she remembers the exact reasons why she will get up. Before she feels her sore throat – she's had a sore throat for a couple of weeks now. The instant which makes mornings different and she's learned to appreciate.

The days start earlier for the workers at the mill, but she's glad to have distractions. Mundane conversation washes away the last traces of sleepy dizziness; sometimes she'll drop a casual comment about what she's dreamt. Nothing too concrete – she has other things to keep her worried, but one has to talk about something when there's not much to talk about.

The women's chit-chat never gets too deep. Nobody will ever ask about her family; it's less than she's alone, and more what everyone knows without anybody saying. Not the kind of thing she can discuss if not in hushed, hurried whispers. Said whispers have kept her going sometimes.

It's that and the rare instances – the place has its moments. There's little Ofélia, the being taken away by her fairyland even if it's for a fraction of second, her tales of fauns and pale men, of underground passages where she urges to crawl down in hopes of unveiling secrets she'll rather keep unsaid.

There's rare people who know how and when to listen. Doctor Ferreiro for example. For her, the good doctor is to the people in the mill what mornings are to days. Leaving aside the awful lot he's done to help her cause, risking his life and more, it's a blessing to have him and his medical intuition, kind enough to either retreat or be the shoulder to cry on whenever she can hardly take it anymore. He keeps her down to Earth when she doubts of her sanity. Which she does, a lot.

She doubts of her sanity as she brings the Captain's coffee every morning. Short of scalding, like he'll never get tired of remarking and specifying he dislikes it—
"This coffee is so burnt, Mercedes. I thought I had told you to be careful."
"…yes, sir. I'll make sure it doesn't happen again."
—she's so worn out and it's so obvious, and sometimes, one could actually hear her hatred in the complete silence of that scene.

…only broken by the ticktickticktick of that watch he keeps with an almost fetishist need.

She has seen it; she has also questioned her sanity while watching from her casual position in the shadows, watching as the ticking interrupts a moment of mundane intimacy. Something as casual as Vidal staring from the mirror at Vidal as he shaves, is interrupted by a sound as mechanical and severe as the Captain himself – and it confronts him, absorbs him for full minutes, until he looks away, and she looks away.

She also hates the cut on the mirror because, much like the ticking, it makes him the slightest bit more human. He's still the Captain, Vidal the Military Man, Vidal the Asshole. But he's Vidal with quirks, with his stupid self-hatred, and his stupid watch.

She hates that watch almost as much as he does – neither of them likes Vidal too much, either. Both for the same essential reason that they have seen entirely too much; but the resemblances end here, and neither of them will never even know.

One thing she does know and he doesn't, though. The fact that she, as well, is – hates being – Mercedes the Coward with her own stupid self-hatred, and a knife under the folds of her cloth to go with it. But she hopes, she wishes, that there will be a reason for that to be gone soon, while the watch is not going anywhere.

Meanwhile, he's oblivious to all that. He's the object of her disgust while she's just some woman who can't make a good coffee to save her life.

One that waits.

There's not much more left to do.