Feferi regarded him with a smile as she effortlessly, gracefully floated over to the stool in front of Eridan's seat. Then then turned and sat down, her hair slowly settling down in weightless curls down her back moments later. Eridan felt his hands go cold, and his face grew warm, and he had to pause and clench his fists before he could reach over to the fuchsia-tinted coral vanity, where an expertly-crafted ivory brush sat, the handle shimmering in the slight current coming in through the open castle window.
He picked it up, and it was weighty in his hand. His grip tightened, and he looked again at the long tresses of raven-black hair awaiting him. Were it anybody else, he would consider this sort of meaningless busywork so far beneath him as to not even be a thing that exists (kind of like magic, even though he enjoys the thought of it. In a way, that makes it even more relevant to the comparison.)
But when Feferi shifts, and her hair swishes around and settles down more, Eridan's collapsing and expanding bladder based aquatic vascular system kind of just seizes up with the thought that he's about to actually touch her, and it doesn't seem to start back up until he reaches out and slides his hand under that waterfall of curls until he has a respectable amount of her hair in his hand.
He tries to drag the brush through the first layer, but it immediately gets caught. Eridan hisses under his breath and asks, "Wwhen's the last time somebody's brushed it?"
He can practically hear Feferi smile as she hums. "Oh, I don't reely think anyfish but you wants to, Eridan!"
Eridan ducks his head down and snarls as he pulls the brush out and tries again. The issue could be solved much more easily if she would just get a respectable handmaid or two, but the Heir Apparent doesn't believe in servants, in forcing lowbloods to do anything they don't want to. So she waits until Eridan all but forces it upon her, because she cares about as much as any mud-wallowing savage land dweller would.
It's part of what he does as a moirail, he supposes. And if he sometimes holds up some of the hair just high enough to lean forward and covertly smell it, or he pretends that she's shifting too much (even though she's almost supernaturally good at holding as still as a rock on the bottom of the ocean,) and places a hand on one nearly-bare shoulder in order to get her to, "Stop movvin', already!"
Well, what's the harm?
Especially since all Fef does is just giggle, say "Saury!" and then toss him a look back, before turning away to face forward again. So Eridan keeps brushing her hair, and this time he actually sets to grooming. It's been a while this time, and he reminds himself to keep up on it more diligently in the future. It's no wonder he pities her so.
When he gets to the scalp of the chunk he's working on, he even finds bits of seaweed tangled in, and for as easily as she pulls the look off, it's still no good for her hair, so he plucks them out. She'll have just as much back in there in a week, he's sure of it.
Feferi hums and starts to run her fingers through the now-manageable bit of hair as she turns so that he has easier access to the other, unbrushed side. He can see her face in profile now. Her eyes are closed, and he gets just the tiniest bit distracted simply staring at her, his hands moving methodically as he basks in her presence.
She smiles softly once he works through the worst tangles and it starts to actually feel nice, and he immediately finds himself stricken by rows - multiple rows - of razor sharp teeth, all perfectly aligned and sized. Her ear fins flare, and her gills flutter, as she sucks in the air for a contented sigh.
Her eyes - larger than normal because she's supposed to, by her birthright, be near the very bottom of the ocean where it's darkest - flutter open once he's finished, and Eridan immediately averts his gaze, even though he knows she won't be offended by his unnobletrolly behavior. She peers at him, almost knowingly, and Eridan glubs under his breath and ducks his head down lower, pretending not to notice.
"I could FEEL you staring, Erifin!" she announces, and Eridan can feel his cheeks coloring themselves purple with shame. "Is there something on my face?"
"N-" Eridan starts, then pauses and glanced back up, scanning her face quickly before he spies a single speck of sand on her cheek, "Yes!" he corrects himself, and dares to reach up and swipe his fingers over the ridge of her cheekbone to sweep away a grain so small it may as well been imaginary. Kind of like the magic he dabbles in. Or the hope he's still holding on to, like a piece of flotsam in the hurricane that is his feelings for the to-be Empress.
"You're such a good moirail!" she says happily, smiling down at him, and Eridan smiles back, and if she notices that it's forced, she doesn't comment.
"So are you," Eridan replies, and forces the smile wider, until it hurts a little. "The best," he adds on, mostly trying to convince himself. She then squeals happily and lunges forward, capturing Eridan in a tight hug.
As much as he wants to pretend otherwise, Eridan's first instinct isn't to pull away, or to claw and bite at any bare flesh. With any other troll it would be, but with Fef his first reaction is to press into the embrace just as eagerly, his circulatory bladder swelling as he presses his nose into her neck and inhales. Her hair sluggishly moves to encircle them as if it has a mind of its own. It feels like tentacles cocooning them, like the Horrorterrors are transporting them to their own personal haven.
And if he pretends hard enough, (he's good at pretending, almost as good as Tavros, at least when he's alone in his room, with a wand in hand and dressed in full FLARP ensemble,) he can almost convince himself that this isn't just Fef being her usual overly-affectionate self toward a good friend, that her feelings aren't as pale as they come. In his mind, he's almost got himself convinced that she's waxing as red for him as he is for her, and that this is her way of showing it.
Then she says, "I hope nothing ever changes between us, glub!"
"It... probably wwon't," Eridan mumbles into her soft gray skin, and he knows he can't shake like his body wants to when they're this close.