"My hair's getting reely long."
Jade looks up from her thesis. She blinks hard, eyes tired from staring so long between her research and the glow of the computer screen.
"It is pretty long." She croaks, clearing her throat. Jeez, how long had it been since she said something? A glance at the clock tells her it's been maybe two hours. The joys of working towards ones masters: losing all your time to work. She wipes her face and snaps the laptop closed, shoving her research off her lap. "It looks nice. I like it like this."
"It needs to be cut." It's a hard statement. Feferi combs her fingers through her scalp and frowns heavily at her reflection. It is not an image she likes at all.
Jade stands and dusts dorito crumbs from her skirt. She stretches, feeling her spine snap in that comfortable way that happens after being hunched over for so long. She moves to stand behind Feferi at the vanity, draping her arms over her shoulders and nuzzling her nose against the skin just above a facial fin. "I don't think you've ever cut it in the whole time I've known you, Fef-fish! Sure we can do that if you don't like it, but what's up?"
Feferi's frown had lessened at the contact from her matesprit, but returned with the question. She watches Jade's tired smile in the mirror, smoothing out the wrinkles in her skirt with frustrated sweeps of her hands. She can't bring herself to tell the truth right now. Not when Jade looks so worn. She had been working all day on her thesis. She had only eaten when Feferi had demanded to know what would be acceptable nourishment, made it for her, delivered it, and watched while she had scarfed it down. "It's starting to make it hard to swim. It keeps catching around my feet."
“You can't just tie it back any more?” Jade tangles her hands in it.
"Oh. Okay." Jade is so tired that she doesn't even seem to question the answer, doesn't seem notice Feferi's fingers twisting and smoothing her skirt. She feels a pang of pity and sighs.
"You look like shit," She says fondly, twisting in the chair to bump her nose against Jade's. It causes the hands in her hair to pull a little, but it's not enough to hurt. "What do you want to do for dinner? I could cook, or there's leftover casserole, or we could order in..."
Jade smiles and kisses her softly. "How about we go out tonight?"
"Are you shore? You look exhausted."
"And you're upset and lying to me, but you're making fish puns so it can't be that bad! I'm tired, but I want to go out. I'm not that tired."
"Fair enough." Feferi acquiesces. "Do you want to shower first?"
Jade straightens up and thinks about that for a minute. "Yeah," she says. "I feel like I'm covered in sweat and dorito powder.” She pauses to drink in her matesprit's face, still sharp and wrong at the edges of her expression despite her smile. Something is seriously bothering her. “Can you join me?"
Jade presses a kiss to the top of her head and then steps away, shrugging off her jacket and tugging at her shirt. She tosses her clothes in the hamper, getting more on the floor than in it. She shrugs her bra and underwear off at the en-suit door, flinging them at the bed to wear again later, and slips inside.
Feferi follows, taking her time. The water is already running when she steps inside, clicking the door closed behind her.
Their bathroom is absolutely huge. The shower takes up a good five feet and has three heads evenly spaced, and two drains. The sink is set in a granite-topped vanity, with cupboards and draws beneath it and a large mirror above. The wall tiles are patterned with little fish and stars on pale green, with wall paint to match. There are heat lights set in the roof above the sink, and Feferi revels in the warmth on her naked skin. The bathroom is her favourite part of the house. It's warm and welcoming and smells faintly of salt. The bathroom is split with a glass wall, on the other side of which is a small, deep pool. The scent comes in under the glass door. They had tried to block it out as much as possible, and while it seeps into the bathroom it doesn't stretch to the bedroom, and that is all that matters.
She avoids looking at the mirror as she slides the shower door open and steps into the warm spray. Jade is standing under the centre shower head, facing up into the spray with her eyes closed. Again Feferi is struck by pity, can feel it warming her from her head to her toes, and moves over to wrap her arms around the soft, warm, delicate wet thing that she is so flushed for. She rests her hands at the bottom of the curve of her belly, and presses her nose into the hair at the back of her neck. Jade covers her hands with her own. “Hey Fef.”
“Hey.” Feferi shuffles her feet, trying to squeeze herself closer.
“Can you wash my hair?”
“If you want.” It's not an unusual request. Jade asks about once a week, and Feferi doesn't mind at all.
Jade chuckles. “You do my hair, I'll do the rest of me, and we can be done in half the time and go get dinner. I'm starving!”
“Not glubbing surprising!” Feferi admonishes as she reaches for Jade's shampoo. It's made from seaweed and it reminds her of home. Regardless of what Jade says she knows that's why she buys it. “You've only eaten one sandwich today and you've been awake since this morning.”
“I had a whole bag of doritos too,” Jade protests.
“That is not enough and you know it!” They fall into companionable silence. She squeezes a blob of the shampoo into her palm and rubs her hands together before gently massaging it through Jade's hair. The scent of seaweed and oranges rises, and Jade hums in pleasure at the pressure against her scalp. Feferi combs her fingers through the long hair, methodical and gentle. It's soft and fine, at least compared to her own and she frowns again, purposefully not shifting her feet away from where her dark hair coils wetly on the tile. Jade would certainly notice and might ask questions. She'll deal with it later. Not now.
She pulls Jade's head back under the water, tilting it backwards and cupping a hand against her forehead to stop the soap dripping into her eyes. She rinses it thoroughly with her spare hand. When she finishes, she moves to reach for the conditioner but Jade grabs her instead. She holds Feferi's gaze and presses a kiss to the heel of her palm before letting go. “Will you tell me what's wrong over dinner, Fef?”
“Shore,” she reluctantly agrees as she grabs for the conditioner.
When the water is turned off Jade wrings out her own hair and wraps it in a towel before batting Feferi's hands away and wringing hers out for her. It takes a while to squeeze most of the water out but when she's done with the last section the first is almost completely dry. Jade laughs, the same as she does every time. She doesn't remove her hands from the damp tangles, instead nuzzling her face against it. “Troll hair is so cool! I wish it wasn't so late so I could brush it. So cool.”
Feferi rolls her eyes and pushes a towel at her. “I know, I know. Maybe you can after dinner. Come on, hurry up.”
They dress quickly. Jade is ready first, and spends her time making faces in an attempt to coax Feferi into laughing, playing with her hair, putting it up so it doesn't trail on the floor. She gets one giggle for a particularly awful face and a smile that stays. She counts that as a solid win. The smile falters when Feferi goes to put on her jewellery, and suddenly Jade realises what's wrong. Feferi only gets on her circlet before Jade grabs her hand and drags her towards the door. “Jade, what—”
“Shoosh,” Jade tells her, twining their fingers together. She pauses only to grab her purse before pushing Feferi out the door and into the car. “Alternian, Earth, or fusion?”
“You're the one who hasn't eaten all day, you pick.”
“Fusion it is.”
The restaurant is only a few minutes away and they frequent often enough that they order as soon as they're seated. No need for menus, Jade declares. She just wants their favourites.
As soon as the waiter, a grouchy young troll with his shirt untucked at the back, has slouched off towards the kitchen Jade captures Feferi's hands in hers across the table. “Alright, this is now officially dinner and you are honour bound to tell me what's really wrong! Except I think I already know.”
“Of course you do.” Feferi rolls her eyes. “For cods sake, I'm just not allowed to kelp any secrets.”
“Yep, there's no hiding anyfin from me Angelfish.” Jade grins and kisses one of her fingertips.
“Whale, come on then. Tell me my own secrets, smartypants.”
“First you have to promise no fish puns.” Feferi pouts and Jade laughs. “Come on, don't be such a wiggler. Serious conversations. No fish puns allowed!”
“Fine.” Feferi concedes.
“Good,” she says. Straight to the point then. You want to cut your hair because you think you're starting to look too much like the Condesce and it's bothering you.”
Feferi sighs. “She was— awful. The most horrible, cruel thing. I don't want to resemble her in any way.”
“I know Fef.” Jade strokes her knuckles firmly before tugging at her. “Here, lean over for a second.” When Feferi complies, Jade bumps their foreheads together and stays there. “You are absolutely nothing like her at all, okay? Not even a little! And you never will be. You know that. You've known that since before you were even six sweeps old.”
“Yeah.” Feferi mutters. “Yeah, okay. But I still want to cut it I think.”
“We can do that when we get home, if you want! I'm shore I have some sharp enough scissors somewhere.”
“Was that a fish pun?”
“It might've been... If that's all that's bothering you and our serious conversation is over?”
Feferi laughs. “So it was a fish pun then.”
“Yes!” Jade laughs too. “That was an easy conversation, see? I don't know why you didn't just tell me earlier.”
“You were just so tired and out of it,” Feferi says, dropping a kiss on her nose. “I didn't want to bother you till you'd rested some.”
“Just tell me next time!” Jade returns a nose kiss of her own before pulling away just in time for their waiter to return with their food. “No matter how tired I am, okay?”
They eat in relative silence, making jokes occasionally and playing footsie under the table. Jade snatches prawns out of Feferi's dish and refuses to be held off with cutlery. Feferi considers telling her what hair cutting was like on Alternia. About never trusting someone else with a sharp implement to stand behind you. The need to cut your hair yourself, or have a lusus who could do it, or simply leave it if you couldn't or didn't. Or a red quadrant filled with someone you trusted implicitly. How the twelve of them still don't trust the hairdressers of their new planet. She decides against it, in the end. Maybe another day.
It doesn't really matter after all. Jade could stand behind her with enough weapons to fight an army and she wouldn't be concerned in the slightest. She smiles to herself, feeling warm with pity.
Then Jade tries to steal another one of her prawns and she squawks indignantly.
It doesn't take them long to finish— Jade had not been kidding about how hungry she'd been— and they're in the car on the way home again. Jade sighs in contentment. “That was so tasty! But I'm exhausted now. I'm gonna go to bed when we get home, I think. After we cut your hair. What about you?”
“Sleep sounds good,” Feferi agrees as they pull into the driveway.
They stumble up the steps sleepily, and Jade tries her hardest not to giggle when Feferi has trouble getting the keys in the door. She even holds it in when Feferi catches her horns on the door frame.
High ceilings are one thing, but the front door still isn't quite large enough. They make their way upstairs to their bedroom and Jade disappears to brush her teeth while Feferi cleans her work off the bed where she left it. While she waits for Jade to finish, Feferi fiddles with her hair. She's never cut it in her whole life. As royalty, she wasn't supposed to.
But things are different now.
“I found the scissors!” Jade calls, sticking her head out of the bathroom. “If you bring the chair in here we can get this over and done with.”
Feferi grabs the chair from in front of the vanity in carries it in with only a touch of trepidation. Jade takes it from her and places it in front of the mirror, motioning for her to sit. She places a towel around her shoulders. “To help keep most of the hair from sticking in your clothes,” she says. “Now. How short do you want it?”
Feferi hesitates. She hadn't thought about this at all, and she says as much. Jade thoughtfully taps her hand against her chin.
“Well, let's start by cutting it so it ends about where mine does,” she suggests. Feferi nods. “Alright then, here we go...”
Feferi braces herself, squeezing her eyes closed and clutching the towel tightly at her collarbone. There's a sharp noise, like a knife through paper, and suddenly her head feels a lot lighter. She looks down and takes in the limp coils of hair lying lifeless on the tile, then looks up at her reflection in the mirror. All she can see is from her shoulders upwards, so she gets to her feet. Her hair ends in a crooked line at her tail-bone and... It doesn't look too bad. But there are still echoes of the Condesce there.
“What do you think? Jade asks.
“I think,” she says, swishing her hair around experimentally. “I think I want it shorter.”
“Are you sure?” Jade doesn't sound like she really likes this idea, but Feferi nods and sits down again. Yes. Shorter. “By how much?”
“Middle of my back,” she decides after a moment.
“Okay...” Jade says, but however reluctant she is, she cuts again. “How's that?”
Feferi stands again and takes in her reflection. Her ancestor no longer stares back, but the girl who does doesn't look quite right. She ruffles her hair and turns her head from side to side. Definitely not right. “Shorter.”
“No.” Jade says. Feferi blinks and looks at her in confusion. “I mean. Not tonight. I'm not cutting off any more of your hair until you've slept on it.”
“You've never cut your hair before, right?”
“Never.” Feferi confirms.
“Alright. Do you remember when I cut mine at the start of college?”
“Yes,” Feferi nods, brows scrunching together. “That was when you spent two hours the next day, crying, wasn't it?”
“Mhmm. Do you know why?”
“Nope, you were being a grumpy gills and wouldn't tell me anything other than 'you wouldn't understaaaaand'.” She puts on her best impression of Jade, and Jade laughs, blushing a little. It was an accurate impression. She really hadn't taken to having her hair cut very well. “I thought maybe the hairdresser had hurt you.”
“It's something that happens a lot when you drastically cut your hair,” she explains. It's not a lie, she thinks. Just only half of the truth. “At first you're fine, and then suddenly you'll miss it, and maybe even panic about how long it took to grow and how long it'll take to grow back.”
“I don't see why I'll be upset,” Feferi scoffs. “It's just hair. It only took twelve sweeps to grow, and I'm going to live for another six hundred, easy.”
Jade's face scrunches and Feferi is instantly awash with guilt. She always forgets about the lifespan difference, and knows well enough that now is not the time to bring up the argument about why Jade doesn't want to let her extend hers.
“Leaving it til tomorrow it is, then.” She says. “Here, I'll clean this up. You get get ready for bed.”
“Make sure you comb your hair over the sink. You don't want any little strands getting in your sopor. They'll itch.” Feferi nods and Jade leaves her alone with the pile of cut hair. She digs a garbage bag out from the cupboard and begins cleaning up, trying to ignore the guilty clench of her stomach.
When she's done she turns out the light and head back into the bedroom. Jade is sitting on her bed in her pajamas, feet planted firmly on the carpet, reading through her research again. She doesn't look up, and Feferi feels awful. She quietly dresses for bed and places her circlet back on the vanity before sitting beside Jade on the bed.
“I'm sorry.” She says quietly. Jade sighs and puts down her papers.
“It's okay. I know you forget sometimes. I don't like being reminded that you're going to outlive me by a thousand years.”
“You know I can—”
“No.” Jade says. “Let's not go there right now. I've had to cut all your gorgeous hair and been reminded of my mortality, I don't want to have an argument now too. That is enough bad things for one night!”
“You didn't want to cut my hair?” Feferi questions. Jade chuckles.
“Not at all! Your hair is so gorgeous and thick and it smells good and I just want to touch it all the time. Pet it and brush it and style it for you and dig my fingers into it and once or twice I... Kind of dreamed about trying you up with it.”
Feferi takes that in for a moment, studying the soft flush of pink in Jade's cheeks. “Why didn't you ever say anything?”
“I just...” Jade struggles for the words. “I wasn't sure how, and being able to touch it whenever I wanted was enough.”
“Why did you agree to cut it all off?” Feferi thinks of being tied to the bedposts by her own hair and feels a swirl of warmth in her belly. If only her hair wasn't so short! If only Jade had mentioned it before. It sounds like such a good idea now.
“You wanted it gone,” Jade says simply. “You saw someone who wasn't you when you looked in the mirror, and you were upset, and cutting it fixed it, so I cut it! As if there was any other option at all.”
They sit in silence for a minute, before Feferi moves to sit on the floor between Jade's knees, guiding her hands into her hair. Jade hesitates for only a fraction of a second before she begins to stroke it.
“You know,” Feferi says after a while. “You hair's probably long enough I could tie you up with it. If you want.”
Jade's hands still for a second before they tighten in her hair. “Really?”
“Tomorrow.” Jade laughs, a happy, relieved noise, and goes back to running her hands through Feferi's hair. Feferi feels the pity welling up inside her again and closes her eyes.
“I love you so much, Jade.”
“And I pity you so hard, Fef.” She says it in Alternian, the words sounding funny from her human vocal chords that just can't quite get them right, and Feferi's breath catches in her throat.
She couldn't pity this girl any more if she tried.