Jade would never have expected to find Eridan entertaining.
And yet, his way of helping her make dinner has somehow become a contest between them for who can make the most accurate pancake animals.
She isn't sure if the drizzled blob of dough that is allegedly a horrorterror is genius or laziness, but she does giggle at Eridan's expression as he tries to maneuver the mess off the pan, the little tendrils sticking more than is helpful.
In response, she pours into the pan until the entire bottom surface is covered in one perfect circle.
She says it's Doc Scratch.
He throws a pancake tendril at her, and she laughs.
And when he actually smiles a little at that, like he's both amused and surprised that she's not upset, it makes her feel warm inside.
Eridan leaves late that night, having lost track of time in the middle of taking notes on something or other, and Jade hesitates for a moment before suggesting that he stay the night.
He hesitates for a moment before declining and shuffling himself out the door.
"Harley! Harley open the fukin' door! It's rainin' an' cold an' wwhy didn't you showw up? I wwas sittin' there for for-fukin'-ewer, and--"
She growls and heaves herself off the sofa while he's ranting, blanket bunched around her and nearly tripping her when she walks, and she opens the door mid-sentence, just wanting to shut him up so that her neighbors don't hate her. Bec follows her to the door, his body heat a welcome weight against her leg, and he stares up at Eridan like he thinks the troll is an idiot, too.
All Eridan says when he sees her is, "…oh."
Jade sniffles and glares at him, nose red from blowing it, and then she turns and trails back inside again, leaving the door open.
"You are so incredibly annoying! You can't just go around banging on people's doors and yelling at them! You--" she stops to sniffle, reaching for her tissue box and blowing before twirling off-kilter and dropping down to her sofa nest.
She's surprised to find that he's followed her inside, step for step, and he's right in front of her instead of back at the door. He lowers himself onto his knees so he can see her better, and all she can do is blink tiredly at him. All that yelling has worn her out, and she feels thoroughly pathetic.
"Howw long hawe you been sick?"
"God, I don't know. It didn't really hit until last night."
He hums under his breath and looks around, and when he reaches out to grab her cell phone from where it's buried in the mass of blanket, she doesn't stop him, thoroughly curious. His fingers move over the screen for a few moments, and he hands it back to her, waiting for her to take it instead of dropping it back where he found it.
"Noww you can at least call me, an' I'll come straight here instead a' waitin' for you."
He stands then, and all she gets is a gentle hand stroking briefly against her head before he tells her to stay right there and leaves. Sighing, she presses her fingers to her temples to try and soothe the ache there, both from clogged sinuses and from trying to figure out Eridan. She thinks about getting up to lock the door, but she's much too tired. Bec is here, anyway. And if she locks it, then she'll have to put up with Eridan's banging and yelling once he gets back from whatever he's doing.
Much easier to leave it unlocked, then.
She groans and flops over, burrowing back into her blankets and pillows and the occasional forgotten used tissue, and falls asleep again.
She wakes up to a warm, pleasant smell that makes her sigh, and when she sits up tiredly, Eridan is in her kitchen, messing with something she can't see. It takes a moment, but she rises to her feet and drags herself, along with the blanket, into the kitchen. He hears her shuffling, of course, and turns to nod at her before stirring whatever is in the pot on the stove.
"You're cooking things by yourself in my kitchen."
"Harley, I wwould have thought that the past feww wweeks wwould a prowen that I can handle this."
Jade shakes her head, the action sluggish. "No, that's not what I meant. I meant…" She thinks for a second, train of thought momentarily derailed. "Why? Why are you?"
"Apparently this is wwhat humans eat wwhen they're sick. I thought it'd help you get better. No idea wwhy, though. I can't see anythin' special about it, but humans are wweird."
A closer look reveals that, yes, Eridan really is making chicken soup. It's cliché and sweet and not what she'd expected at all. He pokes at a piece of chicken as it floats to the surface like he's testing it, and Jade wonders out loud why he even knew to make it, much less how.
"Internet. Really, Harley. It's not hard. Noww go back to sleep before you sneeze on it an' ruin it."
She scuffs her socks on the carpet as she wanders back to the kitchen, and she means to stay awake and watch him, but her blanket is so warm, and the smell of soup is comforting, though she's not sure why. A faint hum drifts through the air, rising and falling in some kind of song that's soft and low, and her eyes close before she even realizes it.
Jade isn't sure what wakes her up this time.
Eridan is sitting at her table, turning pages in a book, and she manages a scratchy, dry noise before coughing. He looks up immediately, rising and coming over without a word, and he coaxes her to sit up after she blows her nose again.
"Feel like eatin' anythin'?"
She shrugs because she isn't really sure. It's been a while since she last ate, but her stomach's full of drainage, and she's not feeling particularly up to it.
With a sigh, Eridan heads back into the kitchen, reemerging with two bowls. He holds one out to her, not letting go until he's certain she has a good grasp on it, then sits before her on the floor, watching her in between sips of his own soup.
Jade feels bad when it surprises her that Eridan's cooking is good. It's not like there's any reason for it to be bad, she'd just assumed… But maybe living on his own for so long had encouraged him to learn to cook. Or maybe he'd known before. There were so many things she didn't know about Eridan Ampora.
He cleans up without being asked, and when she tries to get up and help him, there's suddenly a hand on her shoulder keeping her parked on the couch. So she stays, snuffling and curling up in her blanket, homework left undone because there's no way she's going to class tomorrow.
Eridan pulls out his own once dinner has been cleared, the leftovers sealed into Jade's refrigerator, and he manages to get some of it done in between making her tea and checking up on her. She nearly upsets the mug where it sits on the floor the third time she reaches for it, so he sighs and hauls the table closer to the sofa so that she can use it, too.
She's wondering if she'll ever be able to get to sleep, what with the way her sinuses are pressurized and the way nearly every swallow makes her cough, but sometime between the second and third cup of tea, Eridan starts humming again. It's soothing just as before, the sound of it rocking her like a lullaby.
She hopes she remembers to tell him how much it helps.
In the dark, his eyes watch the troll carefully, curiously. Not out of mistrust, but out of confusion. This has never happened before.
The light from the waning moon outside is hardly enough for a human to see by, but the troll doesn't seem to mind, gaze trailing over the page in front of him and flicking up occasionally whenever Jade shifts or coughs or sniffles, watching her.
Bec rests his head on his paws, watching the not-stranger in return.
Neither of them sleep that night.