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horribleterrible (and kind of adorable)

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Falling through bubbles, pop pop pop, down until you drift into arms that catch and pull you close. You wake up to angler teeth smiles and pomegranate freckles splashed across a cheerful face, startled by giggles made of knife wind-chimes and hiccups of delight. Still half-asleep, you watch dumbfounded as she pulls you along to find Jade, which is always a challenge. She's hard to catch, the dogwitch girl, especially when she's sleeping. One moment she's nuzzling your cheek, and then next she's catching stars on her tongue like fizzy poprock crystals sprinkled out of a newborn spiral galaxy.

"Chase her!" Feferi orders with a laugh, twirling, spinning her skirts in a strange suspended dance. She stops to stare at you with enormous eyes washed with the whiteness of death and the beyond; her hair is a tangled cloud of deepness, glinting the light of suns and moons off of the strands, and you can't run your fingers through an inch of it without getting caught in the knots.

"Once I find her," you say, a little lightheaded with terrors and waking up, "You're going to let me comb this mess."

"Oh noooooo," she whines and pouts and kicks, darting away from you with a shriek of laughter. You close your eyes and fold in on yourself like a paper-thin universe, and then you slip through the cracks, liquid, liquid starlight through a wormhole, and you catch Jade's wrist before she can even blink. She yelps and bristles, but dissolves into barking laughter when she realizes it's just you.

"You too," you say, sighing at the sight of her mane of tangles with the two white ears perked up through the curls. She cocks her head to the side and you grin. You fold and she follows. Slipping through space is never quite the same alone as it is alongside her; like, maybe, both of you are made of a kind of nothing, the kind that's full of impossible things, of contradictions and equations, things that are almost intangible and elegant and baffling. Feferi is waiting with a bubble and you all tumble into a pile of pillows.

"Run, Jade! Kanaya's gonna groom us!" Feferi shouts and scrambles away, hopping over piles of clothes and books and spare parts of machinery (this is your secret bubble, a safe place to relax and kill time and not think about the important day that creeps closer every second). You stand up and rummage for a thick-toothed comb while Jade bounds away from you and chases Feferi around the bubble. The sound of their squealing echo like soundwaves underwater, and you can't help but laugh too.

It takes you three tries, blinking in and out of existence like little flashes of lightning, before you catch Feferi off guard and tumble to the ground, landing in a heap of limbs and hair. Feferi squirms underneath you, taller and strong and flushed with mischief, and Jade kicks her legs in the air and cackles, a couple of silly yips slipping through accidently.

"Your hair is a horrorterror," you say and Feferi grins.

"I'm a horrorterror!"

"No, you're a girl!" Jade says, rolling on to her side. 

"No, I'm a ghost!"

"Woooooooo, spooooky!"

"Witches, man," you say half to yourself and they are on you in an instant, tangling and wrestling and smothering you with so much sweetness and wanting. 

You start combing Feferi's hair at the ends and it the knots come out so slowly, one by one by one, salt-stiff and splitting. Jade hops up to bring you a pair of scissors and you snip off the damaged ends, working your way up to the gentle ocean waves of iridescent black that reflect a sort of pinkness, like thick oil in the light of a sun.

"Have you two traveled into the Furthest Ring yet?" Feferi asks as you run your fingers through her curls.

"Heck no!" Jade says and lays across Feferi's legs, sighing harshly through her nose. "It's awful out there. No thanks!"

"No it's not, silly!"

"It is, a little bit," you say with a smile and Feferi makes a sound like she's grievously offended.

"Nuh uh! It's beautiful. I once stared right into a god's eye that was nearly size of Betelgeuse, which is a very large star in your universe, Jade, if I have heard correctly and I'm pretty sure I have."



"Betelgeuse!" Jade yells and suddenly there is a sparkling red marble in her hands, glowing hot like a clump of embers. She snickers to herself at some inside joke, and then claps her hands around the marble, disappearing it just as fast as it came. "Were you scared?"

"Of course I was scared," Feferi breathes, humming happily as your comb scrapes along her scalp, pulling the strands just hard enough to sting a little. She smells like seaweed, musky salt crystals, and sugary soap. Her skin is peeling slightly on her shoulders, giving way to a scattering of tiny fuchsia freckles that creep along her arms. "That's the best part!"

"No way."

"Yes way, scaredy cat."

Jade growls low in her throat at the nickname, but Feferi scratches behind her ears so she let it go. You rest your forehead against Feferi's shoulder and breathe out slowly, letting out the old air in your lungs until you are empty. Then you just inhale her. You breathe and listen to Jade's happy whine, high-pitched and quiet as Feferi scratches in the perfect spot.


"Yes, Feferi?"

"I'm glad you're here."

You comb your hands through her hair starting at her horns. Your fingers only snag a few times, tugging at tiny knots left over. Her hair is still rough and wild, but it yields. She turns and and her blank eyes are staring right into you, even without irises turning pink with adolescence, without pupils that shrink to pricks from heated excitement. She wasn't lying; she is a horrorterror in a girl's body. A chipper darkness that swallows your low light.

"My turn!" Jade says and flops onto your laps with a grin. Feferi buries her face in Jade's stomach and gives her the best raspberry you've heard yet, and Jade's barking screams are ridiculous. You've never laughed so hard in your life.