JeffMango

Twilight x Tree Hugger

Dec 13th, 2016
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  1. >You’re starting to get upset with just how many of your life stories start with group projects
  2. >Anyway, you’re Twilight Sparkle, like always
  3. >And when Ms. Cherilee announces that you’ll all be forming pairs in order to work on the “Influential Historical Figure” project, you immediately hide behind your textbook
  4. >Maybe, if she doesn’t see you, she’ll just forget that you exist and you can work by yourself
  5. >But, of course, that would be far too convenient
  6. >”Twilight Sparkle! You’ll be with…”
  7. >She consults her clipboard
  8. >”Treehugger! The two of you will be studying King Charlies II, of Spain!”
  9. >Despite the cheer in Ms. Cheerilee’s voice, you can only feel your heart sink
  10. >Why Treehugger?
  11. >She could have just paired you with one of the other weird kids, at the very least
  12. >If you were working with one of the Maud Pie’s or Sugarcoats of the world, you could at least mutually ignore each other and do your work in peace
  13. >But no, she had to pick the single most annoying, most painfully, drug-inducedly extroverted girls you’ve ever met to work with you
  14. >Treehugger immediately looks up from her notebook — where she’s doodling art that would make even Yoko Ono roll her eyes — and winks at you
  15. >She mouths “yo” at you, and you feel your skin crawling
  16. >Why can’t your life just be normal, and by extension maybe okay, for once?
  17.  
  18. >”Hey, man.”
  19. >Treehugger accosts you immediately after class, reeking of marijuana, incense, Taco Bell, and Spirit Science YouTube videos
  20. >You didn’t even know it was possible to smell YouTube videos
  21. >”Looks like we’re working together, huh?”
  22. “I m-mean, that’s literally w-w-what she said…”
  23. >You can’t keep your natural stutter, nor your even-more-natural sarcasm, out of your voice
  24. >”Hah, yeah. Good point, Sparkbug.”
  25. “H-huh?”
  26. >”That’s my nickname for you. If we’re in this project together, we gotta be close, right?”
  27. >Treehugger tries to sling her arm around you, but you dodge away from her
  28. “T-that nickname doesn’t even m-m-make any sense.”
  29. >”What? No, dude, it totally does. You’re, like, a lightning bug.”
  30. “H-how? My n-name is Twilight! That has n-nothing to do with lightning bugs! You’re just m-making up random nonsense, and… ugh!”
  31. >”No, man, like… lightning bugs show up at night, and they’re super bright and cute, and—
  32. >You stamp your foot
  33. “Just leave me alone, okay? I’ll d-d-do the project myself.”
  34. >”Yourself? But dude…”
  35. >She tries once against to grab you around the shoulders, but you ninja-roll away from her
  36. >By which you mean you flop on the ground, roll twice, try not to cry because that actually kinda hurt, and then stand up
  37. “I d-don’t need your help, okay? J-j-just stay home, and smoke your m-marijuana cigarettes or w-w-whatever, and let me d-do the work. You’ll s-s-s-still get the grade, I don’t care, j-just… I d-d-don’t want to work with you.”
  38. >Treehugger looks genuinely hurt
  39. >Or, at least, as hurt as a zonked-out stoner can look
  40. >”But dude, I wanna help. You’re, like, a super cool kid. You’re always chill and you work super hard, you know?”
  41. “S-stop talking like that!”
  42. >”Oh, sorry man. You’re a really cool girl, and I wanna help.”
  43. “I s-said to stop with the hippie talk!”
  44. >”What hippie talk, man? I’m just being honest, tbh.”
  45. >She actually pronounces “tee bee ache”
  46. “Agh!”
  47. >You grab your head, trying to keep the veins from bursting out of your skull
  48. “F-f-f-fine! You can help, b-but… but I’m doing all the r-r-real research! You c-can make the diorama, or w-whatever!”
  49. >”Dude, score. I’m *so* good at art, you have no idea.”
  50. “Whatever. W-we’ll meet at my house at eight. D-d-d-don’t be late!”
  51. >”Late? Dude, a Treehugger is never late. She arrives always there *exactly* when I mean to be. I’m like a wizard, or something…”
  52. >You glare
  53. >”That’s a Lord of the Rings ref—“
  54. “I k-k-know it is! I don’t c-care! Just show up, or d-don’t, I don’t even care…”
  55.  
  56.  
  57. >Treehugger shows up, alright
  58. >…at ten at night
  59. >And she doesn’t even have the decency to knock on your front door; instead, you look up from your bedroom window to find her staring at you
  60. “Gah!”
  61. >You freak the fuck out, of course, just like anyone would upon finding a random hippie peeping on them
  62. “Treehugger! W-w-w-w-what are you doing?”
  63. >”Uh… I’m here for the project?”
  64. >Her voice is muffled by the glass, and she taps against the glass
  65. >”You gonna let me in, dude?”
  66. >Stunned by her sheer stupidity, you open the window
  67. >Treehugger clambers inside, her backpack clinking with glassware
  68. “D-did you bring a bong?”
  69. >”Uh, yeah? How else am I supposed to get work done?”
  70. “W-w-we’re doing a school project! You c-can’t be high when you work on a school project!”
  71. >You can feel your heart nearly palpitating with your fury
  72. >”That’s the only way to work on a school project, man. But yeah, it’s all good.”
  73. “It is n-n-not all good!”
  74. >”You sure? I brought enough to share…”
  75. >Treehugger pats her backpack, where the material of the rear pocket bulges under the volume of its contents
  76. “I d-don’t want to share! I w-w-w-want to get a good grade!”
  77. >”Why?”
  78. “B-because it’s important! Ugh!”
  79. >You throw yourself into your seat, furiously typing at your latest vaguely-lesbian Power Ponies fanfic
  80. >In this episode of your ongoing epic — which currently totals over a million words, making it one of the longest pieces of English-language fiction ever written — Masked Matterhorn is crossed over with the Mysterious Mare-Do-Well, and the two of them slowly learn to love each other as they continually rescue the world from the clutches of evil, each of them gradually giving into their base desires for the soft, gentle touch of a fellow lady as they—
  81. >”Whoa, what’s that?”
  82. >You realize all too late that what you’re typing has nothing to do with King Charles II of Spain, nor does it have anything to do with school projects in general
  83. >Immediately, you cover the screen
  84. “N-nothing! I’m d-d-d-doing really important r-research!”
  85. >”Oh, nice, dude. Shit, you must be smart. It looked like you were just staring at pictures of kissing horses.”
  86. >Treehugger whistles
  87. >”You’re really good at this stuff, you know?”
  88. “Y-yeah! Of course I am! Hmph!”
  89. >You just grumble under your breath
  90. “J-just get started on the diorama, okay? I’ll h-h-handle writing the paper.”
  91. >”Hell yeah, dude. I’m gonna make the coolest diorama ever. Is it okay if I throw some extra-planar material in there?”
  92. “S-some what?”
  93. >”You know, like…”
  94. >Treehugger spreads her arms
  95. >”What if we show King Charles II of Spain encountering manifestations of his own inner turmoil. You know, like… on a spirit journey, or something. That’d be *so* cool, you know? The manifestations could look like Evangelion villains and bleed all over the place…”
  96. “T-that sounds—”
  97. >You’re about to tell her just how stupid that idea is
  98. >But if you give this hysterical hippie something else to focus on, maybe she’ll finally leave you alone
  99. “It s-sounds… great. Whatever. There’s a box of art supplies under my bed. Just g-g-go get started while I write the p-paper.”
  100. >”Hahah. Like… yes ma’am.”
  101. >Treehugger winks, then gives you a comical salute
  102. >She drifts over to your bed, walking as if in a drug-induced trance
  103. >Which she probably is, given the reeking smell of skunk and oregano that’s currently hanging heavily over your bedroom
  104. >Richard Nixon was right; hippies are terrible people
  105. >You continue grumbling even as Treehugger grabs the box of markers and crayons from under your bed
  106. >”Dude, you’ve got a nice collection of stuff under here. You draw a lot?”
  107. “N-no, of course not.”
  108. >”Then why do you have a folder labeled ‘Twilight’s Drawings and Also Fanfictions, Do Not Open Under Threat of Immediate Desintegration?’”
  109. “T-t-that… t-that’s just a prank! I s-swear!”
  110. >”Oh, hah. Nice one, dude. That’s hilarious.”
  111. >Treehugger opens the folder
  112. “N-no, wait! Don’t—“
  113. >”Whoooooa…”
  114. >You hide your face in your hands
  115. >That stupid hippie!
  116. >Not only did she creep into your house and fumigate it with marijuana, she also stole your folder!
  117. >Now she’s going to laugh at you, and you’re going to have to endure her teasing for the entire project…
  118. >”These are…”
  119. >You can already feel tears of rage starting to well in your eyes as you anticipate her jeering, cackling laughter at your mediocre art skills
  120. >”These are… these are awesome!”
  121. >She holds up one of your favorite pieces: a full-color and somewhat edgy rendition of Radiance cradling Mistress Marevelous, after she’d been defeated by the Mane-iac
  122. >The two of them are both soaked in blood and bruises from the fight and, with their enemy bearing down upon them, they share one last kiss…
  123. “S-s-shut up! They are not—“
  124. >You blink
  125. “Wait… huh?”
  126. >”This is super cool, dude! It looks like it could be the poster for a movie, or something, like if they did one of those remakes where everything gets super dark. It’s badass.”
  127. “Oh, w-well… hmph.”
  128. >You turn away from her, going back to typing out the last few words of your latest ‘fic
  129. >Unfortunately, you only manage to type “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHOLYSHITHOLYSHITHOLYSHITHOLYSHITAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH”
  130. >Treehugger continues turning the drawing over slowly, cocking her head, and examining it as if it were a real piece of art
  131. “T-there’s a, um… a…”
  132. >You hide your face in your hands, unable to look Treehugger in the eye
  133. “There’s a s-story to go along with that drawing. If you w-wanna read it.”
  134. >”Whoa, legit?”
  135. >She flips the drawing over, as if expecting the story to be scribbled on the back
  136. “N-no, it’s… here, I’ll g-g-get it.”
  137. >You run to your closet, opening the box marked “Twilight’s Original Published Work, Do Not Steal Under Threat of Nuclear Bombardment”
  138. >There’s even some tiny skull stickers around the box, so anyone who picks it up will know you mean business
  139. >Reaching inside, you pull out the story and slowly hand it over to Treehugger
  140. >It almost feels like passing off your own favorite child
  141. >Treehugger accepts it, to her credit, with the reverence that your work deserves
  142. >”Dude, I’m so hype. You have no idea.”
  143. “Y-yeah, well…”
  144. >You turn your head, trying to hide how much you’re blushing
  145. “J-just don’t get your w-weed juices on any of the p-p-pages, okay? That’s the first edition, and y-yeah…”
  146. >You can barely keep the excitement out of your voice
  147. >Someone is actually reading your work!
  148. >Treehugger sits in the corner of your room, staring at the story
  149. >You, meanwhile, try to resume your research on Charles II, but it’s completely impossible
  150. >How can you focus on the Spanish monarchy when a real, live human-being is actually reading one of your stories, just meters from you?
  151. >You stick the strings of your hoodie into your mouth, chewing feverishly
  152. >What if she doesn’t like it?
  153. >W-what if she laughs at you?
  154. >You could just kick her out, you guess, but you’re not sure if you’ll be able to do it without crying
  155. >Your teeth dig into the string, grinding and clamping with nervous energy
  156. >After what feels like hours, Treehugger looks up from your fanfiction
  157. >”Dude….”
  158. >You nearly bite your tongue off in anticipation
  159. >Please like it, please like it, please like it…
  160. >Treehugger blinks, trying to connect two thoughts through her perpetual haze of drug-induced stupor
  161. >”What does ‘machiavellian’ mean?”
  162. “H-huh?”
  163. >”This word. You said Mane-iac is machia…”
  164. >She furrows her brow
  165. >”That’s one long-ass word. Machiavellian. You said she’s that.”
  166. “Yeah?”
  167. >”What does it mean, dude?”
  168. “It means she’s an extremely c-c-controlling individual w-who constantly seeks to expand her s-sphere of influence and v-v-via doing so, she’s able to gradually p-pull others into her w-web of—“
  169. >”Whoa, hold on, what? Can you, uh… repeat like all of that? But slow.”
  170. “It m-means she’s evil.”
  171. >”Oh! Nice!”
  172. >Treehugger goes back to the story
  173. >”I knew that. Just needed you to remind me.”
  174. >This time, she gets barely a minute of reading done before pestering you again
  175. >”What does ‘synesthesia’ mean?”
  176. “It means… uh…”
  177. >What the hell even is synesthesia, actually?
  178. “It’s w-when ideas c-c-connect together.”
  179. >”Oh! I know what that’s like. Wait, what does that have to do with the story?”
  180. “M-Masked Matterhorn is a super genius! So s-s-she always connects her ideas!”
  181. >”Oh. Cool.”
  182. >Treehugger reads for twenty more seconds
  183. >”What does ‘sapphic desires for the physicality of a fellow mare’ mean?”
  184. “G-gah! Just, ugh, h-here!”
  185. >You grab the ‘fic away from her
  186. “If you’re g-g-going to keep bugging me like that, t-then… then I’ll j-just read it to you myself!”
  187. >For a moment, silence falls over the room
  188. >”Dude, you’d… you’d do that for me?”
  189. “S-sure, whatever. It’s b-b-better than you bugging me.”
  190. >”Awesome! Here, lemme grab some snacks!”
  191. “S-snacks? Why do we n-need snacks?”
  192. >”Can’t listen to a good story without snacks, right?”
  193. “I, uh… w-whatever.”
  194. >Treehugger starts rooting through her backpack where, shockingly, you see she’s got a bunch of Star Wars-themed bongs
  195. >There’s a Darth Vader one, a Yoda one, one shaped like Luke’s lightsaber (the green rebuild, of course)
  196. >Stupid hippie poser probably hasn’t even read the Expanded Universe…
  197. >Maybe you could read those to her too?
  198. >No, stop!
  199. >Mentally, you kick the internal Twilight that always gives you terrible ideas
  200. >You want this hippie out of your house!
  201. >Even if she likes your art, and has been really nice to you, she still… she’s still dumb!
  202. >Internal Twilight asks why you have such a problem with her
  203. >You mentally kick Internal Twilight again
  204.  
  205. >Together, you and Treehugger head down into the basement
  206. >”Aw, nice! This is more like it!”
  207. >She throws herself onto your couch, stretching out across it and kicking off her sandals
  208. >Which, of course, leaves pretty much no room for you on your own furniture
  209. >You don’t want to sit by her probably-gross feet, so you take the spot next to her head instead
  210. >Meaning, of course, that you’re sitting next to her weird, dumb-looking dreadlocks
  211. >And due to the confines of your family’s tiny couch, that means that Treehugger’s head is pressed right up against your thigh
  212. >”Dude, this is super cozy.”
  213. “You c-could sit up, you k-k-know…”
  214. >”Nah man, I’m good like this.”
  215. >Treehugger yawns, stretching again, and you realize you have no chance of moving her now
  216. >”So? Story time?”
  217. “F-fine.”
  218. >You take out the ‘fic, and flip past the prologue and to the first major scene
  219. “But you c-can’t interrupt me.”
  220. >”My lips are sealed, dude.”
  221. “Ahem. Laser bolts careened down from the heavens as the Changeling invasion force descended upon the earth, their black-masted hiveships crackling with destructive energy as anti-love cannons fired burst after burst down onto the Power Ponies’ Fortress of Stability, which was—“
  222. >”WHOA! This is so cool!”
  223. “I t-thought you said you w-w-wouldn’t interrupt!”
  224. >”I can’t help it! Did you really write that?”
  225. “Y-yeah?”
  226. >”That’s so fucking awesome, dude. Wow. I can legit, like, really see it.”
  227. >Treehugger holds her hands up in the air, fingers forming a rough rectangle to frame an imaginary scene
  228. >She sighs
  229. >”I’m so, so excited. Read more.”
  230. “I, uh…”
  231. >Your hands are shaking
  232. >Treehugger glances up at you
  233. >”Dude, you alright? You kinda look like you’re gonna cry…”
  234. “I’m f-f-fine! S-stop trying to do your hippie m-magic, or whatever.”
  235. >You sniffle, squeezing your eyes shut to try and avoid letting any tears spills out
  236. >Treehugger, meanwhile, looks genuinely worried
  237. >Or as worried as she can look with that perpetual deer-in-headlights expression
  238. >”Aw, I’m sorry dude. I’m not messing stuff up here, am I? Because if I’m screwing up your vibes, I can totally do the diorama at home.”
  239. “N-no! I w-w-want you to s-stay.”
  240. >You sniffle again, wiping your nose on your sleeve
  241. “I j-just… I n-n-never… n-no one…”
  242. >”Shhh…”
  243. >Treehugger touches a finger to your forehead
  244. >If you were at all a believer in the spiritual world — which you aren’t, because that kind of hippie mumbo-jumbo is not at all befitting a refined and euphoric intellectual such as yourself — you would swear you felt the fear draining out of you, and into Treehugger’s fingertip
  245. >”It’s alright, man. Let it all out.”
  246. >You glance away from Treehugger
  247. “N-no one ever said anything nice about my s-stories before! And it f-feels… it feels r-r-really good, okay? W-whatever.”
  248. >”Shit, man. No one?”
  249. “N-no one.”
  250. >”Well, who have you shown these too?”
  251. “Uh… well, n-not a lot of people. J-just my mom. Once.”
  252. >”Yeah? What’d she think?”
  253. “I d-don’t want to t-talk about that.”
  254. >”Oh, alright.”
  255. >Seeing the look on your face, Treehugger reaches up and touches your cheek
  256. >A lily-patterned warmth begins to blossom from beneath her palm, spreading across your face and down your neck
  257. >”You sure you want me to stay, dude? Because I don’t want to keep upsetting—“
  258. “You’re n-n-not upsetting me!”
  259. >You wave your hands frantically, suddenly terrified that Treehugger will leave
  260. “I j-just… ugh! Just listen to my story, you d-d-dumb hippie.”
  261. >Treehugger chuckles
  262. >”Ha. Alright, dude.”
  263. >And then you start to read again, your stutter not even entering your voice as the words of your masterpiece feel the basement
  264. >Treehugger stares up at the ceiling, mesmerized
  265. >Occasionally, she breaks the flow of your storytelling to let out a little “whoa,” “dude…” or “far out”
  266. >Stupid generic hippie
  267.  
  268. >When you reach the end of the first chapter, you stop and wait for her reaction
  269. >”…why’d you stop?”
  270. “T-that’s the end of the f-first chapter.”
  271. >”Oh. Well shit, dude. Keep going.”
  272. “I d-dunno, it’s pretty late…”
  273. >”Late? Who cares? It’s a sleepover, we can stay up as late as we want.”
  274. “S-sleepover?”
  275. >”Uh… yeah?”
  276. >Treehugger gestures to the fact that the two of you are currently sharing the couch
  277. “I n-never said this was a sleepover! W-we’re supposed to b-b-be working on our project!”
  278. >”Oh, shit. You’re right.”
  279. “Y-you forgot about it!?”
  280. >You stick your hoodie strings in your mouth, chewing on their frayed ends as angrily as you can
  281. >”Uh… maybe?”
  282. “Gah! I c-can’t believe you let me g-g-get distracted! We’ve s-spent almost an hour j-just reading! W-w-we’re never gonna get this done by next w-week!”
  283. >Treehugger just stares at you, her eyes half-lidded
  284. >”Wait, a week? We’ve got a week?”
  285. “Y-yeah! A week!”
  286. >”Dude, that’s basically forever.”
  287. “It is not! It’s only s-seven days! I’ve got a b-b-busy schedule, and I n-need to budget my time to make this p-perfect!”
  288. >”Oh.”
  289. “Don’t you ‘oh’ me! W-we need to do this! N-n-now! I c-can’t believe I let you talk me into just l-laying around and—“
  290. >Treehugger touches a finger to your forehead again
  291. >Immediately, like pulling the plug on a tub full of boiling liquid autism, the anger drains out of you
  292. “W-whoa…”
  293. >”Just chill, dude. We’ve got an entire week. That’s *so* much time. Here, how about I come over again tomorrow?”
  294. “I…”
  295. >You try to continue being angry with her, but you can’t
  296. “I’d b-be okay with that. B-b-but we’re actually gonna work, t-this time!”
  297. >”Hell yeah, dude. This is going to be the best, uh…”
  298. “…you f-forgot what the project is, didn’t you?”
  299. >”Nah dude, I remember. It was on, uh…”
  300. >Treehugger blinks
  301. >”Can I have a hint?”
  302. “Y-you’re impossible, you know that?”
  303. >”No, wait! I remember! It was Charles Barkley, right?”
  304. “I c-can’t believe this.”
  305. >”Hey, I was close, wasn’t I?”
  306. >You hold your head in your hands, shaking
  307. “I’m going to f-fail this class. I’m g-going to look like an idiot.”
  308. >Treehugger starts stroking your hair
  309. >It actually feels kinda nice, but you still glare at her
  310. >”Nah, dude. We’re gonna have *such* a cool Charles Barkley project.”
  311. “W-whatever. Just… I’ll s-see you tomorrow.”
  312. >You stand up from the couch, but slowly
  313. >Honestly, you kinda enjoyed the feeling of her touching your hair
  314. >It was… uncanny, a little, to have someone touching your head so gently
  315. >”Thanks man. See you in the morning.”
  316. >Treehugger curls up into a dreadlocked, incense-scented ball in the middle of your couch, resting her head on her arms
  317. “W-wait, what?”
  318. >She starts to snore peacefully
  319. “I d-didn’t give you permission to sleep here!”
  320. >”Huh? You said it was a sleepover, dude…”
  321. “I n-never did!”
  322. >”You implied it, though. Besides…”
  323. >Treehugger stretches back out, yawning
  324. >”…I’m too tired to go home. And c’mon man, it’s so cold out there. And your couch is *super* cozy.”
  325. “I k-know it is! B-b-but that doesn’t mean… you c-can’t just…”
  326. >Treehugger is snoring again
  327. “G-gah! You’re impossible!”
  328. >You grab her by the arm, getting ready to haul her off the couch
  329. >But you don’t
  330. >For whatever reason, you let Treehugger’s arm go, and leave her on the couch
  331. >She does looks really peaceful there…
  332. “Ugh. You s-stupid hippie.”
  333. >Turning, you head to the closet and grab an old quilt from back when you were a little kid
  334. >It’s wide enough to cover a king-size bed, and embroidered with Star Wars characters
  335. >The edges are frayed, and more than a few holes are torn through it’s fabric
  336. >But even just from holding it, you can remember how cozy it felt
  337. >Back at the couch, you toss the blanket over Treehugger, making a mental note to wash it as soon as possible
  338. “You’re d-d-doing your share of the project, tomorrow. I m-mean it!”
  339. >Treehugger mumbles something about ‘doing her research in the dreamscape’
  340. “T-that’s not what I mean! You’re doing r-r-real work!”
  341. >Between snores, Treehugger mumbles:
  342. >”Dreams are the realest thing we have, dude…”
  343. >With that, she curls up in the blanket, wrapping herself in it like a cocoon
  344. >You shake your head, and go to get ready for bed
  345. >Which, for you, involves only brushing your teeth and taking your pants off
  346.  
  347. >When you’re sure Treehugger’s completely asleep, you head back upstairs from the basement, stopping in the living room
  348. >Your mom is sitting on the couch, staring at the TV
  349. >There isn’t anything playing; just static
  350. >When you get close enough to her, you can see the fractured gray light reflecting in her eyes
  351. “Mom? M-mom?”
  352. >She doesn’t respond
  353. “M-m-mama?”
  354. >Finally, she turns, her eyes drifting lazily to your face
  355. >”Oh. Hello, Twilight.”
  356. “H-hey. How are you f-feeling?”
  357. >She doesn’t answer, just stares at you
  358. >”I heard voices in the basement.”
  359. “Y-yeah, I had a f-friend—… er, I had s-s-someone over from school. To w-work on a project.”
  360. >”Oh.”
  361. >She goes back to staring at the TV
  362. “I r-read her one of my stories. She r-r-really liked it.”
  363. >She says nothing
  364. “It w-was one I’m really proud of. M-maybe I could, um… r-r-read one to you, or… uh…”
  365. >She’s still not looking at you
  366. >”I think I’ll go to bed now.”
  367. “O-okay…”
  368. >Velvet stands up and, moving trancelike and slowly, walks into her bedroom and lays herself in her bed
  369. “I’ll, um, s-see you in the… in the morning…”
  370. >She has her face buried in the pillow, not even looking up
  371. >For a few minutes, you linger in the doorway, watching her
  372. >It’s difficult to tell when your mom is truly asleep; very little about her demeanor actually changes
  373. >But you, after all this time, have learned to recognize the subtle differences in her breathing that show when she is truly passed out
  374. >And once she is, you cross the room to her bed, and lie down beside her
  375. >Moving gently so as not to wake her, you curl up against Velvet’s side
  376. >She doesn’t stir, or acknowledge your presence in any way
  377. >But it’s nice to be close to her, at least for a few minutes
  378. >Her body is soft and warm, and unimaginably comfortable where it presses against your back
  379. >For a moment, you shut your eyes and allow your mind to wander back to when you were a little girl, when she used to care you were sharing her bed
  380. >When she used to hold you
  381. >But imagining and remembering aren’t worth much, you’ve come to realize, and so you get back up from her bed after a few moments of reminiscing
  382. >And then you descend the stairs to the main level of the house, and head back into your own room
  383. >Where you collapse into your own bed, and fall asleep alone
  384.  
  385. >As usual, you wake up slowly, your entire body feeling double its weight as you try to drag yourself out of bed
  386. >When your feet touch the floor, you stumble, leaning heavily on your desk to haul yourself up
  387. >Once out of your room, you stumble back down to the basement to take your bi-weekly shower
  388. >Unfortunately, when you reach the bottom of the basement stairs you find the shower already occupied, with steam leaking out from beneath the bathroom door
  389. “H-hey!”
  390. >You slam your fist against the door
  391. “I n-need that! I d-d-didn’t say you c-could use our shower!”
  392. >Inside, the water shuts off
  393. >You hear the slap of footsteps against tile, and then Treehugger open the bathroom door
  394. >Steam pours out, and through it you can see her standing there, dripping wet
  395. >And completely naked
  396. “G-gah!”
  397. >You recoil, staring
  398. >Treehugger is surprisingly fit, her figure tall and willow, yet subtly curved around her hips and across her breasts
  399. >Your face feels red-hot, and you stammer senselessly for a few moments, your eyes fixed on her
  400. “Y-y-y-you… b-b-b-b-bluh…”
  401. >”Oh, sorry about that, dude. Must have lost track of time.”
  402. >Treehugger raises her arms behind her back, stretching
  403. >Which, of course, just gives you that much better of a view
  404. >”It was just so comfy in there, you know?”
  405. “C-c-c-c-c-c-comfy…”
  406. >You shake your head, snapping yourself out of your trance
  407. “I d-d-don’t care if it’s c-comfy! I need to g-get ready for school!”
  408. >”Yeah dude, I gotcha. It’s all yours.”
  409. >Treehugger steps past you, her bare shoulder barely pressing against your chest
  410. >For a moment, it feels like your brain is about to pop out of your skull
  411. “Y-you…”
  412. >Treehugger saunters over to the couch and collapses back onto it
  413. “You c-can’t do that!”
  414. >”Do what?”
  415. “You c-c-can’t be naked on m-my furniture!”
  416. >Treehugger looks genuinely puzzled at that
  417. >”Whoa, what? Why not?”
  418. “It’s w-weird!”
  419. >”Weird? What’s weird about the human body, dude?”
  420. >She splays out across the couch, letting you get a good look at her
  421. >”I’m a work of nature’s art, just like you, man. There’s lots to appreciate in the human form, when you learn to look for it…”
  422. >You’re starting to get really light-headed, and your face is on fire
  423. “It’s… y-y-you’re… you c-can’t… I… r-r-really hot…”
  424. >”Huh? You alright, dude? You look a little sick…”
  425. “I’m f-fine! Just… uh…”
  426. >”C’mere, man. You really don’t look good.”
  427. >Treehugger beckons you towards her
  428. >Robotically, your legs begin to move, carrying you across the basement and over to the couch
  429. >Treehugger stands up
  430. >She’s a lot taller than you are, so your face ends up pretty much level with her breasts
  431. >They’re not huge — far from it; in fact, she’s almost as flat as you are — but her chest has a subtly soft, curving femininity to it
  432. “S-so… c-c-close…”
  433. >”Here. Lemme feel your forehead.”
  434. >Treehugger cups your chin and places her palm against your brow
  435. >A tiny tremor runs through your body, and your thighs begin to shake
  436. “Y-you’re s-so close…”
  437. >”Oh, yeah. I’m not freaking you out, right? Something is *super* whacked out with your aura, but I can’t tell what…”
  438. “I… y-you… t-t-touching… g-guh…”
  439. >Your tongue feels thick and hot, and a hazy cloud makes it impossible for you to string two thoughts together
  440. >”Yeah, I can’t tell what’s wrong. Must be stress knocking your chakras out of alignment. Here.”
  441. >Treehugger pulls you into a gentle hug
  442. >”Little bit of the universal medicine should help. Mmmm…”
  443. >She hums into your ear, squeezing your body against hers
  444. >You’re… not really sure what happens after that
  445. >You remember the overpowering sensory rush of Treehugger’s skin against yours — a cool sensation, but also enriched by the warmth of her embrace — and then everything afterwards is blank
  446.  
  447. >When you come to, you find yourself sitting in front of the shower, waiting for the water to get hot
  448. >You’re still shaking, and a hot, electrifying sweat has broken out across your entire body
  449. >Easy Twilight, easy…
  450. >She’s just some dumb, lazy hippie who’s refusing to do her half of the group work
  451. >Thinking about her too much will just make things weird, and besides, you hate her
  452. >You absolutely hate hate hate hate hate (maybe kinda like) hate hate hate her and her stupid lazy not-contributing-to-the-project attitude and sure she liked your story but that doesn’t change anything she’s still lazy and dumb and bad and kinda cute but mostly lazy and bad and you really hate that you have to work with her and you really really liked being with her last night but that doesn’t matter because hate hate hate (God, she’s *so* hot) hate hate
  453. >Your thoughts continue to whirl in a very similar pattern as you step into the shower
  454. >The minute the warm water touches you, though, they begin to calm down
  455. >You lean back against the tile, enjoying the feeling of the cold surface leaching heat from your body even as it’s added
  456. >There’s a nice bit of equilibrium to it, very calming
  457. >Kinda like Treehugger’s embrace…
  458. >The image of her, naked and lounging on your couch, refuses to leave your mind
  459. >Your thighs clench together, the familiar electric bristling of arousal building between them
  460. >Goddammit, stupid hippie
  461. >I-It’s not like you’re feeling this way because of her, or anything, of course
  462. >You’re just pent-up from stress, and she just happened to catch you unaware, and she has a decent body despite how much as you hate her, and—
  463. >Your hand is already at your crotch, fingers delicately finding the familiar sweet spots
  464. >But as much as you try to think of some of your favorite Radiance x Mistress Marevelous scenes, Treehugger won’t leave your mind
  465. >You can still feel the lingering ghost of your hug when you cum, the resultant, blissful force knocking the strength out of your legs
  466. >You sink to the tile floor, shaking
  467. >Stupid, stupid sexy hippie…
  468.  
  469. >When you exit the shower, you’re in the best worst mood you’ve been in a while
  470. >Treehugger’s finally taken a hint and dressed herself
  471. >Even though you distinctly remember seeing her clothes on the bathroom floor…
  472. “H-hey! Those are m-mine!”
  473. >Treehugger looks at you, slightly guilty
  474. >”I mean, yeah. You said I couldn’t be naked, so I thought…”
  475. “T-that doesn’t mean you c-can wear my D-D-Dragonforce shirt!”
  476. >”Your favorite? Dude, you’ve got like eight Dragonforce shirts.”
  477. “Y-yeah, I know! And t-they’re all my favorite shirts! So t-t-take that off!”
  478. >”Alright man, alright. I’m sorry.”
  479. >Treehugger bows in apology, then strips the shirt off
  480. >Somehow, seeing her topless a second time is even more effective than the first
  481. “Y-yeah! Now g-g-give that to me! And w-wait right there! I need to go, um… g-g-get dressed! I’ll b-be back in, uh… t-thirty minutes.”
  482.  
  483. >Round 2 is even better than the first
  484. >Your legs are shaking so badly you can barely get down the stairs
  485. >Treehugger is waiting for you, dressed in her own clothes this time
  486. >”Lookin’ good, starshine.”
  487. “S-shut up. Let’s j-j-just go to class. I d-don’t wanna be late.”
  488. >You’re wearing the same shirt she tried to take
  489. >”We won’t be late, man. We’ll arrive exactly when we need to get there, just like always.”
  490. “Y-you keep saying that. I don’t think you k-k-know how time works.”
  491. >”Of course I don’t. It’s one of those infinite mysteries, you know?”
  492. “It is n-not an infinite mystery! It’s a very exp-plainable dimension of s-s-space!”
  493. >Treehugger just gives you that endless half-lidded stare
  494. “Ugh! D-do I really have to explain this to you?”
  495. >A grin spreads across her face
  496. >”Yeah.”
  497. “F-fine!”
  498. >As the two of you start the walk to school, you fish through your backpack for a notebook
  499. “L-look, it’s really easy, okay? If you assume that t-time works like a dimension of space, and apply the Lorentzian t-t-transform, in accordance with G-G-Galilean conceptions of r-relativity, you get the exact equations that A-Albert Einstein predicted for movement n-near the speed of light! See?”
  500. >You scribble down the basic equations Treehugger needs to know to understand Special Relativity, then shove them in her face
  501. >She blinks twice
  502. >”Whoooooa. It looks like a magic spell.”
  503. “It is n-not magic!”
  504. >”I dunno about that, dude. There’s magic in everything, when you learn to look for it.”
  505. “T-there is not! There’s explainable phenomena in everything! You h-hippie voodooism is p-p-part of the reason humans s-still aren’t exploring the stars.”
  506. >”Exploring? What’s so important about exploring them?”
  507. >Treehugger points up at the sun
  508. >”Isn’t it enough to appreciate how pretty they are?”
  509. “Of c-course not! H-h-how do you not get this!? If w-we don’t colonize the stars, then when the world ends our entire species w-w-will end with it!”
  510. >”What’s so bad about that?”
  511. “What do you m-mean what’s so bad about that?”
  512. >”Everything is just explainable pheromones, right?”
  513. “P-phenomena! Not pheromones, you absolute d-d-dunderhead!”
  514. >Treehugger chuckles
  515. >”Did you just call me a dunderhead?”
  516. “Y-yes! Because that’s w-w-what you are!”
  517. >You puff out your cheeks, feeling a familiar enraged blush creeping into them
  518. “We need to colonize the stars to p-preserve out species, and build an empire that can w-w-withstand the tests of time and entropy!”
  519. >”Hah. Nice Star Trek reference.”
  520. “T-that wasn’t a Star Trek r-r-reference! You haven’t even s-seen Star Trek, you stupid hippie poser!”
  521. >”Yeah I have? I watched Into Darkness like twenty times, dude…”
  522. “Into… i-into… INTO DARKNESS IS N-N-NOT STAR TREK.”
  523. >”Uh… it literally says ‘Star Trek’ in the title, dude…”
  524. “I KNOW. B-BUT THAT DOESN’T… IT D-DOESN’T MEAN… THAT’S NOT REAL T-T-TREK, YOU…”
  525. >You grab handfuls of your hair, nearly tearing out your messy bun
  526. >”Easy, bud.”
  527. >Treehugger pats your shoulder
  528. >”It’s just a movie.”
  529. “Star Trek is not just a m-m-movie! God, I h-h-hate you so much! I can’t believe I masturbated to you—“
  530. >”Whoa, what?”
  531. >Treehugger blinks
  532. “I, uh… I mean, uh…”
  533. >You cough
  534. “We need to g-get to class! We’re already b-behind in the p-p-p-project because you keep b-being dumb and saying dumb things! And don’t you ever say that about S-S-Star Trek again, you—”
  535. >Treehugger touches a finger to your forehead again
  536. >Immediately the rage drains out of you, and you find yourself swaying in the freezing winter air
  537. >”Easy, man. It’s gonna be alright. This anger is poisoning your aura, a’ight?”
  538. “You… I h-hate you so much…”
  539. >”Hate is just another form of love, man. I accept this.”
  540. “T-that doesn’t even make sense… you’re so dumb… it’s s-s-shocking…”
  541. >”Dumbness is just misunderstood intelligence. I accept that to. And I’m proud to be a part of your team, Twilight Sparkle.”
  542. >In the distance, you hear the first period bell ring
  543. “W-whatever. Let’s j-j-just go.”
  544. >You start to run off, then turn back to wait for Treehugger
  545. >She’s lazily loping along behind you
  546. “C-c’mon! We need to get there!”
  547. >”We’ll get there when we need to be!”
  548. “Y-you… fine, whatever! I’ll s-see you later! But you’d b-b-better be ready to do your share of the w-work.”
  549. >”Hell yeah, man. This is gonna be one *super* productive sleepover.”
  550. “It’s n-not going to be a— ugh, w-whatever! Just b-be ready to work!”
  551. >”Understood, my dude.”
  552. >With a huff, you turn away from Treehugger and storm — well, as much as a 95-pound girl can — away from her
  553.  
  554. >”So, Ms. Sparkle?”
  555. >Despite your best efforts to keep a low profile during Ms. Cheerilee’s class, she goes right to you when asking for progress updates
  556. >”How’s your project going?”
  557. “It’s, um… w-we’ve been attempting to begin our p-preliminary r-research.”
  558. >Your teacher gives an approving nod
  559. >”That’s good to hear. Ms. Treehugger, do you have anything to add?”
  560. >Treehugger leans back in her chair, propping her feet up on her desk
  561. >She snaps finger-guns at Ms. Cheerilee, grinning
  562. >”It’s rad.”
  563. >Though she hides it well, you can swear your teacher is about to roll her eyes
  564. >”That’s, um… also great to hear! Anyway, back to the lesson…”
  565. >You turn around in your chair to glare at her
  566. >She flashes you a thumbs-up
  567.  
  568. >After class, as is your custom, you make your way down to the basement to eat lunch by yourself
  569. >The cafeteria is too full, and if you eat outside, someone might ask you to join in a game of Ultimate Frisbee
  570. >Which, you know from experience, is a recipe for abject humiliation
  571. >So you find your familiar spot between two dilapidated book-cases, take a seat, and plop your lunchbox in your lap
  572. >Your surroundings are dusty-gray and dark, so you keep your eyes on the ground while you open the box
  573. >There’s not much inside: just a granola bar and a bag of Cheez-Its you threw inside before you and Treehugger left
  574. >As you eat them, you can’t help but with your mom was still capable of making you lunches, like she used to
  575. >Lazy footsteps at the end of the hall startle you out of your musings
  576. >Looking up, you can see a dim, dreadlocked figure sauntering towards you through the dim halls
  577. >”Dude. Twi, you down here?”
  578. “W-what are you doing here?”
  579. >”Gah!”
  580. >She jumps, spinning in a circle
  581. >”Dude, don’t freak me out like that. Where are you?”
  582. “I’m…”
  583. >This is your chance to get rid of her, you realize
  584. >You could just keep silent, and she’d probably wander around forever looking for you
  585. >But Internal Twilight, dumb precocious little fuck that she is, takes over your speech faculties
  586. “I’m r-right here.”
  587. >”Where? I can’t see you, dude.”
  588. >Treehugger freezes in her tracks
  589. >”Are… are you a ghost?”
  590. “W-what?”
  591. >”Oh, shit. That’s it, isn’t it? You’re a ghost, and you only exist on fateful days when I come looking for you. This is, like, where you died, and now I’ve intruded on your sacred lair. Whoa, dude, I’m *so* sorry—“
  592. “I’m r-right here, you idiot! Look d-down!”
  593. >Treehugger finally spies your hiding place
  594. >”Oh! Hey!”
  595. >She takes a seat across from you, opening up a sack filled with veggie sandwiches, apples, multiple bags of chips, and what looks like half a cabbage.
  596. >”Is it a ghost rule that you have to stay there? Because that looks *super* uncomfortable!”
  597. “I’m not a ghost, you s-s-stupid moron!”
  598. >”Hah. Whatever you say, ‘totally-alive Twilight Sparkle.’”
  599. >She pulls out the half a cabbage and starts to eat it raw
  600. >”Man, dude, you have no idea how this is good. Sorry you don’t get to know what it’s like to eat, being noncorporeal and all—“
  601. >Treehugger notices the tiny bag of Cheez-Its in your lap
  602. >”Oh! Food! You’re not a ghost at all!”
  603. “T-that’s what I was trying to say!”
  604. >”You gotta quit leading me on like that, man. It ain’t cool to play with a girl’s emotions that way.”
  605. “Y-you… I h-h-hate you so much.”
  606. >”And I love you in return, my dude. Gotta keep that balance, right?”
  607. >She clasps her hands together, and bows
  608. >You throw your empty Cheez-It bag at her
  609. >It bounces right off her dumb dreadlocked head
  610. >”What’s wrong, dude?”
  611. “N-nothing! I just don’t w-w-want to be bothered!”
  612. >”…oh.”
  613. >Treehugger folds her legs up under herself, sitting cross-legged
  614. >”Am I messing stuff up for you? Because if I am, I can leave.”
  615. “I… I d-didn’t mean it like that!”
  616. >Treehugger looks genuinely hurt; or, as genuinely hurt as she can look in her perpetual drug-stupor
  617. “I j-just… what do you always s-s-say such dumb, a-asinine stuff?”
  618. >”Dumb? What’s dumb about it?”
  619. “It d-doesn’t make any sense!”
  620. >”I mean, neither does a lot of what you say. At least, it doesn’t make sense to me. Because I don’t get it, I guess. But I still like listening to it.”
  621. “W-wha… you d-do?”
  622. >”Um, yeah? Why do you think I asked Ms. Cheerilee to put us in the same project group?”
  623. “T-that was you!?”
  624. >”Uh, yeah.”
  625. “W-w-why?”
  626. >”Because you’re a genius?”
  627. >Your mouth works wordlessly
  628. >A soft, tender moment stretches between the two of you, in which the only sound you hear is the hammering of your own heart
  629. >Well, along with Treehugger chewing on her giant cabbage
  630. “A… g-genius?”
  631. >”Yeah? Like, I mean, you kinda are. Right?”
  632. “I… I have n-no idea. N-no one calls me anything l-like that.”
  633. >”No one? Aren’t you, like, top of the class and stuff?”
  634. “Well y-yeah, but none of that r-r-really matters. I’m j-just good at taking tests.”
  635. >You shake your head
  636. “T-that’s not important. I d-don’t want to talk about myself. It f-f-feels weird.”
  637. >”Oh, alright.”
  638. >Treehugger takes another huge bite of cabbage, speaking through a mouthful of chewed leaves
  639. >”I’m sorry if I’ve been bothering you, though. For real. I guess I just get excited, sometimes, when I’m around people I love.”
  640. “…l-l-love?”
  641. >”Yeah, man.”
  642. >Treehugger makes a heart in front of her chest
  643. >”Gotta surround yourself with people you love, right?”
  644. “Oh, y-yeah. I get what you mean.”
  645. >”Did I say something wrong?”
  646. “N-no! I… n-no it’s c-c-cool.”
  647. >Treehugger’s face suddenly lights up
  648. >”Oh! I know what’s wrong! You barely brought anything for lunch, dude. You’re probably starving.”
  649. “I m-mean, I…”
  650. >”Here. I could stand to cut back.”
  651. >She tosses you broccoli-and-tomato sandwich
  652. “I, uh… a-are you sure? I don’t want to take—“
  653. >”Nah, man. You like you could use some decent food, honestly.”
  654. >Treehugger smiles
  655. “Uh, y-yeah. Thanks.”
  656. >You wolf down the sandwich in three bites; you honestly can’t remember the last time you tasted hand-made food, and it’s beyond delicious
  657. >”You sure you’re alright, dude?”
  658. “I’m f-fine!”
  659. >You speak through a mouthful of sandwich, accidentally spraying crumbs all over Treehugger
  660. “J-j-just, uh, t-thanks. For the f-food, and for t-t-talking to me. And I’m… I’m s-sorry for b-blowing up at you, earlier.”
  661. >”Nah dude, it’s all good. You’re really passionate about the stuff you like. It’s really cool.”
  662. >It’s difficult to make out the features of her face in the darkness, but you’re pretty sure you can see her smiling
  663. >When you try to speak, your voice catches in your throat
  664. >All across your body, something warm and electrifying feels like it’s flowing across your skin
  665. >It’s weird, and awesome, and terrifying, and you have absolutely no idea what the hell to do about it
  666. >So you jump to your feet and start hastily packing your things
  667. “Y-yeah. Anyway, uh… I s-should probably get back to c-c-class…”
  668. >”Already, man?”
  669. “I, uh… I n-n-need to, uh… g-g-get some work done! F-for the project!”
  670. >”Oh, right. The project.”
  671. “Y-you forgot already!?”
  672. >”Of course not, man. I just wasn’t thinking about it.”
  673. >For a second, your hands clench, and you’re ready to go off on Treehugger again
  674. >But the taste of the food she shared with you still lingers on your tongue, and so you find your anger abating as quickly as it arose
  675. >”I’ll be over at your house tonight, okay?”
  676. “Y-you… alright.”
  677. >You unclench your hands and drop your eyes to the ground, unable to meet Treehugger’s eyes
  678. “I’ll s-see you tonight.”
  679. >And then, before she can say anything else, you turn on your heels and sprint back up the stairs
  680. >Your thoughts are in a whirl, and that strange electrical feeling still covers you
  681. >When you finally reach an empty classroom and collapse into a chair to catch your breath, you lay your head in your hands
  682. >You should have told her, you know
  683. >But you couldn't
  684. >How could you have told her that that was the first time someone's told you they love you in seven years?
  685.  
  686. >You’re maybe a little bit nervous
  687. >”Ms. Sparkle?”
  688. “G-gah! I d-d-don’t know, I’m s-sorry!”
  689. >Ms. Harshwhinny flinches away from you, her eyes wide
  690. >”I was merely going to ask if you knew the answer to this equation, dear. I meant no offense.”
  691. “It’s, uh, s-sorry, I wasn’t… I d-don’t…”
  692. >You snap back to reality — a reality which, in this case, happens to be Ms. Harshwhinny’s pre-calculus class — just in time to find yourself staring at a basic natural-log equation
  693. >”If you don’t understand, that’s quite alright. What are you stuck on?”
  694. “Uh…”
  695. >Now that you’re actually focused, you make yourself read through the equation
  696. “N-nothing. The answer’s 3e^xy.”
  697. >”That’s… correct. Excellent work.”
  698. >Harshwhinny nods, and returns to her lecture
  699. >You, meanwhile, lean your head in your hands, sweating
  700. >In just twenty minutes, school will be over
  701. >And then Treehugger will come over to your house again
  702. >It’ll be just you and her, alone, in the basement
  703. >For some reason, the thought of being alone with her makes your tongue swell up in your mouth, feeling thick and wet against your palate
  704. >Will she ask to listen to one of your stories again?
  705. >Maybe she will; at the very least, you really, really hope she does
  706. >Reading one of them to her felt so…
  707. >You don’t really have a word for it
  708. >But it was a really good feeling
  709. >You just hope you don’t accidentally cry if she says something nice again
  710.  
  711. >The second that class ends, you zip out the door in an exceptionally-sneaky purple flash
  712. >As always, the hallways are packed at the end of the day, and you find yourself squishing up against the wall to avoid bumping into anybody, hunching low with your backpack held against your chest
  713. >When you reach your locker, you organize your books calmly and methodically, keeping your head down
  714. >At the locker next to yours, Rainbow Dash is rambling loudly about her Friday night plans
  715. >”Dude, I bought an entire 24-pack of Mountain Dew! I’m gonna get so fucked up, brah!”
  716. >You try your best to shut her out, close your locker, and then head towards the exit, ready to begin the long, lonely walk home
  717.  
  718. >After you get about twenty feet from the school, you notice footsteps trailing behind
  719. >Turning, you see Treehugger following you, arms crossed behind her head
  720. >She nods in your direction
  721. >”Sup?”
  722. “Uh… h-hey?”
  723. >You glance around
  724. “W-why are you following me?”
  725. >”For sleepover part two?”
  726. “A-already?”
  727. >”Yeah? I mean, why not? It’s not like I’ve got anywhere else to be.”
  728. “Y-you should wait.”
  729. >”Huh? Why?”
  730. “Because I s-said so! You c-c-can’t just come over to people’s houses w-whenever you want!”
  731. >”You can if they’re your friend, right?”
  732. “That d-doesn’t— friend?”“
  733. >”Uh, yeah?”
  734. >Treehugger laughs, pulling up alongside you
  735. >She slings an arms around your shoulders, which probably isn’t terribly difficult for her to do, seeing as her own shoulders are about level with the top of your head
  736. >Her arm pulls your body against hers, and you’re immediately hit by the scent of flowery soap and incense-baked clothes
  737. >It’s a rich, earthy smell, and your mind goes blank for a moment
  738. “W-what were we talking about?”
  739. >”I’m chilling at your house. For the sleepover.”
  740. “Y-you can’t!”
  741. >You pull away from Treehugger’s embrace
  742. >”Why not, dude?”
  743. >Treehugger looks hurt
  744. >”I thought you wanted me over. If you don’t, that’s cool, but…”
  745. >She brushes her dreadlocks out of her face
  746. >”You’re acting super weird, man.”
  747. “It’s… it’s j-just…”
  748. >You clench your teeth, trying to figure out how to tell Treehugger the thing that you absolutely cannot and will not tell her
  749. >She places a hand on your shoulder, then touches her forehead to hers
  750. >When her breath hits your face, a tiny firework goes off somewhere in the back of your neck
  751. >”If something’s wrong, I want you to tell me, alright? It messes me up big-time when my friends are freaking out like this.”
  752. “F-friends.”
  753. >”Yeah, .”
  754. >She pulls you into a quick, brisk hug
  755. >”Friends.”
  756. “Alright. I j-just… I need to t-take care of my mom. And it m-might seem a bit w-w-weird, but… p-promise me you won’t get freaked out.”
  757. >Treehugger blinks
  758. >”Freak out? Dude, look at me.”
  759. >Treehugger gestures to her posture, which is so laid-back as to border on scoliosis
  760. >”I’m not gonna freak out. And hey, it’s *super* cool that you can take care of your mom. Like really.”
  761. “C-cool?”
  762. >”Hell yeah, man. I mean, I can barely take care of myself. If you’re looking after her too, that’s… shit, man, that’s really impressive.”
  763. >Treehugger ruffles your hair
  764. >”All that work, and you still make super-cool stuff? And you’re a genius? You’re a pretty awesome girl, honestly.”
  765. “A-awesome?”
  766. >”Yep.”
  767. >Treehugger sticks her hands in her pockets
  768. >”I wish I were more like you, honestly.”
  769. “M-more… more l-like… m-m-me?”
  770. >Your face is starting to burn, and you tell yourself it’s just from anger
  771. >It’s not, of course
  772. >You storm away from Treehugger, balling your hands into fists at your sides
  773. “T-that’s stupid! D-d-don’t say d-dumb stuff like that!”
  774. >”Whoa, what? Why?”
  775. “B-because it’s dumb! You s-shouldn’t want to be like me!”
  776. >”Why not?”
  777. “…b-because! Now c-come on! We need to get home and, uh… g-get started!”
  778. >”Yeah, started! On the project!”
  779. >Treehugger beams, looking immensely proud of herself
  780. >”See? I remembered it this time.”
  781.  
  782. >You open the door to your home quietly, and tip toe inside
  783. >Treehugger just barges in, yawning loudly
  784. “S-shush!”
  785. >”Sorry.”
  786. >She clasps her hands in front of her chest and bows
  787. >”I should respect the sacred peace.”
  788. “S-stop blathering, okay? J-just go down to the basement and wait for me. And b-be quiet.”
  789. >”Can do, my dude.”
  790. >Treehugger gives you a lazy salute, and then slinks off
  791. >Which leaves you to tiptoe upstairs and knock on your mom’s bedroom door
  792. >She doesn’t answer, which you expected
  793. >And when you push the door open, you find her sitting upright, looking out the window at the backyard garden
  794. >Outside, the daffodils sway in the gentle Fall breeze, a few of their petals dropping and flittering away in the breeze
  795. “H-hey, mama.”
  796. >She doesn’t answer
  797. “Did you e-eat anything today?”
  798. >”No.”
  799. “D-do you want to?”
  800. >”I don’t.”
  801. “Alright. I c-can make you something, j-j-just in case.”
  802. >”I already told you, I don’t want anything.”
  803. “O-okay. I’ll heat up some leftovers f-from yesterday. So you h-have something.”
  804. >Velvet doesn’t answer
  805. >You duck out of the room, your heart hammering in your chest
  806. >Back in the kitchen, you throw a little of the Thai food you ordered on Tuesday into the microwave, and nuke it to a nice, steaming heat
  807. >Returning to Velvet’s room, you set the plate on her nighstand
  808. “H-here. It’s r-really good. If you d-don’t want it, t-that’s okay. I j-just don’t want you to g-get hungry, or… yeah.”
  809. >”I already told you. I’m not hungry.”
  810. “I k-know, but… j-just in case.”
  811. >…
  812. “I, um… I h-have a friend over.”
  813. >”Oh.”
  814. “Y-yeah! She and I are w-working on a project, and we might r-read another one of my stories.”
  815. >…
  816. “I’ll, um… I’ll see you t-tonight.”
  817. >…
  818. >You linger in Velvet’s room for a moment before you leave
  819.  
  820. >When you head down to the basement, Treehugger is stretched out across your couch again, staring at the ceiling
  821. >”Hey dude. You ready to get started?”
  822. >You walk right past the couch, drop your backpack, and sit on the floor
  823. >From within it, you pull out your laptop and set it atop your thighs
  824. >”Twi? You alright?”
  825. “F-fine.”
  826. >You start typing, even though you’re not paying any attention to the words
  827. “We n-need to get this done. Let’s j-just get to work, okay?”
  828. >”Twi?”
  829. >Treehugger sits up, watching you
  830. >You do your best to pretend you don’t notice her, your fingers flying over the keys as you hammer gibberish about Charles II into a word processor
  831. >The couch cushions groans as Treehugger stands up, padding over to you on bare feet
  832. >Your fingers mash the keys faster, turning barely-coherent paragraphs into pure word soup
  833. >Treehugger kneels down by your side, resting a hand on your shoulder
  834. >”Hey. You wanna read something for a bit?”
  835. >You shake your head, your hands ceasing their attempts to type
  836. >Instead, they rest in your lap, shaking
  837. >”Then here. I can read tonight, alright?”
  838. >Treehugger takes you by the hand and helps you to your feet
  839. >She sits on a corner by herself, this time, and allows you to lay across the cushions instead of her
  840. >Like before, there’s nowhere near enough room for the both of you
  841. >Except, this time, your head ends up in Treehugger’s lap instead of the opposite
  842. >For a moment, you’re tempted to flinch away, to curl on the floor instead so you won’t bother her
  843. >But you don’t
  844. >Treehugger’s legs are warm and soft beneath your cheek
  845. >Inhaling deeply, you allow yourself to breathe in the earthy, sacred scent of her again
  846. >The fic from last night still rests on the coffee table, so Treehugger picks it up and starts to read
  847. >”Chapter Two: In the Face of Endless D… D…”
  848. “Diabolism.”
  849. >”Whoa. Cool.”
  850. “Y-yeah.”
  851. >”The light of a dying star spun down in crashing, f… f…”
  852. “Fractured.”
  853. >”Right. —Fractured spires around Marevelous as she fought to stay conscious, standing over the battered bodies of her allies.”
  854. >Treehugger pauses
  855. >”Should I continue?”
  856. “P-please.”
  857. >She smiles, laying a hand on your head
  858. >Her fingers splay through your hair, her nails scratching against your scalp
  859. >A pleasant, warm sensation dribbles down the back of your neck as Treehugger continues to read
  860. >She stumbles over nearly any word with more than three syllables, of course
  861. >But there’s a melodic tone to her voice, and gradually the warmth spreads down your neck and to the rest of your body
  862. >Outside, the sun dips down below the horizon, leaving the windows tinted black
  863. >A Fall breeze rattles their panes, sounds mournful and cold
  864. >But inside, with Treehugger, you’re warmer and cozier than you’ve felt in years
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