A/N: For Hoist.
DRINK IT DOWN
“Is the pudding like the pearls?”
She’s squinting down into the cup, one eye squeezed shut. Against her cheek the thick purple straw juts up like a periscope; her thumb drums on the plastic beneath, ttt-k, and she draws her lips back from her teeth. They’re all scissors and daggers and needles, those teeth, perfectly white, prettily pointed. She jiggles the cup. A speck of the slush inside splashes up in a faint supernova of pink. Smiling then, almost anxious, she leans back, shakes her head, and looks at you.
“Or maybe”—up her eyebrows go, dark gentle commas—“I should ask it the other way around, huh? Are the pearls like the pudding?” A second time she rolls the cup, seesawing it midair. The contents slosh. “They’re tapioca, right?”
“They are.” Fresh tapioca, actually, but she won’t care about that, so you don’t say so. Instead you press your heels into the rung of your stool and arch off the seat a little bit. Getting a good view of her right now is important. You want to see what she’s going to do with your beverage. Not to mention you are surprised. “You know what tapioca tastes like?”
The question’s out of your mouth before you think about it, and the look on her face makes you wish you had. “Well,” she says, “sure. Or… sorta. I remember it.” Her eyes go distant and fuzzy, a red so rusty-deep it’s two shades from brown. She adds, “I think. It’s squishy, isn’t it? But slippery. Chewy.”
It’s a lot of adjectives. You say that, and she laughs. The cup slips down in her grasp, seeds of moisture bristling along the plastic. Before it can fall, though, she clutches her fingers tighter around it: lifts it. The straw bumps over her lips. Clicks on her fangs.
“You’re going to drink it?” you ask, partway stuck between startled and indignant. You didn’t even get one sip of it before she snatched it away, and that sucks. But then again, it’s Marceline standing there on the other side of your lab table, Marceline and a cup of bubble tea, and she is a vampire. Vampires don’t drink bubble tea.
“Why not?” Delicately she puckers her lips over the straw’s tip—nibbles it, her gaze slanted toward you.
“It’s pink!” Not that pink’s ever stopped her from putting her mouth on something before. You know that better than anyone. “And barely pink. Not red the way you like it.” The beaker in your hand is smoking. You give it a swirl and it calms, a slow scaffolding of steam smoldering up over its lip. “Can you even eat things that aren’t red, Marceline?”
She rolls her eyes—dodges the question. “There’s red in pink.”
“Yes, but the amount of it is in no way significant—”
Ignoring you mightily, she slurps at the straw. Hard. Just once. Her gaze hoods, all challenge, and a dark, blotchy tapioca bead from the cup’s bottom shoots up the tube into her mouth. You can’t help holding your breath as she rolls it around on her tongue and sets about chewing it at last, the flex of her jaws experimental, slow, like maybe she’s out of practice. You have never, ever seen her chew anything before. Her teeth aren’t made for it: they grind, scrape and you can hear them rubbing where they shouldn’t, friction gone wrong. It is sickly fascinating.
“Is that going to make you ill?” you ask. For a long time you’ve known Marceline: since your early childhood, and that was decades ago. You haven’t always been friends. Glob, you haven’t even always liked each other, and sometimes when she throws her arm over you in the dark and manages to dig her elbow into both your boobs at once, you still don’t like her. But right now you like her, yes: in the smutty, flickering glow of the Bunsen burner you like her very much, you actually completely love her, and you are concerned she might’ve just poisoned herself with your bubble tea. Because for all that you’ve known her a long time, you don’t honestly know a lot about her. Like whether tapioca is going to do funny, horrible things to her insides.
She makes a noise then, a strangled little half-choking sound. You are off the stool and around the table to her in a nanosecond, your hands pattering up at her chin. White-hot panic and helplessness sear through you. How to help her you don’t know, you just don’t know, she’s a vampire and you’re a genius but you’ve never studied vampires, not study-studied them, because the only one you’ve ever known is her and she isn’t (wasn’t) just a vampire, she’s your friend. Your… well, she’s more than your friend. And you don’t study your more-than-friends. The idea of it is too distasteful.
But you do wish now that you at least knew how her digestive system worked.
“Marceline,” you say urgently. In your fingers you cup her cheeks. Like porcelain, they are cool and smooth, the edges where they rise sharp enough to cut. “Marceline, tell me what’s wrong—”
Her mouth opens. She sticks her long purple serpentine tongue out at you. Tiny flecks of spit hit the lenses of your goggles and she says, muffled and halfway to giggling, “Hey, ’ook! It’s sthuck!”
The tapioca pearl is lodged on her rightmost fang.
She folds an arm around you: puts the cup of bubble tea on your lab table. Reaching up with her free hand next, she plucks the skewered pearl free and lobs it back into her mouth proper, where it disappears down her throat with no apparent ill effects. Your heart is beating very, very fast and you scowl at her, but then she smiles askance at you and scrubs her mouth against your forehead. Her lips are colder than usual. Wet.
“Worrywart,” she decrees. The fondness in her voice is unmistakable.
“So you can eat things that aren’t red.” You fiddle your hands back down to somewhere nearby your waist, where you occupy them with twisting a piece of her hair around and around your thumb. Speaking of red: wow, your cheeks.
“Yeah, sometimes.” She leans over you to take another slurp of the tea. “Not too much. But pink is fine. You know,” she decides, “this stuff is pretty good.” She picks up the cup again. “Can I have the rest?”
You shrug and let yourself lean back in her arm’s crook. It’s not like you were craving the tea when you made it—not enough to pitch a fit now, anyway. “You may.”
So she sucks at the straw vigorously and holds you. You watch. In your hip’s hollow she traces her thumb, up down, a motion that’s equal parts idle and mischievous: you can see her looking at you under her lashes. You wonder how the drink tastes to her. If she’s used to things being cold on her tongue. If colors—if red—is warm. Maybe strawberry-flavored.
But you don’t study your more-than-friends. It’s too distasteful. That and, well, you like the mystery that comes with Marceline: you like her to reveal things to you without being asked, even if it does scare you. You like knowing suddenly that she is not allergic to tapioca. To bubble tea.
The liquid in the cup is almost gone. A nest of slick-dark, shiny pearls are left over, and she stirs them with the straw before she turns her head abruptly and feathers her cool, soft mouth down your ear. “You taste better,” she whispers there.
And you especially like knowing she thinks so.