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if food be the music of love

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lalonde fuck if i know what to do theres nothing in her any more of all of them i expected this to happen to it wasnt her
moves three inches a year like a barnacle
slow as old people fucking seriously like that was ever in her if you put a gun to my head and asked for description word it wouldnt be slow
doesnt even get excited about licking things the snozzberries no longer taste like snozzberries in her existential crisis i guess
rose look i am halfway off feeding her a prozac milkshake what do i do



There was no quarter for Terezi that first long, hot Houston summer.

During the days she crawled into the airless space underneath Dave’s desk and slept there like some hobo or a dog waiting to die, and on those humid nights she stretched herself out her full inconsequential length on the couch and slept there too. She didn’t stir. You could thrash about six thousand points in Mad Snacks Yo before she would even twitch.

At first he’d thought it was the heat and the light, though even the summer sun in Texas wasn’t the troll-blistering microwave it was on Alternia. He’d left it. The unbearable Pyropeness of being was not his problem. Only somewhere his internal calendar went, it has been two weeks since your person has been licked molested cackled at or otherwise spoken to actually whats up with that and, fuck: her silence was an uncanny valley. She folded in on herself like paper. Her weariness was a sunburn, and she didn’t want to be touched.

In no universe would Dave Strider ever be caught hovering, but when he put himself in her sharp toothy vicinity -- and it was hard not to, not in the Strider apartment -- he no longer got a, coolkid, you are loitering with intent! Barely got acknowledged. Sometimes she groaned, is it still night? like time stretched out for her like Silly Putty.

She was empty. What could he do? When they were handing out Power of Heart, Dave Strider had been going around for seconds at the badass motherfucker line. He had nothing to give. She folded, he folded. Somewhere around July her depression slithered into him like an intestinal parasite, and he was two fucking steps off calling Karkat all the way in Washington to shout at her over the phone. There was something wrong if your last resort was looking down the barrel of a loaded Karkat Vantas.

Striders never threw in the towel. Too much effort.

So yeah, it was the crepes that did it; even though there was no point to a crepe, it was a pancake without testosterone. Some place down three blocks was doing them up hot and rolly and golden, and on some weird fucking whim he’d walked in and got one. Then he smoothly hurried the three blocks back with it in its styrafoam prison and dropped it right on her blanket, unceremonious, her opening up her red eyes of death and not even having the consideration to make them baleful. Just blank.

“Eat it before it gets cold,” he said, sounding like such a fucking mom his jeans probably crept six inches higher on his waist.

Her voice sounded unused. “What is this, coolkid?”

“It’s a shut up and eat it before it gets cold.”

Terezi wriggled her arms out the blanket and opened the box. Whipped cream melted in sugary glaciers down the crepe’s rolled-up sides, little bright bubbles of raspberry peeking out next to their banana brethren all hi, we’re here so you can pretend we’re a fucking health food, sticky with hot fudge sauce. She was still like a statue, stone cold and staring. He’d made a mistake. For one thing, he belatedly realized she couldn’t fucking see it, he was a grade-A idiot. So he said, “Or it can find a home in my stomach orphanage,” but she sat up and snatched before he could airlift it back.

“This is mine,” she said. “It is my property.”

There was something flat and slouchy to her still, as though interest was tiresome and only came with effort, but she shouldered forward and beheld her crepe. She’d always been angular, but now you could play her collarbones like a grey marimba. Her hair crept around her neck in limp black noodle strands, and the only thing that hadn’t changed were the teeth: when she opened her mouth there they were, all nineteen thousand of them.

The first sniff she gave the crepe was decidedly lackluster. Then her tongue popped out in one oily, horrifyingly sinuous movement and licked a little bit of the cream away, and she breathed in the whole raspberry-banana-fudge-flour mess as though interrogating it for an alibi. Dave watched as her eyelids shuttered down, just the once, and then she licked again those cream-chocolate streamers oozing down her hand. She had long, careful, elegant fingers, and a mouth that would make anyone’s dick want to roll up in a coil and hide. It was this mouth that suddenly went snip-snap on a mouthful of fruit and syrup and then she was eating it, oh fucking John Cale hallelujah.

He rescued the last bite from her fingers, bravery which should have netted anyone a Purple Heart, and he popped it into his mouth. As crepes went, it was admittedly good: soft banana and the ripe slushy tang of raspberry, all around it the unsubtle sup let’s be friends of chocolate hazelnut shit out a bottle. Dave knew he’d hit paydirt when she gaped at him indignantly, lips still smeared with fudge goo.

“Pay your rent, Alf,” he told her casually, and there was a flicker of the old Terezi in her eyes.

Half an hour later she was curled up on the couch again, asleep right up until Bro slouched in at midnight and still asleep when he slouched back out at 7 AM, but that flicker had been enough.

Three days later he tried her on Chicken Nuggets and fifteen packets of the barbecue sauce, shaking them out of his pockets. She propped herself up underneath his desk and peeled them, fucking peeled them with one sharp orange claw, diamond face a picture of concentration as she divorced might-be-chicken from its weird casing. Then she ate sixteen in quick succession, and together they drank all the barbecue sauce.

“This shit is eighty per cent formaldehyde,” he said, and tilted his head up so the white container could give up its last little drips of sweet-salty maroon. Terezi had buttered those nuggets with the sauce, using her tongue. “You could embalm corpses with this. Pass me a boot-shaped one.”

“No!” she said. “The boot is the most delicious.”

She’d been irritable when he first plopped himself down, Mickey D’s bag in hand, but when he proceeded to open up every little boat of maroon pleasure syrup she had uncurled herself from her blanket to watch. There was sleep in her eyes, her mouth, her hair. On that first squidgy bite of McNugget, she had closed her eyes and sighed her penitence: ripped that shit to shreds like a velociraptor, salt and crisp, chased afterwards by the tang of barbecue acid that was like the original recipe for heartburn. McDonald’s was so inoffensive. It was like the amiable high-school science teacher of fast food.

Terezi ate his boot, her small awful self tucked up next to his computer chair. “Caramel cluckflesh,” she said, and swallowed with satisfaction. “Good. This is good. Alternian food is more textures! You know, glops and crunches.”

It was the first time she’d talked troll and Alternia since she got there, so he was more about the culture shock than he was about the inherent creep factor. “You want glops and crunches, Ronald McDonald will amply fucking provide,” he said.

“No troll would willingly eat food made by a clown, Dave.”

“Nah, I bet that shit is religious to you. You’d be imbibing the body of Christ each time you clamp your snaggletoothed maw down on a Big Mac. All et spiritus sancti on every Fillet-O-Fish.”

Terezi wrapped herself back up in her blanket when he was tossing the trash back in the bag, aware that her eyes were on him and her aware that he was aware. She curled up bonelessly, like a child, still empty of the crackle and snap that he’d once associated with everything Terezi Pyrope; small and grey and red-eyed, with the world’s most malevolent fucking chin. “I have eaten the boots and drank the sauce,” she said.

“Congratulations. Here comes a special girl. I’ll make you a medal.”

“You should make me a medal. You should lay down a strict beat in celebration of our weird human saucemeal.”

Of course, she fell asleep later while he was mixing, and was so still and sleeping he wondered for a couple of ass-irrational moments if she was alive. Dave watched for the nearly imperceptible rise and fall of her skinny chest through her t-shirt, the little signs of her still being alive and well and living, and didn’t know if he should have felt like a loser or a pervert. In the end, he decided he was both.

There was too big a percentage of his day spent on thinking what to feed her next, although even one percent was too much time spent on the subject. Dave knew what was coming. He’d start jacking it to pictures of chubby girls with cute dimples in their knees and Google words like feeder, and he would kneel by his bed and send up devout thanks that he was still into human chicks. This was his fucked-up line the sand. On that jiggling rock would he build his church.

So he tried her on sushi. He walked for half an hour to get it and ran all the way back, looking like a total smooth-moves merchant sprinting city blocks in hundred-degree heat, he was pretty fucking sure -- went by colour, so that when they opened it up she could look at (sniff out) little sunset drifts of fish roe; deep dots of vermillion, paper-white rice and the rose blush of tuna, the green tea tint of fresh wasabi. They leant over the kitchen counter together, elbows close and blanket discarded, and Dave taught her to use chopsticks like a true weeaboo. Terezi stuck one behind each ear instead and set about licking every orange egg speckle off her uramaki.

“Here is a question for you,” she said, and took a pause to stick her tongue into the container of soy sauce. She didn’t even fucking drink any, just basted her long tongue in there like a champ. Marinaded, she continued: “Why do humans do all this to their food?”

“Not following.”

Terezi picked up a piece and poked out the imitation crab, white-hearted and pink-skinned, the rice globbed with the yellow-green of avocado and a stick of pepper red as Popsicles. “Art,” she said impatiently. “A million colours! This is arrayed, Dave. This is intense. I don’t want to hide it down my protein chute. It should be on my tongue. It should be displayed. It is gorgeous.”

“If you and the sushi need a bucket, go ahead,” he said.

She cackled. First time he’d heard her laugh in an eternity of forever. It was like walking through a long chilly tunnel and up into a light made out of teenage alien cackle. “Sick!” she said. “Less of the dirty words. I need to concentrate. Wait.” He watched as she closed her chainsaw maw and chewed, eyes closed as she took in the thousand-part orchestra of her senses, and she made a bunch of seriously distressing noises like a crocodile in heat before the sushi went down her gullet. “See. See. Trolls like to keep their flavours minimal to make the body angry. Give me the delicious greenfire lump.”

“Oh, goddamn, no you don’t -- “

Terezi contentedly held the wasabi paste in her palm and licked it. “Yeah,” she said. “Oh, yes. It pops.

Afterwards, when they’d set aside some sushi for Bro, he saw her rummaging around for towels. She used up half the soap and most of the toothpaste, but when she bedded down later on the couch she was wearing his old pyjamas and her hair was damp. Proceeded to sleep for twelve hours, too, but he went in later and for reasons he could not understand tucked up the blanket around her thin shoulders. Irony at its fucking finest.

Jelly snakes, awash with indigotine, tartrazine and FD&C blues one through seven. A packet of crumbly black Oreos, which he showed her how to unscrew and how to peel the grainy cream off with your tongue, a feat she got down perfectly first time. Candy apples lacquered with caramel, with that sugarsand bite you only got from a really fresh Granny Smith. Dave also took life and limb into his hands by boiling a tin of Eagle’s condensed milk on the stovetop, simmering it for three hours until it carmelized into pure fucking type-one diabetes. They burnt their fingers and ate it with dented spoons until they couldn’t eat it any more.

Watching her eat was -- something. She savoured each bite like she was making sweet nasty tonguelove to it, smelled it like on a clear day you could smell forever, swallowed with open disappointment to reach the end. When they sat on the floor with a pepperoni pizza it was like she’d been given the flesh of the wicked to devour. When he came back into the apartment now she would whip her head round like an alien meerkat, awake and anticipating, and it was that charitable curiosity about her reactions that kept him playing the game: he kept telling himself that, kept not smiling to himself dreamily like a Disney Princess while picking her up a slice of strawberry cheesecake.

He’d thought the strawberry cheesecake would blow her mind. It didn’t, though it was a Kodak moment watching her very sincerely lean down and goddamn kiss the thing, mash her horrible mouth up into it and french a cake like it was Homecoming night and she expected the cheesecake to put out. Nope: it was the nachos that did her in. Terezi’s hands were actually trembling as she ladled each bite, silky with guacamole and bright crimson chunks of tomato, between her lips. She moaned around that first crunching mouthful of salsa. Her jaw hung open a little slack so that he could see her pre-chewed food, breath coming harder, and on the whole it was disquieting and worried Dave’s dick.

After that first swallow she got all up in his face, smelling like melted cheddar and lips slick with oil, glasses slipping off her skijump nose. “This is a nancho party?” she asked in childlike wonderment.

“I threw you a nancho party, girl,” he said.

“I am getting my nacho on.”

“I think you should get your nacho on a little less before you get your nacho off,” he said, but too late, she was whimpering over the next bite like she couldn’t quite believe it was in her mouth. Terezi discovered sour cream the way that Columbus discovered the Americas, only with a little less wholesale slaughter and a little more tortilla chip. When his eye was drawn to the way her stick-armed body shuddered slightly with each new nacho application he averted his gaze to give her privacy. It didn’t do jack shit, as she was still sitting there shovelling it into her mouth and making tiny sounds of sexy nacho distress. What the fuck.

Afterwards she lay there, glazed and staring sightlessly at the ceiling, and he had to reach over and wipe her mouth with his sleeve to preserve her dignity. All she did was lick his shirt. “It almost makes it harder,” she said vaguely, “that this kind of thing exists. It would be easier if it didn’t.”

“Yeah, it drives me crazy that I have to walk around in the same world as the nacho,” said Dave. “It kills me that these unworthy hands have touched nacho. Continually do I make worship to the Cheese, the Beans and the Holy Guac. One day both of us will make that long pilgrimage to Mecca, otherwise known as Chipotle, and we will just wrap our arms around each other and fucking weep.”

“Do not mock me, coolkid!” said Terezi. “I think nachos might be my matesprit.”

She fell asleep a little while later with her clothes on, head pillowed on her arm, t-shirt slipping off one smoke-grey shoulder. He picked her up like a sack of potatoes and deposited her on a pile of laundry in a dark corner of the room, her light and intangible as confectionery, just horns and shinbones and teeth. And she smelled like corn chips. Her eyelashes made black smudges on her cheeks, mouth silent and unusually solemn, and her jeans were turned up in such a way that he noticed she had the sexiest ankles Troll Jesus ever made. The tapering line of her calf to foot hitched his breath.

Worse than scoping her hot ankles was the fucked-up, overwhelming tenderness he felt watching her sleep, tenderness that was most likely him misreading the symptoms of bacterial meningitis or something equally less terminal. If he was lucky, it’d be the meningitis. Fuck.

Dave Strider performed the ultimate act of cross-species devotion: he stood at the kitchen countertop and peeled fried chicken. The chicken he discarded, but the skin he dropped into a bowl as precious food gold. First time he’d come in and she hadn’t been around, which was probably for the best as that shit came in a bucket, but he stood there nonchalantly disrobing drumsticks and wondering when he’d lost control of his life.

The door up to the rooftop lay slovenly and open. He balanced the bowl of chicken skin one hand, and a container of mashed potato and gravy (without potato) in the other; he mounted the long flights of stairs with an expression that could have sat in the icebox for a week, chillest of the chill, and sure enough when he kicked the door marked DO NOT ENTER open there she was --

Dave didn’t know what he’d expected. Bro, maybe, careless and glittering. He didn’t expect Terezi Pyrope standing on the edge with the blanket an abandoned drift behind her, arms spread open like she was some kind of supplicant. A two-horned supplicant in flannel pyjamas in the boiling hot Houston sun, staring up at the great simmering disc hanging cloudless overhead: blind in the light with the reek of hot concrete all around her.

Some kind of asshole might have dropped the gravy to make a perfect narrative glop of shock on the ground. He was not that brand of ass.

“Do a flip,” he said instead.

The troll girl stretched up those long limber ankles and swung around to see him -- goddamn, if anyone saw her they’d be double-dialing the Have U Seen Extraterrestrials? and the Suicide Hotline both -- light, weightless, an inch from becoming street pizza. Fifteen stories high. The expression on her face was somewhere between beatific and brittle, and all he could do was stand there with his hands full and his head empty.

“The problem is,” she said, “not feeling real. Logically proven, Dave: in reality, I am going to someday board the ships and be admitted to the Cruellest Bar as a legislacerator, serving to the full extent of Imperial law. In reality I am a troll and I live as a troll and have a future as a troll! So you see how everything else is sort of strange and indistinct!”

“Terezi,” he said.

“And therefore if I am under your strange yellow sun and sitting in your weird communal hive it can’t make much sense,” said Terezi. “It’s disappointing to find I’m so wretchedly inflexible, you know! Every moment of every night feels imaginary. I don’t like imaginary. It bores me. So shut out the imaginary -- ”

“Don’t care,” said Dave. His heart was ripping a series of atonal palpating beats. Another few steps ate the distance between him and her, until the noise of the traffic far below filled his ears and layered with the mournful scream of crows. “I don’t give a shit. Sleep for a million years if that tickles your bone bulge. Jump, and you won’t wake up.”

Her voice was thin and mocking, and it reminded him of Rose. “And what do you do, Knight of Time? What do you do now that you’re this shitty and diminished thing? You can’t really go home again, Dave Strider! So what are you going to do?”

With a flick of his wrist he tossed the gravy up in the air; he dove forward and he struggled her back away from the wall, away, away, away, catching the tub in the bowl even as she fought like a cat in a sack. “Wait and see,” he breathed, and he drew her down to the ground and crooked his elbow as a safety bar around her until she stopped and went boneless. “Just you wait and see.”

She lay propped-up in his arms as he fed her fried chicken skin, opening her sawtoothed mouth like a little baby bird as he popped it on her tongue. They sat there with the crackle of chicken salt and oil, paprika and pepper and the sweet glide of grease as it melted on your tastebuds and gave you the assured promise of heart disease. Dipped in the holy manna of cooling gravy it was simultaneously even better and worse.

“I wasn’t looking to jump,” she said, and in the sunlight she wasn’t a monochrome thing at all: her sightless eyes were madder red, and underneath her skin came the bloody flush of electric turquoise. Her nails were a terrifying pumpkin yellow and her chopped-up, angle-boned, perfect body was as light in his arms as it had been when he’d laid her down in his laundry. Also, her mouth was covered in chicken grease and the aftermath of like nine cups of shortening. “I was looking at the jump.”

“Open your mouth. The cartel airplane wants to dock there and get off this sweet load of Colombian crack before the CIA busts their asses.” Terezi obediently opened her mouth. He dropped chicken batter on her tongue. “Now continue your homeless-person sidewalk ranting.”

At least she chewed and swallowed. “It keeps me awake,” she said. “Going to the edge sometimes. It keeps me from sleeping. Otherwise all I want to do is lie down and get tired when I remember I have to get up. Do you know what the second thing is that keeps me awake?”

“Stupid question. The answer is obviously nachos.”

“Yes!” she said. That cackle again. Like a symphony orchestra. “Yes, nachos! But it’s you, Dave. You, you, you, and everything you do.”

He figured it was pretty ironic to kiss her. She tasted like the KFC grease trap. Terezi wound her salt-stained arms around his neck and he kissed her right on the mouth, his sunglasses clinking into hers as they figured out the terrible teen mystery of how this was meant to go: rising and dissolving, that tinge of want and gravy, his lips on hers. The world blurred into hot tar and hollow sounds as Dave kissed back every godawful particle of her she gave. Their bodies stuttered with lips and teeth and tongue, and she gave a violent shudder when he put his hand at the small of her back. When he stroked the base of her spine she wriggled into him as though desperate to live inside his skin; as though the pain really came from them not being one thing, one fucked-up Daverezi conglomeration shutting out everything barren, and for long moments he was very convinced it was.

“And you are the most delicious human delicacy of all,” she murmured.

“Don’t fuck up the moment.”

“I will fuck up all of your moments for the rest of time.”

“Yes,” said Dave, “yes, class president, I will go steady with you,” and to seal the vow he licked gravy from the tip of her nose. Being so effortlessly chill obviously filled her to the brim with lust, body urging against his as his mouth found her mouth and his hands found her hips, and their renewed hungry kissing might have gotten a little more interesting had he not looked up and seen Cal avidly watching him get to second base.


“Sup,” said his Bro, reaching down with one calloused hand so Li’l Cal could give both of them a cheery gap-toothed wave. Terezi traitorously laughed herself stupid and waved back. In no way was Cal being a cool dude at that moment. Their relationship took a definite hit. “I think it’s about time you two kids came downstairs so that we can all have the Talk.”

“Dude, I am not doing the birds and bees thing. No chance in hell.”

“Birds and bees? No, man.” The hot rooftop wind ruffled Bro’s hair, and in a smooth move of cool he tilted his head down so he could stare at them both over the top of his sunglasses. “This is the talk about healthy food choices. You two are going to play some Captain Novolin until your fingers bleed.”

Dave swore.


TG: i know baby
TG: shhh
TG: i know