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For Want of a (Normal) Nail (Color)

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Jim smelled the scent of nail polish as soon as he opened the door. He would’ve asked aer to open a window, but their shared home in New Trollmarket didn’t have any.

“Hey Claire?” he asked as he found aer at the kitchen table, furiously blowing at aer nails. “You mind doing that outside next time?”

“It’s cold topside.” Claire waved a red-nailed hand in the air, sparks flying from aer palm, and the smell dissipated from the room.

“I meant by just outside the house, but that works too. Don’t you usually paint your nails a more orange color?”

“Yeah, but the store’s only vaguely orange colors were -” ae wrinkled aer nose “- too gold for my taste.”

“So why didn’t you go with purple?”

“I’m allowed to wear other colors, you know.” Ae pulled a bottle of nail polish that honestly looked more like concentrated purple and black glitter out of the shopping bag. “Also, I plan on adding a coat of this when my nails dry.”

“So you are going with purple.”

“Not as a base coat, though!” Ae resumed blowing at aer nails, blinked, and then looked up at him. “You want me to paint yours?”

“What other colors do you have?” If ae only had red and concentrated glitter, he’d go with red because at least it would match his Eclipse armor, but when ae mentioned painting his nails Jim suddenly had a semi-hopeful thought.

Ae pulled five bottles out of nail polish. Somewhat dark purple, black, purple glitter, multicolored glitter, and holographic puple - whatever that meant.

“No pastel pink?” he asked. Ae wrinkled aer nose.

“Jim, what kind of person do you take me for?” ae asked. “I’m not going to paint my nails pink, especially if it’s pastel pink. The only thing worse than a full coat of pastel pink is a French manicure, and at that point the only reason why I’d be painting my nails is so I could try and hide the fact that I was biting them out of anxiety.”

“French manicures are the ones where it makes your nails look just like normal nails, right?”

“Yeah, which is...” Claire tilted aer head; aer eyes widened. “Did you want me to make your nails look like human ones?”

“Yeah, though it’s fine... I’ll get used to the color sooner or later.” As it was, he was slightly more used to the right-hand nails being black more than the left-hand ones, if only because he hadn’t seen his left hand for most of the summer while they tried to find the Heartstone.

“Totally human-looking nails might look a little odd with your skin tone, but this one would probably give a somewhat similar effect.” Jim looked down at the bottle ae slid across the table.

“Claire, it’s holographic. I don’t want my nails looking like the Void!”

“Don’t worry, Mary once used this exact same color on me during a sleepover. So it says “holographic” but it’s actually more iridescent between purple and blue, and the purple is the same color as when your nails turn purple because they’re cold or don’t have enough oxygen.”

“Isn’t that dangerous?”

“It’s happened to me plenty of times, and I’m fine.” Jim gave aer a look; ae had neglected aer health in the past. “Look, I just have really small hands and thin fingers; they don’t conserve heat that well! Anyways, the blue looks enough like your skin tone, and so it’ll look more natural than pink or black.”

“Okay, I’ll try it. Could you try and paint my nails for me? I'm still not good at small motor stuff.”

“Sure, give me a minute.” Ae resumed blowing on aer nails.

“Why do you have a spell to remove the smell but not dry nail polish?”

“Magic is weird.”