This oneshot came out of talks of Little-Zizters and my general enjoyment of writing chibi!Taylor. I meant to continue it, but never got around to it.
It predates Stargazing as a whole, so the canonicity of Taylor/Simurgh is up to you as a reader. I wrote Bird and Bug on the basis of them being sisters, with that being the central theme of the story, but if you want to read it as a precursor to Stargazing and ship them, that's entirely fine too.
Bird and Bug
"Hi, what's your name? I'm Taylor!" I said.
The little girl had a long, tangled mane of white-blonde hair. So long that I couldn't even see her eyes. She'd been standing alone by the woods for a while, and I'd come over to see what she was doing. She looked kind of lonely.
When the girl didn't answer, I tried a different tactic. "Do you want to play tag? My friend Emma is getting some other kids together, and we're all gonna play tag."
The girl stood stock still, not answering. And stood. And stood…
What was her deal? Maybe she was shy. If I was shy, I'd want someone else to take the lead. So I held out a hand to the girl. Pale fingers crept around mine, and I beamed at her.
We trotted back to the playground, hand in hand. Emma stood in a crowd of other kids, practically bouncing back and forth as she talked to everyone.
"Who's the brat?" Emma said, giving the girl a disapproving look.
"Dunno. She's gonna play tag with us." I hesitated. We hadn't actually gotten that far. "I think."
"She's too little."
"Emmmaaa." I said. "Be nice to… whatshername."
"You don't even know her name?"
Emma and I looked down. The girl's bangs had parted slightly, just enough that I could see a single gray eye peering at us. Her grip tightened a little bit, like she was scared of Emma.
"See, she said her name is Simone." I said triumphantly. "Simone, you wanna play tag with us?"
Simone gave the tiniest of nods.
Emma huffed, scuffing her shoes in the dirt. "Fine. But she better not cry if she gets tagged."
"That was what you did." I said.
"Yeah, but that was last year." Emma said. She gave Simone one last glance before turning back to the other kids.
I pulled Simone aside. "You know how to play, right?
"You gonna be okay?"
"…can you see where you're going?"
"I thought so." I said, rummaging in my pockets. "My hair is super tangly too, and my mom always makes me carry this!" My blue ribbon fluttered in the breeze. I already had the green one in my hair. The blue one was in case I lost it, but Mom wouldn't mind if I let Simone borrow it.
Simone's eye got really big.
"Pretty, isn't it?"
"Right… now let's just…" I wrestled Simone's messy hair back and forced it into a rough ponytail. It took some work to get the ribbon tied, and it wasn't perfect. Not like Mom would have done.
When it was all said and done, Simone stood blinking owlishly; squinting her eyes even in the early morning sun. She was pale, almost ghostly with her hair. Privately, I thought she looked like an angel. Not like one of those cheesy cherubs, but one of the pretty ones who held trumpets and flaming swords and stuff.
"It's just a ribbon." I was a little embarrassed. She liked the ribbon enough to actually say something.
I took Simone's hand again and led her back to Emma.
"Now that Taylor and… you are ready, we're gonna play tag!" Emma said. She seemed annoyed by seeing Simone still there, but I couldn't figure out why.
"Annd… you're it!" Emma tagged Simone on the top of her head and ran for it. All the kids scattered, screaming excitedly as they went. I was still holding Simone's hand.
"I could be it, if you want."
Simone shook her head. There was a faint blush on her cheeks, and she stared determinedly at Emma's fleeing back.
"I am it."
The resulting game of tag spanned not only the playground, but most of the nearby woods as well. By the time it ended, I was splattered with mud, and had a veritable birdsnest of hair with all the sticks and leaves caught in it. Funnily enough, I'd lost my ribbon somewhere. I lay slumped in the grass with my shoes kicked off.
"H-h- is your Mom coming to pick us up?" Emma panted, flopping down beside me.
She wasn't as dirty as I was, but she'd had to work a lot harder. Simone had tagged her back in record time. I wasn't sure, but I suspected that Simone had tagged Emma every time she was it. The little girl was surprisingly fast.
I checked her watch. Almost noon. "She should be here in a minute." Grass rustled behind us, and I looked up to see Simone sitting primly. She smiled broadly at us.
"Twelve times." Simone said, pointing to Emma. Emma gave her a dirty look.
"She's not allowed to play anymore."
"Emma!" Emma could be a sore loser sometimes, but she wasn't usually this bad. She really disliked Simone for some reason.
"Taylor, Emma, time to go!" Mom's voice carried easily over the whole playground.
I shot up, looking around for her. She was standing next to the car, waving at us.
"Bye, I hope I see you again." I said to Simone. I met a lot of neat people at the playground, but Simone was… she was kinda weird, but I liked her. She was fun.
"Cya." Emma said curtly.
We made our way over to the car. It was getting cloudy now. Big black clouds were blocking the sun. Mom had picked a good time to come.
"Taylor, what have you been doing? And Emma…" Mom sighed dejectedly. "You're both getting a bath when we get home. I'm not sending you home looking like a vagabond, Emma. I'd never hear the end of it from Alan."
"Sorry Mom." I said. I didn't like disappointing Mom, but I'd had enough fun today to make up for it. It was like math. Enough fun canceled out bathtime's unfun.
"Sorry Mrs. Hebert." Emma echoed.
"The things I put up with. I should have had a boy. Nobody complains when boys get dirty!" Mom said dramatically. She paused, looking over my shoulder. "Well, hey there. Who are you?"
I turned to find Simone standing there. A lock of hair had escaped her ponytail and fallen over one eye.
"This is Simone, Mom. We played together today."
Thunder rumbled ominously, and Mom looked at Simone with concern.
"Are your parents picking you up, sweetheart?"
"She's shy, Mom." I whispered.
"I see… Simone, do you live around here?"
"How are you getting home?"
"Do you know where you live? What your last name is?"
Two head shakes.
Mom looked to me for help. "Taylor?"
I shrugged. "I don't know." It hadn't come up. It's not like you needed a last name to play tag.
"Simone," Mom said. "How did you get here?"
"You were sent here?"
"Who sent you? Your parents?
Mom was looking increasingly aggravated. "A mission?! What mission?"
Simone pointed at me. What the heck?
The look that passed over Mom's face was one I'd never seen before. She went from annoyed to scary in seconds. She took Simone's arm and pulled her away from us.
"Emma, Taylor, get in the car." She used the voice grownups only used when they were really, really serious.
Me and Emma watched from inside the car. The windows were shut, and we couldn't hear anything. We still had our noses pressed up against the glass, trying to see what Simone and Mom were talking about.
"You just had to talk to the weird kid, didn't you?" Emma said.
"She's not weird." Simone was pretty weird, but I wouldn't admit it to Emma.
"Why's she here for you?"
"Dunno. Maybe I'm like a secret princess or something."
Outside, Mom was talking very fast, moving her arms a lot. Simone seemed to be as quiet as before.
Simone nodded. Nodded again. Shook her head. Nodded.
Mom looked upset now. Her face was getting all red, and she was pacing back and forth.
"Fine!" She shouted loud enough for us to hear. Then she stormed back to the car and yanked open the door. Simone slid into the back seat.
"Mom?" I said.
"Not now." Mom said. "We're going home."
"Uh-" Emma cleared her throat.
"Emma's house first. Then home." Mom said. There was a vein pulsing in her temple. "Simone, buckle your seat belt."
By the time we took Emma home it was raining. Mom was so mad that she was leaning forward, muttering under her breath every time we hit a stoplight. She kept glancing in the mirror to look at me and Simone. Simone sat quietly and looked out the window. It didn't seem to bother her that Mom was mad.
The car had barely stopped moving into the driveway when Mom leapt out and herded us inside.
She pointed at Simone and then the couch. "You, sit." Then she pointed at me. "You… watch her. Both of you stay here."
I could smell something good from in the kitchen. It smelled like Dad was making lunch. He had the day off and was using it to catch up on housework. He had a lot to get done, but he'd promised to make time to hang a sign on my door that said "Taylor's Room." We all knew it was my room, but it was fun to have.
"Danny!" Mom called. There was the sound of pots clattering in the kitchen, and Dad burst into the living room. He had spaghetti sauce smeared across his cheek, and he looked worried.
"Annette? What is it?" He said. Then he saw Simone. "Who's that?"
"Kitchen." Mom said shortly. They vanished into the kitchen, leaving me alone with Simone.
"So… why are you here?" I said. "Like, what's your mission for?"
"You told my Mom."
"Part of the mission."
"What's it got to do with me?"
I groaned. She'd gone back to gestures. I was about to try and listen in on Mom and Dad's conversation when Simone pointed at the front door.
Someone knocked a second later. How did she…
"I'll get it. Taylor, do not open the door!" Mom shouted. She sounded just as mad as before. Simone pointed more insistently, looking at me.
"I should open the door." I said.
She was pretty aggravating. Everything didn't have to be 20 Questions.
I went to the door. Simone smiled at me. And, as I opened the door, I had the sudden feeling that I was going to regret it.
The woman standing on the front porch looked kind of like Mom. Her black hair was cut in the same way, but she didn't dress like Mom at all. Mom definitely didn't own a fancy suit like this lady did. She didn't have an umbrella, but she was perfectly dry, even though it was still raining.
"Hello there." The lady said. She had a weird accent that I didn't recognize. "May I come in?"
"You're a stranger."
She smiled at me. "You can call me Contessa, if you want."
That didn't convince me. She was still a stranger. A stranger with a strange name.
"I'm here to see Simone too. May I come in?"
How did she know that? Simone had only been here for like ten minutes.
A hand grabbed my shoulder from behind and I jumped. Mom and Dad stood behind me, both of them dead serious.
"Hello." Contessa said to them. "May I?"
"No." Dad said.
"Yes. Mom said through gritted-teeth.
They looked at each other, and Dad relented.
"Thank you." Contessa said. I stepped aside and she walked in, tucking her hat under one arm.
"Hello Simone." She said. Simone blushed. She looked like she'd just gotten caught with her hand in the cookie jar. Contessa sat down beside her, still smiling pleasantly. Mom pointed me to a chair, and she and Dad stood next to me like guards.
"Explain." Dad said. He was the one getting mad now. I didn't like it when he got mad. He and Mom always ended up shouting at each other.
"Well, I was going to start from the beginning, but as someone," Contessa nodded at Simone, who blushed again. "Decided to show up early, I think I'll skip to the important parts."
She turned to me. "Taylor, how would you like a new little sister?"
I stared at Mom with eyes as big as plates. "You're pregnant?!"
Contessa snorted with laughter. Mom closed her eyes and took a couple of deep breaths before she answered me.
"No Taylor, I'm not pregnant. She means Simone."
"What?" What she was saying didn't make any sense. What about Simone?
"Simone would be your sister." Contessa said. "How do you feel about that?"
I… I wasn't sure how to feel, really. Little sisters weren't supposed to drop out of the sky like this.
"Who are you? Are you Simone's mom?" I said.
"I was wondering the same thing." Dad said. "Who are you exactly?"
"No, Simone doesn't have a mother. Consider me a… an interested party. Mr. Hebert, this arrangement would be extremely advantageous to all parties. If you'd like, the organization I represent could provide assistance with-"
"No." Simone interrupted. "Hands off."
Contessa looked surprised, her ever-present smile fading. "I see. Simone, you would be…"
"Ah. Completely and totally, then?"
Contessa frowned. "I know you don't know how the path goes either. Surely we could provide some direction? Even with your knowledge, you're only a child."
I was completely lost. This felt less like two people having a conversation that was over my head, and more like two people being deliberately weird.
Contessa questioned Simone on a few other things, and when no clear answers came, she stood. "Mr. and Mrs. Hebert, if we could discuss this in the kitchen?"
Dad stomped into the kitchen, leaving Mom with me. She glared at Contessa.
"You don't have to agree to anything." Mom said to me. "Don't let her pressure you."
She and Contessa exited. The faint murmur of voices started up in the kitchen. Dad's was the loudest, but I still couldn't hear anything clearly. It seemed like people kept having conversations that I wasn't allowed to hear.
"Taylor." Simone said. There was a note of pleading in her voice. It sounded odd, compared to her normal monotone. "Mission!"
"I don't really understand. You want to be my sister, right?"
"That lady isn't forcing you or anything? Like, if I say no, she's not going to throw you off a cliff or something?"
"All of this… why? Your mission?"
We were back to 20 Questions again.
"If you become my sister, we're not doing the nod and shake thing. We're gonna talk."
Simone almost nodded, but then caught herself. She smiled at me. "Yes. Sisters."
"What if Mom and Dad say no?"
"Contessa. They will agree."
I sighed. Eight year olds weren't supposed to make big decisions like this. Couldn't it wait until I was a grownup? Like in three or four years, at least. I liked Simone, but even I knew that having a girl I'd just met be my sister was a bad idea.
"You'll get superpowers."
Simone shrugged. "You would agree anyway. You think having a sister will be fun."
…Yeah, I was going to, but I wasn't going to put up with any of that smart-allecky stuff.
Because when it came down to it, regardless of the consequences, it was just one of those choices that you knew the answer for. A gut feeling.
"What do you want? Like, what do you get out of all this?"
"Humanity. A sister."
That… that didn't answer my question at all. But… what the heck? Mom and Dad were gonna be furious, but I was almost nine. It was about time I started making big decisions.
"Alrighty then. Let's be sisters."
Simone held out her hand, and I took it, her pale fingers once more clasping mine. She squeaked with surprise as I pulled her into a tight hug. Her hands dithered about for a moment before she returned the hug.
It felt nice. Like we'd just done something good. Something important. As weird as today had been, I was excited for what was going to change now.
"Taylor." I let Simone go. She put her hands on my shoulders and pulled me down to eye-level. With a toss of her head, she whipped her bangs away and our eyes met. Her gray eyes had a frightening intensity. They bored into me, and I found I couldn't look away.
The word echoed in my ears. A nonsense word. A name that meant nothing, though I knew it to be a name. Something shifted deep inside me. I felt the change, and-
I saw stars.
Stars going out, one by one.