The first time Vriska says anything to Terezi in person after the hospital is a year and a half later, and it’s not how she would have wanted it to go. She had imagined something more like the heartwarming resolution to a movie, where the two old buddies who had been fighting run up to each other and embrace and all is forgiven. Offhand, she can’t actually think of a scene quite like that, just romantic ones with a lot of kisses, but she’s sure there must be a buddy movie equivalent out there somewhere.
But what happens instead is, Vriska’s just gotten home from school on Thursday afternoon, and she’s just about to log into World of Warcraft, and that damn chat window pops up.
[armoredTauros (AT) began pestering acidGuillotine (AG)]
AT: uH, hI vRISKA,
AG: Haven’t heard from you in a while. Have you 8een ignoring me for Pokemon? >::::(
AT: aCTUALLY, i HAVE BEEN PLAYING pOKEMON A FAIR AMOUNT, aND RECENTLY MAXED OUT MY rAMPARDOS’ EFFORT VALUES,
AT: bUT WHAT I WANTED TO SAY WAS,
AT: aRADIA AND tEREZI AND i ARE GOING TO START A NEW d&D CAMPAIGN ON SATURDAY, wITH nEPETA AND MAYBE eRIDAN,
AT: aND aRADIA THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW,
AT: uM, aLSO, yOU ARE INVITED, iF YOU WANT,
AG: If Aradia’s the one who thought it was a good idea, why are YOU telling me????????
AT: wELL, hONESTLY,
AT: i ALSO THOUGHT IT WOULD BE GOOD IF YOU WERE THERE,
AT: bECAUSE WITHOUT YOU,
AT: iT WOULD BE REALLY WEIRD, aND UNCOMFORTABLE,
AT: i MEAN, eVEN MORE SO THAN IF YOU WERE THERE,
AG: Wow, th8nks!!!!!!!! >::::(
AT: oKAY, i CAN TELL YOURE UPSET, tHAT WAS A LOT OF EIGHTS,
AT: bUT REALLY, yOU SHOULD CONSIDER COMING,
AG: I’ll THINK about it. I’ll probably be too 8usy!
AT: aLL RIGHT, uM,
AT: bUT IN CASE YOU RECONSIDER, wERE MEETING AT THE LIBRARY AT 2,
AG: okay, I get it. l8r!!!!!!!!
[acidGuillotine (AG) is now an idle chum]
Vriska sits back. She doesn’t even really feel up to playing WoW anymore, which is just about the most pathetic thing she’s ever found herself thinking. The last time she played D&D with Terezi and Tavros and Aradia – well, it was fucking great, it was the only reason she kept her will to live through her mom screaming at her and puberty making her into a hideous acne-gremlin, and then. She’s still not sure exactly how the fighting and one-upmanship escalated to the point that it did, with her mom’s car crashed on a back road in the middle of the night and the three kids in it bleeding all over the leather. The church assholes who insisted that D&D was the devil’s work just ate that up.
But it wasn’t her fault. Terezi had told her that, the last time they talked online. And that had been over a year ago, and Vriska hadn’t sent her a message since then, and the few times Terezi had sent her messages, Vriska hadn’t responded. Because what could she say? They had established that it wasn’t her fault. There isn’t really anything else for them to talk about.
Vriska goes to the fridge to get herself a Coke. When she sits back down at her computer, there’s a new chat window open.
[ancientArcana (AA) began pestering acidGuillotine (AG)]
AA: hi vriska
AA: tavr0s t0ld me he talked t0 y0u ab0ut saturday
AA: i really think y0u sh0uld c0me
AG: Why the hell are you talking to me, I was idle >::::(
AA: ah i knew y0u were still there
AG: Ugh! Why is it so import8 to you that I do this?
AA: “import8” d0esnt s0und the same as “important”
AG: Shut up!!!!!!!!
AA: the truth is ive been w0rried ab0ut y0u
AA: all y0u d0 n0w is insult pe0ple
AG: I ALW8YS insulted people!!!!!!!!
AA: but y0u used t0 be friends with them t00
AA: and n0w y0u never hang 0ut with any0ne
AG: How do you know? M8ybe I just don’t hang out with YOU anymore!
AA: i miss y0u
AA: even th0ugh we were always fighting
AA: it used t0 be play-fighting
AA: and n0w y0u d0nt even talk t0 me
AA: just stare at me with s0 much anger
AG: Yeah, okay, will you shut the fuck up????????
AG: You weren’t there!
AG: You have NOOOOOOOO idea what it’s like for me and Tavros and Terezi!
AA: y0ure right
AA: i cant fully understand h0w y0u feel
AA: but tavr0s and terezi are b0th ready t0 try t0 patch things up with y0u
AA: by the way
AA: i am certain that terezi misses y0u t00
[ancientArcana (AA) has ceased pestering acidGuillotine (AG)]
AG: no no no no no no no no you can’t say that and LEAVE
Vriska closes Pesterchum, wishing she could take back that last outburst. Aradia doesn’t need to see her freaking out about Terezi. Aradia probably didn’t even talk to Terezi about – hell, Aradia’s probably lying, just spewing bald-faced lies so Vriska will come crawling back to her to play a stupid game.
She gets on WoW and rips a fire elemental to little firey shreds, but her heart’s just not in it. Vriska goes to lie down on her bed with her headphones on, tries to find an album she can listen to that doesn’t have a single song on it that reminds her of hanging out with Aradia or Tavros or especially Terezi. She’s about as lucky with that as ever.
It’s a little chilly, so she wears her favorite jacket, the beat-up blue one from the thrift store, and reminds herself one more time that someday she’s going to find the most badass patch ever and sew it onto the back. The leaves had only just started to fall, but the wind has brought more of them to the ground, and they crunch beneath her feet as she walks up to the doors.
She almost didn’t come, just because then it would look like Tavros and Aradia had won. As she walks past the horrendously forced posters of celebrities holding books (her scowl softens when she passes the one with Nic Cage leaning his rugged self against a tree and holding Siddhartha), Vriska finds herself imagining what she’ll say to them. Just wanted to make sure you losers could get a game together, she tries out internally. Without me, you know, Tavros might get distracted talking about flowers and sunshine –
“Can I help you, miss?” asks a volunteer with a cart of books. It pisses her off. People ask Vriska if she needs help about 800% more than they used to before the accident. She’d gotten in trouble at school for telling kids and teachers if I needed help, I’d ask for it, shithead on a couple different occasions.
“There any stupid nerds playing stupid nerd games in here?” she demands. The poor sweet angelic volunteer directs her to a study room at the back of the library.
Vriska feels like the pit of her stomach has just completely dropped out as she opens the door. When she steps into the room, there’s an instant where everything stops and oh my god she can’t breathe.
Aradia is sitting at the head of the table, looking unfairly pretty as always with her big tacky earrings and her shitty teenage goth necklaces, game book open in front of her. Tavros is on her right, scribbling something on his character sheet while his brows furrow from apparent heavy concentration. Eridan has positioned himself diagonally across the table from Tavros, putting him as far from anyone else as possible, and he’s playing a game on his TI-84. Nepeta’s not even sitting at the table; she’s drawing something that looks vaguely like Sonic the Hedgehog on the whiteboard at the side of the room.
So, Terezi. Terezi is on Tavros’ other side, rattling her cane against the spokes of his wheelchair noisily. She’s wearing a hideous tie-dye shirt with a dragon on it – jesus christ, is that a new one? Vriska doesn’t remember seeing that wyvern thing before – and the red-tinted glasses on her face are so exaggeratedly teardrop-shaped that they look like the narrowed eyes of a ravenous beast. Speaking of which, Terezi’s grin hasn’t changed. She still has that flaming red hair and all those goddamn freckles and that big toothy grin that makes Vriska want to run away as fast as she can and maybe take Terezi with her.
“Hey, Vriska!” says Aradia. And suddenly Tavros and Eridan lift their heads and Nepeta turns around and they’re all looking at her, and Terezi stops smiling. Vriska can’t read her expression at all.
“Vriska’s here?” Terezi turns her head toward the door. Then she swings out her cane like it’s a fencing saber and taps the empty chair next to her. “Hey, come here! I haven’t talked to you in forever!”
“Hey, guys,” Vriska manages. “I’m gonna – ” She sits down next to Eridan, across from Terezi. Terezi pouts, and god, why is that so cute and what the hell is going on with Vriska’s feelings right now. “Hi, Terezi.”
Aradia leans across the table and passes Vriska a character sheet. “We were just getting started with this,” she says. “Eridan’s gonna be DM – Eridan, do you want to…?”
“Sure,” says Eridan, and he puts his calculator down and steeples his fingers. Vriska’s seen this before. This is his master storyteller pose, and he is going to explain his plans for the campaign setting in great detail for at least five minutes. Vriska prepares to tune it out and focuses on Terezi, who is doodling on her character sheet while she’s not-looking directly at Vriska.
When Eridan starts explaining the underlying themes of the campaign, Tavros nervously interrupts. “Uh, sorry, but since we’re roleplaying… you don’t really, um, know how the story is going to go, right?”
“Eridan does, ‘cause he’s a godmodding douche,” Vriska catches herself saying. Huh. That’s true, but she’d been pretty sure she was too uncomfortable to talk. Maybe her brilliant wit is a flower that blooms in adversity.
Terezi laughs (oh man oh god) while Eridan sputters. “That is not true! I’m DM, I’m supposed to tell the story –
“No, you’re supposed to set it up and let us play it out,” says Terezi, folding her character sheet into a paper airplane. “I hope you don’t think we’ve forgotten about all your super cool heroic spellcaster NPCs – ”
“Eridnyan, do you put self-inserts into games you’re running?” Nepeta asks, eyes twinkling mischievously.
“No,” he insists, at the same time that Vriska and Terezi both say “yes” rather loudly.
Vriska looks at Terezi. Terezi can’t see it, but she smiles devilishly at Vriska like she can.
“Eridan’s DM because he’s really good at setting scenes,” Aradia says, and she looks and sounds like she’s trying not to laugh. “And Vriska, you know, you’re not one to talk about godmodding…”
Terezi throws her head back and cackles. “Oh, what the hell,” says Vriska.
Nepeta sits down across from Tavros and shows Aradia her character sheet. “Can you help me with this?” she asks, pointing to the spaces for ability scores. Vriska takes predatory note of the fact that Nepeta hasn’t played before.
Terezi is trying to convince Aradia that she doesn’t need to dictate her stats to anyone to write on a character sheet, she’ll memorize them all; Aradia tells her that she’s not worried that Terezi will forget her stats, she’s worried that she’ll raise them without getting enough experience if there isn’t a written number to hold her accountable. Vriska hides a smile as Terezi goes into heightened theatrics about the fact that she is absolutely not a cheater.
Tavros cautiously leans over between Aradia and Terezi. “Uh, Vriska? Are you going to make a new character, or…?”
She considers it. They never did reach any kind of resolution with their last game, and the character she used for that was really, really cool, but… “Are you guys making new ones?”
“I’m not, and I don’t think Aradia is,” he says, “but I don’t know about Terezi.”
Terezi, having sufficiently berated Aradia, whirls around to face Tavros. “What about me?”
“Are you, um.” And suddenly Vriska’s having trouble with words again. She doesn’t want to be stuck in middle school, character-wise, if Terezi’s moving on. “What character are you going to play?”
Terezi breaks into laughter so loud and so sinister that Tavros jumps a little. “Ohhh, Vriska,” she says, and whacks her in the shins with her cane.
“Ow, god damn – ”
“Don’t you remember the really cool arbiter of justice I was trying to develop last spring? Well, I figured her out!”
Vriska doesn’t reach down to rub her shins lest Terezi smack her hand too. “Your stupid lawyer character?”
“Excuse me, she’s a Legislacerator! She’s judge, jury, and especially executioner!” Terezi pounds the table with her fist for emphasis; Eridan fumbles to keep his coffee cup from spilling. “Rising from the ashes like a fierce baby dragon from her mama’s nest, wielding a sharp blade and a sharper tongue: Neophyte Redglare!”
“Doesn’t ‘neophyte’ basically mean ‘newb?’” Eridan interjects. A second later he’s cursing and clutching his foot as Terezi spins her cane triumphantly.
“She’s just starting out, but that only worsens the shame of her opponents’ inevitable defeats!” Terezi says. Vriska can’t – she’s so happy that Terezi is here, laughing, being ridiculous, and she also wants to mock Terezi relentlessly, and it feels like she has something stuck in her eye; probably old library book dust –
And then Tavros says, “So, uh, are you going to make a new character too?” and Vriska actually doesn’t know what to say.
“I. Maybe I should, to… to make sure I can keep up with you,” she manages. God, this is pathetic.
But Terezi makes a noise like she’s absolutely affronted. “Vriska! Why do you think I wanted to play a ruthless agent of the law to start with? I needed someone capable of going head-to-head with the most vicious pirate queen to ever sail the seas!”
Vriska feels warm. “You’re such a nerd,” she says, and starts filling in her character sheet with Mindfang’s stats.
“Remember that you’re not actually supposed to be fighting each other,” Aradia points out. Terezi points out that nobody asked her. Vriska can’t stop smiling.
Several hours later, after they’ve started struggling with gameplay, Eridan says he has to go to cello practice, and Nepeta says she’s got plans to see a movie with Equius, and basically everyone feels like it’s time to stop for the day. They decide to meet next Saturday at the same place; Terezi says she’ll try to find an empty classroom at her school for them to use on weeknights.
Vriska walks out of the library with Terezi. They don’t talk – Vriska doesn’t know what to say, and Terezi doesn’t look like she’s uncomfortable or anything, so Vriska just fidgets in silence – until they’re outside, in and around the falling leaves, and Terezi sweeps her cane in front of Vriska’s feet.
“How come you never answered my messages?” she asks, and she sounds about as accusatory as a lawyer in the middle of a trial.
“I didn’t know what to say!” shouts Vriska, more loudly than she meant to. “‘Hey, Terezi, sorry I got us into a horrific car crash!’ ‘How’s everything going, Terezi? How’s the wide world of being blind because your friend is a stupid shit?’”
“It was both of us, Vriska,” she says, and it’s quiet. “I told you.”
It was my fault, Vriska wants to say. Instead she just makes this weird noise like a cat choking.
“Is that why you haven’t said anything to me?” Terezi asks, and it is incredible how much more terrifying she is when she’s not yelling and grinning. “You just felt guilty?”
“It’s not fucking ‘just,’ okay? I fucked everything up, I ruined our lives, I didn’t – ” Vriska blows her nose on her sleeve because she’s pretty wretched right now and if she gets audibly choked up in front of Terezi she is never, ever going to be okay.
“Stop that,” Terezi says. “If you wanted to apologize, just apologize. You’re being a baby.”
Vriska blinks several times and tries to figure out say ‘I’m sorry’ when ‘sorry’ is just absolutely and almost comically inadequate. She can’t.
“So was there something you were going to tell me?” Terezi presses.
“I really like you,” says Vriska. Oh. That’s not what she was trying to say at all.
Terezi is silent for a moment. “I really like you too, Vriska. I miss you. But do you mean ‘really like’ as in ‘let’s be best friends,’ or as in…” She shapes her hands into flappy puppet mouths and makes them smooch.
Vriska actually laughs, and that surprises her too. “I. I fucking loved being your best friend, okay? But I also. Do. Kind of have a crush on you. A little.”
And Vriska’s chest feels cold and she braces herself, this is it, this is when Terezi tells her that that’s weird and walks away –
Except Terezi reaches out and manages to clasp her hand, and smiles almost nervously. “Okay,” she says. “I really like you too, then.”
Vriska doesn’t know what to do, so she just stands there, and then Terezi’s sister pulls up in her sweet red convertible and calls for Terezi to hop in. “See you, Vriska,” she says, and damn if Vriska can’t hear a stupid winky face.
Vriska stares out into the dusk and watches them drive away. Dazed, all she can think of is the mental scorecard she used to keep for all their little competitions. You won this round, Terezi, she thinks, and really, she’s glad.