It was precisely nine o'clock in the evening when Terezi arrived at the house owned by her employer.
The house itself was nice enough, at least on the outside. It was a bit behind in terms of maintenance; the grass needed a trim and the paint was chipping on the siding a little bit. But other than that, it was a good size, elegant in appearance, and stood in a decent neighborhood.
The stigma attached to the house wasn't quite as nice. Something about Dr. Captor was just slightly odd, the neighbors said. He dabbled in things best left alone, they said. Sometimes, at the late hours of morning, strangely colored smoke billowed out of his chimney, smoke that had a strange odor to it, erupting in plumes of red or blue. Never any other colors, only red or blue. People steered their children away from the house and told them to leave the good doctor alone.
Terezi, however, was aware of the fact that accounts of her employer were greatly exaggerated. Sollux wasn't just odd, he was downright creepy!
Currently, though, the good Doctor Honey Mustard was anything but creepy. In fact, he was pouting in the corner of his laboratory. He was sitting right there on the floor, cross legged so that his knobby knees were hitting the wall on either side of him, and his arms were folded across his stomach. He was very tired, if the bags under his eyes were any indication.
It was difficult, at times, to discern clues when standing in Sollux's laboratory. Clean workspace was a precious commodity, despite the numerous tables littered around the area. Vials and books and crates and papers and other strange things covered every conceivable surface. There were two huge chalkboards on the walls, each covered in scrawling text in alternating blue and red chalk. They were filled entirely, and then the writing continued out onto the walls around the chalkboards. Terezi couldn't sniff out the letters from here, but there sure was a lot of writing for some reason! It seemed like there was more than there had been yesternight too.
She stepped closer to get a good whiff of it: this might be a clue, after all. The new text was all red, and was written all in ones and zeros for some reason. This is how it read:
01000110 01000101 01000110 01000101 01010010 01001001
01001001 00100000 01010000 01000101 01001001 01001001
01011000 01000101 00110010 00100000 01001001 01001001
00110010 00100000 01000001 00100000 01001101 01001111
01001110 00110010 01010100 01000101 01010010 00100000
01001001 01001001 01001110 00100000 01000010 01000101
Directly next to Captor was a mostly empty vial, tipped carelessly on its side, the residual remnants of a bright strawberry concoction apparent it is base. That was an interesting hint.
"Doctor! You stayed up all day again, didn't you!" Terezi scolded, tapping her cane against one of his knees. "How do you expect to get any work done if you just fall asleep face first into your experiment?" This had happened before. On numerous occasions.
Sollux let out the most incredibly long suffering sigh Terezi had ever heard him make. "Who even gives a shit, TZ?" he moaned. "It's not like I'm doing any good here. I'm awful. Everything I do sucks. I don't even know why I bother trying."
"Awww." Terezi plunked down onto the floor next to him and lightly thumped him in the forehead with her cane. "Mr. Blueberry is having a sad night tonight. I suppose that is to be expected after a wild day of adventure!"
He didn't have a response for that, but he did manage to look a little chagrinned.
"I take it you finished the potion after I left last morning!" Terezi continued. "And then you brilliantly decided to test it on yourself after I had gone home for the day! I guess that is what mad genius is all about."
"...I'm so fucked," Sollux confided.
"Oh, yes you are. I heard all sorts of delicious rumors about what somebody who kind of looked like an ugly version of you got up to last day!" Terezi cackled. "That person was up to all kinds of no good! I heard he even knocked over a very important lady and then tried to buy her off!"
Sollux put his face in his hands.
"But you can't buy off the richest girl in town! Hehehe! So what did you do?"
"It wasn't me! It was the other guy," Sollux insisted, spreading his hands before him in a plaintive gesture.
"Well, the other guy was using your pocketbook to try and buy off the heiress," Terezi pointed out, "which is an extremely silly thing to do, by the way. But rumor has it that the other guy made good with the fair Miss Peixes through different means."
Sollux pulled his knees up to his chest and buried his face in them.
"Yes," Terezi said sympathetically, patting him on the shoulder, "I thought so."
"But it wasn't me. I wouldn't have done that. I wouldn't have even run into her in the first place," Sollux insisted wearily. "I wouldn't even have left the building, because I'm such a fuck up, I don't deserve to be out in public in the first place."
Terezi frowned. She knew the nature of Sollux's theories, of course, along with the matter of his experimentation. He'd been obsessed with the duality of trollkind as long as she had known him, particularly that in himself, and had searched for a way to bring his angry and neurotic side under some semblance of control. There was also that little matter of his ghostly voices that rattled through his thinkpan, and getting them to shut up. In theory, getting rid of the duality of his personality would also get rid of his vision twofold.
There had been some serious issues with the theory, of course, but Sollux really was a genius. It had taken him time and a lot of failed experimentation to come up with anything feasible. In the end, he had actually put together two different potions, one as a countermeasure to the other, should it have too many negative side effects. The potions had come, naturally, in red and blue, and he had been very nearly finished mixing them when Terezi had left for the morning.
He was supposed to wait to try them, since he insisted on testing them on himself. They were made for him to take, after all. So naturally, he took them immediately after she left.
Still, something was off about this. The way he insisted that his actions of the day previous weren't him. The long suffering moaning. The fumes of lethargy that were rolling off of him. Certainly Sollux was prone to fits of self-loathing like nobody's business, but Terezi was usually pretty good at countering it. The other strange bit was his behavior during the day—that was the behavior he was trying to suppress. The blue potion was the suppressor; the red was the countermeasure.
"The potions were opposites of what we thought," Terezi suddenly realized. "The blue one brought out your wild side. I didn't even know you had a wild side, Dr. Blue Raspberry!"
"I made him drink the red one when he got back," Sollux replied glumly, his voice muffled by his pants.
"And now you are all but crying on your laboratory floor. This is very normal for you," Terezi replied, nodding as though this were the truth. "I think, Dr. Captor, that perhaps the red potion wasn't just a countermeasure."
"So I fucked that up too." His words reminded Terezi of a depressed lettuce leaf, drooping at the edges and just smelling so very, very sad.
Terezi leaned in and licked his cheek.
"So this is the blueberry to your natural appleberry blast!" she commented. "I do not entirely approve."
Sollux made another sad noise. "I don't see as how anybody would. I'd even venture that the other guy, as destructive and maniacal and downright vulgar as he is, is more likeable than I am. He's a fucking monster, but what am I? I'm worse than a monster."
"You are exactly one half of one of my absolute favorite tastes in the entire universe," Terezi explained, wrapping her arm around his shoulders. "My blueberries don't taste as nice without the cherries to counter them!"
Sollux didn't seem to like that answer much. "So you want the other guy back," he mumbled.
"I want both of you back smushed into your one silly, stupid thinkpan," Terezi told him. "You are sad like a wilting flower, and he is angry like...a flower that is on fire."
"So you want a wilting flower that is also on fire?" Sollux asked, peering over at her. It was the first time since she had walked through the door that he was actually looking at her face.
"Yes! I wish all of my wilting flowers were on fire, but we cannot all have what we want."
Terezi very nearly smelled a smile on his face. She pulled his head onto her shoulder and ploughed onward, determined. "I guess I don't know what it's like to have such different sides of yourself! I am very one minded myself, I think. But I do know this—maybe neither of your 'sides' are perfect, but that's okay. That is what makes you so yummy. Maybe like this, you can concentrate better and think better, but without the other guy, you've got no drive. Look at you. We've been here for ages, and we are sitting in the floor in the corner. Normally, you would have me doing sixteen different experiments by now.
"When you split your personality down the middle, it left part of you running out and pailing Feferi Peixes, and the other half sits alone in a corner feeling sorry for himself. You need both halves to be successful, and ultimately, to be the troll I am hopelessly in pale for."
There was a lingering silence for a moment. And then, brusquely, "Well, the potion seems to weaken after about eight hours or so. Stands to reason that anything you take orally only lasts as long as the ingredients stay in your digestive system. Obviously, some can cause permanent changes and such, but this set was designed to work with the hormone levels that interact with the thinkpan, causing only a temporary shift into the state of..."
Terezi grinned and tuned him out. Good. Him talking nerd at her would wear him out a bit, and then he could hop into the recuperacoon and sleep off the last of this mess, and Terezi would have a night off, which she would use to dump all of that stupid potion down the sink.
Sollux spent the next ten minutes explaining why he was pretty sure the potion would wear off in roughly eight hours or so, depending on how fast he metabolized the blah blah who even cared. "Well! You didn't get any sleep last night, so I guess it's nap time for my favorite blueberry," Terezi announced, eventually cutting him off. She slurped his cheek again (which this time he at least grudgingly wiped off—it was a good sign) and then stood up.
She offered him a hand up, and he took it, but stood up under his own power. He didn't let go of her hand, which was good! Because she would have hit him and taken it back if he had. She pulled him towards the door of the lab, to head back into the house proper, where she was going to strap him inside the recuperacoon if she had to, to get him to stay.
The rest of the house was far more well kept than the laboratory, mostly because Sollux barely used any of the other rooms. Terezi didn't have to sniff to know what it was going to look like, and it was a damn good thing, because everything likely was covered in three inches of dust. She led him right to the respiteblock, where his silly dual-colored recuperacoon sat in the corner, with two points of entry and everything. She didn't even bother asking him which side he wanted before marching him over to the opening above the blue side.
A moment later, he was relaxing back in the gross blueberry bubblegum sopor (the red side was sooooo much more delicious!) while she leaned against the edge.
"So. One more question for you before you hit the slime," Terezi stated, grinning easily at him. "How was it?"
"How was what?" He looked confused.
The grin grew wider. "Banging the heiress."
She was pleased to note that his blush was still a lovely shade of mustard.