Work Header

Watch Your Words

Work Text:

Terezi Pyrope bites down on her lower lip, which is dangerous to do when you have such sharp teeth, but luckily she doesn't break the skin. And she swings her legs back and forth, the toes of her sneakers brushing against the floor. It's a little early for a troll to be awake and a little late for a human to be awake but she agreed to meet Rose in here, in what's currently functioning as their nutrition block on the meteor. Neutral ground for the conversation since it's not considered a troll place or a human place- they're also unlikely to into anyone here.

Terezi is sat on the counter, near the machine that turns bread into toast. Rose is sat at the nearby table with her laptop open in front of her.

"So... Terezi. I know we don't know each other well, so this may be difficult for you to talk to me about." Rose says, breaking the silence at last.

Terezi can smell her curiosity from across the room. "Yeah, so what?"

"I just wanted to make sure that you felt comfortable. I won't be telling anybody about this conversation, you're free to say anything to me." Rose says, "Client-therapist confidentiality."

"Thanks for not calling me a patient." Terezi says, her legs swinging to a stop, "Karkat keeps talking about this like it's an illness that can be cured. And I know he's trying to be nice but it's really not helping."

Karkat really is trying his best to understand and over the last week, he's been doing a pretty good job of not bringing it up. But it's sort of the flap-eared long-nosed creature in the room whenever they're together. After all, the idea of it clearly makes him uncomfortable and she's worried that he'll back out of the quadrant because of it. That's why she's determined to get some help from Rose to make things easier between them.

"You don't consider this a sickness? That's good." Rose says, smoothly, "Because I think you have OCD and that's not a sickness. It's a condition that most people will experience throughout their lifetime and it can't be cured- the best I can do is get you to a state where you don't feel it's interfering with your everyday life."

That's a lot of words, so Terezi just nods. "Yup."

Rose clears her throat. "So, how many hours a day do you think you spend on your compulsion?"

"On my what?" Terezi blinks. The sudden awareness of her eyelids makes her feel suddenly self-conscious and she reaches up, poking at the corner of her eye. It feels soft, squishy. It's revolting. She does it again. Then, she lets her hand fall back to her side. She won't let herself do it a third time.

"Your compulsion. The urge to touch your eyes." Rose explains, "If what you told me over Pesterchum is right, you feel you have to touch them, right? That's called a compulsion. And I'm asking how many hours a day you spend doing it."

"Oh..." Terezi thinks about today, "Added up? Maybe one or two. When I woke up, I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and couldn't stop. And after morning-meal, I poked my left one. After midday-meal, I couldn't stop while watching TV. And now, just before I came in here, I was nervous and it calmed me down. Two hours a day, maybe? Three on a bad day."

"Okay, that's moderate." Rose clicks a few keys on her laptop, "It could be much worse. Am I to understand that you've been doing it less and less since you went blind?"

"I wouldn't say less... It's just a little sorer now, so I force myself to stop." It's true that her eyes are a lot more sensitive now and that puts her off a little. But it hasn't stopped her completely.

"That's really good, Terezi, that means you have some control over your compulsion." She can taste Rose's smile in the air, "If you don't mind, I'd like you to try not to do it again for the remainder of the session."

"Okay, I'll try." Terezi licks her lips, trying her best to push away her thoughts, "No promises though."

"Thank you, I'm glad you feel comfortable enough with me." Rose smiles again.

Is she... Pale-flirting? Can humans do that, is that a thing? Suddenly, Terezi is compelled to ask but she squishes that thought before it can go anywhere. There's no way that Rose is pitying her, she's just reading too much into it.

"Is that all you want me to do?" Terezi asks.

"Well..." Rose considers, clicking her tongue, "If you feel comfortable with it, I'd also like to remove your sunglasses."

Terezi takes them off, folds them, and gets up to place them in front of Rose. Already, her eyes feel completely naked and she's aware of how dark the room must be. She still has some perception of light after all, though she lost her ability to see shapes or colours a while ago.

"I hate this." Terezi decides instantly, as she realises that there's nothing between her eyeballs and her fingers. She clenches her hands into tight fists at her sides and crosses her arms, blinking several times and feeling self-conscious. Already, she can feel the bad thoughts creeping into her mind.

"You can put them back on if you aren't ready yet." Rose's voice is cool.

"I can do this." Terezi tells herself, "I have to be able to do this."

I need to touch them. Her brain insist.


But I have to!!

"Now, I'd like to talk a little more about your past." Rose says, her voice breaking through the negative thoughts, "If you wouldn't mind, of course. I understand that you idolised Neophyte Redglare growing up?"

"She's my ancestor, of course I did. I wanted to be just like her. I still want to be like her, she's so cool!" Terezi agrees, enthusiastically.

"Do you think your idolisation of a blind woman had anything to do with your OCD?"

"My... Obsession?" Terezi pushes a hand through her hair, "Rose, I know that you think I understand what you're talking about but I don't really get it. This OCB thing you keep talking about, can you explain it a bit?"

"You mean OCD." Rose chuckles, "It's a condition of the mind, Terezi. It involves an obsession or fixation on a certain thing that causes severe anxiety. In your case, your constant intrusive thoughts about eyes make you very uncomfortable. A compulsion is sort of a coping mechanism employed to keep the thoughts away. You touching your eyes is a compulsion. It's a very common mental health problem amongst humans but... There are so few known trolls on your planet that it's likely you might be the first troll to have it. That's probably why nobody on your planet understands about it, not even yourself."

"So, you're saying I am some kind of mutant? There's something wrong with my brain that makes me different from everybody else." Terezi sighs, "Why can't I just get cool mutant superpowers like Sollux?"

"I wouldn't use the word mutant- that seems harsh- but it's certainly something that makes you different from the rest of your known race." Rose stands up and lays a cold hand on Terezi's arm, between her shoulder and her elbow, "But that doesn't mean you're a mutant. In a kill or be killed environment such as Alternia, maybe you would be considered an outcast. But on Earth, you'd be one in millions of people with the same condition."

Oh god... Rose pities her, doesn't she? Terezi's stomach back-flips.

"Uh... Thanks, I guess. I think that's a compliment." She laughs, "Anyway, I don't think Redglare had anything to do with it. I can't really remember when it started. It's just a part of me, I guess- I never really knew it was a problem until I lost my sight. I thought it was normal."

"These kinds of thoughts are normal if they only occur once or twice: they're called intrusive thoughts. Everybody has them, you just happen to fixate on them more than your peers. And you have a compulsion to combat them- if you didn't, it would be a plain, old phobia." Rose's hand finally withdraws and Terezi misses it's reassuring touch, "It's likely that it may be genetic."

"What do you mean?" Terezi asks, wishing she didn't feel so dumb.

"I mean, you might have been born with OCD. Whoever was responsible for your genes might have also had the condition and passed it on to you."

"You mean, I might have hatched with it?" Terezi considers, "That makes sense. Like how Sollux has psychic abilities just like his ancestor?"

"Yes, exactly like that." Rose laughs, "You seem to talk about Sollux an awful lot, are you holding a diamond for him? After all, you already gave your heart to Karkat, so you must have a diamond for somebody. And a spade. That's my understanding, at least."

It's Terezi's turn to laugh. "No, me and Sollux broke it off. We're just friends now. He's more friend material than pale material, you know? By pale, I mean P-A-L-E not the bucket kind. Me and Sollux never pailed, I should clarify that. Some people are 'rails with pails but we definitely weren't."

Rose sits back down at her laptop and Terezi follows her, sitting on the tabletop instead. Her hands clench and unclench, resting in her lap.

"And I understand that you grew up in a household without a parental figure looking after you?" Rose says, quickly averting the pale talk, "So, there wasn't anybody to raise you?"

"Lusii don't normally "raise" trolls. They more just make sure that you don't die. That's only sometimes too because both Feferi's and Vriska's lusii could have easily eaten them if they weren't careful." Her eyes are bothering her: like an itch she can't scratch, "But no, Dragonmom never got round to hatching. We could still communicate though. She was very cool."

"You call her "Dragonmom"?" Rose chuckles, "That's quite... Sweet."

"Careful, Lalonde, don't drift into pale territory." Terezi grins, "This is a purely professional relationship, don't forget. Client-therapist, remember?" She taps the side of her nose, "I know I'm pitiful but damn, girl, lay off the flirting."

"You talk to Dave too much." Rose shakes her head, "I can see he's attempting to impose terrible slang on you."

"Oh, shush, we used to be red." Terezi waves a hand, "We spent a lot of time together and you get to know a guy. But I didn't come here for girl talk."

"No, of course not." Rose clears her throat, "You were talking about your lusus?"

"Because Dragonmom wasn't really around, I guess I never really got the hang of what I should and shouldn't be doing. She only knew what I told her and I never brought up the eye thing. Maybe if I had, I wouldn't be sat here right now." Terezi shrugs, "But then, again, we don't have therapists on Alternia, so there's nothing we could have done."

"And you hadn't met any other trolls in real life prior to the game?"

"No, I had. Just not very often." Terezi ticks them off on her fingers, "I'd definitely met Vriska, Tavros, Aradia, and Karkat, at the very least. I FLARPed frequently. But none of them picked up on anything weird, I guess. Or if they did, they just thought "oh, that weird tealblood is being weird again"."

"Do you think of yourself as weird, Terezi?" Rose inquires.

"Not until I met everybody else. But we're all pretty weird, right? You're weird, I'm weird, the meteor's definitely fucking weird." Terezi cackles, "If this game was a movie, it would be titled Really Fucking Weird. Or the short version of the title would be. The long version would be-"

"Please, don't." Rose cuts her off, "I don't need to hear it at this time of night."

"Alright, then." Terezi shrugs again, "Is there anything else you want to talk about or do you want to go find a pile somewhere?"

"Terezi..." Rose laughs, "Humans don't sleep in piles."

"You don't?" Now that she thinks of it, she never saw any piles in Dave's block, "See, humans are definitely weird. What kind of person doesn't have a nice, comfortable pile of law books to rest on?"

"Your race is weirder, considering you seem to favour discomfort." Rose says.

Terezi slides off the table and gets to her feet. "Either way, I should probably head back and see if Karkat's awake yet. After all, he'll be wondering about how this meeting went." She pauses, "Out of curiosity, how do you think this meeting went?"

"Well." Rose says, "I think we identified that there's nothing in particular which is triggering your problem. We've identified that you have some control over your compulsions and you went nearly a full fourty-five minutes without touching your eyeballs." She presses something into Terezi's hand, "Here are your glasses."

"Thanks, Rose." Terezi's stomach does the back-flip thing again, "You're a lot nicer than I thought you were. I thought you were kind of a stuck-up bitch before."

"I thought you were a bat-shit crazy chalk eater." Rose shrugs, "I suppose we shouldn't believe everything we hear from Dave."

Terezi laughs. "Yeah, you're right. I'm just... Going to go."

"It was fun pale-flirting with you. We should do it again sometime." Rose suggests, before closing her laptop, picking it up and sweeping from the room.

Pale-flirting? Pale-flirting!!

Terezi stumbles into the corridor after her. "Tomorrow? Same time but in my block?"

Rose turns, smiling. "That sounds pleasant."

"See you! Or actually, I won't! Get it, because I'm blind?"

Rose rolls her eyes. Terezi knows it.

And her hand creeps back up to prod at her own eye, consciously.