"Oh man, we haven't been up in the treehouse for so long," Vriska said with a laugh from behind Terezi. Terezi felt out in front of her for the wooden floor of the treehouse and climbed in.
"Yeah, Mom says it's not safe for me to be up so high, but she's hardly around lately so who cares?"
"Yeah, where is she, anyway?"
"Hell if I know. Between her clients and her own case against Dad and the baby shit—"
"Whoa, whoa, wait—she's suing your dad? Why?"
Terezi shrugged. "Guess he hasn't been paying child support."
"Like you need it; your mom makes lawyer money."
"That's what I'm saying! I told her to just let it go because it's stressing her out and it's bad for the baby but she just said something about justice…" Terezi sighed. She knew it had been a rough summer for her mom. Her parents divorced right after the accident—the year before, Terezi had gone mostly blind, and the medical recourse drove them apart—so it'd been the year anniversary of that whole fiasco, and then in July, not only did Terezi's mother get broken up with, but she also found out she was pregnant, and on top of that, Terezi's dad stopped making payments, so Rebecca had been kept fairly busy. Latula, Terezi's older sister, was out with her boyfriend a lot, so Terezi was left on her own most of the time, which for an ordinary 14-year-old wasn't a problem, and it wasn't really a problem for Terezi, either, but her mom worried a bit about leaving the blind girl at home alone. The summer had simultaneously been very eventful and very boring, and Terezi was glad Vriska was around. They were best friends, despite a messy history.
"So when's she due?" Vriska asked. "The baby, I mean."
"I think April?"
"Oh, breaking up the Libra Squad."
Terezi laughed. "I know; it's kind of weird how that's worked out."
Vriska let out a light breath. "Great view from up here, eh, Pyrope?" Terezi raised an eyebrow at Vriska, scowling a bit. "Come on, don't be like that. I'm just messing with you a little bit."
"Hmph," Terezi tutted, but she wasn't actually mad. That was just Vriska being Vriska.
"'Reziiii," Vriska pouted.
"It's fine, Vris. Besides, we already got even for that."
"An eye for an eye," Vriska muttered.
"An eye for an eye and an arm for the other." It wasn't unusual for them to make light of their handicaps, both incurred by the other. They were silent for a moment, and then Terezi heard Vriska flexing the fingers on her prosthetic arm, the small metal crackling a giveaway. She let out another breath. "It was an accident, you know."
"Yeah, I know. Thank fuck for Equius, right?" Vriska was, of course, referring to the fact that Equius had upgraded her prosthetic to improve joint control, so she could actually use the fingers properly.
"Mhm." Terezi found it somewhat odd to be back in her treehouse, especially with Vriska, especially after the last time they'd been up there together. It was what prompted her mother's worry about her being in the treehouse at all, after Tavros got hurt and then Vriska got hurt and then Terezi had her own problems. Middle school had been rough on all of them. But at the same time, she found something relaxing in it, too. Some kind of weird catharsis. Everyone thought it was weird that she and Vriska were even still friends, something Karkat in particular was vocal about. Well, Karkat was vocal about a lot of things. Getting that kid to shut up was a task of its own.
"You know, being up here reminds me of the Team Scourge days. Hey! We should get the D&D group back together!" Vriska said. "We always had such great adventures."
"I was impartial," Terezi said.
"Suuuuuuuure," Vriska hummed.
"Yeah, well, you may be able to talk Eridan and Tavros into it, but something tells me Aradia won't be a part of any new session we start."
Vriska scoffed. "Who cares? She was always so odd anyway. We could probably get Nepeta to play; she's into roleply."
"You can't just replace your friends, Vriska."
"Sure I can. Besides, it's not like I cut Aradia out of my life or anything, but if she doesn't wanna play D&D anymore, she doesn't have to." Terezi pursed her lips. She didn't know for sure if Vriska had something to do with that weird shit that happened to Aradia after her mom died, but it wouldn't surprise her in the least. But she decided to set that aside for the time being. Vriska was… a morally ambiguous person. Which made her friendship with Vriska very interesting. Terezi tended to see morality as pretty black-and-white, and Vriska inhibited a very grey area. But the way Terezi saw it was, there's good and bad in everybody. Vriska was just more upfront about it. They spent the afternoon up in the treehouse, their reminiscing only interrupted when Vriska's mom called.
"What?" Vriska snipped when she answered the phone. "Mom, Jesus Christ, I'm at Terezi's. Ugh, please sto—sto—Mom, stop talking. I'll go to the stupid grocery store, fuck." And then Vriska hung up. Terezi raised an eyebrow at her.
"You talk to your mom like that?"
"She's being dumb. Anyway. Guess I gotta go."
"Alright, well, see ya later then," Terezi murmured. Vriska clambered down the rope ladder first, Terezi following behind her. She grabbed her cane, clenched it between her teeth, then took it back into her hand as she hit the ground. She could tell that Vriska was already on her way around the side, towards the front yard, so Terezi turned the other way and went inside. Immediately, Terezi could tell something was off. Why did the house reek?
"Tules, did you put something in the oven?" Based on the digital explosions and the rustle of a nearby beanbag chair, Latula was in the living room, playing video games as she usually was.
"Yeah, I was heating up some pizza."
"I think you're burning it." Latula jolted upright, pausing her game.
"What?" She darted towards the oven and pulled it open, a small plume of smoke bursting in her face. "Oh, shit, the cheese dripped off and it's all burning at the bottom of the oven. Fuck."
"Jesus, how do you miss stuff like this?" Terezi shook her head.
"What?! I got really into my game, okay? And you know I have congenital anosmia."
Terezi rolled her eyes. She got real tired of her sister being so sensitive about not being able to smell. Terezi didn't pull the 'blind' card nearly as much as Latula pulled the 'anosmiac' card, and one was way more of a disability than the other.
"Is Mom coming home early tonight?" Terezi asked.
"Alright… well do you wanna order takeout then? I'm pretty hungry already. And since someone burned the rest of the pizza…"
"'Reziiiii, I'm sorryyyyy."
Terezi just playfully grinned at her older sister. "It's fine, just clean it up please. Burnt cheese smells awful." Latula slid the pizza slices out of the oven, blackened crust and all, before she grabbed a scrubber to get rid of the former cheese that was now nothing but dust on the bottom of the oven. Terezi slid her phone out of her pocket, and pressed the home button to activate voice commands. "Call Golden Dragon," she instructed. Terezi's phone really was a marvel of technology. Where mostly everyone had touchscreens or iPhones, Terezi had an older-looking full keyboard phone, but the keys also had Braille symbols (learning Braille had certainly been a challenge) and voice commands that would read incoming text messages to her.
"Calling Golden Dragon," the phone parroted back. As soon as she got on the line, Terezi gave the guy their regular order, and within an hour, Terezi and Latula were sitting at a table covered with fried rice, sweet and sour chicken, beef with broccoli, egg rolls, and Latula's customary Mountain Dew, though Terezi didn't think that paired well with the rest of the meal.
"So," Latula asked through a mouthful of chow mein, "you ready to go back to school tomorrow?"
Terezi scoffed. "Not really. I mean, it'll be nice to see all my friends again, but the fact that Alternia Middle School is blending with Terra Middle School means that about half of my classmates won't know I'm blind, which always leads to vague staring and weird comments and people trying to over-correct themselves in an attempt to be sensitive. I guess Tavros gets it worse than me because he can actually see the way people look at him, but still. I just want to be treated like a normal girl."
"You've always been way cool about that."
"What do you mean always, it's only been like a year."
"Yeah but you never like, became your disability. You were always wildly independent growing up and you still are. Like, you don't let it stop you. That's a super-cool thing about you, sis."
Terezi suspected Latula was being more self-deprecating than she was letting on. There was a note of morose-ness in her voice, and she felt like it was because Latula was pretty insecure. "I mean… it's just a thing. I learned to live with it." Terezi stood up, starting to put some stuff in the refrigerator. They would live off the leftovers for a while, and it would make a nice surprise for their mother when she predictably got home from the office at 10pm.
"Yeah, I guess," Latula shrugged. Terezi heard her chair scoot out from the table and more things get shuffled around on the table. The two finished putting things away, and Terezi grabbed some of the chopped bell pepper, along with a container of chopped raw beef before going into her room, a good portion of which was taken up by the tank her pet, Pyralspite, was in. Pyralspite was the name Terezi had given her white dragon in the very first D&D campaign she was involved in, and she gave it to this Argentine Tegu because he, too, was albino.
"Pyralspite, you ready for dinner?" she cooed at him before throwing him the meat and veggies. A balanced diet was key for anyone, including 4-foot lizards. Okay, he wasn't 4 feet long yet, but he was a growing boy. When he was done eating, which Terezi concluded by hearing him rustle back into the fake foliage, she reached into the tank to show him some affection, which Pyralspite reciprocated by crawling up her arm. "Aww, I love you too, bud." She laid down carefully on her bed, letting Pyralspite rest on her stomach while she thought about the concept of being in high school. Terezi let out a small breath. It was bound to be either a really exciting year, or a really uneventful one.