I got out of work later than ever today and somehow finished this update earlier than the other two this week. Good news, I guess, since I'll probably be staying even later at work tomorrow!

Calm down, people, IT'S NOT THE END OF THE STORY FOR GOOD, THEY WILL ALL RETURN IN A FEW MONTHS! Keep your eyes peeled for "Rewriting the Terms" in February of 2014 or thereabouts (or oR OR you could follow me for author updates!).

Many thanks to SilverEnderwolf, can we not, BlooKisses, Bitblondetoday, FanficFinatic2, and CatastrophicAquarius for your reviews to the last act!

The last thing Jade wanted was for Vriska to go straight home—she had a feeling something bad would happen if she did. After they left the pool and Vriska went to the library to study a bit before her next class, Jade considered following her just to make sure Aranea wouldn't try anything (she had no idea where Aranea actually was or what she could possibly do, but that didn't stop Jade from worrying about her), but in the end, she settled for just waiting. She went to the cafeteria building and caught sight of Feferi, who still seemed pretty angry, so she just skirted the edge of the room and hoped Feferi didn't notice her. Jade knew her life was about to get very dramatic—she didn't want to add to it.

Once she was sure no one had seen her (at least, no one who was mad at her), she set up camp at a table in a corner and started pondering. It really seemed like Aranea was the one who had killed the Marquise—Jade remembered how obviously attached Vriska had been to the tarantula and found it hard to believe that Vriska would have killed her own pet just to turn Jade against Aranea. Unless Vriska was even more of a conniving bitch than Aranea, which Jade supposed was possible, but altogether unlikely. Besides, Jade had seen the way Aranea looked at her, that pure loathing that read, "I would kill you if I could," and it made her shiver. And then, later, when Aranea had been nothing but sickly sweet to her, it was even more unnerving than the earlier, unadulterated hatred. No, Vriska was right—Aranea was definitely a psychopath. Killing a tarantula was definitely within the realm of possibility.

Jade wondered how she had been able to sneak up on the Marquise, though. Marquise Mindfang must not have been fully aware, because any kind of threatening gesture, even from someone as close to her as Vriska, would probably set her off her natural defenses. Admittedly, Jade hadn't gotten a very good look at the picture Vriska had shown her besides gawking at the wooden kebab skewers, and the picture itself was kind of poor quality and not even at the right angle, but it hadn't looked like any of the itchy little hairs had been jettisoned.

If only they had, though, Jade thought sadly. If only the Marquise had gotten the chance to defend herself, whoever had killed her would be very itchy right now and it would definitely point the finger of blame in the right direction. It would probably also make it easier for Vriska to convince their mother of Aranea's sadistic tendencies.

Vriska had to have a plan to make this work. Jade had no idea what that plan might entail, but then again, she'd never had to deal with anyone quite as vicious as Aranea Serket before. Vriska had. Vriska was used to what Aranea could throw at her and had most likely come up with defense strategies without even realizing it. Living with Aranea had made her cold and bitchy, but it had also made her smart.

Vriska, you aren't going back home after school today, are you?

I can't really stay away... I wouldn't have a good excuse.

Well, what if you said one of your classes was having a study group and it was MANDATORY so you couldn't skip it? That way, you don't use the word "friend" and tip off Aranea and it also seems like you don't really want to be there? She wouldn't suspect anything.

Jade Harley, that is the most devious thing I've heard all day ::::D

Jade grinned.

8ut where am I going so as not to go home?

You're coming to my house, of course. I mean, I'll have to warn my grandpa since he gets a bit... snappish around new people, but I'm sure I can convince him to let you stay, at least for a little while. Besides, I think it would be better for you if you didn't go home right away. At least not until you have a game plan.

Well, I do have a fairly well-thought-out plan, 8ut you're right—I should mull it over a 8it more.

I can help! We can plan the most conniving and devious of plots and make popcorn and drink cider!

::::) I would actually like that a lot.

Well let me know when you get out of your last class and we can go.

Now that Jade knew Vriska wasn't going right home, she felt better. At least now, if Aranea really was planning something else (Jade suspected not, at least not right away, not until she'd seen the effects of what she'd done this morning), it would be that much longer before Vriska found out. She deserved whatever peace she got.

Aradia and Nepeta settled down in front of the TV while Equius sprawled out on the sofa and fell asleep. The three of them had finished their classes for the day and gone to the house that Equius and Nepeta had rented a little ways out of the city. Aradia had just been here the day before, but things had already changed a lot. Just about all of the Halloween decorations in the neighborhood had come down (a few remained obstinately up, pumpkins and window-cling skeletons and one or two witches smashed onto trees), and there seemed to be candy wrappers strewn on the sidewalks everywhere, which astonished Aradia. This was California, after all, and littering was especially frowned upon here.

But inside the Leijon-Zahhak residence, there wasn't a single concession to the day-past holiday at all. Instead, there were sheets of construction paper taped up all through the hallways and the living room, paper with hand turkeys on them in various sizes—not just Nepeta's tiny hands, but larger ones, Equius-sized hands. Aradia amused herself with imagining Equius sitting at the kitchen table, tracing his hands, and decorating turkeys with markers, crayons, glitter, and more construction paper while Nepeta hissed at him for protesting.

There were also pumpkin-scented candles on the coffee table in the living room—one lit, filling the room with the smell of pumpkin pie, while the rest remained unlit, but the wicks were charred, so they'd been out there for awhile—and a big window-cling turkey in the front window.

"I guess you guys really do celebrate the holidays," she laughed.

"Mmhmm," Nepeta said with a nod. "My sister Meulin came over on Sunday night after we got back from Mr. Ampurra's house and helped us decorate. The hand turkeys were Equius's idea, though," she added, giggling.

"Really?" Aradia grinned and glanced back at the couch. Equius was snoring softly, one arm thrown over his eyes. "I wouldn't have pegged him for the type."

"Nope, most people don't, but Meulin thought it was a great idea! She also brought some Christmas decorations, but those are hiding in the clawset right now."

"I didn't know you had a sister," Aradia added, giggling a bit at the pun. "I mean, I knew Equius had a brother, but... Meulin, you said her name was?"

"Yep! She's basically just a younger version of me. She's seventeen now, which is weird, since I still see her as a little five-year-old, but she's already got her license and she's driving my mom's station wagon. I can't believe how fast she's grown up!" Nepeta said, making a big show of wiping her eyes with her sleeves.

Aradia couldn't help but smile. Nepeta was quickly becoming a close friend of hers, something she probably should have expected since Nepeta had basically been the great matchmaker for her and Equius. Equius and Nepeta were basically a package deal, so it was a good thing that Aradia liked them both.

"So, wanna play Grand Theft Auto?" Nepeta asked abruptly, scooting toward the cabinet under the TV. She popped it open and pulled out an Xbox, two controllers, and rummaged around until she found GTA IV. "I feel like running over some hookers."

Aradia actually burst out laughing. She certainly hadn't expected those words to come out of Nepeta Leijon's mouth, but then again, this was the girl who mainlined Everclear. Nepeta was definitely one of those secret badasses that she'd looked forward to meeting in college.

Equius, jolted awake by Aradia's abrupt laughter, snorted and suddenly sat up. "What? What's happening?"

"Nothing, sorry," she said, grinning sheepishly. "Nepeta just said she wanted to run over some hookers."

"Hmm." He nodded like this was an everyday occurrence and lay back down.

"I'm not very good at video games," Aradia admitted to Nepeta. "I mean, I play Rock Band with Sollux and Terezi sometimes but that doesn't take a whole lot of coordination, you know?"

"It's fine, we don't have to play any missions! Besides, you're purrobably better than Equius, anyway!"

"I heard that," Equius rumbled.

"Shoosh!" Nepeta turned and swatted at the air. "Besides, you suck at this game!"

"Because I seldom play," Equius pointed out.

"Beclaws you suck at it!"

"No, it's becla—" He cleared his throat. "Because I don't wish for my driving habits to become tainted by anything in that game."

Nepeta scoffed. "GTA won't make you a bad driver any more than Call of Duty will make you an expert sniper!"

Aradia covered her mouth with her hands and tried not to giggle. Their little arguments were adorable.

Equius heaved a sigh. "I know that. But still." He wiggled to make himself more comfortable on the cushions. "Play if you must, but leave the volume at a low level."

Nepeta rolled her eyes. "Fine," she griped. "We should play drunk GTA," she added to Aradia. "It's the closest we'll get to drinking and driving without getting a DUI!"

From the couch, Equius groaned.

"It's a bit early," Aradia said, trying to be placating. "Maybe once it's after five or something."

"It's five o'clock somewhere!" Nepeta said, sticking out her tongue, but she accepted it anyway.

As it turned out, Aradia actually was pretty terrible at Grand Theft Auto, but Nepeta assured her that she was, in fact, better than Equius was. Half-awake, Equius mumbled something about building robots and not having time "for such absurd tomfoolery," adding, that the game was "foolishness upon one hundred-thousand prior, equally unsolicited foolishnesses." Nepeta ignored him.

Just as Aradia was starting to get the hang of playing (she and Nepeta would hand the controller back and forth), her phone buzzed and made her jump in surprise. "Crap. Here, you take it," she said, handing the controller to Nepeta.

It was from Sollux. AA WE HAVE A PROBLEM.

She rolled her eyes. He was probably being a drama queen. 0kay whats the pr0blem, she replied.

Nepeta drove to where she'd parked the helicopter last and got it. Aradia couldn't believe there was a helicopter in this game and that it was so easy to fly. She knew real helicopters were quite difficult to pilot, so she wished the game had a bit more realism.

Then again, if you sent twenty people to the hospital and ran down pedestrians in crosswalks, you'd probably end up in jail in about five minutes, so maybe realism wasn't the thing to expect.

ii thiink iim iin love wiith eriidan

Aradia squeaked and smacked Nepeta on the arm. "Wha—oh, my God!" she gasped after she saw the text from Sollux. "Find out what happened!"

Aradia ignored her—if Sollux wanted to tell her, he would. Still, she didn't know why he was freaking out so badly over something that was only a good thing. 0000h y0u must be seri0us, y0u spelled 0ut his name and everything. but again, whats the pr0blem

It was a few more minutes before a reply came back. hello ii ju2t told you the problem iim iin love wiith eriidan

She sighed. Yes, he was being unnecessarily dramatic right now. She loved him to pieces, of course, but sometimes, she just didn't get him. Being in love was supposed to be a good thing, after all—who honestly dreaded the revelation that they were in love? Besides Sollux, she supposed. But he'd basically had a crush on Eridan for weeks now, even if it was a hate-crush. Things seemed to be going better, but still. um h0ney i think y0u g0t "pr0blem" and "g00d news" mixed up

Part of her wanted to grab him by the shoulders and shake him, but she couldn't for physical reasons and she wouldn't because they were friends and she knew that, if he was freaking out about this, shaking him would only upset him further. Still, Sollux didn't seem to realize how great he was—maybe all this was projecting because he didn't think Eridan felt the same way about him, which was absolutely crazy because Aradia didn't know many supposedly straight guys who made out with other guys and then started dating them as an experiment. Eridan obviously liked Sollux a whole lot.

no AA thii2 ii2 a problem becau2e what iif he doe2nt feel the 2ame

She wanted to sigh. That was it. um h0ney d0 y0u kn0w h0w incredibly weird that s0unds like breathe s0llux its 0kay y0u guys have 0nly been dating f0r f0ur days 0r whatever. falling in l0ve takes time

She was speaking from personal experience—she felt something strong for Equius, but she wasn't sure it was flat-out "in love" feelings yet. Maybe soon, but hadn't Sollux been the one to be concerned with not rushing things with Eridan? Or maybe that only applied to the physical parts and not the emotional ones.

But her musings were interrupted when Nepeta snatched her phone out of her hand, turned the screen off, and thrust the controller back into her hands. "Your turn! We're still bonding!"

Aradia giggled and let herself be sucked back into Liberty City.

Every time I write Nepeta I seriously love her more omg.

Last act to be posted tomorrow! Whoooo!