LOOK WHO'S BACK! As an avid reader of the story myself I am pleased to see it again, as I am sure many of you are as well.

A little note from our author Ribsgrowback: [I'm back! Oh man. This chapter took forever to write, but I hope that you all like it. I am feeling ridiculously un-confident with my work lately, but I figure this is as good as this chapter's going to get, and I've been working up to this moment in the story for a long time.]

On another note I decided to get rid of that big blurb at the top of each chapter, most of you guys know what the deal is, and if you don't, get your ass to the first chapter and find out, sillyface! Also I think it is a point that there is likely to be a general Trigger Warning on the whole story really, so I will go back and change the summary when I find time. Specific warnings for each chapter as done previously will still occur.

And now without further ado, the new chapter:


ERIDAN: BE LOVESICK ==

You fell asleep last night with one of Kar's romance novels open by your side, a flashlight that you'd previously hidden at the bottom of your bag alight next to you. Kar grumbled at you for keeping him awake, but he never sleeps anyways and the two of you ended up erecting an impromptu fort of scratchy sheets, thin foamy pillows, and a dresser in the middle of the room and reading and gossiping until you both fell asleep sprawled on the floor. John laughed good-naturedly at you as he gave the two of you a scolding for improper sleeping arrangements this morning, but it was okay. He's just a giggly guy. Nurse. Wwhatevver.

"I'm startin to think that maybe I got friends noww. It's kinda neat, thinkin about that, since I nevver reel-y had anyone I could call a friend before, y'knoww?" you say to her during Individual today. "Nobody evver cared about me before I got here. An' I nevver cared about anyone all that much either. Not like I do noww."

"That's really wonderful, Eridan. I'm happy to hear that. From what I've seen, you've made astonishing progress with the other residents," Lalonde smiles. You hated her at first, but now you're comin to realize that she might talk sense sometimes. Somehow, using some kind of magical shrink bullshit, she's managed to get you to realize how fucked up your situation with Betty was. The name you scarred into your arm now sends little sick twists of guilt through your gut, but you like even that uneasy feeling better than the obsessive longing they used to evoke. You're thinking of writing her a letter, or something. You want to apologize.

Your crush on Vriska has only gotten worse, though. You sigh dreamily over the way she dotes on Kanaya, blush when she sneaks up behind you during dinner to drop croutons down the back of your shirt. She smiles her brace-faced, blue-banded grin at you while rubbing cigarette ash into her filthy jeans and your heart goes all a-flutter. Vriska gets you, in a weird demented way that nobody else ever did. When she whacks you with her cast, it's different than the way she whacks everyone else. It's got to be love.

"Eridan, your interpersonal relationships do not all have to become romantic. In fact, for the moment, it's healthier for you that they don't. Being able to initiate and maintain a friendship is essential before you can start to become emotionally and physically intimate with others," Lalonde used to tell you. You guess that she thought you looked for attention because you never got any, cause you had Lonely Little Rich Boy syndrome or something, who knows. But you think maybe this time, with Vriska, it's different.

You tell Karkat this as you clean up the remnants of the fort before breakfast. He whines at you and rolls his eyes, but you know he loves hearing this stuff—he's the biggest gossip here, but he doesn't spread shit around. He just wants to know everything that's going on.

His face is all scrunched up and contemplative when you finish. He scratches at something under his sleeve, wrinkling his nose in thought. "Y'know, man, I never thought I'd ever say this, but it looks like you might have a fucking infinitesimal chance here."

"Reely?"

"I'm not saying you're suddenly a goddamn Cassanova, you desperate shit. But I don't know, it sounds like something that might actually pan out."

You answer this with a rather undignified squeal and a bit of frenzied hand-flapping. Karkat scoffs, but a smile plays at the corners of his mouth. "Shit, Kar, you have no fuckin idea howw excited that makes me—shut up, you reely don't!" You toss a pillow at his head as he starts laughing.

"So, are you going to actually fucking talk to her about this, or are you just going to yak into my aural canals until they start bleeding everywhere?"

"I.. maybe. You know wwhat? I totally wwill. I'll do it today, Kar. Don't let me back in this room until I do."

"Gladly. You get to explain to the nurses when I lock you out, though," he grins. "I will barricade the door on your sorry hipster ass."


ERIDAN: TALK TO VRISKA ==

Gog, you've only been trying to do that all day! During breakfast, she was too absorbed with organizing a D&D game with Terezi and Nep to talk to you, and during Group she was already sitting with Equius and Kanaya. You've got to talk to her soon, or you're gonna lose your nerve completely. You're thinking of sneaking out to smoke with her instead of going to art therapy, but Kanaya and Jade promised to teach you all origami and you don't want to miss that.

By evening, you're starting to get desperate. It's too dark to sneak outside, so a smoke break is out. The art room's closed for the night—plus, every inch of it is covered in paper cranes. The waiting room for Individual isn't private enough, and the dayroom is full of nosy assholes. Karkat has been making joking threats about making you sleep in the hall since lunch, and hell if you're gonna let him make good on 'em. You fling open the door to the dayroom, steel your shoulders, and decide that you're gonna do this, nosy assholes or not.

You plunk down next to Vriska on the couch, trying to compose yourself. You've got to be smooth, here. "Uh. Hey Vvris."

So smooth.

"Hey Eridan. What's up with you today? You've 8een acting like a total spaz," she grins, flipping a lock of hair out of her eye with practiced ease. She smells like smoke and laundry detergent and girl.

"Nofin is up wwith me! I'm perfectly fine, I haven't got the foggiest idea as to wwhat you're glubbing about," you say. You feel yourself ready to choke, so you force out the next sentence so quickly that you stumble over the words. "So uh. Can wwe maybe talk or somefin? Like in privvate?"

Her brow furrows, but only for a second, quickly replaced by her ever-present wicked grin. "Sure, I guess. The hallway's pro8a8ly as priv8 as it gets right now, though."

"Awwesome." The two of you worm your way through the crowded room, stepping over a carefully-arrayed Fiduspawn game on the floor, dodging errant ping-pong balls, and—for you, anyways—avoiding Karkat's eyes. You only realize how overwarm the dayroom was until you open the door and are greeted with a wave of cold air. Your palms are sweating something fierce.

Vriska slides to the floor gracelessly, and you gingerly sit next to her. "Soooooooo, what'd you want to talk a8out?"

"Uh," you mumble, fiddling with the edge of your scarf. "Um."

"Wow, don't talk so fast, Ampora, I can't even keep up with how much you're saying right now." She gives an exaggerated eye-roll, then quirks up an eyebrow. "Just fucking spill already!"

"Wwhale. Uh," you stutter. You can't do this! But you can't let yourself choke. This is the reel deal. "Vvris. I. You're really fuckin cool, you know that?" A good start, you think.

"Tell me something I don't know! Is that why you dragged me out here, to compliment me? I mean, thanks and all, 8ut I've got irons in the fire, Eridan! So many irons."

"All the irons?" you smile.

"Aaaaaaaall of them!" Both of you laugh, then trail off into silence. You try to meet her eyes, but can't make yourself do it.

"So," she says.

"So," you say.

"Soooooooo." She drags the word out, then quirks an eyebrow at you. "You gonna get on with it?"

"Yeah. Yeah, that," you stammer. You try to continue, but the words keep getting caught in your throat. Christ, you feel like Tav right now. You think she's about a second away from saying exactly that when you bury your face in your hands and blurt out, "Uh. FuckIreelylikeyouVvris."

Silence.


BE VRISKA ==

You cannot be Vriska, because Vriska is frozen in shock!


OKAY, BE ERIDAN AGAIN THEN. ==

It is very difficult to be Eridan again, because Eridan is dissolving into a puddle of mortification! But you manage to do it anyways.

Eventually, you're forced to move your hands away and look at Vriska. Her mouth is agape in surprise, but as your eyes meet, she shakes herself.

"W8. Eridan. What did you just say?"

"Oh fuck, don't make me say it again." You tilt your head back and address the cracked tiles in the ceiling. "I fuckin like you, okay? A wwhole damn lot! Cause you're so fuckin cool and strong and shit and you make me wwanna touch your hands for stupid fuckin reasons and my bloodpusher gets all fluttery wwhen you shovve croutons dowwn my shirt!"

You probably could have phrased that better.


QUICK! WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE DAYROOM? ==

You suddenly switch perspectives. You are now in the dayroom, engrossed in one of the various activities going on within.

All of these activities have halted, however, as something very loud is happening outside. Vriska is laughing, so hard and so loudly that it catches the attention of everyone inside.

"Hahahahahahahaha, oh my gog, Eridan! I can't 8elieve this! Didn't you know I'm gay?"


BE ERIDAN AGAIN ==

Wwell, that was an unexpected twwist.