When he woke up, he's back in his room and no one's there.
He didn't know what to expect, but it wasn't this. Everyone should have been there, or at least everyone still alive. There should have been at least one grumpy troll over him, kicking him awake. But there was no one.
And he was back home.
He was afraid for a moment that he was thirteen again. That he had been sent back to his original age and had to relive the life he had given up when the game started. But other than the lack of the windy thing and his God Tier clothes, he was the same as when they won the game.
And that seemed wrong somehow.
Kanaya had blonde hair.
It took him by surprise. She was the first... anyone he had seen since he woke up. But he should have guessed she would be where the sun was the brightest and the landscape was the most beautiful. Her skin was still glowing slightly from her new rainbow drinker nature, and the green veins under her skin looked like delicate jade rivers.
She hugged him when she saw him, her relief palatable. "I thought I was alone," she nearly sobbed, her typing quirk almost as audible.
Kanaya left him when they found Rose. He didn't know if it was left over from her grimdark period, but Rose's skin was still dusky with hair black as night.
But her smile was real when holding the troll in her arms, and the twinge of pity in his heart was echoed by Kanaya's soft, heartfelt murmurs into Rose's ear.
Terezi couldn't stop cackling about justice. She and Vriska had been in the same cave when they woke, and something had happened between them. Something about Terezi was off, though, and he couldn't put his finger on it. Something about how she walked and carried herself.
He understood and laughed himself sick when he saw Dave embrace her shortly after, sporting a lovely womanly curve of the hip and small breasts.
"We all took on aspects of one another." The hollowness that he thought she should have was gone from Aradia's voice, but it was still the calm, mature voice he expected from her. Troll hands held her tea cup delicately, carefully keeping her clear human nails from scratching anything.
He wondered what aspects he took on as he slept that night.
Nepeta was the next troll he found.
Rather, Nepeta was the next troll his spine found as her hulking figure pounced on him in delight. Equius was shortly after, holding an unbroken bow in delicate hands and glee in not breaking it written in every movement his made.
He left them with a smile on his face as Nepeta took first watch over her moirail's sleeping form.
Vriska was blind, her eyes burned out.
All of Terezi's cackling made sense.
"Eridan doesn't come out of his hive anymore." Feferi still had her odd accent, her "h"s still a strange watery breath. She pulled her knees to her chest as she spoke, eyes on the water. "Sollux makes sure somefin's with him at all times."
He looked down at the troll girl, his eyes catching on the faint lines where her gills used to be, and couldn't say anything.
Aradia looked old.
It had surprised him when he saw her again. She chuckled as he blinked, unable to get up from her seat. "Does it really surprise you that much? Lowblood trolls don't live that long, and God Tier no long exists."
The sight of the girl who had been so fundamental in taking down Jack Noir and winning the game bound to her seat like that- fury bubbled up inside him in ways he never felt before. She couldn't be bound like that- not Aradia.
But her hand shook as she took her tea, slopping the liquid over her fingers.
Tavros was dead. Gamzee didn't even twitch when he came by, holding the broken body in his arms as if he had found a way to be drugged forever.
The cliffside behind them was smeared with orange and purple.
Karkat was the only troll he couldn't find.
Aradia was dying under his hands, each breath a struggle and he couldn't do anything about it.
"Have you seen our fearless leader?"
Eridan still sounded snarky, at least. The effect was ruined a bit by a black haired human teen held in the arms of an aged gilled troll, but at least Eridan had started to regain his pride. Feferi had her young cheek resting against his leg, pity and hate anchoring him in both ways.
He hadn't. Not yet. He still couldn't find Karkat.
"I could find him for yoooooooou."
"Heheheh! You can't even see anymore, Vriska!"
"S-shut up, Pyrope! Go back to taking care of you stupid halfbreed grub."
Jade nibbled on her lower lip, yelping in pain as her sharp teeth sliced her skin open. "There has to be something we can do. Some way we can find him. Did you ask Rose or Aradia-"
She wept clear, human tears from troll eyes when he told her Aradia was dead.
It's when he had given up that he found him.
And he looked exactly the way he had before, when the two worked together to win the game. Even Feferi and Eridan had grown in the years, but not him. But that wasn't the worst part.
The worst part wasn't the white, milky eyes, the same eyes Aradia had shortly before her final breath.
The worst part was Karkat didn't even twitch as he started talking to him. He didn't react to anything, no sight nor sound. The only thing he reacted, badly, to was him taking his hand in a sudden rush of needy pity.
"Who the fuck is there and is your think pan so deficient that you'll just grab another troll's hand without warning him first?!" Karkat lashed out weakly on thin arms, unable to hurt him as he was pulled into a hug. Fingers traced out words, unable to keep the pity out of each stroke. "... Egbert, that better not be you." His voice broke with each word, clinging to him.
"We lose our senses first," she explained, her eyes unfocused to the right of him. "Perhaps nature's way of pitying us so we can die right."
"You left me alone for fuck knows how long, idiot. You promised."
"But that's not right!" He ignored how it made sense. "If you're with friends, you should be able to hear and see them!"
She laughed, patting his hand blindly. "Even now, trying to be a good moirail. But it's okay." The hollowness was back in her voice as her breath rasped. "Everything's okay now."
"Damn you, human," Karkat's voice rambled on, clinging to him. "You infected me with that stupid human emotion and left me alone with nothing and now I can't fucking see-"
"I know," he choked out, his voice filled with fond pity. He knew Karkat couldn't hear him and that just made the feeling rush in more. "I'm sorry."