When it’s too much, and orphaned trolls are crying for their lusii, and -Eridan’s whining and she can’t take it anymore, she hides her symbol and takes off her jewels and just swims, aimlessly. Floating free, all of her responsibilities and tasks seem to float away with the current, and she’s freed. The water is cool, calming )(er down, purifying )(er.
When everything builds up, and he can’t do anything right, and Feferi is frustrated with him, he finds another troll and just fights. It doesn’t matter who they are, where on the hemospectrum they lie, he fights until he’s too exhausted to think straight, and all of his frustrations are gone, shot or stabbed or blown away. It doesn’t even have to be another troll. And when Fef’s at his hivve and she gets that look, he goes outside and punches the wwall, and lets off steam. And the inadequacy drains awway as the blood trickles down his knuckles.
When he’s out of spoor and cares, when the old goat hasn’t been back in perigees, when the MoThErFuCkIn MiRaClEs build up and start streaming out of his ears, his mouth, his eyes, he takes a can of paint and shows the world what it looks like. And it’s not accurate, not by any means, but it shows the way things are, shows how the world is, what his friends are. Feferi is surrounded by clear blue water, Eridan always has his rifle which is a part of him, Karkat has an inexplicable splash of candy red, and Tavbro has motherfuckin wings. Gamzee paints and draws and colors and shows the world that it doesn’t own him, and the MoThErFuCkIn MiRaClEs stream out his fingers and onto the walls.
When he breaks the Aradiabot again, or when he’s sweating too much for towels, or when his horns or teeth break, he makes small things. Careful things. Touching a wire here, twisting two together there. He reminds himself to be extra careful, not breaking anything, and when he breaks even a single wire he starts over from the beginning, builds something else from scratch, shows himself that he can build, and not just destroy. And when he actually begins to make whatever he’s making, he gets lost in the wires and panels and buttons, and doesn’t break anything, because he’s not thinking, he’s just doing. And when his newest robot lights up, it burns away his panic fits, relieves him of his ridiculous sweating. When he builds something, and everything cli% together and wor%, the obsession snaps and dissolves away.
When she can’t take it anymore, when her moirail isn’t enough, when Tavros is being lame and weak, she sits 8ack and takes a deep 8reath and plans. She comes up with schemes, ideas, plots. How to gain power, how to keep power, how to overthrow someone in power, it doesn’t matter except that she needs to think sideways, to twist her mind until it’s so convoluted that it snaps around straight again.
She knows it’s unconventional, but when she can’t think, when Karkat is being an idiot, when she does something wrong and someone gets hurt, she just sits back and breathes. When she gets sick of the darkness, when she can’t think because of the lack of one of her senses, when she can’t see and it’s too much and everything is off-balanced and wrong wrong wrong she breathes and the colors flood back, but not as colors. Cerulean is calming, relaxing, loosening. Crimson is energizing, but not overpoweringly so, awakening, like cinnamon. Olive is lifting, steady, strong. She breathes in scents and the imbalanc3 dr4ins 4w4y.
When her moirail is being too much, when she can’t auspisticize any longer, when she’s just so mad she could stab someone, she sits down and sews an outfit. Stitch by stitch, bringing everything together, all of the little bits. Making everything connected, mending any holes. Pulling the thread just the right strength, not to soft, not to hard, just right to pull it through the fabric and keep it steady. She sews and the colors and strings come together, and she binds her strengths together with her strings of worry and the fabric Swallows Them Up And Makes Them Calm.
When people break up, when people are mean, when even though she loves him Equius orders her around too much, Nepeta runs off into the forest and chooses an animal and follows it around. She becomes completely still, focuses all of her attention on being one-hundred-purrcent silent, and absorbs herself in stalking an animal and she can’t think of anything else. And the animal does its daily routine, hunting for food and running from predators and more often than not taking care of baby animals and it reminds her that no matter what the world keeps turning and people are people and animals are animals, and people are rather silly at that. But that doesn’t matter, nothing matters, because she’s completely focused on not being noticed, and her worries tighten up and dissipate in the not-very-silence of the forest.
When Crabdad is being too much, when Sollux is being too much of a nooksniffing idiot, when he’s just sick and tired of hiding his blood and can’t take it anymore, he finds a pillow and screams and screams into it until his throat’s raw and he can barely see. He screams and nobody hears him, but it lets off the tension, releases the pressure that’s been building up in his thinkpan, poisoning it from the inside out, and when he screams all of that pressure, tension, stress goes out of his mouth and flies off away from him, and he has no choice but to relax on the floor of his hive, and only then does the poison that his idiot past self had been building up, only then does that poison drain away.
When KK’s bugging him too much, when FF gets upset with him and ED for arguing, when he’s so sick of his 2tupiid biifurcatiion giimiick, he sits down at his husktop and writes a really long and complex code. It’s not any specific program, it just has to be so long and complicated that he gets so involved in it he forgets FF, forgets Alternia, forgets his 2tupiid biifurcatiion, forgets his psionic powers that he would love to let loose but can’t. Because if they know what he can do he’ll be taken and hooked up to a ship and be a ship and not be him anymore, but sometimes he’s just so sick of not being able to just go explode something that he knows what KK feels like and just wants to stop caring, so he goes and codes something really long and arduous in a language he doesn’t know, so that when he’s done he collapses and doesn’t have the strength to care about anything anymore and he can finally relax and the stupid bifurcation goes away.
What, did you expect it to be anything else? No. When Vriska talks to him, when he fails to walk, when he looks out over the cliff and dreams of flight, he pretends. He dreams up other worlds in his head, worlds where he can fly and walk and everybody is, if not nice, at the very least not cruel. Where Vriska is still snarky and mean, but where she is also understanding and knows where to stop. Where Karkat doesn’t need to hide his mysterious blood color, where, uh, where everyone could just have a chance, and nobody would be hurtful. And in the imaginary worlds, he goes adventuring, and Vriska and Aradia and Terezi and him all team up and defeat the evil people along with his fears and nightmares, and he pretends that he’s strong and chases away the fears.
Before, this was normal. When she was sick of Vriska’s taunts, when she was tired of Equius’s confusion, when she couldn’t see Sollux, she went out to the ruins to see what she could find, and immersed herself in another time. Before. Now, After, she still does this. But it has that extra element of pretending. A gh0st pretending to be a girl pretending to be in the past. A few moments when she can forget the voices of the imminently deceased, when she can focus to try and find out what happened to the ruins, the only time when she is mildly appreciative of her curse. After, when the voices urge her to do things she doesn’t want to do but has to, when Sollux grieves and she can’t comfort him properly, when Tavros needs that extra strength that she could lend. She goes adventuring and forgets about being a ghost, forgets about the voices, forgets the game that you all have to play, she can just discover, and be free.
Everyone is a little more broken than you think they are. Everyone has tension building up, invisible, unseeable tension, tension that becomes unbearable until you can scream or swim or paint or pretend the panic away. But everyone is a little more broken than you think they are, and in the end there’s only one way they can find the true rest, get calmed down, become freed. Become so lost that they lose the tension. But without proper support, the tension does nothing but return once you reemerge, and builds up until it’s truly intolerable. When you can’t stalk, or discover, or swim, or strife, then the tension builds up until one day everything snaps and you lash out and everything is suddenly over.
And it can’t be fixed
Okay, so I lied, it's not quite a oneshot. I'll do one more chapter with the Alpha kids, and maybe - MAYBE - the Alpha trolls, if they get shown enough.
When everything is going wrong, and things are flying out of his sylladex and falling everywhere, and when Dave has called him Egderp one too many times even though he knows it’s just an endearment, when John is just so frustrated he could burst, he takes a deep breath even though it’s cliché and silly, and goes outside and runs and runs and runs. He runs as fast as he can, letting the cool wind calm him down and blow away all of his worries. And then he runs some more, so that he’s so tired that he can barely stand, then lies down and he can’t think anymore. He can let the worries and frustrations and hurt drift away on the now-soft wind against his face, while he lies back and concentrates on breathing. And everything seems so calm in relation to the furious sprint, and he laughs giddily due to lack of oxygen and everything is fine again.
(later, he discovers, flying is so much better.)
Even before she gets her godhood, she’s been able to see a few of the possibilities. If John does this, or if this happens when Jade’s around, or if Dave makes the wrong choice, she can see some of the possibilities, what will lead to ruin. Rose sees how things can pan out, and they cram up her head, clogging her neurons, turning her mind in circles until she can’t think, can’t see, can’t feel. And that’s when she puts the pen down to paper, and the words come pouring out – fiction and fantasy and reality, wizards and aliens and friends, all woven together in a masterpiece of words. She puts the pen down and writes and writes and barely notices when she turns the page or misspells a word, because all that matters is getting the stories out, putting them somewhere that’s not her brain, having them flow out her fingertips, out her eyes and mouth and ears, on to the paper, where they’re not clogging up reality. Rose writes and writes, and all of her anxiety and tension flows out, expanding and filling a page, and she can see and think and breathe again, and the world isn’t as numb as it was before.
(after she goes god tier, it doesn’t get better but it gets so much worse, because now she can see everything)
When she’s feeling lonely on her island, or when she says something and the others look at her funny, or when she gets so sick of being cooped up on a little island that she can’t stand it, she finds Bec or a pair of squiddles or a furry plushie and hugs it so hard that its seams almost burst. She concentrates on almost squeezing the life out of it, and the pressure builds up and everything is concentrated into a small little ball of fury, and then she relaxes and the ball of feelings expands and dissipates into space. She makes a huge pile of softness and cries, and all of the emotions and feelings and stress dissolve and evaporate away.
(and when she dies and rises up, she can zoom out and see all of space, so much more room to free her emotions into, though how could she possibly feel cooped up anymore?)
Dave mixes records.
There are so many different noises in the world, and almost more ways that they can be changed, reversed, messed around with to form them into something completely different. So when Dave is sick of being shown up by his Bro, tired of feeling like he’s not cool enough to measure up, just plain done with being ironic, he goes off on his own, to his record tables, jams on his headphones, and starts making music. Or not music, just seeing how different beats interact, how they can be interlaced, spun together, braided into a larger collection of noises that eventually comes together as something spectacular. He drowns himself in the sounds, losing track of space, time, everything except the turntables and buttons and beats. He turns the volume up and lets it pound into his ears, hammering out all of his anger and inadequacy and feelings until there’s nothing left but his hands and his ears and the music. And as it inevitably slows down, tapers off, comes to a close, he feels worn and tired and absolutely perfect.
(he finds out that time is just another set of turntables and hops from timestream to timestream, and jumps from possibility to possibility, and there’s even more mixes to make.)
They balance each other out perfectly, John and Rose and Dave and Jade, though they all still get sick and tired and done with everything, the others are there to calm them, to balance them out and complete them. It’s far from perfect but it works, the odd group of four moirails. When John is tired of being clumsy, when Rose can barely see the ground in front of her, when Jade hates that she’s not used to people, when Dave is sick of irony and being cool, the other three are there for them, cooling their emotions and helping balance them out. And not immediately but eventually they all know exactly how broken the others are, and take them in, accepting and healing all the more because of it.
She’s not as naïve as they all think – she knows what the batterwitch is doing, somewhere in the back of her mind. But Jane is the Crocker heir – she can’t exactly not use CrockerTech. And so, to create a shield, she reads. She immerses herself in the characters, the plotline, the mysteries until she can hardly think of anything else, and her whole world is so full of horses and detectives and mysteries that the headband won’t find a few additional threads of conspiracy, muddled in with fiction. Jane reads to find an escape, to form a maze, a safe place that’s hers and hers alone, a place where she can think freely.
When he’s tired of strifing with the brobot, when he misses his grandma, when he gets so gosh-darned lonely that he can’t fucking stand it any more, he takes a deep breath and walks around in the jungle for a while. He takes his guns with him, of course, but not any other weapons, no music to listen to, none of his five computers. He’s heard the saying about stopping to smell the roses – that’s exactly what he does. Jake takes time to examine every new plant, every weird insect, every strange rock formation. He absorbs himself in the beauty of it all – how everything fits together, works together in one big machine of cause and affect. He loses himself in the beauty of nature, and wanders back to the remains of his house a few hours later, refreshed and relaxed. Jake wanders around his island, and remembers how to appreciate beautiful things.
Roxy, of course, drinks.
What else would she do? Carapaces aren’t the most rational at the best of times, so when something goes wrong – a food shortage, a fire, something breaks – they turn to Roxy, and sometimes she can’t fix it. So she drinks, to numb the pain. To drown herself in half-awake dreams and almost-memories of other worlds. To become so drunk, so out of it that she can pretend whatever she wants: that wixards *wizards are reel, *real, that they don’t habe to paly the game, that her mom is there. Roxy drinks to forget.
When he can’t stand the endless miles of ocean, when he’s tired of being the only person for hundreds of miles, when the world just gets so damn quiet that he can barely think anymore, he closes his eyes and goes to Derse. Derse is his escape – where he learned to speak, to read, to interact. With a bit of effort, he can disguise himself, blend in with the Dersites, learn about them and their lives. Dirk can explore the land – the towers, the crypts, the streets. He can listen to the bustle of the city, gossip with people about the war, or the queen, or the price of food. He can fly, move freely, not stay cooped up in a little tower in the sea. Dirk dreams to live, and when he opens his eyes again, the silence isn’t nearly as bad.
They balance each other out, the four players scattered across time, though not as moirails. Rather, as a group of matesprits-kismeses-auspistices, vacillating and changing. They push each other to their limits, improve on one another’s strengths. Dirk hones Jake’s strifing ability. Jake gives Jane a touch of adventure. Jane helps Roxy stay sane, if not sober, and Roxy gives Dirk a focus. They help to hone each other, building them up and helping give the others shape and definition. They are far from perfect, but they are together, and that’s enough for them – the chef, the drunk, the dreamer, and the hero. They see how broken the others are, point out their flaws, and do their best to fill in the cracks. They complete each other, mending and repairing and restoring life the breaks in each others’s souls, filling the voids in their hearts with hope. Dirk and Roxy and Jake and Jane, the Alpha Players, the Nobles.