You sit alone. You sit alone in your respiteblock and you don't care about leaving and you don't care about your personal hygiene and you don't want to leave. But there's someone you desperately wish you could go to.
Yesterday Kanaya came to visit you. She fussed and worried you into new clothes she made and she forced you to eat something. She tried to pull you away from your computer to go attend to your lusus but you couldn't stomach the notion of leaving the blasted technology. You crumbled. You hissed and spat out words that were a shadow of any of the creative insults you could have previously thought up in no time. They were slow and jumbled today. They have been for a while now.
You sit in solitude. You sit in solitude in your respiteblock. Now only your Moirail will visit you and his shooshpaps are all that keep you stable on some nights. But there's something else, one other thing that keeps you here. It keeps you here and tears you apart at the same time.
As a last favor to you, Sollux assisted you in hacking Trollian, tricking it into recalling and saving everything it's viewed, sent, and received through your account. You can watch and read any of it again. Terezi, Kanaya, and Vriska were interested in having access to this power as well, so you teamed up with Sollux again to help them out. It was the last thing you did as a leader. It was the last thing you did with another troll.
You sit in darkness. You sit in darkness in your respiteblock. You don't ever go to your recuperacoon because you don't ever sleep because you don't ever want to leave your computer. Your computer screen is the only constant light source in your room, though you can hardly call it constant as it flickers through timelines, dark and bright video files, and blue and grey and occasionally green chatlogs.
After The Scratch, a lot of things changed. Every one of the trolls you lead in the hellish game was returned to their respective homes on your restored planet, alive and well. You, too. You had been assured that you wouldn't have to play the game again. In essence, you had somehow achieved the second ending out of three possible endings. You didn't quite win as you should have, but you didn't lose everything and die either. You just survived--the second ending option. Not every team who played the game was so lucky. Sometimes you wonder if it was because your team member with "8ll the luck ::::)" took too much luck from others.
You sit bewitched. You sit bewitched in your respiteblock. You can't rip your eyes away from that screen, and you think that even if you could, the images would still be there, burned into your retinas. You haven't escaped the memories yet, but you can distract yourself from them.
You spend your time reviewing the videos of him. Sometimes you study them, searching for some flaw in his past that would be the key moment that lead to his downfall. There isn't one, of course. Nothing about him ever had a chance of making it through the trap that was his demise. Sometimes you watch, enthralled, as if it were the climax of your very favorite romcom and you can never see it too many times. Except it's so much better than that. He grows, he stumbles, he learns, he stutters, he loves, he loses, and he's always so perfectly and consistently himself.
One of your favorite scenes to watch is one that happened when he was young. He was roughly three sweeps old and was playing with other young humans that came from the surrounding lawnrings (it still baffles you that they live so close, in identical hives, and can be so friendly). They all were riding their two wheeled pedaling transportation devices up and down the pavement. He didn't have one. Instead, he would judge their races or run beside them as they went, smiling even though you know he really wanted one for himself. He was judging their race on the day of this particular scene, waiting at the bottom of a hill for them to arrive. When the young fools reached him, they sped by too fast and too close and knocked him off balance. He spun, flailing, and landed on the ground on his hands and knees. He landed hard. He paused and then flopped onto the ground as if mortally wounded (you panicked the first time you saw this, although logic told you he would be fine). The others noticed his fall and rushed to check on him. They asked in a panic if he was O.K. He groaned in response. A little female crouched beside him and reached out, mumbling worriedly, and he suddenly grinned and yelled "BOO!" in her face. Everyone screamed and she fell back and then they all laughed and decided he was alright. His Prankster's Gambit sky rocketed. As they returned to their games and left him there, only you saw the grimace of pain flash over his face. Only you and he saw the blood drip from the palms of his hands and his shaking knees as he stood to inspect his scrapes. Your heart (that detestable blood pumping internal organ that insists on skipping a beat every time he smiles) sank into your digestive tract at the sight.
He later received a two wheeled pedaling transportation device as a gift from his old male lusus who didn't understand that he was no longer interested.
You sit as a shell. You sit as a shell of your former self in your respiteblock. You're too torn now, ripped into far too many pieces to even consider attempting to reassemble yourself and your life and your old relationships. You take comfort in the fact that as one of such a mutant and detestable blood color, you never had a future anyway. If the damned game gave you anything, it was a taste of the life you never knew you always wanted. It was a taste of the things that made you feel complete, things you could never have on Alternia. Being a leader was one of them. Falling into deep pity, or love (you're not sure which anymore) was also one. Meeting John Egbert at all was another. The game and your own shortcomings tore it all away just as quickly as it was all dealt to you, like a little shit of a selfish child unable to share his toys.
The day you met John, really met him and saw him face to face (the first time he'd seen you at all, though you'd seen his whole life, you thought ashamedly), was the day of The Scratch. Admittedly, The Scratch didn't last a full day, but was a few hours at most. But a lot of things happened that day, and it was all very much and confusing and quick yet long, and you think that only Terezi knew what exactly was happening. Everyone else was just there for the ride, scrambling to do their part and hoping it would turn out alright. You'd taken and given an equal amount of orders and done everything you could to prepare for it. You weren't quite sure what to prepare for, or what would happen.
As it turns out, The Scratch didn't quite restart the game as much as function like an immediate end-game option. You all needed to be judged, so it brought both your sessions to a screeching halt and transported you all to one location, a place you suspect was something akin a dream bubble. There stood three worn out teenagers and four ragged trolls, meeting for the first time.
Kanaya had searched the group with her eyes and ended her fruitless endeavor by looking incredibly lost. You had never seen her so disappointed, so hurt and confused, so heartbroken. Jade went straight to her and comforted and explained, sharing in her pain. You thought you understood her pain too. After all, you had lost many friends and had only yourself to blame. You had guilt and sadness. You would later realize through experience that it wasn't the same kind of pain.
Terezi gave Dave an introductory face lick with a grin that lacked its usual devious glint, and instead resembled one more of relief and concern. Dave didn't back away from her licking. Rather, he opened his arms to her, and as they hugged the corner of his lip twitched up in the slightest smile.
Gamzee stayed back, of course. He was no longer constantly intoxicated, but he had little interest in the humans and you had made sure he was very calm before it was time for The Scratch. That left you and John. You had really been staring at John since he had arrived, struck stiff by a nearly painful hammering in your chest. He was alright. He was here. He was beautiful, glowing, not in the dim light of wherever you were, but in his own magnificent light. After he watched to make sure everyone else was getting on alright, he floated over to you using the obnoxiously adorable windy thing and smiled big. He's so happy you're okay, and he knew you must be Karkat because you looked so ruffled and grumpy, and gee those nubby horns are sure funny, and uuh beep beep meow! You shouted obscenities and colorful insults and defended the honor of your horns until he cut you short. He offered you a co-friend-leader brohug that wasn't much of a choice, so you faked reluctance and gave in. He pulled you close, pressed your chests together in what was certainly not just a friend hug, and you felt so happy. You felt so good, so right, devoid of all anger in that moment. And John was beautiful too, just gorgeous in every way, and so pitifully stupid and loveably bright that it made sense to you to pull back just enough to plant a kiss on him. It hurt a little because you were too eager so your teeth clacked against his with the forceful contact, but it didn't matter because you love him so much. He sort of kissed back, but then broke away with a breeze and a panicked look, and you belatedly recalled that he was declared "not a homosexual". You immediately regretted everything. The only thing you'd hate worse than him platonically hating you was yourself for causing that hatred. But he replaced your own panic with his as he hurriedly explained that he thought maybe he liked you a lot more than just palhoncho best bros, and he only realized this after Rose died because of some conversation they had not long before she did, and he didn't want to kiss yet because, he shyly admitted, he was going to ask you on a proper date that you would go on after you all beat this thing! You gaped at him. It took a moment to all sink in. You had to pause to push away the flutterbeasts in your abdomen and the urge to fondly tell him how much of a nookwhiffing moron he was. Then you gruffly demanded that for the date you would watch your own choice of quality troll cinema and he would learn to love it and you were now proper matesprits, no taking it back, got it?! He agreed and started to joke that he still wasn't sure about troll romance but when humans date it was called boyfriend and girlfriend except there was no girl this time and--
He was cut off when a high pitched ringing bombarded all your eardrums. You gritted your teeth and reached over and placed your hands over his, which were covering his ears. The contact was for both of you, really. His cheeks colored, and he smiled at you quickly, which caused your ears to ring for a whole different reason.
Finally it stopped and you all loosened your grips over your ears cautiously. A voice announced each team's final achievements and game ranking. You felt like a successful leader for once as your team's list of achievements was announced and was very lengthy. John's wasn't. You felt like an adequate being in general as your team won the second game ending. John's got the third ending. Game Over. The voice announced that your team would be allowed your normal lives again. John's team wasn't allowed any life at all. Each troll tightened their grip on their human. Even Gamzee looked startled. You panicked. A strongly worded objection began to form on your tongue, but before it could even leave your mouth you were startled again to find the mass under your hands disappearing. You swung your head back to John and watched him begin to evaporate, his eyes stuck on you. You clutched his hands and he turned them so he could squeeze back, and nobody had time to say anything before the humans were just gone.
Kanaya began to outright sob. Terezi joined her, put her arms around her and didn't even try to taste her companion's tears. Gamzee placed a hand on your shoulder. You stared, stuck, still seeing those hauntingly blue eyes as if they were the last piece to disappear, as if they had stared at you too hard. They could see all the ways this was your fault. They could see all your shortcomings, your impatience, your anger, your fuck ups. They could see how you had been wrong, exactly the ways in which you weren't a decent excuse for a leader or a friend or anything else, and why you should have never considered those things. Why didn't you help them? Why didn't you help him? Why did you screw up his world, doom him from the start? Why didn't you love him more, care for him like a real matesprit? Why did you let him slip through your fingers?
Gamzee patted you again as you all began to reenter in your old rooms—your old lives. Red tinted tears slipped down your face and you didn't care. I'm sorry, you think. I'm so sorry.