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The Kids Aren't Alright

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Paradox space is a complicated and mysterious thing, one that Dave Strider will never understand. Maybe that's why they called it a fucking paradox.

First there was a game, except it wasn't. He and his friends won, except they didn't. Their universe returned to them, but it was never quite the same as before.

The trolls came first, each unique and alien and somehow a better set of companions to him than most of the people he knew from before. They were strange, but no stranger than he himself, the child born of paradox time with the ability to see everything go wrong and somehow continue living. Most of the trolls died, but the rest continued to their new universe hand in hand with the humans.

After the trolls came family, sort of. They were just like the kids, and just like their parents and siblings too. Soon they would be friends, in a strained, separate sort of way. They had their own story to worry about, their own Dave Strider to miss and fear for, just as he missed his Bro. Most of them parted ways after the game ended, considering life too strange when faced with the resurrection of the guardians. Dave remembered looking into his own eyes, except years older and not really his at all.

Fist bump. Shake it off. See you around, but probably not.

There had been losses and heartbreaks, permanent ones. John had lost Vriska, and had not even had time or knowledge to grieve for her death. Jane was not good at hiding her sorrow, and she watches now as Dirk and Jake embrace. They bite into each other's lips with the joy of being alive and free, and somehow she can only look somber. Through all of her celebrations, Jade's sadness bleeds through from time to time. Davesprite should have been there to celebrate with them, and his loss still ran cold and bitter through her blood.

Even so, somehow the four of them lived. They survived together and will be able to join with their new universe. Dave knew exactly how many times this would not have been the case. He had seen every single one firsthand.

John and Rose waste no time celebrating, with John spinning her around in glee. Her arms twine around his neck, and as she collapses into his shoulders with laughter. For once she looks really, truly relieved.

And then there is him. Bro on one side, Jade on the other, surrounded by love and happiness and all that other sappy nonsense he never really believed in. It's time for him to celebrate, too.

The rest of the kids lived in the game for over four years. He had been there for close to seven. It isn't going to be easy for him to drop everything and turn into Mary-fucking-sunshine. But now, he thinks, in this moment with Jade's smile and their whole lives ahead of them… now it might be possible.

In the coming years, normalcy returns to most. Lack of practice can erode superhuman powers fairly quickly, not that any of them were very keen to use them any longer. Jade forfeited her side of Bec to a dream bubble, allowing him to rest in peace, and the night Dave burned the timetables still holds vividly in his mind. His catharsis in that moment was soiled only by the buzz of one too many beers.

John finds his life in the piano and in his daughter's first breath. Casey Egbert was certainly never the plan, but if there was ever a happier accident, Dave couldn't think of one. It's amazing to watch John transition so quickly and seamlessly from hero to guardian.

Karkat and Terezi, against all odds, find themselves together once more. They are forever slightly short of happy with each other, and yet somehow they work well that way. In a moment of inebriated weakness, Terezi refers to him as "the digestive parasitic grub that you somehow grow to pity." Karkat's protests are pretty half-assed.

Gamzee made his way through the seedier side of life. There was no place for him in the society their universe has raised, and so he found himself once again in the underbelly. He would not have it any other way.

Kanaya has grown more beautiful and more elegant than ever, taking the fashion world by storm with her exotic creations. She finds her true happiness in a terrible secret.

Jane learns quickly to find her own way in the world; independent of the friends she once loved. She struggles, and yet she perseveres. Steady work comes with diligent searching, and soon she finds herself happy in her own three-and-a-half star kitchen.

Roxy is quick to adapt, throwing herself into the thick of the party-girl lifestyle. She forces her way into the life of social climbers and debutantes, soon becoming recognizable in the worlds of entertainment, fashion and social activism. She is brilliant at playing a crowd, and far too charming to not be loved.

Dirk and Jake make their way away from the gang, looking for a chance to take on the new world. Dave hears the name "Strider" echo from the evening news and political talk shows sometimes, often followed by terms like "reckless bravado" and "game changer."

Bro Strider, the only Dirk that Dave has ever known, seems to be more bizarrely outlandish than ever lazing about in an apartment above his own. Well, lazing is harsh. Dirk earns his keep through irony and shenanigans.

Jade is Jade.

Good girlfriend, best wife.

She is… he doesn't really know how to say what she is. She is something way the fuck out of his world, and that's all he really needs to know.

And then there is Rose.