Actions

Work Header

Not Enough

Chapter Text

All Nighter

Logan

 

 It wasn’t exactly unusual for Logan to end up staying awake late into the night, or rather, early morning. He knew it was unhealthy (he’d told Virgil too many times) but he never seemed to have enough time in the day to get his tasks done. It really didn’t help that he was apparently incapable of keeping track of time once the others went to bed (or in Virgil’s case, retreated to his room).

 Logan grumbled softly to himself, eyes burning as he stared at the screen before him, fingers impatiently tapping on his laptop keyboard. He should take a break, pull his eyes away from the screen for a moment, clear his mind and have some tea-

 His cursory glance at the time spurred him to keep working. It was already 3am. Maybe if he just finished, he could go to bed. If he took a break he would be wasting time or worse, he’d fall asleep.

 The next time Logan glanced at the time, he nearly swore aloud. 6am. He squeezed his eyes closed, finally feeling the tension in his shoulders and jaw as he straightened against the back of his chair. He’d been hunched over for hours and he could feel it in every muscle that protested loudly from his movement. He’d made little progress, eyes strained behind his glasses and now uncomfortably itchy and burning.

 Every inch of him was exhausted. But he wanted to get this done. The idea of seeing Patton’s disappointed face and hearing his stern words made him grimace as he opened his eyes. The father would be upset if he pushed himself through a true all-nighter. Thomas wouldn’t be able to function and the other Sides would struggle to pick up his slack. That simply wouldn’t do.

 With a groan and protesting muscles, he saved his work and climbed out of his chair. It felt like he’d become a part of it through the night, finding it harder to stand up than continue his work. Slowly, his body weak and exhausted, he shuffled toward his bed that waited eagerly behind him.

 Clumsily kicking off his shoes and loosening his tie, he flopped face-first down onto the mattress, feeling every muscle in his body practically melt. Now feeling heavy and dizzy, he pulled his glasses from his face, but never got them to the bedside table. His eyes shut, and his hand fell, glasses falling through his limp fingers onto the mattress.

 *

Roman

 

 His jaw cracked loudly as he yawned, ignoring how undignified he probably looked as he shuffled out into the hallway. His eyes were definitely open as he slid along the wall, and he was definitely not mumbling to himself as he pushed the bathroom door open. Catching his reflection damn near woke him up out of shock.

 His hair was an absolute mess (as it usually was straight out of bed), and stubble had decided to grace his chin that morning. He grimaced, scratching the short hair as he closed the door behind him and locked it.

 The hot shower woke him up as it usually did, and soon he was crooning loudly into the small space while he washed his hair.

 Soon enough, he’d shaved and styled his hair, wearing his customary jacket and slacks. His eyes shone as he grinned at his reflection and squared his shoulders.

 When he exited back into the hallway, the silence of the mindscape struck him as odd. Almost immediately Roman doubted his time keeping skills. Maybe he’d awoken late and Thomas had called the others? Or he was early? It wasn’t like it hadn’t happened before, but it was rare.

 With a cautious sigh, eyebrows tilting in concern, he strode out to the commons and glanced around. He was definitely the only one present, but when he glanced at the clock his heart nearly leapt out of his mouth.

 “Twelve o’clock?!” he cried, turning and dashing back down the hall. He slid to a stop at Logan’s room, pushing the door open and immediately freezing. One hand on the doorknob, the other clutching the doorjamb, his eyes widened at the sight before him.

 The room was…for a lack of a better word, in complete disarray. At least for Logan’s standards. His light was still on, meaning he’d crashed late…or early…and his desk was a mess of papers and pens. Roman forced himself to draw in a deep breath, his eyes gliding over the rest of the room.

 The chair was pushed back from the desk, turned toward the bed and when he saw Logan, he couldn’t help the grin that spread over his face. And he couldn’t help the relieved half-laugh, half-sigh that escaped him.

 Shoes scattered behind him, glasses hanging from twitching fingers, it was clear that Logan had only just made it to his bed before fatigue caught up to him. He wasn’t even technically lying on it completely.

 Should he wake the logical side? He was almost certain that Logan would complain but he knew Thomas would likely need him. Logic would force himself out of bed, even if it meant drinking more than enough coffee to kill a man. At the same time, Roman knew how hard Logan worked. And he needed rest as much as the others.

 Roman felt the tension roll out of his shoulders as he quietly slipped into the room, his grin slipping into a soft, gentle smile as he approached the older trait.

 He lay face-first on his mattress, looking for all the world as serene and calm as an angel. His hair was mussed over his face, lips slightly parted as he breathed deeply, lashes dark against his cheeks. His shirt was crumpled, a small patch of skin showing where it had come untucked from his pants, just over his hip.

 Carefully he crept around the logical sides feet, gently taking his glasses and resting them on the bedside table. Dark circles were forming under his eyes, his skin paler than usual. With a small disapproving frown, Roman wondered how many nights like these Logan had been through recently. It wasn’t like Logan to practice unhealthy habits for long.

 Still, Logan looked adorable when he slept. He kept expecting him to snap awake, eyes wide and alert, and lecturing Roman on entering without permission. A loud chime near the desk distracted Roman for a moment, and he quickly slipped over to Logan’s phone.

 He was unsurprised that Logan had slept through his alarm, he just didn’t expect the logical side to have four just to get out of bed. Carefully, Roman dismissed them all and put the phone of silent, creeping back over to Logan.

 With as much finesse and as slowly as he could, he managed to turn Logan onto his back, preparing to lift him bridal style into his arms. Naturally, Logan stirred, his eyes barely open when he looked up at Roman.

 Roman froze, eyes wide as the logical one’s unfocussed eyes rose to his face, “Not…dandelions…” he whispered, eyes closing again and Roman had to try really hard to supress his laughter.

 Lying Logan down properly, he untucked his shirt, pulled off his tie, and gently lay his covers up under his chin. Logan muttered something in his sleep, turning onto his side and curling himself up until he nearly disappeared beneath the covers.

 With a pleased sigh, Roman planted his hands on his hips and admired his work. That had been a lot harder than he’d expected. Logan was normally a heavy-sleeper, sure, but Roman had been certain he’d wake. He was also kind of worried about what would happen if Logan woke up. The logical one could be stubborn.

 Moving as quickly and quietly as he could, Roman straightened up Logan’s room a little. He moved his shoes back to their place beside his door, turning off the bedroom light, tucked his chair in and put his computer into sleep. He straightened up some of the papers, plugged his phone into its charger and took his tie to hang on its hanger.

 Logan stirred as Roman hung his tie, standing near the door, his voice husky from sleep, “Not the…green one…” Roman couldn’t help but smile at the logical side as he turned toward Roman, still deeply asleep.

 With the room as tidy as Roman dared to get it, he slipped to the open doorway, “Sleep tight, dearest.” He whispered into the room, his voice still seeming too loud as Logan made a soft noise of content in his sleep.

Chapter Text

Quiet Day

Virgil

 

 By the time Virgil managed to shake sleep off, it was late afternoon, but the mindscape was suspiciously quiet. He expected to hear Roman’s booming laugh, Logan’s cool voice, or Patton’s excited clapping. But there was only the softest sounds of shuffling in the commons.

 It took way too long to drag himself out of bed, groggy and grumpy from his long night and all too short sleep. He stumbled on his blanket when it tangled around his ankles, falling against the doorframe before he threw his door open.

 He wasn’t sure if he’d expected it to get louder when he opened the door, but it was still too quiet in the mindscape.

 Slowly, he shuffled his way toward the commons, descending the stairs and spotting Roman dancing alone. He got halfway down before he felt like he’d walked in on something he shouldn’t have. Something private and personal.

 So, he squatted halfway down the stairs and watched.

 The royal looked so peaceful, his eyes closed and humming softly to himself as he gracefully twirled himself around the living room. It was definitely a side of Roman he hadn’t expected to see. He’d shed most of his regalia, leaving him in a black t-shirt that clung a little too well, and his white slacks, wearing only socks on his feet.

 Blinking a way his sleep, he noticed that Roman’s hair was a little mussed, even as he moved as smoothly as water, making almost no sound as he did. To say Virgil was impressed was a vast understatement.

 As Roman turned himself toward the stairs, still moving effortlessly despite the fact his eyes were closed, Virgil noticed the warm smile that had suddenly spread into a grin on his face. Was this how Roman spent his days off? Twirling and dancing around? It was definitely…not what he’d expected.

 Roman’s internal song came to an end, and he came to a stop with his back to Virgil, hands planted triumphantly on his hips. Virgil shrank back a little on the stairs, biting the nail of his thumb as he watched Roman roll his shoulders and sigh dramatically. He seemed surprisingly content, until he turned to glance at the clock.

 His smile fell away, eyes darkening suddenly, “Three o’clock?” he muttered to himself, and Virgil thought to scramble back a few steps before getting to his feet. He could hear Roman moving in the commons, his movement hurried and a little clumsy.

 Virgil had to take a breath to calm his racing heart before he stepped down the stairs. Roman was shrugging on his regalia as Virgil reached the bottom of the stairs, catching Roman half-dressed. He wasn’t sure why, but he expected Roman to cry out and run like he was naked. The thought nearly pulled a smirk onto his face.

 “Mornin’” Virgil half-heartedly waved, but he was worried Roman would hear his heart beating at his ribs.

 Roman’s eyebrows shot up and his arms dropped from his regalia, leaving it open, “It’s three in the afternoon.” He countered fondly, running his fingers through his already perfect hair.

 Virgil could only grunt in response as he shuffled into the kitchen and pulled the fridge open, preparing a bowl of cereal.

 “Did you see Patton or Logan?” Roman asked, his gaze on the stairs with his hands tucked into his pockets. It was a surprisingly relaxed posture for Roman, slouching slightly so his hands comfortably fit. Despite that, he looked proud and intimidating, broad and tall. Virgil couldn’t help but wonder for the umpteenth time how he managed that.

 “Nah.” Virgil muttered, sitting himself on the bench with his bowl of cereal, milk and cereal box within reach beside him.

 Roman turned to him, a perfect eyebrow arched before his eyes flicked from the anxious trait to the cereal still close by. A small smirk pulled at his lips, “Hungry, Virgil?”

 Virgil shrugged back at him, only meeting Roman’s eyes when he had a mouthful of the sugary cereal. Roman’s smile was fond and warm, like Virgil’s sudden appetite didn’t surprise him, “What?” he finally answered, mouth still full of food.

 Roman grimaced, “Gross, Virge.” Virgil let the corner of his mouth pull into a smirk as Roman headed to the stairs, “I’ll go check on the other two then.”

 “Why?” the words tumbled out of Virgil’s mouth and Roman paused on the stairs, fingers deftly closing his jacket.

 There was a look in his eye that Virgil didn’t recognise on the royal’s face. “Why?” he repeated slowly.

 Virgil looked down to his cereal, the look in Roman’s eye was far too intense this soon out of bed, “Logan had an all-nighter-“

 “I’m aware.”

 “-and Patton’s busy helping Thomas with something today.” Virgil looked up with another mouthful of food, “It’s not like they’re sick.”

 The intensity hadn’t faded from Roman’s eyes. If anything, it had increased. Virgil really couldn’t figure out why. This was something he’d never seen from Roman before. His shoulders rose slightly, hands diving into his pockets, but he didn’t look relaxed anymore. It looked tense and uneasy.

 Maybe it was the jacket.

 “Very well.” His tone indicated there was more he wanted to say, “Thank you, Virgil.”

 Then he ascended the stairs and disappeared into his room. Virgil was left alone in the kitchen, blinking slowly at where the prince had been. Had he…said something wrong? That was an unusual way for Roman to react.

 Maybe Virgil was reading into it too much. He shrugged to himself as he continued to dig into his cereal. It wouldn’t have been the first time he’d overthought something.

 

*

Patton

 

 When Patton finally arrived home, it was well and truly late. He was exhausted. Spending the day with Thomas and his friends had really drained him. Smiling was getting too hard.

 Rising into the commons, he finally let the smile fall, slumping forward as all of the fatigue final settled over him. Something shifted on the couch and he looked up, spotting Virgil watching him, lying on his back.

 “Big day, dad?” he asked quietly, gently putting his phone on the coffee table between them.

 A smile threatened to pull onto his face, more out of habit than anything else, but for once Patton fought it. He nodded slowly, hair drifting over his face and Virgil slid himself up to rest his head on the arm of the couch. Patton was too tired to pretend. Too tired to try and feed the family. Too tired to think.

 “C’mere…” he opened his arms, averting his gaze when Patton looked up and his cheeks tinted pink a little as he waited for someone to move.

 Shuffling forward, Patton kicked off his shoes and felt warmth spreading in his chest. Tears threatened to rise into his eyes, put he pulled his glasses off and let them fall onto the coffee table with Virgil’s phone with a loud click.

 He was tempted to fall onto him, nearly forgetting that Virgil was smaller than Roman, but carefully climbed onto the couch to rest on his stomach between Virgil’s legs. With some shifting, they tangled their legs together with Virgil’s arms securely wrapped around Patton’s shoulders. He gently tugged at the hoodie, and Patton let him pull it off, before draping it over his back.

 “Want to talk about it?” he asked quietly, his voice rumbling through his chest as Patton rested his ear over Virgil’s heart. It was faster than the other sides, almost perpetually, but this was even faster than usual.

 “Just tired, kiddo.” He whispered as he felt Virgil cautiously running his fingers through Patton’s hair. When Patton hummed softly and leant into the touch, Virgil’s movements got more confident and steady, his own breathing and heart slowing.

 They lay like that for a while, Virgil slowly relaxing into the couch as Patton listened to his heart and rested his eyes. It was the most quiet he’d experienced all day, and even though it normally would have made Patton a little nervous (quiet kids normally meant trouble), he allowed himself to enjoy it.

 Virgil yawned deeply, sinking a little further into the couch and Patton nuzzled Virgil’s chest, feeling Virgil’s breath in his hair as he sighed, “Comfortable, kiddo?”

 Something akin to a breathy scoff escaped Virgil, “Yeah.” He whispered, “You?”

 Patton nodded and hummed contentedly as he smiled, “Naps?”

 “Sure, Pat.”

Chapter Text

Clueless

Logan

 

 He hadn’t realised exactly how hard he’d worked himself until he awoke to his alarm the following morning with a start. He was unusually disoriented, wrapped tightly in his warm blankets, a little damp from sweat. Logan took longer than usual to peel himself from the warmth, stumbling to his desk and turning off the alarm. When he saw the date, he felt his heart skip a beat.

 He had slept for a whole day?!

 Before the realisation sank in completely, mind racing to make adjustments to the schedule, his door opened and Roman leant in, “Oh, you’re awake.”

 Logan blinked slowly at him, taking a step back so Roman’s face came into focus. Roman stepped in, straightening himself, “I appear to have slept an entire day away. My apologies.” He ran his fingers through his hair, wincing at how oily it felt, “I sincerely hope that I did not upset the schedule.”

 Roman waved a hand at him with a small smile, “Hardly.” His eyes were warm as he let his hands fall into his pockets, “Thomas chose to spend the day with his friends, Patton assisted.” A frown flickered over Logan’s face, “What had you working so hard anyways?”

 Logan shook his head, finding his glasses and putting them on before taking in the state of his room. It had been tidied while he slept, his phone left on the charger and his computer sleeping. Even his tie was hanging back up on the rack.

 “I believe I became stuck on a problem, and in my fatigued state, I fixated on it. It is really a simple fix and is nothing to be concerned with.” Something dark flickered over Roman’s face, before he leant back against the doorframe with that fond smile.

 “Throwing an all-nighter isn’t like you, Lo.” Logan strode to his closet and started to pull out fresh clothes, “Am I not allowed to be concerned?”

 Logan regarded Roman as he turned to his door. The prince seemed unusually tense, despite his attempt at a relaxed posture. His eyes were intense as he watched Logan, unusually so, but Logan couldn’t think of a reason for it. Perhaps it was not something Logan needed to worry himself with. Emotions were not his forte, after all.

 “Although I appreciate the concern you are displaying, Roman, it is not necessary.” He pulled a tie from the rack by the door, carefully folding it over his arm with the rest of the fresh clothes, “Could you please thank Patton for me?”

 Confusion spread on the prince’s face, “For what?” he asked, straightening and stepping out of the doorway.

 “For putting me to bed yesterday.” Roman stiffened, his eyes darkening as Logan stepped past him, “And for tidying my room.”

 Logan didn’t hear Roman’s reply until he was at the door to the bathroom, “Sure.”

 It was unusually dark, angry, pushed out through grit teeth. Logan’s head snapped toward the royal, who was glaring at the logical Sides door, Logan catching the glimpse of something akin to betrayal and pain, before the royal spun on his heels and disappeared into his room.

 There were few reasons that Roman had reacted like that in the past, and none seemed to fit the situation. Perhaps Roman was just tired. Logan wouldn’t have been surprised to learn that Roman had spent most of yesterday galivanting in the imagination.

 Yes, the prince was probably tired.

 

*

Patton

 

 Maybe napping in the commons hadn’t been such a good idea. He woke up slowly, disoriented by the strange colours and smells around him, until he recognised one. Virgil.

 Slowly, Patton shifted to look up at the anxious trait, who was sleeping peacefully beneath him. Neither of them had moved during the night it seemed, still tangled together. Then Patton realised why he’d woken up.

 “Mmm…not that one…” Virgil muttered in his sleep, his nose twitching before he rolled his head to the other side.

 A smile played on Patton’s lips, and he was tempted to just lay there and listen, but he heard light footfalls descending the stairs. As carefully as he could, Patton extricated himself from Virgil, trying to ignore the quiet whine he made in protest.

 As a compromise, he draped his hoodie over Virgil’s chest, watching fondly as Virgil breathed deeply and slipped back into a peaceful sleep. Patton patted the coffee table, finding his glasses and sliding them on.

 The footfalls had suddenly slowed, and Patton turned to see Logan descending, eyes wide with surprise. “Morning, teach.” Patton tried to keep his voice fairly low, for Virgil, “How’d you sleep?”

 His damp hair slipped into his eyes, leaving small streaks of water on the lenses, “I am astonished that I managed to sleep for almost twenty-four hours, but I am feeling considerably refreshed.” Logan paused at the bottom of the stairs to pull off his glasses and dry them, “And you? Roman informed me that you assisted Thomas alone yesterday.”

 A sheepish smile spread on Patton’s face as they both walked quietly into the kitchen. The emotional trait looked surprisingly more ‘adult’ without the hoodie, “Um, surprisingly well if not a little sore.”

 Pink slowly rose among Patton’s freckles, and Logan stepped past him to the coffee machine, “I suppose I can simplify my own dilemma then,” Patton watched him, confused for a moment, “Thank you.” The fatherly traits eyes widened when he realised Logan hadn’t turned to him to hide his blush, “For…putting me back into bed yesterday.”

 A grin spread on Patton’s face, but it quickly fell away to a confusion, “Wait, I didn’t.”

 Logan whirled around to Patton, “Pardon?”

 Patton shrugged with another sheepish grin, “I…I didn’t put you in bed.” He answered hesitantly, opening the fridge and pulling out the milk, “I didn’t have a chance to check on you.”

 The fatherly trait had pulled out ingredients for pancakes when he realised Logan hadn’t said anything, or moved. The logical trait looked stricken, the cogs in his mind whirring too quickly despite his lack of coffee.

 “Logan?” the logical trait blinked and met Patton’s eyes, “Your coffee?”

 “Hm? Oh, right.”

 Patton didn’t comment on Logan’s now trembling fingers, jerky movements or the way his eyebrows had furrowed together. Logan wouldn’t unravel his thoughts until his second cup of coffee anyway.

Chapter Text

Hidden

Virgil

 

 Maybe it was the smell of coffee drifting through the air, or the warm chatter from Patton, but Virgil woke up feeling far more refreshed than he had in weeks. As he leant up onto his elbows, yawning, he felt something shift and fall from his chest into his lap, peering at it through heavy lids.

 Or maybe it was Patton’s hoodie.

 The realisation that he’d slept the entire night with Patton on the couch sent a sharp spike of panic up his spine, clenching his chest tightly as he shot upright and glanced into the kitchen.

 What was Patton going to think? Or say? Did he stay all night or just until he got weirded out? Were things going to get weird?! He was just tir-

 “Morning, kiddo!” his cheery voice shattered through the panicked thoughts. When Virgil’s eyes focussed on Patton in the kitchen, he realised that the emotional Side was giving him a gentle, worried smile. “You sleep okay?”

 Okay, maybe Patton wasn’t feeling weirded out. That was good, right? That was…

 Relief washed over Virgil as he ducked his head, nodding and twisting to get up off the couch.

 That was great.

 Virgil peeked up at Patton from beneath his hair, pulling his hoodie around him more securely and saw that Patton’s smile had morphed into a bright, proud grin. What remained of his panic melted away, replaced with a small and bright, warm feeling in his chest.

 Everything was okay. That was good.

 Virgil’s eyes fell on Logan as he sat at the table, the anxious trait’s eyebrows drawing together at Logan’s thoughtful expression. He glanced up at Patton, who gave him a worried smirk and a one shoulder shrug, looking down to continue on the pancakes.

 Coffee beckoned Virgil, his feet working before his brain did, and he found himself sitting with Logan at the table, “Mornin’.” he slurred, catching Logan’s eyes.

 “Salutations. Sleep well?”

 Virgil sipped his coffee, enjoying the too-sweet, milky taste that overpowered the bitterness, “Yeah. You?”

 “Indeed.” He steepled his fingers in front of his mouth, an attempt to hide the frown pulling at his face as Logan’s eyes fell to the table.

 Patton’s soft humming was the only other sound besides Virgil and Logan sipping at their coffees in the commons that morning, until the soft hiss of Patton cooking pancakes broke Virgil from his own thoughts.

 “Whatchya thinking ‘bout, pocket protector?” he asked, rubbing his cheek as Logan’s eyes snapped to his.

 “My interaction with Roman this morning.” Logan explained, his tone matter-of-fact.

 Like that explained anything at all.

 Virgil rolled his eyes, “Mind elaborating?”

 The logical counterpart huffed, a tiny smile pulling at his face, “I’m not entirely sure if there’s anything to be concerned about.” He explained softly, hands falling to the table. He picked nervously at his blunt nails.

 “Logan, we’ve been over this.” Virgil’s tone was light, his eyes soft when Logan met his eyes again, “All your feelings are valid.”

 The reminder seemed to be all Logan needed. He slumped against the back of the chair, running a hand through his slightly damp hair as he sighed deeply. When his arm dropped into his lap, he softly recounted his interaction with Roman in as much detail as he could, and added Patton’s admission.

 When Logan had finished, Virgil’s own brows were drawn together, cradling his mug close to his face. He was hiding his own frown, “He did something similar yesterday.” Virgil admitted softly before the silence could draw on for too long, “Maybe I should go check in.”

 Almost out of his seat, Logan’s hand on his forearm made him freeze, “I fear I may have upset him.” He squeezed Virgil’s arm, “Please be-“

 “What is that absolutely heavenly scent?” Roman’s boisterous call filled the room and Virgil jumped a little, Logan’s head spinning to the sound.

 He was standing at the top of the stairs, as dramatic as ever, grinning down at the three on the lower landing. Patton beamed back at him, “Pancakes!”

 Roman’s smile widened, despite Virgil and Logan sharing a concerned glance, “Wonderful!” the prince slid down the banister, striding with a bounce in his step toward the kitchen and gently pressed a kiss to Patton’s temple as he passed.

 Patton giggled as he flipped pancakes, eyes shining as Roman poured himself a glass of juice and smiled to himself. “You seem to be in a good mood.” Virgil carefully teased, slowly lowering himself back into his seat. Given Logan’s observation, Roman’s behaviour had him on edge.

 Roman beamed at him but there was something wrong with the smile, something Virgil couldn’t place, “And you aren’t, Hot Topic?”

 Virgil narrowed his eyes at Roman, but couldn’t help the small smirk that pulled at his lips, “Touché.”

 Patton quickly swept Roman up in conversation, the pair dancing around each other in the kitchen as they laughed about their dreams and plans for the day. That at least seemed normal for Roman, and that uncomfortable edge, the quiet nagging in Virgil’s ear, went silent.

 “You might be right, Lo, nothing to worry about.” Virgil shrugged, “Need more coffee?”

 “No,” Logan waved his hand and Virgil realised he hadn’t finished it yet, “But thank you.”

 Virgil nodded, eyes flicking from Logan’s now cold coffee to his face and back again. Well, if Logan was going to talk about it, Virgil trusted him to approach the anxious side.

 

*

Roman

 

 There was no denying that Logan’s (honest) mistake had stung a little (a lot) but Roman’s slight slip didn’t seem to have raised any suspicions. Logan didn’t ask him anything out of the ordinary, Virgil’s curious glances slowly ceased and Patton…well, Patton didn’t seem to even know.

 Roman wasn’t sure if he was relieved or hurt.

 Either way, it didn’t matter. It was an honest mistake. If Logan knew, he would have apologised and corrected it. Roman knew Logan well enough to know that.

 It had been nearly three days since. Three blissful days of watching movies and singing and brainstorming new video ideas.

 It was a Friday. Roman wasn’t sure why that was so important. The mindscape was unusually tense. The bounce in his step had slowly disappeared as he approached the stairs and cautiously descended.

 There, on the couch alone, was Virgil.

 The prince had barely registered the look on the anxious traits face before he was practically flying down the stairs. Virgil was frozen in place, breathing in the tiniest gasps he’d ever heard, eyes wide as he stared at nothing.

 He caught himself at the coffee table, approaching slowly, “Virgil?” the anxious traits eyes rose to Roman’s, but they were unfocussed, “Hey, buddy.”

 Virgil’s breathing caught as he watched Roman approach, his body jerking as he tried to suck in air. Terror filled his eyes along with tears as he realised he couldn’t breathe.

 The mindscape grew a little darker, the lights dimming as Thomas experienced his own panic attack. Roman knelt before Virgil, eyes locked, “I’m here for you, okay?” a tiny, strangled sound, like a whimper, escaped Virgil’s parted lips, “I’m here.”

 Virgil’s grip on his hoodie tightened, jerking a little more forcefully as he desperately tried to inhale. Roman reached out slowly, watching Virgil’s face for a refusal or protest, but he saw relief instead as Roman’s fingers gently brushed Virgil’s.

 “See? I’m here. Real.” Roman heard the tiniest gasp of air, “Alright, let’s go through that breathing exercise.” He slowly moved his hands to cover Virgil’s as he walked Virgil through the exercise.

 It was nearly impossible for Virgil to breathe in all the way to four, but Roman understood that. He was trying to unravel Virgil as he did so, every movement slow and deliberate as he counted. Stiff, locked in place, Roman had to be careful.

 Virgil had let Roman move his arm by the time he was able to inhale to two. The prince quickly unbuttoned his outer regalia and pressed Virgil’s hand to the space over his heart.

 Feeling Roman’s heartbeat was another piece of grounding Virgil desperately needed. Meanwhile, as Roman continued to count, he tried to ease Virgil from his curled-up position.

 By the time he’d managed that, Virgil was inhaling to four, but only exhaling to two. “You’re doing so well, Virge,” Roman soothed, smiling gently when Virgil met his eyes, “Let’s try and breathe out to eight, huh?”

 A strangled whine, a protest, I can’t.

 “Baby steps.” Roman soothed again, gently running his hands up and down Virgil’s calves. He didn’t know how long Virgil had been there, so he couldn’t be sure Virgil had any sensation in his legs. It was a slow process, but Roman had all the patience in the world for the anxious Side.

 “Th-thanks,” Virgil shakily whispered when he was managing to breathe a little easier, “I-It just-“

 “Shh,” Roman took Virgil’s hand from his chest, massaging it between his hands, “You don’t need to explain, remember? What’s five things you can see?”

Chapter Text

Dawning  Realization

Roman

 

 Despite his best efforts, the grounding technique and breathing exercise only did so much. Virgil was still trembling, struggling to keep the panic at bay, blinking back tears as Roman knelt with him.

 “How about some tea?”  he asked quietly, tilting his head to the side a little. Virgil’s brows drew together, “We can go to the kitchen together, if you need?”

 Shakily heaving a breath, Virgil nodded, eyes cast to the floor and clutching a fistful of Roman’s shirt. It was enough for Roman to understand what he wanted, shifting carefully to wrap his arm around Virgil’s shoulders and help him onto shaky legs. The anxious side wasn’t exactly heavy, so supporting his weight was no problem for Roman as they took slow strides to the kitchen together.

 A little steadier on his feet once they were in the kitchen, Roman felt Virgil let go of his shirt only to re-attach at the back of his jacket, following him around the kitchen as he slowly prepared two mugs of tea.

 As the kettle boiled, Roman turned to Virgil, who was staring at the floor, lip between his teeth, looking more like a frightened child than the villain he’d cast him all those years ago.

 “Earth to Hot Topic.” He said softly, smiling gently when Virgil’s eyes met his, “How we doin’?”

 Breath still stuttering, Virgil managed to answer, “A l-little better.” His eyebrows suddenly drew together, uncertainty all over his face before he ducked his head again.

 “What are you thinking, right now?” he asked gently, taking Virgil’s other hand in his. He wanted to tilt Virgil’s head up and meet his eyes, but their balance on the edge between panic and calm was so tentative, he didn’t dare.

 A long, painful silence stretched between them before Virgil finally drew in a deep, and still somewhat shaky breath, “You’re…you’re not b-being n-nice bec-because you have to…a-are you?”

 Roman thought he felt his heart break, “No, Virge,” he squeezed Virgil’s hand in his, “Goodness, no. I made some terrible mistakes. I treated you unfairly.” Virgil shifted his socked feet on the tiled floor, staring down at them, “I want to treat you better.” Virgil’s shoulders tensed, “You deserve better.”

 Hesitantly, Virgil raised his head a little, peering up at Roman from under his hair, “Y-yeah?” he breathed, and Roman could see his chest rising and falling erratically again.

 “Yes, Virge.” Roman answered a little more firmly that time, “And if you ever need reassurance, I’m just down the hall, okay?”

 “O-okay.” Virgil finally seemed to notice his breathing, closing his eyes to calm himself down as the kettle clicked off. Roman felt him jerk, but didn’t comment on it. Now was not the time for teasing.

 Before Virgil had finished his breathing exercise, Roman had finished their two mugs of chamomile tea. It wasn’t a miracle cure, but hopefully it would relax Virgil just enough to get him to sleep.

 “Back to the couch?” he asked, Virgil nodding, “I’ll carry your tea.”

 They walked slowly back to the commons, Virgil still clinging to the back of Roman’s jacket, and Roman sat beside the shaking Side. There was silence for a few moments as Virgil sipped his tea and tried to relax his shoulders, “C-can we wa-watch a movie?”

 “Of course. Any you have in mind?”

 Virgil kept the rim of the mug to his lips, steam swirling around his face as he stared at the cabinet and thought. He finally released Roman’s jacket to cradle the mug in his hands, “Hmm…Nightmare B-before Christmas?”

 “Mm,” Roman hummed as he sipped his own tea, “Excellent choice.”

 Virgil watched from the lounge as Roman got up and moved to set up the DVD, smiling awkwardly when Roman returned and sat beside him again. The familiar music of the DVD and soft lighting of the television filled the room.

 It was not twenty minutes later that Roman noticed Virgil was still tense, “Anything you need, Virgil?”

 He looked nervously up at Roman, his eyes flicking back to the television before he gripped a handful of Roman’s white slacks. The prince smiled, leaning back into the couch cushions with a long, drawn out sigh as he sipped his tea. Virgil seemed to get the hint, relaxing his hold a little and edging closer, leaning against Roman’s side.

 Roman didn’t realise he’d gotten absorbed in the movie until Virgil shifted again, moving Roman’s arm over his shoulders, while curling against his side. The anxious side rested his head against Roman’s shoulder, his knees drawn up to his chest, almost like a barrier, but nuzzled closer with a tired hum.

 With a sigh and a smile, Roman took his half-empty mug of cold tea and put it with his own empty mug on the table beside them. “Tired?” he whispered, gently pulling Virgil a little closer as he sank into the couch.

 “Mm-hm.” Virgil managed to answer, a hand gripping Roman’s shirt.

 “Wanna sleep here?”

 “Mm-hm.”

 Gently, Roman pressed a kiss to the crown of Virgil’s head, feeling a rush of warmth swelling in his chest when Virgil sighed. It was the same rush he’d felt for Logan that morning, that he’d felt for-

 Oh no.

 His eyes blew wide, but he managed to keep himself from tensing up as Virgil finally drifted off to sleep. This couldn’t be happening. Not now.

 Roman nearly laughed at the absurdity of it. He was the romantic side, sure, but that didn’t mean he had to be romantically involved with anyone. Not at all! That would just confuse Thomas! And he had a role to fulfil, as Thomas’ desires! He couldn’t fulfil his own if he was-

 The movie played on, unwatched as Virgil slept and Roman stared at the stairs. Who was he kidding? He wasn’t going to be able to convince himself otherwise now. But…

 How had he not noticed?

Chapter Text

Cracking

Roman

 

 Despite his frantic mind and racing heart, Roman had managed to fall asleep at some point throughout the night. Or more likely, early morning, and he woke up groggy and cold.

 Cold, because Virgil was gone.

 Blearily scanning the room, Roman realised the anxious side must have retreated to his room. And that didn’t hurt. Nope.

 It was still fairly early in the morning. The sun still hadn’t risen, casting the room in an eerie glow as the movie’s title screen played on loop.

 Scowling, Roman turned off the television, pitching himself in near perfect darkness. It didn’t help his mood.

 All the same, he pushed himself up off the couch, retrieved the two empty mugs beside the couch and carefully shuffled through the dark commons to the kitchen. He grunted softly when he flicked on the kitchen light, pain piercing to the back of his skull as he squinted, but shuffled over the cold tile to the sink.

 There was a reason Roman tried to get his ‘beauty sleep’ early in the night. He didn’t like to be alone with his thoughts in the quiet mindscape. Even more so when he had a troubling situation to consider.

 It wasn’t like Roman to not notice feelings he had towards someone. The amount of times Virgil and Logan had to reign him in should have been testament to that. And there was still the…well, the ex. His ‘heart’ ached at the thought. Or rather, the ‘heart’ he shared with Thomas.

 Really, it was a patch of skin on his chest that echoed their shared feelings. Roman had his own ‘heart’, tucked away inside, hidden beneath that same patch of skin. He kept this one secret, hidden away, protected…for good reason.

 He knew what heartbreak and heart ache felt like. That was not something he wanted to experience personally. Roman was pretty sure he couldn’t take it.

 But…

 But he’d also experienced the happiness too. Which brought yet another uncomfortable thought forward as he absently scrubbed at a mug.

 Was he just projecting feelings onto the Sides? Was he really in love with them? Was-

 Roman grimaced and put the mug down, running both hands through his hair. He couldn’t care less about how his hair looked at this moment. He was having a crisis!

 What was he supposed to do?! He could bring it up with Logan but that meant admitting that he’d not only put Logan into bed, but that Logan had thanked the wrong Side. And that it had hurt-

 No. Logan was out of the question.

 Patton? He was the heart, mostly, so he would be best to decipher Roman’s feelings. But…well, Patton was still working through his own issues. Roman couldn’t add his own problems onto that in good conscience.

 Virgil?

 The very thought made him laugh humourlessly into the kitchen, hands dropping to his sides as he shook his head. Why would Virgil want to help him? Roman had caused him nothing but heart ache.

 He could feel the tell-tale prickling of frustrated tears in the corners of his eyes, and he pressed the heels of his hands to them in silent protest.

 Maybe he didn’t have to bring it up. It would just cause more chaos they didn’t need right now. Thomas had projects going on, which meant Virgil and Logan were working overtime, with Patton desperately trying to keep the balance. They were busy.

 He was busy.

 Dropping his hands from his eyes with a hard sigh, he straightened his back and dropped his shoulders in an attempt to steel his own resolve.

 He could do this. He could ignore it. It wouldn’t be pleasant, but he could do it. There was always the imagination when things got out of hand and that little space in his room-

 The thought of that place made him shiver involuntarily.

 Opening his eyes to look at the sink again, Roman realised the pile of dishes just hanging out next to it. It was clear that Patton had been too tired to wash up last night, and well, Roman was already up. What was another hour helping one of them out?

 His heart ached, but he did his damned best to ignore it.

 

*

Patton

 

 Trudging out into the commons a week later, Patton yawned and stretched, feeling his tense muscles pulling uncomfortably. When he relaxed, scanning the normally empty room, he was surprised to see Roman asleep face down on the couch.

 He…looked horrible.

 His white coat was open, black t-shirt beneath it rumpled around him. His white slacks clearly hadn’t been ironed in a while, gathering a little around the ankle of his scuffed leather boots. His hair was a mess, his face screwed up as he slept fitfully.

 One of his arms were dangling off the couch, brushing the carpet, twitching when he grumbled and turned his head away.

 Even from the stairs Patton had seen the dark circles forming under the prince’s eyes, the tension in his forehead as he frowned deeply in his sleep.

 But it wasn’t like Roman not to approach one of them with a problem. He’d always been loud, outspoken and confident. For him to hide his exhaustion like this…it was weird.

 As though he could sense Patton’s scrutiny, Roman jerked awake, head flying up as he shot onto his elbows. He’d never been a morning person, turning to squint at Patton, hair falling over his face in a way too reminiscent of Virgil.

 The prince peeled himself off his stomach slowly, “Padre-“ he yawned, stretching as he sat back on his knees, “-why are you up this early?”

 Patton frowned, “Roman…it’s nearly nine in the morning.” Despite his own fatigue, Patton approached slowly, “Everything okay? You looked…tired.”

 Roman scoffed, waving a hand at Patton, “Of course!” he laughed bitterly, “I’m fine! Everything is fine.” He rose from the couch as Patton paused at the coffee table.

 “You don’t…sound fine, kiddo.” Patton tilted his head as Roman scrubbed at his face. The fatherly trait could have sworn there was stubble on the royal’s usually immaculate face, “Need to talk?”

 Roman’s scrubbing paused, eyes flashing with something like hope before they darkened, and he averted his gaze. His eyelids fell as he scratched at his chin, “Nothing to talk about.”

 Patton knew when Roman was getting defensive. He just wasn’t used to the prince being defensive towards him. It felt…wrong.

 A thought occurred to Patton, and he tilted his head, “Is this about the other day? When you put Logan into bed?”

 Roman’s arms wrapped over his chest, “What? Why?” there was curiosity mixed with defensiveness in his tone.

 “Well, Logan thanked me initially.” Patton tried to fight the tension in the air with a giggle, but Roman’s shoulders drew into a line, tense and rigid. “I told him it wasn’t me! Obviously.” His second giggle was more nervous than the first, “Did he…” his eyes darted over Roman, “Did he not say anything?”

 Roman’s jaw was locked, hands clenching at his own biceps, eyebrows drawn together. To the untrained eye, he looked angry, murderously so. But to Patton…

 He looked hurt.

 “Oh, kiddo-“

 Tears rose into Roman’s eyes, and a weak, pitiful laugh escaped Roman. Bitter and self-loathing, “It’s nothing, Pat.” He tried to mask his original laugh with another, slightly warmer one, “You’ve all been so busy-“ his voice cracked and Patton heard Roman suck in a breath as he shook his head with a watery smile.

 “Roman-“

 “Don’t sweat it, Pat.” Roman had blinked away his tears, fixing Patton with a nearly convincing smile, “I’m sure Logan has a perfectly good reason.”

 The way his voice wobbled told Patton this went deeper than he knew, “All the same, he should have said something by now.” Patton was a little firmer this time, “What’s troubling yo-“

 Patton knew it was bad when Roman cut him off, “Just…tired.” He lied, “I’m going to head to bed.“

 Patton didn’t like that Roman was avoiding him, or his feelings. It had been years since Roman had acted this way. Those were some…painful years. “When did you get to sleep?” he asked gently, watching Roman as he shuffled to the stairs.

 Roman hesitated at the first step, hand on the railing, throwing Patton a sheepish grin over his shoulder, “I don’t know?”

 Patton let a smirk pull onto his lips, “Take the day off, kiddo. Goodness knows we all need it.”

 The prince frowned at him for a moment, but sighed and nodded, “Sure, Pat.”

 Patton watched Roman disappear up the stairs before he let himself frown. He’d check on Roman later. He had a logical aspect to lecture first.

Chapter Text

Something to Worry About After All

Virgil

 

 Normally, Virgil would have leapt at the chance for a day off. The very idea of spending time alone in his room was just so tempting…but.

 But there was something tense in the air. And for once, he wasn’t the cause.

 To say that was unnerving was a disgusting understatement. If he was the cause, Virgil knew how to deal with it. Run away. Hide in his room. Pretend he didn’t exist for twenty-four hours. Hopefully everything would return to normal. And most times, it did.

 But when it wasn’t him?

 It was fair to say that he was a little more on edge than usual. And only a few moments of quiet observation, carefully masked as aimless scrolling through Tumblr, brought forth his answers.

 Patton was worried about something. It was the fourth time he’d bit his lip in ten minutes. He was keeping his hands busy and refused to leave the kitchen. This was the third time he picked up that cloth, only to abandon it on another part of the bench.

 For the fatherly trait to be distracted was nothing new. But his brow was deeply furrowed, eyes dark as he moved about aimlessly, and he was definitely more ‘frantic’ than usual.

 Virgil was honestly surprised that Logan hadn’t noticed. Normally Patton’s fluttery behaviour was irritating for the logical Side, especially when he was trying to work. But a few moments of observing Logan brought forth more answers.

 Logan was buried in his work. Hunched over the communal table, his pen scratched frantically at his page, pushing his glasses up his nose for the third time in less than five minutes. His hair was a mess, his eyes bright as he suddenly straightened and started sifting through his pages.

 Seemed that Logan wasn’t going to have a day off, and Patton was too distracted to actually stop him. He’d just moved location.

 Virgil literally couldn’t stand to see Patton like this. Logan overworking himself was almost expected at this point, but for Patton to be so frantic that he couldn’t see it right in front of him? No, Virgil had to do something.

 A rare flush of resolve pushed Virgil up from the couch, locking his phone and tucking it protectively into his hoodie pocket. Logan barely even looked up as Virgil passed him in large strides, but the anxious Side could see that Logan was about to burn himself out. His leg hadn’t stopped bouncing and he was biting his cheek.

 Patton didn’t see Virgil enter the kitchen, stopping only when Virgil gently caught his wrists, “Pat,” he pitched his voice low and soft, “Stop.”

 He was a mere three inches shorter than Virgil, but he looked so much smaller as he blinked at Virgil with wide eyes, “Virge?”

 Virgil let his hands fall from Patton’s wrists, “The cloth doesn’t need to see a tour of the kitchen.” He gently teased with a tiny half smile, watching as Patton’s eyes darted away. A tiny smirk pulled at Patton’s lips, “What’s wrong?”

 That horrible, fake smile cracked over Patton’s face and Virgil had to fight back a grimace. Christ, he hated that smile. “Nothing’s wrong, kiddo!” that disgustingly sweet, too high voice made Virgil’s eye twitch, “What would make you think-“ Virgil’s cheek twitched next and Patton’s smile slipped, “I’m not fooling you, am I?”

 Virgil shook his head, hair swaying a little as he searched Patton’s face. He pressed his lips together, “Logan’s over there working himself to death-“ Logan grunted at the mention of his name, but didn’t actually join the conversation, “-and you’ve been here scrubbing at crumbs.” Patton sighed dejectedly and Virgil tilted his head a little, “Talk to me? On the couch?”

 Patton glanced sideways at Logan, “Can we actually go to…your room?”

 That threw Virgil for a loop. It had been a long while since they’d visited his room. Sure, it had happened a few times after the Accepting Anxiety video, but only-

 Oh no.

 Virgil’s look of surprise fell away to determination and he nodded, gently taking Patton’s hand and silently leading him up the stairs. He didn’t stop until he’d closed and locked the door.

 Turning to Patton, Virgil could see the eyeshadow under Patton’s eyes was already so dark it looked like ink had been spread there, not powder.

 “Talk to me.” Virgil’s voice was almost a command in his space, in his realm, but thankfully lacking the echo it often picked up.

 Patton’s wide, panicked eyes fell on Virgil. He held his hands out, almost as though he was holding his problems in his hands. The moment his mouth opened, the words fell out, unguarded and honest and scared.

 Virgil was silent, listening with a grim, serious expression and only nodding to show Patton that he was absorbing every word.

 When Patton went to start repeating himself, hands moving to grab at his own polo shirt and pulling, Virgil moved forward and gently wrapped the fatherly side in his arms.

 Even though he was skinner than the others, it was his hoodie that nearly swallowed Patton, enveloping Patton in warmth and comfort that he needed. The whole reason Virgil even wore the hoodie.

 Patton was stiff, shuddering, before his arms hesitantly wound around Virgil’s waist. He clung to him, burying his face in Virgil’s shoulder, “Thank you, Pat.” Virgil murmured quietly, feeling the tension washing off of Patton’s shoulders, “Let’s get out of here, huh?”

 Tears dampening Virgil’s shirt, breathing starting to stutter and heave, Patton nodded with a tiny whimper. It was almost certain that Thomas would have had an unbearable, impossible to ignore wave of anxiety from that. But it had to be done.

 Virgil slowly stepped backward, guiding Patton to the door, and masterfully flicked the lock with one arm. It took Patton a few moments to compose himself once they were out in the hall, but Virgil could already feel that Patton was relieved.

 He pulled himself back to look up at Virgil, chuckling wetly as he scrubbed the pale remains of the eyeshadow away. A real, genuine smile pulled onto his face this time, “Thanks, kiddo.” His eyes glittered, and Virgil felt his own concern ebb away a little, “I know you don’t like us being in there-“

 Virgil shook his head, a tiny smile pulling at the corner of his mouth, “If you need it, you need it.” He shrugged with one shoulder, “’Sides, now I know what’s wrong.”

 Patton’s sigh was shaky, his shoulders slumping, “I want to help.”

 “I know.” Virgil answered softly, squeezing Patton in his arms, “But let me try something first?”

 Patton sighed, resting his forehead against Virgil’s chest, “Okay.” He whispered, “Can we-“

 “Of course.”

 “How long has Logan-“

 “Since he came downstairs.”

 Patton huffed, “Honestly.”

 Virgil chuckled softly into Patton’s soft hair, “Like you can talk.” Patton giggled back.

Chapter Text

Running Deeper

Logan

 

 If there was one thing Logan both loathed and had come to expect, it was the moment Patton decided he’d had enough. For the more emotional side, it was a fairly quiet affair.

 Logan sensed his presence before anything happened, usually, giving him just enough time to scribble down his last thought (no matter how incoherent).

 Patton would then take the pen from Logan’s hand, push him back into his seat (which Logan’s tired muscles usually protested), and swept his work into his room with a simple wave of his hand.

 The logical aspect would pout. Patton would arch a brow with his hands on his hips. Then go back to doting and caring with tea and light food and dragging him off to watch a movie.

 What Logan hadn’t expected, was for Patton to collapse into the chair nearby, “We need to slow down for a while, Lo.” His voice was soft, cracking, and it was then that Logan saw Patton shaking as he hung his head.

 Logan blinked a few times at Patton, considering the evidence laid out before and around him. Patton was very clearly tired. When Logan turned to Virgil, he’d stretched himself out on the back of the couch like a cat, scowling at him. The anxious Side’s fatigue didn’t show nearly as easily (on account of his make-up), but the stress was in the tension of his muscles.

 He drew in a deep, slow breath, “I agree.”

 Virgil and Patton shared surprised glances, “Lo?” Patton spoke softly, “You agree?”

 Logan nodded, resting his elbows on the table and clasping his hands together, before resting his forehead against his hands. “I apologise.” He let his eyes drift closed, glasses sliding down his nose but uncaring, “I…have used my work to hide from a much bigger issue.”

 Patton leant forward onto his forearms, “Do you want to talk about it, Lo?”

 “I suppose there is no one better to discuss it with than the Heart himself.” Logan admitted, feeling a stray tear slide free. All of the Sides were quiet, either unwilling or afraid to prompt Logan to continue. He drew in a slow, deep breath once he’d composed his thoughts as accurately as he could manage, “I am aware that I have hurt Roman.”

 Patton glanced up at Virgil, surprised to find the anxious Side looking…confused. Had he not noticed Roman’s odd behaviour this past week? It was true that Virgil had a lot on his plate these past few days…but it wasn’t like him to be so unobservant. Particularly of Roman.

 “I made an assumption.” Logan continued, lifting his head and staring thoughtfully at the wall opposite him, “I asked him to thank you, Patton, for putting me to bed a few weeks ago.”

 A soft gasp and Patton’s hand flying to his mouth drew the attention back to him. The Heart looked absolutely stricken. “No…”

 Logan nodded, “I’m afraid so-“

 “No, Logan.” Patton’s eyes were filled with a deep sense of dread and pain, “He knows. That you thanked me. And I sa-“ his voice broke, the tears flooding his eyes and closing his throat faster than he could contain them.

 A door closing loudly upstairs echoed through the quiet mindscape. Virgil let himself slide off the back of the couch into the couch cushions. Patton quickly brushed his tears away, testing out a shaky smile.

 Logan was too tired and all too tense, to even pretend.

 Roman bounded to the stairs, stopping his usual loud greeting, “Is something wrong?” he asked, quickly descending the stairs.

 “What would make you think that, Princey?” Virgil asked, meeting Roman’s eyes over his phone. Logan felt that tone might have been a little…terse.

 The prince actually hesitated, looking down at Virgil in a mixture of hurt and anger. Strangely, the royal had no problem confronting Virgil, “Have I done something to upset you, Virgil?” his tone was slightly defensive.

 Virgil’s eyes darted away and he shrugged with one shoulder, continuing to scroll through Tumblr. That hadn’t helped.

 “What is going on?” he sounded a little less concerned, a lot more defensive. He was leaning back on the heel of his back foot, ready to run at a moment’s notice.

 Even though he was exhausted and he wanted nothing more than to go curl up in bed and keep pretending everything was okay, Logan knew he was hurting the other Sides.

 So, Logan slowly got to his feet and faced Roman, “I’m sorry.”

 The defensive stance was rocked back a step as Roman stared at Logan bewildered, “For what?” he laughed nervously, glancing from Patton to Virgil, “You haven’t don-“

 “That’s-“ Logan removed his glasses and cleaned the lenses with the hem of his polo, “-precisely the problem.” He slipped his glasses back on, “I did not show you gratitude where it was due.”

 The prince’s shoulders sank down a little, small lights shining in his eyes, like hope. Like joy. But that quickly changed to something darker. Logan wasn’t familiar with it.

 “I see.” That same dark, angry tone was back, and Logan’s brows knit together.

 “Roman-“

 “No,” the prince lifted his hand as he glanced at each of the Side’s in turn, “I understand.” The tension in the room only grew, “You needn’t say anymore.” He crossed his arms over his chest.

 Patton got to his feet slowly, “Roman-“

 “No-“

 “Roman, listen to me.” Patton didn’t often pull out the Dad Voice, but this was important enough to warrant it, “Logan should have done this sooner. We understand. But holding it over him-“

 Roman’s face dropped the angry façade, leaving nothing but a hurt expression on his face. Patton’s heart ached when he saw the betrayal in Roman’s eyes, “You think…” his arms dropped to his sides, “That’s not…”

 “Then what is going on, Princey?” Virgil shot up, fixing Roman with eyes that were all-too-piercing as he searched the prince’s face, “You won’t talk to anyone.”

 Roman almost completely ignored Virgil’s question, “I’m not holding a grudge if that is what you think.” He answered with a weak laugh, “Even I’m not that petty.” Logan’s shoulders dropped, though he wasn’t sure if it was relief or disappointment, “You thought I was?”

 His voice was so small, so hurt, that Logan met his eyes again. Even Logan had never seen the prince look so wounded, so dejected before. Not even when Thomas lost…him.

 “I hadn’t-“ Logan tried to admit quietly.

 “Patton and I did.” Virgil admitted, shrugging at Logan when he threw him a glare.

 Well, that certainly didn’t help. Roman sucked in a shaky breath, “Oh.”

 “Roman, you’ve been acting strangely, and we just-“ Patton tried, moving around the table toward the royal. Roman drew back a step, shaking his head as his lips trembled.

 “No, no,” his voice was wobbling, “I think I understand.” He choked on his words, even as Virgil got to his feet. “My apologies.”

 “Roman-“ Virgil tried a more firm tone, but Roman swallowed hard, forcing his shoulders square, “- what is going on, man?” Roman swallowed again, hands clenching into fists by his sides, “Talk to us.”

 The last bit was soft, beseeching, almost pleading. Couldn’t he see they wanted to help? That he wasn’t alone? That they cared?

 “It’s nothing.” He huffed out an awkward breath as he pulled a nearly convincing smile on his face, “Just the last week has been a little more…hectic than usual.”

 Before Virgil could continue pressing Roman, Logan spoke, “I apologise for that, Roman.” The vulnerable prince’s eyebrows rose, “I was attempting to hide from my guilt. I should not have subjected the rest of you to this.”

 “I…accept your apology.” Roman answered, nodding once but averting his gaze from Logan’s face, “Is this to mean-“

 “We are slowing down for a while.” Logan answered firmly, and Roman looked relieved.

 Virgil glanced at Patton, who nodded back, “Movie marathon?” he asked, watching Roman carefully as he spun on Virgil, surprised.

 “What?”

 The genuine surprise in Roman’s voice and eyes had the other Side’s on the same page fairy quickly. Somehow, this went deeper than a forgotten ‘thank you’.

 “Movie marathon?” Virgil asked again, slowly this time.

 They had never seen a more vulnerable and joyful grin appear and die so quickly. “Sure.” He tried to answer nonchalantly, “If you want.”

 Taking a risk Virgil was worried he’d come to regret, tried to take Roman’s hand. And for the first time since Accepting Anxiety, his hand was tense.

 And didn’t relax.

Chapter Text

Breakdown

 

Roman

 

 Roman was only vaguely aware that Virgil was trying to pull him toward the couch, but when he did, his feet felt heavy and uncoordinated. All he could focus on was the heat of Virgil’s fingertips on his hand, the way his skin was tingling beneath the touch. His heart was pounding in his chest, aching and angry. Virgil said something, but Roman didn’t hear him as he fell onto the couch.

 Then Virgil was gone, and the heat on his hand lingered, a reminder of what had been. It had been so simple, so fleeting and yet so intense, that Roman was struck dumb and deaf as he stared at his hand.

 It had only been a week and yet their touch was so intense now. Was this because of how he felt? Or was it his self-imposed exile? Either way, it was both exhilarating and terrifying.

 The conversation weighed heavily on his shoulders pushing him to rest his forearms on his thighs, as he continued to stare at his hand. Was he really making it so awkward that they forced Logan to apologize? It wasn’t unusual for the logical Side to push them all too hard for work, Roman was accustomed to that at least. But…they knew.

 And they thought he was holding it over Logan? Did they think so lowly of him? Why? It wasn’t like he had done so in the past. So why would they-

 Unless they’ve always thought that way?

 Virgil’s phantom touches remained, but his heart ached anew at the very thought. It would be fitting for the romantic Side to fall for the others, even if they did hate him. It was no secret that Roman loved tragedies. It would make sense for his own life to be a tragedy too.

 There were voices in the room with him, but Roman couldn’t bring himself to pay attention as Virgil’s phantom fingers began to fade from his skin. What was he supposed to do? He’d been too obvious with his exile. Now that they’d noticed, he couldn’t keep it up.

 He had to let this blow over…somehow.

 The couch moved beside him and Roman finally snapped from his thoughts, meeting Logan’s own tired eyes. He was so close, his eyes deeply searching Roman’s, “I won’t push to know what is afflicting you, but please know, I should have apologised sooner.” He let his eyes close and turned his head as Roman stared, still struck dumb, “I know you wouldn’t hold something like that over my head, but I should not have attempted to ignore my guilt in work. Or dragged the rest of you with me.” Logan’s voice was genuine and deeply troubled, something that was pulling at Roman’s heart so painfully he could barely breathe, “And I am so, so, s-“ his voice cracked, lips trembling, “-sorry that I hurt you.”

 “Lo-“

 Logan raised his hand and Roman let his words drift away, “I know you may think that I was forced to apologise,” That surprised the prince, “But I was not.” Logan turned his head to meet Roman’s eyes again, now burning with determination and sincerity, “And I know you were hiding from the pain I caused you.” A coy, almost conspiring smirk pulled onto Logan’s face, “I would know what it looks like when you wield your pain like a blade.”

 Roman snorted, the sound wet and sad. Was he- He was crying? When had he started crying? Logan watched, silent, as Roman quickly scrubbed at his face and took a few deep breaths, “Thanks.” Roman answered softly, “I, uh…I’m glad to hear that you were not…forced.” A small spark of hope was desperately clinging to life somewhere inside, “Thank you for clearing that up.”

 Logan put his hand on Roman’s knee, and the prince’s mind shuddered to a halt once more. His grip was reassuring and calm, long fingers squeezing gently as Roman stared down at the contact.

 “-you need?” Logan’s voice came into focus again and Roman looked up at him, eyes wide and confused, before he blinked it away.

 “Uh, no.” Roman answered, the ghost of a smile pulling onto his lips, “No, I’m…great.”

 Logan kept his gaze locked on Roman’s eyes, searching or cataloguing, Roman wasn’t sure. It was a gaze filled with something Roman had never seen from Logan before, a sort of determination and fear. Roman was sure he looked more like a frightened child, a tall, broad, giant of a child.

 A soft, warm smile pulled onto Logan’s face, despite the dark circles under his eyes, “Is this okay?” he squeezed his hand on Roman’s knee.

 The prince was trying so hard not to think about how his leg was now on fire. How the tingling was getting more intense and spreading up his thigh. He tried to pretend that the gentle squeeze hadn’t sent a wave of pleasure up his entire leg to his spine.

 “Why wouldn’t it be?” he managed to answer, sounding a little choked and strained. Logan’s face flickered with something, like a dawning realisation, and Roman felt his cheeks start to burn as he looked away.

 Logan knew now. He had to. He had always been the most observant of them. If anyone knew, it would be Logan.

 “Roman,” Logan sounded a little alarmed, gently using his other hand to turn Roman’s face to his again, “Are you…touch-starved?” he let his question fall into a whisper, aware of Patton and Virgil in the room, “Am I overwhelming you?”

 Roman couldn’t handle the burning sensation on his cheek and chin, even if it was just Logan’s fingertips. It was too hot, too sensitive there, too much. His hand wrapped around Logan’s wrist and pulled it from his face, “I don’t know.” He answered honestly, even if everything within him was screaming for him to lie, “Today…today has been overwhelming.”

 Logan snorted softly, hand flying up to cover his mouth and nose as he smothered the sound, “That’s an understatement.” He answered softly, “I would just like to say, Roman, that if something is troubling you…please, talk to us.” The serious, gentle look in Logan’s eyes nearly pushed Roman to his tipping point, words already forming in his head, “You know you can do that, right?”

 “Mm-hm.” Roman nodded, “I know.”

 Logan finally let his hand fall away from Roman’s knee and the prince desperately missed the contact immediately. “I’m glad I had a chance to talk to you.” Logan gave the prince a small, gentle smile that nearly melted Roman into the couch, “I felt a little…over-ruled.”

 Roman snorted, a tiny smile pulling on his lips, “Dad Voice.” He whispered and Logan nodded with a slightly wider smile. “I suppose I should change for the marathon then.” Roman was on his feet before Logan could protest, but the residual warmth of Logan’s touch spread even further up his leg.

 “Ooh!” Patton cried from the kitchen, his sunny demeanour returning at the prospect of a quiet night. And possibly seeing Logan and Roman talking everything out, “Could you bring your fluffy blankets?”

 At the thought of doing something to help, Roman beamed back. His eyes sparkled too brightly, “Of course!” he answered, striding to the stairs and pausing to flourish his arms wide, “The fluffiest, softest blankets!”

 Patton giggled and Logan smiled warmly back to Roman, but Virgil’s face remained almost impassive.

 Except for that searching, all-too-knowing look in his eye, that made Roman feel exposed and vulnerable all over again. He quickly retreated to his room, half-singing as he strode quickly to his door and stumbled inside. The darkness of his room was comforting, soothing his near ragged breathing as he closed the door behind him.

 He let his eyes close, falling back against the door and feeling the soothing, cold wood against his skin. His leg was alight with sensation, a hand rubbing at the spot to try and make it go away.

 When it had faded enough for Roman to think past it, he let his eyes open and took in the state of his room. His fairy-lights were off and ignored, along with the lights along the walls and mirrors. Seeing the mirrors, Roman grimaced. Those were the blankets Patton wanted.

 He strode across his room, barely dodging some of his discarded clothes and stood before the vanity.

 It was only going to be a moment. Pull the blanket off, conjure another one, throw it back over. That was all it would take. A glance, a glimpse. Nothing more.

 His heart pounded painfully in Roman’s chest as he pulled the blanket off, and that glimpse turned into a stare.

 The man staring back at him was almost impossible to recognise. He looked put together, calm, confident and brave…things Roman was not. He wore regalia he deserved, his hair perfect and shoulders set. He grinned back at Roman, moving toward the stunned prince, “You are not a prince,” it mocked, running a hand through his hair, “You are a liar. A thief. A mercenary in fancy clothes.” The reflections’ eyes narrowed at Roman as it moved closer to the glass, filling up the space with his white jacket, running his fingers over his sash, “A mess hiding behind someone else’s façade.

 Roman thought to close his eyes, stumbling back from the mirror with the blanket in his hands, “Stop it.” He whispered in the darkness, “Just stop.”

 “Why?” that mocking, almost sing-song voice rippled through the air between them, “You know it’s true.

 “That doesn’t mean I want to hear it!” he shouted, voice cracking as he threw the blanket onto the bed behind him.

 “It’s so much easier to lie to yourself, isn’t it Prince Roman?”

 Roman bit his tongue as tears flooded into his eyes.

 “To lie to them.”

 “Leave them out of this!” he shouted at the mirror, his own reflection, it’s eyes turning green as it laughed at him. “They can’t know!”

 “Can’t know what? That you love them?” Roman felt his breath catch in his lungs, “How pathetic.” Roman growled deep in his throat, “Look at yourself, Roman.” The reflection was moving back, arms wide, “Look at how hideous we are.

 Roman flinched, hand flying to his heart as he stumbled back a step.

 “Look at how pretentious we are. This coat?!”

 Roman was already trying to tear his off, eye unfocussed.

 “Look at how scarred you are!

 The jacket fell to the carpet, loud in the otherwise quiet room. Roman’s eyes met those of his reflection, before they fell to his arms.

 “We aren’t a Prince. We never were. Never will be.” The reflection started moving forward, and Roman mimicked its movements. His reflection pressed its scarred hand to the glass, “And they’ll never love a fake.

 Roman’s hand pressed to the glass over his reflection’s hand. His eyes flitted to his own skin, trailing down over the scars he’d accumulated over the years. Every hurtful word, every battle in the Imagination, every backhanded comment.

 He tore off his black t-shirt, tracing his fingers over the scars that criss-crossed his chest.

 “No one can ever love a fake.

 The image of Logan smiling at him, that look in his eyes he didn’t recognise, the sensation of his touch flashed across Roman’s mind. Whatever resolve he had, however flimsy it was, returned and Roman shook his head. He stumbled back from the mirror.

 “That’s…that’s okay.” Roman answered, breathless and dizzy. He had to put it away, he had to cover the mirror, he had to-

 “Thomas could never love a fake.”

 Roman felt his heart twist, felt the patch of skin over it start to go cold and the prince wobbled on his feet, “Don’t do that.” He grit out, “Don’t bring him into this.”

 “You know it’s true.” His reflection shrugged, hand falling away from the glass. It smiled wickedly at him, eyes dancing with sadistic pleasure at Roman’s pain, “You know Thomas. He could never love a fake.” The patch of skin was starting to heat up. Thomas had recognised something was wrong. It wouldn’t be long until Patton realised, “He could never love the real you. Soft, gentle, weak, Roman.

 “Shut up.” Roman growled, conjuring a blanket into his hand, “Go away.”

 “You can silence me. But I won’t go anywhere.

 Roman groaned, a sound of exasperation, dread and fear. He wanted it to shut up. He always wanted it to shut up.

 “You know I’m right, don’t you?” the reflection asked, and Roman was aware of footsteps in the hall, “You have all the evidence in front of you. All the things you’ve done for them. All the things you’ve said. All the ways you’ve helped.”

 Roman could feel his heart aching, like ice had been forced into his chest, spreading through him. He could barely breath, his eyes trapped back on his reflection.

 “All the times it went ignored. Or forgotten. This wasn’t the first time. You know that.”

 “He apologised.” Roman grit the words out as he took another step forward. This was always the hardest part. But he’d done it before. He’d do it again.

 “Oh? And that changes it?” the reflection asked, raising an eyebrow as it mocked Roman, “Think of all the times you needed them and they weren’t there.”

 Roman groaned, feeling his heart aching and the patch of skin starting to throb painfully. Thomas definitely knew. He was calling the others. Roman could barely stay on his feet.

 “They’ve never cared.

 Roman grunted, dropped the blanket and stumbled forward, holding himself up with the vanity. Of course, it would use his weak spots. The new realisations against him. It was him.

 “Stop.” He whimpered, tears finally filling his eyes as he struggled to remain upright, “Just…for one day, can you stop?”

 The reflection laughed, a horribly mocking sound that nearly sent Roman to his knees, “Of course not!”

 He wanted to curl up, he wanted to cry and cry until he withered away and died. But there was a tiny, fragile piece of resolve still there. The look in Logan’s eyes. The smile.

 “Clinging to that, are we?” it’s sing-song voice continued as Roman gathered his feet under himself, “You really are pathetic. Not just a fake. Not just weak. Not just forgotten. Pathetic.”

 “I said shut up!”

 Anger flooded through the Prince, hot on the heels of his pain, and he practically roared as he threw a fist at the glass. Words tumbled from his lips as the glass shattered and he punched again, and again, ignoring the bite as glass crunched and shattered under his hand.

Chapter Text

Admission

Roman

 

  When he finally stopped, Roman was panting, eyes dripping with tears, still holding himself up over the vanity. Mirror shards looked up at him, mocking him with fractured pieces of his reflection, shining as his tears fell on them and rocked them.

 His hand burned and ached, bleeding profusely onto the vanity and glass shards beneath him, but Roman almost couldn’t bring himself to care. His legs were still shaky, his feet heavy, but with the reflection silenced Roman could at least think straight.

 Hurried footsteps in the hall snapped Roman out of his thoughts. He needed a shirt. He needed a shirt now. He was stumbling across his room before the first knocks started, and made it to his closet as Patton’s voice carried through.

 The patch of skin started to burn and itch. Thomas was getting nervous, scared even. Had Roman really done that much damage? He really hoped not. But…this was the worst he’d ever had it.

 He managed to throw on a loose long-sleeved shirt, staring at his bloodied hand as the doorknob started to rattle. He was halfway across his room when he heard the door starting to shudder.

 It was so hard to walk. He stumbled to the bathroom, nearly flicking on the light until he saw a darkened shape shift in the glass. He hadn’t covered that one. He’d nearly given it a voice again.

 He fell against the sink, turning on the faucet and letting the cold water run over his hand. It burned painfully and the water ran dark but a little pain now was better than an infection later.

 The door finally opened, swinging softly open as Roman tensed over the sink. He waited for someone to shout or scream or charge over to him. Roman squeezed his eyes closed, wishing he could be smaller, wishing he could disappear, to put on his façade for one more damn day-

 “Heya, Sing-A-Lot.” Virgil closed the door behind him, “It’s just me.”

 Roman choked on a sob, “The others?”

 “I sent them to Thomas. That wasn’t easy.”

 Roman smiled, but sobbed again, “I’m sorry.” He whimpered, moving his hand under the cold water.

 Virgil snickered and shrugged, “It happens, Roman. Heck, I’d know.” He was moving toward him, but he paused at the vanity, “Oh…Roman…”

 Roman flinched, his knees finally out and he fell against the sink, keeping himself up on his elbows. Virgil moved about the room behind him as Roman got his feet back under himself, “I’ll be fine.” He managed to answer after a while, “You can go back downstairs-“

 “It’s not covered, is it?” Virgil asked from the bathroom doorway, peering around the dark room.

 “No.” he whimpered, “I nearly- when I-“

 Virgil’s hand fell on his shoulder for a moment, before he was working to cover the mirror, “I got ya, buddy.” Roman nodded with a choked sob as Virgil got the blanket up over the mirror, “Alright. Imma turn this light on so I can see the damage.”

 When Roman didn’t respond, Virgil flicked the light on and rubbed his eyes, before draping a blanket over Roman’s shoulders. Roman couldn’t bring himself to look at Virgil, shaking as he stared down at his hand.

 “Hmm, it’s bad, huh?” he asked softly, reaching out and gently turning his hand a few different ways. He retreated quickly, “What brought it on?”

 Roman grimaced. He really didn’t want to talk about it. But there hadn’t been a single time where he hadn’t. And if it was so bad to have affected Thomas like this?

 “I…it’s stupid.”

 “You say that every time.”

 “It’s especially dumb.”

  Virgil frowned, searching Roman’s profile as he sat on the edge of the bath tub. He was clearly expecting to be here a while, “We’ve talked about this, Roman.”

 Roman sighed and let his head drop with his eyes closed, “’All your feelings are valid’,” he repeated, “Yeah, yeah.” He shook his head, “How fitting.” He whimpered.

 Virgil watched Roman for a few moments, the only sound between them were Roman’s suppressed sobs and the tap running.

 “Do you care?” Roman finally asked, sinking to his knees on the tile and pulling his wet, still bleeding hand against his chest. Virgil eased himself down onto the floor with him, conjuring a first aid kit.

 “Of course, I do.” Virgil answered, slowly reaching for Roman’s hand. His fingers brushed the royal’s wrist and he flinched with a hiss, “Too much?” he whimpered with a nod, hiding his face behind his tangled hair, “It’s alright, here,” Virgil waved for another blanket, carefully draping it over his hands. This time Roman didn’t flinch when they made contact, “Talk to me, Roman. Get those thoughts out.”

 “It’s so stupid.” He laughed weakly as he lifted his head, resting it against the cabinet as Virgil pulled his hand into his lap, “So fucking dumb.”

 Virgil’s threw him a glare, “Should I go first then?”

 Roman hissed as Virgil pressed an alcohol wipe to a large cut on knuckle. He sighed with a shrug, “I don’t know where to start.” Roman admitted.

 “Then I’ll start.” He shifted a little closer, “I thought it was unfair that you still look so pretty when you’re falling apart.”

 Roman’s eyes widened and rose to Virgil’s face, feeling his cheeks starting to burn. His heart ached and the tears flooded up again, “Don’t talk like that.” He begged, which caught Virgil’s attention, “Please, don’t.”

 “Roman.” Virgil’s brows furrowed, “What-“

 “Don’t make me hope for something that will never be, okay?” his voice got more strained the more he spoke, the tears threatening to spill, “I can’t…it’s hurts enough as it is, don’t poke the goddamn wound.”

 Realization dawned on Virgil’s face.

 “It’s easier to pretend I don’t feel anything when you’re all being normal. I can’t do it when you’re complimenting me or touching me, because then-“ he whimpered, “Then this stupid thing,” he put his hand on his heart, “Starts to ache and I…I can’t.”

 “Ro…”

 “And I get it. You all think I’m some horrible person. You all think I’d hold a grudge over a thank you.” Roman scoffed, “None of you have ever said it in the past, so what would change now?” Virgil’s eyes widened, “I didn’t care about that. I was scared, okay? I just-“ Roman groaned softly, “I just wanted to hide until it went away.”

 “Until what went away?” Virgil whispered, hands frozen over Roman’s.

 “The feelings I was…how I…I didn’t even realize! I’m such an idiot!” Roman grit his teeth and hit his head against the cabinet, “I fell for all of you and I didn’t even…not until-“ tears started to choke him up, “And none of you even feel the-“

 If Roman had been able to answer, his heart would have broken as he admitted his worst fear aloud. He would have kicked Virgil out of the room, locked himself in the Imagination and remained there for the rest of his life. Too afraid to return. Too angry to find the door. Too lonely to leave.

 But he hadn’t been able to answer. Not when something warm and soft was pressed to his lips. Not when his eyes flew open and he caught a glimpse of purple hair. Not when familiar hands gently traced up his jaw to tangle in his hair.

 Not when those lips pulled back just a hair’s breadth, and a familiar voice whispered, “Okay, you are an idiot.”

Chapter Text

Gentle Reassurance

Virgil

 

 Roman’s breathing caught, his lips trembling as Virgil gently pressed their lips back together, fingers working through the tangles in his hair. The prince was practically shaking, tense and almost completely still.

 Virgil pulled back again, sitting back just far enough to meet Roman’s eyes, “V-virge…what…”

 He couldn’t help but smile at his royal idiot, “I’m sorry. For not saying thank you enough.” A tiny whimper escaped Roman, “For not showing you how much I love you.” Roman’s good hand curled into a fist, “But you’re a moron if you think we don’t care.”

 Fresh tears rolled down Roman’s cheeks and Virgil slowly untangled his fingers from Roman’s hair to brush them away. Roman was at a loss for words, his lips moving slightly as though searching for them, and Virgil pulled back just a little further.

 “You…lo-“ Roman’s voice started to work, “…lo-“

 Virgil snickered softly, pressing a kiss to the tip of Roman’s nose, “Yes, Roman. I love you. That kind of love. The kind you’re attuned to.”

 When Roman’s face twisted and crumpled, Virgil was worried he’d said something wrong. Until the royal threw his arms around Virgil’s waist and buried his face in his shoulder, sobbing against the anxious trait. Virgil carefully wrapped his arms back around Roman, feeling the weight of Roman’s pain with every strong sob that escaped him.

 He was practically wailing into Virgil’s shoulder, clinging to fistfuls of the back of his hoodie, shaking violently with each sob. Knowing full well that Roman’s mind was still running on overdrive, and most of those thoughts were probably attacks on himself, he started humming.

 Roman’s favourite songs, mostly, to help distract the royal from his thoughts. He started carding his fingers slowly through Roman’s hair, untangling knots as he hummed softly, even starting to rock them slightly from side-to-side.

 As Virgil had come to expect, Roman gathered himself before he was truly ready and pushed Virgil away, shaking his head with a weak laugh, “Sorry,” he scrubbed at his eyes, forgetting about the injuries on one of his hands and hissing when the tears slipped into the wounds, “I, uh, sorry.”

 For the first time ever, Virgil let Roman get to his feet, rising a moment later to follow him quietly out of the bathroom. He waved his hand, the first aid kit appearing beside the bed.

 “I shouldn’t put all this on you, I know-“

 Virgil caught Roman’s wrist, tugging to turn the royal toward him. Roman stared down at him, their chests pressed together, “Stop that.” He whispered and Roman bit his lip, eyes darting over Virgil’s face. They were so close Virgil could see Roman’s dark lashes sticking together with tears, “You know I’m here for you, no matter what you need.”

 A tiny whimper escaped Roman again, his eyelids drifting closed, “I can’t…I don’t…” Virgil gently started massaging the skin on the inside of Roman’s wrist with his thumb. “I can’t lose any of you.” He finally managed to whisper, eyes flying open to meet Virgil’s again.

 The anxious Side grinned, “You moron.” He leant up, softly pressing his lips back to Roman’s, his other hand cupping the back of his neck to pull him down a little. Virgil was gentle, careful, letting his hand slide down to cup Roman’s cheek and break the kiss again.

 Roman didn’t let Virgil see his face, immediately burying it back in the anxious Side’s shoulder. Virgil wrapped Roman in his arms again, guiding him to the bed and sitting with him. It didn’t matter how long it took. Or how many times he had to kiss him. Or how many times he had to remind him. Virgil would do it.

 Virgil always lost track of time in Roman’s room, especially when he had his lights turned off like this. He’d been humming for what felt like hours, Roman’s sobs finally fading out into hiccups and soft whimpers.

 With his fingers carding through Roman’s (admittedly filthy) hair, Virgil pressed a kiss to the royal’s temple, “Thirsty?”

 Roman nodded tiredly, sniffing and pulling back to sit up, scrubbing at his raw, flushed face. “Y-yeah. Uh, how long-?”

 “I dunno.” Virgil answered, “I’m gonna grab some water. Maybe something to eat. Why don’t you have a shower?”

 Roman scowled at the thought, glancing at his hand, “Will you…”

 “When I get back.” Virgil assured him.

 “Okay.” Roman nodded, far too tired to really argue about it.

 “Do you wanna talk to Patton or Logan?” Roman stiffened, his eyebrows drawing closer, “Explain to them how you feel?”

 The royal shook his head, biting his lip hard, “No, no…I can’t. They’ll- I’ll- I just-“

 Virgil put his hand on Roman’s wrist, giving Roman a reassuring smile when their eyes met. Virgil wished he could say he’d never seen Roman like this before. That this was new to him. That Roman had always seemed brave and strong and independent.

 But he’d seen these wounded, scared eyes before. He’d seen and heard Roman’s insecurities, his reflection, mocking him. He’d helped pick up the pieces more than once.

 “Breathe in, and out, there we go.” Virgil rubbed that spot on Roman’s wrist that always seemed to calm him, “You told me, didn’t you?” Virgil raised an eyebrow, “I’m sure that was scarier.”

 Roman laughed, shaking his head slightly, “Yeah…I thought you’d run.”

 “You don’t scare me, Princey.”

 Roman tensed at the nickname, but relaxed with a warm smile, “No, I meant…like…disgust.”

 Virgil rolled his eyes, lifting Roman’s good hand to press a kiss to his knuckles, “You’re a moron, but you’re my moron.”

 Roman’s eyes widened, surprised by the sweet gesture and the gentle fondness in Virgil’s eyes. It made his heart ache and soar, almost full to bursting with hope but shrinking with terror that it was a joke. A ploy to get him out of his room. Or worse-

 Virgil pressed another kiss to his knuckles, “You’re thinking too loud.” He whispered, “Why don’t we go out together? Get Logan to patch you up. Patton will definitely feed you.”

 “Why?” Roman squeaked.

 “Because they’re just as worried.” Virgil answered, “And, you won’t sit up here thinking yourself into panic.”

 Roman snorted, “Good point.” He sighed, “Can we…wait…a little longer?” he shifted his hand to tangle his fingers with Virgil’s, “I’m still…reeling.”

 “Having a hard time believing it’s real?” he asked, searching Roman’s face. The prince snickered with a nod, “That’s okay. Me too.” Roman looked terrified when he met Virgil’s eyes, “I can’t believe I confessed to you…by kissing you...in your room.”

 Virgil felt his cheeks flush, wanting to squirm and hide, until the fairy lights above them blinked on. Virgil looked up, catching Roman beaming at his own knees before his hid his own beaming face behind his free hand.

 After a few more moments of silence, Roman sighed and looked to Virgil, nodding once that he was ready. They didn’t untangle their fingers, and neither made a move to try.

Chapter Text

Facing the Music

Roman

 

 Leaving his room so soon felt like torture. His shirt felt too thin, too light, leaving him feeling exposed and vulnerable. Not like he hadn’t stopped feeling that way for almost a week. But Virgil was there the whole time, his warm fingers loosely entwined with his, squeezing whenever Roman’s feet faltered or he hesitated.

 From the top of the stairs, Roman could see the commons below. Logan was pacing frantically, wringing his hands together, glasses askew and foggy. His eyes were bloodshot and puffy, chewing on his lip as he burned through so many of his comfort actions just to keep himself sane.

 Thomas was sitting on the couch, leg bouncing as he watched Logan’s frantic pacing, chewing on the inside of his own cheek. He looked confused and lost, trying to decipher the moods around him.

 Patton was in the kitchen, fidgeting. Frustration was all over his face, banging pots and plastic counters on the bench harder than was necessary. Tears were brimming, waiting for the chance to fall, even as Patton scowled at his hands and cursed softly at cutlery.

 Roman almost couldn’t take the cold ache that flared in his chest. Already wobbly on his feet, he was driven to one knee, gasping for air as he pressed his wounded hand to his chest. Virgil was there in a moment, brushing hair from his face, speaking softly to bring Roman back to reality.

 It was all his fault! He’d caused this! This was what he had wanted to avoid! Logan was tearing himself apart with guilt, Thomas was confused and scared, Patton was angry at him. He couldn’t go downstairs! He couldn’t face this, there was no way he was strong enough-

 “Roman?” Thomas called gently up the stairs, rising to his feet as he rubbed at his own chest. The hall upstairs was dark, shielding them from the three pairs of eyes that turned to them, but Roman whimpered and still tried to draw away.

 Virgil’s fingers amongst his own was the only thing that kept him. “Give us a minute.” Virgil called back, gently rubbing circles between Roman’s shoulder blades, “Hey,” he whispered, searching Roman’s terrified eyes, “We can do this.”

 The prince’s doubt was all over his face as he chewed his lip, tearing apart the skin between his teeth. Virgil gently put his hand on his chin, forcing him to stop, “I…I can’t…I hurt them…”

 Virgil shook his head, easing Roman to his feet slowly. Later, the prince would muse about how strong Virgil actually was despite his frame, to lift Roman that way. But that was a problem for later.

 “And we hurt you.” He whispered back, draping Roman’s arm over his shoulders and wrapping his arm around the prince’s waist.

 “Pat’s mad…” Virgil was gently walking them toward the stairs again, taking his time, even as Roman’s breath caught in his throat, “He’s never mad…”

 Virgil snickered, “He gets angrier more often than you’d think.” He was gently stroking Roman’s knuckles as they started to descend the stairs, taking each step agonisingly slow.

 Muscles in Roman’s legs protested, his balance wavered, and for the moment, he was grateful that Virgil was there by his side. The warmth was intoxicating and all too heady, but he was so tired. Fighting his demons was always tiring, and now he was about to face more demons.

 The prince wasn’t sure he was ready.

 Thomas was the first one to approach the pair, his eyes soft with concern as they darted over Roman’s state. It was so unusual to see him out of his white jacket, even on a good day, to see him in a loose fitting black shirt was almost unheard of. The sleeves were a little too long, hanging just at his knuckles, much like Virgil’s hoodie did for him. And for a moment, Roman was grateful for it.

 It was one thing to face the pain he’d caused. It was another to show them his hideous skin.

 Thomas saw the state of Roman’s right hand, his fingers gentle but burning as he lifted the wounded digit to his face. Tears brimmed in his eyes before they rose back to Roman’s face, “Roman…” he breathed, searching the prince’s eyes for something, anything, to answer his thousands of questions.

 The patch of skin was rippling and writhing, like something had wormed its way just below the surface. Roman couldn’t look at him, ashamed that he’d caused Thomas this kind of pain in the first place. He didn’t like this uneasiness, not when it hurt Thomas.

 And Thomas’ eyes were too keen, too hurt. It took so much effort not to pull on a grin and pretend everything was okay. But it very clearly wasn’t. His mask was cracked and slipping, if not entirely broken now. Trying to pull it back on now would be…well, dumb.

 Thomas gently let Roman’s hand fall, “Hey, Thomas?” Virgil’s soft, slightly raspy voice distracted the host long enough that Roman could draw in a breath, “Mind getting us some blankets? Roman’s shaking pretty bad.”

 Thomas nodded, bounding off to a nearby closet and Logan was quick to take his place. For all of his attempts at smothering his emotions, Logan wore them very openly when he was hurt. And that twisted Roman’s heart so painfully he was nearly driven back to his knees.

 Thomas yelped, hand flying to his chest as Logan glanced between the pair, “How can I help?” he asked simply, voice cracking, desperation shining in his wounded eyes.

 “Can you cover or remove anything that causes reflections?” Roman stiffened suddenly, an involuntary whimper escaping his throat, eyes wide as he scanned the room.

 They had both expected questions, but Logan swept his eyes over Roman once, noted his reaction, and nodded. Virgil kept them on the last stair as Roman watched Logan toss a blanket over the television and close the blinds.

 Patton approached slowly, hesitant, hands curled into fists by his sides. He looked angry, frustrated, and a little hurt. Roman really, really couldn’t bear to look at him. Thomas bit back another yelp as Roman’s heart squeezed painfully, eyes wide as he looked over to the trio at the stairs.

 “You two hungry?” he asked, tone measured and careful, eyes searching them both.

 Virgil gave Patton a small, reassuring smile, “Sure are, Pat. Wouldn’t mind some water either.”

 Patton looked up to Roman, who lowered his gaze to the floor even though he’d turned his head away. A mix of agony and concern pulled onto Patton’s face and he nearly reached out, before he drew a deep breath and tore himself away back to the kitchen.

 Logan returned, looking a little more collected now that he’d completed his task, “Done. Anything else?”

 Virgil asked Logan to help him get Roman to the couch. The prince hadn’t realised that standing still for so long had sapped so much energy from him that his legs almost weren’t working. It had been so long since he’d had a proper night’s sleep too. Maybe the fatigue was finally catching up to him.

 An involuntary sigh escaped Roman as he sank back into the couch cushions, head tilting back to look up at the ceiling, eyelids drifting closed. He could hear Virgil and Logan talking, but couldn’t quite make out what was being said.

 It felt like he was floating here on the couch. Even though the air was filled with tension, Roman could have drifted off to sleep. His bed was a traitor anyways.

 The smell of Patton’s cooking kept Roman tethered, kept him just on the knife edge between sleep and wakefulness, his stomach working against him to keeping him conscious.

 But he couldn’t find the energy to be angry or upset about it.

 Thomas had returned at some point, wrapping a blanket carefully around the tired Prince, and put a pillow in his lap. It was only now that Roman realised he was toying with the tassels, eyes flying open as he noticed how jittery he felt.

 He hadn’t felt this way since his first visit to Virgil’s room. That had been a long time ago now. And he still hated the feeling.

 “Roman?” Virgil’s soft voice barely broke the silence and Roman shifted his head to see Virgil standing with Logan, “I’d like Logan to patch your hand up now. That okay?”

 Too tired to argue, too tired to talk, too tired to even cry, Roman nodded with a sigh, nothing more than a twitch escaping his hand when he tried to move it.

 Logan lowered himself carefully to sit beside Roman, eyes always searching, movements slow and deliberate as he put Roman’s wounded hand onto the pillow and pulled it into his lap.

 Virgil crouched before Roman, hands gently sitting on his knees as the prince slowly tried to lift his heavy head, “Thomas has a lot of questions.” Roman’s lips twisted at the thought, “Can I show him your room?” Panic flashed in Roman’s eyes at the thought, and Thomas hissed from somewhere in the kitchen, “I know it’s a big deal. I wouldn’t ask if there was an easier way to explain.”

 Logan was watching, studying, even as he sifted through the first aid kit by his side. Roman sighed, biting his lip and nodding his head slowly. There really was no point hiding it. Thomas would find out eventually, either through a video or otherwise. It may as well be now.

 Virgil gave him a small, warm smile, squeezing his knees reassuringly. “Try and relax, Sir Sing-A-Lot.”

 Then he was leading Thomas upstairs, voices still low and careful as Roman let his head fall back onto the couch. Logan was quietly working on his hand, disinfecting deep cuts and cleaning skin. And all the while, Roman couldn’t tear his thoughts away from Thomas being in his room.

 Or the guilt that was crushing him.

 “I am loathe to ask, Roman,” Logan’s voice was a little clipped, a weak attempt by the logical Side to sound calm. Roman’s lip curled just a little at the thought, “But am I-“ his voice cracked and he paused, taking a slow and deep breath to calm himself, “-Am I the cause of this?”

 Roman’s heart twisted and ached, his breath catching in his throat, tears flooding to his eyes. Of course, Logan would feel guilty. How could he not? This seemed to branch from that morning a week ago. Gods, how could he have been such a damn fool?! He should have never left his room. Should have stayed away. Should ha-

 Logan’s hand on his wrist, cool and gentle, snapped Roman from his thoughts for just a moment, “I apologise if I am.” His voice cracked again, “I had not kno-“

 “No.” Roman managed to rasp out quickly, knowing that if he didn’t stop the logical Side now, he’d never believe him later, “It’s not your fault. It’s mine.” Logan clearly didn’t believe him, “You have nothing left to apologise for. Don’t.”

 “Roman…”

 “Don’t.”

 Logan looked away as he drew in a deep, shuddering breath as he valiantly fought tears, “I cannot help the…feeling that I am.”

 It was bad enough that guilt was crushing Roman’s heart, the very thought that guilt was crushing Logan’s? Roman felt like he was trying to carrying boulders.

 “It’s not your fault.” Roman’s voice cracked, tears finally sliding free as he stared resolutely at the ceiling, “Please.”

 “Does it…hurt you…to know that I blame myself?” Logan whispered, watching as Roman’s face twisted, “You needn’t answer.” He shifted a little closer, letting his shin rest against Roman’s thigh, “Do you…feel well enough to try and explain…”

 Patton suddenly appeared by them, a tray with a small assortment of food and drinks scattered about. He didn’t speak a word, made no eye contact, and stiffly ran up the stairs to join Thomas and Virgil.

 Logan saw the way Roman’s face twisted, his free hand coming up to cover his mouth as he tried to stifle sobs. Tears flowing freely from his eyes as he let his eyelids fall closed, his chest heaving with uneven breaths.

 

*

Logan

 

 No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t ignore the emotions that were surging up and around him, even if it was just for a glimpse at a clearer picture. But for once, his mind supplied him with an answer despite his ‘clouded judgement’.

 In this case, he needed his emotions to understand what was happening.

 Seeing Roman suppressing and muffling his sobs, shaking and measuring his breathing despite his obvious pain, made Logan’s own heart twist. How many times had he hidden in his room, or the bathroom, crying like this? It wasn’t like Roman hadn’t cried in front of them before. He was normally so dramatic and loud, it was no surprise that Patton often ended up crying out of sympathy.

 But this was different. This wasn’t the death of a favourite character. This wasn’t the loss of an icon or idol. This wasn’t even frustration at creative block.

 This was pain, agony, grief. Hear-

 Heart break. Heart ache.

 Logan was acting before he’d even really thought it through, and if anyone asked him about it later, Logan would blame his emotions. And yet, everything about the act felt right. Like he should have done this before.

 Like he’d been waiting to do it.

 Logan moved to his feet, feeling a pang of pain when Roman shuddered. And before the prince could think the worst, before he could assume that he was alone (or worse), Logan climbed sideways into his lap.

 Roman stiffened, unsure of what was happening, as Logan pulled the wounded hand into his lap and continued cleaning it. “I’m not going anywhere.” Logan softly spoke, feeling every shudder through Roman as he desperately tried to breathe, “And I never will.”

 A moment of doubt rushed through Logan, unsure if his declaration of love would be enough. He supposed he could do more later if it was really necessary, aware that Roman did enjoy-

 His thoughts were immediately halted when Roman buried his face in Logan’s shoulder, arm wrapped tightly around his waist. The smaller Side couldn’t continue working on Roman’s hand, but he didn’t care. Roman needed something, something Logan wasn’t sure he could provide. But he would try.

 “Lo-logan…pl-please…” Roman whimpered into his shoulder, the logical Side twisted a little to accommodate Roman a little better, “I…I can’t…I need…”

 Logan pressed a hand to Roman’s chest, feeling the ridges of countless scars under the thin fabric. And even though he wanted to ask and probe and see them, he knew better. That was a demon for another day. “Would you prefer that I be a little clearer?”

 “Wh-wha-“ Roman was pulling Logan closer, shaking harder and whimpering, “Don’t…don’t say it j-just to…m-ma-make me feel b-better.” Logan sighed softly, “I c-can’t…take that…”

 Logan softly chuckled, shaking his head, “When have I ever taken emotions lightly?” he whispered in Roman’s ear, hearing the tell-tale hitch in Roman’s breathing, “I love you, Roman.” He twirled a piece of Roman’s hair, “I was just too proud to admit how deeply it ran.”

 A weak laugh escaped Roman between sobs, “You a-and m-me both.”

 Logan gently pressed his hand to the back of Roman’s neck, “I am sorry I hurt you.” He whispered, feeling Roman shiver from the gentle touches, “And I will endeavour to never do so again.”

 Roman didn’t need to answer, but he whined softly, nuzzling his face into Logan’s shoulder. It was all the answer Logan needed for the time being, his logical thinking guided by emotion the way it was.

Chapter Text

Revelations

Patton

 

 His skin felt like it was on fire, every nerve ending burning as Patton climbed the stairs, jaw tight and eyes burning with unshed tears. He was so…angry. Though he wasn’t actually sure what he was angry about.

 Was he angry at Roman? Because he hid his feelings for so long, smothering them, burying them so deep they festered and twisted and burned him? Because he didn’t speak up about the pain? Because he held it all so tight inside, kept his grip on it, until it burst past him and burned Thomas and Logan?

 Was he angry at Logan? For being the catalyst for everything happening around him? For being the straw that broke the camel’s back, blinded by his own pride and guilt? For ignoring his own feelings, the way he always did, until it too broke him?

 Was he mad at Virgil? For being the one Roman finally turned to? For understanding more than Patton did, for seeing past Roman’s carefully created mask and seeing the vulnerable, scared man behind the prince?

 Or was he mad at himself?

 For brushing it all aside. For not pushing harder. For not looking past the usual smiles and winks and flirts. For not trying harder to see his son was breaking apart inside, for not asking Virgil to look a little deeper, for not asking Logan if he’d even talked about it?

 All Patton did know, was that he was angry. He just didn’t know if he had any right to be.

 So, he did what he always had when he was angry.

 Ignoring Virgil’s and Thomas’ curious looks from Roman’s door, he stormed into his own room, locking the door closed behind him. The air in the room was mirroring his mood, stiflingly hot and humid, making the air heavy even as it crackled with sparks. The walls had turned a dangerous shade of deep vermillion, not quite red, not quite rage. But not quite pink, not quite concern.

 Patton fell against his door, his chest rising and falling with deep, fast breaths and he itched to do something. Something violent or aggressive. He wanted to hear something break, he wanted to break something in his hands.

 And he knew that if he remained in the commons, that something would be one of his boys.

 He pushed himself off his door, content for the time being to pace mindlessly in the centre of his room. It wouldn’t push his rage away. Patton knew that. The movement made him angrier, made it rise faster and harder, made it push at his skin until he was certain that if anyone so much as breathed near him he’d snap.

 But he couldn’t stop. Because he needed to move.

 He’d been pacing on that knife edge for almost ten minutes when his eyes fell onto a gift Roman had made him a few months prior. A precious bear Roman had made, dressed like Patton, made from materials from the Imagination.

 Angry, frustrated tears flooded his eyes at the sight of the gift. Had Patton thanked him then? He was pretty sure he did. So why did Roman feel like they-

 Wait…was Roman the one who did the dishes at night? Who cleaned up the mess Patton made baking when he was too tired to? Was he the one who made sure Patton ate when he was up at three a.m., picking apart his troubling emotions?

 Finally, the knife edge shifted, the air in the room swirled, whipping up a dry, hot wind that pushed Patton against a wall. When he was finally able to drop his arms, there was the object of his anger, staring back at him, mocking and cruel.

 His own dark brown eyes filled with darkness, grinning at him smugly, his blue polo rumpled and cat hoodie abandoned somewhere, “Are you sure you-“

 Patton didn’t even give it the chance to talk, grabbing the closest object and throwing it with a cry of rage. It side-stepped, the glass figurine shattered against the wall, glass showering like sparks onto the carpet as the wind whipped up stronger.

 “Is this all your good for-“

 Keeping some of his wits about him, Patton didn’t grab the next closest thing. He charged at the reflection of himself, the apparition of his own potential, the physical manifestation of rage.

 Patton cried out in rage, an almost feral growl, tackling the apparition to the ground and wrestling with it. Its cry mirrored his own, hands flying up in defence, clawing at Patton’s face as it flipped Patton onto his back.

 They rolled about the floor, fighting for dominance, wind whipping shards of glass around the room and scratching every piece of skin it could.

 More glass fell and shattered, bottles of emotions Patton had kept meticulously organised. Things he’d planned on resolving later, things he wasn’t ready to deal with yet, filling the hot, red room with memories Patton wasn’t prepared to look at.

 “Look at you! You monster!”

 Patton roared again, rolling them onto the reflections back, landing two fists to it’s face before Patton’s air suddenly cut off. The creature beneath him laughed, hands coiled around Patton’s hoodie, yanking the sleeves tight around Patton’s throat.

 “We’ll destroy them, all of them.” It growled as it knocked Patton onto his side, ignoring the Patton’s clawing hands, “Just be angry for once.”

 Patton shook his head as he kicked, glasses flying off into the room and leaving him nearly blind. He couldn’t make out much past the face of his attacker, the room a blur of red and black.

 “Just once!”

 Patton gathered his wits for just a moment, a moment long enough to kick the apparition hard in the chest. The hoodie yanked painfully around Patton’s throat as the apparition was pushed violently backward, slamming into something loudly as Patton tugged his hoodie off.

 He gasped and choked, coughing and gagging as he pushed himself to his feet and peered around for his glasses. He barely caught the blur of blue before it was on him again, teeth grit in a feral glare, shoving Patton back against the wall.

 Before it could go after his neck again, hands already moving to choke him, Patton swung out, knocking it against a dresser. A blur of blue and pink once more, Patton struggled to his feet, coughing as he tried to catch his breath for one moment.

 “All your feelings are valid.” Virgil’s soft voice rang past the whipping wind. The Moving On video. Virgil’s soft and caring and worried eyes. The way he looked from Patton to Roman, making sure they both knew.

 “There is nothing wrong with experiencing anger from time to time, Patton.” Logan’s calm voice, a memory from another fight much like this one. Patton barely dodged the swing as Logan’s voice continued, “What matters is what you do with it.

 Was this really a healthy way to deal with his anger? Fighting himself in a sandstorm? Getting cut with glass fragments and bruising himself?

 “Padre…” Roman’s soft voice, another time after another similar fight, “Please don’t hurt yourself like this when you’re angry.” Those big soft eyes, god…how had he not seen it then? “It breaks my heart…” Roman patching him up after a particularly bad fight, blood on his fingertips, barely holding back tears.

 The wind died down, and the blur of blue was roaring, coming at Patton in an attempt to rekindle the fire. But it was dead, gone, replaced with a cold realisation.

 He was angry, because he felt guilty.

 Anger tripped to his hands and knees, shaking as he grew thinner and weaker, whimpering and finally falling onto his face. Guilt looked up at him, eyes wet and sad, “They’ll always-“

 “I can fix this.” Patton answered firmly, “I can help. I can be there for my kiddos.” Tension rushed out of Patton, leaving him tired and weak, “I won’t let any of you rule me.”

 Guilt yowled as he faded away, but the room still mirrored Patton’s internal conflict. Walls now pale grey, the light dancing with dust motes as Patton fell to his own knees and panted. The damage was done. Glass was embedded in his skin, small rivulets of blood trickling down all over, his throat tight and aching.

 But he’d won this time. He was hurting, and sore, but so was everyone else. And they could all help each other. Which meant Patton needed to find a more constructive way to push the remains of his anger out.

 

*

Thomas

 

 To say he was apprehensive about entering Roman’s room was a pretty bold understatement. Of the rooms Thomas had always wanted to see, Roman’s was high on the list. His imagination always ran away from him when he thought about it. How majestic and big it must be.

 But to see Roman like this, to see him tired and vulnerable and fragile…maybe his room wasn’t what Thomas thought at all. Much like Patton’s.

 “Thomas?” Virgil’s soft voice interrupted Thomas’ thoughts, and he turned to look at the slouching Side, “Ready?”

 He laughed nervously, “Uh…”

 Virgil snorted and shook his head, “Yeah, can’t say I blame ya.” He stepped toward the door, brushing his fingers over a scar in the wood. It looked like it had been far sharper once, a wound from a battle of some kind, worn down by years of touches much like Virgil’s, “The first time I came here…” he blew a raspberry, “Like, just after Accepting Anxiety?” his eyes grew soft and gentle as he brushed his fingers over the scar, “Roman and I had a huge fight. He was trying to save face, I think. Much like when this happened.” Virgil glanced back to Thomas and took his hand, guiding it over the scar, “We were younger when this happened though.”

 Thomas could feel the animosity and fear in the scar, “What happened?”

 “Roman and I disagreed. Same old story.” Virgil shrugged with a chuckle, “It was the day he got his sword though. And the day I became Anxiety.” He frowned at the memory, “The idiot scared me half to death.” Thomas couldn’t seem to pull his fingers away from the scar, “After Accepting Anxiety, he started acting odd. Not like now.” Virgil snorted again, rubbing at his nose, “Lemme tell ya, self-deprecating jokes from Princey are weird.”

 Thomas couldn’t help the small chuckle that escaped him, “So, you came here to talk to him?”

 Virgil shrugged, “More like confront. I didn’t really know anything else at the time.” He admitted, straightening a little, “Especially when it came to Roman.” He sighed, “Confront or run. Fight or flight.” He shrugged with one shoulder, “I tend to forget that Roman likes to fight back.”

 Thomas snorted, his fingers still moving over the scar in the wood, “What caused this though?”

 Virgil stiffened, his eyes going a little glassy for a moment, sadness falling over his face, “We got physical back then. A lot, if I recall correctly. This time, his sword appeared and he nearly stabbed me.” Thomas’ eyes widened and his mouth fell open, “It was the first time I withdrew and no one really cared to see if I was okay.” A sad sigh escaped Virgil, “We used to be best friends, ya know.”

 Thomas smiled sadly, “Middle school.”

 Virgil nodded, still staring at the scar, “Worked together on everything. It was fun. But…ya know, adolescence.”

 Thomas laughed softly, “Yup.”

 The anxious Side looked up to the golden crown painted on Roman’s door, “When I confronted him after the video, he tried to fight back. But it was…weak.” He shook his head, “He may not remember us being close, but I do.” Sadness fell back over Thomas’ face, “I know his tells better than the others. And the fact that this,” he gently touched the painted red sash over the door, drawing his fingers down, following the sash, “Never changed.”

 The wood Virgil had touched changed colour behind his fingers, a trail of light purple light following before the lock clicked and it swung open slightly.

 “Virgil?” Thomas breathed, awed for a moment and Virgil gave him a small smirk and shrug.

 “Roman uses magic for everything. And he forgets that he gave me some when we were kids.” He gently pushed the door open, “Not a lot. Just enough to play villain until he…well…yeah.”

 Thomas followed Virgil into the room, blinking to try and adjust his eyes to the dimly lit room. The only lights on were the blinking fairy lights and the bathroom light, which cast ominous shadows on the utter disarray.

 Posters were peeling from the walls, though Virgil noted that some had put themselves back to right. Thomas could see fanart on the walls, pieces Roman obviously liked, almost all of them being of the other Sides, or Thomas, or even Joan and Talyn. He couldn’t help but smile.

 His bed was a chaotic mess of blankets and pillows. Clothes littered the floor, including his new jacket. When Thomas spotted the jacket, he spotted the glass scattered all over the floor, glittering with reflections of the fairy lights.

 “Virgil?” he whispered, feeling something like dread on the back of his neck.

 The other Side looked at him with pitying eyes, “This is both the build-up and aftermath.” Virgil admitted, “Mirrors are Roman’s enemy when he’s like this. And the further he falls, the worse it gets.”

 “Does he break all of them?”

 Virgil shook his head, “He almost always covers them. Patton had requested a particular blanket from Roman, which he’d used to cover the vanity.” He waved absently toward the broken glass, “That’s why his hand is the way it is. He got stuck.”

 Thomas blinked at him and took a step away, “I’m sorry, stuck?”

 Virgil gently took Thomas’ hand, “It won’t make sense unless I show you.” He led the host through the room toward the bathroom. It was only then that Thomas realised the mass of blue was actually a blanket, “It doesn’t show up unless Roman’s doubting himself. I don’t think Logan or Patton know of it either. I can’t imagine what it would do to them.”

 “It? Virgil, this doesn’t make any sense.”

 Virgil stood Thomas off to the side, “It will in a minute, but you need to stay right here. No matter what happens, do not let your reflection appear in the mirror.”

 “What-“

 “Thomas.” His eyes were firm, pleading and desperate, “Do you understand?”

 “I mean, yeah, I guess.”

 Virgil breathed out hard, “Okay.” He let his hands fall off Thomas’ shoulders, turning to the mirror with a sense of determination Thomas had never seen in Virgil’s eyes before. Was this what he looked like in ‘fight’ mode? He barely looked like Anxiety anymore. Almost like…almost like Roman.

 Thomas watched as Virgil stepped into the bathroom, reaching up for the blanket and shifting the heavier items of the top. The blanket slipped away, revealing Virgil’s reflection and at first, Thomas didn’t think anything was going to happen.

 Until Virgil’s reflection grew a wide, cruel grin, “Long time no see, Anxiety.

 Virgil was busily folding the blanket up, turning away from his reflection. Thomas couldn’t believe what he was seeing. The reflection didn’t mirror him. At all.

 “Yeah, it’s Virgil now.” He answered calmly.

 “Oh? Finally told them, huh?” his reflection was following him with its eyes, “Did they manage to have a heart-to-heart, huh?

 Virgil snickered, “Actually, yeah.” He turned to look at his reflection, who sneered back at him, “We did. A lot has changed since we last talked.”

 The reflection rolled his eyes, “You think it’s changed that much though?” Thomas’ eyes widened as it dawned on him what he was seeing, “You think they really care? Look at what they did to Roman!” it laughed wickedly, and Thomas swore he saw Virgil’s fingers shaking.

 “You can’t use the same ploy twice, asshole.” Virgil sneered back, “You made me duck out once. Not happening again.”

 Thomas hand pressed to his lips, shaking as his eyes widened even further. He almost called out to Virgil, but the anxious side was wiping blood off the counter, “Is that when you had your heart-to-heart? Did they beg? Did you fall for it?

 Virgil’s jaw clenched, closing his eyes when the reflection couldn’t see. Thomas wanted to move to his side, to put his hand on his shoulder and tell it to shut up…but maybe this was how Virgil knew in the first place?

 “Yeah, hook, line and sinker.” Virgil shrugged, finishing up with the sink and straightening to glare at the reflection again, “But you know…they’re not so bad.”

 “You know it’s a ploy, right? They only want you around so Thomas can fun-

 “And who’s the guy who convinced me to duck out in the first place?” he asked, gathering the blanket in his arms. Thomas could see a thin sheen of sweat on Virgil’s forehead.

 “Fuck you, Anxiety.

 Virgil waved his hand to turn off the light, shrouding the mirror in darkness and he stumbled back out of the bathroom.

Chapter Text

Turning Point

Virgil

Middle School

 

 Roman giggled as he ran past Virgil, catching the smaller trait’s wrist and dragging him to the stairs. Bewildered as the prince dragged him up the stairs, he protested, but couldn’t help the giggles that escaped him.

 “What’s going on?” he finally managed to ask between giggles as Roman stopped at his bedroom door.

 “I have an idea!” Roman was bouncing on his toes, swinging his door open as he waved a messy sheaf of paper in his hands, “I wanted to tell you about it!”

 Virgil was the first one through the door, walking backwards as Roman followed him, “C’mon then. Show me!”

 The prince beamed as he closed his door behind him, “We gotta go the Imagination.” Virgil laughed as Roman bounded past, waving his hand at a blank expanse of wall. A large, red door slowly materialised, “You…don’t mind playing the bad guy again…do you?”

 Virgil raised an eyebrow with a wicked smirk, holding one hand up as a small, purple flame lazily flickered to life, “Only if we consider a sad ending later.”

 The prince beamed, throwing the door to the Imagination open as Virgil closed his fist and smothered the little flame. Tucking his hands into his red hoodie, he stepped with Roman out into the Imagination. Compared to the mindscape, the air was brisk and the wind was swirling, the sign that Roman had too many ideas bouncing around at once.

 Virgil really didn’t mind days like this. Patton couldn’t often handle Roman’s realism and adventures with Logan always ended with frustrated tears. Besides, if it helped Roman calm down, school was just a little easier to bear.

 There was always a change Virgil went through when he walked through that door. Roman had commented on it once or twice. Virgil never felt any different, but Roman had said he became…commanding, confident and protective. Maybe he was right. There were a few times when Virgil had ended a game because Roman lost control.

 That dragon hadn’t been seen since, actually.

 Roman beamed at him, handing him half of the sheaf of paper and bounded down the hill toward a field of bright blue flowers. With a light-hearted head shake and smile, Virgil flicked through the story. Same usual storyline. It should be easy enough.

 

*

 

 “Do you have a death wish?!” Virgil screamed, dragging Roman out of his room and into the hallway. They were too deep into this argument. If anyone was going to break it up, it was Patton.

 God, Virgil hoped Patton was here.

 “I could have taken it!” Roman insisted, his eyes flashing with anger, “Just because you couldn’t hurt it-“

 “Roman!” Virgil ran his hands frantically through his hair, “You know you need to be careful with the Imagination!”

 The prince growled, “I had it under control.”

 “Really?” Virgil’s eyes flashed with near panic, terror even, “Didn’t seem like it to me!”

 Roman grabbed Virgil by the lapels of his hoodie, spinning him around and shoving him against the door. Lights flashed when Virgil’s head hit the hardwood. Whatever Roman was going to say, Virgil didn’t stay still long enough to let him.

 He shoved back, the pair of them slamming against the opposite wall.

 “If you lose control, it hurts Thomas! It hurts Logan and Patton!” Virgil’s eyes flashed purple and he grit his teeth, squeezing his eyes closed to try and contain whatever it was trying to force its way out of him.

 Roman knew. He knew about Virgil’s struggle. That thing inside him that wanted out.

 But he was too angry to care. Too young to understand his own actions, or consequences.

 So, he took the opportunity to shove back. Virgil fell against the door again and Roman stepped toward him. “I can control it, Instinct.”

 Virgil straightened, glaring up at Roman, “No, you can’t. No one can!”

 A horrible, disgusting expression crossed Roman’s face then. Something akin to rage and disgust. Truth be told, Virgil’s blood ran cold that day.

 The prince practically roared, moving to hit Virgil but something materialized in Roman’s hands. Virgil only caught a glimpse of it. A sword.

 A long, sharp katana in Roman’s hands.

 Virgil wasn’t afraid to admit that he screamed. Covering his face with his hands and trying to move away from the blade.

 All Virgil could hear was Roman’s breathing in his ear, heavy and hot and masking growls trying to escape his throat. Virgil was frozen, shaking as he covered his face and tried not to whimper, practically cowering in front of his best friend.

 Roman stepped back, or rather, threw himself backward, eyes wide as he stared at Virgil. “Instinct…oh my god, Instinct, I-“

 The thing inside Virgil writhed, demanding release, screaming in his ears as Virgil cracked his fingers open. Tears dampened the palms of his hands, his breath coming out in weak hiccups as he tried to get away from the door.

 His hoodie pulled taut when he tried to run, pinning him to the door. Virgil yelped, looking down.

 A sword. A sword had his rich red hoodie pinned to the door. A sword?

 Slowly, Virgil turned to look up at Roman as he stood on the other end of the hallway. Betrayal and pain and terror filled Virgil’s eyes. Roman…he was…

 “You tried to kill me?” he squeaked out, trembling violently as Roman stared in dismay, mouth moving but no words coming out.

 Footsteps at the end of the hall. A shout.

 And suddenly that thing inside Virgil was out and loose and free. It tore its way through him, consuming him, eating away at what he had been. Fight-or-flight.

 Flight. Run. Run. Hide!

 Virgil slipped out of his hoodie, stumbling away from the sword and toward the stairs. He tried to kill us! He was going to hurt us! Our best friend!

 “Instinct!”

 Patton was shouting. Virgil spun around to him, chest getting tighter, harder to breathe. The fatherly trait looked angry. Why was he angry? Oh no. If Roman tried, would Patton? No, no, don’t be absurd-

 You thought that about Roman.

 Virgil felt too hot, too exposed without his hoodie, like a small animal in a pen of predators. His head whirled from Patton to Roman, eyes wide with terror, barely breathing, tears streaming from his eyes.

 Trust no one. Run. They’re turning on you. RUN!

 “Instinct?”

 Logan, puzzled and confused about the shouting. Eyes widening at Virgil’s state as he stumbled back clumsily.

 He couldn’t breathe. He wasn’t breathing. Roman tried to kill him. Patton was angry. Logan…maybe-

 “What did you do, Instinct?”

 On his side.

 His legs felt shaky, itching to run, needing to run.

 Roman moved to touch him, hopefully to stop him from running away, but Virgil yelped, flinching away violently. He wanted to yell at him, scream even, but he couldn’t breathe.

 “What is going on here?!” Patton’s voice boomed through the mindscape.

 He’s angry. He’s angry. He’s never angry. And they blame you.

 Virgil didn’t even look to Patton. He knew what he’d see. He spun around and sprinted, tearing through the hallway to the door into the subconscious. Someone was chasing him. Probably Logan. Logan could navigate the subconscious too. Just not as well as Virgil.

 It was only now that they both understood what was happening within Virgil. He was changing. He was no longer just Instinct.

 The deeper Virgil ran, the further away he pulled from Logan, the hotter the thing inside him got, the more the subconscious changed and shifted to accommodate.

 He lost Logan somewhere, falling to his knees just inside his part of the subconscious. His part of the subconscious had never been this dark before, had it? It hadn’t been this cold? But god, the cold felt so good on his burning skin. It was easier to breathe for a mere moment.

 A familiar face, his own, a reflection he had spoken to in the mirror. Doubt. He knelt beside Virgil. Looking for wounds.

 “Dude, you okay?”

 He felt like he was shattering. He felt like his world was crashing around him like glass shards, cutting into his skin and muscle and bones and soul. If he had one.

 All he could do was curl up, trying to cry and scream past his punctured breathing, until finally, at last, he passed out.

 

*

 

 It was Doubt’s face he woke up to later. How long? He didn’t know. Well, Doubt wore his face, so Virgil woke up to himself.

 “What happened?” Doubt asked gently, sitting with Virgil on the side of the bed, “Everything’s changed.”

 And so, Virgil tried to explain. How he’d felt something inside him trying to get out. How he fought with Roman again (Doubt made a face when Virgil mentioned Roman). How the others were going to hurt him too.

 “Instin-“

 He shook his head, “That’s not…that’s not my name…anymore.”

 Doubt frowned at him. Virgil’s face was already changing. He was getting thinner, taller, longer. This…how deeply had they hurt him this time?

 “What is it?” Doubt asked, swinging his lengthening legs in the blue jeans Virgil had worn since Patton gave them to him, “And…where’s your hoodie?”

 “An…Anxiety.” He answered, ducking his head as the thing inside him finally started to settle. He pressed his hand to his chest, feeling his lungs expand properly for the first time in what felt like eternity, “Anxiety. And uh…back in the mindscape.”

 Doubt leapt to his feet, wobbling at his newfound height. “What? Want me to go get it-“

 Virgil shook his head, still staring at his knees, “I don’t want that one. I don’t want-“ he started pulling at his shirt clumsily, struggling with his own shifting physique, “I can’t-“

 Doubt’s hands fell on his shoulders, pulling Virgil’s mind back like it was on a string, “One thing at a time.” Virgil looked up at his own reflection, watching as black eyeshadow spread beneath his eyes. He met Doubt’s eyes, “Change your clothes. Then hoodie.”

 Virgil nodded, slowly getting to his feet when Doubt took a step back. He had already changed so much. The jeans Patton had gifted him were too loose and too short, slipping down his narrow hips and the hems stopped short of his ankles. The t-shirt Logan gifted him fluttered around his tinner figure, hanging loosely from the shoulders. The hoodie…would have been too big too, Virgil supposed.

 He frowned at his clothes. They were too bright. Too noticeable. Even his hair, dyed several shades of pink and red by Roman, was too much.

 He sighed. He’d have to go back eventually. He was a designated Side. Whether they liked or not. Whether he liked it or not.

 But the thing inside was right. The thing that was now him. Don’t trust them.

 Doubt moved toward another aspect at the edge of Virgil’s ‘room’.

 Don’t trust any of them.

 

*

 

 Roman had been pacing outside of Instinct’s room for days. He wanted to apologise. He wanted to explain. He wanted…just a chance to talk to him.

 Maybe he shouldn’t have made his presence so obvious.

 Patton had called them all down for lunch and even though it hurt Roman to tear himself away from Instinct’s much darker door, he did so. Lunch was tense, Patton attempting to keep conversation away from the lack of one of their own.

 “Something has changed.” Logan finally decided to address the issue. Roman flinched and Patton shrank a little, “The subconscious has already shifted to accommodate the change in Instinct.”

 “Anxiety.” A low, gravelly voice answered from the kitchen, causing all three at the table to jump and cry out. Roman outright shrieked. Virgil had to fight a grin, shoving a granola bar in his mouth, “It’s Anxiety.” He corrected through a mouthful of granola as the others tried to calm themselves.

 “Don’t pop up like that!” Patton tried to tease, but Virgil’s eyes were still shining with fear, still evaluating every move for threats. He lingered on Roman, and the prince felt like he was being catalogued, evaluated and measured.

 It was a wholly new experience that he detested.

 “Can’t help it.” Anxiety shrugged, taking a handful of granola bars and shoving them in the pocket of his hoodie. The kitchen was dark, the blinds pulled closed to shield from the summer sun. They hadn’t seen how extreme the change had been yet.

 “Why don’t you come have lunch with us?” Logan asked, waving to Instinct’s old seat.

 Anxiety didn’t answer. He strode out of the kitchen, keeping a healthy distance between himself and the table. The change was…far more extreme than any of them had expected.

 He was taller than them all now, by almost a head, even as he slouched into his hoodie. He was thinner, almost gaunt, as he made his way to the stairs. Roman’s hair dye had been replaced with black and purple, Logan’s shirt replaced with a black one that was still too big. His black skinny jeans were torn in places, revealing pale skin beneath and his hoodie…

 His hoodie was black and thick. An unconscious effort at self-comfort and defence.

 Potentially the scariest thing was the eyeshadow smeared under his eyes. He was intimidating, looming over the others and filling the room with a strange, jittery energy that none of them recognised.

 “Anxiety, please sit with us.” The tall trait paused at the stairs, “We’d like to talk about-“

 A bitter, humourless laugh interrupted and silenced Logan, “No.”

 “An-“ before Logan could continue, Anxiety sank out and the other three sat in stunned silence. “Should we-“ Logan deferred to Patton, the heart.

 He shook his head, “Maybe he needs a few days.” Patton shrugged, though he looked scared, “To calm down.” He offered weakly, with a strained smile.

 And that was the first day Virgil spent alone in his room. But not the last time he’d appear to remind them he existed.

Chapter Text

Virgil’s Breaking Point

Virgil

July 2017

 

 Virgil shot awake from his latest nightmare, skin clammy with sweat and eye burning with unshed tears of frustration and pain. He choked them back, shoving his sleeve into his teeth and biting hard as he squeezed his eyes closed. The mocking voices in his head died down as he sat up, fighting the dizziness from fatigue as he twisted slightly.

 His feet touching the cold hardwood floor of his room jolted him a little, helping make sense of where he was and that his dream was just that.

 A horrible dream.

 All the same, Virgil wasn’t comforted. It had only been about nine months since they’d started making videos. And he was no more included in the mindscape then he had been before. Sure, his relationship with Patton and Logan seemed to be on the mend at least. Logan appreciated their time debating and organising now, and didn’t fight back so much when Virgil pointed out potentially dangerous situations.

 Patton…was as supportive as ever. Even making sure Virgil eats and sleeps and showers…the kinds of things Virgil tended to forget or ignore in his quest to find the next threat. If he wasn’t slipping notes under the door, he was outright knocking and talking through the wood.

 But his heart clenched whenever he saw Roman. The memory of that fateful day had never faded. And his nightmares liked to remind of what might have happened. The prince had made it clear on many occasions now, much to Virgil’s dismay.

 “I don’t like you.

 Mocking, angry, bitter…like he needed Virgil to know that whatever friendship they’d had was dead. Well, nearly stabbing your friend would surely make them angry. Roman was just retaliating for years of animosity.

 Still. It hurt. A lot.

 Didn’t make Virgil any less bitter though.

 With the tears under control for the time being, Virgil let his sleeve fall from his teeth into his lap. He was so tired. He slumped forward on his bed, forearms resting on his thin thighs and stared down at his own hands.

 They were worn, long and thin fingers that trembled slightly from nerves he could never shake. Nails bitten to the quick, and when he had no nails to bite, the skin around them bitten and torn. Calluses from countless battles in his subconscious.

 He let his head drop, fingers running through his own hair. For once, soft and light to the touch. Patton was right, showering did often make him feel better. But that didn’t mean he always wanted to. Or saw the point.

 He closed his eyes, sighing sadly to himself. Was there a point to going on? He had a job to do, and he wanted to do it. He wanted to protect Thomas and the other Sides. He did care. In his own way.

 But months…months…of animosity from not just Roman, but Thomas too? It had worn away his resolve. What was the point if he was going to be hated at every turn? Even when he did something right, even when he kept Thomas from doing something dumb enough to get himself killed…

 Was a ‘good job’ too much to ask for?

 Probably, he thought to himself with a sigh. Lord knew they poured all of that energy on each other. Virgil hadn’t been a part of that in years. Heck, he hadn’t even spent a Christmas with them yet. He shuddered, that was something to worry about come December.

 Those tears he’d been holding back decided to force their way up, his heart desperately clawing into his throat. He worked so damn hard. Did they think it was easy to keep a grown man alive? No, not when his other Sides are fighting back.

 He bit his lip, trying to keep the tears at bay. Of course, the videos didn’t help either. Roman liked using it as a means to air dirty laundry. To throw insults and slights at him that he didn’t do when they were in the mindscape. Heck, Roman wouldn’t even look at him when they went back.

 And here he was, back to thinking about Roman. Someone he’d been so close to once. Running around the mindscape together, the Imagination together…playing…

 It had been playing then. Villain and prince. He’d been good at the villain part. They’d been young then. They couldn’t have known how this would all turn out. But…looking back now, painted with pain and misery…

 It felt like Roman had always known. Had always thought Virgil a villain.

 That broke Virgil’s remaining resolve. The tears slipped from his lashes, falling to his thighs. Why? What did he do wrong? He’d been trying to protect Roman! And by extension, all the others! Why had they turned on him?! Princey was the one who tried to stab him!

 Broken, agonising sobs escaped Virgil in the early morning, shivering despite his hoodie. He was always cold now. Such a contrast to the heat he’d felt that first day when he became Anxiety.

 His shaking only seemed to get worse as he pulled and tugged at his hair, desperate attempts to pull his crying back under control. He was stronger than this. Better than this. So what? So what if they hated him? He had a job to do and he was going to do it!

 But…what was the point?

 With a violent tug at his hair, nearly tearing half of it out, he managed to snap his eyes open and bit his lip again to muffle the sobs. It was just a nightmare why was he having a crisis over that?

 Because it wasn’t just the nightmare.

 He let his hands fall from his hair, staring down at them again. There wasn’t really a point to him, was there? He made Thomas anxious. He made him scared. He kept him from doing the things he loved. That was…that was no way to live.

 Virgil was nothing more than an illness. A disorder. A personification of sickness. What was the point to him then? He knew the others wouldn’t care if he just disappeared. Heck, they’d probably throw a goddamned party. An even though it hurt, he couldn’t deny that it was true.

 Christmas certainly would have come early.

 Thomas couldn’t live while he was still around. But who was to say he couldn’t live without him? He’d been Instinct once. The one thing that kept Thomas alive. The thing that told Thomas that this dog was friendly and this one aggressive. That this food was okay and this would make him sick.

 Did he even do that anymore?

 Or did he just cause pain?

 A door slammed somewhere in the mindscape, just down the hall if Virgil’s hearing was still good. Probably Roman’s room. Was he affecting Thomas-

 A curt knock on his door.

 That was a yes.

 “Hey, Dark and Gloomy, what’s the deal?” Roman’s voice. A fresh wound to an already shredded heart, “It’s like six in the morning!” Virgil found the resolve to get to his feet, “Would you cut it out?”

 Virgil didn’t have the voice to answer. He’d been crying. And he’d be damned if he let Roman know he’d been crying. About him…again.

 So he did the next best thing to make him go away.

 He threw his alarm clock at the door.

 There was stunned silence as Virgil stumbled to his bathroom and leant against the doorframe for a few moments. Roman stomped off, probably to Patton’s room, and Virgil sighed as he straightened.

 Well, now he’d have Patton to deal with. Maybe. It was six in the morning.

 When Virgil flicked on the light, he scowled. His reflection wasn’t right. “Oh, hey there, Anxiety.”

 He rolled his eyes as he approached, “Doubt.” He stepped toward the sink, “Can you at least help me put on my eyeshadow while we do this?” he sighed, turning on the faucet.

 “Long night?” Doubt snickered, crossing his arms as he half-mirrored Anxiety’s movements.

 Anxiety washed his face clean of his streaked eyeshadow and rolled his eyes at his not-quite-reflection, “I never have a ‘long night’,” he answered, scrubbing his cheeks, “I don’t sleep.”

 Doubt snickered again, “That’s true.” Doubt didn’t move when Anxiety lowered himself to splash water over his face, “Princey still giving you issues?

 “Firstly,” Anxiety straightened again, cold washcloth draped over his eyes, “Only I call him Princey.” Doubt scowled, but Virgil was too busy trying to hide the fact he’d been crying, “Secondly, when isn’t he?”

 Doubt huffed lightly, “Ya know, you don’t have to accept that crap, right?” he had his arms crossed when Virgil took the washcloth off to inspect his eyes. He grimaced when he saw they were still bloodshot and puffy.

 He put the washcloth back on, “I’m not leaving Thomas unprotected.”

 Doubt huffed angrily, “Will you worry about yourself for once?” he would have stomped his foot if it did any good. Well, maybe that was partly Virgil’s fault. Doubt was too loud.

 Virgil laughed bitterly, “I do.”

 Doubt growled softly, “You are not Thomas.” The smirk on Virgil’s face turned into a sneer, “And we both know how he feels.”

 Virgil dropped the washcloth into his hands to glare at Doubt, “Low blow, man.”

 Doubt shrugged at him, “Hmm.

 Virgil glared at Doubt for a bit longer before he sighed, his shoulders sagging, “You’re right though.” He tossed the washcloth into the basin, turning off the cold water, “I’m not Thomas…and he hates me.” His voice cracked as he admitted it aloud for the first time. He held himself up against the sink, his knees feeling weaker than before, “I don’t want to leave him unprotected though.”

 “He hates you, Anxiety.” Virgil grimaced again, biting his lip, “So what, if he’s unprotected?” Virgil raised his eyes, hair shielding his gaze, “He should have appreciated you.”

 Virgil snorted, dropping his gaze back to his hands, “Who would though? I’m an illness. A disease.”

 “You weren’t always that way though.” Doubt reminded him, “I still remember when this place,” he held his hands out, gesturing to Anxiety’s part of the subconscious, “Was almost like Roman’s.

 “You remember back that far?” Virgil asked, swinging open the bathroom cabinet to pull out his make-up bag. Doubt made a noise irritation as Virgil swung it closed again. Doubt looked a little shaken, but quickly regained his balance, “I can’t even remember back that far sometimes.”

 His not-quite-reflection snickered again, “Of course you don’t. You’re too busy fighting a war in there.

 Virgil looked down to his make-up bag as he pulled out his essentials, “I wouldn’t call it a war…”

 “It’s a war, Anxiety. Everything you do, everything you say, is met with some kind of resistance.” Virgil only glanced at Doubt. There was no point making him know he was right, “Nothing you ever do is enough. Nothing will ever be enough. You’re fighting a losing war, man.”

 Virgil popped the cap on his concealer, carefully tracing it over his nose and cheekbones, “Okay, maybe it is a war.” Virgil admitted quietly, dotting the concealer on his jawline and some on his forehead, “But that doesn’t mean I’m losing.”

 Doubt’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head as Virgil carefully blended in some of the concealer, “Are you kidding me?! Look at the toll this bullshit has taken on you!” Virgil scowled as he dotted foundation around his face, “You’re covering it up every day, but it’s there.”

 Well, that was true. He was tired. He was sore. Maybe he was fighting a losing war, with no allies or backup in sight.

 “Alright, alright.” Virgil finished blending out his foundation. He already looked a shade or too healthier. It was an improvement, not a fix. “Let’s pretend that I’m starting to believe you.” He waved an eyeshadow brush at Doubt as he spoke, “What then?”

 Doubt smirked smugly at Virgil, arms crossed as he mirrored Virgil leaning in, “I’d say leave. Duck out. Officially.”

 Virgil nearly dropped his eyeshadow palette, jerking back a few steps. Doubt only watched, “What? I joked about that. I can’t actually leave!”

 Doubt arched an eyebrow at him, “Can’t you?

 Virgil’s eyes fell to a spot on the basin and frowned as he thought. Maybe he could. He wouldn’t leave the mind, that much was certain. It was only recently that they’d discovered they could physically manifest, and even then it had been an accident. Logan had been sick for a week afterward. So he couldn’t pop out and walk away.

 But maybe…maybe he could close off his part of subconscious? Maybe he could…turn it off? But how?

 “I can see the cogs turning.” Doubt’s smirk grew as Virgil’s eyes met his, “Didn’t Roman close off the Imagination? So Patton would stop messing with it?

 “Yeah, but it’s still there. Thomas can still access it.” Virgil stepped forward again, slowly applying eyeshadow under his eyes.

 “But Roman wanted it that way.

 Virgil paused for a moment, narrowing his eyes as he studied Doubt’s. He knew he shouldn’t be listening to him. Heck, he shouldn’t even be talking to him. Doubt was his minion (…friend…associate?) so listening to him was a bad idea. And heck, Virgil did enough doubting on his own without Doubt also draining his energy.

 But he brought up a valid point. Maybe Virgil could leave. Maybe he had a way out when it got to be too much after all.

 “And Thomas?” Virgil asked, continuing his application.

 “What about him?

 “Would he be able to function?”

 Doubt rolled his eyes with a huff, “You really think you’d still care?

 “You…do realise we die if he does, right?”

 Doubt snickered, “He hates you, Anxiety. You may as well be dead already.

 Virgil jerked, his brush spreading eyeshadow over his nose and the tears immediately rushed to the surface, “Okay, ow.” He dropped his head to try and clean up the eyeshadow and hide the tears that threatened, “That was a little uncalled for.”

 Doubt gave him another smug smirk when Virgil met his eyes again, “It’s true though, isn’t it?

 Virgil sighed, “Maybe.” He answered with a glare before returning to his application, “I guess that’s something to consider if the time comes.”

 “When the time comes.” Doubt corrected, leaning back as Virgil did so he could fiddle with his hair, “It’s only a matter of time, Anxiety. You know that.

 “Yeah, yeah. I’ve noticed.”

 He didn’t need to be reminded that Roman’s jabs have been getting more and more vicious. That he’d been making more of an effort to avoid the anxious Side. That he only listened to Virgil’s points if they came from Logan’s mouth. Either they were going to fight it out, or one of them had to leave.

 And Roman was too important to Thomas.

 “At least it’s an option.” Virgil continued.

 Before Doubt could say anything further, there was a knock from Virgil’s door, “Anxiety?” Patton. That took him a while, “Can we talk?”

 Virgil threw Doubt a wary look, “We’ll talk about this later.”

 Doubt nodded, watching Virgil leave but not leaving the mirror.

 Virgil opened his door to see Patton standing there, a mix between Dad Mode and concern on his face, “Can I help you?”

 “Why did Thomas have a panic attack this morning?” the tone was more accusatory than Virgil liked hearing from Patton.

 “I had a nightmare.” He admitted with a shrug, tucking his hands in his hoodie. “Didn’t realise it was affecting Thomas.”

 “And the thing with Roman?”

 Of course. It always came down to Roman. The fucking golden child. Virgil’s face twisted with hurt, poorly hidden behind a sneer as he glared over Patton’s shoulder, “What thing?”

 Patton arched an eyebrow at Virgil, not noticing as Virgil physically braced for the coming lecture. It hurt, of course, being lectured like this by Patton. So early in the morning. And Logan’s passing affirmation didn’t help.

 It was ten minutes before Patton finally seemed to run out of steam, noticing Virgil’s stiff posture and downcast eyes. He took in a deep breath, “Look, kiddo-“

 “Don’t call me that.” He snarled back, taking a step back into his room, “I get it. None of you want me here. Whatever.”

 “That’s not it at all!” Patton cried, taking a step into the room. He blocked Virgil from closing the door before he’d even moved to do so, “We’d just like you to try a little harder not to affect Thomas-“

 “Exactly. You don’t want me here.” Virgil’s voice cracked a little, and he sneered up at Patton to mask it. “I get it.”

 Patton had never seen pain in Virgil’s eyes before, then again, he’d never actually looked. It shook him so much, he took a step back, “Anxiety…kiddo…”

 “I said don’t call me that!” Virgil’s temper finally flared, and he slammed the door shut, ending the conversation with a finality Anxiety wished he could take back.

 Neither of them moved, but Virgil tried to mask the dejected, broken sob that escaped him before he hurried back to his bathroom. Doubt gave him a knowing look, but was silent as Virgil curled up on the floor.

 Three different voices, three different requests (or demands in Roman’s case), three different meals passed by before Virgil was able to pull himself together. And when he did, Doubt was still there, waiting.

 Virgil looked like a mess. He was a mess. His hair was ruffled, his eyeshadow streaked down his face, eyes stinging and bloodshot and puffy. But he didn’t care.

 “How do we do this?” he held himself up over the basin.

 Doubt grinned at him.

Chapter Text

Patching Up Dad

Virgil

 

 Virgil couldn’t say that he was surprised that Thomas was staring at him like that.

 “Wha- what was that?” he waved vaguely toward the mirror, in a move that was all too reminiscent of Roman.

 Virgil gave Thomas a small smirk, “Doubt.” He wavered on his feet, but shuffled toward the bed, “He’s…technically…an aspect from my part of the subconscious.” He picked up the blanket Patton had requested as he heard the fatherly Side’s door open and close again, “He can appear in any reflective surface.”

 “That’s…why you made Logan cover up the T.V and stuff?”

 Virgil nodded as he forced himself to take a deep breath. Maybe Doubt had shaken him more than he thought, “And he hurts Roman the worst.” A wry smirk pulled on Virgil’s face, “It’s hard to fight your own self-doubt when it wears your face.”

 A sad expression fell over Thomas’ face, “Oh…Roman…” he whispered, hand drifting up to his chest, “We should…go downstairs.”

 Virgil nodded, and they both walked back to the stairs in silence. The commons were still quiet, even though Patton was angrily scribbling on a piece of paper, outstretched on his stomach on the floor. Virgil sighed silently, even though it looked like he’d fought it out with his anger again, at least he’d come out of his room this time.

 Thomas broke off to the kitchen, and Virgil draped the blanket over Patton’s shoulders, distracting him from his angry letter, “You alright, dad?”

 Patton’s eyes burned and he frowned, but the expression didn’t stay, “Why are you asking me?”

 Virgil glanced up at Roman and Logan, “Cause Princey and Pocket Protector are asleep.”

 Patton jerked up, eyes wide when he saw the state they were both in. Roman had fallen asleep with his head thrown back on the couch, mouth open as he snored softly, while Logan lay with his head tucked against his chest.

 “Dad,” Patton spun back around to him, “Can we talk about it?”

 He was clearly fighting with himself. Virgil didn’t blame him. There was a lot going on. A lot to take in for one day. But Patton was in no state to be looking after anyone else. And Thomas hadn’t noticed yet.

 “Okay.” Patton sighed, reaching up to scratch his chin and catching a tiny shard of glass. He winced, “Oh, shi-

 Virgil smirked, helping Patton to his feet and guiding him to the couch, “I think we’re allowed to swear today.” He offered, taking the first aid kit from Logan’s lap and sifting through it.

 “Hey, guys?” Thomas appeared beside them, and his eyes widened when he saw the state Patton was in, “I- Patton?”

 “What is it, kiddo?” he asked, eyes shining with false hope and hollow smile spread onto his face. Virgil was tempted to slap it off him, just this once.

 “I, uh,” Thomas gave Virgil a meaningful look but the anxious Side shook his head, “I was going to head back. Get some sleep. You going to be alright?”

 Virgil smirked as he picked a shard of glass out of Patton’s cheek, “It might take a bit, but yeah. I think so.” Patton winced as Virgil picked at another shard, “Maybe hold off the vids for a little while. We could do with a break.”

 Thomas sighed with relief, “Me too.” He whispered, “Alright, um, update me later?”

 Virgil nodded with a sideways glance, “Sure.”

 “See ya, kiddo.” Patton waved as Thomas sank out, his hand falling limply into his lap and smile falling away.

 “Talk to me, Dad.” Virgil’s gaze was intense as he carefully pulled tiny shards of glass out of Patton’s skin with a pair of tweezers.

 “I got angry.” Patton shrugged, keeping his gaze on his hands.

 Virgil firmly took Patton’s chin, turning his face to meet Virgil’s and Patton’s eyes snapped to the anxious Side’s in surprise, “Patton.” His tone was firm, quiet, “We just did a two-part video on masking feelings. We weren’t just talking about sadness, you know.” Seeing Virgil so passionate about his wellbeing already had tears brimming in Patton’s eyes, “You know I love you. So, talk to me.”

 A tiny whimper, a hiccup, escaped Patton before the tears fell and Virgil softened his grip on Patton’s chin. He continued to pull glass from Patton’s face, “I got angry and I didn’t know why, so I went to my room before I hurt someone again.” The tears streamed down his face as he looked vaguely over Virgil’s shoulder, “And Anger showed up, and –“ he hiccupped, “And it was me,” Virgil paused to search Patton’s face, “And I know it was silly because it already happened and I can’t-“

 “Are you still angry?” Virgil whispered when Patton struggled to continue.

 Patton shook his head slightly, “Not really? A little…kinda…” he sighed, “I wish I’d seen it, ya know?” his lip quivered as Virgil finished with one side of his face, “I hurt my kiddo…”

 Virgil paused to bring Patton’s attention back to him, “Roman is very good at hiding his pain, Pat.” Patton was searching Virgil’s eyes, hoping beyond hope that it was the truth, “If he doesn’t want you to see it, you won’t. You noticed what slipped through the cracks, and you asked about it.” Patton’s lips twisted downward, “That’s more than enough.”

 “But if I’d known-“

 “You didn’t.” Virgil continued pulling tiny glass shards out, “And now that you do, you can help in the future.” Virgil gave him a reassuring smile, “Okay?”

 Patton’s lip quivered, eyes filling with tears, “Okay.” He whispered.

 “How are you feeling now?”

 Patton sniffed, “A lot.”

 Virgil smirked, tilting Patton’s head back a little to check his neck, “Dad…” he breathed, fingers brushing the bruise, “Bad fight, huh?”

 “Yeah.” Patton whispered, hanging his head as Virgil rested Patton’s hands on Virgil’s knees, “I was real mad.”

 “Can’t say I blame you.” Virgil answered with a shrug, “But I’m glad you’re out here now, with us.” Patton shyly looked up at Virgil, who tilted his head with a warm smile, “Can’t say it’s fun to drag you out of your room.”

 Patton giggled, flinching slightly as Virgil continued pulling out the tiny shards of glass from his hands, “Like you can talk.” He whispered.

 Virgil smiled back, a warm, wider smile than usual. Patton’s eyes glittered, “Shh, we don’t talk about that.” He winked, and Patton giggled again.

 He sighed, “Thanks, kiddo.” He bit his lip, “I know I’m not always the best Dad-“

 “Firstly,” Virgil pointed at him with the tweezers, “You aren’t a real Dad, so that’s perfectly fine.” Patton gazed away sadly, “And secondly,” Virgil looked back down to Patton’s hands, “All Dad’s are just trying to do their best.” Hope flickered to life in Patton’s eyes again, “All parents make mistakes. It’s how they handle those mistakes that really matter.”

 Tears slid down Patton’s face, he hung his head and leaned forward to press his forehead into Virgil’s shoulder. The anxious Side knew he wanted more contact, but wouldn’t stop him from pulling out the glass, “Thanks, kiddo.” He whispered, his breathing betraying his tears.

 As soon as Virgil was done with the extraction, he put the tweezers aside and ran his fingers through Patton’s hair, “Sit back, Pat.”

 He didn’t protest, but the moment he started fidgeting with his hoodie, Virgil knew he wanted contact. And he didn’t hesitate. He wasn’t exactly done patching him up.

 With the first aid kit in hand, he straddled Patton’s lap and pushed him to sink back against the couch, “Virge?”

 Virgil ignored his own blush, “You need cuddles, and I need to finish patching you up. Good compromise?”

 Patton giggled, tears already sliding down his face again even as he smiled, “Yeah, kiddo. Good compromise.”

Chapter Text

Even the Strong Fall

Logan

 

 Waking up curled up against one of the other Sides was definitely an experience Logan could safely shelve in the ‘pleasant’ category of his memory. It had been strange at first. Roman’s heartbeat was sure and strong, almost loud and hypnotic, but his breathing had been slow and sure. And he was warmer than Logan had ever expected one of the others to feel. Sure, he’d held hands with Patton on occasion (for Patton’s benefit…obviously) but this felt different. Intimate.

 Potentially because of Logan’s confession the night before.

 The logical Side was torn as he woke up slowly and scanned the mindscape. He felt something warm inside when he saw Patton curled up on the other end of the couch, draped in a blanket with small bandages over his face. Despite his slightly furrowed brow, his breathing indicated that he was sleeping rather peacefully, hair mussed over his face and nearly hiding his eyes.

 On the other hand…Virgil was nowhere to be seen.

 A familiar tugging pulled at Logan, and he couldn’t help the huff and small smile that pulled onto his face. Correcting his glasses on his nose, he very slowly pulled himself out of Roman’s lap, hesitating when the prince whined softly in his sleep.

 Maybe it was the fact no one else was awake to witness it. Or perhaps because there weren’t really any boundaries now, but Logan gently pressed his hand to Roman’s cheek. The prince leant into the touch, almost desperately, his brow relaxing just a little, “I will return soon, my prince.” He whispered, his voice still scratchy from sleep, “Rest well until we return.”

 Roman’s lips parted in his sleep, his body relaxing further into the couch, and Logan leant forward to press a chaste kiss to the tip of Roman’s nose. Even though he desperately wanted to know what Roman’s lips felt like, that was something he wanted them both to enjoy.

 And just to unfurrow his brow, Logan pressed another kiss between his eyebrows, feeling the muscles relax. Slowly and carefully he pulled away, kicking off his shoes as he edged toward Patton.

 There was a stiffness in Logan’s movements here. He knew that. Patton loved everyone, and Logan had never really figured out how Patton really felt. It was true that Logan’s affections toward them all had grown…considerably in the last few months.

 But Patton used affection for everything. Good days, bad days, and days in between. When he was happy, sad, angry or just numb. He craved it. Needed it even, like humans need oxygen or water.

 And it appeared that the fatherly trait wasn’t going to just come out and say it. His ‘I love you’s’ felt very much like platonic love, and that…maybe…stung a little.

 But Logan hadn’t exactly figured out a way to confess either.

 He crouched before the sleeping father figure, gently brushing hair from his eyes. Words escaped Logan for a moment as Patton immediately relaxed under his touch, a tiny smile curling at the corner of his lips.

 It appeared words wouldn’t be necessary after all.

 Smiling fondly at the two still asleep, Logan continued for the stairs, loosening his tie as he climbed up slowly. It had been one hell of a day, that was for sure.

 He was unbuttoning the top three buttons of his dress shirt when he finally reached the top of the stairs, and was halfway through rolling one of his sleeves when he reached his bedroom door.

 It was open most of the time, and now appeared to be no exception, but the light streaming out was softer than usual. Logan sighed softly to himself as he untucked his shirt, softly stepping into the room and another fond, if not concerned smile spread on his face.

 He’d found his Virgil, sitting on the edge of Logan’s bed, staring at his hands. He flexed them twice as Logan stepped in, gently closing the door behind him. When the door clicked, Virgil’s head snapped up, eyes wide with surprise, “Logan!” he leapt to his feet, “I didn’t-“

 “Virgil.” Logan’s voice was gentle, eyes soft as he slowly approached, “It’s been a hard day on all of us.” Virgil ducked his head, shrinking into his hoodie, but Logan saw the tiniest quiver in his lip, “And you’ve been so strong for us all.” Logan brushed his fingers over Virgil’s hand, finding not resistance from his slow, hesitant tangling of their fingers.

 They’d been affectionate more and more lately, but he still took everything slow. Some days were better for Virgil than others.

 “Helping all of us without a single complaint?” Virgil looked up at him from behind his hair, the anxious Side’s eyes wide and uncertain, “Even taking the initiative to explain to Thomas?” he leant down a little, his other hand softly reaching out to brush some of Virgil’s hair from his eyes, “I’m so proud of you.” Virgil’s eyes went glassy, tears brimming, “You did so well.”

 He gasped in a soft breath, fingers tightening around Logan’s, “I didn’t notice.” He squeaked out, lips trembling more noticeably now, “I didn’t see it.” Virgil couldn’t tear his eyes away from Logan’s, “I could have prevented this-“

 Logan shook his head, his free hand gently drifting to Virgil’s bicep, “You push yourself too hard sometimes, Virgil.” Logan answered fondly, soft and gentle, “You were tired. We all were. And I am partly to blame for that.” Logan tilted his head when Virgil looked away, but he caught the anxious Sides gaze again, “Let’s try not to think about the ‘could have been’s‘ for now, okay?” Virgil bit his lip gently, nodding a little, “Can you tell me how you feel?”

 Virgil’s eyes darted away again as Logan softly started rubbing the curve of Virgil’s shoulder. He hadn’t always been so accepting of physical touch, and sometimes, Virgil couldn’t stand it. But on other days, it was grounding, something he needed.

 And after a day like today, where emotions and tensions were high, Virgil needed to be reminded that he did the best he could have done. That he didn’t need to second-guess or overthink. And that was easier when he could see the now.

 A tiny, shaky breath escaped Virgil, “Guilty?” he whispered softly, turning his head away a little and dropping his chin further, “Sad?” his voice broke, and the usually taller Side managed to shrink that little bit further, “Stupid?”

 Logan squeezed his fingers, ending Virgil’s current train of thought, “I disagree with that last statement.” Virgil looked up at him from the corner of his eye, “You acted far faster, and smarter than the rest of us.” Logan answered firmly, his voice still pitched low, “You took charge when that is normally my role or Patton’s in such instances as breakdowns.” Virgil was searching Logan’s face, “Anything else?”

 Virgil took in another small, shaky breath, “Um…tired?” Logan nodded for Virgil to continue, “W-weak?” his voice cracked again, and Logan’s brow furrowed when Virgil looked away again.

 “You spoke to Doubt, didn’t you?” Logan asked, slowly moving Virgil’s hand to his hip.

 The anxious Side’s hold was awkward and hesitant, but as Logan slowly moved to cup his cheek, Virgil gripped a fistful of Logan’s shirt.

 A tiny whimper escaped Virgil, “It was too hard to explain to Thomas otherwise and-“

 “Shhh, it’s alright.” Logan soothed before Virgil spun out completely into his anxiety. Virgil was able to catch his breathing in time, “I’m not upset.” Virgil’s eyes flicked back up to Logan’s, sad and uncertain and scared, “I believe you.” He nodded slowly, and Virgil relaxed a little bit, “Did he try to make you doubt us again?”

 Virgil nodded, biting his lip, eyes averted once more, but Logan could feel by the tension in his shoulders and the saw in the way his brow furrowed that there was more. Maybe on any other day, Logan would have prompted Virgil to continue. But this was a fresh wound for Virgil. And it had been a hard day.

 Virgil no doubt already felt terribly exposed, raw and vulnerable himself. It was a miracle he’d managed to keep himself together at all.

 “I remembered…” he whispered, hand tightening around the fistful of Logan’s shirt, “When I became Anxiety…” Logan’s face fell a little at the memory, “And when I…ducked out…” Virgil’s voice strained, his free hand coming up to press the hem of his hoodie sleeve to his lips, “I just…I couldn’t…” a tear rolled free, turning sharply to Logan, “I don’t doubt you,” he whimpered, eyes wide and desperate and so, so scared, “I just…it wouldn’t stop after he left and it still hurts and-“

 Logan gently drew him a little closer, and when he met no resistance (other than Virgil’s breath catching and going silent), he pulled him close. The anxious Side was tense for a few moments as Logan’s hand slid from his cheek to his hair, head tucked under Logan’s chin, his other arm sliding around his shoulders.

 “It’s alright, Virgil.” He murmured softly, feeling Virgil’s shiver from the contact and rumble of Logan’s voice, “Doubt is a very strong influence,” Logan explained gently, lightly scratching Virgil’s scalp and feeling him finally start to relax against him, “Especially when Roman isn’t at his best.”

 Virgil whimpered, “It’s not his fault…”

 “I know.” Logan soothed, resting his cheek against the top of Virgil’s head, “Doubt gets to him too, even myself sometimes.”

 Virgil jerked, protective instincts kicking in, but Logan tightened his hold for a moment, just to keep him still. “Logan…you…he…when?”

 When it became clear that Logan wasn’t going to let go, Virgil sank against him again, “It’s not often, as I do not usually need to utilize my mirror to knot my tie-“ Virgil snickered softly, and Logan smiled. A tiny victory then, “-but when he appears in the reflection of my laptop, he is usually desperate.”

 Virgil nodded against him, keeping his sleeve tucked close to his mouth, arm pressed firmly against his chest, “Lo?”

 “Yes, Virgil?”

 The anxious Side drew in another shaky breath, “Is it my fault?” his voice strained as he spoke, and Logan frowned slightly, “I gave him the ability to move through reflections.” Virgil started shaking, though Logan wasn’t sure if that was tears he was holding back, or fear of Logan’s reaction, “I…wanted to be able to talk to him. Because you guys didn’t like me at the time. And now he’s…hurting everyone.”

 Logan pulled him a little closer, “Virgil, did you give him this ability to hurt us?”

 “No.” he whimpered.

 “Did you consider it a possibility?”

 Virgil shuddered, “I did but…I thought he’d do what I told him too.”

 Logan supressed a huff of amusement, “Were you blinded by emotions at the time?”

 Virgil was silent for a suspiciously long time, “A little.” His voice was small and guilty, “I was…lonely, Logan. So…so lonely. And a little bitter…” he shook as he drew in another breath, “I just…wanted someone to talk to.”

 “Hm, I’ve nearly formed my conclusion. One more question.” Virgil stiffened, “Is it in the past?”

 “What?” he squeaked.

 “Hm, I mean to say, do you still feel bitter and lonely?” he asked, tracing a constellation on Virgil’s shoulder with his finger as the anxious Side considered his answer.

 “No.” he sank against Logan a little more before stiffening again, “But that makes it worse because I didn’t consider what would happen if-“

 “At the time, Virgil, I’m sure you didn’t see any possibility of ‘if’.” Virgil whimpered, sinking back against Logan, “With the way we treated you, I am certain you knew there was no ‘if’. Am I correct?” Virgil only nodded against Logan, “And at the time, you wished for a companion. Someone to confide in, that you could trust.” Virgil’s shaking increased as he nodded again. Logan could feel him trying to hold back sobs, “But now things have changed, haven’t they?” Another small nod, his arm shifted, and Logan knew Virgil was gently biting on his finger, “And you didn’t give the gift with intentions to harm your new friends or, at the time, strangers.” Logan didn’t pose this one as a question. Virgil was shaking too much as it was, “So no, the blame does not fall on you.” Virgil rocked violently with a silent sob, “Doubt has twisted your gift for his own means. That puts the blame of his actions on his own shoulders.”

 Virgil’s jaw was tense, no doubt from relentlessly biting his finger, and when it finally relaxed, he spoke with a shaky, small voice, “I feel…vulnerable, Logan.” His voice cracked, “Small and weak and-“

 “Shh, sweet shadowling,” Logan murmured, guiding them both to the edge of the bed, “I’m here for whatever you need.”

 Their talk was far from done. Something new would come up, twisted and barbed and all too sharp. But Virgil knew he could speak his mind here, safe from emotional responses and judgemental slights.

 Virgil could offer his sharp, twisted, barbed thoughts, bleeding and vulnerable and scared, and Logan would offer something to grind down the points. Something to unravel the coils. And bandages for the wounds.

 Logan fought Virgil’s anxiety with logic, the way it should have been from the start. And when Virgil no longer had words to say, had emotions too strong and vivid to handle, Logan remained.

 With soft words that meant nothing but comfort, promises that he would go nowhere, sincere apologies if necessary. Here, with Logan in his room, Virgil’s walls came down and crashed around them like porcelain.

 Logan paused, the backs of his knees against the mattress, “Can you tell me what you need, Virge?”

 It sometimes took more coaxing than that. It sometimes took reassurance and pitiful puns to help Virgil relax enough to talk, but other times, he let his movements to do the talking.

 He pushed Logan to sit, straddling his thighs and throwing his arms around Logan’s neck, burying his face between his arm and Logan’s throat. His sobs were near silent, but Logan knew there was untold pain in them too.

 This was pain from being rejected so long. Pain and grief from losing his best friend. Fear from changing so suddenly. Emotions so strong and powerful, Virgil was helpless against them. Out at sea, with nothing more than memories to cling to, the sea lashed and pulled at him, crushing his memories with doubt and imagined slights.

 But Logan could be there, dock in the tempest, bright and steady and offering, if only Virgil would reach out to him.

 And to date, Virgil hadn’t declined.

 Logan wrapped his arms tightly around Virgil’s waist, rubbing a hand firmly up and down his back, feeling the bumps and ridges of his spine and ribs through the hoodie, “I’m here, sweetest, I’m here.” Logan whispered, rocking them slightly as Virgil sobbed silently, a practised art Virgil had no shortage of time to master, “I’m not going anywhere, I’m here.” Logan breathed deeply, drawing in Virgil’s peculiar scent of summer rain and old paper. “No matter how long or how often.” He started to rock them side-to-side, spreading his arms over Virgil’s back, “I’m here. As long as you need. And as long as you want.”

Chapter Text

Foiled

Roman

 

 Roman’s journey from sleep to consciousness was slow and disorienting. He knew he was in the commons. The leather couch beneath him was a significant improvement to his bed for the time being. But there were soft voices coming from the kitchen, and snoring nearby.

 He wasn’t alone?

 He managed to peel his eyes open slowly, eyes adjusting enough in the dim light to catch the first rays of pre-dawn sky between the blinds. The only light on now was in the kitchen, and Roman squinted as he tried to make out the two forms moving about the small space.

 Logan and Virgil. It wasn’t surprising that they were up this late. Roman felt a tiny smirk curl at the corner of his lips, the two night-owls really did need better sleep habits.

 But then…who was snoring?

 Only two options presented themselves to Roman then, only one of them seemed likely, and it was the only option that made his heart squirm and ache violently in his chest. Moving slowly, his body heavy and tired and sore, his eyes fell on Patton.

 He looked blissfully unaware of the turmoil roiling through Roman as he slept, wrapped up in the blanket he’d requested (that Virgil had retrieved) and-

 Were those bandages? Tiny little bandages plastered all over his face…and hands and was that a bruise around his throat?

 Oh no…

 Guilt tore at his shredded heart, and tears flooded his eyes as Roman but his lip to muffle his whimper. He’d hurt Patton. It was bad enough that he’d hurt Logan-

 A sniffle in the kitchen turned Roman’s attention toward the brightly lit part of the room. Virgil was rubbing at his nose with the sleeve of his hoodie, eyes squeezed closed and head bowed. Logan pressed his forehead to Virgil’s, whispering something to the anxious Side, and he nodded, scrubbing at his cheeks.

 Oh…Oh

 Not Virgil too.

 He couldn’t take it. Roman couldn’t take this. He’d done enough damage, hadn’t he? This was what he’d wanted to avoid! If he’d just stayed put in his room, if he’d just stayed in the Imaginat-

 The Imagination.

 Tears slipped from Roman’s eyes, but he slowly peeled himself from the couch and stood. His knees were wobbly, his feet aching and burning. They were no doubt swollen from spending all day in his boots, but he just had to get to his room.

 After that, it didn’t matter.

 “Roman?”

 Shit.

 His head spun, caught off-guard and breath catching in his chest. Logan and Virgil were watching him, concerned and fond and-

 Hurt.

 Roman knew he did a poor job hiding his whimper that time, hanging his head, but he wasn’t going to hurt them anymore. He wasn’t going to let his pride or his stupid heart hurt them anymore. He was supposed to protect them!

 He wanted to say goodbye. He desperately wanted to say something to them. To sum up his feelings and thoughts, but all of his eloquence had fled him. Not even a pretty metaphor came to mind.

 “I’m sorry.” Was all he could manage, barely a whisper, opening his eyes as he drew in a deep breath.

 This was for the best. This was what needed to be done. This would…help. He could help.

 So why did it hurt so much?

 “Roman,” Logan was much closer than before, rounding the couch toward the prince.

 “Wait, shit!” Roman heard Virgil’s cry as he sank out quickly, stumbling into his room. He was disoriented and dizzy, not ready for such travel yet.

 He fell to one knee, panting and shaking as he tried to catch his breath. All he had to do was get to the Imagination. Then everything would be fine. Then they would stop hurting. And he could do his job…

 As Roman struggled to his feet, his entire body protesting and heart screaming at him, the air in the room abruptly moved around him.

 Then there was a black and purple blur in front of him, slamming into his torso, tackling the prince to the floor as footsteps thundered up the stairs.

 Roman struggled, admittedly, not very well, considering his current condition. His bandaged hand burned as he tried to pry the weight off his chest, feet kicking as he tried to push himself out from beneath it.

 The figure turned out to be Virgil as he grabbed Roman’s wrists, pinning them to either side of Roman’s head. The prince went silent when he saw the intense, tear-filled glare Virgil was giving him.

 This…hurt so. Much. More.

 “Don’t you fucking dare try to leave.” Virgil tried to growl, but it cracked and thickened, “Not now. Please.

 “Virgil…” Roman whimpered.

 What was he doing? He couldn’t leave them. And even if he did, he’d spend the rest of his life hurting and regretting it and where would that leave Thomas? Unable to love or be loved? Afraid to open himself up to anyone?

 “I’m not letting you leave.” The door to Roman’s room heaved open, “I can’t lose you again.”

 The air in the room became strangely still then. Virgil’s eyes slowly widened as it dawned on him what he’d said. Roman stared, barely breathing, pinned beneath the thinner Side. Logan watched, uncertain and afraid, the pair.

 “You remember?” Roman whispered, tears shining in his eyes as Virgil’s own tears slipped free.

 “Of course, I do, moron.” Virgil attempted a laugh and smile but both came out weak, “You…I was…”

 Somehow and from somewhere, Roman found the strength to wrestle free of Virgil’s grip, wrapping his arms so tightly around Virgil he was almost afraid he was crushing him. He pulled Virgil down with him, “I’m so sorry.” The prince felt Virgil shivering in his arms as Logan tried to turn the lights on in Roman’s room. He frowned when nothing happened, “I was an idiot and a moron and all those horrible things. I wanted to say I was sorry but you were so angry and then I…I got angry too and-“

 Virgil, small and lithe as he was, managed to wriggle until Roman’s arms were tightly around his waist, on his elbows staring down at Roman. The prince’s voice stuttered to a stop, his words fading away at the intense, fond gaze Virgil was giving him.

 “Well, I can’t forgive you if you run away.”

 Roman sat up abruptly, and Virgil managed to shift in time to straddle Roman’s thighs. “God, Virgil, what did I ever do to deserve you?” he cried into the anxious Side’s shoulder, clinging to him like if he let go he’d fade away, “I love you so much it hurts.”

 Virgil smirked through his own tears at Logan, who approached slowly and knelt behind Roman. Virgil gently massaged the muscles on the back of Roman’s neck with one hand, the other tangling in his hair, “I don’t know. And I love you too.”

 Logan put his hands flat on Roman’s back, feeling him jerk and stiffen for a moment, “And I love you.” Logan whispered, working his fingers carefully into the tense muscles and felt Roman relax against him.

 “More than you know.” Virgil.

 “More than I’ve shown you.” Logan.

 “So please stay.”

 “Please.”

 Logan’s plea was filled with so much pain that Roman couldn’t even bring himself to think about leaving. He was afraid of Patton and his reaction. There was almost no denying that. But Virgil wasn’t going to let him leave.

 And Roman couldn’t bear to hurt him again.

 Logan desperately wanted to show Roman how much he cared, how much he did, truly, love him.

 And Roman couldn’t bear to deny him that.

 So, for the first time in nearly two weeks, he let their words sink in. He didn’t try to deny it or run away or hide from what had to be the truth.

 And for the first time in week, his bedroom lights flickered on.

Chapter Text

Temper’s Flaring

Logan

 

 Logan was a creature of habit. Most of the time. So, when eight a.m. rolled around and he still hadn’t showered, he started to feel…out of place. It was an easily rectified issue…

 If Roman would hurry up.

 He was miffed. Logan knew it showed too, his toes tapping impatiently in his socks and hugging his fresh clothes to his chest, but when the door opened he couldn’t stay that way.

 Roman’s glassy eyes fell on Logan’s, immediately brightening as Logan’s own irritated expression fell away. A genuine, truly joyful grin spread on his face, even as his wet hair fell haphazardly over his face. He swept it back quickly, blinking a few times down at Logan, “I’m sorry, did I take too long?”

 Logan gave him a fond smile, reaching out and putting his hand flat against Roman’s sternum. He’d opted for a fresh long-sleeved shirt, black again, but he looked more relaxed than before.

 Roman stiffened, his face falling at the initial contact to confusion and hurt. But after a second he drew a deep breath, eyelids fluttering closed and his face relaxed into a small smile.

 When they opened again, they shone with adoration Logan wasn’t sure he could ever understand. “You took longer than I expected, I won’t deny that.” Logan answered, smirking as one of Roman’s eyebrows rose, “But I am glad to see you are feeling better.”

 An awkward laugh escaped Roman, turning his face to look down the hall. Logan had never felt Roman laugh before and it was fascinating. The way his chest moved with the movement, the vibration under his hand…

 And the way his body reacted in kind.

 “I’m feeling somewhat better.” Roman admitted, running his fingers through his hair again, “Although-

 Logan snickered quietly, drawing the prince’s attention back to him. Roman looked startled, eyes quickly darting over Logan’s face, “Any progress is progress.” He smirked, watching as Roman relaxed again and his smile returned, “You should probably head downstairs before Virgil burns something.”

 Roman snickered, the pair sliding past each other. Logan drew his hand away, putting down his fresh clothes and finding himself immediately missing the contact he’d had with Roman.

 “Or worse.” Roman carefully teased, wiggling his eyebrows with a slightly strained smile.

 Logan involuntarily giggled, covering his mouth quickly in a weak attempt to hide the blush that quickly rose to his cheeks. Roman stared at him, eyes wide and eyebrows high as Logan cleared his throat, “Yes, or worse.”

 Roman’s grin returned, eyes sparkling as Logan waved Roman off, closed the door and sighed. It was strange how much closer Logan was looking at Roman and his reactions now.

 He’d never noticed the little dimples on his cheeks when he grinned, or the tiny ways his face reacted to his ever-fluctuating emotions. And now that he did…Logan’s reactions were so much stronger.

 They’d always been there to a degree. Logan knew that. Even though he wasn’t the personification of a feeling, he still experienced them. And it had always struck him as odd. Scary at first. Odd now.

 That had come with time, cataloguing and carefully analysing responses, physical and emotional until it came together into an identifiable pattern.

 He smirked as he pulled off his glasses and put them on the basin, peering up at the blanket covering the mirror.

 The first initial rush of endorphins when he finished a big project had nearly sent Logan bounding through the mindscape. Instead, he’d accidentally manifested himself physically. It was no surprise he’d gotten sick immediately after either.

 Logan couldn’t help the snort that escaped him as he remembered that particular event. He remembered the shocked looks from not just Thomas, but Joan and Talyn, followed by Logan’s own confused response.

 He could not imagine how out of place he must have looked then.

 The hot water was refreshing on his back, his tired muscles unwinding and easing as Logan allowed himself to finally take his time. Emotions were high. Tensions were high. And Logan had already nearly driven them to burn out.

 For the sake of their health, and his own, he had to slow down.

 Climbing out of the shower though, he wondered if maybe he should have hurried just a little bit more.

 By the time he got to the commons, there was a cacophony of noise. Roman was staring between Patton and Virgil who were…fighting?!

 Logan was stunned into silence as well. For as long as he could remember, Virgil and Patton had always gotten along. It did help that Virgil appeared to have traits of both the right and left parts of the brain, emotions and logic, but…this was odd.

 Roman looked over his shoulder to Logan, eyes desperate and pleading, “They’ve been like this since I got out down the stairs.” He murmured, taking a step back toward the stairs, “I don’t-

 “Don’t you go anywhere, mister!” Patton cried, pointing at Roman with a fierce glare.

 “Don’t talk to him like that, Patton!” Virgil shouted back, his shoulders rising and his lips pulling back to bare his teeth.

 It was far too heated between the two already and Logan wasn’t entirely sure what to do. Until he heard the tiny whimper from the prince on the step beneath him.

 That could wait a moment.

 Logan put both of his hands on Roman’s shoulders, gently massaging the muscles, “Shh,” he felt the prince slowly relaxing, forcing himself to take a deep breath, “Easy, Roman.”

 The shouting match continued, the pair starting to talk over each other as Logan guided Roman off the stairs and toward the couch furthest away from the arguing pair. The air was getting thicker, heavier with Patton’s emotions and Virgil’s panic response, but Logan needed to keep Roman calm.

 If Roman freaked out, who knew what would happen to Thomas.

 With Roman seated on the couch, eyes glassy but staying put, Logan turned and put his hands on his hips. Roman shrank behind Logan, “That is enough!

 Logan’s voice boomed through the room, silencing the two fighting Sides, and Roman whimpered again behind him. Patton and Virgil both turned to look at him, their eyes flashing with anger.

 “I do not have the slightest clue what you two are fighting about,” Logan adjusted his glasses as he gave each of them a stern glare, “But now is not the time.”

 “Now is not the-“ Patton threw his hands in the air in frustration, “When is it ever going to be the time?!”

 “How about you actually explain what you want, Patton?” Virgil growled, head tilting side-to-side as he spoke, mocking Patton.

 The fatherly trait spun to him, eyes flashing, “If you would just give me a minute-“

 “Oh dear.” Logan muttered, blinking at the pair as they returned to shouting over each other.

 He wasn’t actually entirely sure what to do in this situation. Frankly, it had never happened before. When Patton had gotten terse with Virgil in the past, he’d fled, shutting them out for days or weeks at a time. And Patton had always been able to calm Virgil down enough to explain what he wanted.

 The pair of them going at each other was…rather unsettling.

 Something warm brushed over Logan’s wrist and he jumped, looking down to see Roman staring at his hand as he hesitantly sought contact. Logan took a small step back as Roman tangled his fingers with Logan’s, glancing up and meeting Logan’s eyes for only a moment.

 But in that moment Logan saw all he needed.

 Roman was scared. He wanted to run again.

 Logan drew another deep breath, squeezed his fingers around Roman’s and turned his face back toward the fighting pair.

 Virgil and Patton had closed the distance, the pair almost touching, Virgil looming dangerously over Patton. Logan feared it would get physical. And he really didn’t want to have to deal with that outcome.

 “I said, enough!” Logan’s voice commanded silence, and this time when they went quiet, Virgil took several steps back and crossed his arms.

 It was clear to Logan now that he was shaking, chewing at the inside of his cheek as he glared resolutely out to the kitchen and hunched his shoulders up. Patton was tense, hands curled at his sides, glaring back at Logan.

 “This is not going to resolve the issue.” Logan spoke with more authority this time, “Virgil, can you please go and get some water. Patton, sit.”

 There was a moment of tense silence as neither Side moved, then Virgil spun on his heel and stormed into the kitchen while Patton flopped into the couch and glared at the coffee table.

 Logan sighed a breath of relief, squeezing Roman’s fingers again, “Right, it’s time we all talked this out.”

 “Talk?” Patton almost shot back up to his feet again, but Logan’s hard glare kept him on the couch, “It’s beyond the point of talking, Logan.”

 Virgil growled from the kitchen, opening his mouth to bark back but Logan’s glare to him silenced him as well.

 “You don’t want this resolved, Patton?” he asked calmly, “You would rather remain living in this tense atmosphere?”

 Patton narrowed his eyes at Logan, “No.” he grit out.

 “Then you think we should have physical bouts?”

 “No.”

 “Verbal arguments?”

 “No.”

 “Then, Patton, please explain to me how you would like this resolved.” Logan felt Roman squeezing at his fingers, but Logan kept his eyes on Patton’s.

 “I…Can I talk…for a minute?”  Roman asked softly, surprising Logan into tearing his eyes away from Patton. Roman had his head bowed, looking to his socked feet as he curled and flexed his toes.

 “Oh, so now you want to talk?” Patton shot to his feet, eyes venomous as they glared down at Roman. The prince shrank back, squeezing Logan’s fingers uncomfortably tight, “Now I’m good enough to talk to?!”

 “Patton?!” Logan turned to the father figure, eyes wide in shock.

 “Come on, Logan.” Patton waved his hand, “He’s talked to everyone but me about fucking feelings!” Patton’s eyes were bright, poorly masking the pain he was hiding behind anger, “That’s fine! Whatever!”

 “Patton…” Roman tried to interject, but Patton wasn’t done yet.

 And he’d returned Patton’s ire on himself, “I begged you to talk to me!” Patton threw his arms wide, “And you ran.” He growled, “Do you know how much that hurt?!”

 “Patton.” Logan’s tone was a warning, but Patton was either too angry to notice, or care.

 “No, it hurt, Logan. And now he’s talking to everyone else?!” Patton’s eyes suddenly filled with tears, “Is it me?! Am I the problem?!” Roman’s head snapped up, tears already streaking down his cheeks.

 “Patton, we practically had to force him to talk to us.” Logan frowned as Patton narrowed his eyes at him, “Well, Virgil, anyway.”

 Patton spun around to the kitchen, obviously ready to try and pick his battle with the anxious Side again, “Speaking of which, why didn’t you tell me this happens?!” he shouted across the room, and Virgil glared back at Patton, “I could have helped!”

 “Stop it!” Roman shouted, his commanding voice broken by tears as he got to his feet. Towering over the other two, he was tense and shaking, “Just stop it, Patton!”

 Patton spun back around to Roman. Logan saw Virgil’s face crumple as soon as Patton’s back was turned, pulling his hoodie over his head to hide his face.

 Ah, crap.

 “Do you realise how much you’ve hurt everybody?!” Roman flinched, “Do you realise all the damage you’ve done?!”

 “Patton!” Logan shouted, but Patton was on a roll now.

 “Why didn’t you just say something?!” Patton’s eyes were filled with frustrated tears as Roman hung his head, shoulders shaking, “Why didn’t you trust-“

 “Because I was afraid of this, Patton!” Roman finally snapped, “I was afraid of this conversation! I was afraid of being screamed at! I was afraid of hurting any of you!” Patton was stunned silent, “I was scared and angry and hurt and I wasn’t going to put any of the blame on any of you!” Logan reached out, but Roman snatched his arm away with a strangled cry, “You want to know what I was hiding?! You really want to fucking know?!”

 Virgil whimpered, “Don’t…” Roman glanced up at him, “Not like this.”

 Roman’s face twisted, taking in the tears of pain on Virgil’s hooded face, “I just…” he looked around the room, his shoulders sagging further and further.

 Logan stepped back in, “Roman,” the prince looked straight to his feet, “Take a deep breath for me,” Patton glared at Logan as Roman whimpered and complied, “Sit down.” Logan met Patton’s eyes, doing his best to refrain from glaring back, “Both of you.”

 Roman slowly sat down, elbows on his thighs as he hid his face in his hands. Patton flopped onto the couch, leaning back with his arms crossed. He was almost pouting.

 Logan had to take a breath of his own to calm down, “Right. Now, we have two options here. Calm down and try again. Or, we risk hurt feelings and keep fighting.” Patton scowled at his knees.

 There was a loud crash in Patton’s room, which nearly had the fatherly Side getting to his feet. Virgil was at the stairs before he’d managed to get up, and the anxious Side threw Patton a glare, “No. Sit.”

 Virgil disappeared up the stairs as Patton frowned after him, looking between Logan and Roman. “Just…give me a minute.”

Chapter Text

The Talk

Thomas

 

 Thomas was grateful he’d chosen to take the day off. After hearing that argument, there was no way he would have been able to handle a day of work.

 And it sounded like he was going to need to play mediator.

 After being sure to eat something, drink some water and change into comfortable clothes, he sank onto the couch and took a deep breath as he closed his eyes.

 Within moments, he found himself in the mindscape, looking around at the scene before him. Roman and Patton were sitting on opposite ends of the couch, Roman hiding his face in his hands, while Patton was counting his breathing. Logan was standing protectively in front of Roman, as though he’d have to shield him.

 Virgil was nowhere to be seen.

 “Thomas.” Logan sounded surprised to see him, eyes widening slightly, “Why-“

 “That was a pretty intense fight, guys.” Thomas crossed his arms as Patton cracked an eye open and glared at him. It was not something Thomas was used to, but not something he could shrink from. Patton was the core of his feelings and even though they didn’t share their feelings all the time, Patton could sense that Thomas was losing his patience.

 Roman cracked some his fingers open on his bandaged hand, eyes filled with tears and guilt, before he closed them again. Thomas’ heart twisted for the prince, but he took a deep breath and moved to sit on the couch between them.

 Time to play moderator again. Thomas was just certain this was going to be far more heated than a debate between Logan and Virg-

 Actually, this might be tame in comparison.

 “Patton, are you calm enough to talk now?” Thomas asked, leaning forward on his thighs and clasping his hands together. Logan tilted his head inquisitively, but Thomas waved for him to get some water.

 The logical Side gratefully complied.

 “I guess.” He pouted, glaring out to the stairs.

 “Roman?”

 The prince dropped his hands, clapping as he tried to force a smile that wobbled and stared at the floor before him, “Of course.” His voice cracked.

 Patton glanced at the prince sideways, sweeping his eyes up and down before going back to glaring at the stairs.

 “Right, let’s start with why you’re upset, Patton.”

 The father figure growled in his throat, “It’s stupi-“

 “We already established that.” Roman murmured, head still low, “I chose not to speak with Patton despite him offering. And now that I’ve spoken with Virgil and Logan, he feels…like it’s his fault.” The prince huffed, “Somehow.”

 Patton shifted uncomfortably against the couch as Thomas turned back to him, “Is that right?”

 Thomas felt like the calmest presence in the room, which he found very unsettling.

 “Yeah.” Patton grumbled.

 “So, Roman. Why didn’t you speak to Patton?”

 Roman sighed, running his fingers through his hair, “It’s…” he huffed, “I had a realisation. A week ago. And it scared me. I was already feeling…less than glittery…so I thought if I kept it to myself, I wouldn’t hurt anyone.”

 Patton’s face relaxed slightly, studying Roman as the prince slumped forward. “What was the realisation, Roman?”

 Tears fell from Roman’s eyes, “I’ve fallen for them, Thomas. All of them. Romantically.”

 Okay, that was not what Thomas had been expecting at all. Nor was it something he’d really needed to hear. In fact, he wasn’t sure how the logistics of that would work, with them being-

 You know what, that was just going to hurt his brain. He’d seen enough weird shit in the last two days.

 “Okay.” He answered slowly, “And that scared you?”

 Roman huffed, “I wasn’t feeling…a hundred percent. To be fair, looking at my own reflection was scary.” Patton’s face softened further, “And I was hiding in the Imagination. Because it…hurt to look at them all. Because I-“ He sighed, “I love them so much.”

 There was a moment of stunned silence as Thomas and Patton tried to absorb what had been said.

 “The fall…I guess was part of it all. I was starting to doubt if any of you even cared…I’d always done things to help out and you never seemed to notice.” Logan sat himself on the floor on the opposite end of the coffee table, “I guess the Logan-thing was just the last straw.”

 Logan gave him an apologetic but warm smile, “I will ensure it never happens again.”

 Roman gave him a warm, understanding smile, strained by the conversation he was having. Thomas took a deep breath, “Patton, anything you’d like to say?”

 “Kiddo,” the term of endearment immediately relaxed Roman’s shoulders, “How many of these…’breakdowns’ have you had before?”

 Roman laughed weakly, “I lost count a long time ago, Padre.”

 “Well…in comparison…how bad is this one?”

 Roman’s frown deepened as he clasped his hands together and stared at them, “It’s, uh, definitely one of the worse ones.”

 Patton’s face fell completely, “I’m…I’m so sorry.”

 Roman glanced at him sideways for a mere moment, “No, don’t be. You couldn’t have known-“

 “Roman. Shut up for just a minute. Okay?” Patton’s tone was firm, but not without it’s usual playfulness. Roman nodded with a tiny smirk of his own, “I’m sorry that I jumped to a conclusion,” Logan smirked, “And that I got…jealous…that you spoke to Logan and Virgil first. I didn’t realise they’d both kind of jumped you.”

 Roman snickered, “Virgil jumped me. Logan was at least polite.”

 Logan snickered as Patton giggled.

 “To be completely honest with you, Pat, I was…afraid of your reaction the most.” Roman sat back a little knowing Patton was watching him closely, “I wasn’t sure how I was going to explain…or if you would understand what I meant. And I’m, uh…” he cleared his throat, “Well, since I’ve already spoken to Virgil and Logan…”

 “Oh.” Patton’s eyes widened, “Oh, uh…”

 “Don’t feel forced, Padre.” Roman offered, “If you need time to think it through, I understand.” He rubbed the back of his neck, “I’m still…coming out of the ‘dip’ as Virgil puts it. So, I’m not going to be myself for a while yet.”

 Patton looked from Roman to Thomas and Logan, his eyes shining with confusion, “Kiddo-“

 Roman reached for the glass of water, “It’s fine, Pat. Please-“

 “Roman Sanders. Let me finish.” The prince choked on his water at the sudden Dad Voice, “It seems I haven’t been clear enough with any of you.”

 Roman and Logan both turned to Patton, eyes wide, “What?”

 Patton shrugged sheepishly with a coy grin, “I’ve kind of felt that way for a while?”

 Logan blinked, “How long is a while?”

 Patton was blushing, “Um…a few months?”

 Thomas was…completely floored. And also unsurprised that no one had picked up on it.

 “But…how-?” Roman stumbled over his question and Patton shifted uncomfortably.

 “I, uh, guess ‘I love you’, wasn’t quite enough, huh?” Patton giggled awkwardly and Roman stared at him.

 “Patton, you say that to everyone.” Thomas reminded him, raising an eyebrow when Patton gave him another sheepish grin. He sighed, shaking his head, “This is probably the part of the conversation I should duck out of.” Thomas got to his feet, “Uh, where’s Virgil?”

 Logan got to his feet as Patton rushed up the stairs, “Thank you, Thomas.” Logan’s eyes shone as he pulled the surprised host into a hug, “This could have gone a lot worse.”

 Thomas chuckled as he hugged Logan back, “Any time, Logan.” He squeezed, “Besides, this is far tamer than some of your ‘debates’ with Virgil.”

 Logan snickered, “Despite being an odd debate partner, I enjoy his company immensely.”

 Thomas pulled away, eyes shining, “Oh, I bet you do.” He wiggled his eyebrows, letting go as Logan blushed furiously.

 Before Thomas could go anywhere, Roman had swept him into a hug that lifted him from his feet and nearly crushed his ribs, “Ah, geez, Princey.” Roman laughed, putting him back down again, “Ow.

 “Sorry.” He sheepishly grinned and rubbed the back of his head, “I just, um…I’m…yeah.”

 Thomas raised an eyebrow at Roman, “You’re…?”

 Roman cleared his throat, “Happy.” He nodded, “And thank you.”

 “You are welcome.”

 Roman grinned, glancing over Thomas to the two Side’s coming down the stairs. Patton threw himself at Thomas, arms around his neck as he giggled and thanked him.

 Virgil hung back a bit, wiping blood from the corner of his mouth, before giving Thomas a swift and awkward hug. With everyone farewelled, Thomas sank back out.

 But it was when he woke up that he realized Virgil had been bleeding.

Chapter Text

First Steps

Logan

 

 Roman flopped onto the couch, lying on his back with one arm draped over his eyes. His soft red flannel pants gathered up around one of his ankles as the prince draped his other arm over his chest, breathing a sigh of relief.

 Carefully, Logan sat near his head, “How are you feeling?” he asked quietly, glancing to the other end of the room where Patton and Virgil were talking quietly.

 The laugh that came from Roman was difficult to decipher, “I’m not sure.” He admitted, sounding nearly breathless, “A little elated. A little scared.” He lifted the hand over his face. His hand trembled violently as the pair watched and Roman met Logan’s eyes, “What about you?” he lowered his arm to his chest, absently stroking the bandages.

 Logan smirked, “Confused.” He admitted bluntly, sparking another breathy laugh from Roman, “It took us this long to come out and say it, but where do we go from here?”

 Roman sighed, “That’s what I’m afraid of.” He whispered, letting his eyes drift closed.

 The two remained silent for a while, lost in their own thoughts for a time, the only other sound being the murmurs between Virgil and Patton. Which were, honestly, far more agitated than usual.

 Logan assumed that Roman had drifted off back to sleep, wondering idly if he should get some rest himself, when the prince suddenly sat up. Logan yelped, jumping a little ways across the couch, hands protectively raised to his chest.

 He watched, eyes wide, as Roman spun around to him. The prince looked strangely excited, grinning, “How long?” he asked, and Logan blinked up at him in surprise.

 “I’m sorry, what?” he pushed his glasses up his nose as the prince grabbed him gently by the shoulders.

 “How long have you and Nightmare been a thing?” Roman whispered this time, eyes sparkling.

 Logan felt his face going red, burning under Roman’s scrutiny, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” His voice wobbled dangerously. His heart was beating so fast, Logan wasn’t sure if he was dying or not.

 He pressed a hand to his chest as Roman’s grin turned into a coy smirk, “Oh?” he leant forward and pressed their foreheads together, “So, you don’t mind people being this close?” he whispered.

 The logical Side felt light headed suddenly. There was a flowery scent between them, he was so close, and Roman was so much taller and broader than him that Logan couldn’t look anywhere else.

 “I, uh,” Logan breathed, heart racing, hands limp in his lap. He tried to clear his throat, “I crawled into your lap yesterday. Your observations-“

 “You also confessed in my lap.” Roman wiggled his eyebrows, giving Logan that mischievous grin that melted him inside. Had Roman always had such sharp incisors?

 “That isn’t…I don’t…”

 “Hey, lovebirds!” Virgil’s call was a dock in Logan’s own storm of emotions, and Roman (thankfully) pulled away to look up at him, “I’m starved.”

 “Virgil, I do not-“

 “He’s asking if your hungry, Specs.” Roman looked down at him with a smirk, and Logan cleared his throat.

 “I suppose I am.”

 Patton bounded off happily to the kitchen, leaving Virgil to approach the pair on the couch. Logan almost thanked the stars that Roman kept his hands to himself, until Roman snatched Virgil into his lap.

 The darker trait yelped in protest, wriggling helplessly for a few moments, “Lo.” He whined, trying to pry Roman’s hands from around his waist. Virgil’s eyes begged Logan to help, but Logan couldn’t help the traitorous smirk that pulled across his face.

 “I’m sure Roman would love some time to ‘bond’.” He made air quotation marks with his fingers as he got to his feet. Virgil went still, eyes wide and mouth agape as he stared at Logan. Roman made a small noise of excitement, grinning as he hooked his chin over Virgil’s shoulder. “I will assist Patton in the kitchen.”

 “You traitor!” Virgil called after him, but Logan strode purposefully into the kitchen, sighing in relief when he found Patton humming to himself.

 “Your mood appears to have improved dramatically.” Logan commented as he moved toward the emotional Side, tilting his head slightly as Patton turned to him.

 “Uh, there’s still a lot to process.” Patton admitted with a smaller smile, “But, um, I guess I am feeling better.”

 Logan approached, “Is there anything I can do that would help?”

 Patton bit his lip, moving toward the bench and putting down the ingredients in his hands, “Um…a hug? If that’s not too much to ask?”

 Logan rolled his eyes, stepped toward the shorter Side and wrapping his arms around his neck. Patton’s arms found his waist, “Hm.”

 “What?” Patton looked up at him, hair a little mussed from the eventful morning.

 “I had not previously noticed how short you are.” Logan commented. Patton’s face started turning red. Logan’s eyes caught on the freckles dotted over Patton’s cheekbones and nose, following them as they spread out over his forehead, and then down his jaw.

 “I know that I like…well, everyone.” Patton was breathing heavily against Logan, something that pulled the logical Side from his study of Patton’s freckles, “And Roman does too…”

 “Patton?”

 “I guess…well, you and Virgil haven’t…”

 Logan leaned down, pressing a soft kiss to the end of Patton’s nose. The moral Side squeaked, eyes wide and shining as Logan pulled away, “I will admit that the physical aspect may take some time for me to become accustomed to.” He smiled down at Patton, “But I do also feel very deeply for you.”

 A bright grin spread over Patton’s face, “Oh thank goodness.” He breathed, letting his forehead rest on Logan’s chest. Logan chuckled softly, Patton’s hair tickling his nose and lips, “I knew you were with Virgil.” He whispered into Logan’s shirt.

 Logan stiffened, already trying to process how the other two had figured it out.

 “I knew before Roman, though.” Patton giggled, and Logan thought he could feel Patton grinning into his chest, “You two were not subtle.”

 Logan sighed, “Well, there’s no need now, is there?”

 “Hmm. I suppose not.”

 Logan suddenly chuckled, lowering his face to Patton’s ear, “Roman only just figured it out.”

 Patton looked up at Logan, eyes wide with surprise before a wide grin spread over his face, “But…Lo, months.”

 “Shh.” Logan glanced sideways out the kitchen to the pair in the commons, “Would you like some help with breakfast?”

 Normally, the fatherly Side refused any and all help, unless Roman forced his way into the kitchen. But this was not a morning like other mornings. He sighed, “I’d love some.”

 

*

Virgil

 

 As Logan grinned on his way to the kitchen, Virgil crossed his arms and slumped against Roman’s chest, pouting at the stairs. He was sore. And tired. And he just-

 “Breathing, Virgil. That’s important, you know.”

 Virgil huffed at him, “Shut up.”

 Roman sank back into the couch cushions, dragging Virgil back with him and depriving Virgil’s feet of the carpet as his thighs spread a little around Roman’s.

 “What’s up, Tall, Dark and Handsome?” his grip on Virgil’s waist relaxed a little, one hand coming up to run through Virgil’s hair.

 He wasn’t going to fall for that. Nope. He was mad. Really mad. It didn’t matter who played with his hair. No matter how good it felt-

 Oh, oh there.

 Roman smirked as he found a spot Virgil liked, gently scratching the scalp as Virgil’s eyelids fluttered. The rest of his hair fell over his eyes, fluttering a little with each of Virgil’s deepening breaths.

 Slowly, Virgil relaxed into his hold, head tilting back onto Roman’s shoulder, “Better?” Roman asked quietly.

 “Mmm.” Virgil hummed, swallowing when Roman ran his fingers through his hair again.

 “What happened upstairs?” Roman asked gently, feeling Virgil sigh.

 “Temper…or Anger, as Patton calls him.” He frowned, “That’s why Patton’s all…” he waved his hand, “…bandaged.”

 “Oh…” Roman breathed a sigh of relief, “He…what? Fights him or something?”

 Virgil snorted, still completely relaxed as Roman ran his fingers through his hair. It was a new experience to feel this relaxed. Especially with Roman. But…oh man, it felt good.

 “You’ve seen how his room gets, it mirrors him?” Roman nodded, “Well, when Patton loses his temper,” Virgil sighed as Roman found another spot, “It shows up as the subject of his anger and tries to-“ he squirmed and made a small sound in his throat, “-take control…”

 Roman smirked, “And you fought it?”

 “That’s not easy, man.” Virgil admitted, frowning slightly when he remembered the fight. It had been harder than usual because Temper kept changing form. One moment he was Logan, and that had hurt because Virgil…didn’t want to fight Logan.

 Then it was Patton, and that hurt because Patton was so small it had been fairly easy. The very idea terrified Virgil.

 And when it wasn’t them? It was Roman. Huge, broad, towering Roman. Strong, trained, capable Roman. He shivered.

 But Temper was cold. Roman was warm. So…so warm.

 “You alright, Virge?” Roman’s voice interrupted Virgil’s thoughts, “You spaced out on me for a bit there.”

 Virgil snorted, “Yeah.” He sighed, “Sore, but…alright.”

 “Is this too much?”

 “I’m fine, Ro. What about you?” Virgil let his arms drop to the one Roman had around his waist, “A lot has happened for you in the past couple of days.”

 “Uh,” Roman sighed deeply and Virgil felt something shift inside him. Something loving and fiercely protective, “I’m not sure. I’m happy now. But who knows how long that’ll last?”

 Ah.

 Virgil couldn’t say he was surprised to hear that. Roman had fallen quite a way down this time. He’d nearly completely spiralled, and the very thought of that terrified him. They’d nearly lost him.

 Gently, Virgil turned his head and nuzzled Roman’s neck, “You’ll be back to your usual self in no time.” He reassured him, reaching up with his other hand to stroke Roman’s cheek, “There’s no rush though, okay?” He felt Roman shiver as Virgil’s breath brushed his neck, “And if you need anything, you know you can come to us?”

 “Hey,” Roman’s voice cracked, “That’s my line.”

 Virgil snorted, opening his eyes and lifting his head from Roman’s shoulder. The prince’s eyes were unfocussed, and Virgil used the hand on Roman’s cheek to turn the prince’s head toward him, “Seriously, you know that, right?” he whispered.

 Roman gave him a watery smile and nodded, “Of course.”

 Virgil rolled his eyes with a huff, leaning up a little and pressing their lips together. Roman stiffened, arm around his waist tightening slightly, before Virgil pulled back a little, “Don’t ‘of course’ me.” He whispered.

 With a defeated sigh, Roman shrugged, “I guess.”

 Virgil rolled his eyes again with a playful smirk, “This will all take time to sink in, Princey.” He felt Roman’s breath hitch but a small smile pulled onto his face at the nickname, “We’ll figure it out. Together.”

 Roman nodded, burying his face in Virgil’s neck. The anxious trait was fairly certain he was never going to get used to this. But as Virgil glanced toward the kitchen, he smirked as Logan threw him a sideways glance.

 Maybe they didn’t have to.

Chapter Text

Midnight Dances

Virgil

 

 As it did most nights, sleep kicked him out and consciousness yanked him back into reality, though this time Virgil wasn’t sure if it was because he’d had a nightmare or an unwelcome sense of dread.

 He couldn’t recall having a nightmare. No disturbing imagery or voice remained to haunt him. And…well, actually he felt pretty calm.

 So why was he awake?

 Virgil carefully peeled his blankets from his legs, twisting to put his feet on the hardwood floor. He yawned, jaw cracking as he pushed himself to his feet and stretched. How many hours of sleep had he even managed to get? It didn’t feel like his usual three or four.

 Well, he’d had a pretty brutal fight a few days ago, Virgil shouldn’t be entirely surprised.

 Shuffling toward his bathroom and flicking the light on, he smirked at his own reflection. Doubt had retreated for the time being, but most of the mirrors in the mindscape were being covered. For Roman’s sake.

 Virgil’s eyeshadow was smeared and pale under his eyes, and the anxious Side truly didn’t feel like fixing it. And even though he usually applied concealer and foundation out of habit, he didn’t really need it anymore. Did he look…healthier? How long had that been going on for?

 His hair was a mess, and Virgil looked down at the hairbrush on the basin. He could brush his hair. Or he could not.

 Not. Felt pretty good.

 He carefully took a hold of the bottom of his shirt, steeling himself for what he was going to see when he pulled up the fabric. He expected ribs and hip bones sticking out like a skeleton’s. He didn’t expect to the see a fairly healthy amount of fat and muscle under his skin, since his bones weren’t nearly as visible.

 The bruises he did expect.

 He had fought a figment of Roman, and the guy could throw his weight around. Virgil swallowed painfully at the memory, grateful that he was designed to move faster than Roman was. And that Thomas had gotten Patton to calm down.

 Virgil let his shirt fall, stepping back out of the bathroom and slid his hoodie over his shoulders. He wasn’t tired, which felt strange, but something was drawing him downstairs. And even though he didn’t mind going down looking like an utter disaster, there was one thing that would never change.

 He never went to the commons without his hoodie.

 From his bedroom door he could see the glow of the television, and Virgil frowned as he imagined exactly who would be down there this time of night. Roman seemed the most likely candidate, but there was the possibility that Patton was there too. Or instead.

 Virgil tucked his hands into the pockets of his hoodie, carefully shuffling down the dark hall and stairs, hearing a sharp inhale as he slowly descended. Roman was staring up at him, his face pale and eyes wide, fidgeting with a pillow in his lap, “Hey you.” Virgil murmured quietly, glancing at the television.

 It was some movie that Roman wasn’t really paying attention to.

 Virgil approached Roman slowly, “What are you doing up?”

 Roman shrugged, “Couldn’t sleep.” He looked back at the television, eyes still too wide, not really focused on what was happening on the screen in front of him.

 It felt strange to be the one approaching Roman in the commons in the middle of the night. But the prince needed him. His idiot needed him.

 “Hey.” Virgil gently took Roman’s chin in his hand and turned him until he was looking up at Virgil, “Let’s talk about it, huh?” Roman blinked up at him, still fidgeting with the pillow, but he wasn’t focussed on Virgil in the slightest. The prince was stuck in his head again.

 So, Virgil did the one thing he knew would work.

 He leant down, hands spreading to cup Roman’s cheeks as he brushed Roman’s lips with his. The prince stiffened as Virgil brushed again, feeling the royal’s jaw relaxing under his fingers, and then Roman making a small sound of surprise.

 After the third pass, he felt Roman smile fondly, “Are you just going to tease me, or kiss me properly?” his voice rumbled between them, and Virgil couldn’t help but smile back.

 “Hmm…will you tell me why you’re still up?” Virgil asked, their lips almost touching, so close they could feel their breaths mingling.

 “After?” Roman whispered.

 Virgil didn’t bother answering him that time. Roman made a small noise as their lips met, soft and searching, gentle and reassuring, the prince’s hands moving to Virgil’s hips and pulling him closer.

 The royal guided Virgil onto his lap, the anxious Side deepening the kiss as his hand travelled and stroked his face and neck, tangling in his hair. The reassuring kiss become hungry, almost desperate, both of them looking for something in the other. Roman’s hold was tight, Virgil nearly clinging to the royal.

 Roman was the one to break the kiss, though he remained close enough to feel his breath on Virgil’s face, “You still want me to tell you?” he whispered, and Virgil heard the unspoken half of the sentence, ‘Because at this rate we’ll be going to bed anyway.

 “Um, yes?” Virgil whispered back, breathless as Roman’s hands spread and travelled over Virgil’s back over the hoodie, “We can’t simply fuck whenever you can’t sleep.”

 Roman pouted, but thankfully didn’t say anything ludicrous. He sighed, “My bed is a traitor.” He whispered, “It gets…uncomfortable…to sleep on.”

 “Hmm.” Virgil met Roman’s eyes, so close in the dim light that they sparkled and Roman’s breath was stolen, “Sounds like we’ll have to go to my room.”

 “But…the influence…” Roman whispered, eyes searching as Virgil took a quick detour from Roman’s mouth to pepper kisses along the royal’s jaw.

 “Excellent point.” Virgil felt Roman’s back arch slightly as he pressed a kiss to his pulse, “Why does your bed get uncomfortable?” he asked, leaning back to meet Roman’s eyes.

 The royal was giving him a look that was half-pleading, half-nervous. He clearly didn’t want to answer that question. Virgil knew that he was wearing the same shirt he’d changed into days ago, and the only reason the wounds on his hand weren’t infected was because Logan was in charge of them.

 The prince wasn’t looking after himself. At all.

 Roman huffed finally, leaning back and taking Virgil with him, “I guess…it get’s more uncomfortable…the more insecure I feel?” Roman pouted, “I’m not sure exactly what it is. And I get nightmares.”

 Virgil looked deeply into Roman’s eyes, feeling the royal’s face twist with discomfort. He’d never liked it when Virgil searched him, when he tried to pull him apart and figure him out.

 “Virgil…” he whined, hands drifting down to rest on Virgil’s thighs, “Stop looking at me like that.”

 He wasn’t going to find anything this way, “Sorry,” Virgil sighed, “What’s the most common thought you have when you go to bed?”

 Roman sank into the couch cushions, “Hmm…depends on what set off the…dip…in the first place, I suppose.” He shrugged.

 “Okay, what about this time?” Virgil moved his hands from Roman’s neck and started tracing idle patterns over Roman’s chest as he leant back a little.

 Roman huffed, “That you didn’t care or…or I wouldn’t…be enough for any of you.”

 “Be enough?” Virgil repeated, feeling the strange bumps and ridges through Roman’s long-sleeved shirt.

 Roman closed his eyes, head tipping back, “That…ya know…I couldn’t love you the way you needed or wanted.” He pulled his head back up, meeting Virgil’s eyes again.

 His vulnerable expression was so much worse under the soft glow of the television, his eyes wide and shining as he looked up at Virgil, “Roman, are you afraid of losing us?” he asked gently, “Or of us rejecting you?”

 His cheek twitched at the first question, but the second one had the prince violently flinching, “Rejection.”

 Virgil suddenly had an idea, “Hey, come with me.”

 “Where…? We can’t go to either of our rooms.” Virgil was holding his hand and tugging, giving Roman no choice but to get to his feet.

 “You remember the morning of Logan’s Big Fuck Up?” Roman’s eye twitched but he smirked with a nod, “Remember how I came down for breakfast?”

 “Uh, yeah. Is this like…was that important?” Roman asked, confused, as Virgil flicked the television onto a Spotify account and searched a playlist.

 Soft classical music began to play in the room and Virgil waved his hand to light some of the candles in the room. With the dim light returned, Roman frowned at Virgil, “I’ll be honest, I watched you dance that morning.” Roman stiffened, eyes widening, “You were…really good.”

 Roman’s shoulders dropped, eyes still wide but his expression changed. The prince had clearly expected something a little mocking. “What?” he squeaked.

 “You dance really well.” Virgil repeated, already putting Roman’s hands into position, “Well, you looked so happy doing it.”

 “You want to dance with me?” Roman asked, completely incredulous.

 “If you swear to me on your life, that you never tell the others.” Virgil answered, crushing Roman’s hand in warning.

 “Ah! Okay!” he laughed as Virgil relaxed his grip, “Geez, Virge, I promise.”

 Roman’s steps started slow and hesitant, stiff and awkward as he kept his eyes on his feet and practically crept around the room. But Virgil was too busy watching Roman.

 Watching him stop second-guessing his steps, watching the light return to his eyes, watching the way his shoulders dropped and his neck lengthened.

 Virgil was too busy watching Roman smile fondly down at him to worry about his own steps.

 “Virgil.” The anxious Side blinked as he was snapped from his thoughts, “You…realise you aren’t wearing any make up and your hair is a mess.”

 Virgil rolled his eyes, “Duh. Of course, I know.”

 Roman stopped the dance, surprising Virgil by cupping his face in his hands. The sudden rush of warmth had Virgil blinking wordlessly up at Roman. Was this why Roman and Logan went still when he did this?

 “Roman?” Virgil whispered, eye dancing over Roman’s face.

 “Good. Because you still look beautiful.”

 They both felt Virgil’s face start to burn, but before Virgil could say anything, Roman was crushing their lips together. There was no desperation or searching this time as Virgil slowly melted against him. There was gratitude and passion, and a love so deep Virgil was certain he would drown.

Chapter Text

Even Rome Fell

Roman

 

 It had been a few days since the Big Talk, and there were times where the prince felt like he was flying, drifting on Cloud Nine.

 And then he would come crashing down again.

 Today seemed to be one of those days, and he woke up bleary on the couch again, the television playing…something quietly. The grey, pre-dawn light filtered through the blinds as Roman’s eye’s stung and burned, the prince rubbing them tiredly with a yawn huge enough to snap his jaw.

 He felt heavy. His joints rusted together, his muscles screaming like a door that needed oil, his mind slow like an old computer.

 In the back of his mind, he knew a shower would help at least get the grime off his skin. Maybe clear his mind and ease his aching muscles.

 But as he lifted his eyes to the stairs, he realised he couldn’t do it.

 They seemed so far away. The very thought of getting up made him feel even more tired than he already was.

 What kind of prince was he? He couldn’t look after himself, let alone anyone else. No ideas had come to him in a week. He hadn’t even been to the Imagination, a place he usually ran away to when he was like this. He was a failure. A useless, miserable, pathetic failu-

 “Roman?”

 Logan’s cool, calm voice distracted Roman from his thoughts, eyes snapping to Logan’s concerned face, “What are you doing up?” Roman asked, voice cracking and tongue sticking to the sides of his mouth.

 Logan’s frown deepened, “I could ask you the same thing.” He answered calmly, running his fingers through his hair. The slightly shorter Side was slowly drinking in Roman’s appearance, eyes flashing and alert as Roman…

 Kind of spaced out.

 “Are struggling with sleep?” Logan asked gently, lowering himself into a crouch as Roman dropped his eyes to his knees and nodded.

 What was he supposed to say? Virgil had managed to raise his spirits a few days ago, but…but it never seemed to last. When was he going to be himself again? How long would he have to be like this? He just wanted to go back to before, when he had energy and life and-

 Logan’s warm hand folded over Roman’s and he realised he’d balled it into a fist, “When was the last time you ate?”

 Roman blinked a few times, “I don’t recall.” He answered, cursing his tired, broken voice. He wanted so badly to pretend like everything was okay. To go back to before, to when he could fake it. But that would mean…losing them.

 And Christ, that terrified him.

 “Roman, can you look at me, please?” the request wasn’t at all a difficult one. The logical Side sounded worried, warm and patient, his thumb gently stroking the back of Roman’s hand.

 But it was so hard to lift his eyes and meet Logan’s.

 A gentle warmth glowed in Logan’s eyes, kind and gentle as he smiled fondly at Roman, “There you are.” He whispered, “Having a bad day?”

 God, he wanted to say no. To push him away, hide in his room, bury himself in blankets. Maybe even run straight to the Imagination. He hated that they were seeing him like this, weak and feeble and pathetic.

 But the tears stung his eyes and his lips turned into a deep frown as his lungs refused to take in air. He tried to breathe in, but his throat was closing, make it even harder to focus on Logan’s soft, kind face.

 “Shh, it’s okay.” Logan whispered, “I’m here.” He reached up with his other hand, gently stroking Roman’s cheek, “I’m not going anywhere.”

 A sob forced its way up Roman’s throat, and the prince barely choked it back as he squeezed his eyes closed and turned his face away from Logan.

 He didn’t deserve this. He didn’t deserve them. Pathetic Princey, Useless Creati-

 “Hey, Roman.” Logan soothed, tilting his head slightly as a tear finally wormed its way down Roman’s cheek, “It’s perfectly fine to be having a bad day. Recovery is a process.” Logan reminded him, ever gentle, tender Logan. What did Roman do to deserve this? “We’ll be here, every step of the way. And when you fall,” Roman flinched from the thought, viciously biting his lip, “We’ll help you get back up again.”

 Another sob wormed its way up, and Roman caught it behind his hand, barely muffling the sound as Logan gently stroked his cheek again.

 “Oh, Roman,” Logan whispered, brushing away the tear from his cheek, “I need you to hang in there for a moment.” He squeezed Roman’s hand, getting to his feet, “I need back-up.”

 Roman heard the soft whoosh of Logan sinking out and he curled in on himself, an arm protectively wrapped around his middle, still trying to smother his sobs with his hand.

 He was such a burden. He’d fallen so far. How was he supposed to ever get back up again? It hurt to even try. He didn’t want to try. He just wanted them to leave him be, to crack and crumble and disappear into dust, never to be seen again.

 Sleepy grumbles and footsteps were heard upstairs, but Roman couldn’t focus on them. It took all of his energy just to keep himself breathing, however strained it was.

 Whoosh. Someone had come to the commons, but Roman didn’t dare unfold himself. He couldn’t. He didn’t want to. Whoever they were should just leave him, forget about him, just-

 The couch dipped beside him, “Shhh,” Patton’s soft voice cooed in his ear, followed by a tentative hand in his hair, “It’s alright, Roman, it’s alright.” Gentle hands guided him to turn, leaning the royal into a warm body, “You can cry, dearest prince, it’s alright to cry.”

 Something within Roman awoke, some desperate, frightened, broken thing. He fell against Patton, recognising his smell of vanilla and freshly baked goods, burying his face in his shoulder as the first of many hard sobs finally broke free.

 Patton’s hands moved around him, pulling him closer as the first wretched sob was wailed into his shoulder, “That’s it, there we go.” Patton whispered, fingers stroking and massaging, carding through Roman’s hair. “Let it all out.”

 

*

Patton

 

 It always hurt him to see Roman like this, the towering prince curled against him, arms limp in his lap as he wailed into Patton’s shoulder. It always hurt to know the depths of Roman’s pain, the ache that set in and gnawed at him like ice that he couldn’t thaw on his own.

 But that pain spurred him to protect and soothe him, to cradle the prince when he couldn’t be strong anymore.

 Another soft whoosh pulled Patton’s eyes momentarily as he lazily rubbed circles into Roman’s back, cheek pressed to the crown of Roman’s head. Logan’s eyes were wide, fidgeting absently with the hem of his night shirt, eyebrows drawing together with uncertainty.

 Patton smiled gently at him, reassuring the logical Side as he tried to soothe the royal. He glanced meaningfully to the kitchen, mouthing ‘breakfast’, and watched the change come over Logan almost immediately.

 A task in hand, something to do, a means to help when he knew none. His eyebrows relaxed, shoulders dropped, hands falling away from his shirt. He nodded, padding quietly into the kitchen as words finally managed to escape the prince.

 “Sorry, I’m sorry, I can’t- I just want to- I mean-“

 Patton closed his eyes as he started to gently rock them, “You don’t need to talk now, sweetie.” Patton murmured, feeling Roman move closer, “You don’t even need to think if you don’t want to.” The royal whimpered, a hand finally moving to cling to the front of Patton’s shirt, “All I want you to do, is cry it out, okay?”

 “But, I’m a-“ he hiccupped, “I’m a burden and-“ Patton felt his lips twisting into a small frown, “-and I should be- bet- better-“

 Patton shook his head slowly, “No, silly,” he murmured, letting Roman slide even closer, making as much contact as he could, “You are not a burden.” Roman sobbed again, “And it always takes time to recover.” Patton heard Virgil’s tell tale ‘pop’ from the top of the stairs, before his soft footfalls on the stairs, “There is no need to rush or push yourself harder than you can manage.”

 Virgil hesitated halfway down, gripping the banister with white knuckles as he took in the scene before him. Patton watched him silently, letting Virgil take his time to absorb the scene. He could see the solutions coming to mind, the way his dark son’s eyes flashed with ideas and his grip on the banister eased before he continued down quickly.

 Patton smirked to himself as Virgil quickly padded into the kitchen, his voice low as he greeted Logan and kissed him softly on the cheek.

 “-doing great.” Eventually drifted over to them from the kitchen, Virgil’s soft reassurance to Logan, “…some tea?”

 Roman whimpered, his wails drifting away to hard sobs, and slowly but surely, whimpers and hiccups against Patton’s shoulder, “I hate this.” He finally whispered, Patton’s shoulder thoroughly drenched, “I hate feeling like this.” Patton could hear the anger rising in Roman’s voice, felt the way the prince was tensing beneath him, “I just…I just-“

 “I know.” Patton whispered, “But it’ll take time. And you aren’t alone.” He reminded Roman, feeling the prince slowly relax back against him, “We’re here with you, every step of the way.”

 Roman turned his face, looking blankly out at the commons as he shuddered and sighed against Patton, “Promise?” he whispered, still clinging desperately to the father figure.

 “Of course, hun.” Patton turned his head to press a kiss to the top of Roman’s head, “I promise.”

 A shuddering sigh escaped Roman, “Okay.” He whispered, “Okay.”

 

*

Logan

 

 Virgil’s hand was warm against the small of his back, snapping Logan out of his distracted thoughts, and spurring him to shift the scrambled eggs around on the pan.

 “You doing okay?” Virgil whispered in his ear, pressing himself against Logan’s side.

 The logical Side sighed hard, “I’m…not entirely sure.” He admitted in a low whisper, grateful the harsh hissing of the pan and kettle boiling masked their talking, “I wish…I knew how to help. Beyond kind words. I want to…”

 He heard the smirk in Virgil’s words, “We’re all learning.” Virgil leaned down slightly to press a kiss to Logan’s cheek, “And we’ll get there.” He added in Logan’s ear, “But you’re doing great.” Logan sighed, “I’ll make some tea?”

 Logan nodded, finally turning to glance at Virgil. The anxious Side was smiling gently at him, eyes shining with pride and adoration as he tilted his head. Wild, untamed hair fell into his eyes and flopped over his ears, and Logan couldn’t help but feel his heart swell in his chest.

 “Thank you.” He whispered, feeling tears pricking in his own eyes, “I know I am not always the best at this-“

 “Communicating?” Virgil gently teased with a wink.

 Logan snickered, “Yes.” His smirk fell away, “But I would like to think my attempts are not in vain.”

 Virgil shook his head gently, “Of course they’re not, nerd.” He firmly ran his hand up Logan’s spine, before rubbing across Logan’s shoulders slowly. Virgil nodded to the pan, prompting Logan to return his attention to the task at hand, “I’m proud of you.”

 Logan felt his knees suddenly grow wobbly, his eyes filling with sudden, unbidden tears. He bit his lip, trying to steady his breathing as Virgil’s other hand gently wrapped around Logan’s and took the pan from the stove.

 “So proud.” He whispered again, setting the hot pan down onto a potholder, and turned off the hotplate.

 “Thank you.” Logan tried to say through his closing throat, swallowing hard in a vain attempt to clear it, “Virgil, I-“

 “We got this, pocket protector.” Virgil was already guiding him toward the sink, “Here,” a warm mug of tea was offered to him, “Take a breather.”

 Logan nodded, taking the tea in his hands and stepping back as Virgil started preparing some toast. He couldn’t help but watch with a warm sense of pride and admiration as the anxious Side moved with a confidence he rarely ever possessed.

 He had shown them all a different Side to himself in the last few days. But perhaps that was true of them all. Roman with his insecurities, Patton with his temper, Logan with his uncertainty. But Logan couldn’t help but admire Virgil’s ability to read them.

 To understand what they needed in the moment, the words to say, the different ways to help. Perhaps that is what drew Logan to him in the first place. Virgil was always the first to tell him to take a break, to give him a task in moments of high emotions, to give him something to focus on.

 Where Logan was a dock in a sea of anxiety for Virgil, the anxious Side was his lighthouse in a storm of emotions.

 Virgil glanced at him over his shoulder, a warm smile on his lips, “Feeling better?”

 Logan nodded with a warm smile, “Thank you.”

 Virgil snorted, “After this, would you like to run a bath?” Logan raised an eyebrow, “I’m sure Roman feels pretty gross right now.”

 The logical Side nodded, “Anything else I can help with?”

 Virgil gave him that warm smile again, his eyes shining, “For now? Eat.”

 

*

Virgil

 

 The royal picked at his food, leaning against Patton as the fatherly Side munched away and hummed to himself in the quiet commons. Logan had turned the channel onto some…landscape channel, muting the music. Roman’s eyes were caught on the slowly changing photos, glassy and distracted. Every so often, Patton would nudge him and encourage him to eat more.

 Virgil ate on the couch with them, listening for Logan’s footfalls on the stairs, preparing himself for the small battle he was going to have to fight. It was hard enough getting himself into the shower on a bad day. He could already sense it would be much harder to do the same for Roman.

 When the footfalls finally came, Roman had managed to finish half of the plate and refused to eat anymore. Unsure of how to proceed, Patton glanced to Virgil, who smirked back at him.

 “Hey, Princey.” Roman jerked at the nickname, but lifted his eyes to Virgil. His heart suddenly ached at the sad, defeated look in the royal’s eyes, “How about we get you in the bath, huh?” Roman frowned at him, “Some nice clean clothes?”

 Patton’s eyes widened as the prince tensed, “No.” he pouted, snuggling closer to Patton, who had to suppress a giggle.

 Virgil sighed with an eye roll, “You know I’ll be the bad guy if I have to.” He gave Roman a smirk, and the prince frowned at him, “And you know you’ll feel better for it.” Virgil slowly unfolded himself from his spot, reaching a hand out to Roman, “You and me. C’mon.”

 “But…” Roman shrank a little against Patton, who gently ran his fingers through Roman’s oily hair.

 “It’s alright, sweetheart.” Patton answered softly, “You can come back after, okay?”

 Roman made a tiny noise in his throat, something akin to a distressed whine, and Virgil was sure he was going to have to drag Roman up and carry him.

 Instead, much to Virgil’s surprise, Logan crouched in front of Roman, hands on his knees. “Roman?” the prince turned his attention to Logan, “It was the orchid and moonflower oil you like best, yes?” his voice was soft and comforting.

 Roman frowned and bit his lip, “Y-yeah.” His eyes flashed with realisation, “B-but-“

 Logan gently squeezed his knees, “Roman, can I make a deal with you?”

 Virgil glanced nervously at Patton, who appeared just as confused and surprised as Virgil.

 “I…guess?” the prince nervously bit his lip.

 “If you go with Virgil and have a bath, I’ll read some Shakespeare with you.”

 Virgil’s and Patton’s eyes widened as they shared a bewildered glance. Roman’s eyes widened with surprise as well, before filling with tears.

 “You would do that?” he asked in a small voice, “For me?”

 Logan smiled back at him, warm and wide, such a rare sight that even Virgil’s breath caught in his chest, “Of course. So, do we have a deal?”

 “O-okay.” He sighed, slowly moving to sit up and rubbing at his face, “I…I guess.”

 Logan got to his feet, gently pressing a kiss to Roman’s cheek, “Thank you.”

 The logical Side quickly padded upstairs again, no doubt to add the oils to the bathwater, while Virgil offered his hand to Roman. The prince looked from the outstretched hand to Virgil’s face, wary and exhausted, “No rush.” Virgil smirked.

 Roman took his hand far sooner than Virgil had expected, and Virgil was quick to help him to his feet and draw his arm over his shoulder. Much like the walk down the hall and stairs that first day, Virgil took his time getting Roman to the stairs and up them.

 He leaned on Virgil far more than he had that first day, exhausted and weak, “Thanks, Virge.” He whispered, turning to bury his face in Virgil’s wild hair.

 Virgil shrugged beside him, “Don’t worry about it, Princey.” He leant into Roman’s touch, “We’ve got you, okay?”

 Roman sighed as they finally reached the hallway, “Okay.”

 When they finally reached the bathroom, the fragrance of the oils had permeated the air and even Logan looked blissfully calm as he made sure the mirror was securely covered.

 Roman drew in a deep breath, sighing it out as Logan turned to them. “Ah, there we are.”

 Roman gave him a tired smile as Virgil guided Roman toward a chair near the tub, lowering him gently and kneeling to help remove his boots.

 As Logan went to leave, Virgil caught a glimpse of Roman catching Logan and pulling him tight against him, face buried in the logical Side’s chest.

 “Thank you.” He whispered, strong arms coiled around the smaller Side’s waist.

 Logan huffed out a small laugh, “It’s perfectly fine, Roman.” Logan gently eased Roman to tilt his head up to him, “Anytime.” He pressed a soft kiss to the royal’s forehead, before slipping back out of the bathroom.

 Virgil smirked as Roman sighed, finally relaxing as he met Virgil’s eyes. They didn’t need to share words as Virgil put Roman’s boots aside and got to his feet. Virgil could see the depths of love in Roman’s eyes again, so deep Virgil knew he would never see the bottom.

 And he was starting to think he didn’t need to.

 

*

 

 Roman was curled up with Logan on the couch, the logical Side softly reading Shakespeare with Roman while Patton padded upstairs for a shower. Virgil reached over as he passed, ruffling Logan’s own damp hair, smirking at the indignant squeak and Roman’s giggle as he headed for the kitchen.

 A familiar call interrupted his journey, and he paused, “Hey, guys?”

 Logan paused, glancing up at Virgil, “Hmm?”

 “Thomas is calling me.” Logan raised an eyebrow at Virgil, “I’ll be back soon, but call me if you need me before then. Okay?”

 “Of course.”

 Virgil smirked back at them, before sinking out of the kitchen. It took him a moment to figure out where he was going, but he ‘popped’ into the living room and looked up at Thomas. He was on the couch, yawning as he locked his phone and put it aside.

 “’Sup?”

 Thomas met his eyes, waving at him to sit on the couch with him, looking as tired and haggard as Roman. Virgil was hardly surprised. With two of them not sleeping properly, it was a miracle Thomas was getting any sleep at all.

 Virgil joined him on the couch, “What is it?”

 Thomas sighed, “The day of that fight.” Thomas rubbed at his cheek, “What happened in Patton’s room?”

 Virgil frowned at him, “Why are you asking now?”

 The host rolled his eyes, “Roman was having a few good days. Figured I’d let him have them.” Virgil wanted to argue with him about that, about waiting this long, but he couldn’t really blame Thomas’ for his train of thought. “You were bleeding.”

 Virgil’s heart skipped a beat and he grimaced. Shit. He’d hoped Thomas hadn’t actually noticed that. An oversight on his part, true, but he had hoped he’d gotten away with that one.

 He sighed, “Well…” how was he supposed to explain this? This was more Patton’s department than Virgil’s. Sure, he helped deal with some of the more…negative emotions, but he didn’t really know how it all worked. And Virgil was also closely linked with the logical side of everything. It was hard to wrap his head around both, but dammit, he tried.

 “Should I be asking Patton?” Thomas asked, eyes alert despite the drawn expression on his face.

 Virgil sighed, “No, it’s…too soon.” He leant forward, forearms on his thighs, “All I can tell you is, Patton’s always had a rather…punishing method of dealing with his…your temper.” Thomas frowned at him, “And when you made them talk it out, I had to…deal with it.”

 “Temper?” Thomas asked, leaning back into the couch cushions and crossing his arms over his chest, “You’re not going to show me something else, are you?” Virgil nearly smirked at Thomas’ wary glance, “I still haven’t quite wrapped my head around Doubt.”

 Virgil snickered, “I can explain more about Doubt and stuff another time. I know all about my part of the subconscious.” He sighed, “But no, I’m not going to show you Temper.”

 “I don’t think I could handle meeting whatever…they are.”

 Virgil shook his head, “No, that’s not it.”

 Thomas suddenly looked confused, “Then why?”

 The anxious Side winced, a hand absently rubbing over his still bruised ribs, “Because he’s dangerous.”