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The Mind Palace Arcade

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Roman was the first to leave out of all of them. And yet, it felt like they’d been saying good-bye for ages. 

 

“It isn’t goodbye. I’m getting you all seats at the premiere.” Roman repeated for the umpteenth time that morning. He’d gone to the arcade before opening hours, and the others just couldn’t seem to let him go. 

 

“You’ve been here since the beginning. In a way, you are the arcade.” Patton sniffled, trying not to cry. “You’re our prince.” 

 

Logan gave Roman a small smile. “You did do a lot to bring us together.” The manager tugged Patton closer, just a little, the other man leaning into his touch instantly. “And we’ll be there.” 

 

The others said their goodbyes quickly, with Virgil standing off to the side. “Ready?” He asked when Roman glanced back at his boyfriend. 

 

“Y-yeah.” 

 

The car ride was longer than either of them expected. They’d talked for most of the night before. Now, it was actually going that was difficult.

 

Virgil turned the car off the freeway, rolling up to the airport drop-off zone quietly. When he finally put the car in park, he looked at Roman. 

 

Roman had cried the minute they left the arcade, and Virgil knew he was going to be a mess until he got onto the plane. 

 

“So this is it.” Virgil said in disbelief. They’d spent the last week trying to avoid thinking of the inevitable, but instead, it only came faster. “You’re going.” 

 

“I am.” 

 

“Right.” Virgil took a deep breath. “Well, text me when you get on the plane, and when you land, and call me when you get to the hotel. Duke has your keys and Dylan should be moving in later on this week, so I hope you have everything packed away. I don’t exactly expect much from your brother.” 

 

Dylan and Duke had announced they were becoming roommates earlier that week, to the surprise of the others. When asked why, Dylan had only shrugged and joked that someone needed to keep Duke from blowing up the apartment. They’d be moving into Roman’s apartment in the next week or so. 

 

“Help me with my bags?” 

 

Virgil nodded, unlocking the car doors and getting out. 

 

To his credit, Roman hadn’t packed too much. It hardly looked like he was going anywhere for more than a few weeks, much less moving away. When the last suitcase was on the sidewalk, Roman looked at Virgil with sad eyes. 

 

“And you said I was going to be the one crying.” Virgil teased. Roman smiled and looked at the ground. 

 

“Hey. You’re gonna do great.” Virgil smiled, giving Roman one last kiss. “I love you.” 

 

“I love you more.” 

 

“Remember me when you’re famous.” 

 

“How could I forget someone like you?” Roman pouted, but grabbed the handles of his bags. 

 

“Video call when you get to the hotel.” Virgil was already walking back to the driver’s side of the car. 

 

“I will.” Roman promised, blowing Virgil a kiss before turning away. 

 

I will. 

 

~~~

 

Emile was the second to leave the arcade’s nest, headed to Georgia State early for a summer bridge. The goodbyes hadn’t been as tearful, as Patton and Logan were flying up with Emile to get everything sorted there. The two seemed even closer after Roman’s departure, and Emile had a bet with Thomas that they’d hook up by the time winter break rolled around. 

 

(Logan did move in a few months later, but the jury was still out on if they were actually dating yet. If they were, they were doing a good job at hiding it.)

 

Remy and August were the last to leave. However, Remy arranged to come home when the arcade needed him, despite Thomas’s protests that he should enjoy the rest of college with August. His boyfriend had only smiled and admitted that Logan had offered to hire him during their school holidays. 

 

After Roman’s movie came out, his career did skyrocket. And with it, so did the arcade’s fame. He remained the security guard in between movies and traveling, and fans from all over came to see the place he had started at. 

 

Once Virgil was comfortable enough with the idea, he started working on the sets with Roman. His ability to think quickly and understand the lighting rigs and mechanics of the camera cranes gave him a spot on the production teams. They often attended premieres together, and tried to stay together in their work as much as possible. Whenever Roman went back to the arcade, Virgil was often right on his heels. 

 

Logan and the others stayed at the arcade, perfectly content with where they were. Remy and August eventually left the state for good, doing freelance work as they set out to travel the world. Emile stayed in Georgia, always making sure to come home for the holidays. 

 

~~~

 

In less than a few hours, they’d be together, for the first time in five years. From the group chat, Emile knew that Roman and Virgil were flying in commercially, and Remy and August were already there. 

 

The soon-to-be husbands had sent out invites to their summer wedding. Remy hoped that it would rain at the outside venue, although August (and Logan) argued the logistics of it. In the end, it was decided the college sweethearts would be married on one of the rooftops in downtown. 

 

Emile snapped a photo of the plane window, quickly sending it to the others. Replies flooded in. 

 

[Patton]: See you soon!

 

[Emile]: I can’t wait. 

 

He really, really couldn’t.