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Of Braids and Boredom

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He was gorgeous. How he could be described in any other way is preposterous. He had skin the color of tanned leather and eyes reminiscent of a dense forest. His armor glinted in the sunlight as he stood in a triumphant pose and gazed upon his love.

His “damsel in distress” (who was anything but a damsel) was paler than paper. The sunlight caught on her fair skin and nearly blinded the wandering knight.

The reason the knight took notice of the damsel was not because of her beacon-esque skin, though. The damsel was singing, quite loudly, out of the window of her tower. Her high-pitched notes echoed off the rocks and trees surrounding the clearing and her sighs carried even farther.

The knight was enamored the moment his ears caught a sigh of the lilting voice resonating from the tower. However, he was screwed once his eyes locked with hers. She immediately stopped her song, backed away from the window and slammed the shutters.

The knight did not know what to do with this reaction. Usually, the damsels he encountered greeted him with pretty smiles and limp-wristed waves. This one shunned him without a second glance.

Well. The knight was nothing if not persistent.

He rode his horse to the tower and slowly circled around it, searching for some sort of entryway. When he found nothing but sparse ivy vines and stones without chinks, he decided to go with the more direct method.

He rode his horse to the front of the tower once more and looked up. Being slightly scared of heights and knowing exactly what he’d have to do in order to reach the damsel made the gaze up more nerve wracking. “Um…hello?” he called up to the lonely singer. He waited a moment but received no response. He tried once more, slightly louder, “Hello!”

He heard the shutters open tentatively. “Yea hi…why are you here?” the voice called down. The knight was taken aback. Despite the initial reaction of the damsel, he still wasn’t expecting an indignant response.

“I’m here to rescue you of course!” he called up. He was still a chivalrous knight, regardless of the treatment he received.

“…Prove it,” called the damsel. This time, she called not with sass, but with reluctance. The knight was about to ask how, but he saw hands and a basket reach out the window. “Put your weapons in the basket and then you can climb up,” called the damsel once more before lowering down the basket.

The knight was confused, but didn't think for a moment that a damsel, regardless of her sass level, could hurt him, armed or unarmed. He relinquished his small dagger and long sword and watched as they got pulled up to the window and removed from the basket.

The knight was rewarded with a long braid of hair being thrown down to him. It landed with a thud at his feet. For a moment he simply stared at it before it started being pulled up and he quickly grabbed on. He barely had to do any work but hang on as he was hoisted off the ground and into the air.

He kept his gaze pointed up or on the tower next to him as the ground below him grew farther and farther away. His stomach began to turn as he came closer to the window, however. This maiden was indignant and willful. Would she respond to his gesture in kind or would she shun him again?

All these questions vanished from his tongue once he climbed over the wide windowsill and came face to face with his damsel. She was…beautiful.

And she was wielding the knight’s dagger. He knew sending his weapons up would bite him in the ass. “Fair maiden, I don’t think there’s cause to be so…why are you laughing?” The damsel was giggling under her breath, fighting a smile.

She opened her mouth and a somewhat funny, somewhat terrifying answer came out. “You honestly think…” She paused to laugh. “…you honestly think I’m a girl?” At this she let out a laugh so boisterous it put the knight into a state of mild distress.

“So, you’re not a princess in need of saving?…” the knight inquired.

“Hell no! I was put up in this tower for the safety of those around me not because of some evil witch or whatever. And I am a guy. A Lord, to be exact. I’m guessing you're a knight judging by your armor?” He gestured up and down the knight’s body with the small dagger.

The knight nodded. “Indeed I am. And if you don't need saving then why were you singing so forlornly? And why is your hair long enough to fashion into a rope?”

“Oh, the hair is just a way for me to get in and out of this place. Took me ages to grow it out, too. I’ve been meaning to cut it off and now I finally have the means to do it. So, thanks knighty!” At that, he raised the dagger to the nape of his neck and began to cut at his ungodly massive braid of hair.

The knight could only stare in wonder at this strange lord as he sawed off his wild mane.” So…what about the singing?”

The lord looked up from the ground, where he was staring in concentration. “I just sing to pass the time. It does get pretty boring being locked in a tower all day and night.”

“But your voice…is that of a maiden…” the knight responded hesitantly.

“Yea well there are some lords with maiden’s bodies, dude. Get used to it,” he responded curtly, pushing his voice to be slightly deeper.

The knight knew not to ask any more personal questions…but he couldn’t help himself. “Why were you banished?” The lord sighed.

“I was banished because I,” he sarcastically mimed air quotes, “endangered the life of the prince by performing dark magic.”

Well, now the knight was getting more concerned. First, the beautiful maiden turns out to be unkind. And then a lord. And is a dark sorcerer. And he has no weapons. Great.

The lord saw his growing anxiety about the situation and sighed. “Calm down. I'm not going to hurt you, ok? I just wanted some company is all,” he trailed off at the end, seemingly embarrassed. “Make yourself at home. Take a seat or something…I’ll put some tea on.” With a satisfying thump, the lord’s hair fell to the ground, leaving him with a very short, very choppy pixie cut.

He walked over to his small fireplace and hung a rusted iron pot above it. He gestured to a chair for the knight and, reluctantly, the knight sat. The lord placed the dagger on a small table, instead picking up a small, stringed instrument resembling a guitar and began strumming it rhythmically. He padded around his small room to the rhythm he played, humming to himself quietly.

The knight smiled despite his heightened fear and watched as the setting sunlight streamed through the huge windows in the lord’s tower and caught on his frayed hair. He looks pretty when he smiles, the knight thought.

“Thank you, knighty, I’m flattered,” the lord sung-talked at him. The knight blushed, unaware his brain-to-mouth barrier had betrayed him. “You must be hot. Take off some of your armor, why don't you?”

The knight stiffened, not wanting to be so vulnerable around this very suspect person he had only just met. But, something in his gut told him he could trust this strange sorcerer. He slowly removed his chest plate and begin to unfasten the rest of his garb.

“That must feel nicer. Now take a damn load off while the water boils,” the lord sung-talked at him again. He continued his strange almost dance around his room, all the while humming to himself. His movements became more dramatic as he floated his way around the knight, humming all the while. His movements were reminiscent of ballet, graceful yet pointed.

As he danced in and out of the sunbeams, the knight had time to take everything in. He was in a large room with absolutely huge windows to his left, taking up an entire wall. They were open at that moment and the knight thought the open wall resembled a ledge rather than a windowsill. The sorcerer’s braid was fastened to a hook hanging in the window, keeping it from falling out.

Directly across from him was a fireplace. The pot hung over a modest fire that seemed to burn more red than orange. He chocked that one up to magic. There was a bed to his right, across from the window-wall. Another, more normal sized window was above the bed. There were small tables around the bed and fireplace, all with strange magical items on and under them.

The most interesting and peculiar sight in this room, however, was the sorcerer himself. He was donned in dark green and purple clothing, indicative of his formal royal status. All he had on were tights and a beautifully embroidered shirt that was long enough to reach his thighs. Gold thread weaved its way through the entire garment, painting stories too small and too intricate for human eyes to appreciate. The sleeves of the shirt tapered down to a small loop of fabric hooked on each of the knight’s middle fingers.

This garment moved as if it were part of the sorcerer. He seemed to float just above the stones of the floor as he hummed his way around the room. The knight swore the sunlight was bending to meet the sorcerer’s will, looking like sparkles in the air surrounding his pale skin. The knight thought the sorcerer was beautiful in the way the night sky was; absolutely breathtaking to look at, but impossible to understand.

The knight was totally screwed.

“So…do you have a name?” inquired the knight tentatively.

The lord kept moving, but huffed a laugh. “What kind of question is that?”

“A simple one.”

The lord stopped his dance, sunlight returning to its normal beams, electing to look straight at the knight. “I knew you had some balls on you, knighty. But, if you want my name you have to give yours first.” At this, the lord walked over to the boiling water and hummed a sweeter tune directed at the fire. The flames grew in size and enveloped the pot until the water inside was in a lovely rolling boil. When his humming ceased, so did the flames. He placed his instrument on the table next to the dagger and began looking for suitable cups to drink from.

“I am Roman, the chivalrous; leader of the Royal Guard.” He straightened his back at this, muscle memory assisting his posture.

“Cute name Roman. And I am Virgil.” He turned around to bow deeply and theatrically, but straightened up with a smile. “Former high sorcerer to the great King Doucheka!” he proclaimed mightily with a heaping spoonful of sarcasm.

“I think he prefers to be called Dofka…” Roman said, stifling a smile.

“Oh I’m very well aware of all his preferences. It’s his preferences that got me thrown into a tower in the middle of a nondescript forest,” he muttered, a large heaping of bitterness laced in his words. Virgil turned away from Roman once more, locating and picking up two teacups and a jar from underneath one of the small tables. He placed them on the table and got on his knees in front of them.

The sorcerer began humming a different tune, this one broader and slower than the first tune he sang. He retrieved dried mint leaves from the jar and proceeded to crush them into the two teacups while he hummed.

Entranced by the sorcerer’s tea methods, Roman failed to notice the pot of boiling water slowly but surely working its way up from the fire and towards the teacups. By the time Virgil had added sugar and cinnamon to the teacups, the pot of water was floating patiently next to the table. Virgil dipped a hand into the pot, at first alarming the knight. He calmed slightly when he realized the sorcerer was in no pain whatsoever and had simply removed a perfect sphere of water.

Pointing out that impossibility seemed idiotic to him at this point. He watched as the sorcerer dropped that ball of water into a teacup, doing the same to the next cup and patiently continued his song until the iron pot was back hung up over the fire. The balls of water seemed to melt into the cups, taking on their natural physics once more.

Virgil picked up the two cups with upturned hands and turned back to Roman with a smile. “Tea?”

Who would the knight be if he refused? He accepted the tea with a nod, but couldn’t muster any words. He felt none could capture what he was truly thinking and feeling about the mysterious sorcerer. Instead he settled on, “The tea is lovely.”

Virgil, now sitting cross-legged on the ground, turned towards the window with a poorly concealed smirk. “Thank you, knight. It took a while to perfect this recipe. But, time heals all tea debacles…” Roman did not think that was the quote, but so be it.

“May I ask one more question of you?” Roman inquired politely after taking a sip.

“I suppose I'm feeling generous,” Virgil replied, letting go of his teacup midair and letting it float right where he left it.

“Why were you banished to this tower?”

Virgil seemed to freeze. His small smirk remained cemented on his face but his eyes were harder now, a coldness taking over the warmth that was there moments before. His teacup stopped its gentle up and down floating motion before slowly lowering to the ground. Roman now believed he was truly screwed.

But, Virgil unfroze. He picked up his teacup and returned it to midair and shook his head with a mirthless laugh. “That is a story for another day, Roman.” He turned his gaze towards the windows and popped up from his seated position. “And I think it’s time for you to go. If I am correct, your guard will come looking for you soon and you cannot be seen up here.”

“How do you know th-”

“And if you really feel the need to look for clues about me, look for anything with this symbol on it.” He picked up one of the arm plates from Roman’s armor and scratched a sigil on the inside of it with the dagger. It was a sun, with all its beams, with rings around it like a planet.

The sorcerer hummed a quick, precise tune as he pulled the knight up from his seat and plucked the teacup from his hands. At the sound of Virgil’s voice, the knight’s armor fixed itself back onto his body.

“I thought you were going to keep me here,” Roman said, hiding his disappointment at having to leave.

“No…you were never being kept. I just wanted tea with someone other than myself,” he half-heartedly laughed and rubbed his newly exposed neck. “If you really want to know why I was banished, come visit me again with new tea leaves. And bread,” his smirk returned with its old warmth.

Roman nodded and stood up straight. He scolded himself for allowing his joy to slip out in the form of an eager bounce on the balls of his feet and a small smile, but he was forgiving. “Now how do I leave?”

“The same way you came in knighty…sorry,” Virgil replied with a shrug. He pulled the massive braid up until its end was inside the room. “Hook a foot on there and I’ll lower you down. Your sword will be waiting for you at the bottom, but your dagger is mine.” His smirk turned into a shit-eating grin. Roman nodded and hooked a foot into the braid.

He sat on the ledge and looked back to the sorcerer the last time for a long time. Virgil gave one last magic laced smile before the knight pushed himself over the edge, immediately being caught by the braid. He was slowly lowered down to the soft grass below him. It took longer than he remembered it taking going up. Once safely on the ground, he looked up to the tower, waiting for the basket to be lowered. It took a bit more time than he would’ve liked, but the basket did come.

When it reached him, he saw it contained more than just his sword. A small covered jar with a note tied around it was also included. As soon as he took it out, the basket was hoisted back up. He watched it become smaller and smaller until being pulled over the edge. The knight watched for Virgil to return one last time, for a goodbye or another indignant comment, but he never did.

He turned his attention back to the jar. Roman removed the note. In messy handwriting it read: use in case of injury- be safe. Virgil had drawn his symbol below it. As a knight, any kind of salve or charm would come in handy. He silently thanked his strange new friend and mounted his horse. He rode back into the forest just as his guard met him.

Chapter Text

In the days following his brief but impactful visit with Virgil, Roman read. Any normal knight would not have been taught to read, but the leader of the royal guard needed such skills, and he was never more thankful for them. He had access to any and all reading materials he wanted for, yet none of them served him any good.

The castle library was home to ancient tomes that translated languages or told ancient stories or held star charts, but none held the information he needed. What happened with Virgil was not ancient history. Perhaps the ancient stories held clues as to some of his capabilities, but Roman had no interest in the Greek classics. He needed to know why a sorcerer that powerful was banished. He knew who he needed to talk to.

Two months of reading ancient texts and searching shadows for hidden symbols led him to the man who had all the answers: the court clown and his companion. The nobles and the lords laughed at the clown for being the dumbest of the dumb, but Roman knew the truth. The clown held valuable information. It took a sharp mind to produce witty and entertaining banter for a king as fickle and prickly as Dofka was.

Patton the clown was a wavy-haired witty man. Patton wore dark grey pants and a flowy, light gray shirt, cinched at the waist with a light blue belt. When he wore it, his hat was also light blue, with bells attached. When he wasn’t in clown mode, he was a happy fellow who tried to keep calm, partially because his companion, Logan, couldn’t stand his overwhelming energy.

Logan was known as the “kingdom gossip”. It was his job to know every small piece of information that floated around the palace. He was successful in his job due to his unassuming appearance. He often donned a navy blue robe, with dark violet pants and a tunic underneath. He always had his journal and a book. To the untrained eye, he looked like a common scholar. To the royals and nobles of the palace, he was a snake in the grass.

Roman’s job was simple. Brute force was his most valued skill on the royal guard. Any man under him who didn’t follow orders was swiftly punished, usually with a quick punch to a sensitive area. Interrogating the court fool and his lanky friend would be fast work for him.

Roman walked into a smaller section of the gargantuan palace garden where Patton sat in his common clothes, smoking a pipe while Logan read his book in silence. Roman wasn’t in his armor, but instead wearing his upper class garb. When the men heard him approach, Patton looked at him and smiled widely. Logan simply flicked his eyes up from his book to the approaching knight and scoffed.

“Greetings, lapdog,” grumbled Logan, flipping the page of his book.

“Hello chuckles, snake,” Roman answered, cracking a slight grin. Patton giggled and Logan’s small frown deepened.

“What brings a man of your standing to my little ol’ corner of the palace?” Roman sat down next to Patton.

“I need some information, and I have a feeling you’re the only two who know it.”

“Ooooo you have me intrigued,” Patton mused, biting down on his pipe and turning to face Roman, switching to a cross-legged position. “What information could you need that only I know?” He puffed on his pipe and smiled with false enthusiasm.

Roman glared but proceeded to ask, “I need to know what happened to Virgil.”

Patton’s face twitched from its grin for a second, but the next moment he was answering, “I’m afraid I'm not familiar with that name knighty pants.” He took another, deeper inhale from his pipe.

“I don't believe you,” Roman clenched his already tight fist tighter.

“Woooaaah there’s no need for all that big guy!” he chuckled, just a tad nervous.

“Why do you ask?” Logan snapped his book closed, leveling his cold gaze on the knight.

“I happened to…happen upon him. And I'm simply asking how he got…where he is currently…” Roman was many things, but subtle was not one of them.

Patton’s smile faded into a sad one and sighed, “It’s a long story. I hope you’re ready.” He leaned back on his hands, not returning his pipe to his mouth. “Vir- V wasn’t always trapped in the sky. They used to be down here on earth. And when they were things ran very differently. They were right hand to the king. And the two fell in love.”

He returned the pipe from to his mouth and leaned back on his hands. Logan continued without skipping a beat, “It’s unknown whether or not the king loved V the way they loved him, but the two were unstoppable regardless. They were an incredibly powerful sorcerer, and their magic brought entire battalions of men to their knees. It looked like the king and V were set to take over…everything.” Patton took a deep inhale from his pipe and continued, Logan falling silent in observation of his companion.

“They were both in absolute bliss, and so was the kingdom. Crops were growing like crazy, crime was low thanks to new policies, and the people were happy! It was peacetime like we— like the people had never seen before. They knew of the wars that went on, but thanks to the king’s sorcerer, deaths of their own were kept low. And wars were won.”

Logan took over once more. “The king was benevolent when it came to his people, but he had a dark side. His temper never made it outside castle walls, but those who witnessed him firsthand were detailed in their descriptions of his behavior. He would kiss babies in one breath and hit servants in the next. His rage was unstoppable by anyone, even Virgil. They got the worst of his temper. They were seen with poorly covered bruises and cuts that they were unable to heal. Or so the story goes…” He stiffened his posture at a passing nobleman, who paid neither him nor Patton any mind.

Once the man had passed, he continued, quieter. “Virgil was blinded by their love for the king. But, one day they crossed a line. The king asked them to do something that would enable him to take over pretty much the entire continent. The king asked them to use a kind of forbidden magic to assist him in his conquest. The story goes that Virgil knew well the magic that the king desired to use, but they resisted. They knew that it was wrong and the people of the kingdom would frown upon it being used by royalty, but they couldn’t resist.”

He breathed out heavily, taking Patton’s pipe as the fool continued the story. “Virgil used the magic that the king asked of them. And as they predicted, the people found out. And the people turned on their king.” He sighed.

“I have a feeling that isn’t the end of this story,” Roman remarked.

Patton gave a small shake of his head. “No. The king, in an effort to save himself, placed the blame entirely on Virgil. He claimed that they were a witch who hexed him and took over his mind. He made up tall tale after tall tale, all to make his kingdom love him once more.”

“Oh my god…” Roman muttered. Patton nodded at Logan, who offered his pipe and Roman accepted, puffing a few times and returning it to him. “So what happened that landed them…up in the sky?”

Logan laughed dryly. “The kingdom turned on Virgil, demanding they be banished, put to death, tortured, anything to get them away from the king. So, the king had another of his sorcerers enchant them to fall into a deep sleep, one that they couldn’t escape for at least a few days. He took them deep into the woods on horseback and returned a week later claiming he’d ‘rid the world of great evil’. And that is when Virgil…appeared in the sky,” he finished.

Roman leaned back against the garden wall and closed his eyes. He held a hand out for the pipe and puffed on it a few more times. “What kind of magic did they use?” he asked quietly.

Patton grimaced, looking to his companion for strength. Logan simply spoke in his stead. “The books say it was necromancy, to raise an army of slain, undead soldiers for the king’s gain.”

Roman opened his eyes to look at him. “But that’s not what happened, was it?”

Patton looked over hesitantly. “The…first-hand account that I read said it was much worse. Necromancy was what the king said, but the magic was actually way more sinister. He wanted Virgil to…” He paused. His frown deepened.

“He wanted them to kill a battalion of his own soldiers,” Logan completed the thought. “He wanted to take their souls into himself, and make himself immortal,” he breathed out.

He continued quietly, “The soldiers all died, but something went wrong. V managed to channel their souls into the king, but his body couldn’t hold them. V knew it would happen, but they did it anyway. The king fell ill and blamed it one the sorcerer. Made up tales of necromancy, tarnished their name forever and proceeded to wipe it from the books. Any mention of them was a punishable offense.”

Roman breathed out heavily, blowing out imaginary smoke. He remembered something and allowed a small smile. “He couldn’t erase everything,” he said, pulling Virgil’s note from his pocket and showing the two sat next to him. There was the symbol, bold and dark. Logan quickly took the note from Roman’s hand and traced his fingers over the dry ink.

“I’m so glad they survived,” Patton said almost too quietly to hear. Logan leaned over into Patton’s space, showing him the intricacies of the design.

“They’re everywhere, and it haunts me to this day,” Logan muttered as he got up and dumped the smoldering tobacco leaves from he pipe into a small shrub. “Burn that if you know what’s good for you, and do not mess with the king. If he’s capable of doing that to them, imagine what he’d do to you.” He gestured for Patton to follow him, and they both walked off together, leaving the knight to his thoughts.

Roman allowed himself to stare at the note for a moment longer before returning it to his pocket. He stood up and straightened his back.

He needed to see Virgil.

Chapter Text

Back in the tower in the woods, Virgil sat at the edge of his tower, his feet dangling over the ledge. He hummed a sweet tune to himself, just enough to make the breeze blow a little stronger on his face. As much as he loathed being confined for so long, he never did get sick of the sun on his skin and the breeze in his hair.

Since the knight’s departure, he had spent some quality time singing to the dagger, using his musical magic to cut his hair into a more precise shape. Now it was shorter on the sides and chin-length on the top. He felt better than he had in years.

As he hummed to the breeze and the crying vines winding their way up the tower, he thought about his old life with the king. His lonesome existence in the tower was heavenly compared to the torment of being Dofka’s favorite plaything. Following every order blindly, quashing any moral quandaries that occurred to him; it all seemed so easy back then.

He continued his tune and closed his eyes. The bugs that were at one point home in his long braid of hair now found a happy place between the cracks of the rocks in his floor. He rolled himself down onto his back, laying comfortably with half his body dangling out of his tower.

Virgil thought about all the ways he could leave. He could easily climb down his severed braid of hair, fortified since he cut it off his head. He could sing a song to the vines and have them carry him down. He could simply fall and catch himself with enchanted wind. But, what was the point? Any venture back into civilization would lead to the king capturing him and banishing him once more. And he had no knowledge of the world outside the kingdom of Dofka. Regardless of his status in or out of the tower, he felt well and truly trapped.

Before he knew it, Virgil had drifted off into sleep. It wasn’t the first time he’d slept while dangling out of his room, but it was the first time in a long while that he dreamt.

He saw the palace, the servants and nobles that made up the court of the king. He saw the king, his king, the glorious leader and harbinger of peace, Dofka. He was more handsome than Virgil remembered.

“Verine,” his highness called out. Virgil- Verine came running from her place standing in the doorway of the throne room to the right side of the king. She kissed his hand reverently, almost hypnotized.

“My dear sorceress, why don't you wear the gowns I gift to you? They are made of the finest silk, and the colors compliment your beautiful skin so much better than these dark and dreary things,” he gestured to the dark cloak Verine was wearing.

“My king, while I do greatly appreciate your generosity, I must admit I do not enjoy the colors very much…I prefer my violet and green cloaks. They provide me more room to move and do your work, my lord,” Verine replied gently.

Dofka considered this thoughtfully, before responding confidently, “Still, you’d look prettier if you only wore some light rose colors or white occasionally. But who am I to dictate your choices?” he asked rhetorically, challenge in his eyes.

Verine directed her gaze down and away from his and lowered to her knees, still clutching Dofka’s hand. “I will make an effort to appreciate your gifts more, my liege…” she responded quitely. The king nodded triumphantly and kissed her hand, her cue to stand once more.

“So what is there to be done today?” Dofka asked, boredom evident in his tone.

Verine huffed out a small laugh. “Today the nobles voice their opinions on your new policies. Your scribe will take note of who said what and they will be kept in your personal library.” Dofka groaned dramatically.

“This is always so dull, Verine!” he exclaimed.

“Worry not, my lord. They will be done saying their piece soon, and we can retire,” she offered with a small smile. Dofka sighed loudly and gestured to the knight posted at the door, signaling to let the first of the nobles in.

One after one, the uppercrust of the kingdom filed in, said their complaints, and left without challenge. Verine could see the boredom dancing and growing larger behind Dofka’s eyes, knowing that it would soon give way to some kind of lashing out.

Soon enough, Verine’s fear became reality. When the last noble was walking out, the king called to him. “Halt, sir!” The noble stopped immediately and turned to the king.

“How may I serve you, my lord?” The young noble asked. Verine guessed he couldn’t be older than 25, considering his stubbly facial hair and high voice.

Dofka looked at his sorceress and smiled, all teeth and no warmth. “My dear,” he purred, putting her in a near trance. “Could you show our guest how the castle keeps so warm?” Verine hesitated. She knew exactly what that meant, and she was not happy about it. She slowly turned toward the young noble, smiling sadly.

“Of course, my liege…” She walked down the few steps that separated Dofka from the subjects and instructed the young man to turn around, facing the wall opposite the king. Once he had done so, Verine turned back to Dofka. “Please, sire…” she made one last attempt to reason with him.

But his smile was gone, replaced with a terrifying blankness. It reminded her of the stone statue of him that stood outside the castle wall; no feeling, no empathy, just unforgiving stone.

“Do it.” He would not be moved from his desire. With great resignation, Verine turned back to the noble.

She muttered an incantation to herself, enough to channel the magic she needed. In her hands grew blue flames, and soon they were licking up her arms.

“Turn to me, lord,” she said quietly. He did so. Before he react in any way, she wrapped her arms around his, binding his movements completely. The screams of the man were nothing compared to the boisterous laughing of the king. He sounded truly joyous as he watched one of his subjects burn alive.

Virgil gasped awake, sitting up suddenly and nearly throwing himself off the ledge where he slept. Dofka’s laugh was ringing in his ears. The dream was not fictional, but a distant memory of his old life in the palace. He cringed and groaned as he flopped back down on the stones of his floor, remembering his old name and terrible actions.

He didn’t want to remember any of it, the good nor the bad. If he could wipe the memory of it all from his head, he would. No magic, no friends, no Dofka. A blank slate. He felt nonexistent in his present, not wanted or needed by anyone or anything. He was a bad memory to everyone he ever knew, even himself.

Virgil sighed, letting himself slip off the edge of the tower and singing a song to the vines, which caught him on his way down, slowly lowering him to the ground. He picked up the basket that lay abandoned at the base of the tower and went about foraging for food. Anything to take his mind off the bad thoughts.

He ventured out of the little clearing where his tower was nestled, walking toward the distant sound of running water. He’d explored before, boredom getting the best of him on multiple occasions. He was resigned to his fate of solitude, but he refused to be resigned to idleness. True, he felt he could never escape the kingdom, but he didn’t want to starve.

Virgil slowly walked through the beautiful forest around him, enjoying the sound of the birds singing around him, the wind weaving a harmony into their song. He didn’t feel the need to use his magic here, as there was the enchanting murmur of nature to fill the silence.

He felt his bare feet press against the soft grass and tree roots beneath him, willing the memory of the throne room and the king to leave his memory. He concentrated instead on the swishing sound his robes made as he walked and they trailed behind him. He listened to the babble of the river as he grew closer to it.

Virgil decided to think about some of his allies in the palace, as willing thoughts from his mind was getting him nowhere but further away from his tower. He recalled the man who could always, always put a smile on his face, Patton. His antics were commonplace to the nobles of the kingdom, but that wasn’t what made Virgil crack up.

He and Patton used to have secret meetings in the palace kitchen, their small act of rebellion against some of the stricter guidelines set in place. They would meet at the dead of night, giggling and eating their own personal delicacies, chocolate with salty crackers and butter on the finest bread. The cooks always questioned where half of their stores had gone when the morning came, but the two only laughed and skittered away in the shadows, Virgil using his magic to distract them.

Virgil smiled, remembering a particularly good night with him. They had stolen a whole loaf of fluffy bread and a lump of butter and ran away before the guards could catch them. They had run to an abandoned courtyard, populated only with cement statues and benches overgrown with ivy.

As he picked wild mushrooms and herbs, he recalled how he and Patton had pushed two crumbling benches together and laid down next to each other, looking up at the stars and snacking on their stolen treats. They didn’t speak, they didn’t make any noise as they tried to count the endless stars in the night sky.

Patton nudged Virgil, pointing to a constellation when he had the other’s attention. He chuckled and hummed very slightly, just enough to change Patton’s perception of the sky, making it appear as though the constellations were dancing across the sky. Patton was stunned into silence, a huge grin on his face. The dancing stars reflected in the round glasses resting on his nose.

“Pat, I gotta tell you something…and you have to promise not to tell anyone else, ok?” Virgil asked, tone hushed to preserve the mood. Patton tore his gaze away from the sky to land on his friend’s eyes. He nodded solemnly.

Virgil took a deep breath. “I'm not a girl, Pat…” His friend looked confused. “Well, I mean I know what I look like, but I don't feel like a girl on the inside and I haven’t told anyone else and I'm still really confused about it and I— oof!” he exclaimed and laughed as Patton tackle hugged him.

“I love you, V! I don't fully understand what you’re talking about or going through but I'm here for you no matter what!” Virgil smiled and buried his face in his friend’s shoulder.

Virgil remembered spending the rest of the night talking to Patton about his journey of self discovery and how he only realized what was going on because of his reaction to the king’s requests of him. Patton nodded along, listening intently. By the time the sun rose, the two were fast asleep, fingers lightly touching and robes wrapped around each other.

Virgil allowed himself a smile as he lowered himself to sit next to the river, dipping his feet in the cool water. He took out his flask, filling it up and drinking its contents multiple times. It had been years since he thought about Patton. His old friend was trustworthy and so full of unconditional love, it almost made up for Dofka’s boorish behavior and misplaced priorities.

Patton’s presence made his life as the right hand to the king bearable. While he did love the ruler of the kingdom, that love was tainted with the king’s manipulative tactics and abusive behavior. The court fool being present, his eyes playful but so kind to Virgil, was enough to keep him there and get him through his day.

Virgil didn’t want to think about him. It made his heart ache to know that his only friend in the world probably didn’t know who he was anymore. He knew the depth of the cruelty that Dofka was capable of exhibiting and how many other sorcerers were under his thumb. He had no doubt that the king had wiped Virgil from the memory of the kingdom as a whole.

He had the lingering hope that Patton was happy and had found someone else to fill his days with joy and mirth in Virgil’s absence.

Virgil had just sat up when he sensed a presence near him in the woods. Townspeople from the neighboring villages never ventured this far into the forest, fearing the wrath of fae and dark magic. This person was well off the beaten path, and if they tried anything they would be very sorry.

The sorcerer pulled out the knight’s small dagger, readying a weapon in case he couldn’t get a note out, when he laid eyes on the mysterious stranger. He was wearing a mustard-colored cape and dark brown hunter’s cap. He had a bow and arrow in his hands, ready to strike at the first sign of life.

Virgil slowly drew his feet out of the water and rose up to standing. The stranger approached the riverbank and nearly jumped out of his skin when his eyes finally set on the dark sorcerer. He quickly settled himself into a casual position, bow and arrow still at the ready.

“You totally didn’t scare me,” the stranger said, tone dripping with duplicity. Virgil scoffed, but gripped the dagger a little tighter, hidden under his dark robe. “And I completely expected to see another person out here in the middle of nowhere…” He ended the statement with a bit of an upward lilt, almost as if it were a question. Virgil smirked slightly.

“I could say the same of you, hunter. Why are you out in the middle of nowhere?” He was curious, but was more worried about his own safety.

“It’s not like I was looking off the path for more wildlife or anything. Why are you out on a random riverbank traveller?”

“Better water, better plants.” Virgil gestured to his basket of freshly picked food. They both stared at each other for a moment that lasted a lifetime. “Well, goodbye, hunter. Safe travels.” He picked up his basket, turned with an unintentional flourish of his robe and began his long trek back to his tower.

“Wait! Traveller I-” he coughed a bit when Virgil looked back, a bored expression plastered back on his face. “What is your name? I’ve run into so many people in these woods, so you’re nothing special or anything…” his duplicitous tone was back.

Virgil’s tiny smirk returned. “You can call me…V. You are?”

“V? Well, if we’re shortening names you can call me D. Most people do anyway,” he said with a cock of his hip.

“Pleasure.” Virgil was about to turn away once more, but his heart got the best of him. He sighed and rubbed his face with the hand holding the basket. “Walk directly that way at a normal pace for five minutes. Make a left at the large, moss-covered boulder and walk another five minutes. There’s an apple tree with tons of ripe fruit. Be safe D.” At that, he felt he had done his duty and turned on his heels.

Virgil smiled at the surprised and open expression he received from his advice. He heard the hunter call out his somewhat sarcastic thanks and head out in the direction he was told to travel. Virgil ate that night, head full of bittersweet memories and heart full of ache.

He would never admit that he hoped the knight would return.

Chapter Text

A little over two months after Roman’s visit with Virgil, Logan sat calmly outside the maid’s wing of the castle. Half his attention was paid to his book, the other half on listening into the maid’s conversations. The common ear would think the maids were talking about different recipes and methods of cleaning. To Logan, every ingredient in a recipe was a codename for a noble or member of the king’s inner circle.

The servants chattered away, Logan taking notes in his small journal all the while and skimming through the chapter of his book. Multitasking was second nature to him at that point, needing the skill since he was a small child.

Logan had a particular knack for being invisible. Despite being a fairly handsome young fellow, he remained unnoticed by the majority of the population. Very few people in his life had taken particular note of him, even fewer in the castle.

If one were to ask a noble who the tall, dark fellow walking around with books was, they would be at a loss for a name. They’d recognize the robes as those of the palace snake, but his face would be missing form their memory. He was like a dream, crystal clear in the moment but forgotten upon looking elsewhere.

The first person to notice him had been Patton. He’d been struggling in his studies and had noticed Logan excelling. He’d asked for help, and Logan had complied. Years later, the only person’s attention he wanted was Patton’s.

He pulled himself out of his thoughts, ignoring the pink that had risen to his sharp cheeks. The maids were moving onto other chores, away from the open door that Logan had been listening to them through. He pulled himself to a standing position and walked his way outside the castle to the main entrance, navy robes gently swishing on the ground behind him.

He made his way through the palace, pushing his glasses further up on the bridge of his nose as they dropped. He entered the king’s private library, announcing his presence with a soft knock on the doorframe. When he received no answer, he walked in further. Logan gently tore the relevant pages from his notebook and laid them on the large desk nestled into the back of the library.

Dofka would read them in his own time, whenever he chose to visit his study again. Until that point, Logan was free to roam about the castle on his own, listening in for gossip as he went. The thought of free time brought his mind to one place only, though. Patton.

Logan trekked back through the castle halls, a light skip in his step this time, as he searched for his friend. He would never admit to nearly giggling with glee at the thought of getting to have lunch and spend the day with him.

He adjusted his robes and undergarments as he briskly made his way to Patton’s chambers. Once arrived, he knocked twice, quickly and with purpose. Instead of his cheery friend answering the door with a large smile and bubbly laughter, a few seconds passed before a subdued Patton cracked open the door. His smile was small, much too small to be from mere fatigue.

Logan, now on high alert, entered his room briskly and sat down on Patton’s unmade bed, gesturing for Pat to sit next to him. He did so, and leaned on Logan’s shoulder with a sigh.

“What seems to be the problem?” Logan asked softly. Patton just sighed again, closing his eyes gently.

“Logan, I miss him…”

“What do you mean? To whom are you referring?” His brow furrowed in confusion.

“V…I miss my friend,” Patton uttered, barely loud enough for Logan to hear.

Logan sighed and rested his head on top of Patton’s. “I understand you and V were close, but they are gone now. They committed terrible acts, some of the repercussions of which are still being felt to this day. Even if you were to find them, it would not be safe.”

Patton jerked his head up to glare at Logan. “He would never do anything to hurt me! He made a mistake all those years ago and I'm allowed to miss him!” He got up and stormed over to his window.

“I…Patton…I didn’t mean to offend. I only wished to warn you that the sorcerer could hold some sort of grudge against people from this kingdom, you included,” Logan said softly. Patton remained at the window, but his scowl lessened. “He has been secluded for almost a decade, Pat. You nor I nor anyone else knows how he is thinking or feeling.”

“You didn’t know him like I did Lo. He was so kind…and he was treated so poorly by his royal highness,” his voice betrayed the bitterness he felt welling up in his chest. “We did so much together…and now he’s gone.” He held his arms around himself, seemingly more out of comfort than anger.

Logan suddenly felt the urge to reach out and cradle the fool against his chest, to whisper sweet words and touch his wavy locks. He shook off the thought as he walked next to Patton. “We could do some of the activities you two did? Perhaps I could help in that regard,” he offered.

“It wouldn’t be the same,” Patton responded with a sad smile. Logan pretended his heart hadn’t just shattered. “But, hey! I'm hungry! And there’s lots of yummy food in the kitchen,” he forced a smile onto his face.

Logan was about to protest, but Patton quickly took him by the hand and ushered him away from the conversation with nonsense words and witty phrases. Soon enough, Logan had been completely distracted from the conversation they had engaged in just minutes prior.

The two spent the next few hours of the day together, Patton laughing about the mundane and Logan smiling along. Neither mentioned Virgil again, though the thought of him lingered in the air.

——

That night, both Logan and Patton had duties to attend to. The clown was to paint his face and entertain the nobles and uppercrust at Dofka’s gathering. The snake in scholar’s robes was to disguise himself and mingle with those who attended. He was to find them at their most inebriated and vulnerable and get them to tell him their secrets.

It was no surprise that Logan despised the theatrics of it all and Patton loved them. The party being thrown that night was a masquerade, one of Patton’s favorite types of dressup. Feeling rambunctious, he decided to wear dark purple robes and a dark, long wig, accompanied with pale face makeup and dramatic eyeshadow and lipstick.

He was dressing up like Virgil.

Logan waltzed into Patton’s room in his own disguise, a light green robe with yellow pants and a tunic underneath. His mask covered only his eyes and nose, gold and green as well. It was simple, but such a simple style was easy to overlook and subsequently be forgotten.

He stopped dead in his tracks with one look at Patton. “You’re going to get yourself killed,” he whispered, voice definitely not trembling. The fool smiled at him, dark violet lipstick making the expression seem laced with ill intent. Logan reminded himself it wasn’t.

“Nobody remembers him, Lo. The only person who’ll know is Dofka.” He answered with a certainty Logan didn’t know he possessed. His eyes looked hard under the black and green eyeshadow. If he didn’t know any better, Logan would say patton was being vindictive.

“Are you sure, Pat? He isn’t a forgiving man and this…” he assessed Patton’s look again, noting the dress under the robes, “this has the potential to end very poorly.”

Patton stood up after fixing the last of his makeup at his bureau and strode over to his companion. “He thinks I forgot too, Lo.” His gaze was solid as stone, not at all the light-hearted thing it was hours prior. Logan felt a chill run down his spine. Not trusting his voice, he only nodded and offered his arm to Patton, who accepted it with a smile.

They walked in tense silence toward the larger of the ballrooms in the palace. As they got closer, they passed nobles in similar styles as Logan, with a variety of masks placed over their faces. They looked surprised at Patton’s style, but quickly smiled and cooed at the “exotic look” the court clown was sporting for the night.

They stopped just outside the open doors, spying Dofka sitting on his throne.

“You sure you want to do this?” Logan tried for the last time to reason with his friend.

Patton returned his gaze head-on. “I have to.”

They strode in, Patton smiled and Dofka’s breath stopped.

Chapter Text

Roman had taken to reading more often since his visit with Virgil. On his days off, he found himself in the library, poring over history books, novels and pretty much anything he could get his hands on.

Some of the books he found most interesting were those of fiction. They depicted knights, much like himself, as chivalrous and kind-hearted. They would rescue those in need and always came out on top, even if they took a beating first. He found himself filing away their romantic gestures and lines for future use…totally not on Virgil.

He shook the thought of the soothing stories from his head as he mounted his steed. It had been three moths since his accidental visit with Virgil and he was going out on a scouting mission, taking stock of the villages and assessing what reinforcements needed to be sent out, if any. All the previous times he had been sent on these missions, he came back with only good news of peaceful borders or very minor scuffles, the kind that a small town could easily fend off on their own.

Today, he was riding to see the sorcerer who had bewitched him. He prided himself on the turn of phrase. He had remembered Virgil’s ask of him, as well. In his satchel were two loaves of bread, baked fresh that day, several bags of tea leaves, and Roman’s favorite novel. He’d read that knights bestowed gifts upon the maidens they rescued sometimes. He figured some gifts were in order for the man trapped in a tower for several years.

He bid his guard farewell as he rode out of the palace gates, gaining speed as he galloped through the woods. He felt so free in nature, not held back by walls or rules. He felt the wind whip through the seams of his armor and it felt freeing. He rode his horse for hours, simply soaking in the scenery around him, before he came to the first town.

A small village, containing maybe a hundred people, would likely not have conflicts. They were near to the castle itself as well, further negating their need for help.

Roman was correct, as he rode out the other side of the village, only needing to stop and converse with the town leader for a moment before being on his way.

The rest of his day continued that way, as did the next and the next. Usually he felt excited and leapt at the chance to talk to normal townspeople. They didn’t feel the need to tailor their actions to suit a certain standard or decorum, like the nobles. They also didn’t turn up their noses at him, a simple knight. They respected Roman and he respected them in return.

This time was different however. He found himself rushing through his meetings with the town officials, nearly vibrating with excitement. If the townspeople found his behavior off, they didn’t say anything.

Roman quite literally screamed with excitement when he finally reached the familiar path that had lead him to Virgil’s tower. Deep in the woods, there was literally no one to hear him scream.

Since he didn’t have Virgil’s lilting voice to lead him to the tower, he had to do it by memory. Which, incidentally, was proving to be very difficult. It was dusk, the sun was setting and all the paths seemed to be looking the same. He had ridden in broad daylight when he had first found the lonely tower. The change in lighting was enough to completely throw Roman off his game.

After about an hour of vigorous searching behind every dangling vine, bush and tree, Roman decided on the less graceful route of finding his…new friend.

“VIRGIIIIIIL!!!” he yelled as loudly as he could muster. The birds in the trees a flew up and away at the sudden noise, but he paid them no mind. “VIRGIIIIII-“

“GOD SHUT UP WOULD YOU?!” was yelled followed by a series of irritating “la la la”s. Roman grinned to the point that his cheeks strained, but he didn’t care. He rode his noble steed to the source of the noise, behind an extremely well-hidden growth of vines. The moment he spotted Virgil’s exasperated form leaning out of the tower, he hauled his bag off of his horse and sprinted to the base of the tower.

For as annoyed as he was, Virgil also looked excited to be seeing Roman again. “Hold onto the red vine!” he called down, a hint of laughter in his voice. Roman did as he was told, after slinging the saddle bag over his shoulder.

As soon as he had a firm hold of the vine, another beautiful song filled the air around him and the plant began to slither towards the window at the top of the tower. Soon enough, Roman was once again climbing into the tower window and was face-to-face with Virgil. He was slightly out of breath, but it didn’t matter. The smile and deep blush on Virgil’s face was enough to knock the air from his lungs all over again.

The moment of shock wore off and a slightly awkward silence took its place.

“I…I adore your haircut,” Roman offered, forcing bravado into his voice. Virgil gave a small laugh and rubbed the short hairs on the back of his head.

“Hey, it was all the dagger.” He looked down at Roman’s bag and his eyes lit up. “Did you bring-”

“I remembered what you asked for, and it has been toted along!” Roman declared confidently. He dramatically pulled out the loaves of bread. He didn’t think someone’s eyes could be so filled with love as Virgil’s were at the sight of the baked treat. He snatched a loaf from Roman’s hand as soon as it was offered and quickly began chowing down.

Roman laughed, loud and comfortable. He sat down in the same armchair he had settled in months before and observed the sorcerer, munching on bread and sat peacefully cross-legged on the floor.

As Virgil ate, Roman once again took off his armor. He mentally cursed himself for not taking it off before he climbed up the tower. As Virgil finished the whole loaf, he flopped back onto his back and groaned delightedly. The sound brought a flush to Roman’s cheeks, which he tried (and failed) to hide by turning to look at the view of the setting sun from the high window.

Virgil snickered as he sat back up to face the knight. “Tea?” he offered. Roman nodded graciously, pulling out and handing over the second gift. Virgil hummed to the dying embers of the fire as he inhaled the scent of each new bag of tea leaves. By the time he had thoroughly sniffed and selected a variety of tea, the fire was roaring once more, the pot of water already dangling over the flames.

Roman relaxed into the chair as he watched Virgil delightedly fix two teacups once again. He crushed the dried leaves into a fine powder with a mortar and pestle, added whatever additional herbs he deemed necessary, and sang to the pot of water. Before Roman knew it, he and Virgil were sitting side by side at the ledge, drinking their warm beverages.

Roman swooned when he took the first gulp of his drink. It was so much better than he had remembered. “Good god, man, what in the world did you put in this?!”

Virgil tried and failed to hold back a lopsided smile. “Honey…I found this beehive when I went out foraging and the bees were really nice and they…” he trailed off as he looked at Roman’s face. “Sorry, you probably don't want to hear about this.” He coughed and sipped his drink, burying his face in his cup.

Roman reached over and brushed a longer piece of hair behind his ear, before jerking his hand back to his own mug at the confused blush that rose on Virgil’s cheeks. “I, uhm. I would love to hear how you received the honey! I didn’t know you could leave the tower, however.”

Virgil nodded. “I can leave here whenever I want…I do it to look for food or just walk around. I found the honey in the woods. Sing to the bees a little and they’re happy to lend some.”

Roman nodded along, draining the remainder of his tea in one large gulp. “Well, their loss is most certainly our gain!” Virgil shrugged and let his hair fall back in front of his face.

“So…no guard this time?”

Roman looked out over the small clearing, taking note of the small wood pile tucked against the base of the tower. His horse had sniffed it and was now grazing calmly on the grass. “No. No guard. I came on my own today!” He took note of Virgil’s widened eyes.

“You aren’t afraid?” His voice was so small it almost broke Roman’s heart.

“I have no reason to be afraid! Such a kind sorcerer would not offer such delicious beverages if he wished to do harm.” He nudged the sorcerer’s shoulder gently.

Virgil nudged him back after a moment. “I take it you didn’t find out what landed me up here then…”

“Actually, I did.” Virgil froze. “I talked to…some knowledgeable people about you. They told me what they knew and filled in some gaps.” He turned to sit cross-legged and face his friend head-on. “I'm so sorry you had to go through that.”

The sorcerer stared, dumbfounded, at Roman’s face. His mouth opened and closed multiple times before he turned away to stare at the setting sun. “It’s not your fault it happened.”

“No…” Roman placed a gentle hand on Virgil’s shoulder. “But I am truly sorry.” After a moment os silence, Virgil sniffed, quickly swiping at his cheeks and sipping his tea again.

“Thanks, knighty…I'm sure your guard would laugh if they could see you now, having tea with a genderbender,” he stuck his tongue out a little and shoved Roman’s shoulder lightly, getting an offended gasp in return.

“As if! They would have some serious punishment coming their way if they said anything of the sort. I don't tolerate intolerance, wizard,” he stated matter-of-factly, delighting in the snort he elicited.

“Who would’ve thought a disgraced sorcerer and the leader of the royal guard could get along, huh?”

“And who says I can stand you? Who says I'm not just biding my time until I can be off again?”

Virgil snickered . “Yea, because you’d love to stuff your face into that stinky helmet and get bruised balls from riding that horse for days.”

Roman turned beet red and Virgil nearly spit out his mouthful of tea at the sight. He laughed, free and loud, his voice echoing above the trees in the clearing. Roman swore the emerging stars shone brighter because of it.

“Speaking of returning, when do you have to leave this time? Just so I know when to shove you off the ledge.” He kicked his dangling feet against the stone of the tower for emphasis.

Roman gave him a Look in return. “I'm not due back at the castle for a few more days. I intended on making camp in your clearing, if you would allow it.”

Virgil’s mouth dropped open. “Oh, HELL no knighty pants.” He stood up abruptly and began aggressively pacing back and forth from the ledge to the opposite wall. He seemed to be studying his belongings furiously.

Roman quickly backpedalled, “Oh, no I didn’t mean to offend! I only wished to camp here because it’s sheltered from-”

Virgil came to a halt. “You think I'm mad because you can’t stay in my clearing? Dude, you’re staying in here tonight!” He gestured to the floor he was standing on.

Roman turned bright red again. “I- I couldn’t possibly impose on such a kind sorcer-”

“Bullshit! It’s not an imposition if I offer knighty. You’re staying here.” His tone left no room for argument. Roman jerked his head in a nod.

——

 

Hours later, Virgil’s room was set up for a guest. His bed had expanded to accommodate an additional person (both denied blushing at the thought of sharing a bed), his multiple scattered tables had been consolidated to one corner of the room, and he had produced some extra blankets for them both to use.

It was nice.

After setting everything up for the evening, they had decided to talk for a little while longer at the ledge. Roman still refused to dangle his legs over the edge, but tucked his legs into a bent position as Virgil swung his legs confidently. They both laid down, staring at the stars.

“This was one of the few moments of peace I had when I was living in the palace,” Virgil said quietly. Roman hummed his acknowledgement. “When I got sick of it all, I'd wander the gardens and just…look up.”

Roman smiled. “It kinda feels like you’re not alone when there are so many little companions in the sky to keep you company.”

Silence fell between them, not awkward, just still. The sound of crickets and trees gently rustling in the night breeze set such a sweet and reverent mood, neither wanted to disturb it. The stars seemed to twinkle the longer he stared at them. He wondered if Virgil was weaving his magic into them.

Roman debated mentally on whether to act on his feelings or not. Not that he knew what the hell he was feeling, for that matter, but he knew for certain he wanted to touch Virgil. They were laying so close to each other, just a hair’s distance away from making contact. His heart yearned to close the distance and comfort this broken man that laid beside him.

On one hand, he could imagine being stuck alone for years on end would make him desperate for comfort and physical touch. But, he didn’t know Virgil that well! Would he banish Roman from his tower? Would he take it to mean that Roman only wanted him for physical purposes, and not for friendship? Would he-

“You’re thinking pretty loud over there, knight,” Virgil drawled easily. “Out with it.”

Roman sighed and braced himself for the worst. He slid his hand over until he felt Virgil’s own. And, ever so slowly, wrapped his pinky around his friend’s. His heart leapt out of his chest when Virgil drew his hand away, but returned by laying his whole hand on Roman’s. They intertwined their fingers together, each feeling the other’s crave for physical touch.

Roman felt as if he were on fire, despite the downright chilly night air that swirled around them. “Is this ok?” he whispered.

All he received was a squeeze of his hand in response.

That night, they slept side by side on the stones of the tower, hands intertwined and hearts beating in tandem.

Their aching backs the days following were worth it. They bid each other farewell once more, the words “see you soon” feeling bitter on their tongues. Roman didn’t forget to leave his book in the tower, concealed just enough to fool Virgil until he was gone from sight. Virgil didn’t forget to sneak another jar of salve into his bag.

Roman rode away from Virgil in his tower, heart heavy and hand still burning.

Chapter Text

Patton strode confidently into the party, hanging off Logan’s arm. It wasn’t the first time he’d worn a dress to a party. The nobles and the king found the cross-dressing ceaselessly entertaining, even if it was in a mocking way. Patton paid their opinions no mind, only focusing on doing his job and hearing the laughs.

The night of the party, he didn’t hear laughs. Not at first, anyway. He heard soft gasps, short breathing and, finally, boisterous laughter. The nobles knew who he was and must have found this dark disguise entertaining as all hell.

It wasn’t meant for them, anyway.

Patton caught a glimpse of the king, who looked as though he were caught between hyperventilating and ceasing to breathe all together. Logan kissed Patton’s knuckles in a rare display of affection, all for show of course. Patton repeated that in his head as he struggled to get his fluttering heart to calm down.

He breathed in deeply, gathering his wits, and sank into a deeper stance. To the casual observer he looked like a melodramatic dark witch.

Perfect.

He creeped his way over to Dofka, cackling and lunging at guests as he went. The ladies giggled and hid behind their totally not startled male partners.

He bowed deeply to the king, who was still staring mutely at Patton. The fool put on a brave face and continued to creep his way around the gathering, sneaking small bits from the food tables as he did so. He snuck some into his dress’s hidden pockets as well. Ya never know when you’ll need a midnight snack!

He spied Logan laughing and sipping a glass of what he guessed was juice, but looked identical to the libations the other guests were indulging in. Patton sighed to himself; seeing Logan smile, even when it was forced, was still the prettiest thing he’d ever seen. His dark persona slipped momentarily as he observed Logan move effortlessly between groups of royals, coaxing secrets and gossip from their lips.

Once he realized it, Patton slipped back into character. He giggled wickedly as he startled a particular man into dropping his glass, all from a weak poke to the ribs.

Patton had very few qualms about scaring the nobles. Logan was always eager to share the news he found, as was Patton in sharing the info he gathered. He saw it as a mysterious rogue mission only he and Logan knew they were on. The information he found out, about how the servants were treated behind closed doors, the concealed bruises left on ladies’ arms and ribs, made his job that much easier.

As he slowly made the rounds, greeting each guest in his witchy way, he took note of just how many remnants of Virgil were left. On the intricate architecture on the door archways, the buttresses that lines the walls, even the frames around royal paintings were adorned with the sorcerer’s symbol. He doubted anyone but himself and Logan knew what it represented, and the thought made his heart burn with rage all over again.

Perfect timing, as the guests began to move to the sides of the ballroom, making room in the center for the fool to perform. Dofka had managed to plaster on a neutral smile that Patton one hundred percent saw through. He shot a devious smile the king’s way before he started his performance.

Patton remembered some of the little bits of magic Virgil had taught him, all slight of hand stuff meant to entertain rather than be of particular use. All those little spells were used in Patton’s show.

He began by letting out a cracking laugh, shocking the guests into silence. He spun around himself before stopping suddenly and throwing his arms out to the side. The first spell was used here. A little incantation used to temporarily put out candles. Patton muttered the spell as he turned, and the throwing of his arms made all the candles in the ballroom flicker into nothing.

The royals gasped and some even screamed.

He took the opportunity to creep around in the dark to Logan’s side, gently nudging him to let him know he was there. As much as the other nobles deserved it, his friend certainly didn’t need the pants scared off of him.

As the candles suddenly burst back into life, Patton jumped as high as he could, yelping nonsense words as he did so. Logan played his part well, jumping and leaning away from the fool in mock fear, clutching his cheek as he did so. The group of nobles did the same, genuinely terrified.

Patton landed with a slap of his bare feet on the hard floor, creeping his way around the group of nobles, approaching another. He held his hands up and waggled his fingers at them, making the ladies giggle, though it was laced with hesitance.

He recognized one of the women in the group as a frequent visitor to the castle infirmary, treated for cuts, bruises and other assorted injuries. He couldn’t bring himself to scare her.

Instead, he went with a more silly and very useless spell. Patton quickly snatched her hand, holding it to his chest. She smiled a bit, eyes wide with confusion. Patton led her hand up to his mouth, muttered the words of another spell and kissed the hand.

She looked confused as nothing happened, but after a moment that Patton took to creep back to the center of the room, her hand began to grow a rosy pink color. The point where Patton had kissed it radiated light and shifted smoothly between every color of the rainbow, slowly fading away again.

The noble smiled, eyes a little watery, and held her hand to her heart, thanks in her eyes directed at Patton. His heart soared once again.

But now, he was ready for his final move. He knew it was foolish (ha) and he knew it would probably land him in a dungeon cell, but he was too excited to see the look on the king’s face after he completed it.

The spell he had in mind was one the Virgil used to empty to relay to Patton his dreams, and more intricate thoughts. It allowed him to project into space what he was thinking. Longer thoughts took more energy, but short ones were fun and not too strenuous.

He wanted to shove it in Dofka’s face.

“I…I feel a presence coming over me!” Patton arched his back dramatically, tossing his head from side to side. “It is an old spirit that fights for control of my body! I know not its name…oh nooooOOOOO!” He screamed dramatically and crouched, going suddenly silent. In his crouch, he uttered the words of the final incantation, and shot back up.

Projected above his head was the face of Virgil in all his dark-eyed long haired glory. The bits of memory that immediately presented themselves were those of him laughing, in rare moments of feeling free and happy. Patton reigned in his thoughts, forcing them to turn to the moments where Virgil’s eyes turned fully black with the force of his magic, his voice echoed lower than its natural pitch.

It hurt Patton to show the darker sides of his best friend, but it was necessary. He was no longer the idiot, the court fool meant only to jest and distract the nobles.

As the last memory ended, one of Virgil screaming in agonizing pain from the force of a certain spell, silence rang through the air. Patton dropped to his knees, banging hard on the marble floor under his dress. He was breathing hard, struggling to catch his breath and find the strength in his muscles again.

He had no doubt that Logan was staring at him, probably fighting the urge to come help him. As much as Patton was a parental, caregiving person, he’d seen the side of Logan that yearned to care for others, even if it was more removed.

Patton shook off the thoughts as he stood once more, feeling heavier than before. The full weight of the dress, wig and makeup were nearly stifling, but the look on the king’s face restored all of Patton’s strength and then some.

Dofka looked halfway between screaming in rage and weeping. His hands were gripping the arms of his throne in a white-knuckled grip, and they were shaking. His shoulder were hiked up to his ears and his mouth was flapping open and closed, seemingly finding words.

Patton’s facade completely dropped into terror when Dofka finally uttered, with fury, “Take that bitch away.”

He ran.

He sprinted into the corridor, narrowly avoiding a guard’s desperate grab at his dress. He cursed the idea as he ran through the castle halls.

Even though he was in immense trouble, he couldn’t help but laugh. He had showed the king that his friend was not truly gone, would never be. He’d avenged him, even if it wasn’t a physical punishment. He tried to contain his smiles and chuckles, as they would only draw the attention of other guards.

Patton ran, hearing the guards fall further and further behind him. As he broke free of the front gates of the castle, the panic hit him full force, as did Roman.

Both men stumbled back, Patton significantly more shaken. Roman quickly pulled him to his feet and held him still.

“What is it? What’s wrong?!”

“Leave…need to go…Dofka…after me!” Patton panted between gasps for air.

Roman went silent for a moment, conflict playing out on his face. The moment passed. “Go to the abandoned courtyard. The southwest corner has an old gate that you can slip through. Get in the forest and run.”

Patton took a gulp of air, hugged a shocked Roman tightly, and took off running in the other direction. He went around the outside of the castle, dodging the spots he knew the guards would be posted in. Even so, as he ran through the courtyard he and Virgil had laid down in years prior, he heard the guards gaining on him, shouting and clanking in their armor.

He had no more thoughts. He burst through the rickety, old gates and made a mad dash to the tree line. Roman was right. The guards wouldn’t follow him in there, especially not at night. He felt an arrow whizz past his head as he burst into the trees. He felt a trickle of warmth flow down his ear, dripping onto his neck and gown. He didn’t care.

Patton kept running, long after the guards had ceased and turned back. His legs and lungs were burning with exertion, begging him to stop.

Finally, his body gave out in a small clearing. He tripped on a tree root and fell flat on his face. He didn’t fight it, simply sighed and rolled onto his back as his nose bled.

Patton smiled despite the deep ache thrumming through his bones. He was free.

Chapter Text

Devraux was the best archer in his village. His mother often mused on the fact that it almost made up for the ugliness he was born with. Almost.

He spent most of his days hunting game and selling his spoils to the merchants of his village and others. His nights were spent in his cottage, separate from the rest of his town. They didn’t like him, and he knew it. So, he distanced himself. Happily. He didn’t need their stares or judgement.

It wasn’t often that he met people on his hunting outings. Even then, they were usually travelers going between villages and were merely passing through.

The strange, dark man he had met near the river was a first in terms of comfort in the forest. This person seemed even more at ease in nature than he did. And he totally wasn’t startled when they first met. Not in the slightest.

One particular night, Devraux was thinking about that mysterious person, V. He wasn’t sleeping anytime soon, so he decided to go for a ride. His horse, Boa, was happy to oblige. They set off in a direction vaguely towards the castle, but not directly.

Devraux knew how to navigate the forest anytime of day or night, and knew who and what was out and about when. Which made it all the stranger when he happened upon a sleeping woman in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Upon dismounting his horse and giving her a once-over, she had a bloody nose and ear, possibly come cuts on the feet.

The archer leaned in to her face, ear a breath away from her lips, and heard it. She took a stuttering inhale and exhale, almost content on the forest floor. Devraux sighed. He most certainly wasn’t looking forward to caring for this random woman, and potentially having someone around more often.

Definitely not.

She was out cold, no amount of shaking able to wake her. So, he loaded her onto his horse and walked his way back to his little cottage. He fixed his small sofa with some blankets and pillows and laid her down on them, laying a lighter sheet on top. She smiled lightly and snuggled a little deeper into the soft fabrics. D set a bucket, glass of water and small cloths on the floor next to her, should she need anything overnight.

He set himself into a chair, convincing himself that he was simply going to make sure his guest wouldn’t die over the course of the night, then head to bed himself. He told himself that as he passed out in his armchair.

——

Devraux woke with a snort, followed by a groan. His neck was killing him. He cracked open eye to see his guest missing from the couch. He opened his eyes the rest of the way and grunted as he sat all the way up.

“Good morning, sleepyhead!” a voice called from the bathroom. It sounded much deeper than the average woman’s voice.

As if on cue, the guest emerged from the bathroom, dress discarded, revealing thin purple pants and a shirt. His makeup had been haphazardly wiped off and the long hair that once adorned his head was in his hands. Ah. A male, then.

“Hello…” D trailed off as he hoisted himself into a standing position. “So glad to see you didn’t die last night,” he muttered snarkily. His guest only laughed in response.

“I could say the same thing! I thought for sure you wouldn’t wake up when I saw you this morning.” His voice was light and bubbly. Devraux wasn’t sure how to feel about that.

He merely hummed and went into his room, dressing into clean garments for the day. Emerging a few minutes later, he smelled delicious aromas coming from his kitchen. When he peaked around the corner, he found his guest cracking eggs into a skillet atop a blazing fire. That definitely didn’t look appetizing.

D emerged fulling, striding over to the couch and beginning to fold up the blankets. His guest turned from the eggs and popped up onto his feet. “Oh no you don’t, mister! You let me sleep here for the night, I can fold up the blankets for you.” The hunter took a startled step back as his guest pulled the blankets from his hands and plopped them back on the couch.

He sat at his small kitchen table and watched the young man before him remove the eggs from the skillet and place four slices of bread on the hot metal. By the time they were done crisping, Devraux’s stomach was grumbling noisily, much to his embarrassment.

His guest giggled as he loaded up one plate with two pieces of piping hot toast and eggs and placed it in front of D. He did the same with the other half of the eggs and toast and sat down across from the hunter.

Devraux bit into a piece of toast, just barely holding in a delighted groan. Hot damn, he really knew how to pick house guests. The man sitting across from him beamed at the positive reaction, taking bite from his own toast.

“So, mysterious cross-dresser, what are you called?” Devraux asked.

His guest snorted. “Patton. Or you can call me Pat. Whatever works!” He took another bite of eggs. “What about you mysterious rescuer?”

“Mm..Devraux. And I'm more a hunter than a rescuer. You just got lucky.” Patton deflated a bit, but perked back up as if it had never happened.

“Well, I'm sure glad you did find me, Devvy! I'd be in big trouble if you didn’t.” D wrinkled his nose at the unfamiliar nickname. He wasn’t sure how he felt about that, either. His guest was certainly full of conflict for him.

“So, let’s cut to the chase, shall we? Why were you half-dead on the forest floor last night?” Devraux saw Patton’s eyes widen at the blunt question.

“Why were you riding around in the middle of the forest during the witching hour?” Patton’s eyes glinted mischievously. Perhaps his guest wasn’t as naive as he thought at first.

“Hmm. I can respect you wanting your secrets kept secret. Lord knows we all have our own.” D stood and took the plates from in front of them both, ignoring Patton’s squawk about him being the guest. He put the plates in the dishwashing basin and turned back around.

Looking at him in broad daylight, courtesy of his shitty curtains, he surveyed Patton once more. He was a bit shorter than he seemed dressed as a woman, but still only an inch or two shorter than D himself. The glasses that had appeared on his face that morning were round and wire-framed. The eyes residing behind them were a tranquil blue, the color of a stormy sky. Freckles dotted his cheeks. Upon closer inspection, there was a bruise beginning to form on his nose and under his eyes.

Devraux clicked his tongue at his own forgetfulness and strode into his bathroom, retrieving his medical supplies. He was no doctor, by any means, but he was no stranger to a bloody nose or cut of a hunting knife.

When he emerged once more, Patton had finished folding the blankets and had set them in a neat pile on the couch. For the split second before he trained a smile on his face, D could see the hard lines beside his eyes and the way he looked so much more tired than his sunny disposition let on.

He brushed this off as he beckoned Patton over to the kitchen table once more. He had his guest sit on the table in front of him as he patched up his injuries. He willfully ignored the blush that spread over the other man’s cheeks as he stepped in between his legs to study his face further.

D clicked his tongue again as he looked at Patton’s ear. It would need stitches.

“Are you skittish of needles? Your ear needs a little extra help,” he asked. Patton shrugged and smiled.

“I don't mind at all!” His voice was happy and carefree but D didn’t miss the sound of a small whimper catching in his throat at the sight of a needle and thread.

“Just close your eyes. It’ll be done soon, Patton.” His gaze softened and he breathed out slowly, wincing as the needle pierced the skin on his ear. Patton didn't close his eyes, merely looked at D as he worked. The hunter was acutely aware of the man's eyes looking at the scars on his face. He thanked the gods he didn't say anything about them.

Devraux stitched at a steady pace, the monotony of the action calming him, distracting him from the memories his scars came with. He’d had to give himself stitches on more than one occasion. They weren’t the happiest of memories.

Soon, he was done. He wiped up the bit of blood that had come out at the point of contact with the needle. He surveyed his work. Not too bad, considering it was first time doing it on someone else.

“All done. If you don't want it to scar you’ll need to find a salve. There are a few sorcerers and potion makers in some of the nearby villages, but the good ones are deeper in the forest,” he informed.

Patton nodded as he gently touched his ear. He winced as he made contact, but giggled soon after. “I probably look like Frankenstein.”

Devraux snorted a surprised laugh, but transferred the sound quickly into a clearing of his throat.

“I used to know a really good sorcerer. Too bad he isn’t around anymore…” Patton reminisced.

Devraux hummed, “What was he like?” He cleaned up his medical supplies and put away the blankets as he listened.

“He was amazing…he was my best friend in the whole world and his magic was soooo pretty. Usually I'm the one that makes people laugh but with him I didn’t have to. He even made me laugh sometimes! God…V was the best,” the look on his face was full of bittersweet longing.

Wait.

V?

Devraux paused momentarily in his tidying to look fully at Patton. “What did this V look like?”

“Oh…my height, maybe a little shorter? Dark hair, darker eyes. He always wore purple and green, despite…other people complaining. And super pale! He was always super pale. I made fun of him for it,” he looked a bit sheepish, but the smile was still present.

“Well…I have definitely never seen anyone with that description…” Devraux purposefully made the lie easy to see through. He saw Patton’s eyes light up.

“Wait…wait have you seen him?! Where was he? Is he ok? Can I see him?!” Patton was standing and shaking D by the shoulders at this point.

Devraux merely removed Patton’s hands from his shoulders and held them in his own hands. “Tomorrow, we’ll go. Today, we prepare.”

Chapter Text

Virgil hummed to himself as he tidied his space. After Roman had made his grand exit off the side of the tower, giving Virgil a damn heart attack, he had ridden off on his horse. He pasted on a smile, not allowing the knight to see him frown.

His heart ached at the loneliness that set in after he was gone. The bed felt too big, even after it was adjusted back to its normal size. The tea was too hot and the melodies he sang fell on cold stones, instead of on tan ears.

He busied himself with folding blankets and sweeping, allowing the busy work to distract himself. His heart nearly leapt out of his chest at the sight of a new book having joined his old ones. No doubt Roman’s doing. Upon inspecting it closer, he found it was a fantasy novel, written about valiant heroes and romance. He vowed to read it until the pages wore through.

After completing any and all busy work, even stopping to drop a bug into a waiting spiderweb, Virgil decided getting food was the next order of business. The gardens he tended to only yielded so much fruit.

And who knew, maybe he’d run into that odd sarcastic hunter again? He hoped he would.

He was so tired from his visit with Roman, though. As invincible as he seemed, utilizing his skills all the time was draining. Making tea with musical magic wasn’t too difficult, nothing a short sit down couldn’t fix. But, making the stars dance, expanding his bed to accommodate both of them (despite them never laying down in it), and making blankets out of nothing but the air around him left him downright exhausted.

Virgil decided to take the day to recover before heading out to forage.

The next day, he forgot his plans entirely when he picked up Roman’s book. It was a welcome distraction.

Finally! On his second full day without Roman by his side, he donned one of his heavier violet cloaks with deep green embroidery around the cuffs and slid down his braid of hair, basket strapped to his back.

He hummed to himself as he walked, just enough to give him a breeze. He knew such a small spell would cost next to no energy and would only delight himself and the woodland creatures around him. He soaked in the feeling of fresh grass under his bare feet, never growing tired of it.

V made his way back to the river he had gone to weeks prior. The mushrooms that grew there were more flavorful, the trees boasted riper and more fruit and the herbs weren’t surrounded by poison ivy. Virgil told himself these things as he walked up to the riverbank, blatantly ignoring the voice that whispered that maybe he’d see the hunter.

That maybe he wouldn’t have to be alone for another three months.

He busied himself once more with foraging for food, filling up his large basket with more than he needed. With the trees just beginning to turn stunning hues of orange and red, the food of the forest would dwindle. A small part of him worried about running out, even though he never had in his decade of exile. Still, the voice made itself known, telling him to pick just one more eggplant, one more tomato, just a handful more berries.

Virgil picked as much as he could carry and placed the cover on the basket and the basket on his back. Just as he turned to start heading back to his tower, he saw a familiar yellow cloak emerge from behind a tree. It took all his might to quash the wide grin that fought at his features, settling on a smug smirk instead.

His smirk dropped, however, when he saw another form with the hunter. At seeing them both, he started to panic. He quickly took a small vial from the inner pocket of his cloak, pouring a bit of the powder it held into his hand. He whispered an incantation into it and clapped his hands, the powder dispersing around him.

He’d cast an ignorance spell, the powder and spell effectively hiding him from wandering eyes. If the two didn’t expect to see anyone there, their eyes would pass right over him. His panic subsided only slightly as he observed the pair from a distance.

He crept closer along the river’s edge to hear their conversation better.

“…when I saw him here. He was in purple and picking things by the riverbank.”

“Ah, he always did love fresh food! Glad to see some things haven’t changed…”

Virgil recognized the voice of the second person. He walked closer, curiosity overpowering his fear.

His hands came up around his gasping mouth without his consent, the spell dissipating at the movement’s intent. At his sudden appearance, both men whipped their heads in Virgil’s direction. Patton came running towards his friend as soon as he registered the thought.

Virgil heard a sob catch in his throat as he caught Patton- Patton- midair. He laughed through the tears bubbling their way down his cheeks and onto his friend’s shirt. He inhaled deeply, delighted to find Patton still smelled the same, like freshly baked bread and raspberry jam. He let out a watery laugh and tightened his grip around Patton’s neck.

His friend hugged back tighter as well, and Virgil felt a wet spot starting to form on the shoulder of his cloak. He could only laugh about it. Who cared about clothing when he had his best friend in the world here with him? He’d never have to be alone again. He could make Patton smile by making the plants grow and bloom even in January. He could smile as freely as he did with Roman.

His joyous thought process came to a screeching halt upon seeing D, however. Not that he wasn’t happy, just a bit confused as to how the two crossed paths. He shook off the thought; Patton would tell him the story later.

He hesitantly pulled out of the embrace with his friend and took the basket of food off his back. He reached in and grabbed the best few bunches of berries that he’d managed to find. He walked over to the hunter and placed the fruit into his surprised hands.

“I would give you more, but I don't have money…”

D quickly fixed his shocked expression back into one of mild disinterest. “Well, damn, that’s the whole reason I brought him all the way out here.”

He laughed in response. “Virgil. That’s my name. Call me what you want, though.”

“Hmm. Devraux. Dev works for me.” Virge saw the smile creeping up on his face, though. Nobody could be so stone-hearted as to remain neutral during a teary-eyed reunion of long lost friends.

“If you come back to this neck of the woods, walk an hour that way and call my name. I can give you something better then.” Virgil hesitated for a moment, but went with his gut. He quickly wrapped his arms around the hunter and gave a light squeeze, whispering, “Thank you.”

V released a bright red Dev who sputtered and bowed, turning to walk back the way he came.

Patton squealed as soon as Virgil’s hands were free of fruit, jumping on him in another eager hug. “I missed you so much V! I was so worried about you…” Patton buried his face in Virgil’s neck, resulting in him giggling and pushing Patton off.

“Well, I can’t say I'm great but I am alive! And doing well nonetheless. But, Pat, what you’re doing all the way out here is the real mystery.” Virgil narrowed his eyes at Patton’s blush and aversion of his gaze. “Patton…what did you do?”

Pat smiled sheepishly, “I may have been chased off the palace grounds?…”

“WHAT?!”

——

One long walk and a story of cross-dressing later, they were back at Virgil’s tower. They had been holding hands the entire walk back, only breaking contact when Virgil had to adjust the straps on his shoulders.

“Dude, that is absolutely insane. I didn’t think you, uh…nevermind,” he said, averting his gaze from Patton’s and gazing up at the dangling braid of hair. He busied his hands with taking off the basket of food from its place on his back.

“What is it?” Patton tugged at his hand to get his attention. Virgil hesitantly looked down from the braid to his toes in the grass.

“I…I didn’t think you remembered me…or cared that much…” Virge willfully ignored the heat rising in his cheeks.

Before he could take back what he said, he was swept up in a spine-crushing hug, his feet lifting off the ground as Patton squeezed around his waist. He couldn’t help but laugh at the situation, embracing his friend around the neck once more. He was cared for. Patton remembered him. He was happy.

Virgil resisted the urge to cry, but gave up as soon as he pulled back and saw the fresh tears streaking down his friend’s face. “Virge…nothing could make me forget you. And I will always care about you. You’re my best friend.” They stared into each other’s eyes, hearts so full their chests hurt.

Virge swept him up in another hug, this one gentler. He buried his face in the crook of Patton’s neck, mumbling, “I love you, Pat.”

He heard a low, “I love you too, Virge,” followed by a wet sniff.

Both laughed as they broke the hug again. “C’mon, no more crying!” Virgil said as he wiped his eyes and picked up the basket of food. “Welcome to my tower. Hold on tight.” Patton quickly latched onto the braid of hair, mesmerized as soon as the first notes left Virgil’s mouth. As he sang, the world beneath them grew smaller and smaller until both men were safely in the tower, along with the food.

The sorcerer unpacked the food from the basket as his friend took in his surroundings. V knew it was a lot for anyone to get used to, especially someone used to living in a lavish castle. He had gone through the adjustment himself, many years prior. He allowed himself to space out as he went to work taking food from the basket and sorting it into different containers, humming to himself all the while.

Berries went into jars, apples and harder fruits went into smaller bowls and baskets, vegetables went into vine-crafted boxes. “Did you make those?” His train of thought was cut off as he looked up and saw Patton staring at him intently.

“Oh..uh, yeah I did. Learned how to dry and weave the vines. I taught myself a lot of new shit out here. I guess now you can learn too…I-I mean if you want to! I wasn’t trying to imply that you didn’t have a choice or-” V got the words knocked out of him by another Patton hug.

“I'm so excited to learn from you, V,” Patton whispered reverently. Virgil smiled so wide, he was afraid his face wouldn’t return to its usual intimidating scowl.

“Time to start learning, then.”

——

A cooking lesson, a few spells and two servings of tea later, Patton and Virgil were happily sat next to each other, feet dangling over the edge of the tower. V heard Patton sigh and lean his head on his shoulder. Virgil welcomed the weight, leaning his head on Patton’s in return.

“What’s on your mind, Pat?” he whispered into the night sky.

“I'm so happy to be here and be with you again…” At this, the two joined hands again, sinking a little deeper into one another’s weight. “But…I miss Logan. I left him behind with the king and all those other mean people. I don’t…I'm scared for him, Virge.”

Virgil had absolutely no idea who this Logan character was, but he mattered to Patton, so he mattered to V. “I'm sure he’ll be okay, Pat. Does he have a good head on his shoulders?”

“Oh, the best, Virge! His head is beautiful on the inside and on the outside. V, I don't know whether you would love him or hate him, but I…”

“You love him. Don't you, Pat?” It was a statement, not a question. Patton just sighed, sadness and longing permeating even his breathing.

“I miss him.”

Chapter Text

Patton was running. His legs were beginning to grow weak and his breathing was becoming more and more labored by the minute. The guards were hot on his tail, despite his best efforts to outrun them.

Just as he was about to break through the tree line, an arrow connected with flesh, piercing Patton’s bicep and going straight through to the other side of his upper arm. He cried out in agony, falling to the ground. He tried, tried so hard to rip the arrow out, but only made it dig deeper into him in his struggles.

Dofka’s guards were quickly upon the crumpled, bleeding man, hoisting him up despite his injury. They dragged him roughly away from the forest and back into the waiting claws of the mad king.

And lord was he mad.

He was waiting in a now empty ballroom with a whip in his hand. One might have thought someone so mad would have been pacing, but Dofka was still as ever. He held the weapon with a white-knuckled grip, waiting for his prey to be brought before him.

Patton was shoved onto the ground before the king, the guards going back to stand at the door to the room. Patton tried to fight them, getting up and kicking and fighting with his good arm. But, with one swift punch to the shoulder, he was back on the ground, moaning in pain.

Dofka had had enough fooling around. He cracked the whip on the ground, Patton flinching violently at the sound. Before he could move away, Dofka aimed and shot the whip out again, wrapping around the fool’s arm. The man cried out in agony, trying to claw his way out of the grip of the curved weapon around his arm.

His efforts were futile, as the king dragged him forcefully over to where he stood. Patton had given up escape, now resolved to crying in pain on the floor, trying to prevent further damage from being incurred on his form.

Dofka screamed his next words, each phrase being punctuated with a lash of the whip on Patton’s shaking form. “Why- the fuck- did you- do that?! You- embarrassed me- in front of- my entire- court! You- will never- see the light- of day- again!”

Patton, bleeding and broken, clothing ripped apart as if it were paper, looked up to stare directly at Logan. He could barely make out his next words, blood staining his teeth and obstructing his voice.

“Why didn’t you save me?”

Logan sat up with a gasp, soaking wet from the sheen of sweat coating his body. He reminded himself to breathe, in and out, in and out, as he attempted to assess what the hell had just happened. He got up from his bed and wiped his brow with a nearby rag, only assisting slightly in cooling his body temperature.

He paced back and forth in his room, hands unconsciously flapping, breathing deeply and reminding himself of the facts. Patton had escaped. He’d heard the guards grumbling about the escaped fool. Patton had gotten away from the king. He was safe and far away, wherever that was. He was safe. He was safe, damnit.

Normally the epitome of rationality, Logan found himself unable to convince himself of these basic facts. The nightmare continued to claw at the edges of his mind, Patton’s screams still ringing loud and terrible in his ears. He growled to himself and whipped one of his softer, warmer robes around his shoulders and trudged out of his room.

He tucked his arms into the sleeves as he distanced himself from the betrayal of his sleep. In his haste to leave, he had forgotten to put his glasses on his face. Lucky for him, he was far-sighted. He rubbed between his eyes at the bridge of his nose and wandered through the empty corridors of the castle until he found himself in the abandoned courtyard that Patton had fled through.

He strode across the fallen leaves, focusing on the crunch of them beneath his bare feet. Apparently, he’d forgotten to put on shoes as well. Not paying it any thought, Logan tucked his hands behind his back as he walked through the crisp night air. He took a deep breath in, the sudden cold shocking his system just enough to clear his thoughts.

He tried once more to focus on the facts.

Patton had run away. He had gotten away, as evidenced by the guards’ discontent grumblings. The king had ended the party. One week had passed. He had gone about his duties as an informant. He had not slept more than two hours a night since Patton’s departure.

He sighed, footsteps stopping. At least his head was clear enough to believe the facts he repeated to himself. That also meant his head was clear enough to recognize the tempest of emotions swirling just beneath the surface, waiting to be released. Logan did not even know where to start deciphering these emotions. He’d been holding them in for so long; letting them out seemed wholly and entirely unnatural.

Regardless of his emotions state, he needed to be logical. Needed to go through the lists he made to organize his thoughts.

He needed sleep, first and foremost. Every night, he repeated the facts to himself, that Patton was safe. Patton had escaped. Every night, a new and horrible nightmare ripped him from his slumber. To aid his sleep, he might need a tonic of some sort. Perhaps one of the king’s lesser sorcerers could assist in that endeavor.

He went on with his list as he walked further from the palace, around the old and forgotten concrete statues covered in overgrown greenery.

He nearly screeched when he passed a wall of statues to find another person in the courtyard with him. They were standing maybe a meter from Logan and they were in a long, blood red cloak. Their hood was up and their head was tilted back, evidently looking at the sky.

Logan cleared his throat, trying not to scare the other person, but they didn’t jump. They simply sighed softly and lowered their head. They turned to Logan and mumbled, “Evening, snake.”

Ah. “Evening, dog.” There was no malice in the words either man said. “It’s pretty late for a training session, isn’t it?”

“I was going to say it was too early for a studying session? Not even the chamber maids are awake yet.” Logan could hear a smile in his voice. He walked over and leaned against the small cement wall next to Roman.

“Perhaps it is…” He looked up at the sky, trying to see what the knight saw. He could make out clearly the twinkling lights that had kept him and Patton awake on many occasions. His friend would ask him what the constellations were, despite having been told them many times before. It never failed to bring a smile to his face to see Patton light up with the knowledge over and over again.

Logan sighed. Roman nudged his shoulder, “You alright there, specs? You aren’t your usual smug self.”

Logan huffed a laugh through his nose, lip corners pulling up the smallest bit. “I will be.”

“Sure you will.” Logan could tell he wasn’t convinced. He was too tired and too emotionally drained to fight him on it. He was so confused. He wanted to spill all the emotions he’d been bottling up, all the fears, all the nightmares to this knight. He also never wanted to admit to being anything more than a glorified snitch.

It seemed as though Roman could feel Logan’s apprehension and hesitation, as he said, “He got away, you know. I saw it myself.”

Logan fought to keep his expression neutral as he tore his sight from the sky and stared at Roman. This was another person, outside of his head, that confirmed his facts. Patton was safe, safe, safe.

Something else bloomed inside of him, darker and angrier than his worries for his dearest companion.

He was angry. More than angry, he was livid. Dofka, the idiot king he’d been reporting to for years on end was more than happy to see people die, to see Patton killed. He didn’t need his twisted nightmare to tell him as much. Dofka had sent thousands of soldiers to their deaths without a second thought, had innocent Virgil kill them for his own twisted, selfish gain.

This king was happy to watch his people starve, more concerned with castle gossip and his reputation. He played the sweet king, shaking hands with farmers and promising the world to his kingdom, but Logan knew what went on behind closed doors. He knew the cruel words that would get thrown around, the scandals that were covered up without second thought.

Logan had heard the king candidly speak to his soldiers about taking out his rivals. Blatantly telling them to commit cold-blooded murder for his own damned convenience. Patton had never admitted it, but he’d come away from certain parties different. His eyes were hard and his smile didn’t connect to them. He would shy away from Logan’s rare offers of physical affection.

Patton was where he drew the line. That bastard of a ruler had tried to kill Patton, the only person he had ever cared so deeply for. Anyone who laid their hands on him would have to pay. He had no doubt that the king had done so.

Roman seemed to recognize his change of heart almost immediately.

“Woah, whatcha thinkin’ there?” Roman’s voice snapped Logan out of his rapidly derailing train of thought.

Logan touched the bridge of his nose, as if to push up his glasses. “Nothing you need to worry about, dog.” He spat the words out, needing for Roman to think him angry. He couldn’t bring the knight into this. As he pushed off the wall they were leaning on, Roman grab Logan’s arm. He tried to shake him off, but the grip was solid.

“Just…don't get stepped on, snake. Alright?” Logan’s eyes turned harder than before and he nodded, a small jerk of his head. He squinted his eyes slightly in an attempt to see Roman’s face more clearly. Finally, the grip on his arm lessened and he slipped from the knight’s hold.

It was time for Logan to research. He made a beeline from the dark courtyard back to his room, lighting his candles as he went with a tiny spell. Interestingly, it was the only spell he could ever perform on a consistent basis. Regardless, with the candles in his room lit, he went to his personal bookshelf, removed an armful of books and dumped them onto his desk.

Logan read. He read until well after the sun had risen. He only stopped to blow out his candles and crack open his window, the heat getting to him just a bit too much to focus. He read all about the rebellions and wars of old, those fought both before his time and during it. He read the diaries of generals and rulers alike, absorbing the expertise they gleaned from their successes and failures.

He scribbled notes in his personal journal, thoughts and plans forming in his mind. He smiled as he thought of Patton, how he would be proud of Logan for doing something he believed in, instead of staying silent.

He allowed himself to take a brief break, to feel the ache set deep in his bones. Another night of no sleep, another day without his most valued companion. Logan opened a drawer of his desk, removing its contents before pulling out a small portrait. Patton’s sketched face stared back at him, forever smiling. Logan hoped with all his heart that wherever he was, he was happy. He hoped he was content in being free of the king’s reign.

If he could see his friend’s smile, not memorialized in pencil lines. One quirk of Patton’s lips would quell Logan’s fears, make him forget his duties, abandon his life entirely. A hug from him would make all the confusion within him silence, would give him peace at last. Logan fought the urge to tug at his hair, to scream and yell, to hit and punch and throw things around his room.

He angrily swiped the wetness from his cheeks, shoved the sketch of his friend into a pocket in his journal, and dove back into his research.

Hours later, the sun set once more, sleep tried to stake its claim on Logan’s mind. He ignored it. He pushed on, muttering the spell for fire once more. He continued to research until his eyes burned behind their glass protectors. Logan took them off, finally content with his research.

He pushed away from his desk in a huff, waving his hand at the candles to put them out. He didn’t need a fire burning down his precious work. He nearly ran, journal in tow, back to the courtyard he’d visited not a day prior. He whipped his head around, sight adjusting to the sudden darkness.

“Dog!” Logan shouted to the darkness. He growled when he didn’t get a response. “Roman! I know you’re out here!” He heard a low moan off to his left, the opposite of where he and the knight had met. His heart stuttered to a halt as he ran over to the prone form laying on a long-forgotten bench.

Roman slowly sat up, drowsy groans making their way from his mouth. “What the hell, snake? I was sleeping…” He rubbed his eyes and stretched his arms above his head. Logan almost smacked him from the near heart attack he’d experienced.

Well, no need to beat around the bush. “I need your help, lapdo- Roman. I need a knight on the inside.”

Roman looked up at Logan with bleary eyes. “What for?” he croaked out.

“To take down the king.”

Chapter Text

Roman was taken aback. For a long moment, he just stared at Logan. The snake that was truly living up to his name.

“I have sworn an oath to his royal highness. Why would I ever turn against him?” he asked incredulously.

Logan looked almost hurt. “Because he wouldn’t hesitate to turn on you.”

The knight felt the breath leave his lungs. A deep ache that he’d pushed down long before made itself known again, filling him with dread. His heart fought back, though.

Roman stood up, the few inches he had on Logan becoming more evident. “Even if that were true, why would I break my oath? Go against the man who has given me everything?”

Logan’s face flickered through a few different emotions, but settled on something close to sympathy. “For V.” Roman stepped back, the back of legs hitting the bench. “He was banished at the orders of the king.” Roman tried to back up more, only succeeding in sitting back down on the bench. “He followed the orders that the king gave him. And he was forced to be forgotten because of the king. Why would you feel any loyalty to him after all that?”

Roman looked away from Logan. He studied the backs of his hands, sitting in his lap. They tinged at the thought of V holding them, like they had that night in the tower. He clenched his fists, his resolve firming.

“What do you need me to do?”

——

Roman was tasked with being Logan’s inside man. He was to retrieve books from places that Logan wasn’t permitted to go, let him know the inner workings of the king’s goings on, etc. He was essentially a spy.

He honestly wasn’t too mad about it. He’d read some stories about spies, the intrigue and mystery surrounding them and how sexy it all seemed. He couldn’t help but think how entertained V would be by it all. He certainly hoped he would be.

For a while, everything was going well. People assumed the snake and the dog were merely bonding in the fool’s absence. It made sense. Both seemingly missed his presence, so they turned to each other.

In all of Logan’s reconnaissance, he’d discovered not a single soul who suspected them of any foul play. Logan continued to perform his expected duties during the day. At night, he and Roman would sneak their way around the castle, analyzing notes, stealing and reading over journals and plotting the takedown of the monarch that loomed above them.

Weeks of plotting passed with nobody being the wiser. Logan and Roman had bonded in that time, much to both of their surprise. More than a few times, they had fallen asleep either on top of or next to each other on the floor, or in the bed, or wherever else they were studying their spoils.

One night, they even shared a heart to heart. Logan was glaring at an old emperor’s war journal as if it had personally offended him. Roman had to take a break to rest his sore and straining eyes and had looked up at Logan. He straight up cackled at the sight of his former foe staring down ancient papers.

Logan had looked up in surprise at Roman, who tried his best to keep a straight face, to no avail. “You just..you looked so..I can’t eve-” Roman only broke down into breathless laughter. To his surprise, Logan, tired and worn out, had started laughing with him. He removed the glasses from his face and rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands as he chuckled with Roman.

It had warmed Roman’s tired heart more than he could express to get a glimpse of genuine joy from the snake. He was so exhausted, they both were, and the smiles they shared kept him going.

Another night, about a month and a half into their spy mission, Logan had dropped a journal. Though it might seem innocuous to anyone else, Roman knew this was big. At his searching look, Logan merely let out a small smile and a whispered, “I know how to do it.”

“What? How?!”

“I…I can’t explain right now, but I know how to take him down.” His voice was near-reverent as he uttered the words. He scrabbled for his journal inside one of his robe pockets. He finally found it and snatched up a pencil as well, starting to scribble notes like it was the end of the world.

“Well, when can you explain it to me? You know, I was instrumental in this operation, beautiful and helpful and providing songs along the way,” Roman remarked with a flourish of his hand.

Logan didn’t even look up. “While I appreciate the play on words, I cannot play along right now.” He stopped writing momentarily to look up at his friend’s face. He seemed to hesitate before reaching out and grabbing his hand gently. “Meet me tomorrow night at the spot and I’ll explain everything. I promise.” He gave Roman’s hand a small squeeze before releasing it once more to write.

“I'm holding you to that, snake.” Logan huffed a laugh out of his nose at the insult-turned-nickname. However, Roman took his leave with grace and dignity, carefully exiting Logan’s room before gliding silently back to his own chambers for the night. He was out cold before his head even hit the pillow.

The next day crept by for Roman. He went about training his men, reporting to various military commanders about progress and such. Every time he checked the sun’s position in the sky, it seemed to barely move.

Finally, night did fall. The castle guards were at their stations for the night, relaxed and unconcerned about intruders. Roman crept from his room in thin slippers a maroon robe with gold embroidery on it as he made his way to the abandoned courtyard. He fully expected to find Logan sitting on one of the benches or the crumbling wall eager to tell Roman his news. Lord knew Roman was eager to hear it.

However, when the knight exited the palace and into the chilly night air he saw no such nerd. His snake wasn’t there. And it was impossible for the punctual and aggressively organized man to have forgotten their meeting. As Roman opened his mouth to call out, he felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Quick as a blink, he slid behind a large statue and held his breath.

He knew that feeling. The feeling of someone else being in his presence, attempting to sneak up on him or someone near him. Roman pushed down the panic rising heavy and hot in his chest and focused on his hearing. He forced his heartbeat to quiet down. Just as he thought he was imagining things, he heard the telltale thud of something on the near frozen ground.

At that moment, he knew. Logan had been caught. Somehow, the king had found out his plotting and had him captured. Roman covered his mouth with his hand to stop any noise. He felt wetness running over his clenching fingers as he heard Logan’s body getting dragged into the castle.

After a few deafeningly silent minutes, his breathing had calmed to its normal rhythm, despite the tears still leaking from his eyes. He came out from behind the pillar and walked over to the beginning of the trail made through the dirt. In the darkness, he could make out a shiny something left behind.

He crouched down and picked up Logan’s glasses, one lens popped out entirely and the other cracked beyond repair. His legs gave out at the thought of Logan getting hit so hard his glasses broke. He hoped he wasn’t in pain now, wherever he was.

Roman allowed himself to grasp at the dying ivy vines on the ground as he wept silently. Patton was gone, Virgil was too far to reach, and now Logan had been taken. Roman was on his own with a plot to overthrow a nearly untouchable monarch with no clue how. In feeling around on the ground further, he found no journal.

He only hope his snake had the foresight to hide it or destroy it. Being found guilty of treason and conspiracy would lead to Logan’s head in a basket. Roman shook the thought off and wiped his face with the hand not holding the broken glasses.

He stood up from the dirt, spine straightening with confidence. Though he was unsure before, he was now entirely certain that the king must be taken down. However, he was not so cocky as to think he could do it on his own.

He turned on his heel and glided back to his own chambers, clutching Logan’s glasses in his pocket like a lifeline. He didn’t know what his friend’s plans were for taking down the king, and Roman didn’t even attempt to convince himself he was smarter than the snake. But, Roman knew how to deal with people, how to charm them, sway them in his favor. And they would need help if they were to take down Dofka. Roman set about making his own plan, this time not leaving a paper trail.

He paced back and forth in his smaller room, thinking his way through the various scenarios involved in his plot. Multiple parts, for sure. Disguises would most certainly be used, he was a brilliant actor after all. He ran his thumb over and over along the rim of the glasses in his one hand and stroked his hair with the other.

He watched the sky slowly turn a soft grey, then pale pink and orange, slowly coming to vibrant life as the autumn sun made itself known. He couldn’t enjoy it as he normally would have, his thoughts consumed with how much joy Logan took in watching the bright celestial body walk across the sky.

He put the glasses under his pillow and strapped on his simple leather armor, customary for everyday training and activities with his men. His thoughts were consumed with plans and worry as he ran through the normal exercises and sparring combinations with his subordinates.

The day seemed to go quickly, but not in a blink. It washed over in dull grey, melting everything together into just a day and just a night. Once the sun was down once more, he put his plan into action. Granted, it wasn’t the best strategy to pull a secretive mission on no sleep, but such was the way with eager and worried romantics such as Roman.

First came the costume change. He had procured some older robes from the training barracks earlier in the day, claiming to need them for reinforcing his winter robes. In reality, the dirty brown garments were the perfect disguises to exit the castle with. He took the one meant for Logan and folded it into a ball before stuffing it into the upper part of his equal forty and tattered shirt.

After that, he draped the robe meant for him over himself, making the lump in his back look like a lump. He took the glasses from under his pillow and trained them on his own face, making him look adequately unkempt. Not that he needed it, but he smudged some dirt on his face from a jar he kept on his desk for mud masks. He also grabbed a sturdy stick he’d picked up earlier as well, hunching over and using it for fall support.

He slowly made his way to the dungeon that he knew Logan would be in. Or he hoped he’d be in. The king had multiple different dungeons, all located in different parts of the castle, but all housing different types of criminals. Petty criminals, like common thieves and stealing nobles, were in one block. The murders and violent criminals were in another section, as were war prisoners.

The block Roman was interested in housed spies and “sneaks” as the idiot king called them. He hoped that Logan would be a snake among the sneaks. He hunched further, pulling up his hood to hide his face, and hobbled over to the entrance of the dungeon. The guard there gave him a questioning look before he grumbled in a scratchy voice, “Taking a bite to the new one…Malik said to..” The guard straightened his back and nodded, allowing Roman entry. He patted the guard on the side good-naturedly as he passed. The guard let out an awkward chuckle and went back to watching for any mischief outside the stone entryway.

Malik was Roman’s second in command, and often performed smaller daily tasks that Roman didn’t have the time for, like dealing with special prisoners and delegating guard detail. Old kitchen wenches visiting prisoners was fairly common and he banked on the gullible guard to let him through. Phase one of his plan was successful so far.

He hobbled down the steps, straightening up as he did so. The further he got from the guard at the entrance, the more he shook his hair out and cracked his back. When he finally reached the bottom floor of the dungeon, he took the single torch from the wall next to him. He walked through the dank and dark dungeon, more a long hallway lined with cells. He held the torch to each set of iron bars, studying the prisoner inside.

His hopes fell further and further the more he walked into the prison. The people int he cells were mostly sleeping or looking done with the whole ordeal. Being spies, they knew this might happen.

However, there was a particularly cramped cell at the very end of the hallway. With his last shred of hope, he willed the king to be as cruel as he knew he could be, putting his snake into the smallest cell possible. Roman raised the torch to the entrance.

And there he was. Leaning curled up on the bars, Logan. Roman’s heart nearly stopped upon seeing his eye swollen shut, his split lip and nose bent horrifically out of place. He knew from the shallower breathing that there was probably more wrong with him, but he could deal with it later.

One tired eye searched and squinted at the source of the light, a small groan ripping its way through Logan’s clearly strained vocal cords.

Roman could only manage to say, “Logan.”

Chapter Text

Logan felt sick. His head was pounding, his eye was aching, his ribs felt as though someone had taken an actual hammer to them. He wasn’t fully aware of all that had happened since his missed rendezvous with Roman. He could only assume he hadn’t been careful enough, gotten caught and beaten by one of Dofka’s idiot goons.

His disappointment in himself was strong, but not nearly as strong as the pain. He couldn’t see anything around him, could only feel cold stones underneath his feet and rusted bars in front of him.

He slumped forward, the cold iron sweet relief from the hot pounding echoing through his head. He allowed himself to close his good eye and rest, for just a moment, against the blissfully cold metal.

He must have passed out because, when he awoke, the pounding in his head had subsided slightly and there was a bright light shining directly in front of his face. He felt the heat from the fire move around slightly, probably examining him. He could only guess what kind of sorry state he was in.

After a deep breath from the person holding the torch he heard a familiar voice, “Logan.”

Logan’s working eye tried to see past the bright light from the fire to pinpoint who was speaking. He could register feeling happy and relieved, but his exhausted brain couldn’t do any more to identify this mystery person.

The voice spoke again, just above a whisper, “Are you okay?” Logan couldn’t help the involuntary laugh that bubbled up, followed by a small coughing fit and groans of pain. His ribs were definitely broken. Whoever the mystery person was, they audibly gasped before sighing. The stranger’s hand brushed his forehead. It was so cold and refreshing. “Oh gods, you’re burning up. We gotta go now…”

Logan heard the jingling of keys before the person spoke again. “I swiped them off the guard. Clueless, those guys.” A few keys were tried before the lock to his cell clicked and the door swung open, leaving Logan to faceplant into the cobblestones. Before any more damage could be incurred to his face, the kind stranger caught him. He tried grinding out a thanks, but all that came out was raspy breathing.

He was slowly lowered to a laying down position on the ground. Above him, he heard the stranger fumbling with fabric and moving some sort of liquid around. Maybe this person had something to drink.

As if they read his thoughts, the stranger brought a ladle to Logan’s chapped lips and he drank greedily. A few more ladles of water were given to him, and he was feeling more rejuvenated. His throat felt good enough for him to grind out a weak, “Who are you?”

The stranger above him halted in their busy movements. They paused before draping a cloak over Logan’s shoulders. Thank goodness for it, too. Logan hadn’t realized how cold it was in his cell. The stranger managed to get him up to a standing position, albeit taking the majority of Logan’s weight.

As they started to walk down the dungeon hall past the other cells, he felt the stranger lean over to his ear. “Logan, it’s Roman. I'm getting us out of here.” Logan smiled. Honest to gods, smiled. It hurt, and he felt his lip throb at the action, but he didn’t care.

“Roman…I'm so happy you’re here…” He felt tears start streaming down his face. The small rational voice in his fever-riddled brain argued that this was not the time nor the place for emotions or tears, but he couldn’t help it. His new friend, the knight, was rescuing him. He was the damsel in distress and a knight had come to save him!

He let himself smile and cry as Roman dragged him along. The stairs posed a new set of challenges, as Logan was not entirely certain his legs were functional enough to walk, let alone climb. Despite his doubt, he pushed his right leg to lift. To his great surprise, it did. He let out a little, “Ah!” and he heard Roman suppress a chuckle.

Together, they climbed the stairs. The spiraling steps were not helping Logan’s confusion or general lack of orientation. Before long, he was being lowered gently to the ground. “Don't move or make a sound. I’ll be back before you know it, specs.” He felt the cool hands settle even cooler metal frames onto his face. Despite his likely broken nose protesting at it, Logan reached up and pushed his glasses up. He felt better.

Logan leaned back against the wall he was set against, listening for any noises besides the ringing in his ears. He felt his thoughts clearing as he breathed in the fresh night air, not the moldy smell he’d fallen asleep to. He heard soft voices, a brief sound of flesh connecting with flesh and a thud.

Roman rushed back to his side before long, hoisting him up again. They walked out of the dungeon together, Logan able to hold himself up a little better. He tried to see through the cracks in his lens to assess his surroundings.

They were walking through a desolate courtyard in very dim moonlight. Judging by the sounds of crickets and feeling of cold dew on his bare feet, he could guess it was pretty early in the morning. The rational part of his brain, slowly getting louder, hoped beyond all hope that nobody woke up.

They walked around the castle, never stepping foot inside, to what he recognized as stables. As a scholar, he’d never been out to the guards’ barracks before, not the stables. There was never any need to.

Roman led them inside the pitch black building, long and narrow and full of the sounds of horses. They walked to the end of the building and stopped, Roman propping Logan up against a wall. He leaned his head on it and watched what he could.

He saw Roman open up a stable door that went up to his waist, lead a horse out and close the door. He loaded a pack onto the back of the horse, who whinnied lowly before Roman sighed and fed it something. He continued packing it with things before he stopped and clicked his tongue. Roman pulled a different cloak out of one of the saddle bags and replaced it with the one he had on. He walked back over to Logan, looking fancier than before.

“Okay, buddy, I need to do something not so nice for a little bit, okay?” Logan nodded and smiled again, slowly reaching up to his glasses. “I'm gonna have to put you in the back of Arrow for a little bit, just until we get outside the castle walls. Okay?” Logan gave a small thumbs up.

Roman nodded and walked over to Logan, sweeping him up in a princess carry. He would have laughed if his lungs had cooperated. He was first placed with his back on the horse, then flipped to be laying on his stomach on Arrow’s flank.

Ooooooooh! Roman was trying to make him look like a captive or something! That made sense. He congratulated himself on the brilliant leap of logic before letting his body go lax. If he was supposed to be dead weight, he would play the part damnit.

He felt Roman get up on the saddle in front of him. “You ready?” Logan grunted in the affirmative and Roman clicked at Arrow. She began slowly sauntering out of the stables and into the moonlight, slightly brighter than before. Logan stared at her hooves and the ground slowly moving past him.

They didn’t pick up the pace at all, just slowly made their way around the castle on the horse paths until they rounded on the main gates. Logan only knew because he walked the paths on a nearly daily basis. Logan could hear that Roman’s breath was a little shorter, but he fought to keep it steady.

They came up on the gate and stopped, Arrow shifting slightly in place. Logan heard an unfamiliar brusk voice, “Business leaving the grounds?”

Roman responded, “I'm fairly certain the leader of the royal guard doesn’t have to answer to you on his business outside the castle.”

The voice was having none of it. “He does if it involves taking a prisoner.”

“Oh, fair enough. Dofka is sending me out to bring this peace offering to our neighbors to the west. For some reason, they want this spy and he wants me to do it.”

“…Why would his royal highness send the leader of the guard to deliver a spy?”

“Hey, don't ask me! Feel free to ask him!”

The voice didn’t respond for a very tense few seconds. “I don't believe you. I’ll need to bring in my superi— hey what are you doing!” Logan heard Roman thud against the ground and the clang of metal on metal. The clangs continued until the brusk voice, now wet and strained, yelled out, “HEY! I NEED HE—”

The voice stopped with a sickening squelch. Logan resisted the surge to look up at the most likely gruesome scene unfolding before him. Roman’s breathing was ragged as he swung back up onto Arrow and kicked her into action.

He felt himself slipping off the back of her flank, but was caught and pulled up to sitting. Roman maintained his iron grip as Logan clumsily righted himself on the horse, holding onto the knight’s waist before he finally released his fist. They rode away from the castle at a rate that left his already aching body in even more pain.

Before Logan could breathe free air, he heard hooves pounding behind them. Roman must have heard them, too, because he started spurring Arrow to go faster. Logan held tight to his friend’s waist, but hazarded a look behind them.

He instantly regretted it. In hot pursuit were at least twenty men in full armor charging forward on horseback. The few in the front had archers riding with them. Just as Logan took note of them, he heard the first of the arrows whizz past his head. He turned around and yelled into Roman’s ear, “We need to lose them in the forest!”

Without a second of hesitation, Roman took a hard left off the path into dense forest. His horse must have been used to it, as she expertly kept her breakneck pace all the while dodging trees and rogue branches. The guardsmen behind them had fallen behind significantly, but still had them set in their sights.

Logan had a moment of brilliance. He leaned forward and yelled again into Roman’s ear, “Hold onto me, and make sure we get someplace safe!” Before he could hear a reply from his friend, he turned around as far as he could and reached his arms out to the side.

“Inferno maximus!” he screamed into the bare trees. After a moment, a wall of them burst violently into flame. He looked to the side and screamed the spell again, more trees bursting into flame. Again and again he cast the only spell he could ever figure out, creating a raging wall of fire in the empty forest.

His head was throbbing so hard by the time he was finished, he was afraid his skull might split open. His vision slowly turned from color to greyscale, finally to black. He slumped against Roman, eyes unwilling to open but brain unwilling to succumb to fatigue just yet. Crackling flames licked up at the sky. He didn’t need his sight to feel the destruction his spell had wrought.

He felt Roman breathe a little easier before slowing Arrow’s pace just the slightest. Logan felt Roman lean over, reaching into a saddle bag. He felt rope being tied around his and Roman’s waists, effectively keeping them together, even if Logan were to completely lose consciousness.

The thought was comforting, enough to allow him to drift off entirely.

——

When Logan opened his eye, he wasn’t sitting on a horse. It wasn’t dark anymore. There was warm-colored lighting around him, and the smell of wood was burning in his nose.

“Roman?” he managed to croak out of his freshly-aching throat. There came no response to his call.

Through the cracked lens of his glasses, he could only see brown directly in front of him. Panic rose up in his throat as the smell of burning wood continued to drift around him.

Chapter Text

Patton woke with a jolt, feeling as though he was falling endlessly before hitting the bed. Laying next to him, Virgil hummed a little and turned over to face him, still asleep. Patton smiled and relaxed into the soft mattress, snuggling into his friend. He still couldn’t believe all of it was real.

He was with V, his best friend in the world, and they were living together. They talked about everything and nothing. They looked for food together, but never hunted. Neither felt good about hurting innocent animals. They cooked in comfortable silence and spent their nights laughing side by side, feet dangling over the edge of the tower.

They held hands and shared hugs and slow danced to Virgil’s magic music. They relished in each other’s company after being apart for a decade. They loved each other so dearly, it hurt. They slept in the same bed and shared robes. It was the dream Patton thought previously out of reach.

Patton contained his laughter at the thought that any outside parties would undoubtedly say they were madly in love, romantic soulmates. Honestly, if he had told him, Virgil would have laughed, too. They loved each other and were soulmates, that much was indisputable fact. But, neither had romantic attraction to the other.

They had eyes for other men.

Patton rolled onto his back, staring at the ceiling above him. He pulled Virgil into his side, the other sighing into the touch and complying. The warm touch was comforting and necessary, but felt just a bit empty. He missed the fire he felt when he and Logan would sit next to each other and their legs would accidentally touch.

Breaking his thoughts, Virgil smiled into his side and mumbled, “G’morning, Pat…”

“Good morning V. How did you sleep?” He smiled genuinely at his friend. Virge smiled back and just mumbled something else.

Patton chuckled and poked him in the nose with his hand not trapped under Virgil’s body weight. The sleepy man scrunched his nose in reply and huffed. “I slept well, Pat. Gotta harass me so early?”

Patton laughed freely in reply and Virgil rolled over, moving to sit up on the edge of the bed. Pat watched him do so, content to continue laying down. He interlaced his fingers behind his head and observed with mild interest. Virgil went through his washing routine, then went about cooking breakfast. He didn’t bother changing out of his loose garments or light robe. Both men needed to sleep with extra layers on this time of year.

Virge let out a little whistle that pulled gently at the blankets covering Patton. He took the hint and got up himself. He washed himself and sat down next to V. They sat on oversized cushions crosslegged, while their food was on one of the many side tables littering their living space.

They ate in amiable silence, passing each other whatever spices they knew the other always wanted. Patton couldn’t help but stare out over the ledge where they sat every night, dangling their feet and staring up at the glittering night sky. The trees that surrounded the tower normally boasted luscious verdant leaves of all different shades of green.

Now, they were bare. Only a few had leaves left, and even then they were withered and brown. In seeing the seasons change, Virgil had cast a protection spell over his tower, along with spreading some kind of powder around the base of it. He said something about ignorance, but Patton got lost in staring at Virge’s swirling hand motions and lilting melodies.

Pretty soon, he’d need to seal off the window and ledge as well. On the best of days with the sun’s warming beams sweeping across the stones, it was chilly. They had body heat and a million blankets at night, but it was becoming bitter. Patton knew Virgil wasn’t looking forward to it. Creating insulation from nothing but magic must be exhausting.

At the incessant clinking of a fork on a plate, Pat looked over at Virgil. He was staring in the same direction as Pat, but he was looking at something. Maybe his sorcerer senses are tingling, Patton thought with a smile.

The fun thought was eclipsed by some distress when he saw Virgil stop his repetitive fork percussion and go pale. “Hey buddy, what’s—”

Virgil stood up suddenly and started running around the dwelling. “Virge, what’s wrong? What’s going on?!”

He halted his movements for a split second to look at Patton before continuing his frantic searching for something. “I—after someone uh…accidentally found me I uh—” In his violent opening and closing of drawers, he finally found the thing he was looking for and pulled it out. He strode over to the table Patton was still seated at and set the small potion bottle and a bunch of other ingredients and supplies down. As he worked mixing a bunch of colored powders and liquids, he spoke.

“When a surprise guest showed up at my tower, I decided to set a protective barrier around my whole area, just so I'd know who was here and shit. It’s different than the ignorance ring. People can come in and go out of the barrier, but I'm alerted to their presence.” He whistled a sustained note as he there some herbs into his mixture and ground them together.

“So, why the wild potion-making then kiddo?”

Virgil ceased his note and poured the contents of the bowl, now a beautiful glowing pink, into a waiting jar. He covered it with cloth and tied string to keep it closed. “Because whoever they are, they’re hurt.”

Virgil and Patton stood simultaneously and waked to the ledge. They said nothing before they clasped hands and walked off the edge, caught by vines with a few notes from Virgil. On the ground, Patton fell into step behind Virgil, who walked to the edge of the clearing, where the curtain of vines usually hung, and waited.

The sound of distant horse hooves came closer, but neither man dared move from their spot. They were still in the ring of magic that prevented them from being seen by intruders.

All thoughts of intruders left their minds as they saw a giant grey horse ride up, the knight riding on its back. “I'm confused…he doesn’t look hurt at a—” Patton’s breath ceased upon seeing Logan’s form slump to the side, but not fall. Before Virgil could catch him, Patton ran around the withered vines, outside the protective boundary, and up to Roman’s horse.

“What’s wrong with him?! Is he dead?! Is he going to be okay?! Virgil! Help him please!! Logan, please, please wake up—I can’t, Logan I can’t handle it if you—

Virgil ran over and pulled him back from a shocked Roman’s side. Patton struggled against his friend’s hold as Roman untied the rope from around their waists and Logan was freed. At that, Patton shoved Virgil off and dragged his spectacled companion from the back of the horse, cradling him like a baby and blubbering desperate words in his ears.

He didn’t notice Roman getting down from the horse and talking to Virgil, or the gentle hands attempting to pry him away from Logan. He looked so broken. His nose was deep purple, starting to turn a sickening yellow at the edges. His eye was deep red and hot to the touch, and his leg was no better. His leg had a deep cut along the side of the calf, the skin also hot and swollen.

He has an infection.

Patton kissed his forehead reverently, choppy breath ghosting over his fevered skin. His tears fell on Logan’s face, but there was no response. He couldn’t hear anything outside of Logan’s breathing, steady but shallow. He held the man with an iron grip as tan hands attempted again to pull Logan from his arms.

He didn’t loosen his grip until he saw Virgil force himself into his line of sight. Patton couldn’t hear what he was saying, but could see he was worried. He felt arms slide under his armpits and then he was standing, holding Logan in a princess carry with strength he didn’t know he had.

He listened to Logan breathe as he walked on numb legs. He didn’t know where. But he had Logan. He was alive. His glasses were broken. He was breathing. He had an infection. He was gonna die.

Logan was going to die. So soon. He only just got him back. And he was leaving again, forever. Oh, god not Logan.

Patton fell to his knees, but they hit warm stone instead of cold dirt. Tan arms took Logan from him and his vision went blissfully dark.

——

Virgil wasn’t surprised. With how Pat talked about Logan, it stood to figure that he’d freak out at seeing him in such poor shape. Not that he could talk. If it had been Roman all bruised and bloody riding on the back of a horse, he probably would have passed out on the spot.

It was better that Patton was out of commission. Luckily, he’d passed out in the tower, where Virgil could put him in their shared bed and deal with Logan in relative peace.

On the subject of Logan, he thanked his Patton-dubbed “sorcerer senses”. He’d prepared a salve perfect for healing open wounds and infections. It was cooling, using a good deal of mint and powdered currant. He’d applied it liberally to the cut on Logan’s calf and his red eye.

As for his unseen injuries, there were more than he’d originally thought. Thanks to Roman’s assistance, he was able to identify the broken ribs. Between the two of them, an abusive king’s plaything and a seasoned soldier-turned-guardsmen, they had more experience dealing with injuries than they’d ever need.

Together, the two of them stitched Logan’s cuts, set what joints had popped out of place, applied what remedies were necessary and bandaged with all the rags in Virgil’s possession.

In addition to the superficial injuries, Virgil mixed together another potion, this one more liquid than solid, for his injured guest to drink. He imbued it with as much healing magic as he could, difficult because it was far from his specialty. He knew ribs would only heal with internal magic, along with his high fever and infection.

When the two were done, Logan was breathing deeper and, dare he dream, more peacefully.

“Hey, V, I think you might need some salve for the fool over here.” Virge smiled at the playful nickname, knowing Roman meant no harm by it. He got up from Logan’s side and walked over to the bed. Roman was pointing to Patton’s ear, a little swollen and red around some…stitches.

“That stubborn little…” V sighed and retrieved the healing salve from next to Logan. “He never wants anyone to go out of their way for him. He’d rather suffer than put someone out or make them uncomfortable.”

“Sound like anyone else we know?” Roman gave Virgil a pointed look with a smirk as he applied the cool balm to his friend’s ear.

Virgil returned it with a playful glare. “I don't want to make people uncomfortable, but if I need something I will NOT hesitate to speak the fuck up.” Roman stuck his tongue out at the sorcerer, who returned the gesture.

As Virgil finished rubbing the salve on, he felt the full weight of all the magic he’d been using throughout the day fall on him. He felt suddenly chilled to the bone and tired. Like he needed to sleep for the next two days.

But. He had shit to do, people to feed and one Roman the knight to catch up with. He lifted himself off the edge of the bed and took another look at Logan, who was sleeping soundly on a collection of pillows and blankets on the floor. He had a hunch he’d be out for at least another day.

Virgil walked over to one of the few places left unoccupied by people or stuff, the fire. He elected to light it with a candle instead of his magic. In the large pot that dangled over the fireplace, he threw in a variety of vegetables, some sauce and water. He watched the fire glow brighter and cook down the haphazardly thrown together stew. He decided to throw in some powdered spices and herbs before turning to look at Roman.

The knight was looking at him, unabashedly staring at him as he worked. Virgil ignored the heat that rose in his cheeks. “Can I help you with something, knighty pants?” His small smile grew as Roman laughed and walked over to him, sitting down on a cushion directly to his left.

“Nah, I'm just enjoying the view.”

V smirked. “You stole that from the book you gave me.”

Roman’s grin lit up his entire face, his eyes crinkling at the sides. “You read it! Did you love the ending? I really loved how the valiant prince and the knight teamed up to save the damsel but, in reality, they were really fighting for each other and the witch was just a plot device for the—”

Virgil laughed, loud and free. “Damn, dude I didn’t know you liked it that much or I would have made you wait before telling you.”

Roman gasped and put a hand on his chest. “You would dare scorn a gentleman knight such as myself? I'm surprised at you…”

“A knight? Fairly certain you ceded your knighthood when you broke a prisoner out of the dungeon and brought him to an exiled dark sorcerer’s place of banishment.”

“Potato, tomato, wizard! I wore the armor, fought for the title and rescued the damsel. I consider all that very knightly.”

“Oh, yes your fleeing from guards with help from a half-dead scholar tied to you was very knightly.”

“Hey hey hey! I got us here, didn’t I? I cannot believe a member of high society such as myself is being treated with such disdain!”

Virgil chuckled lowly. “I thought you would have learned that I don't treat anyone in high society well from the first time you met me. Remember?”

Roman leaned back on his hands and sighed contentedly. “How could I forget? You stole my favorite dagger and made me tea. It was very confusing.”

V laughed and stuck his tongue out. “And I'd do it again knighty pants.”

“Oh I don't doubt that, gloomy wizard.” They looked at each other for a long moment, the smells of stew and burning wood filling the night air. Though he wasn’t using any, Virgil felt magic swirling in the air as he leaned towards Roman.

Roman mirrored the gesture. Virge searched the knight’s eyes for any signs of subterfuge or false intentions, finding nothing but open and honest affection. They both paused as their noses brushed. Virgil wanted so badly to scream, to get out all the confusion he was feeling. There was so much bubbling inside and it was all impossible to decipher.

A beautiful man was sitting in front of him, kind and charming and sweet. If he did this, where would they go? He figured living with two other people wasn’t going to be great for a new relationship. Oh god, what if Roman didn’t want a relationship? Virgil thought and thought in circles about the worst case scenarios before he settled on a plan of action:

Fuck it.

He sucked in a breath and leaned in, feeling Roman’s breath leave him as their lips connected. It was brief, the kiss no longer than a second. They both opened their eyes to look at each other, shock written on both their faces.

A moment later, they were kissing again, this time deeper and sweeter. Roman touched Virgil’s cheek with hesitant fingers, bare hints of the touch giving him chills. The world fell away as they connected. Virgil placed his hand on Roman’s, leaning them both into the touch. He smiled into his mouth as he felt the other’s eyelashes flutter on his own.

They broke the kiss, neither daring to open their eyes. They rested their foreheads against one another and breathed. Their hands remained connected on Virgil’s cheek.

As they came back to the world, they heard a small, scratchy voice call out.

The second time it called out, the two finally pulled apart.

It was a finally awake Logan muttering, “Roman?”

Chapter Text

The next few days crawled by painfully slow. Logan was recovering, Patton was hovering by his side and helping him with every little thing, from brushing his hair to eating meals. Virgil was on pretty much twenty four hour nurse duty, needing to reapply salve and medicine and keep a close eye on Logan, lest his progress reverse.

Roman was less than pleased with this. It was five solid days before he could get Virgil to himself, and it was brief when it finally did happen. They had only just gotten to the base of the tower, all lit up by warm sunlight. So many questions danced on the tip of Roman’s tongue. What did you think of our kiss? What are we now? Do you want to be something more?

But before he could vocalize any of them, Patton’s panicked voice called out from the tower’s entrance, yelling something about Logan throwing up his soup. Virgil only sighed, squeezed Roman’s hand and climbed back up the now-hardened braid of hair.

Roman wanted to fucking scream.

He watched Virgil climb away before walking over to his grazing horse. He pet Arrow and she whinnied happily in response. “You think he likes me girl?” Arrow whinnied again and pushed her head into his shoulder. Roman laughed and pet her snout. “Well, I appreciate the kind words. I hope you’re right…”

He gazed back up at the tower. From where he stood, he could just see the top of Virgil’s head moving around, likely preparing food or applying balm. Roman sighed. He just wanted some time alone with his, hopefully, boyfriend. Was that really too much to ask?

As if on cue, he saw Virgil turn towards him from atop the tower. He couldn’t see too clearly what his expression was, but he heard the clear whistle cut through the white noise of the forest and fill him up with warm light. Virge didn’t need to use magic to make Roman feel filled with fire.

Meanwhile, inside the tower, Virgil was cleaning up an apologizing Logan’s sick, while simultaneously calming down Patton.

“Buddy, I'm telling you that you don't have to worry about this. Sometimes people have bad reaction to potions. My guess is his body is saying it’s done with the liquid stuff.” Logan, looking tired and guilty, nodded to the sentiment.

Before Patton could get another worried word out, Logan gently clasped his hand from where he was laying on the bed. Pat’s mouth shut and his eyes filled with calm at the feeling of Logan’s warm skin pressed against his. It was so rare that he initiated physical contact, and it was forever guaranteed to take his breath away.

Virgil smiled gently at the two. “If you’re really worried about him eating, give him a small piece of bread when he feels up to it. If his stomach is still bothering him in a half hour, put a little ginger on the bread. He will be okay, Pat.”

Patton nodded and took a deep breath, squeezing Virgil’s hand in his free one. At that, Virge decided to give the two some time to themselves.

As he slid down the braid, Patton sat down on the bed next to Logan.

“He’s right, you know. I'm going to recover from this. We both know I'm much too bullheaded to die from something so trivial as an infection,” Logan calmly informed him. Patton just nodded at him and offered a small smile. “Hey.” No response from Pat. “Hey.” Logan tugged on his friend’s hand until he was laying with his head on his chest.

“What’s all this for?” Patton asked in a small voice, slightly muffled from being pressed into the fabric of Logan’s shirt. It felt so nice on his cheek and the contact was so desperately needed.

“You are distressed. I know touch can distract and/or comfort you. I figured some was in order.”

“Well that…definitely makes sense. Thanks, I guess…” He snuggled a little more into Logan’s side, still being careful of the healing ribs.

“You are welcome.” A pregnant pause passed between the two. Too many words unspoken floated in the empty space between them, confessions and affections alike dancing on the tips of their tongues. “Would you possibly be open to doing this…more?”

Patton lifted his head to look Logan in the eye. “Laying down together? Or just touching?”

Logan squirmed, his eyes connecting and disconnecting from Patton’s uncomfortably. “Uh…both.” Patton would be lying if he weren’t a little disappointed. And he was transparent as ever, as Logan immediately looked concerned. “What’s wrong? Do you not want more physical touch?”

“I…” He debated lying about his true feelings. But. Patton hated lying. “I was hoping you would want more touch for other reasons…”

Logan went still. His voice was quiet, just barely above a whisper, “What other reasons, Pat?”

He tried for another moment to convince himself to lie. To no avail. “I want you to touch me because…you want to, not because it makes logical sense. I want to hug and cuddle more, too, but I want to because I lo— I have feelings for you, Lo.”

Logan stared at Patton, eyes flickering over his face, from his eyes to his nose and lips and forehead. Finally, he leaned forward and connected his lips to Patton’s forehead. His eyes closed in reverence before he pulled back and relaxed his head against the pillow. “That’s a relief.”

“What—what do you mean?”

Logan closed his eyes and settled his hand comfortably on Patton’s waist, pulling him just a bit closer. “I have feelings for you, too Pat.”

He nearly had a heart attack upon kissing Logan’s cheek and laying next to him soundly. His forehead wasn’t burning up, he wasn’t feverish. He was in a clear state of mind. And he liked Patton. He liked him back.

Patton nearly swooned upon laying closer to Logan. He didn’t have to pine anymore, didn’t have to worry if Lo would hate him if he knew his true feelings. It was all out in the open. They lay next to each other, Patton breathing in the air as if it were entirely new and Logan finally able to rest with his beloved next to him. Before long they were both sound asleep, warm and wrapped up in love.

Virgil smiled to himself from where he was hanging just outside his window. He knew the two would get together eventually, and thank goodness it was sooner rather than later. He didn’t know if he could deal with manic Patton and his repressed feelings for much longer. He loved the man, but enough pining was enough.

Content, he slid down the braid all the way to the ground, slippered feet connecting with the hard dirt. The plants were all but gone at that point, the trees nearly devoid of leaves and the air perpetually crisp. Sooner or later, Virgil would have to seal off the windows and ledge.

Ignoring the tasks at hand and letting the new lovebirds get some well-deserved sleep, he strode over to Roman. He delighted in the knight grinning madly and reaching a hand out to him as he approached. Not one to turn down a gesture of affection, he took it, and was scooped up onto the back of Roman’s horse, holding onto the knight’s waist.

“You think they’ll be okay for a while?” he asked, clicking for Arrow to start moving.

“Yea…I think they’ll be just fine.” A shit-eating grin grew on Virgil’s face.

“Hey, I hear you smiling back there. What are they up to?”

“Oh they will most certainly tell you later. I don't want to spoil the surprise, knighty pants.”

Roman gasped offendedly. “Secrets secrets are no fun. Tell me now or else we’re done!”

Virgil let out a shocked laugh, sputtering out giggles into the back of Roman’s red robes and gently squeezing his waist. “Oh knighty you never fail to make me smile.”

“I will take that as a momentary victory. I suppose the secrets can wait for now.”

They rode on in relative silence, the creaking of trees and the clopping of Arrow’s hooves filling in the spaces between their words. Before long, Virgil had his hands resting comfortably on Roman’s hips and his head leaning against his back.

“Don't you love the end of fall?” he muttered wistfully, dark eyes scanning over the bare trees around them.

“Not in particular. It’s a little depressing for me, everything dying and all.”

Virgil hummed into his back, the vibration setting chills down Roman’s spine. “It may be sad, but it means snow is on its way.”

Roman didn’t miss the childlike wonder in his voice or the eager squeezing of his hands at his hips. “I like snow. The way it falls is so graceful and quiet, like a silent ballet directed by mother nature.”

Virgil hummed again and closed his eyes. “It’s so beautiful, Ro…”

Roman thanked any and all deities that Virgil couldn’t see the profuse blush that sprouted on his face after hearing the casual nickname said with such nonchalance. “Not nearly as beautiful as you, V.” Two could play at that game.

Virgil only huffed a quiet laugh and breathed in and out deeply. “Thank you Roman.”

And thus Roman became even redder than he already was. He couldn’t delay the inevitable any longer, and the time was right. He cleared his throat and straightened his spine, not deterring Virgil form seeking comfort on him. “I, uh, I had a question to ask you, Virgil.”

The sorcerer only hummed a question mark, gently wrapping his arms around Roman’s waist. Well that wasn’t helping the blush situation. “Would you…” Roman mentally kicked himself and cleared his throat again. “Would you do me the honor of being my—”

“Well I was wondering how long it’d take you. You know I'm gonna say yes, knighty pants.” Virgil snuggled tighter against Roman’s back and smirked at the knowledge that there was definitely a blush coating the knight from stem to stern. “And I like the term partner. That good with you?”

Roman scoffed, “Whatever you prefer is what I will abide by, oh great and gloomy wizard!”

“Oof I might be rethinking my decision on being with you after that…”

“Nope! No takebacks, wizard.you are stuck with me.”

“If I’m stuck with you, does that mean I get to tell you I'm freezing my ass off and to turn Arrow around?”

Roman sat up triumphantly once more. “Of course, dearest storm cloud! Back to the tower we go!”

At that, they rode back on a lightly galloping Arrow, laughing and bantering as they went. Closure was had, bonds were made, and both got to make their partner blush. A pretty good outing if they had to say so.

——

That night, Patton and Virgil cooked a hearty stew, eating against each other and speaking of their new partners. Pat sighed and Virge giggled and neither had to say aloud their inner thoughts: took long enough.

Over on the bed, Roman was sitting cross-legged next to Logan who was sitting up, leaning on the wall that abutted the bed. “Snake, I did tell you not to get stepped on. Why do you not listen to my kind and generous advice?”

Logan smiled. He’d been doing that a lot more since his waking the the tower, safe from Dofka’s reach. “Well, dog, I thought myself above the intelligence of the idiot king. It turns out that I was…well I had miscalculated.” Roman laughed.

“Can’t you just admit you were wrong?”

“I was not wrong! I was merely taken by surprise and bested. Temporarily.”

“Temporarily thanks to meeeee!” he sang triumphantly. Logan snickered and pushed him away with a palm to his face. Roman only flopped back and continued his note before breaking into giggles. It hurt his cracked ribs, but he laughed along. It was worth it to see the smile grow on the knight’s face.

“I’ve been meaning to thank you for that, by the way. For safely removing me from Dofka’s dungeon. I truly appreciate it Roman.” At that, the knight sat up with the same smile and took Logan’s hand from his lap.

“You are always welcome, Logan. It was an honor to travel with you and be rescued by you in return.” He kissed Logan’s knuckles, resulting in him being pushed back again and more raucous laughter from both of them.

“I’ve been meaning to ask, how did you cast a fire spell that big?” Virgil piped up from beside the fireplace.

“Oh, well fire is the only type of magic that I can wield. I’ve tried other elements, simple levitation, the whole gambit. Fire is it.” Roman watched him, then flopped his head upside down over the edge of the bed to look at Virgil.

“I get that, but how did you cast a fire spell big enough to burn that many trees? For a beginner, it’s very advanced.”

Logan pondered it for a moment. “I suppose I was able to produce such a large flame due to the extreme stress. Just escaped from a spies’ dungeon, having been tortured and then being shot at with arrows while riding on horseback. Not to mention needing to protect Roman, who had risked everything to save me. The situation called for a large fire, and I was able to produce one. Beyond that, I have no explanation.”

Patton looked at him as if he were the glittering night sky. Virgil merely nodded in understanding and stood to retrieve bowls. Roman watched him walk, touched by Logan’s answer but not surprised by it.

Once bowls were retrieved and everyone had been scooped some stew, they all sat on the bed with Logan and ate. They were together at long last, safe and removed from the forces that would break them apart. If only things could stay that way forever.

Chapter Text

Logan was recovering more. He could walk around without pain in his superficial wounds, and could lean out the window without much discomfort in his ribs. He insisted on helping out more around the tower with his newfound strength.

When the temperature became too cold for even the forever-warm Roman, Logan assisted Virgil in spreading thick paste over every border of every window. He cooked after Virgil cast the spell to seal in the heat and keep out the cold, tapping him of pretty much all his socializing energy. He told stories and tended to the fire while V cuddled into Roman’s side, sleepy and spent.

As for him and Patton, elation doesn’t even come close to describing how happy they were. The two had known each other for nearly a decade and had finally broken the silence binding their mouths shut. Logan found great entertainment in planting surprise kisses on Patton’s cheek when he wasn’t looking and hugging him from behind when he was doing some task or other.

When his ribs were healed enough, he and Patton took walks outside the tower, wandering through the brisk air in heavy cloaks, holding hands despite the chill. Since his recovery, he insisted on sleeping on the collection of blankets and cushions on the floor. If he was being honest, he found it more comfortable than the firm bed Virgil had him in before anyway.

Within two months, all that was left of Logan’s injuries were scars and nightmares.

It was time to plan once more.

——

Virgil and Roman had taken it upon themselves to treat their newly rehabilitated house guest. In order to do that, they needed fresh food and meat. While Virgil and Patton were morally opposed to eating meat, the thinker and the barbarian of their group needed more sustenance than daily vegetable stew. Even in the weeks that Roman had been there, Virgil had noticed his muscle mass had decreased.

In order to get meat, they had to make a trek into what they had lovingly dubbed “the wintery wasteland”. That meant wearing three layers of clothing each, four if you counted the cloth binding Virgil’s chest, and riding Arrow into the nearest town. Which was over three hours away from Virgil’s tower.

However reluctant they were to venture into the snowy, cold forest was eclipsed by their excitement at the prospect of being alone for the first time in weeks. While the walks Patton and Logan took awarded the knight and sorcerer alone time, it was never longer than a half hour. And they were going just a bit crazy.

After wrapping themselves up in layers, they stepped off of the ledge and were caught before they hit the ground by Virgil’s vines. Their breath was immediately shorter, the frigid air cutting into their lungs. Both men quickly pulled their scarves up and over their mouths and noses, happily breathing in the little bit of enchanted powder Virgil had placed on the fabric to keep their breath warm.

Roman held out his gloved hand for Virgil to take and he happily obliged as they made their way over to Arrow. Roman had been working on a mini stable for her and was mostly finished with it. It was crude, but sheltered her from the elements and was fairly well hidden, an important feature for Virgil.

He uncovered the entrance and she gave a happy whinny, trotting over to the two men and nudging them excitedly. Virgil laughed and pet her snout as Roman laid a cloak over her back and put her saddle in place. Before long, they were both riding Arrow away from the tower and into the forest.

She was happy to pick up the pace, eager to run and travel. Virgil couldn’t blame her. While he had made his tower a home worth living in, he had gone a bit stir crazy more than once before.

Roman held onto Virgil’s waist as Arrow made her way through the forest, only a thin blanket of snow covering the ground. V had insisted on taking lead this time, knowing full well that he’d never be able to ride a horse if he didn’t keep trying. And Arrow was happy to oblige the new rider.

“Roman?”

“Yes, my dearest?” Both had raised their voices slightly to be heard over the wind whistling through the trees.

“Just letting you know, you might be meeting a friend of mine in this town we visit.”

Roman was slightly taken aback. “I didn’t know you had friends, darling.”

“Rude!” Virgil laughed through his exclamation.

“This is the hunter who brought Patton to me. Remember? The weird sarcastic one?”

“Ah, yes, I do recall vaguely you mentioning this man. Will he be a problem?”

Virgil laughed as he reached back with one hand and pat Roman’s thigh lovingly. “Down, boy. He’s a nice guy, he’s just kind of odd. And I don't even know if this is the village he lives in!”

Two hours later, it was confirmed that it was in fact the village he lived in. The men dismounted a happy and tired Arrow, feeding her carrots and petting her flank as they walked into the town. Roman repeated words of praise to her as they walked into the village square, complimenting her on how fast she ran and for how long. Thanks to her their journey was cut down by an hour.

Virgil kept the hood up on his innermost cloak, a light lavender color, so his face would remain covered. He still held hands with Roman, though.

The two made their way into the square, lined with vendors on all sides. Virgil had loaded his personal bag up with jars upon jars of potions. Some were healing salves, others were simply magical skin cream. He even brought a jar of his renowned tea mix, a hit with all members of the tower family.

They went stall to stall, looking at the wares available for purchase. Much to his chagrin, Roman was sent off to the opposite side of the square, both to cover more ground and to be kept away from the presents Virgil was getting everyone. The colder the weather grew, the more everyone needed a pick-me-up.

As he walked along, his eyes caught on a small silver pocket watch and chain. It hit him as the perfect gift for Logan. “How much for the watch and chain?” he muttered, forcing his voice lower than its natural state.

“10 gold pieces,” a mild saleswoman answered. She looked to be in her forties, pretty and petite.

“I have potions for bartering. Anything you need?” Virgil opened his bag for the woman to see inside. She gasped at the assortment of glowing concoctions. After a moment she closed her mouth and it set in a hard line, her growing furrowing in tandem.

“Do you have anything for nausea? My daughter can’t seem to keep food down and I'm starting to get worried.”

Virgil paused for a moment, inner gears turning. “Ah…” He took out one of the smaller empty jars he’d brought and set it on the table. He poured out some of the general healing potion into it, then added some powdered ginger root and peppermint. The mixture changed from a glowing green to a soft blue. He covered the jar and handed it to the woman.

“Spread a thin layer on a slice of bread and feed it to her twice a day. If she doesn’t like the taste, a little sugar makes it taste like mint jam. In a week, she should be good as new.” He handed the mixture over and the woman was glowing with joy. She pressed the pocket watch into his hand and kissed his knuckles.

“Thank you, sir.” V smiled and ducked his head, swiftly tucking the watch into his bag and moving on to shop for his other friends.

For Patton, he was planning on something sentimental or astronomy-related. In a perfect world, both. As luck would have it, such a thing did not exist. However, Virgil did find a little compass with holes the shape of stars dotting its cover and a gold needle pointing north on the inside. One trade of purple sleeping potion later, he was onto his last gift.

For Roman, he wanted something grand but simple. Something metal, like the other gifts, but distinctly Roman. In scanning over all the stalls boasting little pins, watches, lockets and other trinkets, his eyes settled on the perfect gift. One shining red gem set in its design with silver and gold metalwork surrounding it. For such an item he had to give up some of his ignorance powder, calling it invisibility powder for the simplicity of explanation, and was on his way to find Roman.

[C’mon, you guys know I can’t tell you everything]

He found his knight drooling over the hot and fresh caramel apples and candied walnuts. Virgil pulled him away with a smile as they went over to a vendor selling pelts. V held his bag close to his body as he ducked his head once more and asked the man, “Do you know where we can buy some good quality meat?”

The vendor, gruff and old, barely looked up from his work cleaning off a new pelt when he answered, “Yea, go to the scarred freak’s house. Little cottage. Yellow shutters. Outskirts of town on the way to the deep forest.”

Virgil gawked at the candid words of the salesman but nodded and tugged Roman with him on the walk.

Arrow walked next to them, content to be under her own cloak and be with her people. Roman, however, was not content in the cold silence. “Sooooo whatcha get us?”

Virgil scoffed. “You think I'm just gonna tell you? Mr. Blab-a-lot?”

“Excuse me, sour sorcerer!”

“Nice one.”

“Thank you. But! I can keep a secret! I kept you a secret from everyone and everything for a long ti-”

“Roman, you told Patton and Logan about me the day after you saw me for the first time.”

“….Okay, maybe you have a point.”

Virgil smiled triumphantly and pecked his cheek as they continued their walk. It wasn’t hard to see the size and quality of houses was going down the further they walked from the village square. V felt his heart squeeze painfully as the cottages grew smaller and smaller, looking more overgrown with vines and decrepit as they ventured further. For a long stretch of road, there were no house, not even the ones that looked a moment away from being consumed whole by the woods.

They were beginning to think the pelt vendor had just lied to them when they turned a particularly sharp bend and came upon a humble little cottage. Just like he said, the shutters were a lovely golden yellow. Well. Now or never.

Virgil went up to the faded wooden door and knocked three times. Roman followed at his heels, keeping his distance due to his horse. A very surprised Devraux answered the door, hair slightly disheveled and robe haphazardly thrown on.

For a moment, Virgil, newly unhooded, and Devraux just stared at each other. Finally, V smiled awkwardly and D huffed. “Well, I was certainly expecting visitors. You’re not welcome inside.” He stepped back from the door and gestured for him to come in. “Your friend, too,” he added as an afterthought.

Virgil looked back at Roman, who had already tied Arrow’s lead to a low-hanging branch and was walking towards him. They took each other’s hands and ducked their heads to enter D’s home. As the door closed behind them, they were assaulted with warmth and the smell of fresh herbs. As if on cue, the hunter set a cup of hot tea on his table and sat down.

“Do make yourselves comfortable.” He calmly sipped his tea, blowing on it intermittently as he calmly observed his guests shedding their layers. Once they had stripped down to just their base clothing layers, Roman went about looking at anything and everything on display in Devraux’s house. Virgil sat down across from him and smiled gently, a gesture he returned kindly.

“What brings you to my neck of the woods, oh purple stranger?” Virgil huffed a small laugh.

“I actually came to trade with you.” He began unloading what remained of his potions and salves from his bag. “I need some meat for some friends. They need the protein and I am not equipped for hunting.”

D looked over the glowing jars on his table and sipped his tea once more while Virgil continued. “I don't have money, but I am a sorcerer and I have potions. Good ones. I'm willing to part with some of great value in exchange for good meat.” Roman attempted to cough over a poorly concealed laugh, earning a glare from his partner.

“I don't have anything on hand at the moment, but yes. I am willing to trade.” He took a last sip of tea and paced his cup on the table. “What do you have, V?”

Virgil perked up and pushed the larger potion jars forward. “This is for sleep, this is for healing, and this is just some crazy good lotion,” they both laughed at the last one.

D’s eyes flickered over the healing salve. “Question- is the healing stuff used for injuries or can it be used on…pre-existing conditions?” He unconsciously scratched at the marks on his face, a gesture noticed by Virge.

“It is mostly for newer injuries. I can try to make it work for scars, but I can’t promise anything. I'm magic, but not all-powerful.” D bristled a bit, bu covered it up with a larger gulp of tea. “Do you have any need for food or spices of any kind? I make a mean herbal tea with honey.”

The hunter smiled gently, the expression tugging at the scars on his cheek and around his eye. “I would actually despise that. I'm totally content with drinking bland chamomile all day everyday.”

Virgil chuckled. “How about mint and sage? I also have ginger-infused honey if you’re interested.”

“Oh, I would abhor such a delicious-sounding concoction.” Both smiled mischievously as Roman continued to peruse Devraux’s knickknacks absentmindedly.

“So, a big cut of meat for fresh tea mix and a heaping jar of spiced honey?”

“Sounds completely unfair.” They both stood and grasped forearms, a done deal. “I can get a whole deer for you and deliver it to your house. At that time, you can give me the tea and honey.”

Virgil froze for a moment, then smiled awkwardly and blushed. “About my house…”

Chapter Text

A week later, a fresh few inches of snow coated the ground and the winter solstice celebration was upon them. A dumbfounded Devraux was led from the river to Virgil’s tower, fresh venison in tow. Ginger honey was exchanged, sarcastic words were uttered and the men hugged, D happy to comply as much as he hated to admit it. A bond deeper than that of convenience and happenstance was formed, and neither man knew what to do with it.

Regardless, when Virgil climbed into the tower and unwrapped the parcel of venison. The reactions he received fed his ego for weeks to come. Patton, despite his love for vegetables and hatred for hurting other creatures, had to pick his jaw up off the floor along with his drool. Logan’s eyes quite literally grew to the size of dinner plates, and Roman tackled him to the floor with kisses upon seeing what was contained in the paper wrapping.

The group were licking their metaphorical chops as Virgil rubbed the pieces of meat with spices and set them up to roast on a metal rack above the fireplace. In a cast iron skillet below the rack of venison, Virgil was frying up some mushrooms, onions, and peppers. His friends were positively overjoyed.

When it came time to eat, a few side tables were pushed together to fit all the food and presents. Logan and Patton’s makeshift bed was dismantled for the time being, providing comfortable cushions for everyone to sit on. After a brief moment of praise to the gods, the hungry men dug in.

The borderline sinful moan let out by Logan upon biting into the piece of thigh meat took everyone by surprise, shocking all into silence. That is, before they all roared up again with deafening laughter. More moans were let out, some genuine and others just for fun, and smiles always followed.

The men ate every morsel of food they were served, which warmed Virgil’s chef’s heart more than he could ever express. They were stuffed before they could finish the venison, which V expected. He had prepared an entire deer. What was left over was chopped into pieces, placed into sauce and sealed into jars for future use. Freezing them for said use was easy. He simply had to drop them in the basket and lower them to the ground.

When all food was squared away and all members of the tower family were bloated and happy, the sun was one set and calm conversation was the order of the evening.

After taking a sip from his cup, Virgil asked, “So, Logan, when did you come to work at the palace? I don't remember you when I was there.”

“Mmm, yes. That would make sense.” He took a puff from Patton’s pipe, breathing out purple tinted smoke as he spoke. “I came to work for him just after the whole necromancy debacle. You were still Dofka’s sorcerer, but were being blamed and pushed out. I wouldn’t remember a meek scholar in times like that.” He smiled, breathing in more smoke and passing the pipe to a reaching Roman.

“Still. I kept track of the people that were around me and the king. It was part of my job there.” He took another contemplative sip.

Logan shrugged. “If I was hesitant to be around the quote unquote ‘Deadly Dragon Witch’, I can’t think of a person who would blame me.” He smiled and took the pipe back as Virgil laughed.

“They really called me that? I though that was just Patty fucking with me.”

“Hey! I would never f with you!” Patton exclaimed, to a doubtful group of friends. He shrank back a bit. “Okay maybe just a little, on special occasions.” They all laughed good-naturedly.

“Well, regardless of how or when we met, I'm glad you’re here now, Logan. Same goes for all of you.” Virgil gestured with his glass, Roman and Logan clinking theirs with his and Patton clinking his pipe.

“So…in the spirit of the winter solstice celebration, I may or may not have gotten you guys presents.” Virge blushed a bit and pointed to the cloth-wrapped parcels sitting in the middle of the table.

“What a sweet wizard,” Roman responded before kissing Virgil’s cheek.

Patton’s smile nearly blinded everyone in the room before he dragged V down to the ground in a tight hug. Virgil tickled him, Pat tickled him back and both ended up gasping for air as they sat back up.

Logan simply stared at the gifts on the table in disbelief. He seemed to be transfixed on the colored scraps wrapped around each little parcel. “I—” everyone in the room turned to him. For once, he didn’t have words readily available to fire off. “I…thank you. You didn’t have to spend your mo—”

“Stop stop, I didn’t actually spend any money. It was through trade, as are most of my dealings. So don't think I spent my life savings on you guys. I started the day with no gold and ended it the same way,” Virgil rattled off quickly, trying to calm Logan before he went further into emotional territory. “and you guys haven’t even opened them. So, c’mon.”

He handed the blue and black wrapped gift to Logan, the light blue and grey to Patton and the red and white to Roman.

Patton was, unsurprisingly, the first to tear off the cloth and reveal his gift. He uncovered the compass with care, the device taking up his entire palm. He clicked the small button situated at the top, where the chain hooked on. The gold cover with stars poked into it popped open dramatically, revealing the compass face on the inside. Patton gently touched the glass, turning the whole thing this way and that, watching the delicate needle move.

After a few moments of staring in wonder, he clasped it to his heart and looked up at Virgil with wet eyes. “You’re my moral compass. You deserve to be reminded of it.” Patton coughed out a wet laugh and hugged V, gentle and sweet. Virgil squeezed back, before pushing Patton off with a laugh of his own. “Hey, we got two more gifts to go Pat!”

Logan was next, unwrapping the dark cloth with clinical precision. “C’mon, snake, we all know you want to see what you got just as much as any of us,” Roman quipped, receiving a sassy glare from Logan in return. When he did finally break through the wrapping, his mouth actually fell open in shock. He mirrored Patton, holding the watch in his hand, it also fitting into his palm snugly.

He turned it over, studying the back of it with wonder. The back was solid silver, but carved with intricate circular patterns. The front had glass covering the face, with the gears and inner workings on display behind the watch face itself. Logan wound the dial at the top of it, almost shocked that it started ticking. He looked up at Virgil with awe.

“This is incredible,” he whispered. His hand twitched for a moment before he reached across the small table and grasped Virgil’s hand in his. “Thank you so much, Virgil.”

V shrugged and kissed his knuckles, using the gesture as an excuse to shake his bangs in front of his face.

“My turn now?” Roman boisterously interjected. Everyone around the table laughed, Logan and Patton clutching their gifts to their chests as they did so.

“Yes, my knight. Your turn.” Roman lit up as he nearly shredded the cloth covering his gift. When he broke through the vibrant scarves he donned a shit-eating grin. In his hand he held a familiar dagger sheath.

“Ah so you’ve gifted me my own dagger? How very generous oh stingy wizard,” he kissed Virgil’s cheek wetly, the other man pushing him away while he laughed.

“No, you dense jock! Look inside the sheath.”

Curious, Roman undid the tie holding it closed and gasped as he pulled out the dagger. It was so much grander than the one he’d had prior. The dagger before him had a hilt made from marbled gold and silver, the blade a shining silver. Right where the hilt met the blade, a shining red stone was set.

Roman twisted it around in his hand, turning it to stab at the air a few times. He looked at Virgil then at the cloths sitting on the table, then back at Virgil. His boyfriend smiled mischievously and nodded. With fascination, Roman threw one of the cloths in the air and cut through it with no effort with the dagger. “Holy shit, V…”

He looked over at his boyfriend and smiled like a kid in a candy store before laying the dagger on the table and tackling Virgil to the floor with kisses. Both laughed between kissing each other. Logan and Patton scooted their cushions toward each other, Patton leaning on Logan’s shoulder comfortably. The scholar kissed the fool’s head and laid his on top as they watched their friends laugh and smile.

That night, each man went to bed with a newfound feeling of joy, bellies full of food and hearts full of love.

——

The next day, Virgil was allowed to sleep in. He’d prepared almost everything for the other three and he sure as hell deserved some rest. While he slept, the fool, the snake and the dog sat around the table wrapped up in their night robes. They cleaned up the dishes that were dirtied the night before and spent a considerable amount of time adjusting to having their new trinkets strapped to them.

Once the chores were done, Logan declared it planning time. Virgil’s soft snoring and the sound of light rain hitting the roof of the tower set the tone for a calm, but focused planning session.

“So, before I was so rudely kidnapped by goons, I had a plan to share with you about how to take down the king, Roman,” Logan started.

“You were planning a rebellion?” Patton asked, wonder in his eyes.

“Not quite a rebellion, love, but an uprising nonetheless.” He kissed Patton’s head and the other man smiled in reply, both receiving a faux gagging noise from Roman in response. “Regardless of what the plan was, it will need revising now. We can no longer work from under Dofka’s nose, so we will have to work externally. My proposal is we travel to the kingdom bordering us to the west, enlist the aid of the ruler there and come back with reinforcements.”

Roman considered the plan, surprisingly serious. He gestured to the crude map of the kingdom Patton had drawn up as they were talking, his compass sitting shiny and proud in one of the corners. “I don't entirely trust the ruler to the west. Rumor has it they’re impulsive and reckless. While that might mean a war that would leave Dofka done for, it could also mean losing a lot of civilian lives on the way.”

“I see your point of view, but I think it’s a more prudent plan than going to the north. Their ruler is supposedly so stringent with their rules, they throw foreigners in the dungeon as soon as they’re spotted within a hundred meters of the palace walls. There’s a chance they’ll hear us out, but I would rather go with the surefire plan than roll the proverbial dice.”

Roman considered again. He had picked up a small piece of wood from next to the fireplace and was carving it slowly with his dagger as Logan was speaking. He began slowly, seemingly questioning his words as he spoke them, “Say we go to the west. What are we gonna tell the leader? That this king who brought peace and prosperity to all the land is secretly an abusive dick whose only interest is himself? That’s not much of a reason, especially considering there’s no proof of what he’s done.”

“I have proof,” Virgil croaked from the bed, voice still heavy with sleep.

“Darling, I didn’t know you were awake,” Roman muttered as he stood up and rushed to Virgil’s side. He kissed his partner’s palm gently before he pulled back, confusion etched on his features. “What do you mean you have proof?’

Virgil kissed Roman’s forehead before swinging his legs around the bed and standing up. He yawned as he tugged off his robe, then unbuttoned and pulled off his shirt. The three others were frozen as they watched Virgil slowly unwrap the bandages from around his chest. They were all far from healers, but all had the same thought regardless, Those are way too tight.

Not knowing what was happening behind his back, Virgil continued untying calmly until his upper body was devoid of any fabric. He sighed and turned around. All over the skin of his chest were raised scars, all in different stages of healed. Some were white and nearly invisible, where others were bright red and angry. “When I told him I wasn’t a girl…let’s just say he had an opinion and made it very clear to me what it was. Said something along the lines of ‘If you don't want your tits, I'd better get my worth of ‘em now’. So. I have proof of that at least.”

Before anyone could react, Virgil clicked his tongue and turned around, so his back was facing them. “I almost forgot about these.” A grunt of effort sounded from the sorcerer, before black swirling lines snaked their way up from his legs, spreading over his back and covering his entire form. When he turned to face them, the black lines had coated him from head to toe, making his body look like it was tattooed and his face look skeletal. “Necromancy by force isn’t anything to mess with. I tried getting rid of the scars a while ago, but only glamours cover it up…why do you think I'm so tired all the time?”

“Virgil, I don't even know how to begin apologizing for what he did to y—”

The sorcerer raised his now intricately designed palm to hush Roman’s speech. “There’s nothing you could have done, knighty. And I'm out of it now. But I'm done lying down. Let’s get this bastard.”

At that, he turned back around and wrapped his chest up once more. To everyone’s relief, it was much looser than before. Not bothering with the shirt, he just shrugged his robes on and settled himself next to Roman on the floor, after grunting in effort to remove the designs from his face and retrieving and chewing on peppermint sprigs growing outside the window by the bed. He leaned on his boyfriend as Logan spoke.

“So…we have proof of that. With the physical evidence and Virgil’s ability to replay events, namely that of the necromancy incident—” Virge shivered at the thought, “I think we have a convincing enough case.”

“Even if we don’t, we don't have much of a choice otherwise. He’s the best chance we have,” Patton summed it up. “So, what do we do now?”

“Now, my dear Patton, we plan the in between! We create schedules and structures, train if possible, build our outdoor skills, learn how to properly set up a shelter, find some more horses—”

“Wait, more horses?” Virgil interrupted Roman’s grandiose ramblings. “I think my friend in yellow might be able to help with that. He gives off a pretty anti-monarchy vibe.” He nodded to himself and kept munching on his mint.

“Alright, so a more concise summation could be this: we enlist the help of the hunter, perhaps get him to join us as he is a more superior forest navigator than any of us, train in some basic self defense skills, prepare for a weeks long journey and arrive at the mad king’s castle to basically beg for aid in our quest.”

A silence fell over the group before Patton chimed in, “Yup that’s pretty much it!”

Virgil shook it off as he stood up once more and started getting dressed for the day. “What is this mad king’s name?”

Logan sighed. “Well, he is a king technically, but he goes by hid old title. Duke Remus.”