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Paranoia

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It was no secret that the Dark Sides (Virgil preferred the term ‘others,’ but what did he know? Not like he lived with them or anything.) were rather unjustly cruel sometimes. Or, at least, Virgil thought that was obvious. Apparently he was very wrong, because the Light Sides seemed pretty horrified at the condition they found him in. Even if he was much better off than he usually was. He was lucky to not be bleeding and half dead. He got the feeling that telling them that wouldn’t make them feel any better.

Well. I suppose I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I? Allow me to try again. Hello and welcome to the beginning of this story. I’ll be your guide as you attempt to get through this. I’m also the author of this trash heap. You have questions, feel free to comment or email me. Fourth wall breaks aren’t until the second part of this series, unless you count this, and there will be semi-graphic violence and descriptions of blood and injuries, so if that’s not your thing, click out.

I’ll see you guys on the other side.

~Elizabeth (Liz)

**********

One moment of peace, that’s all he asked for. Apparently that was too much. Deceit had risen up within seconds of his door closing, sitting down immediately, making himself at home like he wasn’t intruding on one of the few safe places Virgil had left. Like he wasn’t there to completely break him.

“You’re one of us, Anxiety, nothing you do is ever going to change that,” he taunted, slipping down from where he’d been on the edge of Virgil’s bed. He smirked, rising to his feet with a swish of his cape, and Virgil bared his teeth threateningly at the other Side, though his wings betrayed his fear, folding tight to his back.

“I’ll prove you wrong someday. I know how to get to the Light mindscape just as well as you do,” he hissed, almost smirking at the anger that flashed across Deceit’s face. It only took the other Side a moment to compose himself.

“I’d like to see you try,” he retaliated, but his tone was wavering, unsure of himself now.

“Fucking watch me,” Virgil growled. Wrong choice. Deceit’s eyes lit up in anger, and he grabbed Virgil roughly by the arm, dragging him from the room despite his protests and frantic apologies. He was slammed into a small metal cage, the door locking behind him with an echoing click.

“Spend a night locked in here, and we’ll see how you feel about this in a few days, after you’ve been put back in your place,” Deceit snarled. “I’ll try to remember to feed you sometime tomorrow morning.” He stalked off without another word, and Virgil sighed, curling into the corner. He was in for a long night.

**********

They found him by accident, judging by the shocked cry that tore him from his uneasy sleep. He’d just managed to drift off when there was a rattle at the bars of his small prison, and a little sharp inhale from someone just beyond the border, followed by a yelp from someone else farther away.

He jolted to his feet, hands flying up to protect his face, lightning crackling along his palms. His wings snapped to his back, disappearing from sight with a flicker of his thoughts.

“Whoa there, kiddo, easy,” one of the two blurry figures cautioned, hands raised defensively. There was a rustle, and a bit of movement just beyond where the lantern’s weak glow reached, and then two Sides stepped forward into the dim light, their silhouettes sharpening, and Virgil finally got a good look at them. One in a blue shirt and jeans, a cardigan slung haphazardly around his waist, pale blue wings sprouting from his back. Eastern Bluebird, if Virgil had to take a guess. The other was dressed more like a college professor Thomas had once had, in a black polo and blue tie, dark indigo wings blending in with the dancing shadows. Bunting, judging by the muted hue and the way they shimmered even in the poor lighting. The Sides both wore identical black-framed glasses, though the one with the cardigan seemed to have forgotten their presence, allowing them to slip down his face.

The two Sides glanced at each other, the one with the cardigan looking pleadingly at the one in the tie, who merely shrugged and nodded back towards Virgil, adjusting his glasses. The one in blue grinned.

“If you want,” he started hesitantly, “we know a way to get you out. You can come with us to our mindscape.”

The other interjected before his friend could continue. “I was told that conditions down here were bad, but I had no idea things had escalated this quickly. I apologize for not coming sooner.”

He knew the Light Sides, he wasn’t fucking stupid, but...Morality and Logic, two of the most feared Sides across the line of the mindscape borders, coming here and breaking him out? It seemed a bit far fetched even to him, and he’d seen some shit. But he couldn’t help but perk up a bit. “I’m getting out of here?” Virgil’s voice sounded small even to himself, and he twisted his mouth into a grimace at the display of weakness. He shrank back against the bars of the cage, still sure that this was all one big joke.

Logic spoke up again, adjusting his tie as he did. “If you want to come with us, yes,” he explained.

“You’re lying…” Virgil hissed suspiciously, but he inched forward just a bit, shaking his hair into his eyes with a quick flip of his head, hiding his discolored eye behind the curtain of purple. It was too dark for them to see, but one could never be too careful.

“I could never lie to you, kiddo,” Morality whispered. “I don’t like lying to people unless it’s necessary.”

Virgil only had to think it over for a moment. “Okay.”

**********

The lighter Creativity was...less than happy to see him. Virgil had nearly bowled both Morality and Logic over trying to scramble away, immediately thinking that Remus had yet again disguised himself, but he’d come to his senses with a few whispered reassurances from Morality. In his panic he’d forgotten that the creative Sides were twins. Where Remus’s wings were the dark grey and green of a Guinea Turaco, his brother’s were the distinct bright crimson of a Northern Cardinal, much brighter than Remus’s and impossible to miss.

He’d tried to wave, but his movements were jerky, frantic. “Um...I’m A-Anxiety,” he stuttered out.

“Roman,” the creative Side said coldly, turning and going into his room, slamming the door behind him. Virgil flinched at the noise.

“Sorry about that, kiddo, he’s usually not like that. Oh! We forgot to introduce ourselves!” Morality yelped. “I’m Morality, but you can call me Patton! Or dad, I don’t mind!” He beamed over at Anxiety, who grinned back. Patton’s enthusiasm was contagious. Roman was quickly forgotten. Logic introduced himself as Logan and proceeded to spend the next fifteen minutes sitting at the kitchen counter, rambling under his breath about the stars, a conversation which Virgil shamelessly eavesdropped upon, to Logan’s delight.

They spent that night on the roof of the mind palace, watching the stars and tracing constellations with their fingers, falling asleep bathed in the golden light of the first dawn Virgil had seen since he’d manifested.

**********

He crept down from the roof at around noon the next day, shaking out his wings and rubbing the sleep from his eyes. Grabbing his old hoodie from where it was draped across Logan’s chair, he ambled slowly towards the kitchen. Looking wonderingly around, he noted that every once in a while something mirrored Thomas’s house, but for the most part it was obviously some grand thing Roman had dreamed up.

He paused just outside of the door at the jumble of voices coming from inside. It seemed Logan had beat him down. “I get that you and Anxiety don’t get along, but you could at least attempt to understand what he must have gone through. You and I both know exactly how much your brother is capable of, and-”

“Don’t ever mention him to me again,” Roman snarled, cutting the logical Side off mid-sentence. Virgil hesitantly peeked around the corner at them, hoping to sneak past unnoticed. Roman’s wings were flared out behind him angrily, and Logan had his hands held up placatingly. He pulled back, carefully, slowly. It would be near impossible for him to get around the Light Sides without drawing attention to himself.

There was an exasperated sigh, no doubt from Logan.  “Roman, just because he is different doesn't mean that you can outright pretend he does not exist. Regardless of what he has done, he is still a part of Thomas. And as for Anxiety, you saw his reaction to seeing you! It’s undeniable that he has undergone some extreme form of trauma, and we can’t ignore-” he tried to say, but he was swiftly interrupted again.

“He’s going to betray us, Logan!” Roman snapped. Virgil clapped a hand over his mouth, backing away from the kitchen, tears burning in his eyes. He knew it. He was so fucking stupid. He’d allowed himself to hope, and it had turned out to be just the same, all one vicious cycle of pain and regret. He’d been naïve, and it was going to cost him everything.

“I won’t say I told you so....” a voice sang from behind him, smug and infuriating.

“Get out.”

“Now, now, Anxiety, is that any way to greet an old friend?” Deceit said chidingly. Virgil hated the way his body instinctively curled in on itself, ready for whatever punishment he was undoubtedly about to receive. Deceit chuckled. “So glad you’re still my little pet, Anxiety, I’d begun to fear you’d forgotten your training. Such a good kitten.”

Everything after that was a blur of instinctual motion, blindingly bright light, and the distinct sound of someone screaming.

**********

He woke up the next morning with a blank spot in his memory and a deep ache in both his wings. Purple bruises spiraled up his sides and across his back, but he did his best to ignore them, knowing they’d eventually fade. Deceit must have paid him a visit. He just hoped Remus hadn’t been invited to join in. First priority is breakfast, he decided when his stomach voiced its protest.

“Hey, kiddo!” Patton chirped, waving as he entered the kitchen. He had batter on the end of his nose.

“Hi,” Virgil mumbled, hiding his smile behind his hand. “Making cookies?”

“Yep!” Patton replied cheerfully.

Virgil raised an eyebrow. “What’s the occasion?” he asked curiously, immediately wishing he could take it back. What if Patton thought he was talking too much? Or being too annoying? What if-

“Oh, no reason, really,” Patton replied before he could spiral too far. “Just felt like making cookies, that’s all. Never need an excuse to make those, right? You wanna help me mix this?”

Virgil was too shocked to refuse. “I...sure, I guess. What do I do?”

By the time they were done mixing everything into the batter, they’d eaten more of it than either would care to admit, and Patton had a lump of it stuck on the frame of his glasses as well as the dollop on his nose. Virgil couldn’t help but giggle at the sight.

“Thanks for the help, kiddo,” Patton remarked, ruffling his hair affectionately.

“Anytime, dad,” he murmured. Patton’s eyes lit up at the name, and he grinned, skipping back into the kitchen, leaving Virgil standing alone in the hallway, staring affectionately after him.

**********

Even though he knew they were doing a video, Thomas’ reminder caught him off guard, and he went back to his room with his hoodie still half off his shoulder where he’d been trying to wrestle out of it just before Thomas summoned him to tell him they had ten minutes. No time for a nap, then.

Deceit showed up five minutes before filming was scheduled to begin, just to remind him that he and Remus were watching, and Virgil couldn’t focus the entire video, unable to shake the ghost of Deceit’s iron grip on his shoulder and his breath on his ear as he whispered his little veiled threats. He retreated to his room as soon as he could get away with it, not even staying to listen from the sidelines as Thomas completed his outro and shut down the camera.

“Anxiety?” Logan asked, peering around the door. “Are you in here?”

“What do you want?” he snapped, a bit harsher than he’d meant. “Ah, sorry,” he said, tone softening.

“I merely wanted to check up on you and make sure you were feeling better. You seemed rather distracted and, ah, anxious, during the video earlier.”

“Just...tired, I guess,” Virgil deflected, looking back down at his phone.

“I see…I will take my leave then.” Logan didn’t sound convinced, but he dropped the subject, turning to retreat down the hallway. “Please get some rest, it is very important to both you and Thomas,” he added over his shoulder. Virgil raised his head to stare after him, longing to call out and stop him, to spend time with someone, if only to ward away Deceit for at least a little while. But he couldn’t do that, not now that he’d gotten to know them. He couldn’t do that to Logan. What if Deceit showed up anyway and revealed his secret? He didn't want to take the chance.

And he watched Logan disappear.

**********

“What if Thomas gets hit by a car trying to get there? Lafayette County, Florida has the highest concentration of car-related accidents out of any other place in the entire state!” Virgil insisted frantically, trying to calm his racing heart. Wiping his sweaty palms in his jeans, he took a deep breath, closing his eyes for a moment. None of the others seemed to notice. They’d been arguing for almost an hour now, and they were no closer to a decision than when they’d started.

Roman scoffed. “Don’t be such a downer, Anxiety.”

“Sorry for doing my job,” Virgil snapped, curling his lip at the creative Side. “I can’t help my nature, Princey. At least I’m getting something done.” Roman rolled his eyes, turning away, but Virgil didn’t miss the pain that flashed across his face. “Sorry,” he mumbled, shoving his hands into his pockets. “That was a bit far. I didn’t mean that.”

Roman narrowed his eyes at him, but groaned and turned back to face the group. “It’s fine.”

No. No, it’s really not.

But he didn’t say anything, just went silent and shrunk back, letting the others do the talking. And when they finally decided that they would go to the event with Joan, he sunk out without a word, hoping no one would follow him.

He collapsed onto his bed and locked the door with a wave of his hand. The others could wait. Thomas had already made a decision, and they hadn’t needed him there for that. Anything else Thomas needed could be solved just as easily by Patton or Logan or Roman.

They didn’t need him. Didn’t need anxiety.

**********

The familiar tug of a summoning jolted Virgil awake. How long had it been since the video ended? Groaning, he pulled his jacket over his shoulders and allowed himself to appear...in the mindscape? Must not have been Thomas trying to get his attention, then, he would have appeared in the physical world and not by the couch in the mind palace.

“Anxiety!” Roman yelped, flinching away from him as he popped into existence directly beside him, rubbing his eyes. “Warn a dude next time, goodness.”

“Sorry, I was summoned. I can’t choose where I come up when that happens,” he grumbled. After a moment’s thought, he amended, “unless we’re in a video, but our energy is tied to those spots since that’s where Thomas put us when it was just him in costumes, we can’t rise up anywhere else unless we’re consciously making an effort to. That’s also why we can’t interact with each other physically unless the camera is off, regardless of whether or not it’s directly facing one of us at any given time.”

“Oh, is that why?” Logan asked, rising up on Roman’s other side, rubbing the back of his head as if it pained him.

“From what I’ve noticed based off the energy radiating from those areas, and our inability to either physically interact or rise up in a different area when there is a camera running in the same room, yes,” Virgil said, tucking his phone into his back pocket. “Is there a particular reason why we’ve all been summoned at the same time, or can I go back to my room and let you guys sort everything out for Thomas?”

“Don’t go yet ,” Patton replied from behind them. Virgil flinched, spinning on his heel to face him. “It’s movie night, kiddo, did you forget?”

Virgil’s shoulders slumped. “Oh. Right, Friday nights are...okay. Um, I’ll make sure to stay quiet, then, you don’t have to remind me. Sorry. I hope you guys have fun?” he offered halfheartedly, turning to make for the stairs.

Patton grabbed his hand before he could fully leave. “Kiddo, why do you think I called you down?”

“You’re watching a movie tonight with Logan and R-”

“Not Ro and Lo,” Patton interjected gently. “ You specifically.”

“To tell me to stay quiet so you guys can enjoy your movie,” Virgil said instantly. “I thought that was obvious.”

Patton’s face fell. “Kiddo, we want you to join us. A family movie night isn’t family movie night unless everyone is there for it.”

Virgil blinked owlishly. “What?”

Logan was frowning at him. “Why would you think you would not be included? I assumed Patton made it clear to you that you are welcome to join us in an activity any time you wish to. Movie nights are no different, although I must warn you that Roman does get a bit loud sometimes.”

“I...that...that’s fine, I just...are you sure? I don’t want to intrude if you guys are doing a family thing-”

“Nonsense,” Roman scoffed. “Come on, help me choose a couple movies while Logan brings out the popcorn. Tonight is a Disney night, I can feel it.”

“Do you ever watch anything but?” Virgil asked teasingly.

Roman sent him a mock glare over his shoulder. “Of course I do. Diversity, and all. But I will admit that most of our movie nights consists of mostly Disney-themed films.”

Virgil laughed. “Thought so. Do you have Black Cauldron?”

“Yes, somewhere in here, Figures that would be the first one you suggest. We’ll have to watch The Rescuers at some point tonight, it’s one of Patton’s favorites. And of course Big Hero 6. Logan’s favorite, though he always says he doesn’t care much for the ‘dramatics and silliness.’ He’s lying, obviously, but we let him think we don’t know his secret.”

Who has a secret?” Logan asked, walking back into the room with a large bowl of popcorn in his arm, Patton trailing behind him with a plate of brownies.

“Everyone?” Virgil guessed, shrugging.

“Anxiety does,” Roman announced, smirking when Virgil jabbed his elbow sharply into the other’s ribs.

“Ah. Well, don’t push him. It is up to him if he wishes to reveal it to us or not,” Logan replied calmly, setting down the bowl and turning to head back to the kitchen.

Virgil blinked. “Huh. Cool.”

Patton squealed when he saw the movie cases lying on the table. “Oh, I love The Rescuers!”

“We know, Pat,” Roman chuckled, wrapping an arm around the older Side’s shoulder. “Come on, let’s get the blanket forts set up. Did you grab Anxiety a onesie?”

He had to think for a moment, scrunching his nose adorably as he thought it over. “On the back of the couch,” Patton remembered suddenly, jumping up and down in place for a moment, clapping his hands like a child. “I hope you like it, kiddo!”

Virgil gently smiled at him, moving to pick up the lump of fabric draped across the couch. When he unfolded it, he almost dropped it. “Is this...a Toothless onesie?” he asked, stroking the smooth silky wings on the back.

“Yep! Do you like it?” Patton was bouncing on his heels, grinning. He let out a surprised “oomph” as Virgil crashed into him, wrapping his arms tightly around Patton’s waist.

“It’s beautiful, Patton,” he assured him. “Thank you.”

The smile that lip up Patton’s face could have powered an entire building.

**********

Roman took a bathroom break halfway through “Inside Out,” and Virgil quickly rose, snapping his onesie away so he could move easier. Snagging the tray of cookies he had made, he headed back into the room, setting the tray on the table and yanking his hoodie back up over his shoulder, ignoring Logan’s curious stares from across the room. As soon as Roman came back and everyone had gotten a cookie (or four) the movie resumed.

Patton fell asleep during the end credits of “Moana” just before Roman put in “Coco,” sinking back into his mostly-asleep daze as soon as the movie started playing, and Virgil managed to make his escape, slipping out with nothing more than a questioning glance from Logan, the only one still awake.

He’d explain in the morning.

**********

They were stargazing again, and Virgil didn’t want to leave, though he could feel Thomas tentatively summoning him.

“African grey parrot?” Logan asked suddenly. Virgil startled, drawing his wings closer to his back under his hoodie.

“What?”

“Your wings,” the logical Side replied without taking his eyes away from the stars. “Your hoodie slipped last night when you carried the cookies out during the movie. The others were asleep, and I will not reveal anything if you wish me to remain silent on the matter. After you changed out of the pajamas so you could move properly.”

“Oh.” Virgil fell silent, contemplating his options. “Yeah. African grey parrot. You were right. I think they’re ugly.” The tugging stopped. Thomas must have gotten everything taken care of, then. Good.

Logan scoffed. “On the contrary, I think they’re quite beautiful. I have never seen a Side with wings that particular shade of grey. Even Remy’s are closer to a catbird.”

“You know Remy?” Virgil asked, head whipping up in surprise.

“Yes, I do. As a neutral Side, he forms opinions based on his true thoughts on matters, instead of trying to conform to either dark or light. He is rather extra, however,” he added, grimacing. “And his caffeine addiction is concerning. I’ve yet to see him without a cup. And I don’t think I want to.”

Virgil huffed a laugh. “Trust me, it gets ugly fast. He’s grouchy enough already. Without coffee he gets short tempered. Tried to stab me with a Starbucks straw last time when I tried to walk past his room.”

Logan chuckled softly. “Yes, that does sound like something he would do.”

Virgil nodded, his mirth fading. “Logan?”

“Yes?”

“Can I tell you something? And...could you not tell the others just yet?”

Logan turned onto his side to face him. “Yes, of course,” he responded, propping himself up on his elbow.

“My name is Virgil.” It felt nice to finally say aloud to someone else. It felt like he hadn’t acknowledged his own name in years. Deceit only ever called him Anxiety, unless he was teasing him with that stupid nickname. Remus used his name when he actually talked to him, but he hadn’t seen the darker Creative side in a long time.

“Virgil,” Logan said, tasting the name cautiously. A smile curved his lips as he turned to look back up at the stars, glittering silently down at them. “I think I like that.”

Virgil hid his smile behind his hand. “Yeah. I think I do too.”

**********

Stars, he was getting seriously sick of arguing with Roman constantly. The repeating cycle of insults and glares were getting old fast.

“Anxiety, I’m just trying to make a point. You’re basically a Disney villain, you’re perfect for the role!” Roman protested. They’d just spent an entire episode as cartoons, and Virgil had been the villain. Big surprise there, right?

“I’m not always the bad guy....” Virgil muttered, crossing his arms.

“I didn’t say you were. I was merely commenting on how you did extraordinarily well today in the role you were given. Such is the world of acting!” Roman declared.

Virgil scowled. “Whatever you want to tell yourself, Princey.” He sunk out before Roman could say anything more, throwing himself onto the bed and yanking a blanket over his head.

“Virgil, are you alright?” Logan asked from the doorway, fingers drumming on the door frame. “You left rather suddenly.”

“I’m tired of everyone always making me out to be some big scary villain,” Virgil sniffled, wiping furiously at his eyes to hide the tear tracks staining his cheeks.

“If it is any consolation, I know you’re only trying to do what’s best for Thomas. Sure, sometimes you are too much of an influence, but we all mess up sometimes.”

“Even you?” Virgil asked skeptically, turning towards the logical Side and raising an eyebrow at him.

Logan rolled his eyes. “Yes, Virgil, even me. Even if I don’t like admitting it. Everyone makes mistakes, it’s only logical. In fact, did you know that more synapses fire in your brain when you make a mistake as opposed to when you already know the answer to a problem you are confronting? You learn from your mistakes without even realizing it. I think that’s fascinating.”

Virgil sat up, folding his hands in his lap and gesturing for Logan to continue. His eyes lit up and he sat down on the bed beside Virgil. “Brain synapses are what allow neurons to pass either an electric or chemical signal to other neurons, thus transmitting information so it can be stored and saved somewhere. Did you know there are one hundred trillion synapses in your brain? And the average human brain has over 86 billion neurons. Neurons split to form new cells, a process called neurogenesis, and actually only happens during the fetal stages of your development. The only place they ever keep splitting and multiplying is in the hippocampus’ region of your brain, which is primary dedicated to memory encoding and information storage.”

Logan didn’t stop talking until Patton interrupted to tell them dinner was ready. And in Virgil’s opinion? That wasn’t long enough. If the others wouldn’t appreciate Logan’s existence, then dammit, Virgil was going to do it for them.

**********

Deceit was waiting for him again after breakfast the next morning, and Virgil contemplated the chances of him making it safely to the door before Deceit could intercept. Exhaling heavily, he moved closer and sat on the edge of his chair. “The fuck do you want now?”

“Giving you a choice,” Deceit purred. “Come with me willingly or I’ll have to make you.”

Virgil scoffed lightly. “Over my dead fucking body.”

“Hmmm...if necessary. I’ll give you an hour,” Deceit sighed, as if he were granting Virgil some great honor. “After that, your fate is decided.”

“Oh, don’t make it sound so dramatic,” Virgil groaned, curling his lip. “You’re not as sneaky as you think you are. We both know what’s going to happen. And I’m not going to allow you anywhere near the Light Sides.”

“How sweet,” Deceit crooned. “You think you’ve made yourself a little family.”

“They’re more family to me than you and Remus ever were. I’m not coming with you, willingly or not.”

Deceit smiled. “We’ll see.”

**********

He’d forgotten to reapply his eyeshadow, and he remembered just in time, running back up the stairs while Roman ranted to Patton about how he couldn’t find the script for the video. Logan was doing damage control along the mindscape border, trying to keep Remus and Falcon away. Virgil could help deal with them later, when Roman was there to back them up and keep everyone (read: Patton) from harm.

The door to his bedroom was cracked, and he slipped through carefully, closing it as silently as he could.

“Time’s up, Anxiety,” Deceit chuckled.

Virgil whirled around, his eyes landing on his former friend, sitting calmly on his bed. “Leave me alone!” he screamed, practically running for the bedroom door, his only real escape route (Deceit could stop him from sinking out, not from running) but Deceit was quicker, sliding between him and his escape route, smirking coldly at him.

“Remus misses you, Virgie.” His voice adopted an almost teasing lilt, though the threatening edge was still there, just underneath the calm exterior.

“I don’t give a fuck ,” he growled, shoving past Deceit and out the door. “My place is here, not with your ragtag group of disorders.”

Deceit’s grin vanished. “You’ll always be one of us, Anxiety. You can deny it all you want, but I’ll make sure the Light Sides know the truth sooner or later. Mark my words.”

“Consider them marked. Now go shove them up your ass.” He slammed the door behind him, running down the stairs and sinking out, hurriedly zipping up his hoodie as he took his place. “Sorry I’m late, had to take care of something,” he apologized, taking his place on the stairway landing.

The others barely glanced at him. “Quite alright,” Logan said. “I don’t think you’ll be needed much anyways, you’re not much help,” he continued.

Virgil paused. “Oh. Do I go then, or…?”

Logan glanced back at him, seeming almost irritated. “If you wish, yes.”

“...okay. Uh, bye, then?”

Logan didn’t answer.

Roman waved him off dismissively, already back in conversation with Patton, who didn’t even look in his direction at all, and Virgil’s shoulder rose to his ears as he shrank back awkwardly. Sinking out, he returned to his room and glared at Deceit, who seemingly hadn’t left since Virgil had gone down for the video.

“Back so soon?” he purred, not moving from his perch on the edge of Virgil’s bed.

He would have normally told him to go fuck himself, but he couldn’t find the energy. Instead, he just lowered his gaze to the floor. “You were right...”

“I know.”

Deceit didn’t say anything more, and Virgil sighed, snapping his fingers. The hoodie he’d gotten from Patton after his acceptance into the lightscape disappeared, replaced with the familiar weight of his old black plaid hoodie, but the once warm, comforting fabric now felt constricting and cold.

“I am truly sorry.” He wasn’t, but Virgil hadn’t expected him to be sorry in the slightest.

“I didn’t fit in...you tried to warn me. And I didn’t listen.”

“I won’t fault you for it, Anxiety. It seems you’ve learned from your mistakes and seen the true ways of the Light Sides. They are not what they seem. It’s good to have you back.”

Virgil glared at him. “Cut the shit and let’s go home.”

Deceit smirked. “It’s far too late for that, Anxiety. Did you honestly think that after such a betrayal we could ever let you come back to us? No, we have something better planned for you. You’ve been contemplating something. Allow me to make the decision for you, shall I?”

“What?”

“Goodbye, Anxiety. You know what to do.” Deceit pushed him back against the wall, snapping his fingers, and the mindscape disappeared, leaving him surrounded by...nothing. He couldn’t see, hear, feel, smell, speak, even move...he was just a limp, lifeless form suspended in a state of oblivion. Hours could have passed, or merely minutes, but his senses slowly began to return, along with the familiar tug of Thomas summoning him. It disappeared, followed by another, stronger pull, and yet another. But he still couldn’t fucking move.

There was another moment (minute? hour?) of nothing, and then a jolt. There was someone in his room? He was still floating in nothingness, but he could feel the balance shift as someone forced their way in. It had been blocked off when he was forced into the subconscious, he’d made sure of that with the tiny bit of strength he had left, which meant Thomas must have brought them. Those idiots, what did they think they were doing? Didn’t they realize how much better off Thomas was without his lingering presence casting a cloud over everything? Deceit knew what he was doing.

He could move again, suddenly, and he pushed hard against the nothing. “What are you doing in my room?” he demanded, popping up behind them with a glare. Roman and Patton shrieked, both flinching. Logan jumped back several feet, a small, high-pitched yelp escaping him. He smoothed his tie self-consciously, blinking rapidly for a moment.

“Anxiety? Oh my goodness, I’m so happy to see you!” Thomas cried, reaching for him as if to hug him.

Virgil snorted disbelievingly. “You literally all just screamed in unison upon seeing me.”

“Yes, well, you do this thing where you just...appear?” Logan said weakly. His wings were trembling, and Virgil had to fight down a wave of sympathy when he remembered his earlier complete dismissal of his presence during the video.

“We...we couldn’t feel your presence,” Patton said, getting straight to the point.

“I know?”

“You should have seen Thomas. I’ve never seen him that disorganized, and I was there for the fourth grade catastrophe,” Roman muttered, cringing.

“I ducked out,” Virgil interrupted, rolling his eyes. He knew exactly what had happened, had, in fact, been contemplating it. Deceit did it for him, removing the choice, but he never would have done it of his own free will. He was a coward.

Logan froze, staring at him with wide eyes. “You...I’m sorry, you what?”

Patton obviously didn’t understand the implications, giggling “quack” under his breath. Roman looked just as lost, though he stayed silent, exchanging a confused glance with Patton.

“I ducked out,” he repeated.

“Quack quack,” Patton mumbled.

“”I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to stay here. Up in the light. I don’t belong, and it was stupid of me to not seeing that a long time ago.”

“But...Anxiety, where else is there?” Patton sounded suddenly scared, taking a single step back, so slightly that Virgil wouldn’t have noticed if he wasn’t staring right at him.

“Look, I’m leaving. Going back.”

Deceit flashed into existence just behind him, placing a hand gently on his shoulder. Virgil stiffened, but didn’t move to shrug it off or move away. “Move it along, dear Anxiety, we have work to do.”

“I get it!” Virgil snapped. Deceit raised an eyebrow, but didn’t push him any more, disappearing back into the shadows.

“Anx, kiddo...” Patton Morality whimpered, his words trailing off.

Virgil’s gaze flickered towards him for a moment, but he swiftly looked back at the ground when their eyes met. “Look, it’s just...better this way, alright?”

“What do you mean, it’s better this way? We need you,Vir-Anxiety! Where were you during the video?” Logan retorted, confusion and anger twisting his face, his normally stoic mask gone.

“I...have my reasons.” Deceit had told him they’d never let him back, but what if that was just to make him more desperate to prove himself? Whatever Deceit’s intentions were, it was probably working. He was a master at manipulating others. Especially Virgil. “I…” He blinked. Logan didn’t know where he’d been during the video...but he’d been the one to tell him he wasn’t needed. “What are you-”

Logan stared coldly at him over his glasses, interrupting him. “Explain. Why would you think it would be a good idea to suddenly up and leave, returning to the very people who abused you for years, years , Anxiety! Answer me that!”

Virgil shrank back, pulling nervously on the sleeves of his hoodie, though he shoved his hands in his pockets when Logan’s gaze was drawn down by the shuffling movements. “I...don’t want to ruin anything,” he mumbled. “You all were so happy, and all you’ve ever said about the Others is that they were bad, they were wrong, that we had to stay away from them, but I...I don’t know, I just don’t want you to think that we-that they’re bad, because I know what it’s like down there and you must have at least suspected something-” he paused, gesturing at Logan and Patton. “Since you’re the ones who found me. And you brought me back, and you made me feel accepted and loved, and...I knew that someday, somehow, I was gonna mess everything up. Because...I...I used to be a dark side, and I’ve...done some pretty terrible things.”

Instead of the relief he expected to feel, he only felt a cold swell of dread when none of the Lights spoke, staring at their feet and refusing to meet his eyes. Logan was shifting his weight back and forth almost nervously. Virgil flinched, realizing that he’d started to mix up his words. I just don’t want you to think that we-that they’re bad . Crap, what did they think now? He wasn’t spying for them, he’d never wanted to stay! He backed away, almost tripping over his feet, starting to move for the bathroom door. “It’s...been nice, being part of a family. Wish it could have lasted longer, but, well...” He laughed, wiping tears away almost angrily. “I knew it wasn’t meant to last anyways.”

“Anxiety, you...I don’t...we…” Logan spluttered. Roman interjected before he could actually blow a blood vessel, and Virgil mentally braced himself to be told what he already knew: he was just a bad influence on Thomas, and it was time for him to go back. The joke’s over, goodbye. Annoying anxiety sin’t needed anymore, the truth had given them an excuse.

“I think what Logan is trying to say is...you make us...better…. And...we need you, Anxiety.”

His eyes snapped open. Well that was...unexpected. “That sounded like it hurt,” Virgil mumbled. Roman didn’t hear him, to his relief, and he sighed, shaking out his hands. That had come out harsher than he’d meant it to. His head snapped back towards Patton when he noticed the other Side’s frantic movements. “You have to get out,” he insisted. “Now.”

“Wait, what’s going on?” Thomas asked, wringing his hands, his wings fluttering behind him like he didn’t quite know what to do with them.

“You’ve all been in this corner of your mind for too long. My room isn’t in the Light mindscape right now, and the core aspects can’t handle being down here for very long. It’s corrupting them. Reducing them to their base functions and stripping it away. Focus, Thomas. Remember to breathe. I’ll get you out of here.”

Patton reached out, managing to snag his wrist, dark eyes wide and frantic, but determined. “Only if you come with us.”

Virgil cast a final glance at the door leading to the dark Mindscape. “Okay. I’ll be right behind you.”

Closing his eyes, he focused on the living room of the lightscape. There was a whirl of color, a sharp tug in his stomach, and his knees buckled beneath him as he landed half on and half off the edge of his usual spot on the landing.

Logan dove forward to catch him, snagging his arm before he could collapse. “Are you alright, Virgil?”

“Who-”

“Me,” Virgil answered, closing his eyes wearily. “My real name.”

“And you told Logan before us?” Roman asked, sounded rather insulted.

“Of fucking course I did, Princey, did you really think I was going to just open up and reveal something that personal to someone who watched every move I made in case I ended up hurting someone? You think I’d tell someone to never once tried to speak to me in a purposefully civilized manner?”

“...I didn’t think about it that way. I apologize, An-Vir...Anxiety.”

Virgil sighed. “You can call me Virgil. And we’re past that now, I shouldn’t be giving you shit for it. I’m sorry.”

Roman shook his head. “Don’t. Don’t be sorry. I was an asshole to you.”

“It’s okay now, Ro.”

Logan cleared his throat/. “Since you avoided the question earlier, I’ll ask again: where were you during the video?”

“I...thought I was there, but when I came down, you...told me I wasn’t needed and that I should go back to my room. Deceit must have...had an illusion try to get into my head so he could isolate me, separate us.”

“But how is any of that possible?”

Virgil didn’t get a chance to reply before a new voice butted in, voice dripping with sarcasm. “Well now, isn’t this touching.”

Virgil whirled and threw himself in front of Logan, a snarl curling his lip. “Get away from them.”

“Calm down, Anxiety, I’m not here for them.” His cape shifted, and Virgil caught a glimpse of the ropy scar wrapping up around his shoulder. He yanked the fabric back into place, catching Virgil’s eye and snarling silently.

Virgil inched forward, noticing Deceit’s eyes flicker from him to Roman. “Dee. I’ll make you a deal.”

Deceit’s eyes jumped back to hold his. “And that is?”

Virgil leaned forward, blocking the others from view so they couldn’t listen in. “If I disappear, you leave them alone. That does include Thomas.”

Deceit paused, eyes widening. “Define disappearing. I don’t want to risk you doing anything. None of your silly loophole tricks, Virgil.”

“I’ll come back with you, and I won’t talk to the other Sides.”

“Deal.”

They sank out, Virgil closing his eyes as Patton let out a startled cry of his name.

**********

It had been an hour since he’d sunk out, and Deceit had him pinned against his chest, one arm wrapped around his torso, eyes locked on the door as Roman’s voice filtered through the wood.. He knew exactly how he would be able to contact the Lights again, and it wouldn’t be easy. He’d said he wouldn’t speak to them. He knew ASL, but he wasn’t sure how many of the others did. It would be difficult to teach them without being able to speak aloud, not to mention he’d have to keep his visits a secret from Deceit.

“Virgil...talk to us. Please,” Roman pleaded through the door. “We’re worried about you. You can’t hide in your room forever. We need to talk through this, even Thomas is agreeing with that.”

Deceit pulled Virgil closer, his hand still clamped over Virgil’s mouth, keeping him silent. “Don’t try to say anything, kitten,” he hummed. “They’ll go away soon. You don’t want anything to happen to Morality, do you?” Virgil shook his head as much as he was able. Deceit smirked triumphantly. “There’s a good kitten.”

Outside the door, Roman sighed. “Virgil, look. If you’re not out by tomorrow, we’re going to come in there, whether you let us or not. You’re our friend, you can’t lock yourself away over this. Deceit won’t do anything with us around, we can keep you safe. Logan’s trying to track him down now.” A pause. “I’ll go now. Patton will bring some food at lunch. Try to eat something.” Roman’s footsteps retreated down the hallway.

“You’ll be coming with us now,” Deceit murmured. “No putting up a fight, now, you wouldn’t want your dear of dad to get hurt, would you?”

Virgil hissed weakly. “Don’t fucking touch him, you bastard. This wasn’t the deal.”

Deceit laughed. “You’re hardly in any place to try threatening me. Now, come along. It’s time to go.”

There was a brush of fingers against the back of his neck. “Sorry, girl. I had no other choice. They have Emile.”

Remy, you traitor.

**********

He woke curled on the cold floor of his room, the shadows twisting and warping along the walls. Struggling to his feet, he leaned against the wall as a wave of dizziness crashed over him, leaving him half hunched over, eyes squeezed shut, gasping for breath.

There was a tiny, muffled cry of pain, quickly stifled, and Virgil froze, still bent over helplessly, eyes fixed on the doorway the noises were coming from. “Who’s there?” he hissed, tensing in preparation. He was no match for Dee or Remus, not in his current state, defenseless and half-unconscious from pain, but if it meant giving the others time to escape, he wouldn’t go down without a fight.

“Can anyone hear me?” Patton whimpered, creeping through the doorway and peering carefully around the corner. Virgil breathed a sigh of relief at the familiar cardigan. It was definitely Patton - he was twisting the sleeves of his cardigan nervously in his hands, rubbing them against his cheeks almost unconsciously.

“Dad.”

Patton whirled on the spot with a yelp, relaxing when he saw it was just Virgil. “Heya, kiddo,” he said breathily, trying and failing to smile reassuringly at him. “H-Have you seen the others around?”

Virgil shook his head. “Not yet. Let’s get you out before something bad happens, we can talk more outside.”

Patton glanced around nervously, flinching at the purple and black spider-patterned curtains. “O-okay.”

Virgil gently took Patton’s hand and guided him out into the hall. “Welcome to the darkscape. Make sure not to let the door hit you on the way out. Close off the way back when you get home.”

“Wait, what?’ Patton asked, glancing back at him just a split second before he pushed Patton away from him.

“Close off the mindscape, Patton!” He pushed Patton backwards, the moral Side falling right through the rift, hopefully back to the Light’s mindscape. If he didn’t end up there, he’d land just outside the mind palace, and he knew his way back to his own room from there.

As soon as he’d disappeared, Virgil was running back in the direction he’d come from, looking around for where he knew Deceit would have dumped Logan. Insanity’s room. He was more of a sub-trait, since Thomas wasn’t clinically insane or mentally disturbed. He was always there in the background, though, waiting for his opportunity to strike. Fear was probably with him as well.

He flew around the corner, quite literally, his wings opening to catch the wind and turn him so he wouldn’t hit the wall going full speed. He saw Deceit just as he rounded the corner and dropped to his knees so fast his knee popped. He winced. That was going to bruise later.

A blur of movement at the corner of his vision caught his attention, and his head snapped up. He only caught a flash of blue, and crept forward a bit, careful to stay low. “Logan,” he breathed, moving to rise to his feet, glancing around him in search of Remus and Deceit. They had disappeared again. “Logan!” he hissed, louder. They could be anywhere by now, they could have Patton with them, or Roman, or Remy...no, they had Remy, he’d been the one to knock him unconscious earlier.

“Virgil?” Logan asked, turning to look behind him.

Virgil’s heart nearly stopped when he saw Remus creeping towards the logical side, eyes fixed on his prey, eyes glinting in the low light. “RUN!” he screamed, running towards Logan, waving his arms wildly.

Logan spun around, pupils blown wide with terror. “Virgil? Virgil!”

Remus’ gaze snapped from Logan to him, and he glared right back, locking eyes with him, a clear challenge. He couldn’t think of anything but the sweep of relief when Remus was no longer angled towards the logical Side. It completely overpowered the terror and hesitation.

Deceit stepped out of the shadows, pushing a struggling Roman in front of him, Patton being dragged behind by an obviously reluctant Remy. “Choose, Remus, and make it quick. We’re low on time,” Deceit warned.

“I can settle for this,” Remus hissed, moving away from Logan. “There’s our little naughty kitten, running away from his masters.”

“DON’T HURT HIM!” Roman screeched, wrestling against Deceit’s hold on him fruitlessly. It was obvious that Deceit was stronger, especially with Roman weakened and injured, a large crimson stain growing on the side of his formerly white shirt. What did they do to you, Ro?

“Remus…” Patton said, obviously trying to think of something, anything to say that would get Remus to leave them alone, but Virgil knew from experience that there was nothing more Patton could do. Besides, Patton’s voice was shaking, a reminder that he was just as terrified of Roman’s darker twin as Virgil had been. He shifted so he was between the others and Remus.

“You broke your end, Virgil,” Deceit said, running a hand down Roman’s arm. “Face the consequences.”

“Yeah, well,” Virgil spat. “So did you. What consequences are there for you?”

“You promised me!” Roman screamed, still struggling wildly against Deceit, who curled his lip and tightened his hold on Roman’s left arm, waving his other hand and forcing him to cover his mouth, still screaming through his fingers at his brother.

Remus didn’t even spare his twin a second glance, turning away with a huff and slinking over to menacingly circle around Virgil. Like he was searching him, evaluating him He froze, shoulders hunching. Remus smirked, stopping in front of him and tapping him lightly on the nose, making him flinch violently away.

“Hello, Paranoia. Long time no see.”

end part one

Chapter Text

"I'm so sorry we didn't notice anything earlier," Logan whispered.

Virgil shook his head. "You couldn't have done anything. I made sure everything seemed normal. It's not your fault." His voice came out rougher than he expected, and he coughed, rubbing at his sore throat.

Logan laughed, pulling away abruptly, and Virgil winced as he fell back to the cushions. "Lo?"

Falcon grinned back at him instead, his sharp, steel grey eyes inspecting Virgil almost curiously. "You believed that?"

Virgil scrambled back. "What...where are the others?"

Falcon's face contorted angrily. "They managed to escape, thanks to you. We'll find them."

Chapter Text

I'm so sorry, guys, I now it's been forever. But I promise I'm working on the second installment of this series. Slowly but surely making progress! Maybe the quarantine break will give me some more time to write? Dunno. Either way, I'll get there eventually.

Love you guys to pieces.

~xx Liz