Chapter 1: Our Teeth and Ambitions Are Bared
The mindscape was quiet. Far too quiet, in Roman’s opinion. Patton wasn’t on the couch and watching cartoons, nor was he humming cheerfully as he made something in the kitchen. There wasn’t even the quiet and comforting presence of Virgil curled up on the couch with his headphones, or Logan in the chair with his book. Heck, even Deceit or his brother would have been a welcome presence at this point. Roman just wanted something to soothe the eerie silence that had fallen over the mindscape.
“You don’t seem perplexed,” a voice piped up from behind Roman. He whirled around, summoning his sword in a flash. Deceit was standing behind him, and he gave a faux friendly wave.
“What did you do to them?” Roman snarled. Deceit rolled his eyes.
“Yes, because I would totally kidnap the others to get to you,” he scoffed.
“Tell me where they are, you Boa Cons-trickster!” Roman demanded, putting the tip of his sword to Deceit’s chest. He let out a sigh, putting his hands up in surrender.
“I have no idea where they are, and I don’t know who took them,” Deceit replied evenly, staring Roman down as if he was trying to drill a hole through his skull with his gaze.
“Stop being coy, and give it to me straight! Even if we’re gay,” he huffed, sword lowering slightly. Deceit raised an eyebrow.
“Surely you can’t be this dumb.”
“Excuse me?! Get to the point, Severus Snake!”
“I know what I said. Now think, Roman, if you’re even capable of doing so. Who among us has a particular bone to pick with you?” Deceit asked, voice dripping with disdain and annoyance. Roman pondered this for a moment, and his face went pale.
“Remus,” he gasped out.
“So the magnificent Prince Roman is more than just charm,” Deceit sneered. Roman grit his teeth together at that, but lowered his sword completely. He turned to head towards Remus’s room, but paused to glance back at Deceit.
“Why even help me, in your weird, backwards way?” Roman asked, puzzlement taking over his features. Deceit’s expression softened for the briefest of moments, but in the blink of an eye he was back to the usual cunning glint in his eyes.
“I’d rather everyone be alive for what I have planned for Thomas’s future… but I’m sure Remus would never dream of killing them,” Deceit replied, then sunk out before Roman could say anything more. Icy cold fear gripped at his heart, and Roman took a deep breath before heading off to Remus’s room with a white-knuckled grip on his sword.
Remus’s room was dark when Roman stormed in. He could hear the squelching sound of something slick and slimy trailing along a surface. Roman tried his best not to shudder, and raised his sword higher, squinting in the darkness to try and make anything out.
The sound of fingers snapping was heard, and torches burst into flame along the walls. Roman’s surroundings were revealed to be the foyer of a castle, with green banners that had Remus’s symbol proudly displayed on them. Remus himself stood in the center of the foyer, and Roman’s stomach dropped when he saw the source of the squelching sound… as well as what accompanied it.
There were tentacles sprouting from Remus’s back, and three of them had a tight grip on the missing sides. Patton and Logan were limp in the tentacles’ grip, but seemed to be breathing, as far as Roman could tell. Virgil, on the other hand, was squirming relentlessly against them. But the tentacles held fast, despite their slick and slippery surface.
“Roman! I’m so glad you could join us,” Remus exclaimed, grinning cruelly.
“Let them go,” Roman demanded, trying to keep his voice from shaking.
“Aw, but we’ve been having so much fun! Haven’t we, Virgie?” Remus asked, his tentacles bringing Virgil down so that they were face to face. Virgil glared at him, baring his teeth and hissing. Remus’s demented grin shifted into a scowl, and Roman’s heart clenched in fear for Virgil.
“Ya know, Virgie, that little hissing habit of yours has always been obnoxious… wonder if there’s a way we can fix that,” he growled, ignoring Roman’s interjection. The tentacle holding Virgil coiled tighter around him and slithered up his body until it reached his neck. Virgil’s eyes went wide and a choked sound escaped his lips as the tentacle squeezed tighter. He squirmed with renewed vigor, but the part of the tentacle around his neck contracted again, and Roman’s eyes flew wide at the strangled sounds coming from Virgil’s mouth as he desperately tried to draw in air.
“Stop it, you’ll kill him!” Roman cried. Remus gave him an incredulous, confused stare, but the tentacle loosened and Virgil sagged in its grip, taking shuddering, gasping breaths.
“That was… kinda the point? How else was I supposed to get him to stop hissing,” Remus said, rolling his eyes like Roman had missed something obvious.
“Why you- you know what? Nevermind. What do you want with them anyway? I’m the one you’ve got a problem with! Just let them go, and we can talk this out!” Roman pleaded. There was silence for a brief moment, as if Remus was considering Roman’s offer… but he soon broke into maniacal laughter instead.
“Oh Roman, it’s not just you I have an issue with! Sure, Thomas likes you better and that’s irritating, but the others are irritating too! Logan always rationalizes things and nullifies me, Patton is so insistent on being good and perfect, and Virgil was a big ol’ party pooper and went to go join you losers!” Remus spat, his spare tentacles convulsing with anger.
“Now don’t you fret, I’ll give you a chance to save them… but the question is, can you save them in time?” he crooned, grinning wickedly. Roman opened his mouth to give a witty and courageous retort, but unbeknownst to him, one of Remus’s tentacles had been slithering its way behind Roman. It held his morning star in its grip, and Virgil tried to shout out a warning. But before he could, the tentacle bashed the morning star against Roman’s skull, and his vision swam into darkness as he crumpled to the ground.
Chapter 2: Beware the Frozen Heart
Roman faces his first challenge in saving his friends...
Roman awoke to ice and snow. He groaned as he pushed himself to his hands and knees, face stinging cold from lying face-first in the snow. He rubbed the back of his head, irritated that his brother had gotten the drop on him again. Maybe he should start wearing a helmet at all times, just to be sure… but then again that would ruin his hair.
Roman shook his head, and rose to his feet. He had to focus, he had to save the others! Remus had put him on a time limit, and who knows how long Roman had been unconscious. He was wasting time debating on whether or not it would be alright to wear a helmet- what kind of hero wasted their time thinking about trivial things like that? Roman had to be better, he had to save them-
His train of thought derailed when he finally got a good look at his surroundings, and noticed that Logan was kneeling a few feet away from him. His arms were bound to his sides with chains made of ice and seemed physically unharmed, but something was off. He hadn’t reacted to Roman waking up at all, even though his eyes were open and staring right at him. It wasn’t until Roman stepped closer that he noticed what was wrong- Logan’s eyes had frozen over, frost and ice collecting in his eyelashes and making them look like icicles. Ice was spreading across his chest too, mostly hidden by the icy chains, and it unsettlingly reminded Roman of when Anna was turning to ice in Frozen.
He reached for his sword, relieved and pleasantly surprised to find it sheathed at his side, and cut Logan’s chains without a second thought. Logan rose to his feet mechanically and looked to Roman, icy eyes unblinking. Logan tilted his head to the side, as if he were confused, but his expression didn’t change. Logan wasn’t exactly an expressive person before, but this? This was wrong, inhuman, almost.
“Before, I always wanted to be emotionless. Now I feel nothing. It is better this way,” Logan said simply, and even his voice sounded wrong. Logan always used some sort of voice inflection when he was explaining something to the others, but now? He sounded completely monotone and robotic.
“Logan- no, this… this isn’t you,” Roman said, desperation creeping into his tone. Logan blinked, but only once. Roman wasn’t sure if that was better or worse than him not blinking at all.
“That statement is illogical. Of course it is me, I am standing right here,” he replied. Roman let out a sound of frustration.
“No it isn’t! The Logan I know would banter back and forth with me, he gets excited about learning new things and teaching others those new things, he’s pleased when Thomas actually follows his schedule, and he gets angry when he doesn’t feel listened to! But this? This- this emotionless husk isn’t you, no matter how many times you’ve claimed that you’ve never felt anything,” Roman declared, hoping that reminding Logan of who he was would stop him from turning to ice. But Logan didn’t even blink at his grand proclamation.
“It seems you do not understand. Perhaps a hands-on learning experience is necessary,” Logan said. And before Roman could say anything more, Logan’s hand shot out, somehow reaching through Roman’s royal uniform, past skin, muscle, and bones, and clenched around his heart.
“Logan!” Roman choked out, eyes wide and mouth gaping open as he felt Logan’s frozen fingertips digging into his heart.
“It will hurt for a moment, but then it will be better. You will see,” Logan said. Roman took in shaky gasps of air as his sword slipped from his fingers. He found himself slumping into Logan slightly, and felt tears gathering in his eyes. But he wasn’t so sure it was from physical pain. The fact that Remus had most likely done this to Logan, convinced him that he was better off as a living ice sculpture… that hurt more than any icy hand around his heart ever could.
With that realization, Roman began to sob softly, leaning his head against Logan’s chest. The logical side bristled at that, the hand in Roman’s chest tensing for a moment and causing him to let out a strangled cry, tears pouring down his face harder. The tears dripped down onto the ice spreading over Logan’s chest- and then something incredible happened. The ice slowly melted away with Roman’s tears, and he heard a shuddering gasp from above him. Roman glanced up, and saw that Logan had begun to cry as well, and the ice in his eyes melted away. His head shot up from Logan’s chest, and he meant to let out an elated cry of victory- but it came out as a pained wheeze due to Logan’s hand still gripping at his heart.
“Roman?! What’s- holy shit, am I- how am I-” Logan rambled, eyes wide with fear as he realized that his hand was in Roman’s chest.
“It’s okay, it’s okay! Just… uh- just gently let go, and we’ll work from there, okay?” Roman soothed, keeping his voice gentle even though he was the one in peril at the moment. Logan slowly but surely let go of his heart, and Roman let out a shuddering sigh of relief.
“I’m going to try pulling my hand out now,” Logan said, placing his free hand on Roman’s shoulder- to brace himself or Roman, he wasn’t sure. Roman gave him an encouraging nod, and Logan slowly began to pull his hand from Roman’s chest. He let out a strangled whimper at the odd sensation, head dropping onto Logan’s shoulder.
“I think you just need to take it out quickly, like ripping off a band-aid,” Roman gasped out between heaving breaths.
“This is nothing like ripping off a band-aid, Roman,” Logan huffed.
“Just do it, I don’t wanna find out what happens if you leave it in too- augh!” Roman’s sentence was cut off with a pained scream as Logan abruptly pulled his hand out. He fully slumped against Logan, breathing heavily and trying to blink the sudden spots out of his vision.
“Roman, Roman?! Are you alright?!” Logan cried, gripping Roman’s shoulders and helping him stand up straighter.
“I’m alright, I’m alright… just disoriented. That felt weird,” Roman said, huffing out a laugh. He rose to his full height, gently dislodging Logan’s hands from his shoulders. Logan seemed to be fully thawed out now, and Roman smiled in relief at the concern in Logan’s features because it was proof he was feeling again.
“I’m relieved to know that you are alright… but how did we get here? Where even is… here?” Logan asked, frowning in confusion.
“Allow me to answer that!” a voice piped up from behind them. Roman whirled around, summoning his sword to his hand and pushing Logan behind him. Remus grinned at them, tentacles writhing excitedly as he idly twirled his morning star in his hand.
“I saved Logan, now where are the others?!” Roman demanded.
“I was hoping Logan would accidentally tear your heart out… but you win some, you lose some, I guess! As for the others…” Remus trailed off, snapping his fingers. A door shimmered into existence beside them, and in the same instant, Logan began to turn translucent. Logan let out a gasp, a look of panic crossing his face.
“What’s happening to him, what have you done?!” Roman cried, trying to take Logan’s hand, but his hand only passed through it.
“Relax, I’m just sending him back to the mindscape. He won’t bother you that way!” Remus explained with a ridiculously fake cheerful tone.
“How do I know you’re not just sending him to somewhere worse!?” Roman exclaimed with a growl. Remus rolled his eyes.
“Oh come now, I have some honor! You found him and rescued fair and square… but you won’t be rescuing anyone else at this rate if you keep arguing with me…” Remus trailed off. Roman grit his teeth together in frustration, then glanced to Logan.
“I will be alright, just go, Roman!” Logan insisted, giving him a reassuring smile before he completely faded away. Roman stared at the open air where Logan once stood for a moment or two, then turned towards the door with a determined glare. He glanced back to where his brother stood- only to see that Remus had vanished. He turned away and gulped nervously, trying to steel his courage, then opened the door and headed into it without another thought.
Chapter 3: Bring Back What Once Was Mine
With Logan now saved, Roman must face what Remus has planned for him next!
Roman was almost instantly blinded by sunlight. He took a few cautious steps forward, one hand shielding his eyes while the other kept a tight grip on his sword. His eyes soon adjusted to the light, and Roman realized he was in a forest of some kind, walking on an overgrown and little-used path. He glanced over his shoulder, and saw that the door had now disappeared.
“Guess I’ll just have to carry on forward,” Roman huffed, and focused back on the path ahead of him. He began the trek forward, not really sure where he was going, but knew that the others had to be in the forest somewhere.
The foliage gradually grew thicker, and Roman had to use his sword to hack away at the underbrush so that he could actually make some headway on his journey. But he didn’t even know what he was supposed to be journeying to. What if he wasn’t even going in the right direction? And more worrying- what if he didn’t make it to wherever he was going in time?
The sound of someone singing cut through Roman’s paranoia, and his head shot up. The voice sounded like audible sunshine and was as sweet as songbirds, yet had an underlying sense of despair and loneliness. It was heartbreakingly familiar… and then it hit Roman. The voice was Patton’s! It had to be him… but where was he? Patton’s voice seemed to be coming from all around Roman, but it was far away at the same time.
Roman frowned in thought. Remus seemed to have a bit of a fairytale theme so far with the obvious inspiration from Frozen (though his version seemed to lean more towards the Snow Queen). So what if the last two sides were stuck in other fairytale scenarios? And if Roman knew his fairytales well enough- which he did- there was one fairytale that perfectly fit his current scenario of a prince walking in the woods and hearing a beautiful singing voice: Rapunzel. Patton had to be trapped in a tower! It would explain why his voice seemed to come from everywhere at once, and now all Roman had to do was figure out where the tower was.
He spied a taller tree up ahead, and a grin grew over his face as he sheathed his sword and scrambled over to it. He deftly scurried up to the top of the tree, nimbly balancing himself on the branches. His gaze swiveled about for a moment or two, until he caught sight of a tower. He was right! It wasn’t too far off, and more importantly, he had been heading in the right direction! Confidence rejuvenated, Roman scrambled down the tree, and dashed off to the tower.
Now that he knew exactly where he was going, he got to the tower in no time at all. But getting to the top of the tower was going to be another issue entirely. It was much taller than it had seemed from Roman’s treetop view, but luckily there seemed to be some bricks jutting out a bit that he could use as handholds and footholds. His stomach twisted with fear at the thought of precariously making his way up… but Patton needed him. So, with that thought in mind, Roman began his climb up the side of the tower. It was a meticulous routine- grab a brick that jutted out, and pull himself up, then get his foot on a lower brick. Again and again those actions were repeated- except for one terrifying moment where he couldn’t find a foothold- but luckily after a few moments of floundering, he managed to get a foothold and then clung to the side of the tower for a moment, breathing heavily before steeling his resolve and continuing up the tower.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, Roman made his way to the top of the tower, where the window in awaited him. He hoisted himself over the ledge, landing on the floor with a thump. He bent over for a moment, resting his hands on his knees as he caught his breath. He rose to his full height after a moment or two, and glanced around the small room. There was a bed to his left, and a desk with a chair to his right. A threadbare rug was on the floor, but otherwise the room was completely drab and undecorated. And most concerning- the tower seemed to be Patton-less.
“Patton? Are you-” Roman was cut off by a defiant cry from somewhere off to the side, and something slamming against the back of his head. He cried out at the blow, stumbling forward onto his knees. He desperately tried to blink the spots from his vision so that he could face his attacker. The blow wasn’t hard enough to make him black out, although he certainly was on the brink of losing consciousness.
“I-If you- you- if you kn-now w-what’s good f-for you, you’ll st-stay down!” a trembling voice said from somewhere above Roman. His eyes flew wide at the person’s voice, and he craned his head around to see Patton standing over him, his trembling hands holding onto a frying pan.
“Patton, what on earth are you talking about? It’s me, it’s Roman!” he pleaded, trying to meet Patton’s gaze- only to realize that Patton was only sort of looking in his direction. And that’s when Roman realized that Patton couldn’t see at all- his eyes were completely white, with no pupils whatsoever.
“N-No, y-you’re just gonna- gonna t-trick me again!” Patton cried. Roman’s heart clenched at the sound of Patton’s desperate voice, while at the same time anger coiled in his stomach at the thought of his brother impersonating him and doing who knows what to Patton.
“Patton, it’s me, it’s Roman! I swear to you, I would never hurt you. I’ve come to rescue you- c’mere, touch my face and my clothes so that you can tell it’s me,” Roman said softly and encouragingly, slowly standing up and reaching out to place a hand over Patton’s trembling hands, which were still firmly gripping the handle of the frying pan. One hand slowly unclenched from the handle, and he shakily reached out towards Roman. He gently guided Patton’s hand to his face, where he gingerly ran his fingers above his upper lip. The hand gently ran down Roman’s face, and to his tunic, where he traced the golden details and then gently felt his red sash between two fingers.
“Is- is it- is it really you?” Patton asked softly, hand trailing back up to rest on Roman’s cheek.
“Yes, it’s me, I’m here Padre- I’ll get you out of here, no one’s going to hurt you,” Roman soothed, placing his hand over Patton’s hand on his face. Tears began slipping from Patton’s blank eyes, and the frying pan slipped from his other hand. It clattered to the floor harmlessly, and he all but collapsed onto Roman, hugging him tightly as he sobbed into his chest.
“Oh Roman- kiddo- I- I- I’m so sorry! I hurt you, and y-you were j-just trying to- to save me and I…” Patton trailed off into incoherent sobbing. Roman wrapped his arms around Patton, gently rubbing soothing circles into his back.
“Shh, it’s okay, it’s okay- you were just trying to protect yourself, you were so brave! I’m so sorry I couldn’t get here sooner,” Roman murmured.
“S’okay. You were brave too! I hope I didn’t bonk your head too hard…” Patton trailed off, pulling back slightly and moving one hand to feel around the back of Roman’s head. Roman chuckled lightly, reaching back to move Patton’s hand away.
“I’ll be alright. Just seriously considering investing in a helmet at this rate,” Roman joked, giving a lopsided grin. Patton smiled as well, but there was an undertone of sadness to it.
“You’re smiling right now, aren’t you? I wish I could see it…” Patton said softly, leaning his forehead against Roman’s. His heart twisted at Patton’s heartbroken tone.
“We’ll find a way to get your sight back, I promise,” Roman murmured, brushing away the tears that had begun to slip down Patton’s face.
“Don’t make promises you can’t keep, kiddo,” Patton replied sadly. Roman frowned.
“Hey now Padre, you’re starting to sound like our dark and gloomy compatriot,” he teased while trying to sound stern. Patton’s expression lit up at the mention of Virgil.
“Is Virgil here too? And what about Logan?” Patton asked.
“Logan was in a different area, and Remus teleported him away once I had rescued him. I haven’t found Virgil yet… I have the feeling that my brother will send me to wherever he’s being kept once I rescue you,” Roman explained.
“Roman, are you sure you can do this on your own?” Patton asked, frowning with concern.
“I’m not sure if I have a choice, Patton,” he sighed in response.
“But that’s not fair!” Patton protested.
“Remus doesn’t play fair,” Roman muttered darkly. Patton’s frown deepened.
“Oh… oh Roman, I’m so sorry,” Patton murmured, pulling him into a hug again. Roman sighed as he hugged Patton back.
“I’m the one who’s sorry, Patton. Remus dragged you and the others into this- this… feud… between he and I,” he replied.
“Oh kiddo, it’s not your fault!” Patton soothed, nuzzling into Roman’s chest and squeezing him comfortingly. Roman’s eyes teared up at Patton’s reassurances, and he buried his nose into the fatherly trait’s soft hair. As if on instinct, he pressed a soft kiss to Patton’s hair. Patton let out a contented hum, and pulled away from Roman with a soft smile. He blinked up at Roman, and he let out a soft gasp. Roman cocked his head to one side in confusion, until he noticed that Patton’s warm brown eyes were slowly coming back into view!
“Pat! Can you see me?!” Roman asked desperately, trying to lock his gaze with Patton’s.
“You’re just sorta blobby colors right now… it’s also really bright,” Patton said, squeezing his eyes shut before opening them again and squinting up at Roman.
“It’s alright, just keep your eyes shut if it hurts to look around now. Now, let’s figure out how to get us both down from here safely,” Roman said, rising to his feet and pulling Patton up with him.
“You could always just jump out the window,” a voice piped up from across the room. Roman whirled around, protectively stepping in front of Patton and unsheathing his sword. Remus was sprawled on the bed, tentacles stretching out languidly and rubbing against each other. Patton shuddered at the sound of them squelching.
“Remus…” Roman warned.
“Oh what, Roman? Are you really going to do this every time I show up? The whole ‘brave heroic prince’ thing where your friends cower behind you as you wave your sword around?” Remus scoffed.
“I’ve got good reason to stay on guard,” Roman growled.
“You’re beginning to sound like a certain gloomy raccoon friend of ours… in fact, you’re running out of time to save him!” Remus said cheerily, snapping his fingers. A door appeared in the wall across from the window, and Roman felt Patton’s grip on him fading.
“Roman, Roman?! What’s happening, I was just getting able to see you!” Patton cried, trying to grab at Roman’s arm and failing as his fingers turned translucent.
“It’s going to be okay, Patton- I’ve rescued you so now you’re going back to the mind palace. Logan should be there too- I’ll be back soon with Virgil, I promise,” Roman soothed, turning to look Patton in the eyes.
“O-okay. Okay. Be safe, Roman,” Patton said, giving him a teary-eyed smile as he faded away. Roman let out a sigh, and turned back to Remus- or rather, where Remus had been sitting. His brother had yet again disappeared, just leaving the door behind. Roman took a deep breath, and strode across the room, pushing the door open and walking through it without a second thought.
Chapter 4: It Won't Cost Much, Just Your Voice
Now Roman must venture forward to save Virgil... but can he do so in time?
Perhaps having a second thought before entering a door his brother had created would have been a better idea. Because Roman suddenly found himself plummeting down towards a body of water. He splashed down into it, and upon accidentally swallowing a mouthful of water, he realized that it was an ocean he was currently floundering in. He kicked up, breaking the surface and coughing up seawater. He began treading water, head craning around to find any land or maybe even a ship that he could clamber onto.
Unfortunately, all Roman could see was a storm brewing above him as the waves got choppier. Roman tried his best to stay afloat, but a large wave crested over him, and he was pulled down below the ocean’s surface. He struggled back up to the surface to suck in a gulp of air, only to be pulled back down again. Sometimes Roman wasn’t lucky enough to take air in, and instead ended up with a mouthful of seawater. He would cough and splutter when he got to the surface again, but then a wave would drag him down again.
After a few minutes of being tossed and turned in the waves, Roman felt his limbs getting weak. It was getting harder and harder to stay afloat, and his thoughts grew fuzzier and fuzzier from the lack of oxygen. Roman resigned to his fate. He was going to die in a churning ocean created by his brother, and he didn’t even get the chance to save Virgil. As his body sunk down into the depths below, he let his eyes slip shut- but not before registering a dark shadowy figure pass over him.
Roman woke up violently, coughing and spluttering. Water lurched its way out of his lungs as he coughed, and a pair of hands gently turned him over so that he could safely expel the water from his system. He coughed up water until his throat was sore, and eventually was able to breathe clearly again. His breaths came out in panting gasps, and he turned on his side to face his savior… and was instantly blindsided. Virgil had himself propped up on one arm while his other hand rested comfortingly on Roman’s back- and Roman distantly wondered how long Virgil had been so gorgeous.
His hair was wet and hung in his eyes, which were filled with soft concern along with something fierce and protective. His makeup was streaked down his face- due to water or tears, Roman wasn’t sure. His patchwork hoodie was nowhere to be seen, and he was instead just left in his long-sleeved purple t-shirt. The shirt was wet as well and it clung to his body… Roman’s eyes trailed down his form almost against his will. But when Roman reached his legs- rather, what should have been his legs, he let out a gasp. Because Virgil now had a shimmery black fishtail, with scales that would shift to purple in the sunlight hit them just right. Roman couldn’t help but reach out and touch it- only to cause Virgil to flinch back in surprise.
“Sorry, sorry! I just- they’re pretty,” Roman said sheepishly, his voice raspy from coughing up seawater. Virgil flushed slightly and merely shrugged in response, refusing to meet Roman’s gaze.
“So… where are we?” Roman asked. Virgil raised an eyebrow, gesturing to their surroundings. Now it was Roman’s turn to blush… he had been so distracted by Virgil that he hadn’t registered his surroundings whatsoever. The two of them were lying on a sandy beach, with waves gently lapping at the shore. The storm from earlier seemed to have stopped, but there were some ominous dark clouds in the distance.
“Ah. I see now. Well, I am here to uh, rescue you,” Roman said with a sheepish grin, turning his gaze back to Virgil. The anxious side rolled his eyes in response. Roman frowned slightly. Virgil hadn’t said a single word yet- he would have expected at least something from the other side.
“Virgil? Is everything alright?” Roman asked. Virgil gave him an exasperated yet melancholy look, then gestured at his throat, and then shaking his head sadly. Roman’s eyes went wide with realization. Remus had been going with a fairytale theme this whole time- and with the premise of a mermaid saving a drowning prince, it was painfully obvious which fairytale they were in: The Little Mermaid. Which meant that Remus had also stolen Virgil’s voice.
“Virgil, I- I’m so sorry. We’ll figure out a way to get your voice back, and your legs, I promise,” Roman said solemnly. What was meant to be a reassurance only served to make Virgil more downcast. Roman cocked his head to the side to confusion, and proceeded to become more confused when Virgil reached out to touch his lips, then gestured to himself. Roman’s face flushed.
“Y-You- you- you want me to- to kiss you?” he stuttered. Virgil’s face flamed instantly, mouth opening and closing uselessly as his hands gestured frantically. He eventually pressed his fingers to his temples, taking a deep breath. He met Roman’s gaze again, then touched his own lips, then touched Roman’s, and then brought his hands to Roman’s chest, miming pressing down on it. Roman’s brows furrowed in confusion for a moment, until he slowly began to put the pieces together and his eyes went wide.
“O-Oh. I- I wasn’t… so you had to- to bring me back to life,” he said shakily. Virgil nodded solemnly, swallowing nervously and again refusing to meet Roman’s gaze.
“Well- that uh, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation isn’t really a kiss, Virgil… not that you have to kiss me! I just- it was just. A thought. I guess,” Roman rambled, drawing restless patterns through the sand as he talked. His motions were soon stopped by Virgil placing his hand over Roman’s. His gaze snapped up to see Virgil gazing at him bashfully, and Roman’s breath caught in his throat. Virgil’s hand stayed resting over Roman’s, while the other hand came up to brush Roman’s hair out of his eyes.
“Virgil? Did- do you- you want to kiss me?” Roman said, his voice breathy as he stumbled over his words. Virgil gave him a soft, shy smile, and began to lean in. Roman started to lean in too- until he noticed that Virgil’s hands were trembling, and he pulled away with a raised eyebrow. Virgil huffed out an annoyed breath, and tried to lean in again, but Roman placed his hand on his chest.
“Virgil, you’re shaking. We don’t have to do this, it’s alright. We can find another way,” Roman said softly. Virgil let out a shaking breath, and leaned his forehead against Roman’s. Tears glistened in his eyes, and Roman brought up a hand to wipe away the one tear that had slipped away.
“It’ll be okay. We’ll get your voice back, I promise,” Roman said firmly.
A smile began to slip onto Virgil’s face- until he was suddenly yanked back and his face was overcome with panic. Roman scrambled to his feet, eyes wide. In the short time that he and Virgil had been distracted by each other, the sky had gotten darker, and something had risen from the depths of the ocean.
“Time’s up, RoRo! Virgil is mine!” a cruel voice boomed from high above Roman. Remus was looming above him, and he was now gigantic . His tentacles were about as thick as Roman’s body, and one of them gripped Virgil tightly.
“No! Let him go, I found him, didn’t I?!” Roman demanded, summoning his sword.
“Did you? I believe the rules were that you had to save your friends. Virgie is the one who saved you… what kind of prince gets saved by his damsel ?!” Remus mocked, grinning widely. Roman grit his teeth in frustration.
“You dropped me in the middle of the ocean!”
“You’re the one who walked through a door without knowing where it went!”
“Because you kidnapped my friends!”
“And you got so close to saving all of them too… and here you were, thinking that you had to kiss Virgil to save him! And people say I’m the horny one…” Remus tsked, shaking his head.
“What’s your point?” Roman growled, even as his face flamed in embarrassment.
“My point was that all you needed to get Virgil’s voice back was this !” Remus sneered, one of his tentacles coming down to wave Virgil’s hoodie in his face. “But instead, you wasted your time with empty promises. Some hero you are.”
“At least I’m more hero than you’ll ever be,” Roman shot back, trying to hide how much those words truly hurt him. He had failed, after all. But maybe, just maybe, there was a chance to save Virgil. If he were able to get the hoodie to Virgil, maybe the anxious side could get to safety. Even if Roman himself wouldn’t be able to escape… it would offer him some relief if he knew that the others were okay.
“Why would I want to be a hero? The villain is so much more fun!” Remus declared, breaking into maniacal laughter. Roman grit his teeth in determination, and eyed the tentacle that was still dangling Virgil’s hoodie above him. Remus’s eyes were closed as the ground rumbled and the waves churned with his laughter. This was Roman’s chance. He leapt up with his sword above his head, and sliced clean through Remus’s tentacle with a mighty shout. A strange, sticky green substance spewed out from the severed end, and Remus shrieked in pain. Roman managed to snatch Virgil’s hoodie from the limp tentacle, grimacing at the slime it, and everything else for that matter, was covered in.
“Well, I have the hoodie now!” Roman declared, glaring up at Remus. His brother’s expression twisted with a strange mix of glee and anger.
“Maybe, but you don’t have this!” he cried, tossing Virgil between his tentacles. The anxious side looked paler than usual- he must have been getting fairly nauseous from getting thrown about.
“Why? It’s not gonna kill him! And I found a way to stop him from hissing without killing him too! You should be proud of me, Roman!” Remus cackled, but did stop throwing Virgil around. Virgil took in shuddering breaths, his eyes wide as he clung to the tentacle that now had him in its grasp.
“Just let him go, take me instead!” Roman pleaded.
“Why would I want you? Virgil’s so much more interesting- especially since I gave him a tail!” Remus exclaimed, tossing Virgil up in the air and catching him by his tail. Virgil definitely looked nauseous now, and he wriggled uncomfortably as he hung upside down. However, his movements combined with the slick surface of the tentacle and his tail caused him to slip from Remus’s grip. His eyes went wide as he went hurtling towards the ground, and Roman let out a gasp. He sheathed his sword, then leapt up towards Virgil, managing to catch him in his arms. Their decent back down to the ground was a little less than graceful, Roman ended up taking the brunt of the fall, landing on his back with Virgil nestled close to his chest. Roman gazed up at Virgil as he fought to catch his breath, feeling battered and winded from crashing to the ground.
Roman soon came back to his senses, and quickly shifted so that he could help Virgil into his hoodie. Once his arms were in the sleeves and the hoodie was fully tugged over his form, his lower half began to glow, and his eyes grew wide. Virgil let out a gasp, and his expression lit up at the fact that his gasp was audible. And when the glow faded from his lower half, his black skinny jeans-clad legs had come back.
“Roman… I- thank you,” Virgil said softly, eyes shining. A relieved smile was on his face, and Roman found himself beginning to smile as well… until he noticed that one of Remus’s tentacles was coming right for them. With a startled gasp, he shoved Virgil out of his lap and unsheathed his sword as the tentacle came down on him. His sword ended up stabbing through the tentacle, but he still ended up nearly crushed by it as it shoved him down into the sand. The hilt of his sword dug into his abdomen, and he let out a muffled grunt of pain against the slimy tentacle on his face.
“Aurgh! You and that stupid sword!” Remus screamed in frustration, tentacle shifting off of Roman, while another one quickly reached over to pluck Roman up from the ground. Remus pulled the sword out of his tentacle and tossed it down to the ground, before turning to glare at Roman. Roman glared right back, squirming in determination.
“I saved Virgil, now let us go,” Roman demanded. Remus threw his head back and let out a deafening cackle.
“But you didn’t follow the rules! You ran out of time- and besides, who said that I was going to let you go if you saved the others,” Remus declared with a sneer. The tentacle around Roman squeezed tighter, and he let out a pained gasp. Everything felt bleak and hopeless, and all Roman wanted to do was cry. He had fought so hard, had rescued Logan and Patton, and had technically saved Virgil- but it still wasn’t enough. He wasn’t enough.
Suddenly, Remus let out a pained cry and nearly dropped Roman. Both of them looked down to see Virgil wielding Roman’s sword and slashing at Remus’s tentacles. Even from how high above him Roman was, he could see the anger and determination in Virgil’s features.
“He saved me, Remus! Just because he didn’t play by your bullshit rules doesn’t mean that he failed,” Virgil growled.
“But you’re the one saving him ! That’s not how it’s supposed to work!” Remus fumed.
“So? It’s about time the damsel saves the prince. Besides, since when have you cared about rules, or how things work?” Virgil shot back.
“Oh! So I try to be more like Roman and be a little goody-two-shoes with rules, and this is what I get?! You know what? FINE! Take your prince!” Remus screamed in frustration, and threw Roman at Virgil. The anxious side let out a gasp, dropping Roman’s sword so that he could try and catch the side rapidly hurtling towards him. Roman crashed into Virgil, sending them both to the ground. He let out a groan as he tried to pick himself off of Virgil, but his vision swam and he collapsed back down onto Virgil’s chest.
“Hey, it’s okay Princey, I’ll get you out of here,” Virgil murmured, and Roman was vaguely aware of Virgil standing up and holding him carefully against his chest. Roman could do nothing except let out a pitiful whimper in reply, the events of the day catching up with him as his adrenaline rush faded. The last thing he registered before slipping into unconsciousness was the sensation of Virgil sinking down into the mindscape.
Chapter 5: So This Is What Makes Life Divine
The fluffy conclusion!
The arrival back to the mindscape was a hazy one for Roman. Though stubborn unconsciousness tried to claim him, he was aware of frantic voices and pairs of hands trying to pull him out of Virgil’s arms. Even though their actions were gentle, Roman whimpered and clung to Virgil harder. A hand gently ran through his hair, and he heard someone speaking in soothing tones. Roman couldn’t completely make out what they were saying, but he relaxed in Virgil’s hold anyway.
He vaguely registered someone laying him down- probably on a couch, and hands gently ran across his abdomen. Roman let out a pained gasp when the hands pressed down a little harder than expected- or maybe that was just a sign of how bruised and battered he was. He heard someone murmur out an apology- Logan, maybe? But in any case, the hands moved to feel at the back of his head, and Roman let out a hiss of pain at that. His head was tender from being hit not once, but twice on the back of his head.
Now someone was gently tapping at his face, and Roman groaned at the sensation. He tried to squirm away from the touch, eyes squeezing shut. A hand gently squeezed his, and Roman relaxed slightly. He squeezed the other person’s hand back, and he heard a slight sigh of relief.
“C’mon Princey, you can’t go to sleep yet,” a voice- Virgil, probably- said.
“You can sleep soon kiddo, just open your eyes for a minute? We just wanna talk to you for a bit so we can figure out how bad your concussion is,” another voice said- that one had to be Patton.
“It’s alright, you are safe here. Please, open your eyes,” yet another voice said, clearly Logan, but the hand running through his hair as he spoke threw Roman off a little bit. Roman’s eyes fluttered open and he saw the others gathered around him. Logan stood above him, and his hand was indeed gently running through his hair. Patton was sat on the edge of the couch Roman was laying on, and he had his hand clasped with Roman’s. Virgil was kneeling on the floor in front of the couch, heavy concern in his features. He still was damp and slimy from their encounter with Remus, and Roman vaguely realized that he was damp and slimy too. But most importantly, they were all there, Roman had saved them.
“You’re all okay,” Roman breathed out. Virgil let out an incredulous huff of laughter.
“Yeah, no thanks to you, Royal Pain. Y’know how terrified you had me there for a second?” Virgil asked, tears pricking at his eyes as his voice wavered slightly.
“The sentiment is… mutual. Thank you for saving all of us. For- for saving me,” Logan said softly.
“Ditto! And… I’m sorry for smacking you with a frying pan,” Patton chimed in, smiling sheepishly.
“Holy shit Pat, you did what ?!” Virgil demanded, and Roman winced at his loud tone of voice. Virgil gave him a sympathetic look, but then turned back to Patton with a raised eyebrow.
“In my defense, I thought he was… um- well, you know…” Patton trailed off, rubbing the back of his neck nervously.
“That is… admirable, Patton. Even if you ended up hitting the wrong target,” Logan replied, glancing to Roman with a small smile.
“He was really brave,” Roman piped up. Patton flushed slightly.
“Oh hush now! You’re the brave one, you saved all three of us!” Patton insisted.
“Well… maybe, but Virgil was the one who technically saved me,” Roman said with a slight frown. A soft look overcame Virgil’s features.
“I think it’s safe to say we saved each other,” he murmured. Roman smiled at that, a soft flush taking over his cheeks. Logan frowned in concern, his hand moving to rest against Roman’s forehead.
“Logan- I’m blushing, you nerd,” Roman said with a chuckle, playfully swatting his hand away.
“I am just making sure. Now, how about we get you and Virgil cleaned up and dry?” Logan suggested.
“I can take care of myself just fine, L. Just worry about Roman,” Virgil insisted.
“Virgil-” Logan protested, but before he could finish his thought, Roman snapped his fingers, and both he and Virgil were perfectly dry and clean.
“Roman, that’s cheating,” Patton said with a slight pout.
“So? We’re both taken care of now, so Logan and Virgil don’t have to make a fuss about it,” Roman said drowsily, the effort of such a simple action tiring him out.
“Yeah, but you’re also wasting energy,” Virgil huffed, mouth set in a firm, disapproving line.
“I- okay, maybe a little bit… can I sleep now?” Roman asked.
“Yes, rest is optimal for you right now,” Logan said.
“But let’s get you into some comfy clothes- no magically snapping them on, mister!” Patton said in a mock-scolding tone. Roman smiled and let out a content, sleepy sigh as his eyes fluttered shut, and he registered someone scooping him up into their arms again.
The next time Roman awoke, he noticed he was still in the living room- but the area had shifted into more of a sleepover setting. He was laid on the couch, wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt, with a soft blanket over him. Patton and Logan were nestled together on the other couch, both of them wearing their respective onesies. Virgil was on the floor, his back leaning against the couch Roman was on. He still wore his hoodie and purple t-shirt, but had swapped his black skinny jeans for black sweatpants instead. A blanket was draped over his shoulders, and Roman smiled at the sight of him sleeping soundly.
“They haven’t been waiting here for you to wake up,” a voice piped up from across the room. Roman’s gaze snapped over to see Deceit sitting in the chair that Logan typically sat in. Roman raised an eyebrow.
“How long have you been lurking in the shadows, Jekyll and Lies?” he asked. Deceit rolled his eyes.
“Not long. And that one wasn’t mine, Roman,” he huffed. A slight chuckle escaped Roman.
“Listen, it’s been a long day. I couldn’t come up with anything else,” he replied.
“Yes, about that- when I told you to save your friends, I don’t remember telling you to kill yourself trying to save them,” Deceit snapped. Virgil stirred slightly at his outburst, and the lying side stiffened for a moment- but soon relaxed when Virgil merely snuggled down into his blanket more, still dozing peacefully.
“Aww, you do care,” Roman replied, a slight smirk tugging at his lips. Deceit glared at Roman, but otherwise didn’t protest the statement.
“Anyway- I’ve talked things over with Remus. He did throw a bit of a tantrum… but he’s agreed to not bring harm to you or your friends again,” Deceit said smoothly, and Roman raised an eyebrow. Was Deceit lying? Or was this a rare case of him being honest? Curse that snake and his backwards-talking tendencies!
“What are you saying?” Roman asked warily. Deceit let out an overexaggerated sigh of frustration.
“I’m positively sure Remus will kidnap your friends and bring permanent physical harm to them again ,” he replied, his tone heavily condescending. Roman rolled his eyes.
“Okay, okay, message received- but… I can’t help but notice that I am absent from that reassurance,” he said, voice soft and mildly trembling with fear. A strange look came over Deceit’s face, but Roman didn’t have time to place what it was before he schooled his expression back to indifference. Deceit rose from his seat, adjusting his capelet as he did so. He turned to leave the room- but glanced back at Roman one last time.
“If I were you- I’d be very afraid,” Deceit said firmly, and sunk out of the living room of the mindscape without another word. A bolt of fear ran through Roman. Because this time, he was absolutely certain that Deceit was telling the truth.
“Roman? Hey, how are you feeling?” a voice asked from below him. Roman’s gaze snapped down to see Virgil, now awake, and gazing up at him.
“I- um… well-” Roman trailed off, not really sure how to answer the question. He frankly was a bit of a mess both physically and emotionally.
“You look a little rattled there, Princey. Do you wanna talk about it?” Virgil asked softly. Roman nodded, and shifted so that he was sitting up on the couch, then motioned at the spot next to him. Virgil stood up and sat down next to him, observing him with a worried glance.
“It’s just- Deceit was here. He said he had talked things out with my brother, but I’m not exactly reassured. Apparently he won’t bring ‘permanent physical harm’ to any of you again… but that doesn’t exactly pertain to me,” Roman explained. Virgil stiffened at the mention of Deceit, glance darting around anxiously before he focused back on Roman with a grimace.
“And it doesn’t exactly mean he’ll leave us alone again, either. What else did Deceit say to you?” Virgil asked in a low, almost protective growl.
“That was pretty much it, actually. He… I think he was legitimately concerned about our safety,” Roman admitted, albeit a bit nervously. He wasn’t super clear on the history Virgil and Deceit had, but he knew Virgil didn’t trust Deceit in the slightest. And frankly, Roman wasn’t sure how much he trusted Deceit either… but there was something genuine about the encounter he had with the snake-like side. Perhaps it was the strange look that overcame Deceit’s face- one that Roman was beginning to think was sympathy- but maybe it also was the fact that he had helped Roman figure out where the other sides were.
“What do you mean?” Virgil asked warily.
“I- well, he was the one who told me that Remus had taken you all. And then he was here when I woke up, berating me for nearly killing myself trying to save you,” Roman explained. Virgil frowned in thought, a distant and almost mournful look on his face.
“I- huh. That’s- that’s- I’m not sure if I trust it. Trust him,” Virgil rambled, hands fidgeting with the sleeves of his hoodie.
“Probably the wise choice- he said something about wanting us alive for his plans anyway,” Roman replied with a bitter laugh. Virgil laughed too, but there wasn’t much humor in it.
“Well, whatever the case, I’m glad he was relatively on our side. Even if it might have been for his own gain. Cause frankly, I think things would have been much worse if we had to deal with him and your brother,” Virgil pointed out. Roman nodded in response, and a relative silence settled between the two of them. The only sound that could be heard was the soft breathing of the other two on the couch as they dozed, and Roman smiled at the sight of them, happy that they were safe. He turned to look at Virgil- and saw a rather pensive but nervous expression on his face.
“Virgil?” Roman asked softly.
“What? Nothing- I’m fine,” he replied quickly- a little too quickly for Roman’s liking.
“Virgil, please talk to me. What’s wrong?” Roman pressed, reaching out to lay a hand on Virgil’s arm. To his surprise, Virgil didn’t shrug him off, and instead looked to Roman with watery eyes.
“I- you’re the one who’s hurting and- and I feel so selfish for even feeling bad about something when it’s not even a major thing-” Roman cut Virgil off by pulling him into his arms and firmly holding him against his chest.
“Now, none of that, Stormcloud. Misery loves company, after all,” Roman replied with a small smile. Virgil huffed out a laugh at that- a true laugh, and wiped at his eyes.
“It’s- It’s just- your brother’s… erm, curse… didn’t exactly go away,” Virgil explained.
“What?!” Roman gasped out.
“I discovered it when I was going to get changed earlier- whenever I take off my hoodie, I go mute and am suddenly flopping on the floor like a fish,” he replied bitterly, tugging his hoodie tighter around himself.
“Oh- Oh Virgil, I’m so sorry,” Roman murmured, cradling the anxious side closer to him as one hand gently ran through his hair.
“It’s fine, I wear my hoodie all the time anyway, but it just… sucks,” Virgil sighed. The two of them stayed like that for a moment, with Virgil practically in Roman’s lap, and Roman’s arm wrapped comfortingly around him. That is, until an idea came to Roman, and he shifted Virgil in his lap so that he could look him in the eyes.
“Virgil, m-maybe- I mean, you don’t have to, and I’m sure we could figure something else out, but- but what if-”
“A kiss?” Virgil asked shyly, finishing Roman’s thought.
“Only if you’re okay with it,” Roman replied softly.
“I mean, it uh… it couldn’t hurt to try,” Virgil said with a shrug. Before Roman could say anything more, Virgil tugged off his hoodie, grimacing slightly as his legs shifted into a fishtail, still as beautiful and shimmery as it had been when Roman had first seen it. The shift caused Virgil to slump into Roman slightly, but he pushed himself up, face twisted with pain.
“Does it hurt when your legs become a tail?” Roman asked in a hushed voice. Virgil nodded firmly, a tear slipping down his face. Roman reached up to brush it away on instinct, and Virgil leaned into the touch.
“It’s okay to cry, Virgil. Are you still sure you want me to kiss you?” Roman asked. Virgil nodded again, almost enthusiastically, it seemed, and a small smile slipped onto Roman’s face. He brushed Virgil’s hair out of his face, then brought his hand down to rest on Virgil’s cheek. His other arm was wrapped firmly around Virgil’s waist, helping him stay upright. Virgil’s arms were draped around his shoulders, and there was no sign of trembling this time around. Roman leaned in slowly, not wanting to cause any distress to Virgil, except for the anxious side had other ideas. He surged forward, their lips clashing desperately until Roman took initiative, gentling the kiss. Virgil all but melted against Roman, one hand coming up to run through the prince’s hair.
Suddenly, Virgil pulled away with a gasp, leaning away to look down at his lower half. The tail glowed bright, and when the light cleared, Virgil’s legs had returned. Virgil let out a joyous sound, and to Roman’s surprise, leaned in to kiss him again. Not that Roman was complaining.
“You saved me again,” Virgil murmured when he pulled away.
“You kissed me again,” Roman replied, absolutely dumbstruck. Virgil’s face flushed slightly.
“I- that… um, was a weird instinctual response, sorry. I-”
“Don’t apologize! I liked it, I was just surprised,” Roman interrupted, quickly soothing Virgil’s anxieties. Virgil’s rare, confident half-smirk made an appearance at that.
“Oh? So you wouldn’t mind kissing me again?” Virgil teased.
“I’m certainly not opposed,” Roman murmured back. Virgil let out a light chuckle, but leaned in to kiss him once (or maybe twice- three times…) more. Roman’s worries drifted away. With Virgil in his arms, and the fact that Logan and Patton were safe and asleep on the couch, Roman felt like there was nothing they couldn’t face, as long as they were together.