Virgil didn’t know where he was going.
He’d fled to the Imagination to get away from the other Dark Sides. It wasn’t anything new that they were chasing him, he was younger and therefore smaller, a much easier target than anyone else. Lust had grabbed him before he’d managed to slip away, and he was sporting a nasty bruise on his cheek from the encounter, his lip split and bleeding down his chin.
He normally wasn’t able to get in the Imagination, but Remus had left the door open. Now, though, he was lost, and he was sure they were just waiting for him to come back. Everyone knew that only Creativity could survive here for long. Eventually, he’d have to go back, and there they would be.
Virgil found himself hyperventilating just thinking about it, which was not conducive to his running pace. He slowed to a stop and looked around. Trees surrounded him in a threatening way (or maybe he was just freaking out), and the world was dim, as if a storm was gathering above. He couldn’t force himself off the path to take better shelter under one of the trees in case it started raining, so he continued on, albeit at a slower pace.
It did start raining, soaking Virgil to the skin, but he still kept walking. All of the pain and loneliness built up. How long had they been bullying him? His whole life, as far as he could remember. He’d always been on his own–well, Remus didn’t actively hate him, but he was too passive and disgusting to actually be considered a friend. The only time he sought Virgil out was when he wanted a guinea pig for his newest prank. Virgil, of course, never sought him out.
Virgil never sought anyone out. He was alone, always had been, always would be. A sob tore from his throat as he realized he would never be loved, never be wanted, never not be alone. He started running again, his fight or flight kicking in despite his exhaustion. He was freezing, and his tears mixed with the rain on his face as he cried.
Then a voice rang out, booming from nowhere and everywhere at once. “Anxiety! Malice says if you come back right now, you’ll only have the punishment they were about to give you. If you stay in the Imagination, he’ll lock you in the closet for two weeks. Okay? Okay!”
That was certainly Remus. Only Creativity would have been able to project his voice in his own realm. Now Virgil completely broke down. He fell to his knees in a puddle, wailing. He couldn’t go back, he didn’t know how! He couldn’t be in the closet, not again, not after last time–
“Hello? Are you all right?”
Virgil cowered further into himself. Who could be here? One of Remus’s creations? He shivered violently, making the water soaking him fly out in every direction.
“You look freezing. Here.” The voice was much closer now, and Virgil flinched away as something heavy was dropped onto him. “You aren’t one of mine. Did Remus create you?”
Virgil sobbed and shook his head, only to be picked up by someone very strong and very warm. He fought back at first, kicking and pushing, but eventually let his arms fall. Perhaps whoever this was would take him back and he wouldn’t have to go in the closet!
Virgil blinked, and time seemed to pass magically fast, because when he opened his eyes he was somewhere warm and dry. He looked around, seeing stone walls and a fireplace, a comfortable couch underneath him, and–a prince?
The prince looked over at him and smiled. “Ah, you’re awake! Would you like to change into something dry?”
Virgil nodded silently before remembering that he was wearing his favorite hoodie. His heartrate quickened as he realized this man wanted to take it away, his breathing came in shallow gasps as he clutched it closer to himself.
“Okay, that’s fine. You can keep it,” The prince hurriedly reassured. “I just want you to be warm. May I dry it with magic?”
Virgil took a deep breath. Whoever this was (and Virgil had an idea of who it might be) seemed to want to help. Well, it sucked for both of them, because the only way to help would be taking Virgil back to the Dark Side.
“Can–” Virgil coughed, hoping it would clear his throat. “Can I go home?”
The prince looked surprised, but recovered quickly. “Of course! I’ll escort you personally. Where would that be?”
Virgil looked away, pretending a particularly interesting stone had caught his attention while tears filled his eyes. He was certain now that the prince wasn’t something that was a denizen of the Imagination. He felt so … powerful, and in a weird way that sort of reminded him of Remus, but brighter. He’d heard rumors, years ago, that there was another Creativity, and that he was a Light Side. Virgil had never met a Light Side before, and until now he’d doubted they even existed.
“Why are you crying? Did I upset you?”
Virgil sniffled, trying to hold it together. “Take-take me to the D-Dark Side, please.” He tried to not wince when Creativity physically recoiled.
“You’re a Dark Side?”
A sob broke free as Virgil nodded, ashamed. “Please take me back! They-they’ll lock me in the clo-closet if you don’t! I don’t want–I don’t want the closet!”
The prince stared at him, shocked. “Who? My brother? The other Dark Sides?”
Again Virgil nodded. He hadn’t meant to make Creativity upset. He just wanted to get the punishment over with so he could lock himself in his room with a carton of ice cream and Netflix and binge and eat to his heart’s content.
Suddenly the prince touched his cheek lightly, and Virgil flinched away and hissed. When he looked back up, the prince was still looking at him, sadness lining his face.
“Have they been hurting you?” Creativity asked seriously. “Did they leave that bruise?”
Virgil had forgotten about that. He gingerly probed the bruise and grimaced. That was going to stay around for a while. He didn’t know why Creativity cared, but croaked out a “Yeah” anyhow. He was more than a little surprised when Creativity wrapped him in a hug.
“You’re not going back there,” the prince whispered fiercely into his shoulder. Virgil was shocked enough that he stopped crying, just stiffened at the sudden contact and the implications of his words.
“I won’t let anyone hurt you. You’re safe with me.”
And, really? Virgil could accept that for now. The exhaustion and aches caught up to him, and he slowly relaxed into Creativity’s arms. He was safe. His prince had promised.