It had all begun long before any of them knew, really. A friendship stemming from their births being all within the same day, all in the same town. Yet none of them would really come to believe such a thing as fate could predict their friendship.
“You’re an idiot.” Logan deadpanned, staring at his painfully idiotic friend who was currently hacking and coughing from choking on a marshmallow, which he had attempted breathe instead of eat. On purpose of course, because that was just who Roman was.
“Aw, come on Lolo, he was just trying to be creative!” And then there was Patton who was about as smart as Logan, only not. His emotions typically overrode his intelligence.
Sighing, the bespectacled kid turned his gaze away from his two friends, instead, focusing on a group of birds that had been chirping particularly loud. “Remind me again why we decided to make our ‘secret hideout’ here in the middle of the woods where several pests live?”
Logan watched as Patton pouted at his reference to animals being pests. Really who could blame him though? Apparently, Patton, that’s who.
They were just a group of kids who found solace in each other.
Then, towards the end of sixth grade, Virgil Night had moved to their small town and wormed his way into their lives.
The poor boy had just appeared one day, and nobody knew anything about him. It didn’t take long for rumours to start and spread like wildfire.
“I heard he’s actually a changeling and was sent to replace a human child!”
“No, he’s a demon sent to find the sinners and drag them to hell.”
“Are we talking about the new kid? Mommy says he was abandoned because he's full of bad blood…”
Of course, Patton was completely averse to rumours and had instead marched right up to the shy kid and introduced himself. After that it had been set in stone that Virgil was now one of them. They had his back and he had theirs.
That was the way it had always been. Through their many years of friendships, they always had each other’s backs, and they knew it.
Because when Patton had decided that he was more than just a boy, and sometimes not a boy at all, they were all there when his blood wasn’t. They were there to support who he was whenever. Whether Patton was he, she, or they. They were there when no-one, not even Patton, was.
Because when Roman had come to them saying he was gay, they didn’t shame him or treat him differently. And when their friend later came out again as aromantic, they still supported him. Because no matter who he loves or how he loved, Roman was theirs to love and care for.
Because when Logan had decided to trust them with his neurological disorder and picky habits, they did not turn him away or shut him down. They changed, yes, but only in a way that best supported Logan’s needs. Logan was still himself, and knowing this side of him would not change that.
Because when Virgil’s adoptive parents were over-bearing or less than accommodating, they were there to hold him as he cried. They learned how to care for their anxious friend, and despite never knowing his past, they still loved and trusted him to be a part of their small family.
They were all freaks and their family was small and broken, but it was good. And in that moment, that was all they needed.
They only needed each other, and so they were always there for each other.
Until they weren’t.
“What is wrong with you? You could have been killed!” Logan screeched from where he was pacing back and forth, his hands flapping in an attempt to soothe himself. Normally he would try to get control over his stimming, but he was far too worked up to care about what others may think about his behaviours.
Roman scoffed, watching as Virgil carefully applied bandages to the wounded areas on his body. “And you say I’m overdramatic!” He muttered, rolling his eyes at the offended noise Logan had attempted to choke back.
Thinking back, maybe it hadn’t been the best decision to climb an old tree that was already dead and waiting for a reason to crumble and snap, but Logan didn’t have to freak out about it. He was acting like his parents, as if he could tell him what to do and not to do.
Besides, he was celebrating his freedom. They had all officially graduated from high school meaning they were free from the clutches of education! Well, except for college and Logan who was a never ending pool of knowledge.
“Were you trying to prove something, Roman? Are you really that careless about yourself? Or do you want to die?” Roman heard Virgil’s breath hitch at that sentence and frowned. They all knew that was a sensitive subject for Virgil. “Is that it? Do you want to kill yourself? Is that why you do all these idiotic and-”
“Just shut up Logan, your voice is annoying!” As soon as the words had left his mouth, he regretted it. The air around them had gone stagnant, leaving a foul taste in the back of his mouth.
Roman knew he should have just shut up right then, but he was just itching or a fight. His parents hadn’t left him alone about being productive with his life and Logan’s rant had left him restless.
“I said, your voice is annoying!” He screamed, pushing himself up to stand with his chin held high. “Besides, at least I take risks.” He snarked, staring at Logan challengingly
“I fail to see how that makes you any more superior to me, if anything it just shows how much intelligence you lack,” Logan replied, his voice calm even as his brows furrowed.
Had it been any other day, Roman would have brushed it off as Logan being Logan, but he was so sick of people undermining him just because he wasn’t some prodigy or straight-A student. “It makes me superior because at least I don’t have to have exact matching socks to function like a human being.” He smirked, watching as Logan bristled at his comment.
It was then that Patton had made an attempt to calm the situation down before it escalated beyond snarks and rude banter. Yet any attempts he had made were foiled by either Logan or Roman who failed to heed their friend’s warnings.
That last comment had quite literally left Logan speechless and struggling to find words. Whether that was because he was merely struggling with his disorder or because Roman had actually outwitted him for once, he didn’t know. But he could now say he had rendered the oh so amazing Logan, speechless.
Roman had just begun to turn around, his face smug in his success, when Logan had finally gotten his words to form. “At least I’m not some broken, heartless creature who can’t love. Like a tin man with no heart. A simple being with a simple brain.”
The air had suddenly become much more tense and charged with emotion as Roman went stock still, his back facing his friends as his fists clenched at his sides. A humourless chuckle slipped past his lips as he ducked his head slightly.
“Roman I…” Logan had begun.
“Save it. You know what you said and you meant it.” He suddenly whirled around, his face flushed with anger and a fire in his eyes. “Yeah, I’m fucking broken, but so are you asshole!” He yelled, storming up to Logan prepared to throw punches.
“You are so fucking broken Logan. More so than me, the guy who can’t love. You are more broken than Patton who can’t fucking decide who he is! And you are even more broken than Virgil who was thrown out by his own parents and is still thought to be sent from hell!” His voice echoed around them, causing all three of his friends to flinch.
Virgil and Patton held each other’s hands while the entire ordeal went down, both feeling just as broken as Roman claimed them to be. Yes, they’d claimed that they were all freaks, but not once had it been used against them in such a way. Not by those that truly mattered anyways…
“Because you know what, Mr. I’m so perfect and smart? You can’t even function on a good day! You are just one giant fuck up that can’t begin to understand that you shouldn’t even exist!”
The two friends stared at each other, one breathing heavily from the pent up anger he’d just released, while the other merely stared blankly through his friend.
Virgil and Patton watched with bated breath, waiting for Logan to lash back, or maybe throw a punch. They were waiting for something to happen, anything that would break the tense air around them.
It had seemed like forever before Logan had snapped out of his daze like state and turned around to stalk away from the group of friends. ”That’s right, run away you coward! Fuck you and your friendship! I don’t need you!” Roman shouted at Logan’s retreating form, before snapping around to face the two trembling boys who had watched the whole scene unfold in horror.
“I don’t need any of you.” He snarled before running back towards the town, the opposite way Logan had left, leaving the two men and a broken friendship behind, crushed beneath his harsh and heavy words
After the incident, Logan and Roman refused to interact with each other, or anything relating to the other man. Thus, by extension, they refused to interact with either Virgil or Patton.
Within a day, a lifetime’s worth of trust and friendship had been shattered to pieces and thrown in their faces, like some sort of sick joke. It had left them all scarred and wounded. Yet Virgil and Patton had refused to allow their bond to break.
Or so they’d thought.
Truthfully, neither Patton nor Virgil had been anywhere close to okay after the incident. The wounds were too fresh and deep to be healed by a few hugs and calming words, yet they had tried. They had tried to smile through the pain and pretend like nothing was wrong. Like they weren’t missing half of what made them whole.
They had tried so hard to make two people enough.
Eventually, though, enough had been enough.
A couple weeks after the entire ordeal, Patton had burst into Virgil’s room in tears, crying and apologizing profusely. At the time, Virgil had been confused as to why his best friend was crying crocodile tears and apologizing to him. But soon it had made sense as Patton said goodbye to him, leaving him behind just like Roman and Logan had.
It was at that point that Virgil realized: their four had become one. He was alone again, just like when he’d first moved to the small town.
His eyes scanned the room full of painful memories that had once brought him so much joy, landing on a picture of the four of them fresh out of school, celebrating their newfound freedom with each other. Then, with a scream of anguish, he snatched up the picture frame and chucked it at the closest wall before sinking to his knees. Hot, fresh tears spilled down his cheeks as he openly sobbed on the floor of his room.
Months passed, and within that time, Virgil had packed his things and left that cursed town behind in an attempt to forget the painful memories that had occurred within it. He still remembered the day he left.
Screaming and yelling, broken glass, and tears.
After Patton had decided to leave him too, he’d packed everything that meant nothing to him and left, leaving the memories and pieces of his life behind to rot. He didn’t need the reminders of what he’d lost.
Unfortunately for him, he’d forgotten just how capable the past was of catching him.
It had been a completely normal day when he’d gotten the phone call.
His brows furrowed as he glanced at his phone which was tucked between his shoulder and cheek as he struggled to focus on either of his tasks. “Who wants to know?”
A chuckle sounded from his phone, “My apologies, my name is Ethan Lyre. I’m Logan’s cousin.”
Virgil froze in his movements, his face going white as a sheet at the second name. He quickly dropped his writing utensil, grabbing the phone with his hand as he snarled, “Leave me alone!”
He was about to hang up when the other man screamed out, “Wait! Please! I know you guys had a falling out, but please just hear me out…” He stared at his phone, debating the pros and cons of hanging up then and there.
Damn his curiosity. “Fine,” he gritted out.
He could hear a sigh of relief. “Thank you. I’m really sorry about calling you but my cousin wasn’t exactly the best at making friends, and you were the only one I could find info on.” Virgil rolled his eyes because that was one way to put it.
“Look, I’ll just get to the point. Logan’s missing.”
“Oh really? Did you-” He was cut off by a growl before the other man yelled at him to shut up, an order which he obeyed.
“I haven’t seen him in months! He just left the house one day, no bag or anything and never showed back up. I’ve called the police and everything, but they think he ran away.”
Virgil stayed silent.
“I just, I know my cousin. He needs order in his life. He wouldn’t have left everything behind if he had run away. That’s not how he works. He’s smart, and he left all of his money and everything at home.” The other man continued, his voice becoming thick with emotion as he talked.
“What do you want me to do about it?” He asked, receiving a hoarse chuckle in response.
“Wow, I knew you guys had fought, but maybe he was right to-”
This time it had been Virgil to cut Ethan off, “Shut up asshole. You have no idea what happened between us!” He exhaled, leaning back in his chair as he clenched his eyes shut. “I just don’t know how I’m supposed to help.”
“Would it be possible for you to come down here? I’m hoping that maybe you’d have an idea on where he disappeared to. Or at least find something that shows he didn’t just run away. I miss my cousin Virgil, I just want him back safe.” Ethan said, and Virgil could hear the desperation in his voice.
His mind took a moment to process all the information that had been shoved onto him. He didn’t want to go back there. He didn’t want to face all the painful memories and emotions he’d tried to bury.
“I’ll see you soon.” With that he hung up, not giving the other man a chance to speak again.
Looks like it was time to face the music.
That night, he’d quickly packed a couple bags of necessities such as clothes, a couple chargers, some toiletries, and money. He’d also spent a fair amount of time searching for his old friends. Patton was the hardest to find as he’d almost completely disappeared off the map, while Roman had been easy, having already begun making a name for himself in the entertainment industry.
Taking a glance at his phone, he realized it was getting late. Tomorrow. The journey would begin tomorrow. For now, he needed to rest in preparation for the onslaught of emotions he was bound to face.
Patton had made a small home in her one-bedroom apartment in Illinois after she’d left her hometown. She’d found a full-time job as a cashier at one of the retail stores in the area, and while it wasn’t the job she’d wanted, it paid the bills, so she couldn’t really complain.
What she hadn’t expected was for a certain person from her past to show up at her job in the middle of her shift.
She had glanced at the items she was scanning, taking note that it was mostly junk food and energy drinks. “Is that all for you today?” She queried as she typed a code into her computer.
“Actually, I was hoping I could borrow a moment of your time.” She froze, the timbre voice awakening unwanted memories within her. Her blue eyes slowly rose to meet a pair of onyx ones. “Hi Pat, long time no see.” The small quirk of his lips wasn’t a happy one, rather a dry, humourless smile that left Patton on the verge of tears.
“I, uh, my break starts in about 15 minutes, if you want to, you know…” She gulped, trying not to burst into tears right then and there.
“Yeah... Here,” he handed over the money for his groceries before grabbing the bags, not even bothering to wait for his change.
Patton watched as her old friend stalked away from her, not even stopping to look back. She couldn’t help but wonder if this was what Virgil felt when Patton had turned her back on him.
She heard someone clear their throat and snapped back to reality, apologizing before finishing up the transaction and carrying on in with her normal routine, now troubled by thoughts of her past.
It had ended up being closer to 20 minutes before she’d actually been able to go on break. When she’d walked outside, her eyes had immediately snapped to the dark clothed man sitting on the curb. With only the slightest bit of hesitation, she’d walked over and sat beside him.
The two sat in comfortable silence for a while, watching as cars passed by.
“I missed you.” She said, her voice only trembling slightly.
She could hear Virgil’s breath hitch and saw him curl into himself from the corner of her eye. “You’re the one that walked out.” His voice was filled with malice as he spoke.
Patton smiled wryly, “I know.”
And just like that, they had been launched back into a comfortable silence, both of them finding comfort in it. They didn’t need words to understand where the other was coming from. However, Patton knew there was probably more to Virgil’s visit than just catching up like old friends.
Apparently Virgil also knew that the conversation was inevitable.“Logan’s missing.” Patton glanced over at him, confused. “Ethan contacted me yesterday, said Logan just vanished one day, didn’t even bother to take anything with him beside a cellphone.” He sighed, resting his head on his knees.
“The police seem to think he ran away, but I’ve gotta agree with his cousin. That just doesn’t seem like Logan.”
Patton pursed her lips in thought before speaking, “Well then, maybe we didn’t know him that well…”
“Don’t give me that shit, Patton. Not right now.”
She sighed but nodded her assent.
“I’m on my way back there. Figured I’d see if I could contribute to the search. It’s stupid, but I can’t seem to bring myself to hate him for what happened. I can’t hate any of you.”
Tears welled in her eyes as she watched her old friend’s walls crumble. “I'm so sorry Virgil.”
Virgil shook his head, a laugh slipping past his lips. “You don't need to apologize Pat. I forgave you long ago. Actually, I don’t think I ever blamed you. It was bound to happen, it was just a matter of who broke first.”
“Yeah, maybe you’re right…”
They once again fell into silence until Patton’s alarm went off, signifying that her break was over. “I’ve got to get back to work, but would you mind if I came with you?” She asked, her words quiet and hesitant.
“Sure Pat, I’m leaving tomorrow morning. Just meet me here at 6 if you still want to come.”
Patton nodded, staring at Virgil sadly for a moment before making her way back inside the store to finish up her day and let her manager know she was taking a few weeks off. That conversation hadn’t gone well and ended with Patton telling her that she could give her the days off or she could fire her. Honestly, she didn’t really care.
Sometimes there were more important things to take care of.
Virgil had shown up at the store parking lot thirty minutes earlier than he’d planned, but who could blame him. His entire life had been on a fucking rollercoaster into hell and he was just trying to make the best of the horrible experience.
His eyes scanned the mostly empty parking lot. The sky was still dark, the sun not yet willing to announce its presence. The street lamps cast an orange glow around the town, giving Virgil a sense of foreboding.
He didn’t like it.
He leaned against his car humming under his breath as he waited for Patton to show up.
He had gotten through three songs in his head before he saw a figure walking in the distance. His form tensed, ready to engage in his fight or flight reflexes if it came down to it. His eyes were glued to the figure, waiting for any sign of a threat. However, his body soon relaxed as the person came close enough for him to recognize the features of the person who was once his best friend.
“Jeez Pat, for a second there, I thought you were some sort of creep or psychopath.” He chuckled under his breath as the other smiled sheepishly. “Did you walk the whole way here?” Patton nodded causing him to sigh. He glances at the other’s outfit, taking note of the pronoun bracelet on his left wrist that displayed “HE/HIM <3” proudly.
“I don’t really have the money to afford a car…” He admitted, embarrassed by his lack of financial wealth, especially since it seemed like Virgil was doing great in that department.
“Well, I guess that means you’re riding with me then, huh?”
“I hope you don’t mind, kiddo. I honestly forgot to even mention it, what with the whole sudden reunion and everything. If you really don’t want to be stuck in a car with me though, I understand. I can just catch a bus or something! It’s really not-” He was cut off as Virgil raised his hand.
“It’s fine Patton, just let me clear out the passenger set. And leave self-deprecation to me, it doesn’t suit you.” He said, moving to the other side of the car to begin shuffling things around, trying to avoid looking at the pouting man beside him.
“There you go, I’ll go ahead and put your bag in the trunk unless there’s something you need in there?”
“Oh, no, that’s fine! Just a few outfits and whatnot.” He nodded, grabbing the handle of the suitcase before loading into the trunk, on top of his own luggage. He slammed the door shut before shuffling towards the driver’s side and sliding into his seat.
“Ready to go?” He asked, glancing at Patton who nodded. “Great. I’ve got one last place to stop by before we can meet up with Ethan.” He started the car, pulling out of the parking lot and onto the road.
“Yeah.” It was time to go visit one Roman Prince.
“Patton, wake up.” The strawberry blonde groaned in response.
“Nooo, ‘m tired!” He whined, his words slurred from sleep.
“Come on Pat, we’re here and I wouldn’t feel right leaving you in the car while you’re sleeping.”
Virgil watched as the other man finally cracked his eyes open enough to see him. “Oh, hi Virge.” He stared at the barely awake man deadpanned before shaking his head in exasperation.
“Hi Pat, get up, we’ve got things to do.” He said before opening his door and slinking out of the car, his joints popping as he was finally able to stretch out for the first time in hours. His body was stiff from sitting in one position, only making minor movements every so often while driving.
He heard some shuffling before the door on the passenger side popped open, a mop of strawberry blonde curls barely peeking out from over the car roof.
“Where are we?” Patton asked, his voice still heavy from his recent slumber, as his eyes took in the tall building and constant movement around him. His ears were flooded with sounds of car horns and people talking.
“Welcome to Los Angeles,” Virgil muttered, already feeling his anxiety spiking. They weren’t supposed to stay here long, just long enough to find Roman and get out.
“Are you sure this is the place, kiddo?”
Virgil nodded, not bothering to spare Patton a glance before he pushed forward, opening the doors to the auditorium where a group of people sat on the stage. Some were screaming and yelling about this or that, while others were just quietly staring at the ceiling. What really caught Virgil’s attention, however, was the man standing on the right side of the stage, talking to a group of people as he waved his arms around dramatically.
As soon as the doors slammed shut behind Patton and Virgil, a collection of eyes were on them. The only pair of eyes that mattered at that moment were the ones that belonged to Roman Prince who had gone pale in the face, his brows furrowing in some kind of emotion that Virgil couldn’t decipher.
The pair watched as the actor muttered an excuse to what they assumed to be his friends before he hopped off the stage and began making his way towards them.
“What are you two doing here?” He seethed, his voice low and controlled as he glared at them.
“Wow, you are angry, aren't you? WHat’s wrong, did we step on your moment?” Virgil snarked back. Patton whimpered from beside him, getting flashbacks from when Logan and Roman had argued.
“Yes, actually, you did, hot topic!” He growled in response.
Virgil smirked and cooed, “Aww you think I’m hot!” He watched as Roman’s shoulder raised out of anger and frustration, almost akin to a cat’s hackles rising.
The pair watched as Roman let out a heavy breath before he asked, “What do you want?”
Patton watched as a mischievous glint flickered in Virgil’s onyx orbs before he spoke, his voice calm and smug, “I want a lot of things. I want to die, try some new foods, win the lottery. Oh! And I want to go back and time and stop you from being a dick!” He smirked at Roman whose face was now flushed bright red with anger.
“Oh, yeah, because you were so innocent in that situation, weren’t you?” The actor snarked back as he began pushing forward, forcing Virgil to step back. “Poor little Virgil, too scared to do anything but stand by and watch the world burn, always ready to place the blame on other people because mommy and daddy didn’t love him!”
Patton saw Virgil flinch as tears began to pool in his eyes. “Roman…” He called out, his voice quiet. Roman, in response, went to lash out at him next, only to be shoved back by Virgil who was now full-on crying.
“Fuck you, Roman. You don’t get to be angry at us for standing by when you called us freaks for being who we are. We tried to get you both to calm down, but you were so upset about your bruised ego and all your goddamn insecurities that you just had to bring everybody else down with you. Because you couldn’t stand to be the only one hurting!” He yelled, his voice hoarse and scratchy as he continued to call Roman out on his behaviours.
The two men stared at each other, one with tears running down his face while the other was frozen with shock and hurt on his features.
“Fuck you…” Virgil muttered before running outside, his body curled in on itself.
Patton stared at the doors before looking back at Roman who was now sitting on the armrest of one of the audience chairs. He watched a variety of emotions flicker across the other’s face before he hesitantly reached out and placed a hand on Roman’s shoulder.
“I really was a dick, wasn’t I?” Patton snorted at the question and patted Roman’s shoulder in an attempt to comfort him.
“Yeah kiddo, you were. It’s never too late to make amends though.” Roman nodded dazedly, staring at the floor. “Virgil’s probably going to be gone for a while.”
“Yeah. I’m sorry, Patton.” He apologized, looking up at Patton with dewy eyes.
Patton smiled fondly before wrapping his arms around the other man. “It’s alright, kiddo. I forgive you.”
By the time Virgil had made it back to the auditorium, Patton had already filled Roman in on the situation and why they had decided to reunite in the first place. The actor wouldn’t admit it, but he was a little bit upset that they hadn’t just randomly decided to be friends again just for the sake of being friends.
As soon as Roman had caught sight of the anxious man, he’d begun apologizing profusely. “I’m so sorry, Virgil!”
It had startled Virgil enough for him to let out a yelp of shock before he’d gather his composure and brushed Roman off with a casual, “It’s whatever. Just don’t do it again.” To which Roman nodded enthusiastically.
The group had chatted a bit more about this and that before Virgil realized how late it was getting. He sighed before getting up and stretching once more. “I’m gonna stay at a hotel for the night, but then I think Pat and I are gonna hit the road. Hopefully, we’ll make it there by tomorrow night.” Roman nodded, standing with Patton who was already beginning to drag their feet slightly.
“Unfortunately, I have a show in three days, so I won’t be able to leave until after then, but I shall arrive soon after you both.” He said.
Virgil nodded before turning to leave, Patton already making their way towards the car. Roman hesitated before calling out to the anxious man, “Hey, Virgil?”
Virgil glanced back tiredly, “Hm?”
The two stared at each other for a moment, a silent conversation being held in their gazes.
“Whatever you say princey.”
Patton and Virgil had arrived the day after they had planned on being there and decided to find a place to stay while they waited for Roman to arrive. The past few days had been harsh, emotionally and physically, for all of them. So, Patton had declared it a self-care day. While Virgil had initially deemed it ridiculous, it hadn’t taken much convincing on Patton’s part to get him to go along with the idea.
So they spent the next three days exploring the changes of their old home, which albeit wasn’t much. It was still small and reserved. The middle school had been shut down after a tornado had torn through the gym and they had split the 6th grade into the elementary school while the 7th and 8th-grade students went to the secondary campus.
All in all, it hadn't changed that much. Not that they had expected anything to change at all, it had only been ten months since they were there after all.
The day Roman had arrived, Virgil had called Ethan to announce their arrival, before deciding to meet up at one of the local diners. Said diner was run by probably the only decent people still in the town, Dr.Emile Picani and their partner Remy.
Emile had been Virgil’s therapist when he first moved to town. He was also the first person to introduce Virgil to the lgbtq+ community, seeing as Emile was genderfluid. Remy was Emile’s significant other who was the equivalent of a coffee-addicted nonbinary racoon who was also high on sass.
They were also probably the closest thing Virgil has to parents if he’s being honest. They’re probably the closest thing to parents any of them had
As soon as Ethan had spotted them, his face relaxed into a small but worried smile. The trio quickly made their way over to his table, waving at Remy as they passed by the enby.
“I’m glad you came, Virgil. Same to you, Patton and Roman.” Virgil nodded in agreement while Roman and Patton both voiced their agreements. “Why don’t you three take a seat and I can fill you in on what’s happened.”
Roman and Virgil both sat across from Ethan, while Patton filed in next to the stranger. “I suppose it started not long after you three left town. He’d been irritated, sure, but we all figured that it had been due to the fight and change in his routine.” The three watched as his brows furrowed, his eyes darkening.
“We thought whatever it was, it would fix itself. But then he started leaving the house at random times and doing things that he’s never done.”
Ethan stared at Roman for a moment processing his question before his face scrunched up in confusion. “It was small things. He would change the order in which he did things like brush his hair before his teeth. Sometimes he would put two different colored socks on before bursting into tears or screaming. Then it began to get worse. His mom caught him trying to climb a tree and he almost fell.”
Roman’s face went white as Ethan continued to speak. “Then one day, he’d gone out and never returned. We thought maybe he was just acting out, but then a week passed and there was no sign of him. His parents called the police, but after a month, they just gave up. Said he was young and stupid. ‘Probably just ran away to get high or drunk off his ass’ they said.”
“Logan isn’t like that though,” Roman interjected, eliciting a chuckle from Ethan.
“That’s what I said. But nobody’s gonna miss some small town fresh outta high school kid who just disappeared. Especially when they’re not a perfect replica of everyone else in this cursed town.” He sighed, leaning back in the booth.
They all knew he was right. This town held no sympathy for anyone who wasn’t a carbon copy of everyone else.
The next day had been spent gathering information from people in town who may have seen Logan. However, it seemed as if the entire town had forgotten that he had even existed in the first place.
Patton’s eyes filled with tears at the thought that maybe Logan really had been forgotten by everyone in this stupid town. Was that all it took to be forgotten? Disappear for a few months and suddenly you didn’t exist?
They sniffled, rubbing the tears from their eyes as they made their way back towards the diner where Roman and Virgil planned to meet them. They had all agreed to split up, searching in different areas of the town in hope of covering more ground in a timely manner.
Pushing open the door, their eyes immediately fell on the forms of their two friends who were sitting silently at a back table. They made their way over, hesitating before sitting next to Roman, not wanting to make Virgil feel trapped.
The three of them had begun to discuss their findings which were roughly equal to nothing. Roman had thought he may have found something, but apparently, the person he was talking to just wanted Roman’s attention.
During the conversation, Virgil’s phone had lit up and dinged with a notification. The group had ignored aside from watching as Virgil dismissed it with a flick across the screen, however then it dinged again, and again, and again. Patton wished they could just ignore it, but they could see just how much the repetitive sound had caused Virgil to spiral. Casting a glance to their side, it seemed as though Roman had noticed the change in Virgil’s behaviour as well.
Patton watched as Roman reached across the table, laying his hand on top of Virgil’s only for it to be smacked away. Virgil froze, watching as Roman’s brows furrowed. “What is your damage?”
As soon as the words had left his lips, Virgil was up and out of his seat, running out the doors of the diner before either of them could stop him.
Patton had quickly stood up to rush after his friend only to be pushed back by Roman who muttered for them to stay there as he chased after Virgil.
So Patton once again stood by and watched as their friends argued, unable to do anything but stick to the sidelines. When it became apparent that the two men weren’t returning any time soon, they had paid the bill and left the diner, making their way back to the hotel room.
Why couldn’t things just go back to how they were? They wondered as they closed their eyes, completely ignorant to the dark conversation happening with their friends.
“Virgil!” Roman called out as he chased after his friend. “Virgil, please just calm down and talk to me for once!” Roman stumbled to a stop as Virgil froze in front of him, panting heavily.
“You don’t get to ask that of me. Not after you turned my trust against me once before.”
Roman stared at his friends back for a moment before casting his gaze to the ground beneath his feet. “I know. I just… Virgil, I can’t stand to see you like this. And neither can Patton! We’re both worried about you.”
“Well, you can stop. I didn’t ask for you to worry about me!” He snarled.
“Please, just let me help you.” Roman called out, tears welling in his eyes from frustration.
Virgil whirled around, storming his way up to Roman before shoving him in the chest, forcing the actor to stumble back. “You want to help so bad? Huh? Are you that desperate to fix something since you can’t fix yourself?” His voice was thick and his words so sharp that they cut Roman up like a knife.
“Well guess what Roman? You can’t fix this. You can’t fix me…” His words had quickly lost their edge, the fire in his eyes dying out as quickly as it started. He stumbled forward, leaning his head on Roman’s shoulder as the other wrapped his arms around his friend.
“What’s wrong stormcloud?” He asked, eliciting a snort of amusement from Virgil.
“That’s a stupid nickname.”
Roman chuckled at the other's remark. “It made you laugh, so it couldn’t be that stupid.” Virgil merely hummed in response before pulling away from the warm comforting embrace.
“You already know that my parents put me up for adoption when I was 12. But that’s not exactly the truth. My mom died when I was 8 from cancer. Dad and I watched her rot away in her bed until one day there was nothing left to rot besides a corpse.” His breath hitched as he recalled the dead look directed straight at him.
“I had gone in to check on her after school one day and she was staring at the doorway, her eyes open but lifeless. Dad didn’t know until he found me curled in the corner of the bedroom screaming into my sleeves.” He sniffled, pulling his sleeves over his hands before wiping at his teary eyes.
“After that, dad couldn’t look at me. Said I looked too much like mom. The only time he’d even glance in my direction was when he was drunk off his ass or high as a kite. Then he’d talk to me like I was my mom. He asked me why I had to die and leave him alone.”
“I guess one of the neighbours became suspicious and called the police because the next thing I know my dad has me at gunpoint, threatening to shoot me, because he couldn’t lose me again. Because he couldn’t lose my mom again. After that I’d been sent to live with some foster parents until I got adopted. And that’s when I moved here and met you three.”
Roman watched his friend with sad, tear-filled eyes. “Is that why you-”
Virgil quickly caught on to what Roman was hinting at and chuckled before interrupting him. “No, no. I was an anxious mess long before that happened.”
Roman let out a breath of relief at that. He was glad to know that the horrible experience hadn’t completely changed Virgil. Even if his anxiety wasn’t necessarily the best of his traits.
After the emotional conversation, the two had headed back to the hotel where they found Patton already passed out on their bed.
The two quickly said goodnight before parting ways. Not noticing their friend who stiffened in their bed.
The next day, the group had decided to go hiking in the woods in hopes of finding any trace of where Logan had been heading. The air was humid as they walked a familiar path. It was one they’d walked many times before.
Virgil and Roman walked side by side, trading banter with each other while Patton trailed behind them, alone.
Only yesterday, the two men had been nearly at each other’s throat, yet here they were closer than ever, and Patton was alone again, left unattended in the dust, waiting to be forgotten once again.
“Can you two quit flirting…” He grumbled. Ahead of him, Roman froze, his fists clenching at his sides.
“I don’t flirt, Patton.” His voice was cold as he spoke.
“Really? Because you two seem awfully close for just friends!” He snarks, glaring at the pair.
“What the hell is wrong with you today?”
That had been the straw to break the camel's back. “You are! You two have gotten so close forgetting I even exist! I’ve tried to ignore it, but dang it, I’m sick of feeling so alone!” He felt hot tears spill down his face and gasped at the shocked faces of his friends. With a sniffle he turned and ran through the woods, not bothering to look where he was going.
A voice called out followed by the sound of running footsteps. He just kept running. He had to get away! He couldn’t let them see this side of him! He-
A strangled yelp echoed through the woods, coming from behind him, forcing him to stop and glance back at where the noise had come from.
He quickly ran back the way he came, stopping as he noticed a patch of dirt and rocks that slid down into what looked to be a rockslide. “Roman! Virgil!” He called out.
“Patton!” He glanced down at the rock slide before turning to face the owner of the voice. Roman had jogged up to him, his breath coming out in heavy pants as he pulled Patton into a tight hug. “Are you okay?”
Patton choked back a sob as he nodded. “Where’s Virgil?” He asked, his eyes scanning behind Roman. When no sign of their other friend presented itself, he looked back at Roman who was scanning the area around them.
A moment later a sob echoed from below them and realization struck Patton. He quickly knelt down on the ground before calling out, “Virgil!”
He stared down at the crumbled pile of rocks in horror. “He’s down there…” Roman quickly knelt beside him, talking to him, telling him to do something, but all he could do in that moment was stare down at the dark hole in the pile of rocks. Where Virgil was.
“Patton!” Roman slapped him, effectively snapping him out of his haze. “I know this is scary, but I need you to go get help, okay? Head back to the town and get emergency services! Tell them what happened. Can you do that for me?” He nodded, earning a small smile from Roman as he did so. He pushed himself up, stumbling to his feet before quickly dashing back to the path before following it back to town.
He could get help. He could do that. For Roman. For Virgil. For Logan.
Virgil doesn’t really understand how he ended up in the pit of darkness, all he knew was that it was so dark and there was a sweet odor beneath the smell of dirt and vegetation.
His leg hurt and he was pretty sure that it was not supposed to bend that way, but that wasn’t important at the moment. His eyes scanned the dark area in hopes of finding something to distract him from the agonizing pain.
His wish was granted when he spotted a glimmer of something reflecting some of the natural sight a few feet away from him. His eyes strained to see against the dark, but as soon as his eyes adjusted, he wished for the pain to overtake his senses once more.
Because just a few feet away lay the corpse of a young adult wearing worn and torn black polo along with a pair of dark blue jeans. It was only then he noticed the pair of glasses inches away from where he fell and he sobbed.
He had found him. He had finally found Logan.
His eyes stared at the corpse, unable to look away from the decayed body. The bones protruded out past his clothes that had been torn, likely by wild animals that had feasted on his remains. He could barely make out teeth marks on the bones of his ribs and limbs. Some of the bones were displaced and broken from abuse, and Virgil couldn’t help but wonder if Logan had been alive when the animals had begun to tear him apart.
Judging by the boulder that pinned his leg and the unnatural positioning of his neck, he guessed that it was unlikely. No, he had probably died moments after he’d hit the ground, if not the exact moment his body had collided with the cold stone below him.
Virgil felt his body tremble with sobs that couldn’t slip past the tightness in his throat. His breaths came out in wheezes as he pulled himself forward just enough to grab hold of the crushed glasses, their plastic frame broken and the glass inside completely shattered across the ground.
Roman had already been worried about his friend being trapped where he could not rescue him, but the sound of sobs coming from the area had him nearly jumping down to join Virgil.
Instead, he leaned forward and called out for his friend, “Virgil?” The sobs didn’t stop.”Virgil, what’s wrong?”
“He’s down he-here Roman! He’s, he-” Virgil’s voice was once again cut off by choked sobs. Roman is confused and worried, because what if Virgil is having a flashback or he’s hallucinating?
“Virgil, I know you’re scared, but you’ve got to calm down and talk to me! Please!” His voice was desperate as he called out to his friend.
He heard a growl come from the rock slide before Virgil’s voice once again rang out and Roman couldn’t help but smile at what he said. “He- I found Logan. He’s down here…”
“That’s great! That-He-” His voice died out as realization struck.”Oh god…” Tears filled his eyes as he stared down at the pile of rocks in horror. If Logan was down there, and he’s been gone for months then…
“Is he…?” He asked, the sobs that followed answer enough. “Dammit!” He yelled as he curled into himself, sobbing.
“He’s down here Roman and I can smell it. I can smell him, and god Roman he’s. His body is-”
“Don’t look at it Virgil!”
He heard more sobs coming from the caved-in area and couldn’t help but close his eyes in an attempt to stifle the screams that ached to break free from him in anguish. Now was not the time for a breakdown. Not when Virgil was the one stuck down there with a literal corpse.
“Okay, okay…” He mutters to himself before once again calling out to Virgil. “Okay, Virgil! Just close your eyes and listen to my voice, okay?” He tried to reach his friend’s ears through the sobs, but he didn’t know if Virgil had heard him.
“Virgil, listen to me! Close your eyes, okay?” He heard a small voice echo back the last word and sighed in relief.
He took a moment to take a deep breath before he began to sing.
He sang and sang and sang, until he heard footsteps and voices yelling. He sang until someone had grabbed his arm and tugged him away from the steep slide.
Patton was back and Virgil was going to be okay.
But Logan wasn’t.
Roman took one look at Patton before he burst into tears, crying into the other’s chest.
The rescue services had managed to safely transport Virgil to the hospital and were able to retrieve the body that had laid rotting down there for who knows how long. He and Patton had watched as they pulled the body bag along. They didn’t need to see what was in it to know.
One of the ladies had seen the two of them and handed them the pair of crushed glasses with a sympathetic, sad smile. Roman still didn’t know if he wanted to hug her or punch her for her pity.
The two had walked out of the woods, hand in hand, trying not to break down right then. Soon they would head to the hospital to sit with Virgil, waiting for him to wake up. But first they had to give these glasses back to who they belonged to.
Roman had watched as Patton handed Ethan the pair of glasses. He’d watched as the usually collected man broke down, crumpling to the floor and gripping the plastic frames so gentle yet like they were his lifeline.
They offered their condolences before saying their last goodbye to him. Leaving the man to mourn his loss in peace.
The hospital had released Virgil 4 days after the incident. Although, Roman wasn’t entirely convinced that Virgil hadn’t bullied the staff into granting him early release.
The funeral was held two weeks after the incident. They had decided that it was only fair that they stick around long enough to attend the funeral of their friend. They had seen Ethan there, only for him to disappear that same day.
The house he’d lived in was empty, completely barren of life and memories. All of it just gone, like that.
That night, Virgil, Patton, and Roman had traveled to the edge of the woods where they planted a batch of forget-me-nots in honor of Logan. They said their goodbyes, shedding many tears before they made their way back to their hotel.
The next morning, Roman would awaken to find Patton asleep and Virgil gone, replaced by a note that stated, “I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. But I also wasn’t about to be the one left behind again, so I left first. I know this will sound cruel, and for that, I apologize, but please understand that I never want to see either of you again. Nor do I ever wish to return to that awful place. It’s too much. Too many memories. Still, I wish you both the best. ~Virgil”
Patton and Roman had both chuckled at the note before packing their own bags, sharing one last hug before parting ways one last time.
This was the end of a story, but not theirs.