Prompt: Hello! I've been meaning to request this for so long but, you'd never posted any Sanders Sides fanfics till recently so I finally get to ask! = D
This is simply a request, but could you possibly to a Hurt/Comfort and Angsty o ed! Virgil fanfiction? Where he hides his wings for whichever reason you want- And it's *painful*, and eventually his wings get to damaged from constantly being hidden and self-groomed and other stuff of the sort and the others find out either accidentally cuz Virgil is in Too Much Pain, or Virgil reaches out- Just, take creative liberties with it! (Platonic LAMP all around- Or you can decide if it's romantic! Idc, whichever you prefer-) = D You can decide whether the others have wings or not, or if it's only the 'dark sides', or no one except Virgil, etc etc. I just have craved this for So Long in your writing specifically!
Whether you decide you would like to do this idea of not, that's fine! ^^ Just thought I'd suggest it! Thank you very much! = D - moonscar
Out of all of the Sides to have wings, why the fuck did it have to be Virgil?
Come on, it’s not like it even fits with Anxiety, being able to fly? Having these big fucking things sticking out of his back? No thank you, that’s more literally anyone else’s thing! Roman would love it, he’s sure, soaring to great heights and all that. Patton’s the closest one of them to actually being an angel. Logan could use them to fly away from the bullshit.
But nope. Virgil’s the one stuck with them. Isn’t that just fantastic.
Virgil grunts and pulls his hoodie on tighter, zipping it up over the sports bra. He growls and reaches back to tug the wings into place under the layers of fabric, hunching his back so the others don’t notice that there’s conspicuously more mass on his back than there’s supposed to be. Thank god he’s already known for baggy clothes.
He has to walk carefully. Too much jostling and the wings’ll pop loose. He leans on the stairs as much as he can before making his way to the back of the couch. He looks around. No one else is here.
Which would make sense, seeing as it’s three am.
Virgil winces when something twinges in his shoulder blade. His ears strain to pick up the sounds of anyone moving; no floorboards creak, no doors open or close, no sinks or anything else. Shit. Fuck, it’s happening when he’s breathing now too.
Wincing, Virgil unzips his hoodie and slowly, slowly starts to lift his shirt up, sliding his hands under the material to try and—
A door opens upstairs and in a flash, Virgil’s hoodie is fully zipped up and his hands are back in his pockets.
Patton walks downstairs, rubbing his eyes. He blinks lazily and turns to go to the kitchen.
Virgil winces when Patton startles horribly, whirling around until his eyes land on Virgil, perched on the back of the couch.
“You scared me, kiddo,” he pants, leaning against the counter before forcing a smile onto his face, “what’re you doing up?”
Virgil shrugs, trying to hide his flinch when one of his wings snag against something. “Just couldn’t sleep.”
“Aw, I’m sorry to hear that.” Patton tilts his head. “Anything I can do to help?”
Patton…Patton might be nice.
Patton would help, right? He—he’d care enough to help. Wouldn’t he? Patton had tried, so hard, when Virgil was first…around, just to make him comfortable, help him fit in, make him feel at…at home.
But—but Patton is the kind of person who would do anything to help someone and Virgil…Virgil doesn’t want that either.
Patton would see his wings—his ugly, dirty, huge wings—and look at Virgil with so much pity that he would be forced to help out. And the thought of hands in his wings was bad enough. The thought of unwilling hands in his wings was even worse.
Virgil smiles, tightlipped in the dark. “No thanks, padre. ’S just the job.”
It’s a little sad how quickly Patton nods. “I trust you, kiddo, if you say you can do it I believe you.”
A sigh of relief lessens the ache in his shoulder blades for just a moment, then Virgil narrows his eyes. “What’re you doing up right now?”
“Needed a drink!” And sure enough, Patton goes into the kitchen and grabs a glass. “You want one?”
“…no, no I’m good.”
“Suit yourself.” Once the glass is full, Patton yawns, his jaw cracking, before he walks over to ruffle Virgil’s hair. “You gonna try and sleep a little?”
Once Patton vanishes back up the stairs, Virgil holds completely still until he hears the door click. As soon as it does, he slumps, burying his head in his hands, ignoring the bolt of white-hot pain that shoots through him. That was too fucking close.
What was he thinking? He can’t be here, not now, not while they hurt so much.
He sinks back to his room, biting his lip to stifle the noise when his wings slip under the bra. Now he won’t be able to get it off without hurting them—fuck why is this is fucking life?
He has to go slow, agonizing second by agonizing second, until the bra lies crumpled at the foot of his bed and he’s panting, sweat beading on his forehead and two new gashes in his lip. He takes one shuddering breath, then two, then—
“Come on, you assholes,” he mutters, “just…fucking cooperate for me.”
His wings creak and groan as he unfurls them, stretching them out until his throat protests with the effort of holding back a scream. He bound them wrong this time. One of the tendons is twisted, slipped over the bone on his right wing and every flex threatens to rip it entirely. His eyes, screwed tight from the effort, blink away tears, catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror.
He forgot to cover it again.
Virgil winces when he sees the state of his wings. The primaries aren’t lying flat, the secondaries are all bent out of shape, he can see the loose feathers stuck in the rest of the mess, and his oil gland must be clogged again. He can hear everything rasping together, the creaking, and everything. He—he has to try again.
Slowly, he sits down in front of the mirror, crossing his legs and sitting up as much as he can. He holds his wings out and winces at the sharp yank. Flexing his fingers, he reaches out with his hand and starts combing through his feathers. He can’t get the right angle no matter how much he twists his wrists and trying to hold the wing in place doesn’t work either. But he’s able to pull a few of the loose feathers out. It doesn’t matter that he plucks out several of the remaining healthy ones as well.
Alright. Step one done.
Virgil braces himself and twists, reaching out quickly for his wing before his back pulls away from him. He grabs it with two outstretched hands and can’t stop the cry of pain when another sizzling bolt races down his spine. He can barely hold onto it for three seconds before he has to let go. A roll of nausea makes him retch, hunched over himself, tears springing anew to his eyes.
Can’t even clean yourself properly.
The room rings with shuddering breaths as his chest heaves, the pain still zinging through his wings. He can’t. He can’t do it. He can’t clean them properly, not now, maybe not ever. He fucking bound them wrong, like an idiot and now he has to sleep on his stomach and if someone walks in they’ll see them and he won’t be able to bind them properly if they don’t heal and—
The fucking worst thing about his wings is they always try and make things better. They twitch whenever he’s near someone he likes or bristle when he feels upset. And when he’s alone, all by himself, about to have a panic attack, they always try and hug him.
So Virgil cries there, on the floor, surrounded by his ugly, dirty, painful wings.
He sleeps on the floor that night too, a few pillows here and there to keep him from pressing his face directly into the ground, wings as outstretched as he can until he can ignore the pain long enough to fall into a fitful, uneasy rest. When he wakes, the joints are still tender and he curses, knowing if he tries to bind them again it’ll just get worse. That means a day of staying in his room, which by itself wouldn’t be awful except that the others would know.
When Virgil was alone, he could have his wing day all by himself and no one would care. He could stay shut up in his room without fear that someone would come and knock on the door, wondering where he was, if he was okay, did he need anything? He’d tried, he’d tried so hard to convince himself that alone was better, alone was safe, alone protected him.
But the others were magnets, always pulling him closer, closer, closer until he was bound within them. How was he supposed to pull away from that warmth, that care, when every time he was close to it his wings reached out? He had to start binding them when he first appeared to Thomas, yes, but it wasn’t until recently that he had to start binding them. Because they would reach for the others. All the time.
He couldn’t have that.
So he tied them up.
And it was worth it. It was worth being able to stand next to Roman, to see that smile up close. It was worth being able to stand next to Logan, to hear him talk and explain everything he could ever want to know. It was worth being able to stand next to Patton, to feel warm and safe.
The pain was worth it, even if it didn’t always feel like it.
The others couldn’t know about his wings. If they did, they might—they would—
Only dark sides had animal traits. If they knew Virgil had wings—
Virgil shakes his head and groans into the pillow. He can’t go back. Not after what he’s done. He can’t—he won’t—there isn’t—
He barely remembers being small. He remembers being scared, being afraid, fumbling in the dark, but he almost never remembers being small. Small enough where he didn’t know yet to be afraid to ask someone for help, when hands in his wings weren’t tied up with problems or intimacy or care or obligation. Small enough where he could cuddle into the lap of someone who loved him and not have to worry.
He remembers getting older and being scared, huddling in the dark with the others.
He remembers rubbing his hand over shedding scales. He remembers helping rub away the twitches in newly formed tentacles. He remembers hands, hands in his wings.
Those memories are locked away, behind bars Virgil won’t let himself bring down.
A knock on the door startles him out of his thoughts.
Fuck, does his throat sound like that?
“Virgil?” Logan. “Are you alright?”
“What the fuck is an alright,” Virgil mutters, pushing himself up off the ground and wincing, before raising his voice, “I’m fine, Logan.”
“You didn’t come down for breakfast—“ shit— “and we were concerned.”
“Didn’t feel like coming down,” Virgil tries, aiming for nonchalance and failing miserably, “but I’m all good here.”
“Are you certain?”
Logan…Logan would help.
Logan would understand things from a logical perspective. He would be the most business-like about it, just doing what needed to be done and leaving. He might find it…interesting? He would get it over with.
He would…get it over with.
A human figure having wings is illogical. Virgil doesn’t want to be stared at like some sort of…object. And…and…Virgil wants to be cared for, not treated like a chore. The desire burns a shameful hole in his gut, the craving for soft words and gentle touches accompanied by flaming cheeks and a roll of disgust. He doesn’t think he’d be able to hold back the tears at being treated so…coldly, even if it would be better for him.
“I’m sure,” Virgil grits out, “thanks, though.”
“Of course. Will we see you for dinner?”
Swallows before his tongue chokes him. “Dunno.”
He hears Logan walk away and cringes. That was awful. But he’s made a commitment now, so he has to get ready for dinner. Four hours should be enough.
Sitting up is a slow process and every few moments he has to stop when his vision grows spotty. He flexes his wings, watches the shape twist back for a few seconds before he has to relax it again. The ache has dulled slightly and maybe he can try again.
Raising his arms straight above his head, muscles straining, shaking, Virgil bites his lip and holds for one, two, three seconds until he cries out and lets them drop. Nope. No way. If he can’t even do that, he’s not gonna be able to pull the sports bra over his head, much less get his wings tucked into position. He winces and looks around for the belt.
He hates using the belt but it is easier on his shoulders. Instead of tucking the whole folded-up mess into the sports bra, he folds his wings up as small as they’ll go and wraps a belt around them, straining behind him and valiantly ignoring how much it hurts until he’s sure he’s got it around the joints. He lets go with a gasp, rolling his shoulders experimentally. It still aches, yes, but much less, and as he turns to the side, if he just wears a big enough shirt, with his hoodie on, no one will notice.
That means he can use the rest of the time to get used to it.
By the time he walks down to dinner, the others are waiting, Roman’s face lighting up in a huge smile as he sees Virgil round the top of the stairs.
“There’s our little Stormcloud!” He waves Virgil over to the chair next to him. “Haven’t seen your gloomy face all day, I’ve missed it!”
Virgil snorts. “You’ve just missed seeing another version of you, Princey.”
“Can you blame me, Hot Topic?” Roman winks. “We’re gorgeous.”
“The fact that we all share a face should not be surprising to you,” Logan remarks as he closes his book.
“Aw, you think I’m hot.”
“Pasta!” Patton places the pot on the table and Virgil winces when the sound makes his wings twitch. He doesn’t catch Roman’s concerned look. “Who wants what?”
“Just olive oil for me.”
“You got it, Logan.”
“I’ve got mine,” Roman announces, sweeping half of the condiments on the table toward him and combining them in…a way.
“…jeez,” Virgil mutters.
Patton rolls his eyes fondly as Logan and Roman start idly bickering about the appropriate condiments for pasta. A steaming bowl slides to a stop in front of him and without pausing, Roman passes Virgil the jar of sauce.
Virgil watches the jar slide to a stop in front of him, blinking up at Roman who just gives him a quick wink and goes right back to bickering with Logan. Patton giggles as Logan pinches the bridge of his nose, obviously trying to hide his smile as Princey grins. It’s a game now, to see which one of them will break character first. Princey’s the actor, but Logan’s got an incredible deadpan face. And when he’s in a playful mood the two of them can go at it for hours. Virgil and Patton just sit back to watch the show.
As it turns out, both of them break character at the same time tonight, Logan stumbling over a word, and Princey accidentally slurring Logan’s name as he tries to come up with a comeback. Logan immediately tries to hide his smile behind his hand only to snort when Princey screws his face up in protest.
“How did I manage to do that,” he cries, “I said—what the hell did I say?”
Patton’s laughing too hard to answer and Virgil just shakes his head helplessly.
Logan snorts. Tries to stifle it again. Then his giggles start to slip out. “D-damn it.”
Roman gives up trying to stop his own cackles and throws his head back, letting it ring out. “We were doing so well, too!”
“We were indeed,” Logan says through a smile, “perhaps we should try again.”
“No, no, no, I won’t be able to get any words out before I’m reminded of whatever the heck my tongue did.”
“What word were you trying to say?”
“I don’t even remember.”
Dinner gets finished and Logan stands to help Patton clean up. Roman leans back in his chair, stretching his arms over his head. Virgil watches him, his eye first caught by the movement, lingering when he sees the rush of relief on Roman’s face.
Is…is that what stretching is supposed to feel like?
Virgil blinks. Oh. Oh, fuck, he’s staring. Roman stares down at him, his head tilted.
“You’ve been quiet today, Stormcloud,” Roman says, too low for Logan or Patton to hear, “everything Gucci?”
Nope. Princey’s not allowed to do that. Definitely not. He’s not allowed to sound that caring because Virgil will talk to him.
Roman raises an eyebrow. “Uh-huh.”
“Shut up,” Virgil grumbles, shoving Roman halfheartedly as he chuckles.
He goes to pull his hand back but Roman catches it, making him wince when his wings jar. This time he doesn’t miss Roman’s look of concern.
“Virgil,” Roman calls, “are you hurt?”
Yes. “Nah. Just slept weird.” On the ground, in pain.
“You don’t want me to sic Patton on you, do you?”
Virgil shudders, ignoring the twinge in his wings again. “No. Nope. I’m good.”
Roman chuckles, pressing a quick kiss to the back of Virgil’s hand. “Alright. You just come and tell me when you need something, hmm?”
Roman, who is desire and passion and so, so warm to the touch. Roman, who has tried so, so hard to make Virgil his friend, to care for him. Roman, who looks at Virgil with soft expressions and sly winks and is just so there.
…Roman, who treated him like a villain. Roman, who Virgil knows struggles to keep his own head above water most of the time. Roman, who can put on a mask to rival any actor’s, who can hide everything so well they might never know what’s really going on.
“…yeah, sure, Princey.”
And despite everything, despite the pain in his wings and the belt digging into the soft points of his feathers, Virgil smiles, just a little.
If this is what he has to deal with to be a part of this, then he’ll do it.
Then Deceit shows up and Virgil panics.
Not because of what this means, not because of how it’s going to affect Thomas, but because Deceit knows.
Deceit knows that Virgil has wings. Deceit knows that Virgil is a dark side. Deceit knows that Virgil hasn’t told the others.
He’s safe—at least he thinks he’s safe—because if Deceit tells them about his wings, he’d have to tell the others he sheds too. And Deceit won’t ever volunteer information about himself like that. Virgil has one moment of panic on the witness stand, thinking Deceit’s about to split his defenses wide open, but no, no, he’s wings stay tucked up, ugly and rumpled, Virgil’s very own dirty little secret.
Luckily—or unluckily—there are too many other things to focus on for Deceit to let slip that particular little secret. Virgil is too worried about Thomas and Patton and Roman and Logan and everything to worry any more about his wings. He runs on adrenaline and worries for days, weeks, months until it’s all he can think about, over and over, coffee being drained as quickly as Logan can brew it.
He plucks out his own feathers in the dark and washes the blood off the carpet. He strains to move his arms, his shoulders, anything, just to get a little more range of motion. He wipes the crusted salt from the corner of his eyes and grits his teeth.
Then Remus shows up and does what Remus does best: wreak absolute chaos.
Roman is knocked out, Logan gets a shuriken in the forehead, and Virgil tells Thomas he used to be a dark side.
The second he sinks into his room after that he tears at himself, his hoodie thrown to the corner of the room as his wings groan and buckle and writhe as Virgil paces.
Why did he do that why did he do that now he knows now they know now it’s going to be so much worse they’re going to hate me again I’m going to be alone alone is safe alone protects me but alone is cold and lonely and alone hurts it hurts I hurt make it stop please—
He’s panicking, he knows he’s panicking, he knows he should go, go find someone, have Logan help him, talk to Roman, get a hug from Patton, but his wings are out, he can’t put them away and they hurt, they hurt so much, everything hurts so much, he just wants it to stop.
Virgil collapses onto the floor, ignoring the sickening crunch as one of his wings buckles under his weight. It just…it just hurts.
Thomas doesn’t say anything.
Patton doesn’t say anything.
Logan doesn’t say anything.
Roman doesn’t say anything.
Remus doesn’t say anything.
Janus doesn’t say anything.
And somehow…somehow that’s worse.
It doesn’t get easier, it just gets repetitive.
He doesn’t try to get the spots he can’t reach anymore. He knows he can’t get the oil glands cleaned. He washes them as best he can but he knows he can’t dry them properly. He wears the sports bra. He wears the belt.
Then he fucks up.
Janus has been watching him. In fairness, Janus watches everybody, but he’s been keeping a particularly close eye on Virgil. If Virgil didn’t know any better, he’d think Janus was suspicious of him, that he’d do something to ruin Janus’s seat at the table, or hurt the others, or try and turn them against each other. It would make sense, given their…history.
But Virgil knows Janus better than that.
He knows that look and that’s why he shies away from it.
He lashes out and he hates himself for it. He scorns Janus’s attention and has to hold back a gag. He slams his door shut and claps a hand over his mouth to stop himself from crying.
He can’t let himself stop now. If he stops he’ll fall apart. He’s been numb for so long he wants to stay numb, can’t start feeling it again or—or—
He can’t. He just can’t. The dark sides may be accepted now but that says nothing about Virgil.
Which is why it is so, so stupid that Janus chooses to stand next to Logan when the next session comes. Because he’s right there, so close, where Virgil can practically feel his presence prickling along his left side and he’s so glad he bit the bullet and wore the sports bra today because his wings are straining to reach for him.
But then Remus pops up next to Roman and Virgil visibly flinches.
He’s able to pass it off as surprise but the knowing look Janus gives him tells him Janus can see right through him.
He shouldn’t be feeling this way. He shouldn’t. He left the dark side ages ago, he shouldn’t—this shouldn’t—
He shouldn’t be aching for them. For all of them. His wings shouldn’t be bristling and yearning and his back shouldn’t feel like it’s splitting in two right now.
His mind shouldn’t be filled with thoughts of the soft touches they would give him as the helped groom his wings, the gentle jabs and playful barbs tossed back and forth as they supported each other.
He shouldn’t feel so cold.
The debate is already going, Logan and Patton tossing things back and forth, Roman and Remus doing the same. Janus adds a comment here and there, Thomas frantically trying to keep track of all of them. It’s far too easy for Virgil to withdraw, sink into his head, focus on keeping his wings in, make them stop, ignore the ache.
Someone shouts right next to his ear and without thinking, Virgil reaches out and grabs Janus’s cloak.
Fuck fuck fuck he fucked up he fucked up—
Why the fuck had he done that? Was it just because he was scared? He’s Anxiety, he’s always scared, why had this made him do something he hadn’t done since he was tiny?
He’s not some frightened child anymore, tugging on his parent’s clothes to beg for scraps of comfort. Is this what he fucking wants, to be coddled, told pretty lies about how everything was fine?
Too late, he realizes he’s still holding on and tries to let go quickly enough that no one will notice.
It only partially works.
The others are too busy scolding Remus—who just looks very pleased with himself—to notice. Except for Janus.
Of fucking course Janus notices.
Virgil shoves his traitorous hands into his pockets. He hunches his back, not caring that it makes his wings strain against the fabric of his hoodie. The only one who could see them right now is Janus and Virgil’s already dug his grave there, hasn’t he?
He just wants this to be over so he can go and Janus will stop looking at him.
The video ends and he can’t be the first one to sink out of the common area, that will draw attention, he can’t draw any more attention, but the longer he stays then someone will ask him something and he doesn’t want to—
He blinks. Is…is the room empty? Oh. He can sink out now.
…or he could stay here.
The others tend to go cool off in their rooms after heated videos, just until they can all come out and make nice again. Virgil…Virgil has the common room to himself.
“Hello,” Janus says softly, and no, no, no, don’t do that.
Janus is being kind and it’s so hard for Virgil to just stand here and not let his wings rip out of the hoodie. He didn’t sink out, he stayed, of course he fucking stayed, Virgil tugged on his cape like a little kid—
Virgil curses under his breath, collapsing to sit on the steps. He ignores Janus’s soft noise of concern and balls his hands up, beating out an erratic rhythm on his legs. His back hurts. His shoulders hurt. His wings hurt. Now his legs hurt. Now his hands hurt.
Something grabs his hands and pulls them over his head. The searing pain tears a cry out of his throat.
“Shh, shh—“ Janus, it’s Janus— “none of that now, sweetie.”
“Let me go.” It’s meant to come out as a snarl but instead, here Virgil is, whimpering at Janus’s feet.
“Will you keep hurting yourself if I let you go?”
No, Virgil wants to lie, yes, he wants to say just to spite him, what comes out of his mouth is neither of these.
“You’re hurting me,” he pants, “you’re—it hurts.”
Janus is silent above him, still holding his arms firmly above his head. Virgil chokes back a sob in the agonizingly painful position, barely suppressing his cries enough to still his shoulders which of course did nothing to alleviate the pain. Then another hand—right, he has six—touches gently beneath his chin, guiding his head up.
Virgil meets such an open expression of concern that tears spring to the corners of his eyes. He looks away immediately, only for Janus to crouch in front of him. He keeps a hold of Virgil’s hands but the release in his shoulders is enough to make him gasp.
“Sweetie,” Janus calls, “sweetie, look at me.”
“Virgil, I need you to look at me.”
Gritting his teeth, Virgil looks up at Janus. Janus squeezes his hands once.
“When was the last time you had your wings groomed?”
Virgil’s heart drops to the pit of his stomach.
“Did you do it yourself?”
“When was the last time someone else helped you groom them properly?”
Virgil swallows heavily and doesn’t say anything.
“…oh, sweetie, have you not had anyone help you groom them since…?”
Janus doesn’t even have to finish his sentence before Virgil’s nodding, the shameful secret finally spilling out. It’s Janus, he rationalizes, he knows how to keep a secret, right?
“Why haven’t you told them,” Janus murmurs, his voice broken, “why, sweetie?”
“Because telling people things is always so easy,” Virgil snarls.
Janus accepts it with a slow nod, reaching out to cup Virgil’s cheek. On instinct, Virgil jerks back, unable to get away from the touch because of the grip on his hands. Janus’s eyes widen.
“Don’t tell them,” Virgil blurts out, “please don’t tell them.”
“You’ve been hurting yourself, Virgil,” Janus whispers, “so badly, I can’t let that continue.”
“I’ll—I’ll fix it, I can fix it—“
“You know you can’t do this by yourself, honey.”
“I have to,” Virgil cries out finally, “I have to, I can’t—I messed up, I messed everything up, I have to do it alone now, I have to—“
“What did you mess up, sweetie?”
“You a-and Remus and I can’t—I can’t ask you ‘cause I messed it up so bad—“
“Shh, shh,” Janus soothes instantly, reaching out with another pair of hands to cup Virgil’s face properly, “you haven’t lost me, sweetie, you haven’t messed anything up so badly. You know you can come to me for help, you can always come here.”
“What, sweetie,” Janus prompts when Virgil cuts himself off, “what am I?”
Nope. Because Virgil can’t even use the dark side excuse anymore because now the dark sides are accepted. He has no fucking excuse. He has no justification for why he’s doing this. He’s—he’s—
He’s hurting himself.
“It hurts,” he whispers instead, “m-make it stop.”
“Do you have enough energy to sink out, sweetie?” Virgil shakes his head. “Okay. I need you to stand up for me, honey.”
Getting to his feet is a slow process, Janus murmuring encouragement as they go. He sets Virgil’s hands gently against the stair railing and whispers that he’ll be right back, he just has to grab some things, wait here, please? Virgil lets him go and clutches the railing for dear life, trying to keep the waves of nausea inside thank you very much.
“What do you mean, you haven’t seen him?”
“I knocked on his door, he didn’t answer.”
“So I…tried the knob.”
“I know, I know, I’m not supposed to, but I was worried and he isn’t in there, so—“
“Wait, he’s not in his room?”
“No! That’s the problem!”
“Well then where is he?”
“I don’t know, that’s why I came to find you two!”
No, no, no—
“Stormcloud,” Roman breathes from the top of the stairs, racing down, “there you are, we’ve been looking for you!”
“What’re you doing down here, kiddo,” Patton asks worriedly, “are you…you don’t look so good.”
Logan hustles around the end of the stairs to face him and no, no, Virgil doesn’t want this, not now—
“Virgil,” Logan calls softly and he sounds so much like he cares— “Virgil, are you having trouble standing?”
Virgil nods jerkily.
“Let’s have you sit down, then,” he continues gently, trying to cover up the shake in his voice.
When he doesn’t move, Roman can’t help himself. He walks forward, his arms opening to hover around Virgil’s waist.
“Can I carry you, Stormcloud,” he asks, “just to the couch?”
What does he do? He can’t say no, not when they look so worried. They just keep asking questions, they’ll just—but Janus asked him to wait for him, but standing is so hard and they all look so worried—
He nods again.
Logan carefully places his hands around Roman’s neck as Roman scoops him into a princess carry, heading for the couch. He sits down in the middle, holding Virgil as securely as he can, looking up when Logan crouches in front of them, nervously adjusting his tie. Patton sits on his side, pulling Virgil’s legs into his lap.
“What do we do?” Roman whispers. “I don’t—what do you need, Stormcloud?”
Logan nods encouragingly, still looking at Virgil with his brows drawn until realization dawns on his face.
“Virgil,” he says as he gets up to sit beside Roman, resting his hands on Virgil’s shoulders to encourage him to lean against him, “are you…is your ‘everything machine’ breaking?”
Yeah, that’s what’s happening.
It’s Roman’s turn to have the ‘aha’ moment when he nods, taking one of Virgil’s hands and tenderly pressing a kiss to it. Logan keeps a steady, grounding pressure on his sides as Roman carefully lies him on the couch, going to the kitchen.
“Can you sit up? It’s perfectly alright if you can’t,” Logan assures quickly, “but it might be easier to drink something if you are upright.”
“Thank you,” he murmurs, “we’ll go slowly, alright? If you feel dizzy or light-headed at any point, squeeze my hand and you can lie back down.”
As promised, by the time they’re fully sitting up, Logan’s hand still on his shoulder, Roman’s breezed back in with a tissue box, a glass of water, a glass of orange juice, and a mini french loaf on a tray, set it all down on the coffee table, pulled the table close enough where he can perch on the edge, and reached out to take his hand again. Patton rubs encouraging circles into his knee, murmuring soft words of encouragement.
Virgil can’t move. He doesn’t know what to do. He—they feel so warm, they keep touching him so gently, it—his wings are straining.
He whimpers when Logan’s hand lands on his back and Logan moves away immediately. The loss of contact has him itching to reach out but he can’t can’t can’t—
Virgil blinks, and sure enough, there he is, standing with his hands clasped out of sight. Distantly, Virgil thanks that he’s still trying to keep Virgil’s secret, hiding whatever he has behind his back. He makes eye contact with Virgil and asks a silent question.
Virgil can’t respond.
“Janus,” Patton says, “do you—do you know what’s going on?”
“Can we help,” Roman blurts, “with whatever it is?”
Logan stays silent, gaze going back and forth between Virgil and Janus. Janus doesn’t take his eyes off Virgil.
He’s waiting, Virgil realizes, to see if I’m going to let them help.
…he doesn’t really have a reason not to anymore, does he?
Logan leans closer, his lips barely brushing Virgil’s temple.
“Please,” he whispers, “please, dearheart, let us help care for you.”
It’s loud enough for Janus to hear and he nods sharply, sitting down on the floor and holding out his arms. “You’re going to need to pass him to me. Be careful of his back.”
It takes the other three to get him tucked up against Janus’s chest before they shuffle back, wary. Janus wraps his lowest pair of arms around Virgil’s hips, holding him close.
“You just focus on me, sweetie,” he whispers, much too quiet for the others to hear, “and if you want them gone, you say so, okay?”
“Remus is coming, sweetie, he found me looking for your things.”
“You kept them?”
“Of course we kept them.” Janus rests their foreheads together. “Of course we did.”
Janus holds him close, whispers a few more soft words, until Virgil nods and lets him unzip his hoodie.
He can hear Janus swallow a noise of protest before he nods. “I’m going to have to cut them off, it’s going to hurt too much if we try and pry it off you.”
“Sweetie,” Janus hushes, “you’re losing circulation, it’s not good for you.”
Virgil shudders. “…does that mean you have to cut off m-my shirt too?”
“Do you think you can hold your arms up long enough to get it off?”
Janus holds him tightly. “I’m so proud of you, sweetie, I’ll be gentle, I promise.”
Against his better judgment, Virgil turns and tucks his head into the crook of Janus’s shoulder, breathing in the familiar scent. “…always are.”
“I’m going to need the others to help me, help you, okay?” When Virgil nods, he can feel Janus look at the others, can feel the way his face changes.
“Yes, I’m here.”
“I need you to get Virgil’s hoodie off.”
“O-okay,” Roman says, and Virgil can hear him shuffle up behind them, “is it already unzipped?”
“Here we go, Stormcloud,” Roman says softly, sliding the battered old thing from Virgil’s shoulders like it’s some fine silk garment, “you’re doing great…there. Where should I—“
“On the couch.”
There are a few more rustlings and then Janus’s mouth appears by Virgil’s ear again.
“I’m going to cut them off now. You just hold still for me, alright?” Virgil nods and Janus squeezes him around the waist. “Good.”
He turns his attention to the others. “Virgil has decided to trust you with this. I have decided to trust you with this. Betray that trust and you will not like the consequences. Am I clear?”
Murmured assurances. Then the soft rip, rip, riiiiiip of fabric, and the pressure on his wings releases.
Virgil’s sure Janus is talking from the vibration of his throat and he’s also sure the others are saying something back, but he can’t hear anything right now over the rush of blood in his ears from his wings unfurling, creaking, in all their ugly, dirty glory.
He winces, tries to stretch them, only to hear a cry of dismay from over his shoulder and an ‘oh, sweetie,’ from Janus. The tendon snaps back out of place and his wings slump.
“Virgil,” Janus says next to his ear, “Virgil, Remus is here now. Do you think you can explain what we need to do or would you like us to?”
Virgil should explain. It’s his problem. It’s his responsibility.
But…but it would be nice to not have to…for once. To…to let them take care of him.
He feels another warm hand on his bare side and Remus’s voice in his ear.
“Hey,” Remus says, “you really are a mess right now, huh?”
Coming at any other time, it would be an insult. But right now, laced with concern, Remus’s statement sends a rush of warmth down Virgil’s spine.
“We need to get the tendon reset first,” Remus says. Someone shuffles over to join him. “You know what you’re doing?”
“I think so.” Oh. It’s Logan. Logan knows what he’s doing. Good, good. “Hold still for us, dearheart.”
“Sorry, sorry,” Logan stammers, “but we’ve got it now.”
“You’re gonna be sore for a bit, little monster,” Remus says, “but Logan’s right. You’re all reset now. You wanna stretch it out? Carefully?”
Virgil does, tentatively extending his wing and it—it feels better. Well, it feels bruised and sore and achy—but it feels better.
“It…it’s back,” Virgil says in a strangled whisper, “it’s back.”
“Yes, sweetie,” Janus murmurs, “now let’s get you cleaned up.”
Virgil drifts. In and out. He hears Remus explain how to straighten his feathers, feels two strong steady hands carding through them, Looks up to see Roman, expression more focused than he’s ever seen, sees that expression melt when he catches Virgil’s eyes. Plucks a loose feather out and lays it in a growing pile.
Feels two more on his other side and looks around to see Patton doing the same, running his fingers through the primaries, secondaries, up to the covets, and through the scapulars. Feels his fingers linger just where the tips of the feathers brush Virgil’s bare back, stroking reassuring rhythms where he lands.
Janus still has two of his arms holding Virgil in his lap. With Virgil’s nod, he slowly raises Virgil’s arms above his head again, letting the others have access to the rest of his wings. With his last two hands, he starts smoothing the bottom of his wings, lingering in the spots where Virgil winces, gently tugging and adjusting until everything’s just right.
A flash of movement and he sees Remus over Janus’s shoulder, grabbing a spray bottle and two hairbrushes. He ruffles Virgil’s hair as he goes back around, warning him before he starts gently spraying Virgil’s wings, passing the hairbrushes to Roman and Patton with the instructions to try and get as much of the gunk out as possible.
“You,” Roman murmurs as he works, “are magnificent, Virgil, just look at you.”
“Don’t,” Virgil manages, “please don’t tease.”
“I’m not teasing,” Roman promises, brushing a part of his wing that sends a shudder down his spine, “you’re…you’re—these are spectacular, Virgil, truly.”
Virgil shifts in Janus’s lap. “…ugly.”
“Of course they’re not, what do you…” Roman turns to him. “Stormcloud, who told you that?”
“Falsehood,” comes Logan’s voice from directly behind him, “your wings are indeed quite splendid.”
“Because they’re interesting?”
“Because they are a part of you,” Logan corrects softly, “and yes, because they are interesting.”
“We love you, kiddo.” Patton reaches up to squeeze his hand. “That means all of you, even your wings.”
Virgil opens his mouth to respond when hands slip through his feathers and every breath is stolen from his body.
“Here,” Logan says softly, “are they here?”
“Yep. Feel around in there a little, you should find the—“
Two thumbs swipe over the glands and Virgil shudders, right down to the tips of his wings. Logan pauses, leaning forward and doing it again. Virgil shudders harder, warmth shooting through his body, so warm, so warm. Then Logan’s hands start spreading the oil through his feathers and Virgil can’t.
“Shh,” Janus soothes, holding him tightly, “shh, I know, sweetie, just hold on…you’re doing so well.”
“Be gentle, Logan,” Roman orders, his gaze fixed on Virgil’s face.
“I am.” Logan does it again and Virgil gasps. “This area is simply…sensitive.”
Virgil swallows. “…haven’t…haven’t been able to…to…”
“You have not been able to reach these areas yourself,” Logan finishes when Virgil can’t make words happen anymore, “and so the sensation is heightened by the newness of it.”
Then Roman’s hand brushes over his alula and he whimpers.
“Would I be mistaken in saying this is quite…an intimate action?” Virgil shakes his head at Logan’s question. “Then you do not need to apologize. Trusting others with this level of intimacy is difficult, and you are doing very well.”
“You are, kiddo,” Patton adds when Virgil makes a noise of protest, “and you don’t have anything to be embarrassed about. It’s okay that you’re sensitive, it’s okay.”
“Is this alright, Stormcloud,” Roman asks softly as he keeps brushing the feathers, “can we keep going?”
“Mhm,” Virgil mumbles, head lolling forward, “mhm.”
As they finish removing the clearly damaged feathers, the real grooming starts. Roman and Patton start gently tugging here and there to pull out loose and broken feathers, pushing the ones that are just slightly crooked back into place. The hairbrushes, with nice wooden spokes, split the feathers easily without a snag as Logan carefully works the oil throughout. Remus slips down, carefully spreading the oil over Virgil’s back, kneading out the tension from his sore muscles. Janus holds him steady, murmuring softly.
Virgil floats, punch-drunk on the fuzzy feeling from Logan’s hands, Patton’s hands, Roman’s hands, Remus’s hands, Janus’s hands. It’s so warm, so warm, as he feels the lingering strings of hurt and tension slowly and persistently untangled from his wings.
“I think that’s everything,” comes Logan’s soft voice an uncertain amount of time later, and yet none of the hands move away.
“You’re so pretty, kiddo,” Patton murmurs, running his hands through the feathers, “so, so pretty.”
“Guess you really did dig the purple, huh?” Remus gives Virgil’s hair a ruffle. “I think these are the best these have looked in a while.”
Virgil shifts in Janus’s lap. “…yeah, well…”
Janus shushes him. “It doesn’t matter, now, sweetie. It’s okay.”
“You were hesitant because being vulnerable is hard,” Logan adds, still stroking up and down the joint of his wings, “that isn’t anything to be ashamed of.”
Virgil opens his mouth to reply when Logan’s fingers skitter over the spot right under the joint and he cries out.
Logan raises an eyebrow when Virgil simply shudders, his back arching. Slowly, he does it again, smiling when Virgil all but purrs.
“I think he likes that,” Patton says quietly, “don’t you, kiddo?”
“Where else are you sensitive,” Roman murmurs, scritching his fingers lightly along the top of Virgil’s wing, “where else, Stormcloud?”
“I don’t think he’s got command of words right now,” Remus chuckles.
“If Virgil’s wings are anatomically similar to bird wings,” Logan murmurs, “then…”
Roman’s hand is tangled in his alula. Patton’s hands are rubbing at the crook of his wings. Logan’s thumbs stroke over the oil glands again.
Virgil’s mouth is suddenly very, very dry.
Remus’s thumbs suddenly dig into the space between his shoulder blades, startling a short moan out of him. He hears a chuckle from over his shoulder.
“Does that feel good, dearheart,” Logan murmurs, his nails scraping lightly over the soft skin where Virgil’s wings met his back, “right there?”
Virgil’s only response is a long, low, drawn-out sound that would have been mortifying had he any control over his brain right now.
“Oh, wow,” Patton mumbles from the side.
Roman reaches up and wiggles his fingers next to Logan’s and Virgil keens.
Janus chuckles, lowering Virgil’s arms around his neck and reaching out to scritch lightly at the marginal covets. “You’re about to get spoiled, sweetie,” he murmurs, “you just hang on, hmm?”
Virgil wraps his arms around Janus and holds on for dear life just as fingers wiggle into his axillaries and he freezes.
Then he melts, right into Janus, right into the hands in his wings, the sound physically being ripped out of his chest.
Lips brush the side of his neck like the owner couldn’t stop themselves. The hand on his right twitches violently. From his left comes a long, shuddering breath.
“Oh, Stormcloud—“ Roman, that’s Roman— “you best believe we’re going to spoil you all the time.”
Just like that, everything multiplies. Pats, strokes, kneads, scritches, ruffles, so many so many so many gentle, adoring touches and soft voices in his ears and Virgil flies.