“So there I was, about to hit the high note perfectly, when someone decided it would be funny to throw his million-ton backpack at me and squawk about it,” Roman seethed, gripping harshly at the carpet in his and Remus’s room.
“Yep, and I would do it again!” Remus cackled.
Logan just shook his head. “Weren’t you the one to instigate it, Roman? I can’t think of a time when you two weren’t at each other’s throats.”
“Hey, did you even see the bruise that left on my flawless skin? Whose side are you on anyway, Specs?!”
“You know I never pick sides,” Logan replied.
Remus rolled his eyes. “Oh, get over it, you big baby, it’s not even that big of a bruise!”
“Have at you, then!” Roman cried, pouncing on his brother. Remus just laughed and slung insults. From there, it devolved into them play-fighting like almost every other time they were at odds.
Logan didn’t really mind their endless bantering most days; they were both a lot of fun to be around and were some of his truest friends in the world. Today, however, Logan was too preoccupied to care very much about what they were arguing about. Their senior prom was quickly approaching, and thoughts of one particular person nagged at him with no regard as to what he needed to be thinking about.
“Yo, Dork, you with us?”
Both twins set their concerned gazes upon him. Logan shook his head like an Etch-n-Sketch and replied, “My apologies, I have been a little scattered as of late. Did you ask me something?”
“Yeah, I asked if you had any particular prom plans,” Roman said, taking Logan’s hands. “You have to tell me, has anyone caught your eye?”
“Or your fly?” Remus added with a self-satisfied grin.
“No, this is supposed to be romantic, Remus, God.”
Logan felt his cheeks heating up at the mere mention of it. “Um …”
Roman gleamed. “I’ll take that as a yes! Who is it? Someone we know?”
Logan really didn’t want to talk about his very newly discovered crush on their mutual friend, Virgil. Just like he didn’t want to talk about how he always had such a calming air about him despite him being the most anxious person Logan knew. Or how he shone when he ranted about conspiracy theories. Or how he knew just what to say to Logan to make him question his very being on a near daily basis (in a good way). I really need to get these thoughts under control, he thought, not controlling those thoughts in the slightest. “I think I would rather hear about your plans,” he finally said.
“Oh, is RoRo going to take his new boy toy out for a walk? Maybe a jump? Because I know I’ll be jumping JayJay’s bones on prom night,” Remus said, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively.
Roman blushed. “What, no! Look, we’re not really … boyfriends, per se. And Patton’s not even a boy! We’re still figuring everything out as far as what we wanna call ourselves, alright?” Roman nervously coughed and looked at the carpet. “But uh, yeah, I’m taking Patton.”
“Alright, we spilled, now it’s your turn, E=MC scared! You can’t hide who you’re crushing on forever. I can and will resort to hypnotism,” said Remus, shoving at Logan’s arm gently.
Logan sighed. “Fine, but you have to swear to me that you won’t let this information leave this room,” he said. His palms were getting sweaty, but the twins still nodded. “I … really wanna ask Virgil.”
Two identical jaws gaped before they looked between each other, then looked back to Logan with ecstatic grins. “I knew it!” cried Roman. “I knew you liked him!”
“Was it that obvious?” Logan asked shyly, cheeks heating up.
“What, you mean the way you always look like he’s the only thing that makes life worth living whenever he talks to you? No, not at all,” said Roman.
Remus took Logan by the shoulders and stared at him intensely. “Do you know how you’re going to do it?”
“No, not yet,” said Logan.
Remus’s eyes sparkled. “Then we’re going to help you plan!” He released Logan and rose from where he was sitting to pace. “Now, the best way to tell a guy you like him is to grind on him in public, so jot that down.”
“I … don’t think Virgil would appreciate that.”
Virgil knew that something would go wrong if he let Janus and Patton come over today.
Tests and senior project planning had left him so stressed these past few weeks, which made it even worse when his binder’s clasps snapped during the middle of gym. At least Janus was kind enough to shield him from onlookers until they got to the locker room and Patton used some of their favorite paperclips to help hold him together until he got home. They both worked to calm him down out of the panic attack that resulted. Virgil tried to insist that he’d be fine to go home on his own, but neither of them would take no for an answer.
And now, here they all were, entangled in Virgil’s living room and watching TV, mostly ignoring the soap opera that was on in favor of talking about nothing in particular. Though their idle chatter was usually enough to keep Virgil grounded, it wasn’t working so well today. Especially not when the p-word was brought up.
“I can’t believe it’s almost time for prom!” Patton squealed. “I’m so excited to get to go with Roman! I just can’t wait to have fun with all of you! We’ll take so many funny pictures together and dance the night away!”
“I take it your relationship is going well, then?” Janus asked.
“Mhm! We still have a bit to talk about, but I think we’re both ready to take this step with a little two-step. Are either of you going to be taking anyone?”
Janus smirked. “Oh, of course not, the thought hadn’t even crossed my mind to ask Remus to be my date for the evening,” he said.
“Well, you two have fun with that. I don’t think anyone would ever ask me out,” Virgil added. It was almost worth it to just skip the whole thing to avoid having to confront his feelings about this ostentatious pageantry head on, but he did at least want to be there for his friends.
“Not even Logan?” Patton asked. “He wouldn’t turn you down, and if it makes you more comfortable, I’m sure he’d be more than happy to go with you as a friend!”
If only Patton knew just how much Virgil wanted to ask Logan just that; he’d always felt that there was something different between them, if for nothing more than Logan’s ability to put him at ease with his mere presence, and his willingness to debate the validity of his favorite conspiracy theories and cryptids. But something had changed between them lately. At least, Virgil felt like something had changed. He was fully aware of how Logan couldn’t seem to look at him for too long, or how he tried to force distance between them whenever he realized they were too close. He rarely stuck around when it was just the two of them now, always citing some prior obligation that needed tending to.
“I dunno, Pat, I get the feeling he doesn’t like me anymore,” Virgil said, hugging his knees to his chest.
Patton muted the TV and turned to Virgil, warm brown eyes full of concern. “Virgil, you know that’s not true.”
Virgil grumbled, nestling into his knees further. “I’m not sure that I do.”
“Come now, I know for a fact that Logan likes you! He’s always so excited to talk to you, and he always researches the things you two talk about! I’m sure he’s just been busy lately. Do you want me to talk to him for you?”
“Patton, you’re mothering him again,” Janus said.
“What, no I’m not, I’m being a supportive friend.”
Virgil stared at the silent soap opera in front of him. It was nothing in comparison to the soap opera that his life was becoming. “Can we please just change the subject?”
“If you promise to talk to Logan yourself about this,” Janus replied.
“Only if you promise to help me,” countered Virgil.
The next day at lunch, Janus and Remus sat talking in the cafeteria as Patton and Roman strolled toward them, arm in arm.
“It isn’t right that they put three tests on the same day! I declare mutiny!” Remus yelled, raising a fist to the ceiling.
“Count me in,” added Janus. As soon as he noticed the couple walking toward them, he looked at them strangely. “This isn’t your lunch period, why are you two here?”
“We’re stopping by long enough to get your help with something,” Roman said.
Remus’s eyes sparkled. “Ooh, arson?” he squealed.
Disregarding this, Roman said, “I think we all know that there are obviously two dorks in our friend group who really need to air their dumb feelings out. Patton and I have some ideas to get it rolling, but we need you two to help make it foolproof.”
“Then you might want to remove yourself from the equation,” said Janus smugly.
Roman narrowed his eyes. “Hey, no back-sass, black bass!”
“Roman?” Patton said sweetly, leaning against Roman. “Let’s just give them our list and see if they have any ideas.” They took a slightly crumpled and folded piece of paper out of their overall’s front pocket and handed it to Janus. Roman just grumbled, but silently acquiesced.
Janus grabbed the paper and unfolded it. “Thank you, Patton. Now, let’s see what we’re working with …” He looked over the messy list, squinting where some of the writing overlapped and making the occasional, “Mhm.” Remus leaned over him to get a better look but ended up looking more confused now that he could see it. “Can you please explain what you mean by ‘the jello plan?’”
“Oh, yeah! So we were thinking we could get them alone on a jello date, like those cute couples did in the 50’s!” Patton gleamed.
“Correct me if I’m wrong, but Virgil doesn’t like jello, does he?” Janus asked.
Patton’s expression fell. “Oh yeah …”
“It’s okay, Pat, it’s not like it was the only plan we came up with,” Roman consoled, rubbing Patton’s back.
Remus took the list and brought it close to his face. “None of these are daring enough to get those two dorks to talk,” he said. “Too complex! No no no, what you need is something so simple they’ll never even see it coming.”
“What do you mean?” asked Patton.
“I swear to god if you make this a sex thing, Remus, I will personally skin you alive,” Roman added.
Remus waved a dismissive hand. “Yeah, get back to me when you actually grow the cojones to do that.”
Janus patted Remus on the shoulder gently. “Yes, thank you for your insight darling. Elaborate schemes are only fun if you’re a villain. Why pull out the frivolity where a mere devious plan will do? And I may just have one that could work, so listen up.” Janus explained his thoughts as Patton furiously scribbled it down. After spending the rest of their lunch period scheming, they finally had a working plan.
If anyone had told Logan that he would be locked in a closet with his crush and a crap ton of rose petals scattered on the floor today, he would’ve scoffed. The mere thought of such an occurrence was infinitesimal at best, and abysmal at its most realistic.
Unfortunately for him, that’s exactly where he ended up.
It started innocuously enough, with Roman inviting him and Virgil over to his house later that day to help Roman and Patton get an idea of what they wanted to wear to prom. Initially, Logan was hesitant to accept. He had exactly one fashion formula that he rarely deviated from, and Roman would likely seek to push that, which would render his judgement useless. And knowing Roman, it would probably involve a cape.
Still, he accepted after Virgil did. He’d been so busy lately, so any extra time he got to spend with Virgil among his friends was worth it in his eyes, even as Roman and Patton were pushing them into Roman’s gigantic closet and locking the door behind them. “We’re only doing this for your own good!” Patton said through the door.
“Yeah, so while you two hash it out, I’m gonna take Patton for some snacks. Do you want anything while we’re gone?” Roman added.
Virgil growled. “Yeah, I wanna throttle you within an inch of your life for locking me in a goddamn closet!” He tugged as hard as he could against the doorknob, but it didn’t budge.
Roman laughed. “Too bad, I don’t think anyone makes that flavor, Virge. Have fun you twooooo,” he said, voice tapering off at the end.
Virgil snarled at the door and sat down, cradling his head in his hands and rocking back and forth. “I don’t believe them, locking us in here like this!”
“At least they left the lights on,” Logan mused.
“Yeah, thanks for the update.”
Logan flushed a little. He hadn’t spent this much time alone with Virgil since he discovered he had feelings for him. Now being trapped here with him was making him face it head on with the added challenge of somehow being comforting. “Um … I’m sorry we’re in this situation,” he tried.
“Me, too,” Virgil said, looking away.
“Are you alright?”
“What can I do to help?”
Virgil looked at him with such a pained expression that it nearly made Logan’s heart break. “Break down the door? I don’t know!”
Logan nodded. “If that’s what it takes to calm you down. I offer no guarantees to this plan’s success,” he said, backing up as much as the space would allow. He took a running start toward the door. His shoulder collided with it hard, but the door didn’t budge. It did, however, promise to leave a bruise. He repeated the plan to the same outcome, and one final time for good measure. After the last attempt, he sank to the floor against the door, huffing and clutching his shoulder. “I-I’m sorry, Virgil.”
“Ugh, why did they do this to us?” Virgil asked, looking miserable through his fringe.
“If I recall, Roman said we have something to ‘hash out.’ And um … I think I might know what it is.” Logan blushed redder than the rose petals strewn about.
Virgil looked at him strangely. “You do?”
Logan nodded, refusing to meet Virgil’s gaze. “Before I start, let me just say you don’t have to say anything back. And if I make a fool of myself, I hope you can forgive me. But um … I …” Logan couldn’t find his voice. “I hhhhhhh—"
“Let me guess. You hate me?” Virgil asked sadly.
Logan’s eyes widened. “No, I, uh … it’s quite the opposite, actually …” He wondered if he was about to catch fire.
Virgil straightened his back a little and cleared his bangs from his eyes. “What are you saying, Logan?” Logan could barely make out a hint of a blush on Virgil’s cheeks.
“I … I wanttotakeyoutoprom.”
Logan was only met with stunned silence and a gaping jaw. Virgil shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts like scribbles from an Etch-n-Sketch. “A-are you being serious?” Virgil asked.
Logan nodded, not trusting his mouth to make coherent words. Instead, he met Virgil’s gaze head on.
Virgil’s entire face was red. “W-well that’s a relief,” he said, looking down at the floor and playing with some of the rose petals.
“… It is?” Logan asked. That … was not a response he expected.
Virgil nodded and smiled. “Yeah. All of that weird behavior was just because you wanted to ask me to prom … I guess it makes more sense than you suddenly hating my guts.” Virgil’s smile fell a little. “Are you just asking me because you feel bad for me?”
Logan shook his head frantically. “No, of course not! I asked you because I genuinely want to go with you. If you would have me, that is,” Logan said, fiddling with his tie and trying not to spontaneously combust.
Virgil was silent for a few agonizing seconds. “Okay,” he said resolutely. “Sounds fun. And a shit ton better than going with some stranger or going alone, I guess.”
“That is more than adequate. I look forward to going with you,” Logan gleamed. Briefly, he wondered if it were possible for a heart to sing, because his was wailing on the Love Theme from Romeo and Juliette.
The lock clicked, making both of them jump. In an instant, they were both on their feet and about to barrel through the door when Patton and Roman walked through. “Finally! I didn’t think our plan would work this soon. We must be really good planners, eh Pat?” Roman said.
Patton shrugged and looked between Logan and Virgil. “I think I care a little more about how you two are right now. Did you talk everything out? Are you okay?” they asked, a slightly worried look on their face.
Logan noticed Patton’s eyes were red. “We are mostly unharmed, if that’s what you’re asking. And we did talk. Patton, have you been crying?”
Patton looked sheepishly at their shoes. “Maybe …”
“At least I know you’re sorry about this, Pat, but that was still a dirty trick, you two,” Virgil grumbled, hunching in on himself.
“Oh, lighten up, Dark Side of the Fume! We got you both snacks and we decided we wanted to help you coordinate outfits for the big night!” Roman said. “You don’t even have to concern yourselves with the price, that’s just how generous I’m being.”
“I suggested the make-up gifts,” Patton pouted.
Roman kissed their cheek, which was enough to get them giggling. “I know, dear heart.”
“Ugh, you two are so lovey-dovey it’s sickening,” Virgil said.
Logan was repulsed by the mere idea of clothes shopping; clothes were for function, after all. He supposed it didn’t matter much if the others were going to help with it, but why bother when what he wore normally was formal enough?
“Because it’s a special occasion, Lo!” Patton said.
“D-did I say that out loud?”
“Alright, so I was thinking—” Logan tuned Roman’s voice out. He couldn’t care less about what he wore. All he cared about was Virgil. The two shared a tentative look, both still a little flushed and awkward from their closet encounter. Behind that, though, there was an understanding.
A sharp snap jolted them back into the room. “Hey, earth to the Dweeb Duo,” Roman snapped. “I am giving you the best suggestions for matching ensembles and yet you two are off making out with your eyes? And in front of poor Patton!” He fell onto his bed with his palm on his head, doing his best swooning Southern Belle impression. Patton just shrugged and grinned at Roman’s antics.
“If we have to listen to you ramble on about capes one more time, I swear to God Roman. And we weren’t making out with our eyes, no more than you and Patton do,” Virgil growled.
“Okay, not everything I recommend includes a cape! Though it is one of the most regal accessories to any outfit, I do know that’s not either of your styles. Plus, I will obviously outshine you all with my own caped cohh-styoom.”
“Roman, come on now. We’ll all be there to complement each other,” Patton said, “but even without a fancy cohh-styoom, you still shine brighter than the sun in my world.” They beamed at Roman so genuinely, which in turn had Roman blushing and smiling.
“You know what? I think that’s all that really matters to me because you’re my world, Pat,” Roman replied, gently kissing Patton’s forehead. Patton giggled.
Virgil snapped his fingers. “Hey! Seriously? Can’t you two at least wait for us to leave before doing even more of that mushy stuff?”
“Perhaps we should just show ourselves out,” Logan offered.
Patton frowned. “Aww, please don’t go, I’m sorry if we made you two uncomfortable!”
Roman rested a hand on Patton’s shoulder. “I think we should let them go, sunshine. They do have a lot of planning to talk through before the big day gets here,” he lilted. “We can always talk suits later. At least take your snacks, though.” Roman tossed them two bags of fancy chips.
“Great, thanks, let’s go, Lo,” Virgil said, grabbing Logan’s wrist and tugging him toward the bedroom door. Logan quickly followed suit. They almost made it there, too, before Remus, dressed like Cupid, nearly sent the door through the wall and them flying back.
“Is it time to shoot these two dorks? Please say yes,” Remus said, pulling out a tiny bow and aiming the arrow at Logan.
“Everything went according to plan, so no. Put that down before you kill someone,” Roman said, quickly running to the door. He smacked the weapon out of Remus’s hands.
Remus blew a raspberry at Roman and snatched the bow from the ground, slinging it over his head to rest on his shoulder. “You never let me have any fun!” He put his hands on his hips with a devilish smile, his annoyance all but forgotten. “So. You two gonna go with whatever boring suits Roman picks out, or are you going to go with a titties out look, like this dashing ensemble?” he asked, gesturing to himself. “It’s just so freeing to let it all swing loose.”
Virgil immediately tensed. “Absolutely not,” he replied.
Remus picked up on the subtle change almost instantly and put his hands up. “My bad. I’m sure whatever you end up with will do wonders for you, Virge.”
“Yeah, thanks. Now can we please leave …?” Virgil pled.
Remus stepped aside with a halfway remorseful look, and Virgil and Logan took the opportunity, nearly running down the stairs and through the foyer. Once they were out of Roman and Remus’s house, Logan felt like he could breathe again. One look at Virgil told him the relief was mutual.
“Look, I—” Virgil started.
“Look, I—" Logan said at the same time.
Both hushed. “Um, you first,” Virgil mumbled, glancing between Logan and the ground.
Logan cleared his throat and said, “Despite the very misguided efforts of our friends to get us to this conclusion, I … I’m really looking forward to sharing this upcoming experience with you.”
“Me too, L. It’ll be fun going with as good a friend as you,” Virgil replied with a blushy, lopsided grin.
Logan’s blood ran frigid but didn’t let that change reach his face when he returned Virgil’s smile. “… Yes, as friends.”
The next few weeks passed uncomfortably fast for Logan. He couldn’t work up the nerve to correct the miscommunication of his romantic intent, which made every subsequent interaction with Virgil feel like sand was scratching beneath his skin. He hadn’t even noticed when Roman picked out suits for them, ones that apparently “suited them” well (Patton’s words, not his), until he was shoving it into Logan’s hands. Just like that, the big night pounced on them.
Logan promised to pick Virgil up at six, which left him just enough time to go out after extracurriculars and pick up the personalized boutonnieres he had the foresight to order earlier in the week. Since he didn’t remember the color of Virgil’s suit, he opted for a bouquet of deep blues and purples and hoped that their favorite colors in flower form would work well enough. Thankfully, the clerk that handed them to him wasn’t one to ask why he got two of the same thing. Logan was running ahead of schedule, which left enough time to apply one boutonniere, overthink, dread, and worry at the same time, now with the luxury of being in a navy-blue suit with florally embroidered lapels.
“Uh, Lo? You in there?” He didn’t even realize he’d made it to Virgil’s front door until Virgil spoke. He stared at him, confused.
“Oh, um, yes. It is six o’clock. And this is for you,” Logan stiffly said, attempting to free the other boutonniere from its plastic prison. It took a good minute of fumbling for him to accomplish the task, but in the end, he neatly pinned it to Virgil’s lapel. He only then noticed what Virgil was wearing: a deceptively dark purple suit with glistening silver pinstripes. It suited him perfectly. “You look very handsome.”
“Thanks, so do you. Good color choices for the boutonnieres, too,” Virgil replied with a smile, examining it a little closer.
Logan offered his hand. “Shall we go? It’s nearly time for it to start.”
Virgil took it graciously, making Logan’s hand burn from the touch of unrequited love. “Sure, sounds great.”
The two walked hand in anxious hand the fifteen blocks it took to reach the venue, idly chatting amongst themselves. Logan let Virgil do most of the talking; it seemed like he’d been exceptionally focused on ghosts and their types most recently. All the while, Logan wondered what it would be like if he hadn’t miscommunicated his intentions. Would Virgil love him back? Would they share a romantic evening together without a care in the world? Or would their friendship end because Logan might fail to bury those feelings?
Before Logan knew it, they had arrived at the country club the school had rented out for the event. A gaudy, glittering archway stretched over the opened doors, and light, thumping music poured out of the venue. Patton and Roman stood hand in hand outside the door, Patton dressed in a baby blue ballgown that had to be mostly taffeta, and Roman in a white tuxedo with red embellishments that were similar to Logan’s. One turn in their direction flashed Roman’s red satin cape. The two waved Virgil and Logan over. Of course he wore a cape, Logan thought to himself with an eye roll.
“Over here, Plebes!” Roman called.
Virgil scoffed. “I see someone went overboard on being extra.”
“Oh, shut it, you know you love the cape. Everyone loves a man in a cape,” Roman countered, puffing and preening with a smile.
“I think we all look wonderful!” Patton cheered. “Let’s go have some fun!”
“Wait,” Logan said, “where are Remus and Janus?”
Roman huffed. “Remus said they were too good to just sit around and wait for a couple of repressed nerds to go in and start their magical evening. Now are you coming or not?”
“Obviously. Why else would we be here?”
Virgil grinned at the quip, a genuine, toothy smile. Logan’s heart skipped a beat at the sight. He’d do anything to make Virgil happy, maintain any façade if it meant he could always see the miracle of nature that was Virgil’s smile. He offered his arm, which Virgil somewhat warily took. “Man, L, I didn’t think you’d be one for this kind of thing,” he said. “It’s just … um, not that I don’t like it.”
Logan returned Virgil’s smile and led the way through the doors. The grand room was lit with hundreds of strings of fairy lights, dully illuminating all their garishly dressed classmates as they gyrated against each other. He scoffed at banner at the back reading A Night to Remember. This truly was such flippant pageantry to assume that everyone would remember this night. Despite it, Logan was actually quite pleased with his company.
“Real classy, eh Logan?” Virgil commented.
“It isn’t what I would classify as classy , especially with all the undignified behavior by our companions,” Logan replied. He motioned to where Remus, dressed in an entirely too-short black and green strapless dress writhed against Janus. Did he seriously have a cape, too? What was it with the twins and being as “extra” as possible?
Virgil scrunched his nose. “Can’t they get a room?”
Logan chuckled, but offered no other response. He didn’t quite know how to respond to that, or to deal with the awkwardness between himself and Virgil, but he could deflect. “Um, I’m not well-versed in prom rituals, do you know if there’s something we’re supposed to do first?”
Virgil walked until he was in front of Logan, gazing fondly into his eyes. “No, we’re just supposed to relax and have fun. How about we get something to drink first and go from there?”
Logan nodded, and the pair strode to the refreshment table to the right to grab a glass of punch before heading over to an unoccupied table in a quiet corner. Logan set his glass down on the table and, in true gentlemen’s fashion, slid a chair out from under the table. “After you,” Logan said. Virgil graciously accepted the gesture and sat. Logan pushed his chair in and took a seat in the adjoining one, silently nursing his punch while trying to focus on anything but how awkward he felt.
Despite the copious noise thudding near-painfully through his skull, Logan still startled when Virgil cleared his throat. Virgil gave him a surprised look. “Woah, are you alright, L? You seem … jumpy tonight,” Virgil asked.
“N-no, I am perfectly alright, thank you.” Logan took a sip of punch to hopefully put Virgil’s mind at ease, or at least get the suspicion off his back. Unfortunately for him, however, fate was determined to make him the jester of the cosmic play tonight as he choked on his drink and spit it all over himself and Virgil, who recoiled at the sensation. “O-Oh no, I’m so sorry, let me, um— napkins!” Logan gestured to the refreshments table.
Logan ran back to the refreshments table faster than he knew he could. He never thought he’d get to explore the effects of adrenaline firsthand like this, but here he was, shakily grabbing all the napkins he could carry. There was no way he could’ve predicted the absolute disaster that came after he turned back.
He ran back towards Virgil with the same ferocity as before, although on a different route, since the more direct one he’d taken before was now cluttered with people. The whole area was full of people to dodge now, leaving him bobbing and weaving through the crowd to get back to Virgil. As he came into view, Logan suddenly realized the world was quickly moving upward. The floor rushed up to meet him faster than he could process, so he didn’t immediately process the wind being knocked from his lungs or the pain of the impact. All he could process was the eerie, out-of-place quiet of everything around him.
Where was the music?
He raised his head, the motion feeling sluggish and heavy, and noticed all the eyes fixed on him. Even the deejay had paused his set to get a good look at Logan lying amongst his nest of napkins. Suddenly, the room was too confined, the air too thin, even as Virgil was rushing over to him to help him up.
Virgil was talking, but Logan couldn’t hear anything but his heart racing thunderously in his ears.
He couldn’t focus on anything else but his quivering limbs.
He couldn’t recover from this.
He scrambled to his feet and ran before the tears that pricked at the corners of his eyes could roll. He didn’t know where his feet carried him, only concerned with getting out of that constricting too-quiet. When he finally stopped and looked around, he was surrounded by distant trees, ornate topiaries, and a dusky purple sky. The ground was smooth, solid rock, and there were several simple stone gates where the villa ended. All above him, Edison bulbs hung on thin strings, bathing the whole place in a warmth he didn’t deserve.
Logan’s huffing slowed and stuttered, phasing into silent sobs that shook him to his core. He crumpled to the ground and tucked his knees as close to his chest as he could manage. If only there were a way for him to just curl in on himself until he disappeared, he would’ve done that without a moment’s hesitation. He ruined the evening for Virgil, and they hadn’t even been there for ten minutes yet. He wouldn’t be surprised if Virgil left him there to rot in his misery after all this. So, for a while, Logan tried to turn his mind off and just breathe in the cool night air.
Virgil knew something was up with Logan since the closet incident. He’d been personable enough, but he seemed more distant than he normally was. He rarely spoke unless he was personally addressed, even missing the opportunity to correct Roman on his use of the word penultimate yesterday. Virgil initially chalked it up to being nervous about the upcoming prom, a sentiment that was soon confirmed when the long-awaited evening came.
What he didn’t expect, however, was Logan falling apart so spectacularly over something that arguably wasn’t that big of a deal. Sure, no one liked being in a wet tuxedo, and no one liked falling and being at the center of attention, but by the time Logan had brushed him off and ran off, everyone had gone back to business as usual. Roman and Patton found Virgil quickly, and they all stared for a moment after Logan.
“What was that all about?” Roman asked, squinting. “Did you do something Remus told you to do?”
Virgil recoiled. “What? No!”
“Then what happened?”
“I … I dunno. He was acting all jittery and tripped when he went to get some napkins to dry us off,” Virgil replied, tugging at his sticky, cloyingly scented jacket. “He’s been acting weird since someone decided it would be a good idea to lock us in a closet.”
Roman put his hands up. “Woah, hold on there, that was to get you two to confess your undying love for each other, how could you even insinuate that it was a bad idea? It worked, didn’t it? ”
A thick moment passed between them. “We were supposed to what? ”
“Confess your undying love for each other,” Roman repeated.
Virgil’s eyes widened. Confess their undying love? Nothing even remotely close to that had actually happened. Logan asked him to prom, nothing more, nothing less. But the more Virgil thought about it, less things seemed to add up. If it were just a friendly invite, why would they have locked them in a closet to get them to talk? Why were there rose petals strewn about? Why would Remus have shown up wearing a Cupid outfit right after? And … why did Logan look like his world got ripped out from under him as soon as Virgil reaffirmed that he was happy to go with as good a friend as him?
“Yo, Buzz Lightyear, come back to Earth. You’re acting like this is a surprise,” Roman said, startling Virgil out of his thoughts.
Patton touched Roman’s arm. “Darling, I think it may have been,” they softly said, a concerned look settling on their features.
Virgil just stood there, mouth agape. Logan, sweet, stoic Logan, had a crush on him? The notion was almost inconceivable; he was almost entirely certain his sentiments had been one-sided. “Y-you’re telling me … Logan like-likes me?” he stuttered.
Roman looked at him incredulously. “He seriously didn’t tell you? Jeez, no wonder he’s been acting weird.”
Virgil didn’t quite know what to say. That knowledge would have to wait, though, because right now, he needed to find Logan. “I’m gonna—”
“Go find him. You may be the only one he listens to right now,” Patton agreed.
Virgil nodded and ran after where he had last seen Logan going. The crowd in the middle of the room slowed him down quite a bit, making him veer to and fro to avoid running into his unfortunate peers. After about a minute of seamlessly navigating that minefield with a barrage of half-assed excuse me’s, he came to stride down a near labyrinthine corridor. “Logan?” he called. The sound echoed oddly in the space, but no other sound could be heard. “Jeez, how big is this place?” He checked all the doors for any signs that Logan had dipped into one of them. Unsurprisingly, they were almost all locked. Virgil could feel his palms getting sweatier with each locked knob, and his mind began to race into all kinds of unlikely scenarios.
Logan ran into one of these rooms and locked it behind him and won’t answer me.
Logan ran out into traffic and got hurt.
Logan opened one of these doors and it turned into a wormhole.
Logan got abducted by aliens.
Logan opened one of the doors and then the aliens got him.
Logan. Logan. Logan. Logan. Logan—
Virgil finally looked through the glass door at the end of the hall. There, sitting curled up on the cold ground outside, was Logan. He breathed a sigh of relief and ran as fast as his legs could carry him to the door. “Logan!” Virgil cried.
The boy in question jumped when his name was called, but he didn’t bother to turn around or acknowledge that Virgil was there. Virgil still strode toward him, determined to help set things right. He sat down beside him, at first only assessing. Logan rocked softly back and forth, not lifting his head from his knees. His chest heaved rapidly, no doubt hyperventilating. “Lo, are you okay?”
Logan shook his head lightly.
“Can you tell me what you need?”
Logan once again shook his head.
Virgil sat there for a moment, trying to think of what Logan would do for him if he were in this exact same situation. Breathing first. “Lo, can you breathe with me for a minute?” Virgil softly asked.
Logan didn’t stop rocking, but didn’t indicate a no, so Virgil steadily, loudly breathed in for four seconds, held for four seconds, and exhaled for four seconds until Logan followed. “Good, you’re doing great, let’s keep that up for three more rounds, okay?”
Logan nodded, rocking a bit less adamantly than before. Virgil continued calmly coaching him through the breathing exercises he knew so well until Logan stilled. “Good job. How are you feeling?”
Logan pulled out his phone, opened the notes app, and started typing. He turned the screen toward Virgil so he could see what he’d written. Awful. But calmer.
“Because of what happened in there?”
Logan nodded. You didn’t have to come scrape me off the floor. Or talk to me ever again, for that matter.
“What are you talking about? I couldn’t just leave you like this, Lo, I thought we understood one another better than that. One slip-up doesn’t mean I’m gonna leave you for it.”
I… Logan’s fingers paused. He chewed at his lip. But your jacket, I ruined it!
Virgil shook his head and smiled softly. “Look, the jacket isn’t anywhere near as important as you are to me. It can always be washed. But um … Are you okay? You took quite a tumble in there.”
I am relatively unharmed. He paused. At least let me pay to have your suit cleaned, I can pull a few extra shifts—
“No, it was an accident. And look, you can’t even see it! This thing is pretty darkly colored, I guess Roman knew I’d probably end up spilling something on myself by the end of this shindig. Speaking of Roman …” Logan perked up a little at this. “He said the most interesting thing earlier. Wanna hear about it?” he asked.
“Remember two weeks ago when we were in the closet together?”
Logan nodded. As if I could forget.
Virgil laughed softly. “Well, he said that it was supposed to be our chance to confess to each other. Can you believe it?”
Logan frowned and shrunk a little. Yes, I can. I understand if my sentiments aren’t shared, but please don’t torture me like this.
The misstep made the air around them press in on Virgil just a bit. “I should’ve worded that a little better … What I mean is, I don’t know how they knew I was … crushing on you, too,” Virgil said, trying to hide a blush. “Didn’t know that’s what you were trying to say, either. Dunno how I’m gonna make up for that, but I think I might have an idea.”
Virgil stood suddenly and slid out of his suit coat, turning to face Logan. He offered him a hand. “Logan Sanders, may I have this dance?”
Logan looked absolutely awestruck , his jaw slack and cheeks reddening. “N-no mmmmusic,” he slowly said, his voice sounding a little awkward coming from his mouth.
Virgil just smiled and pulled out his phone, pulling up YouTube and starting some nice, slow jazz. “How’s that?” He set his phone on the ground, extending his hand to Logan again.
A few bars of the song passed between them, low and lilting. It was spellbinding how the melody sharpened the contours of Logan’s face in the low light and highlighted his blush, and how it tugged the corners of his mouth into a real, heartfelt smile. He put his phone next to Virgil’s, grabbed his hand, and Virgil hauled him up until their chests were pressed against each other.
“Mmm,” Logan replied. He put his hand on Virgil’s hip and the other on his shoulder.
Virgil draped his arms around Logan’s neck.
And stood there.
“Logan?” Virgil asked.
Logan looked at him. “Mmm?”
“Do you know how to dance?”
Logan looked down bashfully. “Mm-mm.”
Virgil smiled. “Here, L, let’s switch positions and I’ll lead,” he said. “Put your arms around my neck like I did with you, and I’ll put my hands where you had yours. Is that okay?” Logan nodded and repositioned. “Good, just like that. Oh, and one more thing.”
“One more thing?” Logan asked, squinting.
Virgil leaned in close and whispered, “Relax. I’ve got you.”
Logan nodded and softly repeated, “Relax, I’ve got you.” He nearly melted against Virgil, likely in an effort to take it literally, but Virgil didn’t mind that or his echolalic reply. He led them into a slow sway in time with the music, gentle and effortless, wordlessly carried by the melodies that passed them by. The easy motion would give Logan ample time to calm himself and regain his normal speech.
“Virgil?” Logan timidly asked.
The two were starting on their sixth song, adapting their movements as the tempo changed. Virgil had long since rested his head in the crook of Logan’s shoulder, content to just be close to him.
“Yeah?” Virgil replied.
Logan cleared his throat. “I-I love you.”
“I love you, too, nerd,” Virgil chuckled. “God, it feels good to say that.”
“I, um … Would it be okay if I …”
Virgil pulled back enough to peer at Logan. “What would you like to do?”
Logan’s face was entirely red now, and he refused to meet Virgil’s gaze. Virgil instantly understood, feeling his own heart skip a beat. “Oh, y-yeah, that. Sounds lit,” he replied.
“Wonderful,” Logan agreed. Again, the pair stood there, the dance long forgotten amid the awkwardness. “Um, how do people usualmmph—!”
Virgil cut him off with a sudden, gentle kiss. Logan tensed a bit, but quickly melted into Virgil’s lips, soft and sensual. In that moment, nothing in the world mattered to Virgil but the feeling of Logan against him and the fullness in his chest, and the slightly chapped texture of Logan's lips.
They pulled apart after what may have been seconds or years, just gazing fondly at each other for a moment before diving in again, deeper this time. Virgil tangled his fingers in Logan’s hair, and Logan was gripping at the back of Virgil’s shirt like a lifeline. He didn’t even care that Logan’s boutonniere was digging into his chest anymore. Virgil parted his lips, snaking his tongue between them and brushing against Logan’s. Logan opened up to the sensation, and it was all Virgil could do to not devour him.
“Well it’s about time you two smooched,” came a familiar voice from the garden.
The pair startled at the sudden intrusion, jumping away from each other as fast as they could. Remus peeped his head around one of the topiaries with a self-satisfied grin. Virgil let out the breath he’d been holding. “Oh, Remus, it’s just you.”
Remus popped out fully from behind the hedge, looking as classy as he had when they’d seen him earlier, but missing his cape. “Not just me.”
“You couldn’t keep this between us?” came Janus’s voice.
“Ah come on, they all knew our plans anyway, what’s the big deal?”
Janus walked out from behind the topiary looking positively rumpled and shook his head. “I suppose you do have a point, love,” he said, hugging Remus from behind.
“Wait, you’re telling me you two were behind there the whole time? ” Virgil cried.
Logan just gaped.
“Had to find somewhere to see how this fine stallion rides,” Remus commented, leaning back against Janus.
Virgil just stood there and stared at them. Only a few feet away, while he and Logan were sharing an intimate moment, they were over in the bushes, doing unspeakable things to each other. That made him a little uneasy, but that kind of commitment was a big deal for Remus; Virgil supposed he could try to find a way to live with unknowingly being privy to their intimate affairs. Thankfully, Janus came around and grabbed Remus’s wrist, leading him toward the inside, Remus's cape fluttering behind him. “We’ll leave you two lovebirds be. Feel free to join us once you’ve got all that … sentiment out in the open,” he said, opening the door. Remus gave a little finger wave as they disappeared through the door.
The pair looked between themselves and the door, waiting for the cosmic joke to be revealed, but none came. The privacy they were afforded, however, had them closing the gap between them once again, reveling in the warm comfort of each other’s lips and embrace.
It took a good minute for them to realize the music had stopped.
It took no time at all to realize that neither of them cared as long as they had each other.