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Brave

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Later, Virgil will thank fate that he had fallen asleep with his phone under his pillow. 

Now, he wakes to the sound of buzzing in his ear, and he groans, hand searching for the phone. He fumbles underneath the pillow and fishes the phone out, groaning again when he sees it’s Roman calling. He glances at the time: 2am. The after party will have been well under way, and he prepares himself for another drunken phone call.

But, when he picks up, there’s an odd stilted silence. No shouting, no singing. All Virgil can make out is Roman’s unsteady breathing, and a jolt of uneasiness has him wide awake, sitting up in bed.

“Hey. Hello? Roman?”

“Virrr...Virgil, sorry, I think- I lost my keys...sorry. Please let me in?”

There’s the usual slur to his voice (it’s well known Roman enjoys a few too many drinks after a successful theatre run), but Virgil can’t bring himself to complain. His gut is telling him something is wrong.

“Yeah, sure, no problem,” he replies quickly. He throws on his hoodie and wiggles his feet into his slippers. “I’m coming.”

He hurries downstairs, taking them two at a time. He opens up the locked front door and sees Roman standing there, shoulders hunched, swaying slightly. When he notices Virgil, his whole posture relaxes.

“Thanks,” is all he says.

Virgil nods and then, from the light of his phone, spies a glint of something silver on the ground.

“Look. You must have dropped your keys.”

Roman blinks slowly. “Oh. Yeah, I...yeah.” 

He bends down and picks them up, and Virgil’s worry increases at the sight of Roman’s shaking hands. He tightens his hoodie around himself, the night air biting, and reaches for Roman’s arm.

“Come on, let’s get inside, it’s freezing.”

They make their unsteady way up the stairs, and Virgil guides Roman into the kitchen, setting him down on a chair. He goes to the sink, and begins the usual routine after any party, filling up a glass of water.

“Okay, take it easy, you’ve just had a bit too much to drink and-”

When Virgil turns around, the bottom drops out of his stomach. Roman has one hand over his mouth, and he’s shaking with the effort of keeping his sobs silent. Virgil is reeling. This isn’t Roman at all. He’s should be happy and light, loud, boisterous, not curled in on himself and hiding.

Because Virgil is all too familiar with the act of making yourself small and quiet. This isn’t right. And, as Roman continues to tremble, Virgil realises this is a practiced effort, and his heart clenches at the thought of this happening before, and no-one being able to hear...

“Hey! Hey hey hey, Roman, what the-” 

Virgil sets the glass down and goes to him. Roman shakes his head, keeping his mouth covered. “I’m fine, I’m okay, leave it, Virgil, I’m-”

“You’re not fine.”

Virgil takes a deep breath, and lets instinct guide him. He reaches for Roman’s arms, and gently tugs until his hands are no longer hiding his face. Roman keeps his eyes clenched shut, his cheeks wet with tears. The sight makes Virgil feel sick, but there’s something determined building within him, to find whatever has hurt Roman like this and destroy it.

“Please,” Virgil tries. He’s almost whispering. “Let me help you, Roman.”

Roman opens his eyes. They’re wide and tear-filled.

“Are you okay?” Virgil asks. Of course, he already knows the answer, but that isn’t why he’s asking.

Roman blinks, and more tears fall. 

No,” he gets out, and then his chest is heaving again as he tries to suppress more sobs.

Virgil can’t stand it any longer. He reaches forward, and before his mind can scream about all the things he’s doing wrong, he just goes ahead and does it. He wraps his arms around Roman and pulls him close. And, instead of pulling away like Virgil expects, Roman holds onto him for dear life.

It’s new and scary for the both of them. Virgil knows this. But, he also knows no amount of fear in the world can stop him right now. Roman needs him.

Roman gasps through his crying, and Virgil feels him trying to speak against his neck. He squeezes, just a touch, in reassurance.

“You don’t need to try and talk. It’s alright.”

They stay like that for a few minutes, and Virgil can feel Roman calming. Eventually, Roman initiates the move to pull away, and Virgil lets him, dropping his arms quickly. 

Roman is looking at him. His face is pale, eyes red, but he’s wearing the beginnings of a crooked smile.

“Sorry. I’ve ruined your hoodie.” He reaches out and smooths the fabric down.

Virgil shakes his head. He knows an avoidance tactic when he sees one, and he realises Roman is already attempting to deflect with humour. “Stop saying sorry. You haven’t.”

Roman makes an odd noise that perhaps was meant to be a laugh, but it comes out more like a pained sigh. He reaches up and wipes his eyes, hands still shaking, but not as much as before.

And then, Virgil sees it, the cut on his cheek. He hisses and before he can stop himself, his hand reaches forward, almost touching the wound.

Who-”

Roman shrugs. “Long story.”

Virgil makes a decision. He draws up a chair directly opposite Roman and sits.

“Well, I’ve got all night. Uh- morning.”

Roman breathes in and out. Virgil is aware this could end up with Roman closing off more than ever. But then, after one final exhale, Roman says, “Okay.”

Virgil thinks it’s the bravest thing he’s ever seen.

“It was... it was Jake,” Roman says.

Virgil frowns. “Which one’s that again?”

“Um... Giant Jerk Number One- you know, the one who was mad at not getting the lead.”

“Oh, that guy.” Virgil remembers Roman telling him about the callbacks, about him getting the lead role (not a surprise to Virgil) and some jumped up idiot ranting about how the staff were biased against Roman. “Dick,” Virgil spits. “Never liked him.”

Roman chuckles weakly. “You’ve never met him.”

“Still. Dick.”

“Well, the thing is, he...” Roman breathes out again and Virgil hears it catch in his throat. “He... he outed me.”

It’s said in such a small voice. Virgil feels an icy rage pool in his stomach. “He fucking what?

Roman flinches. It’s normal for Virgil to swear occasionally (usually in frustration at himself), but never with this much venom. 

“Yeah, he... he’d had too much to drink as well, I’m sure-”

“Don’t make excuses for that piece of shit.”

“And he- I could tell he was looking for something to say, I was trying to avoid him all night. But... anyway, I was only talking to Rachel, you know, she played Juliet? It’s obvious he had a thing for her but I forgot and- he pushed me and said he thought it was hilarious that the gayest guy on campus was such a convincing Romeo. Everyone... god, everyone heard, Virgil, the room went dead and I...” His voice cracks. “I’m not ashamed, of course, I’m not, you all know but, but I-” He breaks off again, eyes filling with fresh tears. He shakes his head. “I just wasn’t ready,” he whispers. “Not for them. Not like that.”

“God, Roman...” Virgil swallows down his rage, and keeps his voice steady. “What he- what that prick did was... that’s not right. He- He took something that was... precious and yours to share and tried to fucking poison- he’s- where the fuck does he live, I want to-”

Virgil doesn’t even realise he’s got out of his chair until Roman is standing, too, placing his hands on his shoulders. They both sit down again.

“Cool your jets, Hot Topic, he towers above you. Besides-” Roman gestures to his cut cheek with a grimace. “That’s what I got for trying to be Mr Tough Guy.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone more stupid than him,” Virgil hisses, and Roman snorts. “Has he even read Shakespeare? And don’t get me started on Mercutio and Benvolio.”

Roman smiles. “Right! So gay.” His smiles drops quickly, and he says, in a rush: “I just- I feel like I’m playing double the parts whenever I’m around them. And sometimes I- sometimes I don’t think they even like me.”

“Well, like you,” Virgil says fiercely.

Roman’s lip wobbles and Virgil worries that he’s going to burst into tears all over again. But, only a couple of tears fall as he says: “Th-thanks, I-I like you, too, Virgil.” He swallows. “V-very much.”

Virgil doesn’t even have time to gape at the reply, because Roman suddenly winces. “Ahhh. Geez, my head.”

Virgil passes him the glass of water. “Here. Down that, then I’ll get you a fresh one.”

Roman does so, then passes Virgil the empty glass. Virgil fills it up and when he turns back around, sees that Roman has laid his head on the table.

Virgil grins. “Come on, there’s no way you can sleep like that.”

Roman grumbles, raising his head slightly .”Yeah, watch me.”

But Virgil wraps an arm around him, pulling him out of his seat. They half stumble down the corridor, and Virgil distantly wonders whether they woke up Logan and Patton. But, both the doors to their rooms are closed and he leaves the question unanswered, carefully opening the door to his own room.

It’s only when Roman nearly collapses onto the bed that he says, “Wha- this isn’t my room.”

Virgil closes the door. “Yeah, well spotted. It’s just after a show, I’m guessing your room looks like a bomb hit it.”

Roman doesn’t even look offended. “You... have a point.”

“Plus,” Virgil says, setting the glass of water on the bedside cabinet, “I’d rather not leave you alone, just in case you’re ill or something.”

“That’s...” Roman blinks a few times. “Sweet. You’re really- sweet. Thanks.”

Virgil tells himself his face getting hot is just a sign his room is too warm.

“But where- Virgil, I can’t take your bed, where will you sleep?”

“Don’t sweat it, the floor’s pretty comfy, actually.”

But Roman scoffs. Virgil can hear the tiredness in his voice, the night catching up on him all at once. “No, don’t do...” He yawns, and shuffles to the very edge of the bed. “S’big enough, you’re practically a sprite....”

And Roman sounds so fond, that Virgil doesn’t even object to being called ‘a sprite’, though he hopes it doesn’t stick.

He sighs. “Fine. But, look, stay on that side, I’ll climb over. Then you’re nearer the water that way.”

They settle, and Virgil decides to wait until tomorrow to figure out if it’s awkward or not. He’s sure Roman has fallen asleep already, but then he hears a quiet mumble:

“Thanks... again...Virgil. Thank you... thought I was... alone... not...”

Virgil feels a lump in his throat. He waits, and Roman’s breathing deepens, and then he whispers back into the darkness:

“You’re not alone.”

Tomorrow is a new day, Virgil reasons. They can face it together.