“You’re precious, Virgil,” he’d said.
“I love you, Virgil,” he’d professed.
“ Nobody else will ever love you, Virgil,” he’d insisted.
Virgil, intoxicated by sweet promises of nothing and the craving that went hand in hand with the hormones and adrenaline of passion, had been foolish enough to believe him.
Foolish enough to believe that the liar by nature had told him the truth.
Deceit, the snake, lived to lie and lied to live. In his hand were the ends of nearly a dozen leashes that he could lead about at his whim, including Virgil’s own. So long as he was silent, he could demand the same of any other trait both in and outside of his realm. And Virgil-- oh, Virgil was his special one; his messenger; the only one who toes the line of light and dark enough to step over it at will. Neither completely good nor completely evi-- Deceit knew as much.
That didn’t mean Virgil had to.
“ They’ll never learn to appreciate you the way I do,” he’d coo in his ear when he was most vulnerable-- most sensitive. After a day in the light ended poorly, for instance, and he needed the comfort of knowing he belonged somewhere. All he needed to do was whisper these empty vows and land a few well-placed touches, and he was putty in his hands. In bed, he’d only further secure his loyalty with a thousand coldhearted fibs.
“ You’re worth more than they’ll ever recognize.”
“So loveable, so wonderful.”
“You’re loved here, Virgil.”
Roman, the wielder of their trigger-happy imagination, acted unintentionally as his greatest ally. All of those awful things he said-- beast, disease, unnecessary, burden -- came running back to him, feeding the fire with the utmost intensity. Without fail, Virgil would come crawling back to him with a broken heart, waiting on the purest lies to push it back together for another night.
“ He’s wrong.” But he was right.
“ You deserve better than to be treated this way.” But, oh, didn’t he?
“This just shows that you will never be one of them.” But, if given the chance, would he not turn tails? That Patton was making it increasingly difficult to coax his dark boy back to his side at the end of every squabble. The things he said were far too soft and, even worse, too genuine for his charms to overthrow them. And this budding friendship with Logan might be something to concern himself with, too…
Best to focus on the venom of the envious thespian when keeping his hold on his Virgil.
His poor, sensitive, stupid Virgil.
Life cycled like this, Deceit conducting Virgil’s highs and lows like a long-tired ringmaster, every movement becoming routine and every word losing its senses. It almost slipped his notice when Virgil began to retire later, carried less grief about the lighter sides, and even began to speak… positively about them.
“ You’re falling for it, aren’t you?” he snapped, lip curling in disgusted satisfaction as Virgil cowered down. It wasn’t often that he was honest, but when he dared to cross that line, his words acted as the most potent of venoms. He felt his power surge with Virgil’s submission, fueling his sadism further. “ Everything they’re saying… It’s all niceties. They’re tricking you, Virgil. They don’t give a damn-- they never have! Not about us. Not about you .”
And Virgil never talked back-- not to him, never to him. At least, never before. Deceit felt the words like a blow to the gut, spinning him off course in his own game, when Virgil raised his head and looked him in the eye with a strength he’d never associated with the other trait before and spat out “ No.”
Deceit blinked. “... No?” he echoed, awe tingeing his tone. He straightened up, towering over his partner in the hopes of subduing him. Though he trembled, Virgil did not back down.
They’d gotten to him.
In a moment of pure impulse-- of pure, furious instinct -- Deceit drew back his hand and let it fall viciously on Virgil’s cheek. The strike echoed throughout the room, the sting on his palm only a hint of the blossoming red pain left behind. A mark swelled on the prime of his cheek, and he couldn’t draw his eyes from the silent defiance it brought. He’d never struck him before-- not like this. It should have been satisfying.
All it did was fill him with immediate regret.
Taking in a deep breath, he maintained his composure and tutted in disappointment. “ It’s not even them , is it. He’s rubbing off on you.” When Virgil arched a brow, a smirk danced across his features. “ Your Prince . This stubbornness you’re showing… It’s fanciful. Idealistic. Far too dangerous to come from Logan, not quite realistic enough to come from Daddy Dearest. No, this… This ridiculous idea of friendship and belonging with them had to have come from your knight in shining armor. Am I wrong?”
Virgil’s silence told all there was to tell. A dark, sadistic chuckle rumbled in Deceit’s throat, meant to be felt more than heard.
“ I should’ve known. You’ve always been a glutton for pain, haven’t you? Out of all of them, and you fall for the bully? The one that’s sent you crying to me every night? Such typical you,” he sneered, ignoring the malicious hollowness in his chest. Too much honesty in one dose weakened him, but something-- a desperation with no name-- forced him to drag on. He was in too deep to stop now.
“ Things are different now,” Virgil replied, his voice much stronger than Deceit remembered it ever being in his presence. They’d taught him to be defiant, those brutes, and this would spell the end of it. “ He… He’s different now.”
“ People don’t change,” he countered, rolling his eyes dramatically. “ What, a few forced words of kindness and you’re suddenly his whore? You think you would’ve learned by now.”
Virgil’s gaze grew steely, almost to the point of being unreadable. His face was a mask of judgement, neither open nor completely closed either. Seconds thudded by like their own heavy eternities with every silent heartbeat that followed. This emotion he’d never known before rose steadily, introducing insecurity into a previously impenetrable heart. His head spun, his heart raced, his stomach writhed and twisted in all sorts of treacherous knots….
His hand flew up to his chest, his core bending over as if struck as he tried to hold the pounding organ in place. A scathing, yellowed glare shot towards Virgil, only to find one of equal magnitude barreling toward him in return.
“ What have you done to me?!” Deceit hissed, somehow managing to further resist the urge to bury blunt nails into his crawling skin. Beads of cold sweat budded up on his forehead, the unfamiliar downward incline of his head sending them dripping down his face, stinging over his dry cheeks. “ You… You beast…!”
Virgil rose to full height, successfully exchanging the power dynamic in doing so- Deceit cowered down with his pet standing over him. It was wrong. So wrong… Virgil’s aura felt like ice, creeping and consuming every inch of the room. Never before had Deceit felt so dwarfed by a pair of eyes-- especially not these eyes.
“ Somehow, I always knew,” Virgil stated, voice washing over Deceit like a thousand flakes of numb terror. “ All those things you said about them, about me… They were all lies. You never believed a word of them.” He put his hands up, moving them about in mocking gestures. “ Precious Virgil. Loveable Virgil. They’re never going to love you like I do, Virgil. Funny. For the longest time, I actually believed you. Thought that you were all I had. But you know what?” Virgil paused, shaking his head. “ When they say things, they mean it. The good and the bad. You can really feel the difference. Their criticism means more. Their praises mean more. Their acceptance…. I can’t begin to measure it.”
The smile which followed burned Deceit’s retinas from its genuinity. Virgil looked down at his palms calmly, as if resigning himself to freedom. “ Out there, I saw how I should have been treated. Logan and Patton… they are everything we should have been, but you never had the capacity to be. The world’s most agreeable opposites.” He closed his fist, holding it tightly closed. “And, yeah. Maybe Roman hasn’t been the best to me, but he’s trying to be better, and that’s more than I could have asked of anyone. That alone makes him way more attractive than you.”
Deceit snarled as he swayed, balance seemingly a foreign concept. “ You’re a fool, Virgil. You’ll never be one of them. Here, you have a purpose. You have a name. You have my name.”
“Which is one I’ll be more than happy to forget,” Virgil replied. Deceit cowered further, his knees beginning to knock together with such ferocity that he could feel the bruises developing in its wake.
Virgil eyed him over, the beginnings of a smirk tugging on his lips. “ Honesty really hurts you this much? Amazing…. Amazingly disgusting.” Slowly but surely, the smirk blossomed, resembling that of a true professional-- that of Deceit himself-- as he stepped closer, studying Deceit like a specimen rather than an enemy. A soft chuckle resonated in the air between them, making his bones tremble.
“ You know what? Maybe you’re right. Maybe I do have a thing for the dramatics,” he confessed, turning on his heel. His stride mimicked a confidence Deceit knew the other trait never possessed. Finally succumbing to the shaking of his entire form, he fell to his knees, looking up at Virgil through blurry lenses.
“ What… What have you done to me..?”
Virgil paused briefly at the door, hand braced against the doorframe in a moment of what felt like hesitance. Peeking back over his shoulder, he regarded the fallen form one last time. “ Honesty makes you anxious. I compelled you to tell the truth, and this is the result. Just a little token to remember me by: an anxiety attack .” A teasing wink and a sarcastic well-wish sealed Virgil’s departure, leaving Deceit a shaken mess on the floor as light sealed the darkness.
As the last particle of light slipped past the seal and the horrid influence of anxious honesty disappeared, Deceit slumped onto the floor, forehead pressed against the cold tile. Every lie he should have told rushed forward, tongue tingling from the overdose of truth. A liar. A snake. That's what he was, and to be forced into a state of honesty violated his very being. A charge of angry, righteous adrenaline coursed through his veins as he powered up his most potent lie yet: “ I hate you, Virgil!”
Time passed, as it was prone to do, and absence became routine. Virgil never returned, and the harrowing echo of silence continued to resonate in his bones. He watched from the sidelines as the light sides absorbed his Virgil into their little family, growing sick as Roman drew him in closer than Deceit ever could have managed. There was no way to interfere, for the sweet nothings and gentle declarations derived from nothing but affectionate truth.
“ You’re precious, Virgil,” Roman would say, the words little more than vibrations against his skin as he trailed his lips over the curve of his jaw.
“ I love you, Virgil,” Roman would say, raw adoration in his eyes as he tucked Virgil’s bangs behind his ears.
“ I could never love anyone else, Virgil,” Roman would admit sleepily, arms wrapped possessively around an equally drowsy Virgil as they both drifted off to sleep.
He wanted to shut the damn prince up. He wanted to warp his words into a thousand beautiful, toxic lies that would send Virgil crawling back to the dark where he belonged. Romance was a lie-- a series of seductive, addictive lies that eventually wilted even the most beautiful of flowers. It should have been easy, but it burned to touch him.
Roman’s love was true beyond his power, and it agonized him.
Failure like this intoxicated him, stringing out his darkness through Thomas’s mind as he trudged through the endless tunnels to the main room. It looked a great deal like the one they kept on the dark side, a couch large enough for four and a constant stream of Disney movies playing. Back in the midnight corners, they would pick each film apart, finding the negative elements in every heroic conquest. He wondered how Virgil managed here with his pessimistic views, especially since his lover was the bloody incarnate of a Disney prince. Somewhere deep inside, he found comfort in imagining their vicious fights over true heroism.
The way he found them was repulsive. On one end of the couch sat Patton, his arms slung around his logical counterpart, legs swung over his lap, and face nuzzled into the crook of his neck. While Logan did little more than support Patton around the waist, the slight smile on his face expressed his contentment more than enough. On the opposite end sat Roman, lounging in the corner with one arm hanging lazily over the armrest, the other holding Virgil close and absently carding through his hair. For his part, Virgil seemed… happy, if not peaceful. Secure. As if he’d finally found that beacon of light in which he convinced himself he belonged.
His shadow, darker than the surrounding “theater” lighting, crept over the screen as he approached the unnatural quartet from behind. In his presence, the screen flickered into a defiant fuzz, sending four sets of identical eyes turning slowly toward the origin of the disturbance.
“ ....Oh, this guy again?!” Roman groaned, head lolling exasperatedly back on the couch. Despite the attempted casual annoyance, Deceit knew better than to overlook the way his grip on Virgil’s shoulder tightened. Funny. He thought he belonged to him.
“ Roman,” the devil acknowledged, offering a seedy smile to the thief. “ It’s lovely to see you again. I hope that you’ve been faring well. Have you done something new with your sash? It’s flattering.”
While Roman, ever the romantic, preened subconsciously under the praise, Virgil stiffened. “ Deceit,” he stated, the name leaving a sour taste on his tongue. Everything about Deceit was sour, and acknowledging his very existence made his lips pucker. “ What are you doing here?”
“ I heard it was movie night and I wanted to spend some time with my good friends,” Deceit fibbed easily, tilting his head with faux innocence as he blinked cherubically at Patton, the manifestation of the heart’s weakness. “ I didn’t know that I wasn’t allowed in here... “
Patton shifted, legs dropping from Logan’s lap and a tentative pout on his face. “ Hey now… Everyone’s welcome here, kiddo! It’s just… You’ve never come out all this way before.”
“Patton, he’s lying,” Logan pointed out, shaking his head. “ He’s not here to bond with us.”
Though relieved, a flicker of disappointment shone through on the paternal side’s face. “ Oh… Then what are you here for..?”
“He’s here for me,” Virgil grumbled, shrugging off Roman’s hold and rising to his feet. Roman followed suit.
“ No, of course not!” Deceit confessed, a sadistic grin slithering across his face as Roman stepped forward to shield their mutually sought treasure.
“ Over my dead body, you fiend!” he cried, shoulders squared and fists balled up threateningly. It was almost cute how he thought he could fight him when he could silence him with one flick of his wrist…
Sighing audibly, Virgil placed a hand on Roman’s chest and pushed him back, the entire exchange skyrocketing the awkward tension in the room. Of course Virgil would pretend to not need saving-- not in front of the one who’d fathered his tears for years on end. “ Don’t worry. I’m not going anywhere. Not with him .”
Deceit pouted, lip sticking out almost comically. “ ‘Him’? Come on, Virgil. You’ve forgotten my name already?” Forgetting his name… That was impossible! Such an intimate gesture as sharing a name couldn’t be dismissed with time. “ It’s not like you’ve cried it out in ecstacy a thousand times.”
Roman growled, the feral, chivalrous need to protect his lover from the obscenities of Deceit’s tongue almost overpowering the strong press of Virgil’s hand on his chest. Like a master and his dog, Virgil had the prince under his thumb, sobering him with one familiar, icy glare. Not too long ago, Deceit held his leash as tightly as he had everyone else’s.
Now, Virgil held his own.
Two powerful gazes clashed, crackling in the air with only the couch to separate them. If he were to allow himself a moment of honesty, Deceit would admit that he didn’t know how he wanted this confrontation to end, if he wanted it to end at all. Folding his hands together, he tilted his head curiously. “ Well, Virgil?”
“.....Sorry,” Virgil replied eventually, voice akin to acid as it dripped from his lips. He dropped his hand from Roman’s chest, but his eyes never left Deceit’s own. The snake could feel the old sensation of dread-- his little gift -- beginning to bubble in his blood. “ It looks like I forgot.”
Deceit’s nostrils flared, indignance making his skin hot. How dare he….!? Such a definite dismissal, an undeniable rejection… He hated it. Smile morphing quickly into a scowl, he narrowed his serpentine gaze and tutted.” Of course you have,” he snapped back, trying not to feel small under all of their eyes. Damn him… Damn them all! For stealing his Virgil, for corrupting him beyond his corruption, for showing him truth where lies would have easily sufficed… Damn them…..
Swallowing thickly around a lump in his throat, he nodded, glancing quickly at the others and taking in their expressions. Not one welcomed him or offered any morsel of comfort, save for the pleading disappointment of their self-proclaimed father. Disgusting. Taking a step back, he craved to fall back into the shadows where he could lie and lie and lie without these awful qualms. Reaching the mouth of the room he’d entered from, he spared Virgil one last look.
“ I love you, Virgil,” he muttered, finally reversing the misconstrued affections he’d expressed in his moment of weakness all that time ago. He hated him. He hated him. He hated him, he hated him, he hated him….
Virgil’s lips quirked up in smug satisfaction, understanding detestation where Roman bristled with misinterpreted romantic intent. Virgil was brilliant, powerful, and, worst of all, genuinely adored. Stepping around the couch, he placed a hand on the center of Deceit’s chest. There was no way he couldn’t feel the desperate pulsating of his heart, demanding that he get out- out, out, out and away from these creatures of light and love and law before they brought about his demise.
“ Good,” he stated, giving the darkest trait a gentle shove into the night.
In the end, no matter how he twisted his words and whims, he never really stood a chance. Virgil was never truly his. Virgil was a creature beyond the dark, beyond his control.
Wasn’t that just the truth?