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“-And I was like, wow, anxiety-“

“I think that’s a suitable name.”

Virgil pauses, hands still aloft in mid-story-telling mode as he blinked at Dee, who was sitting at the table surrounded by papers and textbooks, looking more than a little annoyed. Did he hear that right? He sits up on the couch to get a better view of Dee, brows knit in confusion. “…What?” Dee sighed in exasperation, rubbing his forehead. “I said it was a good name. Do you not think so?”

Something about his tone told Virgil not to argue with him on that. “I… guess so? But a name for what?” Dee pushed his chair back to turn around and look at Virgil, his expression conveying just how done he was. “For you, obviously. Are you that daft?”

Now Virgil was even more confused. And… kind of hurt? He knew Dee was stressed because of school, especially with finals coming up, but he was being especially rude, and Virgil didn’t know how to handle Dee when he was like this. It made him nervous; one wrong move, one wrong word, and he’d set Dee off like a landmine. He tugs at the cuffs of his hoodie sleeves until they cover most of his hands.

“Why… Why would you say that?”

Dee scoffs, already turned back to whatever he was working on. “Because that’s all you are. You’re like the personification of Anxiety, it’s annoying.” Virgil didn’t know what to say to that, so he didn’t say anything. He tried to distract himself with TV, but it didn’t work, and Dee just got more frustrated, so Virgil slunk off to his room.

Dee used the nickname more and more as time wore on.

Virgil had been having an Off Day, one of those days where he woke up already on edge, and it didn’t take much to set off an attack. He hated days like this. Today the card that would topple the house was checking the mail.

Dee had been on a short fuse all day, spending the day studying in his room while Virgil stayed in the living room, doing house chores and watching cartoons to try and relax himself. Dee had only come out of his room a few times, but Virgil made sure to check up on him, getting him more water, cleaning up the crumpled papers the other tossed on the floor in a fit of frustration. He’d been doing just that when Dee spoke, not even bothering to look at Virgil.

“Go check the mail, your jitteriness is distracting.”

Virgil frowned, nodding and straightening up, leaving the room to go find his shoes. He didn’t want to walk outside barefoot and step on a rock. Or god forbid a bee. He found his shoes wedged part-way under the couch and shoved his feet into them, heading out to check the mail. They lived in a neighborhood where they were unfortunate enough to share one of those giant, slate grey mailboxes with about 11 other people. It was three houses down, and the old woman who lived in the house right next to the mailbox always had a habit of checking her mail when Virgil did.

Usually he didn’t mind, but usually he wasn’t keyed up and really to fall at the smallest interaction.

He shoved his hands in the pockets of his hoodie, staring at the sidewalk as he went. He usually didn’t wear his hoodie unless he was having one of his more anxious days, especially since it was hot as hell outside. He got to the large mailbox, taking out his keys and unlocking box number 4. Just as he was looking in the box, his neighbor comes out of her house, smiling as she spots Virgil.

“Oh, hello Virgil! It’s been a while since I’ve seen you out here! How are you and Dee doing, dear?” Virgil jumps at the voice, scratching the back of his hand on the metal as he pulls it away. He looks over his shoulder at the old woman as she comes closer, getting out her own keys and opening her box. “O-oh, I’m good… We’re good.” She smiles at him kindly as she flips through her mail.

“That’s good to hear. You know, you two are just so cute together! My grandson has a boyfriend now, did you know that? Well, I suppose you wouldn’t, we haven’t talked in a few weeks! Anyways, he’s the sweetest boy – his boyfriend, I mean. Such a gentleman! He calls me “miss Mary”, can you believe it?” She titters. “Me, a miss. I haven’t been called miss since I was a young girl…” She keeps talking, but Virgil can’t process anything she’s saying. He’s trying desperately not to freak out, his mind swimming in doubts and insecurities as he watches this harmless old woman chat about her gay grandson. In some distant corner of his mind, he’s aware that it’s a bit ridiculous to be freaking out about this, but the rest of his mind is too busy freaking out to be exasperated about freaking out.

His mind is racing, his thoughts an endless dark swirl of oh god, what do I say? Should I even say anything? Of course not, she’ll only get mad at you for interrupting her, idiot. But what if she gets mad that you’re not responding? Can she tell you’re not listening? She probably hates you, oh god, way to go genius. She’s going to tell Dee how rude and fucked up you are, and he’s already getting done with your shit. He’s going to break up with you any day now, just watch. Always so annoying. So rude. Inconsiderate. Fucked up.

He says a quick goodbye to his neighbor, grabs the mail and his keys, and rushes home on stuttering feet. She watches him go with concern but doesn’t say anything and just heads inside herself.

Inside, Virgil shuts the door a little too loudly and collapses against it, sliding down to sit on the floor and pulling his knees up to his chest. He clutches the mail close to himself, crinkling the papers with how tightly he’s holding them. His breath starts to come in uneven gasps and his head spins, making him feel light. He squeezes his eyes shut but that just makes the feeling worse; now his entire body feels like he’s spinning in a pit of nothing and it’s making his anxiety worse, so he pries his eyes open, staring at the dining table to his left. He’s probably sitting there for five minutes, mind spiraling and struggling to breathe, when Dee walks in.

He’d been heading to the kitchen to get some water, since Virgil hadn’t dropped in and gotten him more (Honestly, how unreliable. What was he even doing??) when he saw Virgil sitting in the entryway, crumpling up the mail in his hands. Seriously? Some of those were probably bills, and he was ruining them. Dee sighs heavily and kneels in front of him, trying to get Virgil to look at him. Of course, he had to be having an anxiety attack while Dee was studying for finals, why not?

“Virgil.” Nothing.

“Virgil.” A little more insistent this time, but still no reaction.

Anxiety.” He practically snaps. Virgil flinches and looks at him, trying to take a deep breath. “Why did you have to do this now? I’m trying to study. Here, give me the mail, you’re ruining it.” Dee takes the mail from Virgil and stands, trying to smooth it out. “And calm down already, your constant panicking is getting annoying.” Virgil tries to, he really does, but now that there’s nothing in his hands he’s started pulling at his hair. Dee wanders into the kitchen, putting the mail on the counter to look at later and getting his water like he’d planned. He walks right by Virgil, who’s still panicking, and heads back to his room. Dee just hoped Virgil wouldn’t distract him too much with these pointless episodes.

Virgil had managed to calm himself down eventually, though it was only because he didn’t have the energy to keep spiraling like that. He’d been shaky and jumpy the rest of the afternoon, flinching when a car with a loud engine drove down their street or a loud commercial came on. Dinner time was quickly approaching, and Virgil knew Dee would be too busy studying, so he figured he’d make dinner for the two of them.

He decides to make spaghetti, something easy. He gets everything out for it, his breath stuttering and flinching away when he takes out a pot and it makes a pan fall. He takes a moment to relax before filling it with water and placing it on the stove, tense as he lights the burner. He sits at the table as he waits for the water, not wanting to be too close to the fire.

When he’s done with everything and is draining the pasta, some of the boiling water splashes over his hand and he lets go of the pot with a cry, jumping when it makes a loud clang in the sink. He blows on his hand, the skin red and painful, trembling slightly. He grabs the pot again with shaking hands and carefully drains the rest of the water, then sets the pot down on the stove once again and goes to get Dee.

He knocks tentatively on the door, wincing when it hurts his hand. He gets a muttered response in return, so he cracks the door open and peaks his head in. “I- I made dinner… Uhm… So, whenever you’re r-ready for that… Yeah…” Dee huffs, turning the page in his textbook. “I’ll be out in a moment. Leave.” He snaps, and Virgil shuts the door, heading back to the kitchen.

Dee comes out five minutes later, sitting across from Virgil at the table with his own plate of food and starting to eat. Virgil has barely touched his food, still shaking and hand burning, only looking worse since he’d burned it. Dee looks up when he realizes Virgil isn’t eating and shoots him a look, causing Virgil to pick up his fork and twirl some pasta on it, shoving it into his mouth. They continue like this in silence for another five minutes before Dee speaks up, “Stop trembling already Anxiety, you’re not an old man.” Virgil nods and tenses up, trying to stop the tremors in his muscles.

Virgil lays in Dee’s bed in nothing but boxers, the other’s arms wrapped around his middle and feeling Dee’s breath on the back of his neck. It’s late, and they’ve been laying there for at least an hour, but Virgil can tell Dee is still awake. He debates with himself mentally for what feels like years, words trapped behind his teeth, sitting on his tongue like small rocks reluctant to tumble free. After extensive deliberation, he finally forces himself to speak.

“Hey, Dee?”

There’s a hum from the other, and Virgil takes that as a sign to continue. “Do you still love me?”

Dee shifts, and for a moment in the silence Virgil is afraid he’s going to say no, kick Virgil out of his bed, tell him to pack his bags-

“Of course I do, Virge, why would you ask that?” Despite the reassuring words, his tone sounds slightly annoyed. Virgil swallows, “W-well…”

“Don’t stutter, Anxiety, it’s annoying.” Virgil nods and takes a few deep breaths before speaking slowly to not stutter.

“I… I annoy you a lot, and I’m always messing up and I’ve been having a lot of anxiety attacks lately…” He falters, and after a moment of silence Dee seems to realize he’s done speaking.

“I do love you, Virgil. You do annoy me sometimes, but I love you. I just wish you’d grow past your high school days; I won’t always be by your side to help you through your problems, you know.” Virgil nods, closing his eyes. He doesn’t remember what his dream was about that night, but it left him feeling uneasy when he woke up.