“Just to warn you, my parents are homophobic, so if you don’t want to come over, I understand.”
“I still want to spend the break with you. Do they... do they know?”
William makes a face.
“No. I told them I have a girlfriend, actually. So you’ll have to lie your ass off the whole time you’re there, you really don’t have to come--”
“Would you have a better time if I was there?”
“Yes, but my parents--”
“Then I’ll come.”
“This was a horrible idea,” Virgil announces into the mindscape as the car pulls into Thomas’s boyfriend’s parents’ driveway. “This was a horrible idea, the worst, this is gonna go so terribly and you’ll get him kicked out and he’ll hate you forever and his parents will call the police and you’ll--”
“Please stop,” Roman says softly, and Virgil stops with his mouth hanging open, taken aback. He’s never heard the other side so subdued. It’s weird. “This is important to him, and to Thomas. And it’s important to me. I’m scared too, but-- we have to do it anyway.”
Virgil shifts uncomfortably on the arm of the couch, staring at the mindscape’s television, which shows what Thomas is seeing.
“May I suggest a potential solution?,” Logan asks, and it takes Virgil a moment to realise he’s actually waiting for a response.
“Sure,” he mumbles.
“Switch places with Patton,” Logan says. “So you can sit by me and tell me the things you’re worrying about as soon as they occur to you, and then I’ll filter through them and help you figure out which possibilities we should prioritise.”
“...Okay,” Virgil says. “I just-- there’s so much to worry about and I don’t want to miss anything.”
“Well, I understand,” Patton says, switching places with Virgil and bouncing on the arm of the couch. “I think it’ll be okay, though. No matter what happens, Thomas and Will will still have each other. He said he wanted Thomas here.”
“You’re probably right,” Virgil says.
Thomas squeezes William’s hand one last time before they get out of the car. They don’t kiss, in case someone looks out the window.
“How much do they know about me,” Thomas murmurs.
“Just that you’re my best friend and your name is Thomas, and you’re a good actor. I don’t talk to them about you at all, it feels weird.”
Thomas nods and doesn’t say anything else.
The mindscape is silent on the way to the door. Virgil fidgets nervously.
William’s parents are nice. They hug him and ask how he’s been, and they ask Thomas how he’s been, and ten minutes later it’s dinner time.
“So, Will, how’s Sandra been? You still going steady?”
Will almost chokes on his milk.
“Um-- She’s great! She’s trying to get a kitten, she’s applied to reslife for permission, so that’ll be exciting.”
“That’s good,” Mrs. Roberts says. “Are you dating anyone, Thomas?”
“Yup,” Thomas says without thinking.
Inside the mindscape, Virgil puts his head in his hands.
“What’s her name?”
“Uh...” Thomas draws a blank.
“Helga,” Roman supplies.
“Helga,” Thomas says. “But-- I just call her pumpkin, so I almost said that.” Thomas attempts a laugh. Will snorts. His dad laughs.
“This is fucking awful,” Virgil says.
“So how did you meet Will?” Will’s mom asks.
Thomas takes a very big bite of turkey and takes his time chewing it while he tries to invent an answer that’s not “at gay club’s movie night.”
“Say you were rescuing a kitten,” Roman suggests.
“No, he’s allergic,” Logan says. “You met at math class.”
“In the shower!” Patton declares.
“This is ridiculous,” Virgil says.
And suddenly something inside the mindscape shifts. The TV screen tints yellow on one side and someone appears in Patton’s lap.
“Thomas?!” he says, surprised, as they both topple off the arm of the couch.
“Ow! What’s-- where-- what’s going on?”
There’s a moment of silence as everyone processes the fact that Thomas is in the mindscape with them.
And then, from outside, they all hear Thomas’s voice say,
“Sandra and Helga are best friends, so we met through them at a movie night. These mashed potatoes are delicious, by the way, Mrs. Roberts.”
“Oh, thank you, dear.”
“The potatoes are disgusting,” whispers Thomas as the answer dawns on him.
“Deceit,” Roman says, horrified. “Oh, no. Oh god oh no oh fuck--”
“Did you hear on the news,” Mr. Roberts says, “about that club in Toronto?”
“No,” Deceit says, tone subdued. William is gripping his fork so hard his knuckles are white.
“Someone shot up a whole nightclub full of *******! Good riddance, I say.”
Mr. Roberts laughs about it.
“Let’s agree to disagree,” Deceit says smoothly, and Mr. Roberts stops laughing and narrows his eyes.
“It’s just how I was raised,” Deceit says. “I don’t want to argue, though. Since it’s thanksgiving, let’s just be grateful none of us are... y’know.”
Mr. Roberts leans back, glaring at Thomas.
“I suppose,” he says.
“Like I was raised to think it’s fine and all,” Deceit says, “but I really just think-- well, you know.”
“I know, I know,” says Mr. Roberts, in a better mood again. “Well. You can’t help what your parents are like.”
“I’m just glad Will has you two,” Deceit says. “He’s mentioned you taught him how to fish?”
“Ah, yes,” Mr. Roberts says, and Will relaxes a little bit at the subject change. “Taught him everything he knows, I did.”
“Will never mentioned that,” Thomas says. “How did Deceit know?”
“This-- this is actually going well,” Roman says.
“Will’s brother told us,” Logan says.
“Oh. I totally forgot about that,” says Thomas.
The rest of dinner is awkward as hell, but Deceit carries them through it with hardly any bumps.
“I can help with the dishes, Mrs. Roberts,” Deceit offers afterwards, and she shakes her head, smiling.
“No, that’s quite alright.”
“Well, I’m exhausted,” Deceit says. “I’m sorry I can’t spend more time with you all, but I might fall asleep right here.”
“Oh! Will, show Thomas the guest room, please.”
“This way,” William says.
It’s upstairs, so they have a little bit of privacy. Will stops outside the door and looks at Deceit in Thomas’s body.
If he tries to kiss me, should I do it? echoes Deceit’s voice around the mindscape. I’m definitely not panicking at the thought of it.
“No!” Thomas exclaims. “Don’t kiss him!”
I will, Deceit assures him.
“That was... weird,” Will says. “You’re usually a much worse liar than that.”
“I don’t know what came over me,” Deceit says.
“Well... Only four more days.”
Deceit makes a noncommittal sound, and William leans in--
“Wait, I-- I think I might be getting sick,” Deceit says. “If I’m contagious--”
“Oh,” Will says, frowning.
“I really do need to sleep,” Deceit says, faking a yawn. He hugs Will like Thomas does all the time, and then Will’s mom calls from downstairs.
“I have to go.”
“Will,” Deceit says. His voice is thick like something is caught in his throat. “You-- you deserve-- you-- better.”
He looks down at the floor and swallows. That was hard to say, and he really does feel tired now. It takes a lot of his energy to say something that isn’t strictly a lie, and the only reason he was able to say it at all was because he stuck an extra word in there that turned the sentence into ungrammatical nonsense.
“Thank you,” Will says quietly. “I really needed to hear that. I love you, Thomas.”
Will rushes down the stairs, freeing Deceit from saying anything back.
Deceit collapses onto the bed, not even bothering to get under the covers, and massages his temples.
“Logic,” he murmurs out loud, “Is William’s phone in his pocket?”
He doesn’t want anyone else to see the notification.
Deceit unlocks Thomas’s phone and googles “opposite of i hate you,” copies “I love you” to the clipboard, and pastes it into the message box in Thomas’s conversation with Will. He adds “too,” and then waits.
“Send it,” Thomas says quietly, and Deceit sighs.
“I can tell the truth,” he says.
“Then come back in here and let me send it!” Thomas exclaims.
“Four more days of this,” Deceit murmurs, getting up to shut the door and then laying heavily down on the bed again. “Every time I force my way into the front it doesn’t get easier to control you. And I won’t do it whenever I see fit.”
“You mean you could do this the whole time?” Roman asks. “How does it even-- I’ve never done what you just did! What is happening? Why did you do it?”
“What would have happened if I didn’t?” Deceit asks, rubbing his eyes. “Thomas. You shouldn’t ask the others about orders.”
“Oh, hell,” VIrgil says.
“What does he mean?” Thomas asks. “Orders?”
“We can’t say,” Logan says, frustrated. “We literally can’t say, Deceit.”
“Fuck,” Deceit says. “Gimme... a moment.”
Deceit takes a deep breath and does nothing.
“Try it now,” he says.
“You didn’t even do anything--”
“Well, you see, Thomas,” Patton interrupts Logan cheerfully, “you can order a side to do something, and they’ll have to do it. It takes up quite a lot of mental energy, though, and you’ll be even more exhausted if you order a side to do something that goes against their nature.”
“I can’t believe you guys really believed Deceit about that even though he literally said I have blocked that information off, you won’t be able to tell Thomas about it to your faces,” Virgil says.
“Why didn’t you tell him,” Logan asks.
“Why didn’t any of you try?” Virgil snarks. “I thought he’d order me to fade, for your information.”
“Fade?” Thomas asks, confused. Logan’s eyes widen in either shock or concern; Virgil assumes it’s the former.
“We are very on-topic,” Deceit says helpfully.
“I still want my body back,” Thomas says. “Now.”
“Thomas,” Deceit says, and then clears his throat. “Excuse my speech impediment. You. Are. A very good-- bad-- good liar. You will need to lie -- you -- fuck this. Do we have a bruise anywhere?”
“Yes, on Thomas’s left knee,” Patton says. “He tripped and fell because he saw a puppy and I got too excited.”
“Why do you need to know?” Logan asks.
Deceit presses down hard on the bruise (the lights in the mindspace flicker from the pain and the other sides flinch), grits his teeth, and hisses,
“Thanks, Morality. Pain makes it possible to talk when I need to. Thomas, you suck at lying, you’ll fuck this up if you’re in control. I’m not going to leave until you’re away from this house unless you force me out. Which you shouldn’t do. These people-- the dad, specifically-- are dangerous. I won’t have you getting literally shot because you’re a sappy disaster gay. Virgil is already working overtime.”
“Deceit,” Thomas says, “if you don’t let me back in control right now, I will order you to.”
Deceit heaves a sigh and presses harder on the bruise.
“You shouldn’t. Logic?”
“I’m thinking,” Logan says quietly. “Let me think.”
“Why do you only use Virgil’s name?” Roman asks suspiciously.
“Are the rest of you proud of what you are?” Deceit asks, because even when he has pain to help him, rhetorical questions are a lot easier to say than the truth. Virgil shifts uncomfortably on the couch.
“Oh,” Roman says. “I guess that makes sense.”
“I-- this is--” Logan clears his throat. “I think Deceit is right. We shouldn’t use force to solve this. We are already under a lot of stress, and a full-scale power struggle would almost certainly ruin this whole visit. Deceit has handled things well so far. If you want him out, you’ll have to get him to leave on his own.”
“I personally hate both options,” Virgil says. “I don’t trust either of you to handle things well.”
“Then who do you nominate, Virginia Werewoolf?”
“No one,” Virgil says. “No one here is gonna do this well. No matter what we do, everything will suck.”
“In the short term, we should probably sleep,” Logan says. “Thomas--”
“Not gonna happen,” Thomas says. “No point trying, there’s no way I’ll be able to sleep.”
“Virgil,” Deceit says, and Virgil sighs. “Do you know what I want you to do.”
“I’d rather die in a fire,” Virgil says.
“It’s not up to you,” Deceit says, and then grins, because that was satisfying to say; taken at face value, he’s saying Virgil can’t choose how he dies.
“Fine,” Virgil says. “I’ll try, but he doesn’t like me.”
“Camp out in his room,” Deceit suggests.
“I hate his room,” Virgil says. “Whatever. This sucks.”
He sinks out.
“Who were you talking about?” Patton asks.
“No one important,” Deceit lies, because he doesn’t feel like pushing on the bruise again; it really hurts when he does.
Moments later, another side rises up from the floor. He’s wearing sunglasses and a black leather jacket and holding a paper coffee cup.
“Who are you,” Logan asks. “Have we met?”
“Thomas, who is this?” Roman says suspiciously. “Why isn’t he saying anything?”
“Who are you?” Thomas asks.
“None of your business,” the new side scoffs. “Literally like, fuck off. I don’t need this right now. I deserve better--”
“Darling,” Deceit says. “I would be quite dissatisfied if you could cooperate for the next four nights.”
“Mmm, what’s in it for me?” says the new side, taking a sip of his coffee and jutting one hip out as he examines his nails, the very picture of boredom.
Deceit presses on the bruise again, and the new side raises an eyebrow as the lights flicker once more.
“Literally anything you want, once I finish being passed out from exhaustion,” he says. “Please just do it.”
The other side rolls his eyes.
“Fine,” he says. “Gather round, everyone. Virgil too, or whatever Anxiety’s calling himself nowadays.”
Virgil is summoned with a careless jerk of the new guy’s hand.
“I don’t know why you need a second name when your first one was perfectly fine,” he continues ranting under his breath, “but that’s none of my business. It’s sleep time. Get over here.”
“I’m Sleep. Line up, losers, and let me do my job, or I’m leaving until Dee gets back.”
Sleep goes to Logan first, placing his hands on the logical side’s cheeks and kissing him full on the lips before he can protest. Logan passes out, and Sleep lowers him onto the couch.
“Holy FUCK!” Roman shouts. “What!! What the fuck!”
Sleep snaps his fingers, and Roman starts sliding towards him and skids to a stop just in time to avoid a collision. Sleep grabs his face and says,
“This is how it works when I have to make us sleep. I don’t know what the big deal is, I’ve done it before.”
He kisses Roman and drops him on the couch with Logan.
“Oh! My turn!” Patton says. “Like a goodnight kiss!”
“Sure,” Sleep says. “I’m glad one of you is gonna come quietly. Now get over here.”
That leaves Virgil and Thomas eyeing each other.
“Thomas wants to go first,” Virgil says.
“Are you laying down, Dee?” Sleep asks.
Deceit gets up to turn the light off and then lays back down.
“No,” he says.
“Wait!” Thomas says. “Send the text! Please!”
Deceit sighs, and pushes on the bruise long enough to press the send button.
Sleep kisses Thomas and then Virgil, and Deceit shuts his eyes.
A whisper, right by Deceit’s ear.
Will finishes pulling the covers over him and climbs into the bed, and Deceit tenses without meaning to.
Guys? he says into the mindscape. There’s no response; the others must be asleep. Great.
“I couldn’t sleep,” Will says.
“What time is it?”
“3 AM. Can we talk? Not about anything serious, just... I need something to distract me.”
Deceit thinks it’s bullshit that Will couldn’t just look up ASMR or something, but he can’t say that.
“Sure,” he says. “It’s no problem. I might fall asleep, though.”
That’s a big fat lie; there’s no way he’s gonna get back to sleep after this. Goddammit.
“That’s alright. I just... couldn’t be alone anymore. Do you want to play fortunately-unfortunately?”
“What’s that again?” Deceit asks, just in case Thomas and Will have played it before.
“You must be really tired. You know, where we take turns telling a story and alternate starting the sentence with fortunately and unfortunately?”
“Oh,” Deceit says. “Um. Yeah, I remember now.”
At least the game involves making things up, so he’ll actually be able to play it.
“So do you wanna play?”
“Yeah,” Deceit says, but he really wants to sleep. “Um... you start.”
“Once upon a time... There was a little kid who had no friends.”
“How uplifting,” Deceit says sarcastically. “Um... do I start with fortunately or unfortunately?”
“The premise is negative, so you start with fortunately.”
“Fortunately... fortunately there were a lot of other nice kids at his school.”
“Unfortunately, they all hated him.”
“Why did they hate him?” Deceit asks. “Don’t just say they hated him, give me something to work with.”
“Jeez, okay. Unfortunately they hated him because... because he lied all the time.”
Deceit feels his expression turn completely neutral as he tries not to have an outburst, and says,
“Fortunately, he realised this and decided to stop lying. The end.”
“Thomaaaas, take it seriously! Um, unfortunately, he realised that he couldn’t stop lying. He asked his parents and they told him that when he was a baby, a witch kissed him and gave him a curse! And the curse was that he couldn’t ever tell the truth, and he couldn’t show who he truly was, so he always had to try to be something different.”
Deceit’s jaw drops.
“Where are you getting this from?” he asks, trying to control his breathing and hoping Virgil doesn’t wake up.
“...I don’t know,” Will says. “I guess I sort of relate to the idea. I’ve been hiding who I am from my parents since basically forever.”
“Oh,” he says. “Hm. Fortunately, the kid realised he could make people laugh sometimes with sarcasm, so he didn’t feel as bad about it.”
“Unfortunately, he hurt people’s feelings a lot too, and he couldn’t even apologise for it.”
“Fortunately... hm. Fortunately, there was another cursed kid at his school, who was cursed to never look on the bright side, and they were friends because the other kid understood that Deceit never said what he meant and liked him anyway.”
“Um.” Shit. “Like... couldn’t that be a name?”
“Sure, I guess,” Will says. “Actually, I kind of like it. Sandra’s pretend kitten is gonna be named Deceit now.”
“Unfortunately, the other kid... let’s call him Angus, like Angst. Angus eventually made friends with the normal kids, who realised they were being silly for ignoring him just because he was pessimistic. And Deceit was left all alone.”
“Fortunately, he wasn’t alone because he had a husband that he married during recess one day and his husband loved him because he knew about the curse and knew to always interpret the opposite of what Deceit said and his husband didn’t like Angus anyway so he wouldn’t leave Deceit to join the popular kids, please just let me have this.”
“Fine,” Will says, laughing. “Gosh, I remember marrying some girl on the playground in kindergarten, that was the weirdest shit ever. Um, anyway... What’s the husbandfriend’s name?”
“I dunno,” Deceit says, because Sleep’s name is Sleep. “You pick?”
“...Um. I can only think of Ratatouille, since I watched it in the car. Remy? Is Remy good?”
“That’s the perfect name,” Deceit says. It’s not. Sleep would throw a fit if he heard.
“Alright. Unfortunately, even though he loved his husbandfriend Remy very much, Deceit still felt lonely, and he still wanted to show the popular kids that he could be cool like them.”
“Fortunately, Deceit had a plan to make them realise how cool he was,” Deceit says.
“Unfortunately it didn’t work.”
“What,” Deceit says, “You can’t--”
“You didn’t tell me what the plan was!” Will says.
“Okay, fortunately he had a plan. Um... there was another popular kid that everyone liked because he was always friendly and kind, and Deceit decided to act like that too, even though he didn’t feel very friendly towards any of them anymore. Especially not Vir-- Angus.”
“Unfortunately, the other kids could tell something was off when he tried to talk to them, even though he tried really hard. And Angus knew that if he was complimenting them, he had to actually mean the opposite, and he told the others that Deceit was lying. So they all still hated him.”
“Fortunately... fuck, I don’t know. Fortunately, Deceit got a chance to prove that his intentions were good even when his words weren’t, and I can’t think of anything, so you decide.”
“Um... I don’t know? How would he... uh... lemme think...”
Will trails off, and Deceit takes a deep, shaky breath. This whole story-game thing has been an emotional roller-coaster, and he doesn’t want to do it anymore.
Ten minutes pass without Will saying anything, and Deceit realises he’s fallen asleep. He’s relieved at first, because he can stop shoehorning his life story into make-believe, but then he gets bored, since he can’t sleep.
He can’t talk to Sleep either, because Sleep isn’t in the common area, and that’s the only area he can talk into now that he’s controlling Thomas’s body. And he gets the feeling that if he tried to wake someone up to go get Sleep for him, everyone would wake up, and he does not want to deal with that.
A few hours later, Thomas wakes up, and Deceit asks him to stay quiet so the others will sleep a little longer.
“Why is Will in the bed?” Thomas asks.
He didn’t need help sleeping, Deceit says. Fortunately-unfortunately is the best game ever. I don’t hate it.
“You should wake him up,” Thomas says. “So he can go back to his room.”
...He doesn’t need more sleep?
“He probably does, but we can’t risk his parents knowing he was in here. Just wake him up.”
Deceit sighs, and reaches over to shake Will’s shoulder.
“Hey,” he says. “Wake up.”
Will groans and shoves him away at first, but eventually Deceit gets him up and skillfully gets him to realise on his own that he should go back to his room, so that he doesn’t have to wake the others up by pushing on the bruise.
Later that morning, after breakfast, Mrs. Roberts asks Deceit to give her and her husband a little time alone with their son. He can’t think of any way to argue without causing trouble, so he acquiesces. The mindscape buzzes with panic-- Virgil worries they saw through Deceit’s lies, and Roman hates that they can’t be there for Will during what looked like it would be a difficult conversation.
Will comes out of the dining room ten minutes later, pale and shocked, and everyone assumes the worst. Deceit stands up from the couch without knowing why.
“Well, he doesn’t look injured,” Logan says.
“What’s up,” Deceit asks.
“They-- they’re getting divorced,” Will says. “Dad’s gonna move out in like a month.”
“Wow,” Deceit says. “What do you-- How do you feel about it?”
“I don’t know,” he says. “Thomas, I-- fuck. I wish we could--”
“Well, I’ve got an apartment to take a look at,” Mr. Roberts announces, coming out of the dining room. “I might not be back in time for lunch.”
Will pulls Deceit down onto the couch next to him.
“Bye, dad,” he says. “Good luck.”
“Thanks, son. You know I’m proud of you, right? So is your mother. You’ve grown into a fine young man.”
“Thank you,” Will says, but his voice sounds empty.
Mr. Roberts leaves, and Mrs. Roberts comes in and looks at Will for a moment.
“I need to talk to you,” she says. “I need to tell you something.”
“Okay,” Will says.
Mrs. Roberts glances at Deceit.
“You might not want Thomas to hear this,” she says. “Considering what was said last night during dinner--”
“I trust Thomas,” Will says. “What do you need to tell me?”
Mrs. Roberts swallows.
“I know you’re-- or I think I know-- William, I abhor your father’s stance on homosexuality. There’s nothing wrong with being gay, or-- or thinking you’re a woman, or anything like that. And I may not get it, and some of it creeps me out, but that doesn’t make it wrong. Really, it doesn’t make it wrong-- I’m not saying it’s inherently creepy, just that-- that I have that reaction to it. But that’s on me. So I promise that if you’re gay, or if you think that you’re a woman, you’ll have my support even if you want to be called Bertha or Olga instead of a pretty, normal name like Shelby, or Anne. And-- and I know you made up Sandra. I know she isn’t real. You said she was older than you at first and then that she was younger than you, and--”
Will’s mouth is hanging open and he’s squeezing Deceit’s hand like a lifeline.
“Slow down,” Deceit says.
Mrs. Roberts takes a deep breath, and then looks down at their hands.
“Oh,” she says.
Will hunches his shoulders.
“Mom,” he says. “Please don’t be--”
“Is he your boyfriend?” she asks.
“No,” Deceit says. “And the age thing was my fault. I thought I knew her birthday, but I was wrong. It made for a very awkward surprise party.”
Mrs. Roberts frowns.
“Oh,” she says. “Well I-- alright. Maybe I was mistaken, I just thought-- I thought I should clear that up.”
Will takes a deep breath.
“Thomas, I don’t want to lie to her,” he says. “Yes, we’re dating. Please don’t tell dad.”
“I won’t,” she says. “...How long--”
“Two years,” Will says.
“I mean, how long have you known you were... gay?”
“Since I was fourteen.”
Mrs. Roberts puts her face in her hands.
“I’m so sorry,” she says. “I should have done better. You deserved to know I would support you, I shouldn’t have been such a coward.”
Will hesitates. Deceit squeezes his hand.
“It’s... it’s okay, mom. I would have felt worse if you and dad fought because of me. And I had my friends. I’m just-- I didn’t think I’d ever have this support from either of you. It means a lot to me that you’ve spoken up now.”
“I love you,” Mrs. Roberts says, smiling at Will. “And I really am proud of you. Though it does concern me that your boyfriend seems to be such an adept liar.”
“Shit,” Virgil says.
“Deceit, let me out,” Thomas says through gritted teeth. “I have to be there for him. I have to.”
“I’m a horrible liar most of the time,” Deceit says. “I just-- with what’s at stake...”
“Thomas was just trying to help me,” Will says. “Mom, could you-- I need to talk to Thomas about--”
“I’ll give you two some time.”
Will pulls Deceit up the stairs and into his room, and Deceit feels very uncomfortable as soon as the door shuts.
“I need you,” Will whispers, pulling him close, resting his arms on Deceit’s shoulders and leaning down to touch their foreheads together. “Please, I can’t think of a smooth way to say it, but--”
“I can’t,” Deceit says (which is only a lie because he’s not literally unable to), and Will sighs.
“I-- that’s fair,” Will says. “I’m sorry.”
“No, don’t be, I’m just too anxious right now.”
(That one is a lie because he isn’t just too anxious; there’s a lot more reasons he doesn’t want to hook up with Thomas’s boyfriend.)
Will nods, and pulls away, hiding his face from Deceit as he sits on the bed.
“Hey,” Deceit says, biting the cold sore on the inside of Thomas’s cheek (it’s more convenient than the bruise) and trying not to wince. “I love you.”
“I love you too,” Will says. “Fuck. There’s so much...”
Deceit feels awkward. He can hear Virgil in the mindspace, worrying incessantly about every single element of the situation, and it’s not helping matters. He bites the cold sore again, and tries not to roll his eyes when Roman screams as the lights flicker.
“You’ll get through it,” he says. The pain fades, but he continues, “We’ll get through it together.”
It won’t be Deceit helping Will cope with the changes. It’ll be Thomas, thank god. Deceit sits by Will on the bed and puts an arm around his shoulders, hoping he’s doing this right, and Will leans into him and rests his head on his shoulder.
How am I doing? he asks the mindscape.
“You’re doing alright,” Thomas says. “I just-- please let me handle this.”
Deceit considers the question, but doesn’t get very far; Virgil is too loud, and Roman won’t stop pacing.
Logic? he asks, and Logan clears his throat.
“Deceit should stay in charge. It is likely that you will have to lie again soon, and he has behaved himself so far. Also, William doesn’t seem to notice the difference--”
“You’re acting weird,” Will says. “Are you okay? I’m sorry about my dad.”
“I’m okay,” Deceit says.
“Don’t lie to me, Thomas,” he whispers. He looks up, making eye contact with Deceit, whose breath catches. Their lips are less than two inches apart.
“Let me out,” Thomas says. “Let me out!”
“On the other hand, it probably would be more practical to have someone handling this who could tell the truth,” Logan says.
Deceit bites the cold sore.
“I’m sorry,” he says out loud. “This is stressful. But I’d rather be here than somewhere else. I love you, Will, I want to be here for you.”
“We can leave, if you want,” Will says. “I’ve been thinking-- since I have a job now, I can pay for enough of college without my dad’s help that loans would cover the rest. We can just go. Like, fuck him, right?”
“I shouldn’t have to put up with his shit. I shouldn’t have to! I’m just... I’m tired of it.”
“Don’t do anything impulsive,” Deceit says nervously.
“Oh my god,” Virgil says, “his dad’s gonna hate him and it’s our fault.”
“How is it our fault?” Logan says. “That doesn’t follow.”
“Deceit,” Thomas says. “Deceit, please. Let me-- let me--”
“I’ve been thinking about it for a long time,” Will says, leaning closer. Deceit feels his face flush. “I want-- This isn’t fair to either of us. I should have cut ties with him a long time ago. He’ll find out eventually, so it’s better if I control the circumstances.”
“Whatever you think is best,” Deceit says. “But don’t do it just because of me--
“I am doing this because of you,” Will says. “Because-- Thomas, you’ve given me the strength to value myself for who I am. I would be too terrified to even consider telling him if it weren’t for you. You’ve changed me, made me better. I owe it to you to do what’s best for me, because you’ve always done what’s best for me too. I was too scared before, but I’m not too scared anymore. And I’m still scared, but I think I can handle it. I think... I think I’m ready to be myself. I’m ready to show him who I really am. And I want you to be there too.”
“Deceit,” Thomas orders. "Now. Give me control back.”
Deceit lands flat on his back in the center of the mindscape right as Will leans in for a kiss, and he shuts his eyes, squeezing the bridge of his nose in an attempt to stave off the migraine he’s starting to get. Outside, Thomas’s hands are on Will’s waist as he reciprocates the affection, and Deceit waves a hand, dimming the lights of the mindspace so he can open his eyes.
“Woah!” Patton says. “I didn’t know we could do that!”
“Shh,” Deceit says. “Fuck. Well, I’ll be in almost constant pain until I finally give in to exhaustion, so now would be a good time to clear up any questions you all have. One at a time, please.”
“You had to do extra stuff to tell Will you loved him,” Roman says, and Deceit heaves a sigh. “Does that mean--”
“It’s complicated,” he says. “It’d take too long to explain.”
“How did you take over like that?” Logan asks. “It shouldn’t be possible.”
“It took a hell of a lot of energy,” Deceit says. “Which is why I’m laying down right now. I’ve always kept a lot more energy in reserve than any of you, but I don’t have any of that reserve left right now. I used it all up.”
“Why are you playing nice,” Virgil says. “Why are you--”
“I don’t want to tell the truth on this one,” Deceit says. “But it’s because of you.”
“What does that mean?” Logan asks.
Roman points dramatically at Virgil.
“Betrayal!” he shouts, and Virgil flinches back, hiding in his hoodie to try and look smaller.
“You’re working with them,” Deceit says. “You-- they hated you. But somehow, you-- you-- I want that. I’m jealous. I was trying to contribute, when I took Morality’s form, but it... didn’t work. It was too fake. And I will never stop being proud of my aspect like you have, but it’s still frustrating how difficult it is to convey my purpose when I can’t speak the direct truth most of the time. It’s so hard to communicate. And now Thomas knows about me, and he hates me, and-- I don’t know. I’m trying.”
“Fuck you,” Virgil says. “I have nothing to be proud of, I’m just--”
“Falsehood,” Deceit says firmly, and Logan makes an indignant sound. “Haven’t you all been over this before? You’re useful. You have a purpose here. You should be proud of what you’ve done for Thomas. I would be proud, if I had done anywhere near as much as you.”
“...Oh,” Virgil says. “I-- I disagree. I’m bad for him a lot of the time still.”
“It’s okay to be a work in progress,” Deceit says. “Anyway. Where’s Sleep?”
“Go find him yourself,” Virgil says.
“I can’t,” Deceit admits. “Can’t do mind travel right now. Can’t even get up, probably. Think I’ll fall over if I try.”
“Ugh,” Virgil says. “Fine, I’ll get him.”
“You look like shit,” Sleep says, leaning over Deceit. Deceit grins.
“Hey, babe,” he says. “Guess what.”
“I have a migraine and I love you.”
“Oh,” Sleep says. “Holy shit, thanks. You wanna make out?”
“Sure, why not. I need the rest anyway.”
“Get a room,” Roman says.
“Alright,” Sleep says. “Are you volunteering yours?”
Roman sputters, and Deceit rolls his eyes.
“He’s fucking with you,” he says. “Honey, I’m exhausted.”
Sleep lifts him up with a sappy look on his face, and Deceit feels privileged to see it. He transports them to his room and leans in for a kiss, and his smile is the last thing Deceit sees before he falls asleep.
When Deceit wakes up again, it’s New Year’s Eve. He gets up, noting the dizziness and lingering headache, and goes over to Sleep’s room to say hi.
“Happy fuckin’ New Year,” Sleep says. “You better get to work on Thomas’s New Year’s resolutions.”
“Fuck,” Deceit says. “I forgot about those. I still have a bit of a headache. I think I’ll go let the others know I’m awake, but then I’m yours for the rest of tonight.”
“Aren’t you gonna take something for your headache?”
“No,” Deceit says. “I want-- there’s some things you deserve to actually hear, and I want to say them.”
Sleep raises an eyebrow and lets his shades slide down his nose to look Deceit in the eye.
“You know I know what you really mean to say, right?
“Yeah,” Deceit says. “I still-- I just want to.”
“...Well, okay. Have fun bothering the others. Especially Anxiety, he’s been too comfortable lately.”
“You know how he used to haunt the common area literally every night whenever Thomas would go to bed?”
“Doesn’t he still do that?”
“He stopped! Now he does other shit, like-- play solitaire with Logic. I mean, what the fuck! It’s solitaire! You’re supposed to play it alone! And they’ll sit and play the same solitaire game side by side taking turns for hours. Morality says it’s a team building exercise, to give them a common goal with nothing at stake so Anxiety doesn’t get too wound up, but they’ve taken it way past that and turned it into something disgusting. Every time I see a deck of cards I want to barf. They don’t even play the game anymore, they just set it up and talk. I hate them.”
“Like, seriously, it’s exhausting, I don’t even have an excuse anymore to conserve my energy now that Anxiety has gotten out of my way. I’ve been running morning to morning for weeks. Any momentum I manage to build during the day gets used up almost every night because Thomas sleeps at a reasonable fucking time now!”
“...You seem a lot less... hyper,” Deceit says, and Sleep hisses like a cat.
“I’m not fucking hyper! This is serious, Dee, can’t you just--”
“I’m sorry,” Deceit says. “But you used to complain about having so much extra energy and not knowing how to spend it. I would’ve thought you’d be happy.”
“I guess I am,” Sleep says, crossing his arms. “It’s just been hard. Without you.”
“I’m here now,” Deceit says. “I’m sorry I slept so long.”
“Just-- don’t do it again. Please. Promise me.”
“I--” Deceit doesn’t want to promise that. “It’s my job. I might have to someday.”
Sleep heaves a sigh.
“I know. I just-- ugh. It’s so fucking boring around here without you.”
“Have you tried talking to people?”
“No. They don’t want me around. And every time Creativity sees me he covers his mouth. Like I’m gonna fucking pounce on him and make out with him. I hate it.”
“I gotta go crash that party now,” Deceit says calmly. “Maybe punch a prince. Who knows.”
“Hurry back,” Sleep says, getting his phone out and opening temple run.
Deceit considers making a dramatic entrance, but he’s just too exhausted for that, so he just peeks his head around the door and calls out,
“I’m awake! And I have a headache. Do you need the New Year’s resolutions now, or can it wait until after I fuck my boyfriend?”
“You are uncomfortably candid when you’re in pain,” Logan observes from the floor. He and Virgil are playing chess while sitting next to each other.
“I told you guys the New Year’s resolutions are lies,” Virgil grumbles, sacrificing his queen to protect a knight. Logan rolls his eyes, and Deceit gets the feeling this happens quite often. “Why doesn’t anyone listen to me?”
“We-- have we been doing a bad job with that?” Patton asks, and Virgil shakes his head.
“That was just a joke,” he says. “Also, fuck you, Logan. You can win all you want, but you’ll never capture my knights.”
“Protecting the knights is not the objective of the game,” Logan protests. “I don’t see--”
“Now, Logan,” Patton says. “Have you ever managed to capture one of his knights?”
“...Well, no,” Logan admits. “But that’s just because it hasn’t been advantageous to do so in any game so far. I’m sure I will do so eventually.”
“You won’t,” Virgil says, smirking. “You’re too obsessed with acquiring the center to do anything to them before the middle game, and by the endgame you just checkmate me quickly instead of wasting time going after my knights, since you know I can’t do anything to you with two knights and a king.”
Logan furrows his brow.
He makes his move.
Virgil grins openly then, and slides a bishop over to capture Logan’s queen.
“What,” Logan says. “What! You-- you can’t--”
“You assumed I was just prioritising my knight, so you didn’t notice I was setting you up to lose your queen,” Virgil says. “It’s sort of cute, how you assume I can’t both be good at chess and ignore the very premise of the game at the same time.”
“Well you-- your face is sort of cute!”
Virgil raises an eyebrow.
“We have the same face,” he says, and Logan flushes.
“I said what I said,” he proclaims. “Onward with the game.”
“You’re doing well, Virgil,” Patton observes. “This is the most even you’ve ever been with Logan this far in a game. You’re practically in the endgame!”
“What can I say,” Virgil says. “When someone threatens my children, I have to fight back.”
Logan scoffs, and Deceit sits down to watch.
“Deceit!” Roman shouts, apparently just now noticing his arrival. “Pull open a cracker with me!”
“A cracker? Is this like the Pocky game? I’d rather not, especially with how rude you are to--”
“Pocky game? What on Earth is that?” Roman interrupts.
“Well, Roman,” Patton begins, “I’m glad you asked. It’s--”
“Don’t you dare tell him about the Pocky game,” says a voice from the door, and Deceit looks up and sees Sleep there, leaning against the doorframe with his arms crossed. “He’ll be ten times more insufferable.”
“Don’t kiss me!” Roman shouts, scrambling away from the door to hide behind Patton. “Stay back!”
“I would rather spend eight hours in a bed with Anxiety than kiss you,” Sleep declares, and Roman gasps indignantly.
“Hey!” he says. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means you’re ugly, loser,” Sleep says. “Dee. Let’s go.”
“I’m having fun,” Deceit says.
“Yeah, c’mon-- oh. I forgot you’re telling the truth tonight. Whatever. I guess I’ll stay.”
“I still want to know what the Pocky game is,” Roman says, pouting, and Patton laughs.
“I’ll show you,” he says.
Deceit turns back to the chess game to see Virgil resting his chin on his hand and watching Logan smugly, looking like the cat that got the canary. Logan looks bewildered.
His forces are decimated. He has one bishop left, but Virgil seems to have cornered it with... three knights?
“How do you have that many knights,” Deceit asks.
“I promoted my pawn,” Virgil says. “It’s still your move, Logan.”
“You can’t save that bishop. You couldn’t win even if you kept it. Just give up.”
Logan heaves a sigh, and moves his king to a space right next to one corner. Virgil takes the bishop, and Logan moves diagonally, staying just out of the corner.
More moves happen, and then Virgil makes a mistake. He moves a knight into the corner that Logan has been dancing around since he lost his bishop, then checks his king with another knight when it moves onto the adjacent square, and hesitates right after taking his hand off the piece.
“You stopped touching it,” Logan says gleefully, moving into the corner to capture the knight. “I can’t believe you promoted your pawn to a third knight and you don’t even know how to checkmate with three of them. You can’t take the move back now. That’s a draw. You can’t force checkmate with two knights. And I finally took one of them!”
Virgil heaves a sigh and puts a hand on Logan’s wrist to stop him when he reaches for the other pieces to start setting the game up again.
“Guess which knight that was,” he says.
“Oh, was it your favourite?” Logan asks sarcastically.
“It was the one that used to be a pawn,” Virgil says, “so you didn’t capture a knight. You captured a pawn. And Logan?” He moves one of his remaining knights. “Checkmate.”
Logan’s jaw drops.
“Oh my god,” he says softly. He looks at Virgil.
Virgil starts to say something, but Logan grabs the front of his hoodie and pulls him into a kiss, then pushes him away just as quickly. Virgil is staring at Logan with his mouth hanging open, and Logan is looking away. He seems horrified with himself.
“I apologise,” he says. “I don’t know why I did that.”
“You could do it again, if you wanted,” Virgil says, and Logan flushes an even deeper shade of red.
“Okay, I’m out of here, I did not need to see that. I’m gonna go find the bleach,” Sleep says, standing up and speedwalking out of the room.
“I’ll be going now too, then,” Deceit says, standing up to follow Sleep at a much more leisurely pace. “Update me on what happened at thanksgiving later.”
Back in Sleep’s room, Deceit has barely shut the door before Sleep trips him deliberately and catches him in a dip.
“Wait, don’t kiss me,” Deceit says, and Sleep pouts, pulling them back upright.
Deceit grins roguishly.
“Don’t wanna close my eyes,” he sings, and Sleep lowers his sunglasses for just a moment to fully convey his disappointment. “Don’t wanna fall asleep, ‘cus I’d miss you, babe, and I don’t wanna miss a thing!”
“‘Cus even when I dream of you, the sweetest dream will never do--”
“I’d still miss you, babe, and I don’t wanna miss a thing!”
“You’re a nerd,” Sleep declares, but he’s blushing, and he can’t hide the huge grin on his face.
“Take your shades off tonight?” Deceit asks.
“Dim the lights.”
Deceit dims the lights. Sleep takes his shades off.
A few minutes later, the two of them take other things off too.