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where you lead, i will follow

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all right so picture this: very tiny town. let’s call it uhhhhh... sideshire. why not. the tiny town of sideshire. it’s early morning. there are certain things that happen in sideshire every morning. ms. prince and her son are leading the sunrise yoga class in the dance studio the prince family has owned practically since the town’s founding. other small town stuff. you get it. i’d set the mood but this is a bullet list fic. but the most famed is patton pleading with virgil to get one more cup of hot cocoa/coffee.

(yes. hot cocoa/coffee. it is a mixture of hot cocoa and coffee. it is specific to virgil’s menu. patton attempts to consume enough of it on a daily basis to match the amount of blood in his veins so that his body runs only on hot cocoa/coffee. don’t you mean a mocha? you ask. no, i say, and refuse to explain further.)

logan, on the other hand, is using the distraction of his father pleading for caffeine/sugar to feed his burgeoning coffee addiction.

“DO NOT THINK I DO NOT SEE YOU, LOGAN SANDERS,” virgil bellows, as if he is not already slipping logan a half-caf to-go cup across the table. “YOU WILL GET AN ULCER AND I THE ONLY THING I WILL TELL YOU IS I TOLD YOU SO. CUT IT BACK.”

he is also passing logan a chocolate chip muffin baked with protein powder even as he is lecturing very loudly. it is baked with protein powder because he tends to hide healthy things into food that is probably not healthy otherwise alongside the other things. the ones he tends to reserve for the people he never sees eat a single vegetable, and also for literally every person in the town who could be seen as still growing. virgil loves likes patton a lot, but he also knows that patton has a sweet tooth and adores junk food and is not much of a cook. so he tends to save a lot of the sneak-attack healthy stuff for them.

also perhaps he has a soft spot for logan, probably because logan has grown up in this diner: he’s fallen asleep in every booth, sat in every seat while he colored pictures or did homework or made his own copies of a newspaper out of printer paper, took his first steps on this tiled floor. it’s hard not to develop a soft spot for someone you’ve known since he’s been three weeks old. it’s a Thing. logan only abuses this power sometimes.

“—but i just want a liiiiiiiiittle more hot cocoa/coffee,” patton pleads, trying for his best puppy dog eyes. they always work eventually. “c’mon, i’ve been so good, i even ate your super healthy breakfast—”

“—patton, that was an omelette and i put in maybe two vegetables among the bacon, ham, and absurd amounts of cheese, and do not think i did not see your grocery run last night how can one fully grown man only know how to make box macaroni and ramen and microwavable meals you have a growing son who needs things like vegetables and protein—”

“—but the past is the past! and if i don’t have enough caffeine, i might crash, virgil. i will crash asleep in the middle of this diner. and then you will have to steer all of your customers around me. and then you’re going to have to deal with me eventually waking up and pleading for more hot cocoa/coffee. so if you just give me a cup right nowwwww...?”

virgil folds. he always does. he has the world’s biggest weakness for the way patton’s eyes light up when he gets his way, as if virgil would truly deny him anything (within reason, obviously. if left unattended patton would have the dream diet of a six-year-old.)

“....you’re getting this smoothie to take with you to work.”

virgil has stocked it with protein powder and spinach and literally as many healthy things he can shove into the blender without overpowering the flavor of mango and pineapple. he chose those fruits specifically because they are more powerful than banana and strawberry to mask the flavor of more healthy things. literally all of patton’s healthy eating falls to virgil. it is Kind Of A Problem. virgil has no idea how he hasn’t gotten scurvy.

“deal!”

“you are drinking ALL OF IT, do you understand?”

“yesyesyes, now hot cocoa/coffee!!!”

“....fine.”

“you are an angel sent down from heaven, virgil, i swear.”

at this moment, roman prince attempts to stroll casually into the diner as if he has not just sprinted from the studio for the sole purpose of walking logan from place to place. patton and virgil exchange knowing glances over their heads.

logan obliviously looks up from his newspaper (it is a small town newspaper, as in, it is about six pages and printed on cheap newsprint—it’s all stapled together, more like a scholastic book fair catalogue than a paper proper, most of it a glorified pta newsletter nestled in along stories brought in from the wire around the state, and ap stories for national/international stories. he has underlined and circled various errors in red pen. there are cramped notes along the sides of each column. he will drop it off at the town’s excuse for a “press” on the way back from school. he has been doing this since he was seven years old. he got his first byline then too. patton has every single one of his bylines framed/otherwise in a scrapbook.

when he drops off the paper every day, the sole reporter/editor/photographer of the sideshire courant will attempt to not throttle him every day, mostly because he’s a good part-timer/intern/free labor. the whole town knows he will work for some bigshot city paper someday. but for now his know-it-all-ness is loveably infuriating. emphasis on infuriating.)

and he says “good morning” as if he does not notice how roman lights up when he says it.

patton and virgil exchange an even more knowing glance.

virgil does give roman a good meal that is easy to eat to-go and is also good for replenishing calories after a workout, though. virgil also might have a soft spot for roman prince. this particular soft spot is mostly overridden by bickering. no, virgil is not too proud to engage in bickering with a teenager. shut up.

roman, vaguely related, has also somehow become virgil’s sole confidant when it comes to his crush on patton??? it has also applied vice-versa when it comes to roman’s crush on logan??? how did this happen, you ask? virgil literally could not tell you. he just knows that sometimes roman will come into the diner to Scream about logan sometimes and then will say something along the lines of “sanders men, amirite,” and virgil will grumble at him in commiseration. 

logan and roman depart soon after to walk to do their summer shenanigans (today, roman will win out their argument, and logan will dangle his feet in the town’s excuse for a swimming hole as he reads poetry aloud to roman, who’s diving to get what he hopes are pretty rocks for logan. most of the time they’re covered with moss. logan appreciates the effort. not that he’d ever say it.) patton whips his head around, looking over each shoulder in the most obvious way that he could possibly telegraph I AM ABOUT TO TALK ABOUT SENSITIVE THINGS I DON’T WANT OVERHEARD in a town full of gossips, and ducks closer to virgil, as if he can somehow avoid the town’s eavesdroppers that way. virgil does NOT find it cute.

“i got the letter,” he whispers conspiratorially.

“did you open it???” virgil demands immediately, ignoring the old man gesturing angrily for a coffee refill down the bar, because he could wait and honestly if he didn’t get how patton had priority by now did he even live in sideshire???

“no, i was waiting for you,” patton admits and virgil’s heart does NOT melt a little.

“well?? open it,” he demands.

patton takes a breath and unearths the envelope from chilton.

(backstory: patton started attempting to campaign for logan to get a spot since his freshman year, since his son is so smart and deserves every single chance to succeed. logan does not know his dad has been applying for him, because he would inevitably start fretting about money and transport, but patton’s the dad, okay, he can worry about that stuff. but it’s now hit logan’s sophomore year and it’s the first week for chilton next monday and this letter came and WELL.)

patton does open it. and then patton starts screaming. and then virgil shouts a little too.

BECAUSE LOGAN GOT IN!! but of course he got in, he’s so smart and his grades are so good and of COURSE he would get in but logan would be so excited and virgil virgil VIRGIL MY SON IS GOING TO AN IVY LEAGUE—

patton is maybe crying a little he’s so excited. chilton wasn’t for him because he wasn’t the traditional kind of “book smart” they valued, and he never wanted to go to an ivy, and he’d never really fit in with the whole ‘high society’ thing, plus he was the first openly trans student there, plus like teen pregnancy, but all these opportunities for his son—

and then his face falls a little.

“what??” virgil says, already running through literally every single worst case scenario in his mind. “what is it?”

patton slides over the letter and silently underlines the tuition with his finger. virgil cringes away out of sheer instinct.

patton is a bit late to work that morning because he’s tried to talk out every possible way to make it work with virgil (sell something? sell a lot of things? mortgage? sell all the things???) but he knows there’s a surefire way to get that money without putting himself into major debt.

enter emily and richard sanders. (yes, i’m keeping the names emily and richard. they work too well and i can’t think of anything else. i’m handling it)

so they were a little rocky with accepting that their son is trans, but they’ve always had a... not the best kind of relationship? so they aren’t specifically transphobic (after patton ran away and had logan and they were trying to make amends, they actually paid for his top surgery) but they... well, let’s go with patton wasn’t the kid they were expecting (read: wanted) to have?

they’re v attached to their high society lifestyle, and they expected a kid who would follow that, they expected a kid who was book smart and would be in the top of his class, and they expected a kid who would want to go to an ivy league and settle down in a very cis/heteronormative relationship and uh it was clear p early on that patton Wasn’t Gonna Do That. so patton’s whole childhood was him chafing against these all expectations, and then he comes out, and then pregnancy, and he feels like he’s done everything possible to disappoint them, and the final nail in the casket was running away to sideshire when logan was barely three weeks old in the dead of the night when his parents were out at their first public appearance since logan’s birth, and he took a car and packed up everything and left, the only goodbye a note left in logan’s crib.

but again, they tried to make amends. it has only worked a little. they have stilted contact on holidays. it is polite and frigid. neither patton or logan like it.

so patton begs off work early and makes the drive to their massive mansion. he is very aware that he is in a holey, stretched-out sweater and jeans that are messy from him running around in the kitchen and playing on the grounds with the group of kids that had come up for a debate tournament. he wonders if he has gotten too old to feel rebellious about things like that, and then he deliberately messes up his hair too. just to complete the image.

it’s for logan, patton reminds himself constantly as he squeaks up the stairs in the sneakers that have a hole in the left sole that he’s duct-taped over, it’s for logan, it’s for logan, it’s for logan. his son, who he loves more than anything in the world.

he knocks. his mother opens the door. patton kind of has the feeling that he’s about to sell his soul to the devil.

he talks with his parents. he makes it very clear that it is A Loan He Will Pay Back, and that it is For Logan. patton escapes with three slightly barbed comments about his hair, five about his wardrobe in general, and eleven about his life choices, but he gets out knowing that he and logan are going to have to have weekly dinners with his parents and that he’s going to have to call his parents every week to talk about logan’s schooling, too. but he definitely got the tuition money for chilton.

so, he definitely kind of sold his soul to the devil. just a little.

he also wonders if this knowledge is gonna deplete logan’s excitement over chilton.

patton slumps into virgil’s diner. virgil immediately pours him a hot cocoa/coffee, because patton should never ever look so much like a drowned, kicked puppy.

“so,” he says, tracing the circle of the mug with his pinky, “good news, i got the tuition money.”

“you starting with good news implies there’s bad news,” virgil says, leaning against the counter. his part-time workers, used to this, scoot around him in the quest to serve the other customers.

patton grimaces. “so you know my parents.”

(virgil had a brief run-in with patton’s parents one easter. virgil might have thrown some dyed eggs at their fancy car. it was not a particularly great run-in, even if nine-year-old logan had shouted “COOL!” with delight in his eyes because he was young enough then to not worry about looking serious all the time and patton to this day looks a little smug whenever he sees people starting to dye eggs.)

(virgil had met them one other time before that, actually, but patton wasn’t in a place to remember it and logan was too little to remember it, so.)

“aw, patton, no,” virgil says, putting the pieces together.

“patton yes,” patton says unhappily, “and patton and logan will have to go to weekly dinners until patton is dead, probably, and patton might not escape it even then.”

virgil wordlessly dishes up some of the double chocolate fudge layer cake. it is a mark of how patton feels right now that he does not start crowing about dietary victory over virgil’s extremist vegetable agenda.

(he maybe spends a little too much time hosting roman prince in his house, but hey, any kid is welcome in his house, okay? especially when they’re definitely absolutely in love with his son. patton might have a bet going with himself on who confesses first. his money is on roman, because bless his son, but he is Terrible With Emotions which he probably inherited from patton but in, like, a whole new different way. genetics, right?)

“i mean,” patton sighed, dragging his fork through the icing, “it’s worth it. for logan, anything’s worth it. it's just—”

“your parents suck,” virgil finishes bluntly.

“they don’t suck entirely.”

“not being as much of a transphobe as they could be is a low, low bar, patton. it is literally the most basic bar they should be able to clear, because they’re your parents.”

“...yeah. okay.”

patton finishes the cake, tries to shake off his mood, and asks virgil for an order of takeout so that he can get dinner ready at home for logan, to tell him the good news. virgil sighs a little and barely even makes a comment about how they better eat the side salads he’s included for each of them.


logan walks into the cheerful yellow clapboard house his dad bought as soon as he could afford it, after a morning at the swimming hole and an afternoon spent 1. heckling the one-person staff of the sideshire courant, 2. pestering the librarian for the latest shipping of books she said would be in last week, and 3. reading quietly on the wooden pews that the princes repatriated from the old church before the church got the nicer ones with cushions and sits outside of the prince dance/yoga studio, glancing through the windows to watch roman laugh and spin with little girls who are wearing matching tutus with him, doing ballet lifts with them when they shout and plead MISTER ROMAN MISTER ROMAN MAKE ME FLY PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE! and squints at the table.

“did you... make dinner? you never make dinner. you made sure the smoke alarms were on, right?!”

“how can you not recognize virgil’s spaghetti and meatballs, i’ve literally been feeding this to you since you grew teeth?”

“i’m just used to it in takeout boxes. wait. why did you put it on actual plates?”

“can you just sit down for dinner, please?”

“is someone dead?”

“logan!”

“it’s a reasonable question!”

“no! no one is dead! it’s a celebration dinner!”

“... that doesn’t mean someone isn’t dead.”

logan!”

so logan sits down, squinting suspiciously at his father. usually they just go to virgil’s. or they stay in and make stuff that takes less than fifteen minutes and would probably give virgil heart palpitations from stress.

this is Not Normal. which means something Abnormal has happened. and usually Something Abnormal means Something Bad.

his dad takes in a deep breath, and says, “you’re so smart.”

logan knows this. no one ever accused him of being humble. he cannot possibly pinpoint why this lead to a celebration dinner, though.

“you’re so smart,” his dad repeats, “and you work so hard, all the time. and i know you have such big dreams for the future.”

“dad,” logan says.

patton takes a breath in, and slides a piece of paper across the table. (the tuition sheet, he triple-checked, is not included.)

logan takes it, flips it over, and takes in the coat of arms. then dear mr. sanders, we are happy to inform you we have a vacancy at chilton prepatory for this school year. due to your son’s excellent grades and recommendations, and your enthusiastic pursuit of his enrollment...

he can’t keep reading from there, though. because his eyes are too blurry and his throat is too tight. he probably needs a new prescription and he might be coming down with strep. or an upper respiratory infection. maybe some variant of throat cancer that is also making his eyes too hot. that’s all it is. he should make a doctor’s appointment.

“dad,” he manages to say.

“oh, hey, hey,” his dad says, and he crosses the table to kneel by logan’s chair and pulls logan down into a hug, and logan shuts his eyes tight.

“you applied to chilton for me?” logan whispers.

logan, of course, knows about chilton. the franklin is consistently rated the best student paper in the state, winning awards both at state and national levels. a diploma from there’s practically a gilded invitation to an ivy league. seven chilton graduates have pulitzers. he knows how good their programs are. he also knows the limited stories his dad has told of his two years at chilton before he dropped out to have logan.

“and i’m... you... i’m in?”

“yeah, kiddo,” patton says. “you’re in. they were practically foaming at the mouth when i showed them your gpa, plus your bylines. they wanted you there so bad. ”

“but it’s so—” expensive, far away, you hated it so much there...

“hey, i’m the dad, okay?” patton says, drawing back and wiping his thumbs under logan’s eyes, offering his own watery smile. familial allergies, maybe. logan should check the filters and possibly update any medical files. “let me worry about all that stuff, that’s my job. your job is school.”

“i’m going to chilton?” he repeats.

“you’re going to chilton,” patton says, and hugs him one last time before rising to his feet and sitting back in his chair. “plus an ivy.”

logan’s cheeks hurt. “i’m a sophomore.”

“yeah, but you’re my sophomore,” patton says, as if that makes sense as a term of endearment, “and you’re gonna get into any college you want, because you’re logan, and you’re so smart, and you work so hard, and you deserve a spot at chilton or any old ivy league that you want, and i am gonna bend the earth and sky to make sure you have all the opportunities you could ever possibly need.”

if logan gets up to hug his dad one more time... well, his dad would never tell.

"eight, dad," he mumbles into his shoulder.

"aw, kiddo," patton says gently, and holds him tighter. "sixteen."


so, patton wasn’t a particularly strict parent, but logan had the feeling that if patton knew how much logan snuck out that his windows would probably be bolted shut and he’d be treated to a lecture about how “sideshire is a small town but that doesn’t mean it’s always safe all the time, okay???” as if logan hasn’t written the defining articles on the crime statistics of sideshire for the past two years, since he was old enough to see pg-13 movies and thereby old enough to see pg-13 statistics.

patton would probably be even less pleased if he knew that logan had perfected his sneak-out route at the age of ten. there’s a trellis of ivy that’s very easy to climb down from his bedroom window, and logan has been hopping the backyard fence since they’d moved into this house. and from there’s it’s just following the well-worn trail to the middle of the town, to the fairy-light-strung gazebo. it’s the perfect halfway point between their houses, and so it was Their Place.

roman grins up at him from where he’s sitting on the gazebo steps, waving his phone at him. “usually i’m the one who calls midnight crisis meetings,” he teases. “i figured that you might want something.”

he holds up two styrofoam to-go cups that logan’s sure are full of milkshake. see, logan is a virgil’s diner man through-and-through, it’s a family thing, but when it comes to ice cream/milkshakes/other ice cream based products, he has to get it from lucy’s. virgil gets it, he gets all of the ice cream he serves from lucy’s.

anyway, he and roman have been getting milkshakes from lucy’s for years: we-gotta-do-these-book-reports milkshakes, screw-the-bullies milkshakes, just-cause milkshakes, logan-i’ve-been-trying-to-teach-a-class-full-of-toddlers-a-waltz-routine-for-two-hours-let-me-have-this milkshakes. so on.

logan accepts his (salted caramel to roman’s chocolate-covered cherry) and sits on the gazebo steps, stretching his legs out. roman sits next to him, shoulder-to-shoulder, and logan’s heart does that strange squeezing thing that it’s done around roman for as long as he can remember.

(they met like this: they were both in mr. geller’s kindergarten class, and there’s no one with a q last name in their grade, and the only r in their grade was in ms. lansing’s, so he and roman ended up as table buddies. they were supposed to decorate the nametags that were taped onto their desks. logan drew leminscates on his, and roman drew an expansive, wild garden of red roses that leaked over onto his. logan had gotten mad. roman had drawn blue and orange universes over them in apology without ever actually saying the word sorry and he told logan a story about how the flower-world had been populated by aliens and a brave scientist touched down to try to get the prettiest flowers in the universe for his husband, the most handsome prince there ever was. at snacktime logan had traded his strawberries for roman’s jam cookies. they’d been inseparable ever since.)

(logan’s nervous about a lot about chilton, but he’s most nervous about changing this. losing this.)

logan takes off the lid, and drags his straw through the whipped cream, attempting to eat it first, so that the whipped cream wouldn’t sink down and prevent him from finishing off the milkshake with a mouthful of caramel-tinged whipped cream. roman steals his maraschino cherry. that’s all normal. it’s all so normal, sitting here together in the gazebo in the dying heat of summer, the only light from the stars and the fairy lights, and logan stares at his shoes—his formal-ish black shoes—and how they look next to roman’s red high-top converse, scrawled all over with multicolored sharpies because roman was a horrible fidget, and he was most prone to drawing all over the nearest surface (paper, his hands and arms, his legs if he’s wearing shorts, his shoes, logan, sometimes, if they manage to get seats close enough together in class and sometimes when they lay in the gazebo in silence, chasing sugar highs and enjoying the stars—)

“i’m going to chilton,” he blurts to their feet. “my dad’s apparently been trying to get me in since last year, but a spot opened up, and—and it starts monday.”

there’s silence. logan almost can’t bear it, before an arm slings over his shoulder.

“logan,” roman says, and he’s... smiling. maybe.

“you’re not mad?” logan says, confused, and roman blinks at him.

“why would i be mad?” he says. “i mean, you didn’t know, right?”

“right,” logan agrees tentatively.

“so,” roman says. “i mean, i always knew you were gonna, like, go off to stratospheres of academic excellence, it’s just happening a little earlier than expected.”

there’s something wrong with his smile. something brittle. logan doesn’t like it.

“roman—”

“i’m happy for you,” he says, and there’s something biting there.

“roman.”

“look, i just—whatever,” roman huffs. “you’re going to fancy prep school. good for you. it’ll be great. you’ll be great. tell me about the stupid franklin.”

the franklin isn’t stupid,” logan says, shaking off roman’s arm. “it’s one of the best student-produced papers in the state. that includes high schools and colleges.”

“right,” roman snaps, “of course. the franklin’s fucking perfect. my mistake. like your stupid chilton uniform’s gonna be perfect, and all your new snooty chilton friends are gonna be perfect, and your ivy league is gonna be so fucking perfect, because you’re just too perfect, right?”

“i—what?!” logan says, trying to shake off his confusion like it’s something as physical as roman’s arm. “you said you weren’t mad!”

“i’m NOT!” roman snaps, and then he falls silent.

“i thought you would be happy for me, because that’s what friends do,” logan snaps right back. “i want to go to the best place for my future, what’s so wrong with that?!”

nothing,” roman spits, getting to his feet. “absolutely nothing’s wrong with that.”

“then act like it!” logan hollers back, surging to his feet because he hates anyone looking down at him, literally or metaphorically. “what is your problem?”

my problem??? my problem????”

“yes! YOUR problem!”

“fine! i guess it is my problem! because i’m not smart like you, logan sanders, otherwise known as mr. right-all-the-time—“

“wh—i don’t even know why i cared!” logan snaps. “it’s just that this is important to me, roman, i’m not going to apologize because i’m doing something that’s going to be good for me, that’s—”

“going to get you out of sideshire?” roman says, bitter.

“fine! yes! i want to do things, i want to write about important things, and i can’t exactly win a pulitzer covering the latest town meeting for the courant, okay?!”

“oh, so some fictional pulitzer’s important to you, but i’m not?” roman snaps, and logan’s mouth snaps shut, and his voice catches in his throat, and his brain runs over the conversation because when had he said anything that could possibly be interpreted like THAT?! but he realizes when roman’s face drops and then screws up that he’d taken too long to answer.

wow,” roman scoffs. “i—you know what? have fun at chilton, walter crank-kite. i hope you and your imaginary pulitzer become the best of friends.”

“roman,” logan manages to say, but roman jostles his shoulder on his way out, and he slams both the salted caramel and the chocolate-covered cherry shakes into the trash, stomping back toward the prince studio and apartment.

and logan’s left standing in the middle of the gazebo, wondering what just happened.

“emotions,” logan huffs, and kicks one of the railing posts.


when logan slouches down the stairs the next morning, hair mussed and scowling, patton doesn’t really question it. sanders men aren’t morning people. it’s a fact of their nature. he figures it’ll get better after a mug of coffee from virgil’s.

it does not get better after a mug of coffee from virgil’s.

patton gently mentions how it’s his last friday of summer, and logan makes vague mumbling noises, stabbing his scrambled eggs with his forks more than actually eating them.

“well,” patton says, keeping his voice chipper. “no matter what you decide to do, be back at the house, okay? we’re having dinner with my parents at seven.”

logan stiffens. he drops the fork with a clatter. “it’s not a holiday,” he says suspiciously.

“well, no, but—”

“we only see grandma and grandpa on holidays.”

“it’s about chilton,” patton says. “they’re excited that you’re going. it’s a celebration—”

“we already had a celebration dinner,” logan grumbles. he picks up his fork and starts stabbing his eggs again. “i liked that celebration dinner. dinner with grandma and grandpa is a punishment dinner.”

“hey,” patton says, trying to be a little stern, but, well, he’s right. “they’re excited you’re going to their alma mater. they want to have us over for dinner more often. it’s like a peace offering.”

“did i do something?” logan says suspiciously. “you said no one was dead. i should have rephrased—is someone dying?”

“logan, what?! no!”

virgil, swinging by, frowns at logan’s plate.

“you need more protein,” he says. “eat your eggs, don’t kill them. they’re already dead.”

“i don’t need more protein.”

“yeah, i see the vast majority of your meals, kid, that’s not gonna fly,” virgil says. “eat the eggs.”

“words can’t fly and you sneak protein powder into every pastry i eat anyway,” logan mutters, and rebelliously shoves a forkful of eggs into his mouth. virgil nods in approval and goes to drop off a plate of pancakes for the nearest gossips.

no one is dying,” patton says exasperatedly. “what makes you think someone is dying, anyway? why is that always your first thought lately?”

“statistically—”

“let’s not get into depressing journalistic statistics first thing in the morning, huh?” patton says hastily, because he has made that mistake before and spent the rest of the morning in the throes of an existential crisis or general misery about the state of humanity or the planet.

(not even just, like. generally depressing statistics. journalism-specific statistics can be plenty depressing too! i went digging for some and then it turned into a couple paragraphs of me presenting paragraphs of statistics about journalists. and then i tried rewriting it like three more times. it basically boils down to me lunging through your screen to scream “support journalists” okay???)

anyways, to get back into the fic, patton is aware of these statistics. he has rambled nervously about them to virgil, who has internalized these worries. am i basing that instance off people in my life who similarly care about me but aren’t Into Journalism like i am? yes. buzz off. i said i was getting back to the fic.

anyway, patton briefly mentally flashes through the “photojournalists can be as likely as combat veterans to develop ptsd/journalists tend to self-medicate with caffeine and alcohol and sugar/the job market isn’t great/you absolutely Do Not go into journalism for the money” statistics that i just summed up for you instead of ranting for five paragraphs you’re welcome, and says,

“do you want more coffee? you’ve barely had any.” because, you know. he’s a sanders. caffeine’s gotta work some kinda magic. and also the whole “journalists love caffeine” thing is Real Okay it’s Backed By Statistics.

virgil, on his way back to dump an armful of empty dishes back in the kitchen to be washed, is about to start lecturing, before he stops and frowns.

“yeah,” he says. “i... logan, i haven’t even caught you trying to sneak a refill.”

this is a cause for Concern. logan has usually attempted to get at least one refill at this point in the breakfast.

logan jerked up a shoulder in a shrug, and shoved another forkful of eggs into his mouth.

virgil frowns, tops up his mug, jabs a finger in patton’s direction and says, “not a word,” before he vanishes to drop off the dirty dishes.

“do you know what you’re gonna do today?” patton prompts. “there’s some debate kids in the inn. i’ll look the other way if you want to totally wreck them.”

this is usually a temptation for logan, who gets into arguments the way cats get into any visibly box-shaped object. debate kids in town on tournament meant kids being ready to practice arguing, and logan tended to delight in taking on their arguments and poking holes into their arguments, their fact-checking, their general take on debate—

“maybe,” logan says listlessly.

“i saw that the courant had a spelling error, right on the front page,” patton offers encouragingly, because he is getting more and more worried about his son right now. “i bet rudy’s been waiting for you to storm into the office since he noticed it.”

this is also usually a temptation for logan. he’s usually gleefully ripping the courant to shreds at this point in the morning. he hasn’t even glanced at the paper dispenser or asked patton for a spare quarter in case he forgot to grab something from the family piggy bank to be able to buy the paper.

logan never forgets to get change to be able to buy the paper.

logan shrugs again.

“are you feeling okay?” patton says abruptly. “let me feel your forehead. do you think you’re coming down with something?”

“i’m fine,” logan says sharply, ducking aside so that patton doesn’t have access to his forehead.

except even being sick wasn’t an excuse for logan to not want to look at the paper, patton realizes, because what delights logan most when patton stays home to look after him when he’s sick is when patton brings back the spare copies of the new york times and the washington post and the wall street journal from the inn, and will be confined to bed rest as long as he has something to read in his hands.

“are you okay?” patton repeats, and logan sneers at his eggs.

“i’m fine,” he says.

“if you keep making that face it’ll stick like that.”

“that doesn’t make any sense!”

which is typical for logan to say, whenever patton busts out a dad-ism like that, except logan doesn’t usually yell it and slam down his cutlery loud enough to make half the diner look in their direction.

“whoa,” patton says, “kiddo, hey—”

nobody is making any sense,” logan seethes, and grabs his stuff. “i’ll be back for the stupid dinner.”

“hey!” patton says, stern, but logan’s already storming out of the diner, the bell above the door jangling, discordantly cheerful.

“what,” virgil asks, coming up behind the counter, “was that?”

i,” patton begins, and frowns. “i have no idea. i mean, he’s been in a bit of a mood all morning, but i just thought it was a morning thing, but i mentioned the dinner and he got all...”

(oh, patton, bless. you have no idea. keep working under that assumption, though.)

“he and your parents only sometimes get along, right?” virgil says in an undertone.

patton lets out a slow breath. “usually, it’s like a flip of a coin,” he says. “either they’re all thrilled that he’s, you know, as smart and talented as he is, and he preens under all the attention. or, well. they say something about how smart and talented he is, and how we could work to apply it better, and he...”

“gets snappy,” virgil says, because he bore witness to quite a few of toddler/little kid logan’s temper tantrums and has seen them age, like really terrible wine. “yeah.”

patton hesitates, before he looks at him out of the corner of his eyes. “can i get another hot cocoa/coffee to deal with my son going very teenager, all of a sudden?”

virgil snorts, and fondly snatches logan’s freshly-filled mug away, holding it out of patton’s reach when he jokingly tries to jump for it, and that’s a little better.


so. logan’s not having a great day.

he couldn’t sleep because he was too busy trying to figure out what the hell happened with roman. he bit his tongue so hard it bled when his dad had off-handedly mentioned going to the prince studio as an idea for what logan does with his day. he apparently has to go to dinner with his dad and his grandparents.

logan’s relationship with his grandparents is, in a word? stilted.

(logan may be terrible with emotions, but he knows his dad well enough to spot the way his shoulders tighten up and hunch over whenever his parents say something with that particular twist of their lips, to see how he starts absently rubbing the sleeves of his sweater or cardigan between his fingers or over his face like he needs comfort, the way he always makes sure to hug logan tight and firmly tell him that he supports logan, always, no matter what he wants to do, as if logan has not known this since he was capable of knowing anything at all.

logan may be terrible with emotions, but he knows the way his other father slips up and starts to call patton something that doesn’t share any of the syllables of his name and the way the blood drains from his dad’s face, every time, and he can count the times his other father has remembered his birthday on the day of and contacted him that day on one hand, whereas his dad wakes him up every birthday morning at 4:03 am to tell him all about how he was born no matter how much logan groans about it.

logan may be terrible with emotions, but he knows that’s not a man his dad should have been married to, ever, no matter how much his grandparents insist on how good it would be for the three of them, how they both needed someone to take care of them, as if patton hasn’t been taking care of the both of them on his own since logan was three weeks old.

logan may be terrible with emotions, but he has grown up surrounded by the people of sideshire who love and support his dad, who have never called him the wrong pronoun or name, and logan may be terrible with emotions but he is smart and so it’s been easy for him, over the years, to compare high-class to the town that his grandparents seem to look down upon, and logan may want to leave sideshire but he still loves it.

logan is terrible with emotions, so he gets snappy when his grandparents get snappy, but that’s not the way a proper young man should behave, logan, because he’s more obvious with his barbs than they are.

oh, they love him. he knows that. they fawn after his school work and exclaim over his bylines and send clumsily impersonal gifts for each holiday and take him out to a fancy dinner within the week after his birthday every year, he knows that they love him. he knows that they love his dad, too. it’s just hard to remember that when his dad got into the driver’s seat after last christmas and burst into tears because his parents had sprung a visit from his other father on them without any warning at all, and how they always call the inn a motel, and how they always look down on the cozy yellow clapboard house patton bought them, and a million other little things in their lives that become targets, and how it wasn’t the first time logan had ever seen his dad cry after a family function but it had been the first time since logan was a little kid, and it still hurt to see that his dad, who probably had more capacity to love people than logan had ever seen, had grown up with people who always had terms and conditions to their affection and their presence in his life and yet still had the audacity to insist that they were trying, patton, can’t you meet us halfway?

so. yes. stilted is certainly a word for it.)

so when he gets back from hiking angrily around in the forests surrounding sideshire, and sulkily takes a shower, and puts on the most formal look that his grandparents will probably be displeased with but cannot actually disapprove of (he’s particularly fond of the trans flag tie part of it, in addition to the rainbow handkerchief he’s put in his blazer pocket) he’s still in a bad mood.

“ready to go?” his dad says, from where he’s nervously tugging at all his clothes. he always dresses a bit extra masc whenever they go to his parents’ house, and he usually spends the next couple days in his coziest sweaters with his hair as messy as it possibly can get like he’s trying to reassure himself that he can be a bit of a mess without people lecturing him for it as long as he’s comfortable, and logan really, really hates going to his grandparents, along with the world in general right now.

“if i have to be,” logan says.

the whole car ride there he sits with his arms crossed and glaring out the window, not engaging with his dad’s slightly subtle “so how was the rest of your day?” to his more telling “you know you can talk to me about anything, right?” to his very obvious “if you aren’t okay, i can call and tell them to push it off to another night.”

when they get there, patton shuts off the car.

“i know your grandparents’ aren’t—”

“i’ll be civil,” logan says, cutting off the pep talk, and gets out of the car before he can get the whole lecture. he hears his dad sigh before logan shuts the car door.

logan straightens his tie, puffs up the handkerchief so that it’s blatantly in the line of their vision, and patton gets out of the car. they walk in silence to the front door.

logan mutters, “let’s get this over with.”

his dad laughs, breathlessly and nervously, and knocks.

his grandmother opens the door almost before they’ve finished.

“logan!” she says, fondly. “patton,” she adds, less enthusiastic.

“mom,” he says.

“right on time,” she says.

“traffic was... fine,” patton says lamely, and they both walk into the house.

“i can’t tell you what a treat it is to have you boys here,” she continues, and patton looks cautiously optimistic.

“yeah, we’re pretty excited too,” patton says.

“now, let me look at you in the light, logan,” emily says. “oh, look at how handsome you are. growing up all the time. just the picture of a proper young man. it’s so good to see you.”

she gives logan a long hug. logan stiffly holds his arms in place, looking to his dad as if to say, help. patton shrugs. logan rolls his eyes to the heavens and pats her once on the back.

“it’s, um. it’s good to see you too,” he says, lying through his teeth.

“so!” she says, drawing back and grabbing logan’s hand, pulling them toward the Fancy Fancy living room. “tell me all about chilton.”

“i haven’t started yet.”

“richard! look who showed up!”

logan’s grandfather looks up from his paper and squints at him. “you’ve gotten tall.”

“i suppose.”

“what’s your height?”

“five eight.”

“tall. still growing, i assume. i’m on the edge of my seat to see how tall you become.”

he looks back to his paper. logan, not for the first time, thinks he knows where he gets it from.

“hey, dad,” patton says.

“patton,” he says, without looking up. “your son is tall.”

patton grins. “yeah,” he says, remembering how he shot up nearly six inches after he got back on t after logan was born, and how logan’s probably going to get even taller than him soon. “remember when he used to fit in the dresser drawers?”

dad,” logan complains.

“champagne, anyone?”

“oh, um,” patton says. “champagne, wow. fancy.”

“well, not every day i have my boys here for dinner on a day the banks are also open. a toast?”

she does not ask patton if logan should have champagne. he probably would have said yes, but still. it’s the principle of the thing. patton grits his teeth for a moment.

“to logan entering chilton,” she says, raising the glass. “and an exciting new phase in his life!”

“here here,” richard says, still reading the paper, and they all drink the champange.

“this is so exciting,” emily continues, “an education is the most important thing in the world, after family.”

“and cookies,” patton blurts out.

his parents both look at him.

“joke.”

“ah.”

logan hesitates, still staring at the paper. the front page isn’t visible but the design styling’s so obvious logan already knows, but—

“is that the times?”

"yes,” his grandfather says. “interesting article about the effect of delivery on local restaurants and grocery stores today, have you read it?”

“no,” logan says, “i haven’t really read much of the news at all today.”

richard, without looking up, hands logan a copy of the washington post from where it’s folded up beside an already-read copy of the wall street journal and the latest copies of national geographic and time. logan, smirking a little, takes it.

“can you please wait to read until after dinner,” emily says wearily.

“oh, let them have their bonding time,” patton says, grinning widely now, and picks up the national geographic (pretty pictures!)

patton likes to imagine that his mother barely quashes the urge to throw her hands up in defeat.

the dinner, however, is much more awkward than all of them reading their publications of choice in quiet (patton’s mother had selected ladies’ home journal, in a move that patton isn’t quite sure was a masked hit or not) and he absently tears a roll to shreds in his hands, ignoring the way his mother is glowering at the little bread bits he’s littering on the table. 

“logan, how do you like the lamb?” she says instead.

“it’s good,” logan says, as if he has not been poking it with his fork more than eating. patton figures it’s better than stabbing, but he would prefer if his son actually ate.

“too dry?”

“no.”

“hm. shelby always leaves it in too long. i’ll have her make something else.”

“please don’t,” patton says hastily. 

“it’s fine,” logan says, when it looks like emily is about to mow over patton again.

“well. all right, then.”

a pause.

“how are things at the motel?”

“inn,” logan and patton correct simultaneously.

“i’m the executive manager now,” patton continues. “run the whole place.”

“oh,” emily says. both his parents startled. logan looks offended on patton’s behalf. patton tears off another chunk of the roll.

“dad’s done a great job with the inn,” logan says, defensive. 

“speaking of which,” emily says, “your father called the other day, logan.”

logan goes stiffer. “my father’s right here.”

“he’s doing very well, out in california,” emily continues. “he’s got his own practice now. very talented man, your father.”

“i know,” logan says, glowering. “dad’s worked his way up to executive manager. he’s the youngest executive manager in the whole inn’s history and he’s getting his business degree. he’s thinking of buying an inn of his own someday.”

“logan,” patton murmurs quietly. a please be civil. 

“well, that’s a bit different, isn’t it?” richard says. “christopher was always a smart boy. top of his class at chilton, and then at stanford, you know. you must take after him.”

“excuse me,” patton murmurs very quietly. he goes into the kitchen. logan gets to his feet, and so does his grandmother.

“i’m going to—”

“please keep your grandfather company,” she says, and goes into the kitchen. logan sits down reluctantly, before he says directly, “have you ever heard of howard gardner?”

“no.”

“he identified the seven distinct types of intelligence.”

“hm. seven, really.”

“yes. seven. linguistic, logical, kinesthetic, spatial, musical, interpersonal, and intrapersonal,” logan finishes, jabbing at the lamb. “dad might not be traditionally book smart, but he’s very smart in his own way. intrapersonal, specifically, but interpersonally too. i’d be proud if i inherited any of his particular types of intelligence. clearly he’s the only sanders man to have them.”

richard is about to retaliate, before there’s noise from the kitchen.

“—how could i have possibly taken that the wrong way? what was left open to interpretation?!”

“keep your voice down.”

“no! why do you pounce on every single thing i do that isn’t enough for you?”

“you’re being very dramatic.”

his father laughs bitterly. logan digs his fingernails into the silver of the knife and fork he’s still holding. 

“dramatic. right. of course. i’m always the dramatic one. silly me, i must have forgotten, like i forget everything else, because logan gets any smarts from him, right? i’m the one who raised him, but any good part of logan, it always gets credited to him!”

“well, that’s not true—”

why else would you bring him up like that?”

“we like christopher.”

“yeah, well, i remember you having a very different opinion when he got me pregnant.”

“oh, please. you were sixteen, what were we supposed to do, throw you a party?! you had such bright futures, we were disappointed.”

“yes, and by letting him go to california and having me raise logan, we got to keep those bright futures.”

“when you get pregnant, you get married! a child needs a father and a—“

she falls very silent. logan feels what little lamb he had churn in his stomach.

“finish your sentence,” his father says, and he sounds cold. like logan. he sounds like logan when he gets angry.

“i didn’t mean—“

“yes, you did. you did mean it. you were about to say a child needs a father and a mother, weren’t you?”

“patton—”

“logan was never going to have a father and a mother. he was always going to have two dads. and i’m a good dad. i have done fine with logan on my own.”

“that’s right. far away from us.”

“mom—!”

“you took that boy and you completely shut us out of your life!” emily shouts, and logan is very pointedly not making eye contact with his grandfather right now. “we came back to a note in a crib in the middle of the night, no idea if you were safe, if you and logan would have gotten hurt—”

“i would have suffocated here.”

“oh, and you’re so perfect, and i was so controlling, hm? i put you in good schools. i gave you the best of everything. i made sure you had the finest opportunities. and I am so tired of hearing about how you were suffocated and i was so controlling. well, if i was so controlling, why couldn’t i control you running around getting pregnant and throwing your life away?”

“mom, if you don’t stop, i’m leaving. i swear. i will leave, and i’ll break out agreement, and you’ll be lucky to get christmases ever again, do you understand me?”

what?!”

“i’m not going to keep trying to rebuild a relationship with you if you just keep telling me i threw my life away!” patton snaps. “i have a life. it has a little color in it so it might be a bit weird to you, but it’s a life, mom. and if i hadn’t gotten pregnant i wouldn’t have had logan.”

“you know that’s not what i meant—”

“maybe i was some uncontrollable terrible child like you said but logan isn’t! he’s smart and careful and ambitious and a hard worker and a good kid, and i raised him, mom. he’s my son.”

“you were still a child raising a child.”

“that stopped as soon as that test went positive. i figured out how to build a life, i found a good job—”

“as a maid,” she hisses.

housekeeper, actually, which is a perfectly fine living, for your information, but in case you didn’t hear your grandson, i worked my way up. i run the place now. we have a good life with no help from anyone.”

“yes, and think where logan could have been if you accepted a little help from anyone, hm?”

“why do you think i’m here right now?” patton shouts. “i opened my life back up to you when i established myself enough in sideshire. i accepted the top surgery that you gave me instead of an apology. i have been coming for holidays for years. and now i’ve asked for help for logan. now logan is going to chilton. you have your weekly dinners. i’m back here. you win. aren’t you thrilled about it?! isn’t that all you want?!”

logan sets down the silverware. he thinks he might be a little sick.

“is that what you think?”

“yeah, well. you haven’t really done anything to show me otherwise, have you?”

“i have no idea when you became so sensitive. you used to be such a pleasant child.”

“...you seriously just didn’t listen to a word i said, did you? for your information, being sensitive is one of the things i love most about—you know what, forget it. fine. let’s just have dessert. logan and i can go home, we’ll try again next week, i’m sure we’ll fight again then. and then you can keep telling me all about how i used to be so pleasant without thinking about how maybe i got some things from my parents, too.”

the door opens back up. logan looks back to his grandfather in a panic, only to see his head tipping forward onto his chest.

how could he have possibly fallen asleep during that? logan thinks in disbelief.


patton gets into the car and lets out a breath he feels like he’s been holding since he walked into that house, logan buckling his seatbelt.

“do you want to stop at virgil’s for coffee?” he says, a little timid. like a peace offering.

patton chews his lip. “how much of that did you overhear?”

“...snippets.”

“all of it, then.”

“just from her telling you to keep your voice down,” logan says, and patton huffs out a humorless laugh as he puts the car in reverse, glancing back through the back windshield as he carefully backs the car out.

“okay, yeah, all of it. sure. coffee sounds good.”

they’ve been driving in silence for about three minutes before logan blurts out, “maybe chilton isn’t such a good idea.”

what?!” patton demands, and immediately pulls over to the side of the street so he can park and look at his son, face-to-face. “no way, chilton is a great idea!”

“it comes with these dinners as a condition for my tuition, the bus ride is forty minutes both ways which i could be using to study or helping you at the inn or working at the courant, we don’t know if i can’t get into an ivy if i stay where i am,” he lists off, but patton’s already shaking his head.

"these dinners might be bad sometimes but not all the time, you can still read on buses because i know you don’t carsick like that, you’re going to be harassing rudy at the courant for as long as you live in sideshire because you have been doing that since you were seven and i’m pretty sure it somehow works as stress relief for you, and isn’t it better to improve statistics than risk it?”

“i don’t like the way they talk to you.”

“i can handle it,” patton says gently. 

“you shouldn’t have to handle it,” logan grits out.

“look,” patton says. “the dinners are mostly so they can keep tabs on you, okay? they want to get to know you a bit better. and you know that they aren’t always like that. tonight was a bad night.”

“dad—”

“right, i’m the dad. and i know that most of the time i make sure this house is a democracy, but i gotta pull the dad card here, okay? chilton is a good idea and you’re going. it offers too many good opportunities for you to not go. and sure, going to these dinners isn’t... the best, but i can handle it. i handled it for years before you were born, and it’s better now than it was then. besides, i already paid tuition, so.”

logan lets out an irritated sigh.

“so,” his dad repeats. “you’re going to be great at chilton, and i’ll be okay going to dinners. if there’s a day where i can’t handle, i’ll call out sick. promise.”

logan looks back out the window.

“is it just the dinner that’s bugging you?” patton tries. “because you’ve been in a bit of a mood.”

“i’m not in a mood.”

patton lifts his eyebrows silently at his son, until logan turns to see the expression on his face, scowls, and looks back out the window.

 “i thought we’d said we’d go for coffee.”

“yeah, sure thing. it’s just that i’m worried about you, and i want to make sure you’re okay. if it is the dinner, fine. if you want space, that’s okay too, as long as you know i’m here to talk it out. i know emotions aren’t your favorite thing.”

logan pauses, scuffs his shoe, and mutters, “emotions don’t make sense.”

patton briefly flashes back to that morning in the diner, thinks about nobody is making any sense! and the only other person who could get his son in such a state, and has an aha! moment. “yours, or is it someone else’s emotions that have you like this?”

logan hesitates. just long enough that patton thinks he might get it. (also, okay, he knows that needling logan isn’t the Best parenting move, but sometimes logan needed to be prodded until he’d blow up and rant about everything that was bothering him, like the world’s most cathartic volcano.)

“...a certain dance teacher’s assisstant, maybe...?”

“coffee,” logan grits out.

patton obligingly puts the car in drive and keeps going. also logan is still trapped for thirty more minutes, so patton will get there eventually. he loves his son dearly but patience is not one of his virtues.

“someone who shares a last name with a royal title? that rhymes with wince?”

logan almost audibly grinds his teeth.

“someone whose first name is also the longest lasting empire in history?”

“the longest lasting empire is the empire of japan, then the byzantine empire, then the holy roman empire which is different from the roman empire,” logan blurts out, and then he snaps his mouth shut.

patton stifles his grin as he signals to turn onto a new street. gotcha.

so,” patton says innocently, “definitely not him, then?”

logan is inhaling. patton has to pay attention to the road but he would have money on his son practically inflating on a pufferfish, which meant that in three, two, one—

“he’s infuriating!” logan howls, and boom, yes, there’s the volcano. 

patton is treated to about ten minutes of ranting about how roman prince is the sole cause of emotional distress, not only to logan, (”i mean—if i had emotions,” logan scoffs, and patton quietly saves that talk for another day because they’ve had it before) but to every person in sideshire and possibly the whole world. patton, knowing his son and his best friend, mostly lets this slide in one ear and out the ear, nodding and “mhm”-ing in the appropriate places.

“so,” patton says, when this dies down, “what did he do to cause a rant of those proportions?”

“i told him about chilton,” he says. “somehow that turned into him saying that he wasn’t my friend anymore.”

“okay, whoa,” patton says, “did he say that exactly?”

“...basically.”

“you’re a journalist, you know all about the dangers of having a bias, plus paraphrasing versus quoting directly. give me some context.”

“how dare you use journalism against me,” logan mutters, before he starts telling him about it. (unbeknownst to patton, logan changes the story so that he gave roman a phone call instead of sneaking out. he has to have some secrets.)

they’re nearly to sideshire by the time logan tells him that he was trying to figure out where he went wrong and didn’t answer roman immediately, and patton has been gently cringing for the past three minutes but that turns into a full-on wince that logan could not possibly miss.

“what?” logan says.

“sweetheart,” patton says gently. “he’s scared.”

what???” logan says. “that’s ridiculous. what could he possibly be scared of? he’s the one staying at sideshire high. he’s always had other friends. he’ll probably make more friends now that i’m not going to be at school taking up all his time.”

“scared, or jealous, maybe?” patton says. “think about it. you’re going off to a great new school. you’re going to get way more opportunities to pursue your interests. there are going to be other people who have those same interests, who you will probably get along with very well, and you’ll make new friends. he’s staying here. he’s scared that you’re going to forget about him and leave him behind.”

“but—but that’s absurd,” logan says, but he’s a little less defensive now.

“he’s going to go to school without you for the first time since you both started school, you know? same as you. it’s like he has to re-evaluate his whole school social circle,” patton says. “plus, i mean, then he asked if he was important to you, honey, and you hesitated, which when you add in all that other stuff...”

logan’s quiet.

“he’s scared of losing his best friend too, kiddo.”

logan heaves a massive sigh as patton turns onto the sideshire main road. patton also notices that logan does not deny that he’s scared of losing his best friend.

“i have to apologize, don’t i?”

“i mean, he said some not-great stuff too, but yeah, you should probably initiate.”

logan groans to himself, dropping his head onto the dash, and patton pulls into the parking lot of virgil’s.

“what do i even say?” logan says miserably.

“you’re a smart kid,” patton says, shutting the car off and opening the door. “i bet you can figure it out.”

logan follows, and virgil looks up at them, squinting at their slightly-fancier dress.

“so, dinner with the hellbeasts?”

“they’re my parents,” patton scolds at the same time logan says, “yes, they were terrible,” and hops up onto the barstool.

“coffee,” he says. “and fries. plus a jam tart.”

“logan, you’re killing me,” virgil says. “could i possibly steer you toward ordering something healthy? for once?”

“i only said i wanted coffee, fries, and a jam tart, in no way is that tantamount to murder. plus i get salads all the time.”

“yeah, after i tack them onto your order,” virgil says.

“you know what,” patton says. “make that two jam tarts. and maybe make logan’s order to go?”

logan looks at him, panicked. “what, now?”

patton shrugs. “why wait?”

logan sighs, and repeats, “to go.”

“plus a coffee and a bowl of vanilla bean ice cream for me, please.”

“...plus a salad?”

“virgil,” logan says, anguished, “we had lamb for dinner. that included a side salad. and grandma was mean to dad. let us be unhealthy.”

“...do you want a warm brownie with that ice cream?”

patton smiles a little bit, directing it down at the counter. “if you wouldn’t mind.”

he passes over a twenty to pay. he then hands the change to logan.

“maybe lucy’s wouldn’t be a bad call?” he says to logan, under his breath, and logan nods, taking it.

virgil dishes up their coffees, and then hands logan a bag.

patton pats him on the back. “you got this.”

logan gives him a jerky nod and takes the bag and his travel cup, heading out of the diner.

“so,” virgil says, leaning on his elbows, putting his chin in his hand. “going to see roman?”

“going to apologize to roman,” patton corrects. “he was in a mood this morning because he and roman got into a fight.”

ahh,” virgil says. “well, they’ll, you know. patch it up.”

“they always do,” patton says, “but, well,” he glances around, “it was about chilton, and logan might have implied that roman isn’t important to him, so.”

virgil flinches.

yeahh,” patton says. “i mean, he didn’t mean it, obviously, but. jam tart. lucy’s. him going to actually say sorry.”

“yikes,” virgil says. “um. speaking of yikes... do you wanna talk about...?”

patton shrugs a shoulder. “just my mom disapproving of my life, as usual, and crediting any of logan’s achievements with his other dad, as usual, and she nearly said something pretty trans slash homophobic before catching herself, which, you know, was a new kind of not great, or at least a kind of not great they haven’t been bold enough to say to my face until now,” he says, like it doesn’t hurt. “plus i lost my temper and actually, like, yelled at her, which logan of course overheard.”

“you?” virgil says. “yelling?”

patton nods, drooping.

“jesus,” virgil says. 

“yeah,” patton sighs, and takes a huge gulp of coffee. 

“if you want me to egg their car again—”

patton nearly snorts coffee out of his nose, and then there’s, like, what would be the closing scene of an episode that makes viewers think oh they’re in LOVE love, all fond smiles and laughing at each other as the camera slowly zooms out, showing them looking like they’re wrapped up in their own little world in the middle of virgil’s diner.

 

Chapter Text

here’s how they fell in love:

so, patton’s always been at least fond of virgil, because virgil was the first person he met in sideshire and the first person since he’d given birth to logan to treat him like he knew what he was doing and to offer comfort without being disdainful about it, but logan’s first three years of life were crowded with colic and teething and learning how to walk and talk and all the stuff a baby and then a toddler does, and working extra hours at the inn to justify their tenancy in the inn’s pool house and juggling the sudden bursts of homesickness and intrusions that made him sort of revile home, plus getting back on t and top surgery and getting his ged and figuring out how to budget things for the first time in his life and—

and it was a lot, basically, he didn’t even have time to have a sit-down meal most days unless virgil or maria, the former manager of the inn, forced him into it, much less figure out that cupid was repeatedly striking him with arrows.

he can’t pinpoint an exact moment where he looked at virgil and thought oh, i’m in love with him. it was a slow, quiet realization, over the breadth of night shifts and dragging himself to virgil’s for a cup of hot cocoa/coffee before dawn, over making birthday cakes and helping wrap christmas presents and virgil gritting his teeth when he mentioned his parents, being defensive without being venomous, over logan toddling his first steps on the floor of the diner as patton held his arms out for him and cried when he fell safely into his arms as virgil recorded and whooped, over virgil learning how to make jam tarts when logan began his lifelong love affair with crofters, over fake squabbles about vegetables and fruits and protein servings, over slightly more real squabbles about virgil sneakily giving him the freshly invented friends-and-family discount without telling patton about it and patton only realizing he was getting a discount when he started trying to budget and thereby tried to cut his spending down at the diner, over logan saying his first word ("papa, book," he'd said complainingly when patton was taking too long to pick out a bedtime story, as if he'd said it a hundred times before) and patton knowing the first person he wanted to call, over patton clumsily knitting him scarves and mittens for christmases he couldn’t afford to get him something nicer that virgil always wore even though they practically unraveled themselves if virgil touched them wrong, over virgil coming over to help insulate the inn’s poolhouse when patton kept getting chilblains and logan kept getting colds and refusing to move into one of the inn’s rooms because that would mean lost business but sending logan for fun (read: warm) sleepovers with the princes or at the diner and virgil and maria both had to intercede to make him see sense, over virgil laying out every single pro and con of potential apartment buildings when patton spread the courant’s classifieds over the diner’s bar, over virgil saying while they watched the sun rise together, dead on their feet one morning after he came over to the apartment over in the middle of the night to help talk down logan’s perfectionism-related anxieties the night before he would enter the school-wide spelling bee as the second-grade representative, that i know that logan’s yours but i always kind of thought he was a little mine too

it was a bit like the sunrise that morning, the realization that patton was in love with virgil.


so, virgil hasn’t been in love with patton since he met him, because patton was sixteen and virgil had been twenty-two and he’s not a fucking creep, thanks, but he can pinpoint when he realized he’d fallen in love with him.

virgil had been helping make logan’s birthday cakes ever since his first birthday, and patton called him in a panic because “ovens aren’t supposed to do that right, virgil???? virgil??? are ovens suPPOSED TO DO THAT???” and virgil had tactfully taken over with a double chocolate fudge layer cake, the kind that patton liked. during the birthday party of three people, logan had mostly just happily slobbered all over his jupiter-shaped teething toy and slammed his hands eagerly into the top of the cake, splattering icing everywhere. anyway, virgil mostly picked the cake based on what he and patton liked, since logan was a literal baby, so sue him.

logan’s birthday cake of preference changed over the years into the birthday cake he’s been making for years now: yellow cake with jam between each layer, iced with vanilla icing interspersed with the same jam.

anyway, it had been logan’s sixth birthday (patton now twenty-two, virgil now twenty-eight) and patton had insisted that he help virgil make the cake, and virgil didn’t have the heart to tell him no even though he’d probably be more of a hindrance than a help.

(okay, this is when he realized he was in love with him, okay?)

but he had been instructing patton to mix together the batter, because even disasters in the kitchen could manage an electric mixer, right?

incorrect.

logan, from where he had been scribbling all over the courant in red crayon, yelped and dove under the table for cover, even as patton squawked in surprise and attempted to lift the mixer out of the bowl to minimize damage, which made it even worse. virgil and patton were splattered with most of the bowl’s worth of batter by the time virgil managed to yank the plug.

(shame, too. virgil had really liked that flannel button down he’d worn.)

there had been a few moments of silence as virgil surveyed the surroundings: logan under the table like some kid in a fifties-era duck-and-cover video, patton’s kitchen covered in yellow cake batter, patton’s face and shirt and pants speckled generously with the stuff. virgil could feel where it was sinking into the fabric of his clothes, into his skin, and it was Not Pleasant.

a drip of batter came off from the frame of patton’s glasses and landed on the floor.

patton’s lip trembled. twitched.

and then patton burst out into the most adorable giggles that virgil had ever seen, that then blossomed into him laughing so hard he was crying, and had to sit down on the kitchen floor because he was losing his breath from all his giggling snorts, and he looked up at virgil with his hand over his mouth and his eyes shining brightly, and—

and oh no.


 

meanwhile, logan is trudging from lucy’s parlor to the prince studio, heart racing inexplicably quickly for the very little amount of exercise he’s doing. maybe it’s the few mouthfuls of coffee he’d had while waiting for the milkshakes from lucy’s. that’s probably it.

he juggles the carrier that’s holding his coffee from virgil’s plus the two shakes from lucy’s and the bag of fries and tarts from virgil’s, before he knocks on the prince’s door. (they live in the apartment above the studio, and logan’s known where they hid the key to let him up to the apartment door since he was six, so.)

a woman squints up at him. logan has been terrified of ms. prince since he first came over to the prince’s apartment at age five. most of the town is terrified of ms. prince. she is, to paraphrase roman, about thirty feet of badass former prima ballerina crammed into a five-foot-three body and should be treated accordingly (ie feared. logan knows how badly pointe can fuck you up. this woman made not one but two livings off of dance—performing and teaching. have you ever crossed a dance teacher in your life? never make that mistake.)

“um,” logan says. “hello, ms. prince.” (she is ms. prince to everyone. that is how she likes it.) “is roman home?”

she squints at him a little more.

“i’d like to talk to him?”

she sighs, before turning to shout a string of spanish over shoulder, and he hears an answering stream of spanish in a familiar voice, and even though roman’s probably still mad at him he feels his shoulders relax a little.

ms. prince slides out of the doorway, and roman slides in, scowling.

“i, um,” logan says, suddenly tongue-tied at the sight of roman, in a tank top and shorts, clearly just finished teaching a class or working out in some way because he’s still a little sweaty and his hair is damp. at last, he shakes himself, and lifts up the carrier and to-go bag. “i brought lucy’s? and fries and jam tarts from virgil’s.”

roman surveys him in continued silence. it freaks logan out. usually they’re conversationally flooring over each other all the time.

“can we talk?” logan says. “privately.”

roman looks him up and down, and frowns. “why are you dressed fancy?”

“oh,” logan says, glancing down at himself—right, he was wearing a blazer and tie and pocket handkerchief. “um. dinner at my grandparents’ house.”

roman frowns more. “it’s not a holiday.”

logan laughs dryly. “tell me about it,” he agrees. 

roman hesitates, before he turns to call out, “mom, i’m going for a walk with logan!”

“be back by curfew!” she shouts.

logan takes a moment, briefly, to consider how ms. prince might genuinely throttle them both if she ever found out about how often they snuck out.

roman steps out, and they shuffle down the stairs in silence, before roman props open the door to the studio so that they can sit in the summer air, legs stretched out ahead of them, town gazebo lit up in the distance.

logan takes a breath in, lets it out, and says, “chilton and my future are important to me, that’s true. but i thought it was obvious that you’re important to me. i shouldn’t have hesitated, but i was confused as to how you could have possibly come to the conclusion that you weren’t. aren’t.”

roman looks at him. just looks at him.

“i didn’t realize that you might have been—upset,” logan says. “that i’m leaving. but i’m not leaving sideshire. not yet, anyway. i’m still going to do homework on the pews while you deal with screaming children, and i’m still going to get lucy’s with you, and we’re still going to sneak out to the gazebo. you’re still going to be my best friend. i’m just going to a different school. that’s the only thing that i want to change. i was—”

“scared,” roman suggests, and logan looks down at his shoes and swallows.

“yeah.”

roman sighs, before he leans against logan so that they’re pressed flush against each other—shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip, knee to knee.

“i’m going to have to keep you updated on all the high school gossip so that you can put in the paper,” he says mournfully, as if he isn’t leaning into logan’s side so hard they might tilt over.

gossip does not constitute news,” logan says huffily, as if he isn’t leaning just as hard into roman. 

“for the courant it might.”

“ugh. i should just have rudy’s job at this point, really.”

“does, um. does chilton have a gossip paper?”

and logan knows he’s been forgiven.

“it’s actually funny that you mention that,” logan says, smiling. just a little. “there’s, um. there’s two student papers at chilton, actually. one official and one unofficial: the franklin and the jefferson. it’s this whole rivalry thing going on. it started because they didn’t get on the staff of the franklin because they were too focused on things like who’s dating who or what teacher did what, but then they kind of embraced that and...”

roman’s uncapping their milkshakes as logan explains, and fishes out logan’s maraschino cherry, grinning at him, a white flash of teeth around the bright red, and logan’s stomach swoops.


logan spends most of the last weekend of summer in the prince studio or the apartment, or roman’s at his house, which patton figures he should have expected. that’s the way it goes after logan and roman fight: they sulk, they make up, they spend enough time together to make patton kind of want to check that they haven’t joined at the hip. 

logan actually makes roman quiz him over the chilton student handbook and the chilton school song, in english and in latin, for hours. his son is a nerd. it gets to the point that roman proceeds to literally wrestle the study materials away from him and pin logan down while yelling for patton to order a pizza and put on big hero 6 it’s a movie night EMERGENCY!!!!!! your SON will NOT STOP STUDYING it’s summERTIME PATTON WE HAVE TO STOP HIM BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE

logan made a few token wriggling attempts to get away, and complains a little, but his cheeks go a light shade of pleased pink, so patton figures that he’s okay with roman interceding. just this once.

anyway. the night before his first day at chilton, it’s just the two of them for dinner, trying to clear out some of the leftovers from the fridge. patton had suggested virgil’s, or al’s pancake world, but logan had said leftovers, so leftovers it was. it made sense that he kind of wanted to maximize on introvert time before meeting a ton of new people, though. so they sit on the couch as logan works his way through leftover pasta from virgil’s, and patton handles the chicken fried rice from al’s, patton’s feet beside logan’s hip and vice versa. they’re sharing a blanket. there’s a documentary on in the background.

“what was it like?” logan says abruptly. “for you, at chilton. you almost never talk about it.”

“oh, gosh,” patton says, digging his chopsticks deeper into the rice. “well. i mean. it was pretty different for me than it’s gonna be for you.”

logan blinks at him blankly. patton smiles at him kindly.

“i’m pretty sure you aren’t gonna be the first openly trans student who drops out a year later to have a baby, kiddo.”

logan flushes, just a little. “oh. right.”

patton shrugs. “the kids weren’t the best, but people are more accepting of lgbtq people now, so that’s something, i’m sure. and academically it was pretty tough, but you love that stuff.”

“right,” he says. “just...”

“you’re gonna do great,” patton says firmly. “and even if the kids aren’t, you know, the best, you still have friends here. i am telling you now that it is incredibly unlikely that you won’t make one friend there. i’d say impossible but then you’d be telling me all about statistics.”

logan nods.

“wanna hear about how i’d have morning sickness between algebra and biology in the haunted bathroom?”

“dad. there is no such thing as a haunted bathroom.”

“oh, my sweet naive son,” patton teases, “the things you’ll learn at chilton!”

logan throws a pillow at him.

they spend the rest of the night watching documentaries, and then logan tries to execute his plan.

this plan has several steps. he will go to bed at a reasonable time. he will wake up early. he will dress in his new uniform. he will herd his father to virgil’s, where virgil will send them off with coffee and a healthy, filling breakfast that will prevent his stomach from rumbling embarrassingly. he and his father will get on the bus that will drop them off at chilton twenty minutes early, because he will probably have to fill out several forms. he will make a good first impression on his teachers and classmates.

he’s stuck at the “he will go to bed at a reasonable time” part.

logan hesitates, fidgeting. he hasn’t done this since he was little. it’s foolish. it’s stupid. he’s nearly sixteen now. in many cultures he's already perceived as an adult. he doesn’t need his dad to tell him everything would be okay.

...okay, he might a little.

logan sighs, before pushing open the door to his dad’s bedroom.

“dad.”

no response. he should have expected that.

“dad,” he repeats, pokes his father in the shoulder.

“l’gn?” he murmurs, scrubs a hand across his eye. “s’not mornin, s’it?”

“no, i just—i couldn’t sleep.”

“ah,” he says, and pats the space beside him in bed. logan scrambles gratefully onto the bed, and then under the covers. his cheeks are heating up. it was probably childish that this was making him feel a bit better.

he doesn’t care.

“first day jitters?” his dad mumbles.

“yeah,” logan admits.

“you’re gonna be great,” patton murmurs sleepily. “first day’s always syllabus day, anyway.”

“...syllabus day?”

“yeah. teachers gotta run through their syllabus, s’a school rule. like disclaimers on toasters. you’ll hear the ‘don’t cheat or we’ll kick you out so hard you’ll be paying hospital bills until you’re forty-seven’ speech.... how many classes do you have again? that many times. and classes’ll be shorter than usual anyway, because there’s an assembly to be all, you know, ‘welcome back, welcome freshmen,’ et cetera.”

“oh,” logan says, secretly relieved. 

“they might do a ‘here’s the starter material’ or run over summer coursework, but it’s nothing too bad. no massive tests on the first day. by the end of the first week, maybe, if they’re really mean. but not the first day. you’ll be fine.”

logan nods, absorbing this. his dad yawns audibly.

“sorry i woke you up.”

“no, hey, it’s okay. always wanna know if you’re worried ‘bout something, i’m always here to listen. it was way worse than you had colic, at least now i can stay horizontal. you never went to sleep unless—”

“unless you were moving. i know.”

“got calves of steel from how often i had to walk around bouncing you,” patton finishes sleepily. “you think you can get to sleep?”

“i won’t even force you to walk around,” logan tries to joke.

“you can always wake me up if you want to talk. okay?”

“okay, dad.”

“you’re gonna do great, kiddo. eight.”

“okay, dad. sixteen.”

“i mean it.”

“i know. go to sleep.”

“mkay. you too.”

“okay.”


the alarm clock goes off at six. logan sits up immediately even as patton whines, rolls over, and pulls his pillow over his ears.

it’s his first day at chilton. it’s his first day at chilton.

logan pokes his dad hard in the shoulder, and patton squints at him, face between his pillows, like the world’s biggest pair of earmuffs.

“i’m taking first shower,” he says.

“mkay,” patton says.

“don’t fall back asleep.”

“won’t.”

dad.”

“i’m up, i’m up, i’m up,” patton sighs, flopping onto his back. “turn on the light as you go?”

logan, in answer, pads out of the door and flicks on the light switch on his way out.

logan takes what is, quite possibly, the most careful shower of his life. he is careful to scrub everywhere. he is careful to apply so much deodorant that he could not possibly ever smell like sweat. he uses enough but not too much hair gel, the way roman taught him. he puts on his collared shirt and ironed slacks and belt and tie and blazer. he’s flattening his hands over everything and tightening his tie and trying to make sure That One Strand Of Hair stays in place for once and—

“knock knock?”

logan takes a breath, and opens the door, and patton puts a hand over his mouth for a second before he puts it over his heart.

“oh, god, please do not cry,” logan says hastily, because he recognizes that look.

“you look so grown-up, kiddo,” his dad says, choked.

"ugh,” logan says, secretly pleased that that’s his reaction.

“okay, okay, i’ll take the shower,” patton says. “budge.”

“you said you were wearing the blue shirt and the black blazer and a tie, right?”

“right,” patton says, blinking obviously at him. “we talked about it.”

“dad.”

“oh, shoot, right,” patton says, but logan waves it off because he knows how forgetful his dad is, especially in the morning without any caffeine.

“i’ll grab it for you,” logan says.

lifesaver,” his dad says, and shuts the door behind him as logan heads for his dad’s room again. and puts the hanger on the doorknob to the bathroom. and also maybe puts a specific pair of shoes and socks that will actually match and not be silly socks, for once. logan feels like it’s a strange role reversal that he’s the one laying out the outfit for his first day of school, but whatever. his dad would live in pajama pants and sweatshirts if he could. he’s just making sure he makes a good first impression, that’s all. he then doubles back to his room to make triply sure that all his new school supplies and the student handbook is in his backpack, as well as lunch money and a water bottle and the discreetly printed floorplan of chilton he’s already highlighted with all his classes and—

no, he is not anxious, obviously. shut up.

his dad hops down the stairs, pulling on his shoes at the same time. logan is repacking his backpack for the third time.

“okay, all approved?” patton says, holding his arms out and spinning when he finally finishes jumping down the stairs. he is indeed wearing the same blue shirt and black suit jacket and black trousers that logan laid out for him. the only concession that logan was willing to make was the tie with little collies on it that he figured would make up for the lack of crazy socks. it looks professional in that odd, preppy way that people at chilton probably wore on their “relaxed days” if his grandparents were any indication.

“approved,” logan says. his dad’s hair is messy but it’s literally always messy. patton would probably say it’s part of his charm. it does kind of make his dad look like an overeager puppy. in a nice way? did chilton prefer its students to be nicer? should he work on being nicer in order to advance his academic career? he should work on being nicer.

“okay, we’ll pack into the car, get breakfast at virgil’s, drink our coffee, head to chilton, sound good?” patton says.

“great, now let’s—”

wait,” patton says. “before all that, pictures!”

“no,” logan complains. he was hoping patton would forget this year.

“yes! first day of school pictures!”

“you have,” logan says, glowering, “five minutes.”

“ten!” patton chirps, holding up his phone. “okay, by the stairs, now, here we go, big smile...”

logan forces a grin that is more like a grimace.

patton takes pictures. lots of pictures. so many pictures. logan does not know how someone could possibly want to have so many pictures of him in the same outfit, in the same place. he has been subject to this since he started going to preschool, though, so.

patton drives them to virgil’s (usually they walk, so this is odd) and the bell jangles familiarly when they walk in.

“hey, here’s the private school kid,” virgil says gruffly from behind the counter, and patton grins as he and logan go up to the counter.

“he looks grown up, right?” patton says, taking his seat.

“yeah, what the hell,” virgil says, setting two mugs before them, full of what logan is sure is hot cocoa/coffee. “you were literally just a baby three days ago. stop getting older. you’re giving me a crisis.”

“you’re always having a crisis.”

“who taught you to have an attitude?”

“no one here, i’m sure,” patton murmurs, smiling around his mug, and grins at virgil unapologetically when virgil shoots him a playful glare.

patton’s the one to keep chatter going through breakfast, which isn’t exactly abnormal, but logan usually chimes in or takes over with an immediate rant of “HOW DO YOU DO BASIC FACT-CHECKING SO TERRIBLY” after finding something wrong in the courant. logan’s conspicuously quiet, but he’s eating his eggs with the kind of studious persistence most people use when they’re, like, cleaning out their attic, or something.

the bell jangles, and a voice declares, “good, i was hoping i wouldn’t miss it.”

logan’s lip twitches up into a smile that he’s quick to tamp down before he turns to look at roman, who’s swaggering his way up to the counter. “miss what?”

“the opportunity to make fun of your uniform, obviously,” roman says, taking his seat beside logan. “you look like a knockoff hogwarts extra.”

“you look like a background auditioner of a chorus line who got eliminated in the first verse of the opening number,” logan rebuffs, and roman looks a curious combination of pleased and offended.

“good,” he says, “i’ve trained you well enough that you’ll be able to snap back at any snooty chilton kids on instinct.”

a beat.

“however, i will say that i can’t believe you’re so hopelessly clueless, the seventies look is totally coming back, ralph bore-en, and also i’m a dance instructor how dare you imply that i’d be cut first, do i look like headband???”

they fall into bickering, logan looking happier now he’s got something to distract him. patton rolls his eyes fondly and meets eyes with virgil, like, can you believe them? virgil shrugs, shakes his head, and pointedly nudges the little side of cut up fresh fruit closer to patton. patton obediently spears a chunk of pineapple.

(sometimes, a family isn’t a mom, a dad, and a kid. sometimes a family is a useless gay dad, a useless gay kid, the useless gay grumpy owner of a diner who has basically adopted said kid and is hopelessly in love with the dad, and an overdramatic teenage dance instructor who is, you guessed it, a Useless Gay.)

virgil hands over a lunch he’s packed for logan (”just this once,” he says sternly, and logan takes it without comment, even though he knows that statement is a lie) and roman pitches in so that virgil tosses in an extra jam tart, as if virgil has not already packed him three, and eventually logan impatiently herds his dad out of the diner when it looks like people will start Having Emotions.

“i’m just going to a new school,” logan grumbles, as if he isn’t pleased that they’ve all shown up to support him. “it’s not a big deal.”

“it’s an enormous deal!” roman protests.

“it is a pretty big deal,” virgil says grudgingly. 

“we’re very proud of you—"

“we’re going to be late,” logan complains, but accepts one last awkward pat on the shoulder from virgil and a hair correction from roman before he loads himself into the car.

they drive, mostly in silence. patton puts on npr to help set logan's nerves at ease. it works, a little. they get there, they park, and logan is staring at it mutely.

"i remember it being smaller," logan says.

"you'll find your way around soon," patton says, putting some pep into his voice. "you look great. you are an amazing kid who has earned this. you're gonna go on in there and show them what smart really is, okay?"

"...okay."

"i love you."

"ugh."

"loo-gaan," patton croons, "i loooove you."

(if his son is annoyed at him, he can't be too nervous about school at the same time, right? flawless logic.)

"dad."

"c'mon. do you want me to continue this when we're in there?"

"i love you too," logan says hastily, and opens the car door, bailing out before patton can have any more emotional moments. patton grins at himself in the mirror before he gets out, too.

"ambroise building, right?" patton says, glancing over at the handout logan's clutching.

"yes."

"great," patton says. "on we go, then."

"you remember the way?"

"ah, me and headmaster charleston go way back. i wonder if he's still here?"

"how do you mean?" 

"have your grandmother's lectures to me taught you nothing?" patton offers, opening the door for him. "you weren't my only act of rebellion, you know. i've been saving some of those stories till you're older."

logan looks intrigued. (another great way to distract his son: offer him a mystery.)

they walk down the hallway. patton tries his best to act like the massive, fancy door to the headmaster's office doesn't still intimidate him, and opens the door to them before he can really think about it. it's like just being at chilton again is turning him back into a teenager. logan steps through, and they walk up to a desk.

"um, hi?" patton says, mentally sighing in relief. new receptionist, good. he hadn't made the best impression on the old one. "i'm patton sanders, this is my son, logan. is the headmaster in? he said he wanted to meet us before the school day started."

"one moment," she says briskly, and strides away. patton lets out a little breath.

"you cannot seriously still be nervous about the headmaster's office," logan murmurs.

"shhhh," patton whispers back. "like i said. i've been waiting till you're older."

"what, even fifteen isn't old enough? you were fifteen when i was—" logan waves a hand, attempting not to think of the word conceived, because, you know. gross.

"nope, i was newly sixteen," patton says. "i'm a january baby, you were born ahead of schedule in november, remember?"

logan's about to whine about it, because ugh, dad, GROSS, when the door opens.

"headmaster charleston will see you now."

patton thinks a naughty word.

he thinks an even naughtier word when they walk in and see his mother on the couch.

"grandma?" logan says blankly.

"i came to wish my grandson good luck on the first day of school," she says, sweeping past patton. "logan, you look wonderful in that uniform!"

"wow, mom," patton says, trying not to sound like the recalcitrant teenager that headmaster charleston surely remembers, "you didn't have to come all the way out here!"

"oh, it gave me a chance to make sure that hanlin here takes good care of logan."

hanlin, patton thinks in confusion. if there was ever a teacher that patton would have believed slept in the school and did not exist outside of the hours of 7:30-3:30 within the months of august-may, it would have been headmaster charleston. 

"hanlin's wife and i are on the symphony fundraising committee together," his mother continues.

"wow," patton says. "that's great."

where were all these friendly gestures when i was in school???

"your grandfather and i are golf rivals," charleston says, to logan. ignoring patton. probably the best course of action. "we're still fighting it out to see which one is worse."

"oh, yes," his mother says, after a (rehearsed) polite chortle. "we're all old friends."

"well, it's like they say," patton says, trying his best to project put-together-adult-and-definitely-nothing-like-the-teenager-you-knew-once, "you can't make new old friends!"

there's an awkward silence. logan is giving him a dad. look. patton considers hiding under the fancy leather couch.

"would you like to have a seat, ah—?"

"it's patton, now," he says quickly, lest he get deadnamed on the first day of school and his son makes a horrible first impression by punching him in the nose. 

"right," he says, and they all sit down.

"hanlin," his mother says, "did you know that logan has a 4.0 grade point average?"

"and he got published in the local paper at the age of seven," patton adds.

"i'm sure he knows that, dad—grandma," logan says, and patton hopes his mother didn't catch the momentary hesitation there. "it was in my file."

"this is a very special boy," emily says fondly. "you take good care of him."

"we'll do our best, emily."

"logan's not going to be a problem," patton blurts out. "he's very, um. low maintenance. it's like all the troublemaking got stuck to my generation, or something."

more awkward looks. darn.

"well," his mother says quickly. "we shouldn't take up any more of your valuable time. it was lovely to see you. give bitty our love."

she kisses the headmaster's cheek. logan takes the moment to give patton a help look. patton shrugs helplessly, like, you saw what I just did, how do you think i'll be a benefit here?!?

"tell richard i'll see him at the club on sunday."

"have a wonderful day, logan, i want to hear all about it," she says. "patton, walk me out?"

double-darn. he's not gonna escape a lecture.

"it's so nice to, um, make your acquaintance again," patton says, and shakes hands with the headmaster. he limits himself to just squeezing logan's shoulder, instead of kissing him on the cheeks and squeezing him into a million hugs like he really wants to do. "have an awesome day, okay? you're gonna be great."

a little smile, like he knows. "thanks, dad."

"okay," patton says, and follows his mother out into the hall.

"what tie is that," she hisses.

"logan picked it, actually," he retorts, and she falls silent. "what are you doing here?"

"i came to put a good word in for logan."

"well, thanks, mom, but some warning would have been nice."

"i'm not allowed here, is that it?"

"i did not say that," patton says, hoping that none of logan classmates can see him. that would be a great way to have logan's first day go well, wouldn't it?

"i'm allowed to pay for it," she continues to seethe, "but i can't actually set foot on the premises. how about the street, can i drive down the street? maybe i should just avoid the neighborhood altogether. my doctor is just down the block, though, should i call you to get special permission if i'm bleeding?"

"oh, my god, mom," patton says. "i didn't say you weren't allowed. i was just surprised to see you. i'm sorry if i made it sound—bad."

"well," she sniffs. "i thought it was important for this school to know they had a sanders among them."

patton sighs. "yeah."

"and that some sanders know how to conduct themselves."

"right, on that note, i'm going," patton says.

"dinner on friday!" she calls after him, and patton tries not to roll his eyes. god. this place really did turn him into a teenager again.


back in the office, logan is trying his best to project cool-confident-and-ready-to-succeed-almost-adult. he's not sure how well he's doing.

"you're obviously a bright boy, mr. sanders."

"thank you."

"good grades, teachers like you... not a lot of extracurriculars, though."

"like my father mentioned," logan says, trying not to overemphasize father except he does a little, "i work part-time for the sideshire courant. i help at my father's inn. i'm one of two members of the school's poetry appreciation club."

"what are your aspirations?"

"i want to go to an ivy league," he says, "preferably harvard, to study journalism."

"on your way to being..."

"bob woodward or carl bernstein," he blurts out. "or nellie bly. or upton sinclair. or ida b. wells."

"that seems like a varied selection."

"they're all investigative," logan says. 

"and that's what you want to do. investigate."

"i want to report on what's going on. i want to bring attention to important issues." a pause. "the debate team might also be missing from my file."

the headmaster stands. "i've known your grandparents for some time."

"i know."

"in fact, i was at a party at their house just last week where i had the most delicious lobster puffs i've ever eaten. i'm very fond of them."

"that's... nice."

"i also know your father."

logan's fists tighten. "both of them, i assume."

"yes," he says, and begins to walk around the office. logan doesn't turn his back to stare. "chilton has one of the highest academic standards of any school in america. you may have been the smartest boy at sideshire, but this is a different place. the pressures are greater, the rules are stricter, and the expectations are high. if you make it through, you will have received one of the finest educations one can get. and there should be no reason why you should not achieve all your goals. however, since you are starting late, and are not used to this highly competitive atmosphere, there is a good chance that you will fail. that is fine. failure is a part of life, but not a part of chilton. understand?"

for a split second, logan thinks about his dad. about how dropping out with a pregnancy would have almost certainly been regarded as a failure. he wonders, now, if charleston sees him as a remnant of that choice, instead of his own person. as the grandson to his grandparents. as the product of a failure. logan balls his fists so tight his knuckles go white. he'll prove them wrong. about him. about his dad.

but all he says is "yes, sir. i understand."

"take this to miss james in the administration office across the hall." he says abruptly, handing him a folder, and sits back down. "the back-to-school assembly starts in ten minutes."

logan stands, takes the folder, nods, and escapes, trying his hardest not to grind his teeth.

(after logan fills out his forms, after he takes a seat for the assembly, unnoticed by most, a student will slink in late. he'll have snatched the folder, and read all about his latest adversary. oh, he loves a challenge.)


by the time patton has pulled back up to his house, he puts his head on the steering wheel for a second, just to huff out a breath. ugh. it'd taken him almost the whole ride, full of happy-go-lucky pop music to calm him down. at least he had until friday to prepare to come to face all that again.

his cellphone buzzes. patton looks at the screen display name, turns his eyes to the heavens, and (not for the first time) wonders who it is up there who has it in for him.

"hi, mom," he manages to say in a fairly pleasant tone.

"you should answer the phone more professionally—"

"caller id, mom."

she says, "i'm going shopping this afternoon and i thought i'd pick up a few things for logan."

patton blinks, lifting his head off the steering wheel. "like what?"

"a couple extra slacks and tops for school."

"oh, i already took care of that," patton says, opening the car door and deciding if he was gonna have this conversation, he would have it flopped starfish-style on his comfy, hideous rug. "i got him three slacks and a bunch of tops."

"but there are five days in a school week."

"mom, three pairs of slacks are fine," he says wearily, unlocking the door. "thank you for the offer, but don't bother."

"what if he gets a pair dirty?"

"he has two backups." patton says, and flops onto his rug. it is bright orange and clashes terribly with the rest of his kitschy decor. however, it is also the softest, plushest rug he has ever laid down on, and he's kind of an expert in laying on the floor. 

"what if he gets all three dirty?"

"we have washing machines in sideshire too, mom."

"what about socks?" she presses. "chilton has these special logo socks, logan should have them."

"logan hates crazy socks. he has all the same brand of socks just so he doesn't have to bother with matching them when they're fresh out of the dryer."

"they aren't crazy, they're dignified," she sniffs. "and what about a sweater? he might want that. there's a sweater vest, and a bookbag—"

"mom."

"logan should have these things," she frets. "he'll be the only one that doesn't."

"he's got what he wants, mom."

"i'm at least getting him the chilton coat," she says. "what size is he?"

"mom, please."

"this is a simple question, patton."

"look, i see what you're trying to do, mom, and it's very sweet," patton says. "i understand that you want to provide for him, but you've done plenty, okay? the tuition is the biggest thing, and you've taken care of all that. if logan wants anything else for his uniform, i'll get it for him."

a pause.

patton sighs. "he's a medium, but i'd get him a large for when he grows. he's about to hit a growth spurt."

"well, when he does, i'll buy him another."

"okay, then, a medium is great," he says. "i gotta get to work, mom. bye."

he hangs up before she can add in any other requests, and rolls over to mash his face into the rug, and stops immediately when the smell of feet hits him incredibly overwhelmingly.


 

"—and while french culture was the dominant outside cultural influence, especially for russia's monied class, english culture also had its impact, which we will be discussing next week."

logan is taking notes. no one else is. he tries to be unbothered by that.

"in the first week we'll be discussing these two literary masters, tolstoy and dickens."

a bell rings. "class dismissed." there's the rush of students packing up their bags, and over the rush, logan can hear a murmur.

"looks like we've got ourselves a matthew," someone mutters, and there's a few titterings of people around him. logan shoves his notes into his bag, and flits out into the hall.

or, at least, he means to, until he nearly runs face-first into someone waiting for him. 

"logan sanders, of sideshire. i know who you are."

"wonderful," logan says dryly, and tries to step aside. he steps into logan's path again.

"are you going to go out for the franklin?"

"i don't see how that's your business."

"i'm gonna be editor next year."

"is that confirmed?"

"i'm also top of the class," he says, ignoring logan's comment. "i intend to be valedictorian when i graduate."

"again. is that confirmed?"

"you'll never catch up," he says, savoring the words. "you won't beat me. this school is my domain, the franklin is my domain. you'd do well to remember that."

he turns and strides away. logan wonders where on earth in the handbook it had said that students were allowed to wear bowler hats.


"—sir, i completely understand—"

"oh, do you?!" the man demands. "because this is a brand-new car."

derek, one of the teenage part-timers, is hanging his head, face bright red. 

"he brings up the car and it's scratched!"

"i just backed the car up," derek tries.

"i'd know if my car was scratched before i parked it or not!"

"okay," patton says, in his best soothing voice. "how about we calm down? sir, why don't i have your car looked at tomorrow, i'm sure there's a way we can resolve this. in the meantime, i would love for you to have lunch here, on the house. dessert is a must. our homemade ice cream is delicious, anything you try. life as you know it will never be the same, what do you say?"

"i think i will, thank you."

"oh, thank you," patton says, and turns to derek once he's out of earshot, about to calm him down, but—

"patton, i swear, i didn't scratch his car," derek says, on the verge of tears. "if you thought i was unreliable or a bad driver—"

"oh, derek, hey, hey, it's okay," patton says soothingly.

"i can drive—!"

"i know you can, honey, you're okay," patton says. "we can take it over to the mechanic's tomorrow and have the guys buff it out for no cost, okay?"

he punctuates this with a gentle squeeze to the shoulder, and derek nods, head still hanging.

"in the meantime, how about you go on into the back and tell jason that you get a nice, calming hot cocoa and whatever pastry you want, on me. take a second to calm down, okay? i know it's never fun to get yelled at by those kinds of guys." patton says, and squeezes his shoulder again.

"okay," derek says, and takes a shuddering breath in. "thanks, patton."

"hey, anytime, kiddo," he says. derek's barely walked off by the time shelly from the from desk is hovering at his side.

"patton, call for you."

patton takes a second to huff out a breath before answering, in his most chipper tone, "sideshire inn, this is patton speaking, how may i help you today?"

"well, at least you answer this phone professionally," a familiar voice sniffs, and patton hangs his head in a mirror image of derek before he straightens his spine.

"mom, i'm working."

"i just wanted you to know that i just bought a parking space for logan at chilton."

"you what?"

"they are very hard to come by," she says, sounding pleased with herself. "but i pulled a few strings and it's all his."

"mom, again, that is very kind, but there is one huge gaping problem in that gift," patton says in a rush, "and that is that logan doesn't have a car."

"no, but he has his sixteenth birthday coming up soon."

"mom. you are not buying logan a car."

"why not? he's a smart boy, he's responsible."

"mom, seriously, i'm putting the dad foot down on this one. logan and i agreed that he's going to save up anything he makes from the inn or the courant to get a car, okay? it's about teaching him the value of hard work and how to effectively manage his money. you love those kinds of lessons."

"well, he has to have a way to get around!"

"everything in sideshire is in walking distance, mom."

"he has to have a way to get to school!"

"he's taking the bus."

"i hate that he's taking the bus," she says. "drug dealers take the bus."

"mom, what?!" patton demands, trying to follow whatever kind of rich, privileged logic that was. "i—no, okay, we're talking about this later, i have a job to do."

"fine."

patton hangs up and hands over the phone to shelly without saying goodbye.

"tough 'rents, huh?" she asks, popping her bubblegum.

"you have no idea," patton sighs, and considers following derek on to the kitchen so he could get some kind of dessert pick-me-up too.


logan hesitates, before he sends a text to his dad. I want to take a closer look around at things today, so I'll be coming home on the later bus.

a brief pause, and then, okay, have fun!! i'll be at virgils and i wanna hear all about the first day!!! love u <3 <3 <3

logan slips his phone back into his pocket.

"have a good afternoon, matthew!" someone sneers. 

"the name is logan," he huffs, and sets a steady pace for the library.

it doesn't take him long to find what he's looking for, and managed to find an over-stuffed armchair, conveniently alone, conveniently out of sight of the librarian. logan sits with his two books, and begins to page through the elder of the two.

it's a (well-designed) jumble of text and images, filled with articles and beautiful photographs, and logan's deliberating going back into the index until—

As they go all-out for Couples Day, freshmen Christopher Hayden and—logan covers the deadname with his finger—Sanders dress as Joe Bradley and Ann "Smitty" Smith from the 1953 film Roman Holiday.

logan stares. his dad has long hair in the picture, though it's pin-curled back away from his face, in a collared shirt tucked into a long, high-waisted skirt, with a scarf tied around his neck. his other father, dressed in a dapper suit, is jokingly clinking a glass of something with his dad, both of them clearly hamming it up for the photographer, though there's something pinched around his dad's eyes that hasn't changed with age. it's the same face he makes in photos with his parents. it's the smile he puts on when he wants people to think he's happy.

logan continues paging slowly through the yearbook. it's strange to see his dad with long hair, to see how the chaotic curls look a bit more tempered with length. it's strange to keep seeing him and his other father, side-by-side, in almost every photo they're in, or at least in the background. patton's eyes narrowed in concentration in the knitting club, his other father patiently holding the skein, keeping it from getting tangled. his other father making a shot in basketball, a barely visible patton cheering in the bleachers. side-by-side in assemblies. side-by-side in class. but every time, it seems, patton has that pinched look on his face.

logan sets it aside when he sees the portraits, his dad grimacing delicately in pearls, and takes out the other yearbook, immediately flipping to the portraits page.

yes. there he is. short hair, relieved smile, coat-and-tie. clearly, blatantly out. but logan frowns to see the deadname still underneath it. he flips back to the index to see the other, candid photos.

still side-by-side, except now his other father had the pinched look when patton was juggling trays for some bake sale, when patton was holding up his hand for a high-five as his other father was jogging off the court, ignoring it. 

less than a month from that photo, if logan's calculating this right, his dad would have told him he was pregnant.

in that photo, his dad might have already known.

he shuts the yearbook with a snap, feeling abruptly like he's intruded on something private.


"—and then she tells me she's going to buy logan a car, virgil. a car!"

"a car's a big deal," virgil says, listening dutifully as he wipes off the counter.

"i know," patton says, and pauses his impassioned rant to take a gulp of hot cocoa/coffee. "like, i get that she's trying to provide for him. i get it. it's almost sweet, if you look at it a certain way. but—"

"but you're his dad and should have the final say in those kinds of things?"

"exactly," patton sighs, slumping onto the counter, but stopping himself before he sprawls completely. "neither of them are here yet, are they?"

"no, you're good," virgil says. "i'll warn you when i see your son's boyfriend walking up, the bus isn't due for five more minutes, plus the walk."

patton finishes his sprawl. virgil pats his curls gently.

"did i tell you about the part where she insisted the bus is for drug dealers?"

"oh my god, what?!"

"i know!" patton says hotly, popping up from where he sprawled. "i don't even know how she twisted it around in her head like that! it's the bus!"

"every time i think i understand rich people, you come back from some kind of family dinner with that kind of comment," virgil says with a shake of his head. "also, look out, roman incoming."

patton hastily straightens up from where he's slumped over, and just to look normal, he takes a gulp of hot cocoa/coffee.

there's the ding of a bell, and patton swivels in his chair, smiling. "hey, kiddo."

"hi, mr. sanders, and yes i know i'm supposed to call you patton, my mom lectured me about it the other day so i'm at least making it look like i'm putting in the effort," roman says before patton can issue any correction. "hey, gordoom ramsay."

"i'm charging you extra for any snack you get today," virgil says in response.

"joke's on you, patton will inevitably demand it's added to his order even when i tell him i can pay," roman retorts.

virgil looks to patton. patton shrugs.

"kid's got me down pat," he says, and then does an air buh-dum-tsh. virgil really wishes he was at a point in his life where that wasn't adorable.

"i'm groaning on logan's behalf," roman informs him, and then heaves his best, logan-ish sigh. "where is he, by the way?"

"you're not subtle," virgil informs him.

"just get me a jam tart," roman huffs.

"he should be getting here any second," patton says over whatever virgil's response is to that. "how was school?"

"i noticed other kids for the first time," roman says, and tilts his head. "they're a lot less opinionated than logan, but."

"miss him?"

"...yeah."

"i'm sure he missed you, too," patton begins, but then the door dings, and a familiar, exasperated voice demands, "why is everyone calling me matthew?"

patton nearly chokes on air. "oh, wow, they still do that?!"

"you don't look anything like a matthew," roman says, and logan looks vindicated, nodding at him.

"my point."

"still do what?" virgil cuts in, dropping off two jam tarts.

"oh, god," patton says. "um, them calling you a matthew, like. it just means they think you're a know-it-all, or you look like a goody-goody."

roman frowns. "why matthew, though?"

patton waves a hand. "like, biblical matthew. originally he was a tax collector who was literate, and stuff. they give a ton of people nicknames, i should have warned you."

"did you have one?" logan asks, and a bitter smile touches patton's lips.

"mary magdalene," he says with a shrug, before taking a measured sip of his hot cocoa/coffee, and virgil winces.

"like," logan says, frowning, before his (admittedly sparse) biblical knowledge comes rushing back to him. "oh."

"yeah," patton drawls. "if i was just a mary, it would've been the, you know. goody-goody thing. like the virgin mary."

"ugh," roman says. "chilton sounds terrible."

"i might have a nemesis," logan adds, perking up.

"on your first day?" patton says, a little gobsmacked.

"is he terrible?" roman asks.

"he wears a cape and a bowler hat, which is somehow not a uniform violation," logan informs roman, and roman shakes his head.

"he sounds like a disney villain."

"he warned me against joining the franklin or trying for valedictorian. he said the school was his domain."

"so?" patton prompts, frowning, because no one goes after his son.

"well," logan says, "obviously i have to prove him wrong, don't i?"

that's my boy, patton thinks, with no small measure of pride.

Chapter Text

if this was a full length fic (we’re ignoring that this is chapter three shut up) i would include:

  • logan does actually try being nice for once and literally everyone in town asks if he's sick, and when logan finally explains it all to roman, roman rolls his eyes and knocks his foot against logan's and says "why on earth should you ever change? you're wonderful" and they both blush and change the subject and logan acts like "you're wonderful" isn't echoing around in his head for the next week
  • logan having a weird bonding moment with his grandfather when his grandmother makes his grandfather take him to the country club, and they both find themselves hiding in the same corner with all the historical records instead of socializing
  • virgil finds a stray kitten, patton finds out about it and cries about the cuteness, and then cries harder when the kitten finds a good home, virgil almost has a stroke from the sheer Cute when patton holds it
  • logan figures out that dee's first name is wiped out of all the school records (???) and that their grandmothers are apparently friends (???) and they have to sit through some kind of brunch together in their newly budding nemesis-ship glowering at each other, emily somehow entirely oblivious to the daggers her grandson and dee are shooting each other
  • there is a new kid at sideshire who is out and Cute and roman might be swooning over him a little??? his name is (draws from the hat of gilmore girls love interests) jess. oh yeah, like, bad boy jess. i can make that work. anyway hard cut to logan being sulky or jealous in the background every time this comes up
  • patton goes to a pta meeting, chaos ensues
  • logan has hit his growth spurt and has shot through a pant size in a month; patton actually cries a little when he realizes logan is taller than him now and he's getting so old he's such an adult!!!
  • logan studies to the point where patton finds him slumped over his study materials regularly, and at one point he nearly passes out walking to the bus stop and virgil sees and makes him sit down and eat and tells patton, and patton sits him down and has A Talk about taking care of himself 

but we're gonna have time jump to the point of... oh, let's say it's october? before logan's birthday. then-ish.


 

it's autumn in sideshire! the leaves are all orange and red and brown and crunchy, a chill is in the air, sweaters are busted out, virgil gets more and more influxes of orders for hot cocoa/coffee, etc etc, mood setting, you get it. 

logan's settled more and more into the swing of things at chilton: he has an impeccable studying schedule set up, with various allowances for when patton or roman insist he's "working too hard" and break it. he and dee are, that weird brunch aside, mostly circling around each other, waiting for the other to make a move. 

patton's mostly gotten into the swing of things, too—he and his parents still bicker at dinners, but he's used to that, he's been used to that for years. he waits for logan to get home at virgil's, he supervises roman and logan sleepovers, he still works for his business degree and oversees the chaos that is the inn.

he's at the inn one day, directing the landscapers on where to put all the leaves the part-timers have raked up and has fallen into a discussion about flowers that'll do well in their cold climate, when a familiar boy races up the lawn, grinning wide, clutching—patton squints, but roman's upon him before he can tell, giggling as he tries to catch his breath, holding onto his shoulder for balance.

"mr. sanders!" he exclaims, and laughs again, pressing his free hand to his mouth. "um, i'm sorry, i know you're working, i just don't have anyone else to tell yet and—" he falls into giggles again. 

"that's okay," patton says, very confused as to what's happening. "um, just—handle the leaves, we can keep talking flowers when we have our appointment on...?"

"thursday."

"thursday, right! okay, mr. giggly, let's go inside, you can tell me all about it."

patton has an office! he doesn't use it much, prefers to be out in the scrum of things, but it's very adult-looking and he's fond of it. all dark woods and file cabinets that logan helped organize and a variety of coffee mugs littered around, and patton pats the couch, sitting down himself, sighing a little. it's nice to sit down, he's been on his feet all day.

"okay," patton says. "so, what warranted running up to my inn with a..." patton frowns. "is that a box of cornstarch?"

"oh!" roman says, lifting it to eye-level, as if noticing it for the first time. "oh! i might have shoplifted." he looks worried for a second, before he giggles again, covering his mouth with his hands. "oh my god, i can't believe i just did that."

"i—go back," patton says, shaking himself, because sure, he'd shoplifted in his misguided youth, but not roman. "you shoplifted?!"

"accidentally!" roman defends. "i just—okay, so, you know jess?"

he knows jess from a distance—he's seen him around town on his motorcycle, knows him like he knew the boys he'd gravitated toward, the kind his parents would disapprove of so the kind of boy he'd throw himself at. he also knows jess from logan's grumbles of "what kind of name is jess anyway" and "as suspected! he's a fight club fanboy, i would have thought roman knew better" and "what do you mean, jealous?! i'm not—i'm not jealous! that's ridiculous! jealous, dad *poorly executed scoff that tells patton he's right* honestly."

"i've seen him around," patton says, instead of getting into all that.

"he," roman says, drawing himself up, and giggles, "kissed me."

patton blinks. "he did?!"

"he did!" roman says. "i was in the grocery store and i was trying to act, you know, all chill, like, oh, hey, didn't see you there, like i didn't follow him in from the outside, so i didn't really notice i was staring at corn starch, and he came around a corner and was like so you have a really desperate need for some cornstarch? and i tried to play it really cool, and i just ended up blurting out nice jacket like an idiot, but then he laughed like it was funny and not like he was laughing at me and he was showing me all the pins he had on there and talking about how it was good for riding, and he said i'll have to take you out for a ride sometime and inside i was like, you know, oh my god!! that sounds like a date! because it totally sounds like a date, right?!"

patton's about to agree, but roman plows over him, still babbling excitedly.

"—and he was telling me, like, all about the stuff we might potentially do, and i told him i knew a really nice place for, like, a picnic, or something, and he said so a picnic's one of the only things to do around here? and i was like well, i dunno, i think it'd be a pretty nice date, and oh my GOD i still cannot BELIEVE i said it like that, and then he looked at me and did this cute little smirking thing he does, it makes him look like james dean or marlon brando or something, and he said a date, huh? and i said what, is taking people out for a motorcycle ride something you do with all the boys in town? and HE said only the cute ones and i almost screamed patton i swear and i tried to play it like, oh, yeah, a motorcycle ride, totally something someone asks me to do like every day and this is totally not the first time someone's ever called me cute and asked me on a date, and so i said and what's in it for all these cute boys, then? and he said well, i'm looking at just one cute boy in particular and THEN!!!" 

"he kissed you," patton surmises.

"he kissed me," roman said. "and then he said seven? and i said yeah and then he left and then i ran all the way here."

"wow," patton says, because, well. what else can he say?

"yeah," roman sighs happily, and then he chews on his lip, and then he says, "patton, you know things about boys."

that... was not where he was expecting this to go. "i...sure?"

"i mean," roman says, and flaps his hands. "i can't tell my mom about this, she might kill him. what do i—i've never been on a date before, and i've never been on a motorcycle, and you have—"

"how'd you know that?!"

"logan told me his other dad has one, and i mean, you were a rebellious teenager, weren't you?" roman says. "you had to have gone on dates, patton, help me."

"i—"

"i mean, other than your massive crush on virgil—"

"my what?!" patton squeaks, cheeks flaming red.

"patton, it's obvious," he says, then, "and you can't tell logan!"

"we're going back to the virgil thing later but, i mean—i figured you'd want to tell him," patton says. 

"i can't tell him this!"

"you tell each other everything," patton says, a little blindsided, because they did tell each other everything. patton cannot think of a secret kept between them. from him, maybe. but not between them.

"yeah, but—" roman bites his lip, harder. "he doesn't like jess, and he's—we're—you know."

"he'd still want to hear about it from you than anyone else, you know how fast gossip spreads in this town," patton says.

"he'll get all weird about it," roman says. "and then we won't talk as much anymore, and then he'll start passive-aggressively writing an article for the courant about the dangers of motorcyclists, and then jess will see it, and they'll argue, and then i'll have to figure out how to calm it down without making either of them think i'm preferring the other, and oh my god, you're logan's dad, i can't be telling you about this! i cannot believe i'm asking you for advice for a date!"

"well, who do you usually go to about this kind of thing?" patton says pragmatically. "other than logan or me, i mean, you can advice from them if it's too weird hearing it from me."

roman looks at his shoes and mumbles, "i go see," and then the name tumbles into something indecipherable.

"sorry, who did you say? i couldn't hear—"

"i go see virgil," roman wails, and patton actually laughs, before he blinks.

"wait. you're serious?"

roman hides his face in his hands. "i go to the diner and i tell him about—about whatever's going on with logan, and then he tries giving me advice except he's terrible at it, and then i get to make fun of him for being worse at romance than a teenager, and then he grumbles at me about it, and it's a system, okay?! but i can't tell virgil about jess, are you crazy?!"

"i just—virgil?" patton repeats, trying to wrap his head around it.

"virgil hates jess," roman bursts out. "he told me so."

"oh, i'm sure he doesn't—"

"he told me that," roman says, "to my face. and then he started being, all—" he makes his voice gruff in his best virgil impression. "that boy who walks around town like he's trying to figure out the best windows to break and businesses to vandalize? he's bad news, roman. stay away from him. that kid is trouble, you mark my words. like he's—like he's a criminal, and i'm some kind of innocent damsel that needs protecting!"

"okay, okay, okay," patton says. "no virgil, then."

"but i can't talk to you, me and logan are—" roman waves a hand vaguely. "you know."

"yeah," patton says. "i mean—yeah, actually, what's with all this, since you and logan are all—"

he copies the hand gesture.

"yeah, but i just," roman says, and scuffs his sneaker over patton's carpeted floor. "i dunno. i kind of figured if he wanted to go out, he would have made a move by now, right? i don't wanna... i don't wanna be all hung up on him when there's this guy right here who does want to date me."

patton considers that, and tries to set aside the fact that logan's his son, because roman looks like he needs advice right now.

"look. do you really like this guy?"

roman worries his lip between his teeth, and admits, "i think i could. i think i'm on the way there."

"okay," patton says. "then i'll help."

he holds up a hand.

"i'm only going to give you a little bit of a lecture, but you're smarter than i was when i was your age. stay safe, okay? and if he tries to talk you into anything—seriously anything—that you're uncomfortable with, you call me, okay? or your mom. actually, your mom would be way better at intimidation than me."

"okay."

"okay," patton says. "then it's a first date, not a marriage proposal. go into it with the goal of getting to know him. have fun. if it doesn't work, it doesn't work, no big loss. if it does? then you can go from there."

roman bites his lip some more. "you really think i should tell logan?"

"i think he'd be madder if he found out from someone else."

roman gusts out a sigh. "okay," he says.

patton ends up realizing he should probably get back to work, and suggests that roman go meet logan at the bus stop and walk him back home or to virgil's or wherever, so he can tell him the news.

logan steps off the bus, ready to spend a friday afternoon clearing off his weekend homework so he can have something to discuss at family dinner, and then focus on extra credit and planning his week on sunday, and blinks when roman waves at him from the bench.

"you're here."

"yeah," roman says, standing up.

"you never come to walk me back."

"yeah, well, i wanted to talk to you."

"about what?"

"how was your day?" roman says, dodging the question.

logan's eyes narrow, just a little, before he tells him about his exam in history about the french revolution that he thinks went well, and logan asks "how was yours?" 

roman tries to make himself sound as happy as he sounded—as he'd felt—when he was talking to patton. "um, actually, i got asked out."

logan blinks at him. "asked out where?"

"no," roman says. "like, um. like i got asked out on a date. tonight."

logan stares at him, still, face so blank that roman doesn't have a hope of reading it. "a... date."

"yeah," roman says. "like. romantically. a guy thought i was cute and asked me out. a date."

"which guy," he says.

"jess," roman says. "you know. the new guy. the junior with the motorcycle."

"motorcycle," logan repeats.

"we're going to go on a picnic."

"a picnic."

"at seven."

"seven."

"he kissed me," roman says, and there's not a reaction. not at all. "at the grocery store. i might have shoplifted in all my excitement."

"shoplifted."

"logan, are you just going to keep repeating everything i say?!"

logan shakes himself, and says abruptly, "i forgot i told virgil i was going to pick up a book i wanted to borrow from him."

"oh," roman says. "um, okay. do you wanna get a jam tart or—?"

"i'll be in and out," logan says. "i have a lot of homework to do."

"okay," roman repeats, and logan looks at him, because roman's biting his lip the way he does when he's nervous, and he tears his gaze off of his lip. the lip that jess kissed today, apparently.

"you always wanted to go on a date," logan says, robotic. "and now you're going on one. good for you."

roman tries for a smile. "yeah. i'm—i'm really excited."

"good," logan repeats. "that's good."

he almost sounds like he means it. he gestures to the diner. "i'll see you later."

"do you want to do lucy's on saturday?"

"again," logan says. "i have a lot of homework. i'm not sure how free i'll be. midterms."

"oh," roman repeats, and then tries for a smile. "okay."

okay's starting to not sound like a word.

"have fun on your date," logan says, and his tone is just a bit cold, and roman forces out "logan—" right as the door closes behind him.

virgil glances up, and says, "hey, kid, i wasn't sure if you were going to stop in today—"

"i'm not staying for very long," logan says. his tone is still very blank. studiously blank.

"go bag, then?" virgil says, already packing up logan's (healthy) after-school snack. "don't study too hard, okay, it's the weekend."

"right."

"and tell your dad to stop by after dinner with your grandparents if they try feeding you, like, caviar or something."

"okay."

virgil narrows his eyes at logan, and says, "you okay?"

"fine."

virgil's eyes narrow further.

"i'm fine," logan repeats.

"right," virgil says, and then, to the nearest worker, "jean, could you handle the register a minute? i've got a book upstairs i want logan to look at."

logan follows along, with none of his signature confidence or arrogance, and virgil unlocks the door to his apartment.

logan's only been up here a few times. most of the time, he just stays in the diner, or virgil comes over to their place. he slept over here a few nights, as a kid. it's a small place, homey like his dad's, but a bit more sparse. logan drops his backpack at the door.

"there's no book, is there."

"nope," virgil says, and logan sits on virgil's couch. "you okay, l?"

logan shrugs, pulls a blanket that virgil has over the back of the couch onto his lap. 

this is kind of freaking him out. whenever logan gets upset, he's usually angry, quick to explode or snap, or he sulks. he's never so...

listless.

"roman's going on a date with jess," logan says tonelessly. 

"oh, shit," virgil says, "the delinquent?!"

"he has a record?" logan asks, plucking at an imaginary loose thread in the blanket. there's none of the investigative curiosity that would usually be in his voice.

"not that i know of, he just—he has that vibe, you know?" virgil says. "are you sure he said jess?"

"he kissed roman in the grocery store. roman said he accidentally shoplifted. they're going on a motorcycle ride to a picnic."

all of his words are devoid of energy. 

"do you need a hug or something?" virgil asks helplessly, because he isn't sure if he's ever seen logan this... defeated before.

"no."

"jam tart? yelling session? anything?"

"no," logan repeats, and sets aside the blanket. "i have a lot of homework to do."

"you can do it here? if you want?"

"i think i'll go home."

"do you need me to walk you there?"

"you're in the after school rush," logan says. "no. i'll be fine."

"are you sure?"

"yes, i'm sure," logan says, and stands, folding the blanket again before setting it on the couch. 

"logan—"

"i'm fine," he repeats, goes to get his backpack, and walks out of the apartment, and then out of the diner, as virgil stares after him.

virgil lets out a breath, and gets out his phone.

"virgil, hey!" patton says happily, picking up after the second ring.

"hey," virgil echoes. "um. logan just stopped by, and—"

"was roman with him?"

virgil blinks. "you knew?"

"roman came to the inn to tell me all about the kiss and the date and stuff, and i told him logan would probably take the news better coming from him than from the gossip mill," patton says. "also, why didn't you tell me that you're apparently roman's romantic guru?"

"i am not his romantic guru."

"he made it sound like you are," patton says. "he said it's a system. that he makes fun of you for not knowing anything about romance."

"okay, but that kid bullies me daily."

"he's fifteen."

"doesn't change the fact that he's a little jerk."

"we'll come back to that later," patton says. "why'd you call?"

"oh," virgil says, because right. the not-great news. "right. um, i'm pretty sure roman just broke your son's heart."

there's a moment of silence before virgil shuts his eyes and pinches the bridge of his nose.

"i've never seen him so..."

"mad?" patton says, worried. "did he yell at you? you know he doesn't mean any of it, but he'll apologize as soon as—"

"no," virgil says. "no. he wasn't mad at all, that's why i'm worried. he was just... lifeless."

another moment of silence. "oh," patton says, strangled.

"yeah."

"like...?"

"like, i tried talking to him, and he was just. blank. didn't want a hug, didn't want to yell, didn't want a jam tart, didn't want anything. just told me that roman was going on a date, and he said he had a lot of homework to do and that he was going to go home. kept telling me he didn't need me to walk him back and that he was fine."

"oh, no," patton murmurs. "i—oh, no."

"yeah. so. figured you should have a heads-up."

"thanks," patton says, distracted. "i—i'm going to go check on him."

"keep me updated?"

"yeah," he says, and then, "i've gotta go."

"right. okay."

 

patton ends up calling it an early day at the inn, and drives home. no one answers when he opens the door.

"hey, i'm home," he calls, dropping his keys into the little bowl by the door.

nothing. he frowns.

he was just... lifeless, echoes in his head. he stomps loudly up the stairs, and pauses, before he opens up the door to his son's room.

there's a lump on the bed. curled up under the covers. glasses on the table. head turned away from the door.

"hey," patton says, softer.

no response. patton crosses and sits carefully on the edge of the bed. logan's just staring out the window. his aren't red, or watery, so he hasn't cried. he's just... lying there.

patton reaches out and puts a hand on what he's pretty sure is logan's ankle. he squeezes, gently. 

"so, you haven't had the best day," patton prompts gently.

no response.

"i'm sorry," patton offers. "i know that must have been hard to hear."

nothing.

"i have some emergency logan's berry crofter's if you want it, honey."

nada.

"is it okay if i lay down too?"

a long pause. patton's about to ask again, before—

"lie," logan croaks out.

"what?"

"lie down. you're a person, not an object. people lie down, objects lay down."

"oh," patton says. "okay, then, can i lie down too?"

"can you call grandma and grandpa first?" he whispers. "just tell them i'm sick."

"yes," patton says. "yes, of course, i'll call right now, just—"

he fumbles with his phone for a second, before he manages to click on the contact name.

"emily sanders speaking."

"mom, hey," patton says, pitching his voice low. "i'm gonna have to cancel dinner today."

"what?" she demands. "why?!"

"logan's sick."

"he was at school today, wasn't he?"

"he started feeling bad on the bus, mom," he says, and racks his brain for an illness severe enough that it would get them out of it. "puked as soon as he got off."

"don't be crass."

"sorry," patton says. "but he's sick and i don't want to make him take the drive and sit down for dinner when he's going to be too nauseous to handle it."

"let me talk to him."

"he just laid down for a nap, i don't wanna wake him," patton lies. "look, i'm sorry to do this so short notice, but i really have to insist. he's a mess."

a long pause. "we could drive down to look after him."

patton's eyes probably go cartoonishly wide in alarm. "mom, that's a nice gesture, really—"

"great, then we'll—"

"i don't want you catching whatever it is he has," patton finishes, louder. "seriously, we're fine here, we can have a, a, a make-up brunch or something. i'll let you know as soon as he feels better."

a huff. "brunch it is, then. at the club."

patton winces, before he says, "whatever you say, mom. i'm gonna, um. clean some stuff up around here."

"tell me when you're—"

patton hangs up.

"how bad is it," logan says, in that same blank, awful voice.

"brunch at the club, whenever you're feeling better," patton admits, setting his phone aside before he takes off his shoes, and lies down on the bed—well, leans back against the headboard so he can keep an eye on his son, really.

logan nods, and resumes looking out the window.

"i'm really sorry," patton says softly.

logan doesn't say anything. 

logan doesn't say anything for the rest of the night.


"hey."

"hey. how is he?"

"not good. you were right. even when he's sick he's not so quiet. i think he said maybe fifteen words between me getting home and him falling asleep."

"did he...?"

"he was just. lying there. the whole night. he was just lying there, virge. he didn't do anything. he didn't talk, he barely ate—"

"he's going through a growth spurt, not eating is—okay, i'm sure you know all that, should i bring breakfast, tomorrow morning?"

"as long as you aren't too busy."

"i'll make crofter's pancakes, or something. bring you some hot cocoa/coffee."

"thanks."

"um. not to be awkward, or anything, but roman brought by the boy."

"...ah."

"i don't like him."

"roman mentioned that."

"i just—roman deserves better. don't tell him i said that."

"what did they do?"

"they got cake."

"did he treat roman okay? from what you could see, i mean."

"i mean, i was in and out of the kitchen, but roman looked—happy. i guess."

"why 'i guess?'"

"i dunno. i mean, he tried to put a hand on roman a few times, and roman just kind of... laughed uncomfortably and tried to move."

"if he tries to pressure roman into anything, i swear—"

"hey, roman's a headstrong kid. he's a bit too stubborn for his own good. no one's about to make him do anything he wants to do."

"if he presents it like he's sweeping him off his feet—"

"...oh. i see your point."

"i just—sorry. i have a history with those kinds of boys. logan's existence alone as exhibit a. but he's probably a nice boy, right?"

"i still don't like him."

"sweetheart, this is the part where you say, yes, patton, i'm sure he's a nice boy and that roman had a lovely time, but he's going to come to realize that waiting for logan to make a move was the wrong choice and figure out his love life."

"oh. um, all that."

"okay. you know, it's weird for us to be talking on the phone like this."

"yeah. usually, you just barge into the diner, it's weird to be talking to you without fending off requests for hot cocoa/coffee."

"hey, i'm not that bad."

"i'm reminding you of this conversation next time that starts up again, then."

"fine, fine, if you say so. i think i'm gonna go to bed. you still have your spare key, right?"

"right, yeah. i'll text when i'm on the way."

"you know i probably won't wake up with that."

"yeah, but. just the gesture of the thing."

"i know. gosh, what a mess."

"they'll get there eventually."

"we can only hope."

"teenage boys are dumb."

"don't i know it. i'll see you tomorrow?"

"yeah, i'll see you then."


virgil's used to getting up early, mostly because of opening up the diner but also partially because he has a terrible sleep schedule. patton, who has the sleep schedule of "yes," is less likely to be up at this kind of hour. so virgil unlocks the door with the key patton gave him as soon as he moved in, and goes to the kitchen to start making breakfast, only to come to a stop.

"oh," he says to the blanket-wrapped boy at the kitchen table. "um, hey, logan."

"virgil," logan says, pencil scratching over paper. so that's something.

"i told your dad i might come over to make breakfast. so."

"right," logan says. 

"you want pancakes?"

"sure."

okay. one-word responses. better than none, right?

virgil digs around for the bowls and plates and pans he'll need, and sets aside patton's hot cocoa/coffee (in a thermos) and then turns to survey logan some more.

"what are you doing?"

"making a list," he says. "well. a variety of lists, really. it seemed untidy to have one big one when i could categorize."

okay, that sounded more like him. virgil tried not to sigh in relief.

"categorize. like what?"

"chilton, college applications, things we need to do around the house, dad's business plans. plans for the diner too, actually, just there."

virgil picks it up, and blinks. "remodel?"

"at least paint. you're due for it."

"the diner's classic. vintage, even."

"like i said. at least paint."

the house phone rings. logan blinks, swivels around.

"no one calls the house phone," he mutters, and gets to his feet, picking it up.

"logan sanders speaking." a pause. virgil can hear what sounds like a woman responding. "no, he isn't here." a pause. "he wasn't here last night either." another pause. "what do you mean, he didn't come home?"

a longer pause. virgil's missing some kind of puzzle piece, he can feel it. 

"no," logan says, voice faraway and cold. "he told me was going on a date. he didn't tell you?"

oh. SHIT.

the woman's voice, louder, and oh no.

"i'm sorry, i don't know where he'd be," logan says, and hangs up.

"logan," virgil manages, after he picks his jaw up off the ground.

"excuse me," logan says, "i'm feeling rather ill. i'm going to lie down."

he sweeps up the stairs. virgil has to reassemble his thoughts before he grabs his phone, scrolling through the contacts, and hissing "pick up pick up pick up you little—"

"you've reached roman prince—"

"fuck," virgil hisses, and clambers up the stairs after patton, before he bursts into patton's shoulder, shaking his shoulder.

"mmph," patton mumbles, and if it was any other day, virgil would be marveling at his bedhead, his sleeping face, but right now—

"patton. patton wake up."

"virgil?" patton mumbles, props himself up on an elbow and rubs his eyes. 

"roman didn't come home last night," virgil blurts out, and patton blinks, before sitting upright.

"what?!"

"ms. prince called here because she thought he might have been over here," virgil says, "because roman didn't tell her he had a date and he didn't come home last night."

"oh, god," patton says, wild-eyed, and rolls out of bed, going straight for his closet. "do you think he's—?"

"i don't know," virgil says. "i knew i didn't like that kid, i knew it—"

"i'm sure he's okay," patton says, a little frantic as he searches for a passable shirt. "i mean, this is sideshire we're talking about—"

he stops in his tracks. "who answered the phone?"

"what?"

"you said ms. prince called here, who—?"

"logan did."

"oh, no," patton says, horrified, and shakes himself. "right, okay. you're going to go to ms. prince's and offer to help look for roman, i'm going to stay here and—" he gestures toward logan's bedroom.

"right," virgil says. "right, okay. you have hot cocoa/coffee in a thermos in your kitchen, i'm going to go—" he jerks a thumb toward the door.

"right, yeah," patton says, and they split up.

virgil's on his way to ms. prince's, brain swirling with possibilities, when he sees a familiar pair of red, doodled-over high tops peeking out from a tiny little garden alcove off the main street. virgil's heart practically stops. he feels like the jogger in the intro of a crime show that's about to stumble across a—

but he can't stop himself from barging forward, heart in his throat, and—and he's just lying there. the pair of them are.

the boy is on top of roman. it infuriates him.

"HEY!" virgil shouts, voice deeper and rougher than even he would have anticipated, and he closes his fist around the neck of the leather jacket, yanking him roughly off of roman, tossing him aside. 

"get your hands off him!"

he shoves the kid when he tries to get closer to roman again, and he's so incensed that he can't even think.

"what the hell, dude?!" the boy demands.

"don't you dude me," virgil shouts. "do you have any idea what could have happened out here?!"

"virgil, stop!" roman shouts back, tugging sharply at his arm, and virgil swivels. "we just fell asleep—"

virgil says sharply, "there's no just about this, roman!"

"it was an accident, he didn't—"

"your mother called the sanders', she's worried sick," virgil fumes, and roman's face drains of blood. "do you know how terrifying it must have been for her to wake up without her kid in her bed in the morning?! why the hell wouldn't you have told her?!"

"we didn't DO anything!" the other kid shouts.

"oh, you better hope you didn't do anything," virgil snarls, turning to face the kid again, "staying out all night! outside! in october! are you insane?! you are SO lucky you two didn't catch hypothermia, to start with—"

"my mom," roman says, and tugs at virgil's hoodie sleeve. "virgil, my mom—"

"you better sprint back to that dance studio if you don't want to be grounded for all time," virgil snaps. 

but roman doesn't. roman turns to the boy, and says breathlessly, "it was really nice—i'm really sorry about all this, um—"

"hey, i've got your number," the boy says, and he looks pleased when roman darts forward to kiss him on the cheek, shouting "bye!" and running for the studio.

there's an awkward silence.

"am i free to go, officer?" the boy sneers. "or do you have to give me a shovel speech, too?"

"i don't like you," virgil says, and gives his best intimidating grin. he's pleased to see a flicker in the boy's attempt at cool confidence. "so i'll leave all that to ms. prince."

he strides away. he turns a corner in the street and waits until the diner is in sight before he digs out his phone.

"hello?" patton answers, breathless, and just like that, all the fight leaves him.

"hey, i found him," virgil says. "he's probably going to get grounded until the end of his natural life, but i found him. he's okay."

"oh, thank god," patton gasps. "he's okay?"

"lucky not to have hypothermia," virgil says darkly. "fell asleep in that little garden off main, the one with the willow tree?"

"they fell asleep?"

"i guess," virgil says. "that's what he said, anyway. i really don't like that boy, patton."

"yeah, well, i think you've got a household joining you on that," patton says wearily.

"is he—?"

"oh, shoot, right," patton says, and virgil hears him shout, "virgil found him, he just fell asleep!"

the response isn't something virgil can hear. "what'd he say?"

"nothing, he just kind of loudly exhaled at me," patton says. "i think he's back to not talking to me again."

virgil sighs, rests his head briefly against his diner. "what a mess."

"what a mess," patton agrees wearily. "i can't bribe you into coming back to making those pancakes, can i?"

virgil snorts. "you know what? why not. you and logan probably need them."

"amen," patton says.

Chapter Text

logan's reviewing study materials on the bus monday morning. it's fine. the weekend has been fine. he's fine. he should focus on getting into an ivy. that's the priority. he doesn't care about roman getting kissed, roman getting asked out on a date, roman spending the night with—

logan forcibly relaxes his hand before he snaps a highlighter in half.

anyway. he's fine. he has to focus on school. he has to focus on the consultation with the faculty supervisor of the franklin that all journalistically-inclined sophomores are having today. he has to focus on his midterms. 

he's focusing on that plan until he walks into the franklin meeting, sits down, and they're in the midst of talking about some journalism Hot Topics when dee starts loudly proclaiming about how lack of attribution isn't a bad thing.

(your friendly neighborhood journalism student here! as according to the lawyer for the publication i worked for: lack of attribution can often be the sticking point for a libel suit or not. plus, it's just generally good rule of thumb to show readers where i got that information—like how i told you just now i heard it from the lawyer for a publication. that's attribution, though of course in a published article i would include that lawyer's name/title/why they have the professionalism to say that. it's often answering the well why should i believe THAT?! question before it can ever get asked, or at least showing where i got the information, like citing a source in a paper.)

logan, as you know, hasn't had the best week. a nice, bloodless debate about journalism is exactly what he needs.

(when he says bloodless—)

cut to logan sitting in the nurse's office, pinching the bridge of his nose, as dee's getting chewed out in charleston's office. technically, louise punched him, but everyone saw dee goading her into it, so. louise has already been sent packing for suspension, which is apparently a rarity at chilton, and brings him right back into the frame of gossip. just when he'd shaken the matthew nickname.

"well," the advisor for the franklin ("god, please, it's mel or doc or kram, don't say dr. kramschissel, you're wasting time you could be using to tell me about a new story idea") comments. "can't say that i've ever seen someone get hit for saying lack of attribution was comparable to plagiarism before."

"i hope this doesn't sour your opinion of me," logan says, but with all the blood it sounds more like bi hob dis doesn' dour your obinion o be.

"honestly," mel admits, "i've had my eye on you since charleston brought up that you wrote your first byline at seven, sanders."

"oh," logan says, then, "good."

"i don't think this will be a blip on the radar when it comes to admitting you," she says. "honestly, it's points in your favor."

"good," logan repeats, and removes the handful of tissues he's been holding to his nose for the past five minutes, sniffing experimentally. 

"shame about grant," she tuts. "journalists are facing a rough enough time without in-fighting going into it."

logan nods, and she continues.

"your opinion didn't endear you to grant, i'll have you know, but keep it quiet. she got in trouble for plagiarism last year and it's a near thing that she wasn't expelled."

"ah," logan says. 

"not going to ask how i know that?"

"you're a teacher, and a journalism one, at that," logan says. "i'd think you'd want to stay informed."

she smiles. "good guesses are the basis of interesting journalism," she says.

"basis, not journalism in full," logan says. 

"of course, research and interviews and so on, but a good guess can set you down the path," she says, and logan nods.

"so," she says, "you want to be an investigative journalist?"

"yes," logan says simply. he hopes she won't come back with the why? question most adults tend to ask. how does he explain the adrenaline high of a hard deadline, the way he floats after a good interview, the inherent justice of it all, the way that when journalism, done well, changes lives? how does he explain the deeply understood ethics, the sharply defended principles, the roles each journalist is preached to hold—of watchdog, to call on things gone wrong, of marketplace, for people to discuss ideas, of mirror, to reflect society back at itself? how does he explain how do no harm is something he follows not only in journalism but in life? how does he explain the way he felt the first time he published a story that mattered? how can he explain the admiration he feels when he reads the work of others? how can he explain the duty of keeping everyone informed, of reporting on the stories that would otherwise go unheard? how can explain that responsibility? how can he explain that?

but mel smiles at him, and oh, logan realizes. she knows. she has a doctorate in journalism and a pulitzer nomination under her belt and three books to boot. of course she knows.

his phone buzzes. logan glances at it, and then at mel, who says, "oh, go on," and logan picks up.

"logan!" his dad gasps, and logan tucks the phone up under his ear. "the headmaster just called—"

"i'm fine, dad," logan says. "it's just a bloody nose."

"just," his father huffs. "there is no just about my son getting punched in the face! i have half a mind to send your grandmother in there, see if i don't."

"maybe you should," logan says.

"what?"

"i mean, she's closer," logan says. "plus, i mean. what's the use of grandma being grandma if we can't use it once in a while?"

"fair," patton says. "but i'm coming right up, i'm on my way now. should you call her or should i?"

"oh, dad," logan says. "obviously headmaster charleston should call her."

"i have no idea where you got this evil gene from," patton says admiringly, as if logan has not seen patton play innocent to get the upper hand a million times at the diner alone. "all right, i'll call back. how huffy should i get?"

"maximum levels of huffy. your son did get assaulted, after all."

"i can't believe you've been confronted by more delinquents there than you have at sideshire, i'm totally bragging about that at brunch slash our next dinner slash for the rest of time," patton says. "all right. i'll be there soon. i love you so much."

"you too," logan says, and then realizes that mel was listening, and god, that was hardly the language of a proper upstanding journalist—

she laughs like she's heard his thoughts, and she says, "we're journalists, not robots. honestly, seeing you act a bit like a normal teenager doesn't discredit your work."

logan offers a tentative smile, and then, "i thought your pulitzer article was riveting."

"aw, shucks."

"can i ask about—?"

"go for it."

"how did you get the correctional officer to talk to you? korinth, i mean," logan asks, fascinated, leaning forward. 

"well," she begins, and begins weaving a tale about how she'd unveiled a story about suspicious prison deaths across the county, and then across the nation, and logan listens and does not bother resisting the urge to take notes in his notepad, juggling another handful of tissues for his still-bleeding nose with a pen (which she nods at approvingly.)

he doesn't notice the aggravated clacking of heels down the marble hallway getting increasingly noisy until the voice comes with it.

"—incredibly displeased that my grandson got punched by some hooligan, hanlin!"

logan scowls—mel was just getting to the part where she'd finally gotten into the office of a prison superintendent. 

"is that someone of yours?"

"my grandmother, yes."

mel nods, and stands, wiping her hands off on her slacks, and the door flies open.

"logan," emily frets, and logan blinks accusingly at charleston. 

"hi, grandma," he says, possibly overemphasizing the way the bloody nose transfigured his speech. 

"is it broken?" she asks, and snaps at the nurse when she doesn't answer in 0.05 seconds, "well?!"

"it's not broken," the nurse says. "it might hurt for a couple days, but it's not broken."

"small mercies," emily huffs. "what even happened?"

"sanders and a couple other students got into a spirited discussion about attribution in journalism," mel says. "slange was urging grant on—"

"not dee slange?"

"—but grant got rather heated when sanders said that a lack of attribution was close to plagiarism—a view i share, i might add—and her temper rather got the better of her," mel finishes. "and yes, the same." 

"emily, i assure you, the student in question has been suspended," charleston says.

"oh i should hope so!" she hisses. "someone hit my grandson, i will ensure those consequences are enforced!"

logan, internally, is kicking back to watch the show, seeing how charleston shrinks and shrinks in front of his grandmother that reminds him a little of his dad, but in a much less blood-boiling way because charleston actually deserves it. externally, he is sure to look as mournful and as much like a kicked puppy as he possibly can.

"here, here, here!" a much more familiar voice pants, and patton stumbles into the nurse's office, wheezing, clutching a stitch in his side.

"dad," logan starts.

"logan," patton says, "my son," and he sounds upset, immediately crossing over to frame logan's face in his hands.

"how is it still bleeding?! it's not broken, is it?!" he asks the nurse frantically.

"no, it's not broken," the nurse says. 

patton swivels to stare at charleston, and he's genuinely teary-eyed. "you said you'd take care of my son."

"well, now—"

"you did," emily confirms. "you said you'd do your best to take care of my grandson."

"how on earth is this taking care of him?!" patton demands. 

"emily—mr. sanders—"

"how could this possibly be the best school in the state if he gets punched during a scholarly debate?!" patton nearly shrieks. 

"mr. sanders, if you would calm—"

"no, i will not calm down!" he shouts. "how can i possibly trust this school to take care of him if he gets beaten up within its walls?!"

"emily, surely you can—"

"my son's making a valid point," emily says coolly. "i sent one child here, and did you see what happened to him? you said that children would be children. you said you were trying your best to control the bullying. i found my son crying in his bed and hiding any possible sign and refusing to talk to me because it had gotten so bad. my son. when i brought up concerns about my grandson, you said that it had gotten better, and he's been attending for barely two months when i get a call that he's been assaulted?"

oh shit, logan thinks, they're pissed. they're pissed and they're teaming up.

"we should sue," emily says, and patton jabs a finger at her in agreement. "i should have sued when patton was here!"

"well, now, a lawsuit is—" charleston says, sweating very nervously indeed.

"my son's nose is still bleeding," patton says, "and you're telling me that a lawsuit would be overreacting?!"

"dad, grandma," logan says, finally cutting in, because patton might start angry-crying at any second. "maybe not a lawsuit, though i am going to have to protest to dee slange just getting a stern talking-to and nothing else."

"he's not even getting detention?!" patton snarls. "i got detention for politely telling people to respect my name and pronouns, and someone who prodded someone into hitting my son is getting nothing but a talking to?!"

"i agree with sanders," mel says. "the role of instigator is not a small one, and from where i was standing, grant may not have been so incensed without slange's commentary. mr. sanders—patton, isn't it?—i'll personally ensure that slange gets some form of detention, which i'm sure headmaster charleston will agree with, won't you?"

"i do!" charleston says hastily. "or, he will get detention. yes."

"oh, he'd better," emily says. "hanlin, why don't we continue this in your office, and you can outline exactly what your plans for discipline are moving forward. i won't be making the same mistake twice."

"yes," he says hastily. "yes, of course, and an excused absence for mr. sanders, if you'd like to take him home—"

"i will," patton says hotly. 

"emily, if you'd—?"

and they make their retreat.

mel lets out a low whistle. "god, sanders, i hope you can grill a source like that."

"i have good examples," logan admits.

"sorry," mel adds hastily. "dr. melissa kramschissel, but i insist on mel or kram. i'm the faculty advisor for the franklin."

"oh!" patton says, and tries for his best meeting-new-people smile, shaking her hand. "of course, logan's told me all about you. he's very excited to work on the franklin."

"oh, we'll have a place for him, but if you'll excuse me, i think the bell's about to ring," mel says, and nods to him. "sanders."

"mel," he says with a nod, trying not to outwardly celebrate too much at we'll have a place for him. 

"okay, give me your face," patton demands, digging wet wipes out of his pocket. "does it still hurt?"

"a little," logan admits. "i'll probably ice it later."

"i'll be gentle," patton promises, and begins swiping the dried blood off his face. 

"so," logan says, "you and grandma might have terrified charleston into giving me preferential treatment until i graduate."

patton snorts, but his tongue pokes out of the corner of his mouth in concentration as he attempts to scrub off a stubborn bit of blood without pressing down too hard. "yeah, well. one of us should have it."

"i didn't realize grandma wanted to sue. when you were here."

"that makes two of us," patton says. "dinner this week is gonna be interesting."

"i suppose it will," logan agrees, and patton sets aside the wet wipe. he frowns, tilting logan's face side to side.

"you're going to bruise up something terrible."

"i'll ice it," logan repeats. "louise grant apparently has a hell of a right hook."

"that she does," a voice drawls, and logan instinctively stiffens as both sanders look toward the door.

"she's a black belt, you know," dee continues. 

"i didn't, but you certainly did," logan grits out. 

"hm, innocent until proven guilty," dee says, with a little bow. "good job on getting your grandmother to solve your problems, logan."

"are you upset i marred your otherwise perfect record, or something?" logan sneers. 

"or something," dee says lightly. "now if you'll excuse me, i have an appointment with charleston to attend. and this," he says, face breaking out into a grin, "why, this has only just ended."

he sweeps off.

"jesus, i've never seen a high schooler so clearly destined to become a marvel supervillain," patton says with a shudder. "that's him?"

"that's him," logan confirms dryly. 

patton pats him on the shoulder, and says, "well, on that slightly unnerving note, you wanna come home?"

logan hops to his feet, and follows patton out of chilton, to the car. they're on the highway by the time patton talks again.

"this has been a rough week, huh?"

"i can't say i've ever been punched at school, no," logan says, sidestepping the other part of his week.

patton scowls, briefly, before he says, "not just that."

logan jerks up a shoulder in a shrug, looking out of a window. "i should be focusing on school anyway. getting into an ivy. they start really focusing on how i'm doing now, so—"

"it's okay to feel sad."

"i'm not sad."

"it would be okay if you were, though," patton says.

"right," logan says. "anyway. we really need to get a new soap dish for the upstairs bathroom, it's been broken for months."

"and i'm here to listen if you wanna talk about it, okay?"

"...we're going to need to call the heating company, too, you remember how it got so odd last year. we might need to replace the unit."

"okay, okay," patton says, and they talk about the house and nothing but the house until they get to sideshire. the length of the drive makes it so that—logan checks—both chilton and sideshire high will have just gotten out of classes.

"you wanna jam tart, or something?" patton offers. "my treat."

"i was," logan says, and licks his lips. "i was actually thinking of going to lucy's and dropping by the studio."

"oh!" patton says, startled. "oh, i mean, of course, but i thought you might be—"

"why should i have opinions on the situation?" logan says. "he's just my friend. it's not like it's my place to say anything about it."

"logan," patton begins, but sighs and puts up his hands. "okay, okay, fine. let me at least drive you to lucy's, i want a double-chocolate shake."

logan gets their regulars, withstands some fussing from patton and lucy, and walks down the street to the studio.

ms. prince has taken over that class, but roman's sitting in the furthest corner from the door, head bent, working on homework. he looks up when the bell rings.

logan holds up the milkshakes in answer, and roman beams at him, waving him eagerly down the hall.

as soon as logan gets close, though, the smile slides right off, immediately replaced by a look of concern.

"oh, my god, what happened to your face?!" roman hisses.

"journalism gets heated at chilton," logan says, and hands over the chocolate-covered cherry shake. 

"someone hit you?!" roman demands, setting aside the shake immediately and taking hold of logan's face (logan's growth spurt means that he's a little bit taller than roman, now. no telling if it'll stay that way, but for now, logan has to get used to the new angle.)

"grandma and dad both came to yell at the headmaster," logan tells him. "now grandma knows that dee slange is... well, the way he is."

"he hit you?!"

"louise grant did, actually, but everyone knows dee goaded her into it."

roman shakes his head in disbelief, cracks open the top of logan's milkshake to steal his maraschino cherry. "you go to school without me for, what, two months? and you got punched. in the face."

"the nose, more precisely," logan says, starting to spoon through the whipped cream. "apparently, she's a black belt."

"your dad yelled?"

"a little, yeah," logan says. "i mean, he looked pretty close to angry-crying, but my grandma definitely yelled. apparently she nearly sued chilton for the way he got treated when he was there. hearing i got punched in the face has kickstarted that desire right back up again."

roman lets out a low whistle, and takes a long slurp of his shake, smiling at it. "um. thanks, by the way."

"i owed you for last time. and technically my dad bought—"

"no! um, not the shakes, but thanks for those too, i guess," roman says. "i just—i didn't know if things would be weird now. with jess and everything."

logan blinks at him. "why would it be weird?" he says, in a carefully normal tone. "we're friends. why should i care if you went on a date?"

roman freezes, lets out an absolutely false laugh, and looks down at his lap. "right," he says, quietly. "right, why should you care."

"how was it, anyway?" logan says, as if an odd and painful thing wasn't clenching in his chest.

"oh," roman says. "it was—nice."

"nice," logan repeats.

"yes. nice."

"roman. i once heard you describe yourself as talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, show-stopping, spectacular, never the same, totally unique, completely not ever been done before, and when it comes to your first date, you just say that it's nice?"

"okay, first of all, i can't believe you cannot recognize that i was referencing lady gaga," roman says, "second of all, i was just starting to describe it, calm down."

logan rolls his eyes, and keeps his face frozen in polite interest as he hears roman start to gush about jess, and thinks this hurts worse than his bloody nose.

meanwhile, patton walks into virgil's, shake in hand.

"no outside beverages," virgil says.

"you know what would go great with this one, though?" patton says. "a hot cocoa/coffee."

"you had three cups at breakfast."

"no, virgil, you don't understand,need another one," patton says. "i actually was in agreement with my mom today—"

virgil opens his mouth.

"but patton, it's monday, you're about to say? well, i got called up to school because logan got passionate about journalism, like he always does, and some—some girl punched him in the nose!"

"wh—is he okay?!"

"he's fine," patton says, "he seemed to think that i was making too big a deal out of everything, he went to get shakes for him and roman. i'm hoping that's a good sign, but i'm just—he got hit, virgil!"

"he's okay, though?"

"bloody nose, nothing broken," patton says. "please can i get a hot cocoa/coffee?"

"i'm sending you home with a dozen jam tarts," virgil decides, and fishes out a mug. "oh, wait, you said your mom—?"

"my mom might have actually killed a man today, i don't know, she made him take her back to his office," patton says. "she was yelling for a solid fifteen minutes before i got there, i think."

"well, if your mom has to be who she is..."

"logan said the same thing," patton says. "he actually said that i should make charleston call, which." his lip twitches. "makes up a little for the time i got a month's worth of detention because i kept correcting teachers on my name and pronouns and ignoring them if they called out my deadname."

virgil high-fives him, face hardened. 

"also it turns out my mom wanted to sue when i was there," patton adds, distracted. "like she started yelling at him about me. i didn't know she was so..."

"loud?"

"upset," patton says softly. "i didn't know she was that upset about it."

"oh."

"i just—i dunno. i always felt so alone back then, and i can't help but wonder..." patton shakes himself, murmurs a thanks when virgil sets the mug in front of him. "it is what is now, i guess. can't change the past."

"i mean, if i could change the past," virgil says, an attempt at a joke, "i'd change the way we met."

patton smiles. "you weren't that bad."

virgil gives him a Look.

"okay, you were a little bad," patton amends, "but to be fair, i was on the verge of a breakdown for days and you fed me basically immediately after, that made up for it."

"well, i'd change it," virgil insists. 

"i wouldn't," patton says, smiling. "i wouldn't change a thing in the world about us."

except for one thing, they both think, except for one thing—

but they don't want to risk it, changing this silent, maybe-unrequited love into something said aloud. not yet.

...

logan keeps going to the studio after school. he did that a lot, really, did his homework in the pews, or read the courant, or compiled research for an article, but he'd stopped doing it as often after he transferred to chilton.

it makes sense that his date (boyfriend?) would come to visit him one day.

it's the wednesday after he brought roman a shake, and logan's busy perfecting his outline for his english essay that's due in two weeks when the door to the dance studio opens. logan blinks, looking up, and—oh.

the boy—jess, logan thinks snidely—hovers near the door.

"hell of a shiner," jess says, and he sounds impressed. "what happened?"

"journalism."

jess blinks at him in utter confusion, and roman bounces around the corner, beaming. the dancers (mostly around the age of ten) filter toward their bags. one of them is giving logan a pitying look. logan refuses the urge to bury his face back into his book.

"jess, what are you doing here?! my mom might kill you!"

"i brought you something," he says, bringing a bag out from behind his back, and logan barely suppresses his smirk.

roman hates al's pancake world. 

"oh, hey," roman says, rallying from the briefly disappointed look that flashes almost too quick to catch across his face. "thanks, jess, that's really sweet. oh, i didn't even—jess, this is logan. he's my best friend, he goes to chilton now."

"chilton?" jess echoes.

"it's thirty minutes away," logan says, and jess' eyes drop to the uniform.

"private school kid, then."

"fairly recent, but yes," logan says, trying not to get riled up. "i just transferred in this year."

"logan's going to be a journalist," roman says brightly, "and he—"

"yeah, he mentioned," jess says, cutting roman off. logan tries not to inflate too obviously, because sure, he might cut roman off, but roman always gives him that Look, the 'i'll-get-you-for-that-later' Look, not the way he's scuffing his ballet shoes over the carpeted floor of the hallway right now. but roman rallies, because roman always does.

"he's going to get a pulitzer one day," roman says. 

logan smiles at roman. just a little. "well, i'm not just focusing on journalism for that."

"yeah, but you're so good at it you're gonna get one," roman says. "maybe two. who's the record-holder for pulitzers?"

"carol guzy and david barstow are tied at four."

"amateurs!" roman declares, and logan laughs.

"as interesting as all that is," jess drawls. "should i...?"

"roman has class until six, then an hour's break, and classes again," logan says. "schedule varies depending on his mother, of course, but considering..."

"you could skip," jess offers, and roman actually laughs, before he blinks.

"oh. you're serious?"

"yeah, why not?"

because roman loves teaching the kids. you would have been better off asking if he could skip the sunrise yoga for the over-55s.

"because my mom might actually bludgeon you to death with a pointe shoe," roman says. 

that too.

"what else can she do?" jess says, with an eyeroll.

"oh, you're definitely new to town," logan murmurs, unable to help himself.

"what?" he scowls, swiveling to face logan. 

"you're definitely new to town, for two reasons," logan says, neatly shutting his book as roman slips back into the studio and a shadow looms behind an unsuspecting jess. "one, because ms. prince is rightfully the most feared person in town. and two, you haven't yet learned that she can be lurking around any corner."

jess rolls his eyes. "what, like she's the boogeyman? i think i'll take my chances."

"boo," ms. prince says coldly, and logan doesn't even try not to smile when jess jumps about a foot in the air.

"ms. prince," logan says, slipping his book into his bag and nodding at her respectfully. 

"logan," she says, without taking her eyes off her latest prey. "you have some nerve showing up here without so much as an apology."

logan steps out of the doorway, even as he's loathe to miss a ms. prince lecture directed at someone who's not him or roman, and quashes the urge to do something foolish, like skip his way to virgil's.

Chapter Text

"is it healing? it doesn't look like it's healing."

"it's healing, mom, we've been icing it," patton says, trying not to squirm too much with the surroundings of the club. it's a half-day at chilton, because of teacher conferences, so they're doing make-up lunch instead of brunch, in addition to dinner tomorrow. "look, the bruising's already going all yellow and green."

"it'll be gone by my birthday," logan agrees, as all four sanders' follow the waiter to the table. with halloween approaching rapidly, it meant that in a little over a week, it would be november, and on the third, he would be sixteen. which meant he'd be able to take his driver's test, and that he could actually start seriously researching cars and debating if he wants to get one with roman. and on his birthday his dad would wake him up at four in the morning and roman would enact their birthday tradition and they would have coffee cake for breakfast at virgil's with roman, and roman would get him his traditional gift and patton would get him something that's somehow both goofy and sentimental and virgil will get him unexpected yet useful, and virgil would make him his birthday cake at the party that night, which would be full of the people he loves tolerates most in sideshire.

logan likes his birthday.

"well, it had better," emily huffs, sitting in the chair his grandfather pulls out for her. "i have no idea what got into dee slange, he's usually such a shrewd boy."

logan and patton exchange a look. 

"and that girl," emily tsks.

"i did business with janlen grant for years," his grandfather provides. "hard to believe."

"yes, well," his dad says, before there can be any parallels drawn there, "they're all in trouble, logan's healing, and he's been staying late for the past few days to get every piece of advice he can squeeze out of the advisor, so—"

"i'm just asking her about it," logan says, "there's no physical contact—"

"—figure of speech, honey—it might be best to just... put it in the past."

"hmph," emily says. "well, i agree."

his dad blinks, startled. "you do?"

"would i have said it if i didn't?"

"well, i just—"

"it's not like logan is about to engage in fisticuffs again," emily says, offering a benevolent smile to logan, who wrinkles his nose on instinct.

"hardly," he sniffs. 

"there we go, then," emily says. "though if hanlin thinks it's forgotten—"

"agreed," patton says, and spares a moment to wonder when he stepped into the twilight zone. twice in one day.

"logan," his grandfather says, "did you see the article in the journal today about the progress of the value of stocks within the technology industry?"

logan perks up. "i did. what were your opinions, from the business perspective?"

and it's lunch. it's just lunch. no masked barbs, no out-and-out fights, no pointed commentary under anyone's breath. it's just lunch. talking about news articles, and some distant cousin of his patton's who’s had a baby, and the trip richard's taking to prague, leaving tomorrow before dinner.

emily even remembered patton's favorite dessert they used to get at the club, when his dad was his age, and ordered it as soon as she saw it on the menu.

logan and his dad wander out to the car (well, the valet pulls it up for them, technically) in a bit of a daze, and logan buckles his seatbelt.

"that was... nice," patton says disbelievingly.

for the first time logan can remember, that's not a lie or a forceful attempt at optimism. 

"yes," logan says, and frowns. "it was nice."

"pleasant, even," patton says. "i... huh. that's—that's..."

"atypical."

"yes! yes, that too, but i," patton says, and he frowns too. "i mean. it was nice."

"it's probably because i got physically assaulted," logan muses, and patton grimaces.

"i'd prefer for that not to be the only reason we can get together and have a pleasant meal," he says.

"i'm sure we could do the same thing if someone died."

"i thought you were done with thinking everyone was dying!"

"i don't think that everyone is dying," logan says. "i think that someone relatively close to our family dying would be enough to spur on unusual behavior."

"...i mean, you're not wrong, but no one is dying, okay?" patton says. "at least, i don't think that's the reason we had a... a nice lunch."

"it was strange," logan agrees.

"right, it was," he says. 

"it'll be interesting to see if it holds for dinner tomorrow," logan says.

"it will," patton says, and, unspoken, i hope it does.

his relationship with his parents hasn't always been strained. not on the surface, anyway. especially when he was little—he'd actually really liked the frilly dresses, the dance lessons, the dolls. he'd been good at acting like a darling little—

but he wasn't. at the core of who he was, he was a he. he'd struggled with that, not having the words for it, and started acting out. that's when what had been below the surface had surfaced. and then he'd learned more about lgbtq things, he'd found the words that fit, and he'd stopped hiding.

that's when any other issue he and his parents lost its last hope of hiding, too.

"dad, the turn," logan prompts, and patton shakes himself.

"right, yeah," he says, and gets over a lane to get on the highway.

"are you...?"

"just," patton says, and sighs. "thinking, i guess. the last time we got along so well, i was pretty little. it's been rocky since i hit puberty, even before i came out."

logan nods, and repeats, "it'll be interesting to see if it holds."

he had a feeling it wouldn't. but patton hopes—patton hopes—

he tells virgil, later, when they swing by for dinner that night. 

virgil and logan exchange a look.

"we did get along, once," patton says.

"i'm sure you did," virgil says. "it's just—i don't want you to get your hopes up and then get crushed if it doesn't keep going like this, pat."

"i won't," patton says. virgil sighs. "i won't," patton insists.

"okay, okay," he says, then, "don't think i didn't notice you sneaking a refill, joke's on you, that's all decaf."

patton jokingly shakes a fist at him, and logan rolls his eyes, because did they have to flirt in front of him?

later, when patton's off chatting to some of the other citizens of sideshire, virgil slides into his vacated seat.

"it seriously went... okay?"

"it seriously went okay," logan confirms, making a note on the courant. "no insults or fighting or anything. it was a fluke."

"i've got a feeling you're right," virgil sighs. "just... keep me updated if i need to stock extra of anything, yeah?"

"yeah," logan says, and tries for a sneaky glance at him. "like cake."

"i suppose," virgil says, attempting to be blasé, but an upward twitch of his lip gives him away. "any reason you're thinking of cake?"

"don't try to be cute, you know that only works with dad," logan commands. "you know what dad got me, didn't you? and you always do your shopping early."

"not a chance, kid," virgil says with a snort, standing and stacking their empty plates to haul away. 

"just one hint," logan wheedles.

"the last time i did that, you managed to figure out what me, your dad, and rudy got you," virgil says. "i didn't even know what rudy got you. no way."

"it can be a little one!"

"it was a little one, last time," virgil says, rolling his eyes, "be good or sandy claws won't give you presents."

"i haven't believed in santa since i was five," logan says, and virgil snorts again, heading for the kitchen. yeah, he remembers the way that hypothesis worked out—logan had laid a trap for the intruder, and emerged triumphantly from his hiding place to find patton tangled up in rope.

"plus it's not even november yet!" logan shouts after him. 

"i was referencing a nightmare before christmas!" virgil shouts back, and disappears into the kitchen.

"why was he referencing a nightmare before christmas?" patton says, sliding back into his seat. "other than halloween, i mean."

halloween's virgil's favorite holiday. it's literally the only holiday he'll ever decorate the diner for—there's pumpkins strewn in random corners, skeletons galore, every single possible scary thing present. except, of course, the conspicuously absent spiders because of one diner regular, in particular.

"where are you hiding my presents?" logan says.

"ahh," patton says, grinning, and pretends to zip his lips shut.

logan's a terrible snoop around this time of year. well, he's a snoop generally, but he tends to limit that to journalism. but now he wants to figure out what people have gotten him, and will break into locked rooms if necessary (see: sixth, eighth, eleventh, and fourteenth birthdays.)

"they're not in the house, i've checked," he says. 

"i'm not saying a word," patton says.

"not at the inn, either."

patton takes a large gulp of water.

"did you hide them out at virgil's? are they right on top of us!?"

patton plugs his ears and hums loudly to tune him out, in case he somehow gives something away. (see: fourth, ninth, and thirteenth birthdays.)

valiantly, patton prevails, and he manages to avoid giving away anything about logan's birthday presents. logan tries to pretend he isn't pouting the whole way home. 

"i'm going to find out, you know," logan says.

"i'm sure you will," patton says placidly.

"i will!"

"i'm just saying, i have a really good plan this year."

logan groans, and stomps up the stairs, and patton smothers his smile and thanks whoever it is up there that he's got a teenager whose idea of a fight is trying to figure out where patton's hidden his birthday presents.

and besides. it is a really good plan this year. 

there's a part of it that's still up in the air, though.

patton brings it up, tentatively, after dinner with emily—just him, logan, and his mom, his dad off in prague for business. logan is glued to his side, though, and sulking about it.

("you are not snooping through your grandparents' house to find your present!"

"i already know what grandpa's getting me, it's just a question of grandma and i already have a few theories that i think could be easily corroborated if—"

"nope, nope, no, young man, you're staying right by my side."

"da-ad.")

"so, um, mom," patton says, "you know it's a special day next friday."

"i know that," she says.

"would it be possible to push dinner to saturday?"

"what are you going to do on friday?"

"well, we were going to have a party in sideshire—"

"oh, we can have a little party here," emily says, stern, and patton sighs, because he knows when he's beat.

"can i bring a friend?" logan pipes up. "from sideshire."

"is it that romeo boy?" she asks, and patton barely manages to stifle his snort against his hand. logan spares him a wounded look.

"roman, grandma."

"all right, all right—"

"and, um," patton says, "when it comes to cake, virgil usually—"

"we'll have a caterer handle it," she says briskly. "give me a hug, logan, it's time you two got on the road, it's getting late."

in the car, patton turns to him. "two parties this year?"

"i suppose," logan says.

patton considers, then grins a little deviously as he starts the car.

"it gives you an extra day to figure out what my present is."

"dad."

(later in the week, patton's mom calls him to help with shopping for a present for logan, and they also get along then. patton's so weirded out right now, you have no idea.)


"happy birthday, honey."

logan groans and rolls to the side, even as he's trying not to smile. he's sixteen. sixteen. that's old.

"hey," logan mumbles.

"i can't believe how fast you're growing up," patton says, settling on logan's bed and carding his fingers through logan's hair. logan squints up at him. he knows for a fact that it's 4:03 in the morning right now.

"feels slow."

"trust me, it's fast," patton says with a laugh. "how's your life so far?"

"hmph. fairly passable."

"only passable, huh?"

"i'd like to get some more sleep, on the whole," logan grumbles, and patton laughs.

"nuh-uh, buster. for all that you are a great, smart, wonderful kid, and the best friend a dad can have, at this exact time, many moons ago—"

"here we go," logan mumbles, and reaches for his glasses.

"—i had been in labor for fourteen. hours. fourteen! and while having you of course was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life, at that point, i was begging the doctors to just induce me and make it a c-section at this point, and i was swearing—"

"like a sailor on leave," they say in unison, and patton snaps his fingers. "right! and i was surrounded by a hundred prominent doctors, and i was just screaming—"

"eight, dad," logan mumbles very quietly, and patton smiles, cards his fingers through his hair again.

"sixteen, kiddo. so there i was, lying there, and..."

 

"you shouldn't have to go to school today," patton declares as they're walking to the diner for breakfast, and logan looks horrified, as if patton had suggested that a fun birthday celebration would include going swimming in piraña-infested waters.

"you want me to skip?!" logan says, and patton wonders how he had a kid who dreaded missing school. 

"just if you want," patton begins, but there's the thud of footsteps behind them, someone running, and logan barely manages to say "oh no" before he's tackled to the ground. patton, used to this yearly tradition, has stepped out of the way and is trying not to laugh.

"IT'S YOUR BIRTHDAY!" roman shouts in his ear. "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!"

"must you attack me every year," logan says.

it started back when they were in kindergarten, when it was logan's birthday and roman got so excited about the birthday cupcakes that virgil baked and patton brought to class that he hugged logan hard enough that logan fell over and skinned his knee. and to make him feel better, roman did what his mom did to make him feel better (which patton did too, when logan was little), which turned into—

"¿qué tan viejo estás?" roman sings loudly into logan's ear to the tune of happy birthday, logan still lying in the grass, having accepted his fate. "¿qué tan viejo estás? ¿qué tan viejo, qué tan viejo, qué tan viejo estás?"

"sixteen," logan responds, cheeks going pink.

"dieciséis!" roman shouts. "entonces tienes dieciséis besos de cumpleaños!"

—which turned into the yearly birthday kisses. one kiss for each year.

(which was so cute when they were little that patton actually cried, and as they've grown older he's watched each of them get shyer and shyer about it, which was still so cute, and no, patton does NOT know how they aren't dating yet!!!)

roman smacks three noisy kisses—one on his left cheek, one on his forehead, and one on his right cheek—counting each in spanish, before scrambling off of him, cheeks equally pink, and hauling logan to his feet.

"thirteen more," roman informs him. "i might skip school just to catch the bus up to chilton to make sure i'm spacing them out properly."

"you won't be able to sneak in."

"that sounds like a challenge," roman informs him, taking his hand and swinging it between them for a few steps before dropping it as they approach virgil's diner. 

there's a table set up. with balloons. they match logan's favorite tie—blue and purple and black and white. the pink in logan's cheeks has not faded.

"virge, he's here!" jean hollers into the kitchen, and virgil emerges, hair disheveled (more than usual) and toting a tray. 

"happy birthday, kid," virgil says. "i thought i told you to stop growing."

"he'll get right on that," patton jokes, tousles logan's hair a little, and logan sits down at the table, trying to fight little smile that's on his face.

"we'll weigh him down or something," virgil says, and sets down the tray, setting out the coffee cake with a candle stuck in the top, mugs of hot cocoa/coffee, before slipping into the fourth seat. "is there a reverse to that whole a pinch to grow an inch thing? i could use that."

"that's a myth," logan says, as virgil gets out a lighter to light the candle on the cake.

"yeah, you're gonna have to make a wish, too," roman says, nudging the cake closer to him. "and don't tell us what it is or it won't work!"

"it won't work regardless, but fine. as long as you don't sing again," logan says.

"we're saving that for saturday," patton says, squeezing his shoulder. "go on, kiddo."

logan sighs, and pretends as if he is very dismissive of the whole thing, even if he does make a wish.

(what? it's not like anyone knows he does it.)

the other three clap and cheer when he blows out the candle in one go, and virgil begins slicing up the coffee cake, even as he and roman start squabbling over who gets what slice and logan—

well. it's a pretty good start to his birthday.

(the additional birthday kiss roman gives him between bites of coffee cake and sips of hot cocoa/coffee are pretty nice too.)

(shut up.)

virgil sends him to school with a packed lunch of his favorites, and patton sends him off with a ruffle of his hair, and roman sends him off with another birthday kiss, and logan can't help but smile a little the whole bus ride to chilton.

it drops off his face when some sidles up to his locker with a sly little smirk.

"happy birthday."

logan scowls at dee, who opens up an envelope.

"at 4:03 in the morning, logan thomas sanders was born to—"

"what's that?" logan says, narrowing his eyes and snatching it away, scanning it, and—

oh. oh, no.

"see you tonight," dee simpers, snatching the envelope back, and logan grinds his teeth as dee flits away.

he texts roman during class when he can sneak his phone—the first time he's done so since he's gotten a phone.

logan: You are likely going to meet my nemesis tonight at my birthday dinner. 

roman responds basically immediately, because he has no such qualms about sneaking out his phone during class.

roman: o shit fr?

logan: Apparently, my grandmother has invited him. Potentially some of my other classmates.

roman: so i gotta like... kill him. fight for ur honor. go full dueling rules. we draw pistols at sundown
roman: actually your gparents seem like the type of people to keep decorative swords
roman: bc like. i could use those. i could def use those
roman: pls let me use the swords

logan:  I can understand the temptation, but I would have to insist you didn't  

romanyou're no fun

logan: You're realizing this just now?

he tucks his phone into his pocket before he can read what roman responds with, and it takes him until he's waiting for the bus at the end of the day to glance at his screen again.

romanhey now mr. birthday boy
roman: i'm the only one who can talk bad about you it's part of my best friend privileges
roman: mock yourself again and i break into your grandparents house to use their fancy schmancy swords on you

almost before he can think better of it, his thumbs are flying and he hits send before he can second-guess himself.

logan: Telling me you'll stab me sounds remarkably like you're trying to get out of birthday kisses

equally fast (equally unthought) the response comes

roman: i'll kiss u in a minute

logan: Is that meant to sound like a threat?
logan: Or is it a promise?

roman: wouldnt u like to kno

logan wouldn't say he glues his face to the window to see if a certain someone is waiting at the bus stop (but your author would, so.)

and he is!

...with a guest. logan tries not to scowl too obviously as he descends the bus.

"hey!" roman says happily, from where he's holding jess' hand. but he has what looks like lucy's for him in the other, so logan supposes it's all right.

"hey," logan echoes.

"hear it's your birthday," jess grunts.

"it is," logan says cautiously. 

"yeah, well. happy birthday."

"...thank you."

"um, so, your dad's picking me up at 5:30, right?" roman says.

"yes," logan says. "wear a tie."

roman pulls a face. jess looks between them.

"my grandparents are throwing a party," logan says, by way of explanation.

"yeah, i wanna steal all their decorative swords," roman teases, grinning. "you've given me a goal for the evening."

"i suppose i'll have to spend the evening with you, to ensure you don't purloin any of my grandparents' possessions."

"guess you will," roman says cheerfully. "however, i'm gonna have to say a sword would so make up for whatever happens at your grandparents'."

logan tilts his head, conceding the point. jess clears his throat loudly. 

"so, uh, roman, we should—"

"right! right," roman says, and bounces over to logan and hesitates. but then there's a rebellious gleam in his eyes. he rocks up onto his tiptoes just slightly, to press a lingering kiss against his cheek.

"seis," he whispers into logan's ear, warm breath making logan shiver in the november chill. roman pulls away and presses the shake into logan's hand. "happy birthday, logan."

jess' face has turned suddenly stormy. logan's responding smile feels rather sunny.

"see you at 5:30," logan says, and roman tugs jess along, to do whatever it is that they'll do.

logan brushes his fingers against his cheek with his free hand, and then he opens up the top of his shake, ready to eat his whipped cream as he walks home.

there's no cherry. roman must have stolen before he'd gotten there. logan spares a moment to wonder if he'd be able to taste it, if roman had directed his kiss just a few inches to the left—

logan clears his throat and hurries his way home.

his phone pings, then, with a notification from his other father, reading Happy birthday!

(logan doesn’t answer. logan never really answers. he’s sick of his other father swinging in and out of logan’s life when he feels like it, and he’s sick of the way his other father treats patton, like everything’s the same as it was when they were sixteen, and he’s sick of the way that his other father bolts and leaves his dad upset, and he’s just. he’s sick of it. so he doesn’t answer.)

he distracts himself by doing homework—his dad said he'd swing by the studio to pick up roman on his way back from the inn—so he loses himself in making a decent dent in his latin homework and reviewing some of the math material from today when he hears clattering on the stairs.

"shoot," he mutters under his breath, carefully marking his page. "i know, i know, i should get ready, i'm nearly—"

his voice dies in his throat.

it's not like he's never seen roman dressed up before, but for some reason, it's different, because he's wearing logan's colors. he's wearing indigo most prominently, his shirt, and black, his coat, and a lighter blue, his tie. he almost does a double take. logan's so used to him in his signature reds and whites and golds, he barely even knew that roman had cool colors in his wardrobe outside of dance costumes. it shouldn't be different but it is and—

("do you think he'll like it?" roman had asked patton shyly in the car.

"he'll love it," patton had said gently, not mentioning how roman has a boyfriend, or how his son would love anything roman wore or did, because he was roman.)

"you look," logan says, and swallows. he’s half-risen from his chair. when did he do that? and there's an odd jolt in his stomach. he's probably coming down with something. "good. you look good."

roman smiles, flits over to him, and rises to kiss logan on the cheek again, a fond little greeting he punctuates with a cheery "siete," and says, "thanks, logan."

"i should get ready," logan says, looking down at his chilton uniform.

"i wanna pick what you wear," roman says immediately. 

logan heaves a sigh, but sits on his bed, with a sort of go on then gesture, and roman squeals happily and starts digging through logan's ties and dress shirts.

logan's half-expecting roman to pick something in white and red and gold for him, but no—roman pulls out one of his favorite black shirts and his favorite tie, complete with black waistcoat and jacket.

"classic logan," he decides, and hands over his choices. logan begins to change.

(it's not like they haven't done this, either—changed in front of each other. years of sleepovers and swimming outings and logan recruited to backstage crew and helping roman through quick changes. but now, roman feels the urge to turn his back—like it's suddenly become intimate now. which is ridiculous. he has a boyfriend. this thing with logan is—)

"satisfactory?" logan says, as he fastens the final button of his shirt and drapes his tie over his neck, under his collar.

"hang on, i wanna try doing a fancy knot," roman says, stepping forward, and logan drops his hands and tilts his chin up. he can look down enough to see roman biting his lip in concentration, though.

"look at you, you dapper young gentlemen!" patton says, when roman's tightening the knot and buttoning his waistcoat and smoothing his hands over logan's shoulders, smoothing away imaginary lint. (roman tries to tell himself it's not an excuse to touch him.)

logan turns to investigate himself in the mirror. roman has put a fancy, different knot in his tie, something other than his usual windsor. he brushes his fingers against where the tie's wound over and over itself.

"what's this knot called?" logan says.

"something i know and you don't, we should celebrate this as a new holiday," roman teases. "it's an eldredge."

he tilts his head. it seems fitting for a special occasion. he tells roman so.

"aw, thanks, sheriff of knottingham," roman teases, kisses logan on the cheek with an "ocho." before spinning back to see patton, hovering in the doorway, fingers pressed against his smiling lips.

"should we get going?" logan asks, clearing his throat. 

"right, right, your grandma will kill me if we're late!" patton says. "but i figured, since it's technically your birthday, i could give you this early." 

he brings something out from behind his back, shuffling a little to hold something else there, but logan's eyes have focused in on the present, wrapped in space-themed wrapping paper.

"thank you," he says in a rush, lest he get lectured on manners, and now he gets to find one out and—

he tears it open with a ferocious kind of glee, and falters.

"do you like it?" patton asks.

"it's a puzzle, you know i like puzzles," logan retorts.

it's true. he does like puzzles. but this does not fit the previous thread of particularly sentimental gifts from patton established over the past fifteen years he's received presents on his birthday. it's a space puzzle, yes. it's something he enjoys, yes.

sentimental? not particularly.

"you'll have to solve it later," patton tells him.

"right, right, right," logan says. "we need to get going."

"right," patton says. then he bites his lip and lifts his camera from behind his back.

"no," logan groans, at the same time roman is putting on his most picturesque grin and tugging logan closer by the waist.

"i'll be quick about it!" patton defends, but logan has definitely heard that excuse before and it is a lie. oh god. especially if roman is in the pictures. roman loves having photos taken of himself, he's an absolute perfectionist about them so he takes approximately one million photos of himself (no he is NOT exaggerating) and then narrows down from there. how can logan possibly be in—

logan pastes on a smile rather than finish that thought.

hard cut to patton biting his lip as they pull up to the mansion.

"i told you we should have gotten going," logan tsks.

"we'll be forgiven once i mention pictures," patton says, unbuckling his seatbelt. "okay, um, roman, turn up the charming to eleven, i'm sure she'll love you because you're logan's friend. you're a natural at this. also please keep logan entertained. logan, i know these parties aren't your favorite—"

"ugh."

"—but behave, we're having the sideshire extravaganza tomorrow."

"dad, i should warn you," logan says, as they get out of the car, "i think dee slange will be here."

patton stiffens. "that dee slange?"

"it's not a common name, dad."

"she invited," patton began heatedly, before he huffs, shaking his head and muttering to himself, "i will not fight with a teenager at my son's birthday party, i will not fight with a teenager at my son's birthday party—"

"i could," roman suggests.

"no," logan and patton both chorus, and logan steps forward to knock at the door.

the door swings open almost immediately, like she was peeking through the window. she's beaming.

"there he is, the birthday boy," she declares.

"hi, grandma," logan says, as they step inside. "this is roman prince, he's my—my friend."

emily's eyes sharpen in a way that patton is familiar with at that particular stumble, but roman sweeps forward before she can say anything, taking her proffered hand and bowing to kiss the back of it.

"ma'am," roman says, having taken patton's advice. "it is an honor to meet you. thank you for being gracious enough to invite me to your beautiful home."

emily looks immediately mollified. "well, it's nice to meet you, too. i should have known a friend of logan's would have proper etiquette."

etiquette, roman mouths at logan as soon as her back is turned. logan pulls a face.

"wow, mom, you really went all out," patton says, attempting to shuffle out of the way of a pair of caterers toting trays as some servants straightened up the room. 

"well, i wanted everything to be perfect," she says. "what do you think?"

"it looks great," patton says. he wants to keep the peace, he wants it so badly, and—

"grandma, i think i might give roman a bit of a tour, is that all right?" logan says. 

"we'll call you down as soon as the first guests get here," patton says, and roman grins, bowing and gesturing the way ahead for logan.

"after you," he says, in a deep voice.

(as soon as they have rounded a corner, logan shoves him a little, which turns into a jostling session, which nearly turns into a hand slapping fight but they're spotted by a pair of decorators just in time to realize where they are.)

they do get called down, right as roman is attempting to bribe logan with even more birthday kisses to convince him to pull off a heist so he can steal a sword. logan is grateful, because his cheeks were so warm it was likely indicative of an incoming fever or something. not for any other reason.

"okay," patton says, juggling glasses as they descend the steps. "shirley temple with extra cherries for roman, a sprite for logan, and—"

"what are you drinking?" roman asks. patton looks momentarily guilty, before tipping his glass towards them so they can smell it. they both pull identical faces at the strength of it.

"sazerac," he says, so no one can hear. it's the strongest cocktail he knows of that can masquerade as just a fancy drink. "i might need you to drive."

"got it," logan says. 

"i'd recommend sticking to the foods you can recognize that don't smell funny," he says, in the same undertone. "um, roman, logan's grandparents will probably drag him away, so—"

"i'll stick with one of you, got it," roman says. "how often do you think i should slip into spanish to make the old white people uncomfortable?"

patton looks severely tempted by this offer.

"logan!" emily says, interrupting the conversation before they could settle on a specific code word or gesture. "there you are. come, there's some people i want you to meet."

logan gives roman a help look as he's tugged away. behind roman and patton, a voice says, "patton?"

"yeah?" he says absently, turning, and then— "oh my god! oh, mitzie! wow, i haven't seen you since—"

"your seventh month!"

"jesus christ," roman says, mouth hanging slightly open.

"i was going to say high school, but okay," patton says, shooting roman a patton-ted dad look.

"oh, no, did i say something rude?" she asks, distressed.

"no, no—"

"no, i did, i said something rude," she frets. "i've been trying to work on that."

"well, we've all got things to work on," patton tries.

"ever since my divorce, that's been my line of thinking," mitzie says, nodding rapturously. "you know, i just—i just want to grow."

"yep."

"wow. patton sanders, the scandal g—um, person!"

roman's eyes narrow dangerously.

"now, tell me," she continues, "whatever happened with christopher?"

"oh," patton says. "well, he's out in california, and—"

"oh, god, i'm so sorry, is this painful for you to talk about?!"

"um, well—"

"when did he last call you?!"

"god, you're making progress with that rude thing," roman says, and mitzie blinks.

"do i know you?"

"this is roman prince, he's a good friend of logan's," patton says, happy to change the subject.

mitzie blinks. "who?"

"logan? my kid!" he says proudly, and turns to point at where logan is surrounded by a gaggle of old women.

"oh, wow!" she says. "you can really see the christopher in him, can't you?"

"he's like a carbon copy of patton," roman says, frowning. patton takes a healthy gulp of his sazerac.

"you know what, mitz, it's been great to see you," patton says, "but i see someone i wanted to introduce roman to, if you'll excuse me."

they make a retreat.

"are they all like that?" roman says.

"oh, no," patton says. "not all the time, it's usually—"

roman's staring at him, like, uh-huh, suuuure. patton fidgets, and says in a lowered voice, "this is the first big party i've gone to other than the yearly thanksgiving and christmas parties since logan was born."

"oh," roman says, and that absurdly strong cocktail is starting to make sense now. 

"yeah," patton says. "so i'm just a little... nervous. that's all."

logan has managed to circle back, holding a tiny pile of envelopes and looking confused. 

"i'll take those," patton says, scooping the pile out of his hands and tucking them into an inside pocket of his jacket. "how are things going so far?"

"i think one of grandma's friends just asked me if i wanted to go for a round of golf, even after i told her i don't play."

patton grins. "big beehive hairdo?"

"yes."

"that's gloria," patton says, and imitates his father's tone in a whisper. "the most odious woman alive. i would have thought that they'd squirmed out of feeling obligated to invite her to most things, by now. god knows mom came up with thirty different schemes when i was in school."

the evening passes like that—patton or roman holding down a corner as logan's trotted around and shown off to various guests. patton's cheeks get pinker and pinker and he gets gigglier throughout the night. roman listens raptly to patton's decade-old gossip, or tries his best to make the old women giggle and blush and pinch his cheeks, or does his best, most daring getaways to sneak off as many birthday kisses in private to logan as he possibly can. 

well, it passes like that mostly until logan retreats to their corner and frowns to see patton alone.

"where'd roman go?"

"i think he went to brave the catering," patton says, and presses the back of his hand to his cheek, feeling how cool it is compared to his face. "is it warm in here to you?"

"you're intoxicated," logan says, "and i am not, so no."

"oh, that's what it is," patton says musingly. 

(patton's not much of a drinker—he's got a kid at home, after all. he has the occasional glass of wine at a meal, if it's sweet enough, and he doesn't like beer. cocktails on occasion, and almost never more than one. he left most of his drinking days back in his wild teenage years, though virgil did take him out for his twenty-first birthday... but that's a whole other story.)

"i think i might check the catering too," logan says. "see if there's anything other than cheese, crackers, and grapes that are, you know. edible."

"godspeed," patton says, and tilts his cup at logan in a toast. 

"you're all right here?"

"i'm fine," patton says fondly. "i'll hold down the chairs, and all your presents, go on."

logan nods, says, "drink some water," and turns on his heel to hunt after roman.

he's waylaid by his grandfather and a group of dour businessmen, who present him with near-identical envelopes that he thanks them for by rote and tucks into his coat's pockets before he chances upon the library, glancing in, and—

logan's striding forward before he can think of it, and dee turns, smiling at logan smarmily.

"roman," logan says.

"hey!" roman says. "i was just talking to someone from your new school, um—"

"dee," logan says. "dee slange."

the smile drops off roman's face. he takes a brief step back. "oh."

"now, now," dee says to roman. "we were getting along so well, weren't we? i see you haven't heard the best things about me. logan, tsk tsk. wasn't this invite a gesture toward letting bygones be bygones?"

"you know full well i didn't invite you," logan snaps.

dee spreads his gloved hands. "and yet here i am."

"yes," logan says distastefully. "you've made your appearance, now go."

dee smirks, tweaking his bowtie. "perhaps i will."

"you should."

"and perhaps you shouldn't tell roman what opinions he should have, he's a big boy who can think on his own," dee says. "or do you not think so?"

"get out."

dee laughs mockingly, even as he leaves the library.

"ugh, what a creep," roman huffs. "i can't believe i thought he was nice."

"he's good at getting into people's good graces," logan says. "good at telling people the exact things they do or don't want to hear, depending on which will further his own interests."

"he wasn't dressed quite as much like a disney villain today," roman says. "i thought patton said he looked like a disney villain."

"he usually pairs a cape with the bowler hat and gloves," logan says dryly.

"oh, okay. now i can see it."

logan realizes that they're now alone in the library, with no fear of interruptions, for the first time since they've been called down to greet the guests. logan wants to reach out and touch roman's shoulder, amongst other things, but instead he sighs and clenches his hands in fists behind his back. he has a boyfriend, he reminds himself, he has a boyfriend, he kisses you because it's tradition and he has a boyfriend now.

“how is everything going? with jess,” leaps out of logan’s mouth before he can really even stop it, and roman looks startled.

“i—oh. i mean it’s.... going,” he says, and then, hastily, “going well!”

“oh?”

“he’s been,” roman says, and glances around, then back up at logan to look him in the eyes,. “i know the way the first date ended didn’t give the best first impression, but he’s been a perfect gentleman. i really... it really is going well.”

logan isn’t sure if he’s pleased that his best friend’s relationship is going well—he isn’t lying, logan can tell by the look in his eye, he can tell that roman really likes him—or, well...

“good,” logan says. “i hope i wasn’t interrupting anything, earlier today. when you met me at the bus stop.”

“oh, no,” roman says. “no, no. we’d just facetimed a friend of his, from back home. we’d just finished when i realized the time and i figured it would be nice to meet you.”

“a friend of his?” logan repeats.

“yeah,” roman says, and smiles up at him. “he reminds me of you, kinda. well, him and jess remind me of me and you. they’ve been best friends since they were in kindergarten, too.”

logan feels the corner of his lip quirk up, bitter, without his meaning to. he reminds me of you. jess and his decidedly platonic friend, who he introduced to his brand-new boyfriend.

“i’d like you to get to know him better,” roman says. “i know that your schedules are kind of exactly the opposite, but—“

“no, of course,” logan says. “of course. if it’ll make you happy.”

and he means that. really. if jess will make roman happy...

then it means that roman will be happy. and that’s what’s important to logan.

roman smiles at him, and there’s something in his eyes that makes logan want to tilt his head, get in closer, investigate, but roman turns his head to glance around the library.

“gotta say,” he says, voice light, “i’d think a few more swords would make me a bit happier. bet we can steal up the stairs right now and make our daring escape from the latest gathering of the walking dread.”

when he turns his head back, his eyes are glittering with mischief, with a joke. the prior thing must have been a fluke. an effect of the lighting. he supposes.

"i know this party can't be very fun for you," logan says. roman shrugs.

"it's not so bad," he says. "your dad's getting tipsy, and that's kinda funny. plus he apparently has a really good memory for super old gossip, i've been hearing all kinds of stories."

"speaking of stories?" logan hedges, and roman grins.

"ah, you've been unusually quiet about it this year."

"just one hint," logan bursts out.

(this is a tradition too—roman is not free from logan's curiosity. roman traditionally writes him a story for his birthday. for example, last year's featured logan gallivanting through old-timey london with hercule poirot. every year the setting is different. every year it seems to get bigger and better.)

"nope," roman says, grinning. "it'd give everything away—"

his eyes widen, and logan looks triumphant.

"you've linked presents!"

"i didn't say that!"

"no, you said it'd give everything away," logan says, eyes gleaming like they always do when he gets a hint of a mystery, the bittersweet news of roman’s relationship with jess almost forgotten. (almost.) 

"which means you'd give someone else's present away. whose is it? virgil's? dad's? both?"

"oh, my god, just take me somewhere i can find decent food in this house," roman grumbles, leading the way out of the library.

"but you probably collaborated with them," logan continues, even as he's practically skipping with the reveal of a clue, a clue, a clue!!!

(roman's smiling. it's probably because it's just funny to see logan act undignified. not because of the pleased gleam in his eyes or the way he smiles at roman or the way he turns gleeful about a mystery or anything.)

(shut up.)

"which means that there's likely a common theme or thread to the presents. patton got me a puzzle, which means i could attempt to deduce your story idea with that clue and work from there—"

"logan, there you are!"

logan nearly groans and roman barely manages to stifle a laugh.

"i think it's time you said a few words to your guests."

logan turns from gleeful to slightly panicked so fast it makes roman a little dizzy.

"what?"

"just a little speech to say thank you and tell everyone how it feels to be one year older," emily says.

logan clears his throat. "i'm not one for particularly grand gestures."

"no, but i am," comes out of roman's mouth. "would it be all right if i did a toast instead, mrs. sanders? it's a bit of a tradition back at sideshire for—well, for someone else to toast someone on their birthday."

particularly, it's tradition for patton to toast logan on his birthday, but, you know. partial truths are still true. right?

"logan can thank everyone as they're leaving," roman says, warming to the idea, and logan looks a touch relieved—that's a social script he has memorized, not something sprung on him willy-nilly.

"well—"

"great!" roman chirps over her, grabs his mostly abandoned shirley temple from patton, and an abandoned spoon before she can say anything else. he gently clangs the spoon against it with a subtle ting-ting-ting that has the room quieting obediently.

roman clears his throat, and puts on his most dazzling smile. 

"hello!" he says, jovial. "i'm afraid i haven't met most of you yet, so i may as well introduce myself. i'm roman prince. my best friend is someone who happens to be turning sixteen today—just there," he says, pointing unnecessarily. logan's reclaimed his sprite, staring at roman, like the rest of the room is.

does roman love performing? yes, of course, he's a prince, it's in his blood. does he still get a little nervous? yes, of course, he's a human person, it's in his blood.

does it all fall away, when he focuses on how logan's staring at him intently? well. yes, of course. he's roman prince. it's in his blood. how he feels about logan is as unchangeable as his blood.

"so, it's actually a bit of a tradition, where we're from, for someone to toast someone on their birthday," roman says. "usually, it's his dad, but today, logan's letting me take over, which i assure you is not a sentence i can say often."

a soft chuckle.

"but, um. i met logan when i was five, but a lot of my life i can't remember before he was in it," roman says. "i think a lot of it wouldn't be worth remembering, anyway, without my partner in crime, the sherlock to my john watson, the spock to my kirk, the hercule poirot to my arthur hastings. i'm really not sure who i'd be without him. i don't think i ever want to find out."

silence, now. complete and utter silence. logan's still just... staring at him. roman takes a breath in.

"logan. you're smart, you're ambitious, you're witty and clever and funny, you're stubborn as hell. you're passionate and thoughtful and intense about the things you care about. it's been an honor to be one of them. it's been an honor to grow up with you. the first sixteen years of you have been so good, i cannot wait to see how the rest of them turn out. to logan."

he lifts up his glass, and the other party-goers chorus "to logan!" and there's the clinking of glasses as people cheers and drink and roman takes a cursory sip before he steps back toward the corner, where patton had gotten out his phone to record and is pressing his fingers against his lips again, smiling huge, and logan is still staring.

"happy birthday," roman tells him. 

logan's staring.

"sorry if you really wanted to make a speech, i know you sometimes like that kind of thing and i kind of took over fast."

staring.

"...hello? earth to logan?"

very suddenly, logan's arms are around him, and just like that, logan is hugging him

logan is not a hugger. he tolerates hugs for the people around him—see roman's birthday tradition of tackling him every year, or even birthday kisses. roman initiates, logan tolerates. it's the way he is. in moments of weakness, he maybe leans into it. but roman cannot remember a single time that logan has initiated a hug

roman can't help but close his eyes, though, and squeeze him closer, because—because logan's hugging him.

"i really mean it," roman whispers into his ear.

"i know," logan says.

"but if you tell anyone i meant it, i'll blackmail you with the fact that you hugged me. of your own free will."

"i know," logan says again, except this time there's a laugh in his voice, and he pulls away. 

his lips aren't laughing. neither are his eyes. they're staring at roman, like—like he's the clue that logan wants to solve. like he's the mystery that logan wants to dissemble and lay bare and analyze breathlessly, making sure every single little detail is correct before writing an article about it, and—

"well done," emily says from behind him, delighted, and roman forces himself to turn away from logan, from that look in his eyes.

"thank you," roman says.

"are you an orator?"

"roman's the star of sideshire," patton pipes up, and oh god, patton had seen all of that, hadn't he? and patton knew. "he's a dancer and a singer and an actor. triple threat."

"are you?" emily says.

"my mother's isadora prince," he says proudly, and oh, yeah, his mom's name still gets awe and attention. take that, people who thought she wouldn't be a star.

"is she," emily says. "goodness, i wondered, it's not exactly a common last name, and logan mentions the dance studio so often..."

there's an analytical look in her eyes as she stares at him. "have you considered pursuing it professionally? ballet, i mean."

"a lot," roman admits. "i'd want to go back and teach at the studio, too. even if i don't make principal dancer somewhere—"

"you will," logan says. "if you go out for it, you would."

roman smiles at him, just a little.

"i simply must introduce you to my friend at tisch," she muses, and roman nearly chokes on his tongue.

"the—the new york tisch?" roman asks. the widely-regarded-as-one-of-the-best-ballet-programs-in-the-country, tisch?? his-wildest-secret-dream-top-choice-for-college, tisch?!?!?!

"my dear, i'm sure you'll be remarkable," she says warmly. "but when you ascend to stardom, you just remember who discovered you."

roman's over the moon. he's over the stars, in fact. logan and patton exchange a slightly uneasy glance behind his back.

the party passes pretty smoothly from there. logan stands at the door and thanks each person for coming. he returns to find roman and patton and his grandparents in the living room, chit-chatting.

"is there anything we can do to help, mom?" patton asks her warmly.

"no, no, no," emily says. "the servants will take care of it."

"right, yeah," patton says.

"thank you again for inviting me," roman says. "and—and thank you again, for offering to talk to someone at tisch."

"talent like yours, my dear, should never be hidden," emily says. "i must see you dance sometime, and meet your mother."

"the sideshire dance studio loans out with the ballet here in the city for the nutcracker every december," roman says.

"then i have seen you before!" she says. "richard and i go every year."

"i'm the sugar plum cavalier this year," he says proudly, and her eyebrows shoot up.

"my, aren't you young for it?"

"like i said," logan says. "he's very, very good."

roman smiles bashfully at logan, who smiles back.

patton then says something suddenly that he will blame on the alcohol tomorrow. 

"mom, you and dad should come to logan's party in sideshire tomorrow."

she looks startled. even a little shocked. then—

"well, that would be... lovely."

"it'll, um," patton says, scrambling, because he just invited his parents to his house for the first time EVER. "it'll be different than this one, but it'll be fun, and—"

"logan is my grandson," she says. "we'll be there."

"right," patton says. "um, great. it's at seven."

"you boys should all get going," she says. she still looks slightly confused, but—pleased? "it's a long drive."

logan tolerates his hug, roman kisses her hand again, and patton says, "um, boys, why don't you warm up the car? i'll be right out."

they take the keys. then patton does something that shocks emily even more.

he leans forward to hug her—quick, bright, heartfelt.

"i'm really happy we're getting to know each other, mom."

"i already know you," emily says. "you aren't some huge mystery to me, you're my son."

it isn't the usual barb that might be, even if there is a slightly sharp undertone to it. but that's better than nothing. especially since she said my son—no hesitation, no sneer. matter-of-fact. my son.

"well," patton says, and draws back smiling. "everyone can get to know someone better, even someone they've known for years. learn something new every day, right?"

"i suppose," she says, then, "you aren't driving, are you?"

patton laughs sheepishly and rubs the back of his neck. "no, no, logan is."

"good."

"the cocktails are stronger than i remember."

"you ordered sazeracs."

"mom—"

"they have absinthe, patton, i really don't know what you could have expected other than an absurdly strong cocktail. are you always this libatious at parties, or is my party a special occasion?"

"okay, mom, gotta go, bye!"

Chapter Text

logan's second birthday is altogether a bit noisier, a lot less well-dressed, and with much better food.

patton sent logan out to harass rudy (well, he mentioned maybe going to hang out with logan or talking to rudy, and picking at the errors in the courant won out when rudy managed to misspell something on the front page again) and virgil came over to help patton decorate, toting the materials he needs to cook/already prepped food from the diner. 

"what was his face like, last night?" virgil asks, as he's onto patton's ploy.

"confused," patton says, pleased with himself. "i really think i got him this year, v."

"it is a pretty good plan you came up with."

"hey, you helped too. you have, like. split custody of the plan. we communally raised this plan."

like the person the plan's for, patton thinks, but virgil's cheeks have gone red so he probably gets what patton's hinting at here.

but anyway, they prep the food and douse the house in streamers and patton nearly forgets until—

"oh god."

"what?" virgil says. "we didn't forget anything, we checked twice. but maybe—"

"no, no, not that, it's just," patton says, and chews at the inside of his cheek. "i might have tipsily invited my parents over to the party tonight."

"oh," virgil says.

"i—they've never been to the house before. the inn, a few times, when logan was a baby. your diner that once. but never the house."

"that's... big," virgil says cautiously.

patton blows out a long breath. "yeah."

"should i...?"

"no way," patton says immediately. "you're staying. you're a part of logan's life too and i need someone to help my frayed nerves."

if your parents and i fight it'll do a lot more than fray your nerves, virgil thinks, but doesn't say. instead, he says, "do we need, like. a plan? backup plan? multiple back up plans?"

patton shakes his head, flattens his hands on the kitchen table. "i just—this is big," he repeats.

"yeah," virgil says. 

"it's probably a while coming," patton says, and chews the inside of his cheek some more. "and it's been going so well lately."

"it'll be fine," virgil says lamely, as if he isn't mentally calculating every way this can possibly go wrong, and a few ways it can't.

"right," patton says, and blows out a forceful breath. "right, right. okay," he says, and claps his hands. "crisis over, time to hang up space-themed banners."

they do, and by the time patton's finishing affixing glow-in-the-dark stars to the ceiling guests are starting to trickle in—roman, who is also in on the plan, first—and patton gets some (logan-approved) music on, and then he kind of loses himself in greeting the citizens of sideshire that he and logan spend the most time with and get along with best.

logan and rudy walk in, to cheers, and patton surreptitiously checks his watch. 7:01. his parents are almost never late. he gets a drink for rudy instead of thinking about it.

logan's staring, eagle-eyed, at the pile of presents that's accrued by the fireplace. roman, cheerfully, is running interference to keep him from going over to shake them, or discreetly peel back a corner of wrapping paper to examine it, or—

roman's running interference, anyway.

someone rings the bell. patton jolts for the door, because there is one person (two people) who would ring the bell for a party in sideshire.

"mom, dad!" he says, smiling, conscious of the fact that he's in a sweater and jeans, casual in a way he basically never lets himself be at their house. he refuses the urge to start adjusting everything to make sure it’s all neat and tidy. "glad you could make it, come on in."

"traffic really is dreadful between our houses," emily says, and they file in. 

"grandma, grandpa," logan says, rising from the couch, and suffering through the hugs he receives.

"grandma, look," he adds, and holds out his wrist to display the watch patton had helped emily pick out for him, the one with the galaxy-studded background that reminds patton of the opening theme of doctor who.

"why, it looks lovely," she says, sounding a little surprised that something that cost $13 could possibly look lovely.

"um, everyone," patton says, "these are my parents, emily and richard sanders. mom, dad, this is... everyone."

"hi," the room choruses.

"hello," richard says back. 

"i'm emile," says emile picani, local therapist who had helped patton through a number of dilemmas free of charge back in the day, offering the first hand to shake. "we love your son and grandson."

"thank you," emily says.

"they're like our own belle and maurice!"

"without the beast, i'd hope, i don't want my son taken prisoner," patton intercedes, smiling at emile. "mom, dad, can i get you a drink?"

"stoli on the rocks with a twist," emily says.

"right," patton says, and escapes back in the kitchen, mouthing an exaggerated THEY'RE HERE at virgil as he does.

"how's logan?"

"happy," patton says.

"well, that's something," virgil says with a sigh.

"you'll be nice, won't you?"

"i will if they will," virgil grumbles.

"okay, well, their version of nice is different from my version of nice, so—"

"patton, i just tried some of these hors d'ouevres, they're unbelievable," emily announces, bursting into the kitchen. "who is your caterer?"

patton jabs a thumb toward virgil. "you've met him, actually."

she looks abruptly put out that she's complimented him. "ah."

"hi, mrs. sanders," virgil says. he only sounds a little stiff.

"we eat at virgil's practically every day," patton continues. 

"something healthy, i hope."

"not if patton was in charge of it," virgil mutters, and patton "accidentally" jabs him in the ribs with a playful little glower.

inexplicably, emily smiles. "he always had a terrible sweet tooth."

"mom," patton groans.

"i have to sneak him his vegetables in a smoothie every morning," virgil says, cautiously friendly.

"virgil!"

"ah. it was waffles, for us."

"it was—wait, what?" patton says, blindsided by this revelation.

"we used to instruct the chefs to sneak vegetables in your waffles for years," emily says. "you never noticed there were seeds in your syrup?"

"okay, first of all, i was nine, second of all, you said they were maple seeds!"

"patton," virgil says, trying not to laugh.

"that's what they were?" patton demands. "i thought it was just that you had really fancy maple syrup or something!"

"patton," richard says, walking into the kitchen, "your fireplace doesn't look structurally sound, i have someone you can call to inspect it—"

"i'll get right on that, dad," patton promises, and passes over the drinks he's poured for them. "come on, we shouldn't all be hiding back here, it's a party!"

"once these are out of the oven," virgil says, and patton sighs but accepts it. not much of a party guy, his virgil. he'll let him have his introvert time but eventually he will come back in here and drag him out to sit in a corner by remy aserinsky, local café owner, supplier of coffee beans to the inn and the diner, and source of an slightly joking, intensely confusing feud with virgil that patton has no hope of tracking, even after almost exactly sixteen years of living in sideshire. (three more weeks, to the anniversary. he and logan and virgil have a little celebration about it.)

"let me know when they're done?" patton requests. "i'll plate them and bring them out."

"sure," virgil says absently, already moving on to prep the next thing. patton squeezes his shoulder, but drifts after his parents to head into the living room. 

it's like a veritable merry-go-round of patton introducing people to his parents—or, well, a line actually kind of forms for people to shake their hands, his parents looking increasingly bemused with each. it ends up in a kind of pattern—people shake hands with his parents, wish his son happy birthday, split off into corners of the room to get food or drinks, and then find a place to settle.

"i'm larry, and this is my wife, dot, we live right across the street. such a good pair those are, nothing like my days back with pop-pop..." 

"...taylor doose, grocer. very nice to meet you, it must have taken quite the pair to raise someone like your son, such a good man. i hope you're proud of him, we certainly all are...."

"...sookie st. james, i'm the chef at the inn, i really cannot tell you how much i love working for your son, best boss i've ever had, and logan's so smart when it comes to food combinations..."

"...jackson melville. no, taylor, i really think she's more of a meryl streep than a julie andrews, but of course—ow, you don't need to kick me!..."

"...babette dell, and this is morey, and this is our sweet little baby cinnamon." (patton cannot help but reach out to pet and coo at cinnamon, even if he sneezes immediately. stupid allergies.) "we're their neighbors, just on the left side. oh, morey, do you remember the time that logan decided our old tree stump was gonna to be a lightning rod? used to sit in the rain until patton would herd him back inside and even then he'd be glued to the window, waiting, he was such a cute little thing, always running experiments on the plants in our garden, and patton always tagged along as his lab assistant, kept helping us replant anything that got uprooted..."

eventually, patton ducks out of the receiving line. logan looks after him, and he's been splitting his gaze between people greeting him and his pile of presents. patton can't help but wiggle a little bit in glee as he enters the kitchen. logan has no idea.

"those done yet?"

"just about," virgil says. "how're things, out there?"

patton grins. "my parents are being thrown straight into the deep end of the people of sideshire."

"they met ms. prince yet?"

patton's grin widens. "nope."

virgil snorts. "well, good luck to them," he says, and turns back to the oven right as the timer starts beeping, tugging on a pair of oven mitts to pull out the latest batch of jam tarts, before plopping them all onto a wire rack to cool.

"this is the last thing, right?" patton asks, sidling up beside him.

"should be," virgil says. "we've got these, the hors d'ouevres are out, we've got chips and dip, we've got dinner, we've got dessert..."

"then i pronounce you done," patton declares. "thanks for being my caterer."

"i can't believe your mom actually liked my cooking," virgil says.

"well, it's probably genetic," patton decides. "sanders loving your cooking, i mean. logan does, my mom does, i do..."

virgil smiles at him, and it strikes patton very suddenly how close they're standing, without a counter or a table to separate them, the way it always does when they stand like this. so much of their lives are spent divided by a counter, or by patton sitting in a booth, and when they’re together like this, in a space away from everyone watching, in a space where it’s just them...

"plus you're a good cook," patton adds, forging valiantly ahead, trying to make his heart not react.

"am i?"

"the best," patton amends. "the best cook."

virgil's smile quirks at the corners, turns a little sweeter, a little shier, and patton's failed remarkably at making his heart not react. 

"well," he says, a little gruff. "thanks. i guess."

"you're welcome, i guess," patton teases back. "we should head out into the living room, i bet logan's practically foaming at the mouth to open presents."

"i want to see the look on his face," virgil says, and double-checks that the oven's off (a habit) before following after.

logan does indeed look about five minutes away from foaming at the mouth. the receiving line's faded, and his parents are floating about the corners of the room—his dad looks like he's about five seconds from bolting, which patton gets, and goes to tug a little at his suit sleeve.

"here," he says, and presents him with a copy of the latest tabloid that taylor doose stocks at the grocery store. "i know it's not exactly national geographic, but there is a story in here about how people who are trying to help climate change are actually shape-shifting reptilian aliens who want to destroy all life on the planet."

richard blinks at it. "logan allows you to have this?"

"logan buys them," patton says with a laugh. "or at least, he makes a beeline for them when we're getting groceries and reads the headlines and gets increasingly gleeful with outrage, so i have to buy it for him, so he can rip it apart without holding up the line."

"ah," he says, and takes it. "well, thank you."

patton refills his drink, before he claps his hands to silence the party, and declares, "presents time!"

logan brightens, straightening up. roman's about to get up to grab his present, but patton wags a finger at him, mockingly stern.

"uh-uh, young man. you're last."

"but—"

"do you remember what happened last time you went first?" patton says, because he sure does. "you go last."

roman slumps back into the couch, mock-disappointed, and emile fetches his present for logan instead. 

logan is delighted. logan gets to guess what his presents are (90% of the time, he's right, and 100% of the time, he's at least close enough that he isn't actually very wrong at all) and rip up a bunch of fancily-wrapped paper and monologue at length about it. patton's getting pretty delighted himself, because logan still doesn't suspect a thing.

the presents pile has dwindled down, and it's now the order of people that it's settled into for years.

rudy grunts from the corner, and hands over a tiny box to logan. logan frowns at it, and then at rudy.

"you never get me anything physical," he says, which is true. the usual gift from rudy is a story pitch of logan's choice that he can run on the front page. last year, he'd managed a profile of a chemist at the local state university who'd won some prize or other, and patton had been walking into recreations of experiments on his kitchen table for weeks.

"well, special circumstances," he says, and patton readies his camera, like he's been doing for all the presents.

logan rips off the paper, opens the box, and stares down at it, and then up at rudy, and then down at it again, before lifting up the professional blue lanyard.

"is this—?" logan breathes.

"press pass," rudy rumbles. "it's about time you stop heckling me to do more stories at the state level and do them yourself."

logan cradles the id in his hands, flipping it over to look at the photo—and then he looks to patton, because he surely recognizes where rudy would have gotten a photo from.

"now that you have a driver's license, i figured it would only be fair," patton says. "as long as you don't let it interfere with your schoolwork, which i know you won't, and as long as you don't become a total workaholic, i think you can ask me if you can take the car to run up to the capital if there's breaking news, don't you?"

a massive grin splits over logan's face, and—

"really?!"

"really really," patton promises.

"there's a press conference on monday afternoon, if you're free," rudy begins.

"yes!" logan exclaims. "yes, i'm free, what's the conference about—?"

"i'm forwarding the pr release now," rudy says.

logan's cradling the press id, and slings the lanyard around his neck, like he doesn't want to lose it.

"okay," virgil says, and nudges over a fairly sizeable box. logan gives him a curious look, but reaches over to take it, ripping the star-dotted paper.

he unearths a lamp that displays constellations around the room, and a leather bomber jacket covered with space patches: nasa and galaxies and one little “i want to believe” patch. it’s hand-stitched, but, well. of course it is.

"cool," roman declares, then seems to remember who it's from and coughs. "um, i mean—"

"no take-backs, it's cool," virgil says smugly, as logan's shrugging it on, and smooths over the collar, tugging his press id so it's still front and center. it does look cool. a perfect balance between nerdy and cool.

logan smiles at virgil, just a little—the fact that virgil’s the closest thing that logan has to another dad has been an unspoken truth between them for years, now—and virgil clears his throat, trying his hardest not to look emotional.

“yeah, happy birthday, kid,” virgil says gruffly, and logan’s smile widens.

"we should plug this in," logan declares, holding up the lamp.

"not yet," patton chides gently, "you've still got a couple to go."

logan frowns. "no, just roman's. rudy, virgil, you, then roman. but you've already given me my—"

but he falls silent to see emile and remy carting in two boxes, and—

logan's jaw has fallen open. patton snaps a picture.

"you," he begins, and then, "you—"

"i got you!" patton bursts out gleefully. "for the first time in sixteen years, i have managed to get you!"

logan's jaw is still hanging.

"you didn't really think i'd just get you a puzzle, did you?" patton teases him gently, taking the larger of the boxes and setting it in front of logan. 

"you," he says, stunned, "tricked me."

"i did," patton says. "i got a decoy present and i hid the real presents at the prince's apartment—"

logan swivels to glower accusingly at roman, who snickers, holding up his hands.

"—and i got you," patton finishes. 

"i," logan says, and then, "i'm—"

"are you mad?" patton checks, suddenly worried that he's pulled one over on his son, and logan doesn't like being made a fool of, but he wasn't trying to do that he was just trying to surprise him, nicely, and logan—

logan just grins at him.

"you've finally managed subtlety for once in your life," logan declares. "i never thought i'd see the day. at last i have taught you something."

"hey," patton chides, but he can't help but laugh. "it might be your birthday, but that doesn't mean you can't get grounded."

logan scoffs and the rest of the room laughs. 

"i could!" patton says defensively.

"that boy's never been able to stay in trouble with you more than a day in his life," babette says in the corner. 

patton turns to virgil for someone on his team, but he just shrugs, putting his hands up in a don't look at me kind of way. 

"fine, i'm a softie," patton declares, "but one who managed to surprise our own logan sanders, modern-day sherlock!"

there's a cheer. logan rolls his eyes at everyone in the room. (one man has escaped to the porch, and one woman is watching this display in the room, feeling very... thrown off.)

"open this one first," patton says, excitedly patting the box. for once, he has managed to surprise his son. he's absolutely over the moon (ba-dum-tsh!) with his success.

logan tears off the paper, and then he gapes at patton.

"no."

"yes." 

"no!" logan says, tearing off the rest of the paper to stare in absolute delight at the telescope that patton's bought him—the one he'd gone on and on and on about when it first came out, excited over all the features and its capabilities.

"you like it?!"

"i love it!" logan says, so excited, so openly happy in a way he never lets himself be. patton's heart soars. "but it's way too expensive—"

"i know, that's what i told them," patton teases. "so i hunted until i got a discount."

"it's perfect," logan says lovingly, tracing his hands over the box, looking ready to cart it outside and set up shop to examine the constellations and ignore the rest of the party. 

"you've still got another one from me," patton says, holding the smaller one forward. it's still pretty sizeable, but not to an absurd degree.

"dad, the telescope's already too much—"

"hey, it's your sixteenth birthday, that only happens once," patton scolds. "plus this one wasn't very expensive. c'mon, open it."

logan gives him a little smile—soft, private—and looks down, ripping open the paper to see the back of a frame for a poster. he flips it, and he stares.

"it's," patton begins. "it's the way the stars were in the sky, on your birthday. that morning, i mean, when you were born."

"dad," he says, soft, tracing the shiny silver lettering reading november third, the year of his birth, the astrological details of the placement of the moon and the sun, the shiny little five-pointed stars connected into constellations.

"happy birthday, kiddo," patton says. "eight."

logan's lip twitches up. "sixteen," he breathes back, and patton ruffles his hair, just a little, before he backs up closer to the wall makes a gesture at the rest of the room.

"and now, what we've all been waiting for," patton says, and begins a drumroll on his thighs. the rest of the room echoes it. roman hands over his box with a flourish, and logan tears open the paper eagerly.

"what's all this?" a familiar voice asks, and patton nearly jumps. he'd almost forgotten his mother was here.

"roman's present," patton says, in an undertone, but can't explain anymore because logan's lifting the lid off the box eagerly, unearthing a massive, massive sheath of paper. the cover of the book is decorated with roman's lurid doodles of stars, and galaxies, and what look like the gears of a watch, and stickers plastered over any available space.

"doctor who?!" logan says eagerly, and looks up at roman. "you wrote me into doctor who?!!?"

"i did," roman says. "you're a companion."

"with which doctor?"

"please, i know your passionate opinions about the benefits and drawbacks of each doctor better than that. all of new who, obviously, with cameos from the old ones."

logan beams at him, and cradles the papers in his arms, hugging them close to his chest, like it's something precious, something to be savored. and he does: logan has a space on his shelf saved for the birthday stories of years past. roman has to go last for presents, because logan will start reading the story right then and just about ignores all his other presents to get to the end so he can babble happily about it with roman. 

logan's staring down at the papers, and roman's staring at him, wide-eyed, like he's seeing an eclipse, or a blood moon, or a meteor shower, or something equally cosmic and amazing, something that you only get the chance to see only every so often and something so beautiful that it stuns you, makes you think about the whole wide universe and everything that is and was and ever will be and how lucky you are to see this, this precise moment.

"what," his mother says, and she narrows her eyes suspiciously at them. even a totally oblivious stranger could see it then, at that moment, and emily sanders is not a totally oblivious stranger. "are they—"

patton taps his finger to his lips, eyes twinkling. later, he mouths at her, and she shuts her mouth grudgingly.

"hang on," virgil says, because he knows that the best way to keep logan from getting completely engrossed in the birthday story is to interfere before he can read it. "hang on, cake!"

"cake," logan says, distracted, and tears his eyes up away from the cover page. roman, similarly, tears his eyes off logan. "right, cake."

virgil ducks into the kitchen, and emerges carrying the traditional cake, stuck with sixteen lit candles, and sets it carefully before logan. patton switches off the lights and takes in a deep breath, and logan only pulls a little face that somehow seems magnified by the light of the candles, the only thing in the room ignited.

"happy birthday to you," the room sings, "happy birthday to you, happy birthday, dear, looo-gaaan... happy birthday to you!"

logan huffs a breath, then another one, and patton flips the lights back on as everyone cheers.

"okay, first cut," virgil says, handing over a knife.

"then toast," patton says, "then you can escape to a corner and read your story."

logan smiles at him and cuts himself a large slice, before passing the knife back to virgil so he can distribute the cake equally.

once everyone who wants a slice has got a slice, patton calls out, "okay, everyone, attention please!"

the room quiets.

"okay, i'll keep it short, because we all know how amazing virgil's cake is," patton says. "and technically someone stole the birthday toast on logan's actual birthday this year."

roman grins at him sheepishly.

"so i would like to propose a little toast to the one thing in my life that is always good, always smart, and always eager to take on the whole world. without him, i don't know what my reason would be to get up in the morning. my kiddo, logan. cheers."

"cheers!"

"and now in honor of this very special boy, i invite you all to dig in!" patton declares, and people split off into their own conversations, chattering away.

when the attention's surely off him, logan leans in to hug patton briefly before sliding off the couch to sit in a quiet corner with roman, eating cake and commenting aloud on the story, and patton rolls his eyes fondly at virgil.

he also notices that someone is not standing where she was before—and that that someone is climbing the stairs. patton follows after. 

he turns a corner into his room to see his mother, holding up a quilt.

"i made that."

"really?"

"from logan's old baby clothes."

"how nice," she says, blankly, then, "that's quite an assortment of characters you've assembled down there."

"they're great people," patton says affectionately. "i really lucked out on living here, mom."

"that prince boy," emily says. "are they dating?"

"ah," patton says, and sits on the bed, shooting a discreet look out into the hall, before looking up at his mother with the distinct air of someone telling a secret. "no, but—and don't breathe a word to logan that i'm telling you about any of this."

she nods.

"no, they aren't dating, but logan's had the biggest crush on him. for ages."

"really?" she says, even more blankly.

"really," patton says. "i think logan's been in love with him since they were little, and roman's just as hopeless about it."

"really?"

"really," patton repeats, and sighs. "but roman went out and got himself a boyfriend, just last month. asked me about advice, actually, he said that he feels like he shouldn't wait around for logan to maybe like him back when someone he could grow to really like was right there, wanting him, and making moves to want him."

"what did you say?"

patton sighs even more. "i told him that he should have fun and to be careful, and to call me if he did anything that made him uncomfortable."

"did he?"

"he fell asleep without going home," patton says.

"he what?!"

"literally fell asleep, nothing else," patton says hastily, "but that's not like it particularly endeared anyone to that boy, i'm telling you."

"you don't like him?"

"he's part of the reason roman broke my son's heart for the first time, so no, i don't like him. and he..." patton hesitates, huffs out a breath. "you're going to be so smug about this."

"about what?"

"he reminds me," patton says, scowling just a little, "of those boys you always tried to warn me off of, and now that i'm a parent, i don't like them, either."

emily smiles, and patton waves a hand.

"i know, i know, you were right, et cetera, but. that's the situation with roman and logan."

"hm," emily says. then she says, “why were you and logan talking about numbers? when you gave him his present.”

“have we never done that in front of you before?” patton asks, distracted.

“obviously not.”

“huh, i guess. but, um, you know logan’s not the most effusive kid, and i’m a pretty effusive parent. so we made a code so that we could have the best of both worlds in public—i could tell logan i love him without embarrassing him, he could tell me he loved me back without admitting to feeling an emotion.”

“why those numbers, though?”

“there’s eight letters in i love you. and i love you too seems to imply multiplying by two, so—sixteen. eight, sixteen. just some sanders shorthand.”

she blinks, before picking up one of the (many) picture frames that patton has dotting his room.

"what's this?"

patton squints at the photo. "me, mom."

"i know that's you," she snaps, "you're wearing a cast."

"oh, yeah," patton says, and laughs. "yeah, that's when i broke my arm."

"you broke your arm?!"

"yeah, three years ago," patton says. "you know what a klutz i am, i stepped wrong on some ice outside of virgil's diner and now logan and virgil won't let me walk anywhere alone in the middle of winter if i'm not holding onto a railing or someone else, or something."

"i never knew that you broke your arm," she says, and patton can see the way she's drooping.

he's never seen her like that.

"oh, hey, mom," he says, awkward. "it wasn't a big deal, if i got really sick you would have known."

"yes," she says, "well," and sets down the frame. "i should check on your father."

"it was really nice that you came tonight, mom," patton says quietly. "it meant a lot. to logan," he tacks on.

"well, he is my grandson, after all," she says. "i should be here."

patton smiles. "i definitely agree."

he follows her down the stairs, and gets briefly waylaid by refereeing the terms of a feud he doesn't understand, and then gets waved out for being biased, and by the time that's happened patton looks up to see his parents approaching his son, and he hastens over in time to hear richard say "absurd, but entertaining," holding the tabloid back out for logan.

"hey, are you guys heading out?" patton asks. 

"we had a lovely time, patton," his mother tells him, with a straight face.

"get that chimney inspected, i've sent you a number to call," his father says.

"well, thank you," patton says. "and i'll get right on that."

logan and patton watch as they leave, and then they both throw themselves back into a night of fun, and friends, and happiness.

(out in the car, emily stares out of the window and is silent for so long that richard has to say her name three times to get her attention. she's too entrenched in thoughts of that cheerfully cluttered house, small and lived in and messy in a way her and richard's house has never been, with frames fighting for space the walls, photos of logan and patton in the midst of stories that emily would have no hope of identifying, of her grandson's first heartbreak she's told about like it's a piece of errant gossip and her son's broken arm that's a funny story and the way patton had looked, here, dressed in that absurd sweater and those terrible jeans and with his hair a frightful mess, talking to that motley crew of neighbors that had been full of nothing but glowing, delighted praise for her son and grandson, the way patton had looked so right here, so comfortable and happy with himself and free, and how securely he has made his own little world and didn’t even seem to notice that she’s been shut outside of it, and the way he squirms and hunches over and avoids her world until he can't anymore, and how she has seen her son smile more in this night than she has since he was very small, and how her grandson had smiled more this evening than she had ever seen from him, and—

"he was right," emily says, choked up, wilting in a way that richard has only ever seen her wilt once, and his stomach plummets. "patton. he's right. he's a mystery to me, and i don't know him at all.")

Chapter Text

the sanders men walk out of virgil's diner, patton ducking his head into his elbow to cough, logan almost bouncing a little with victory.

see, that whole you need to at least paint the diner idea had not subsided. fallen to the wayside a little with the approach of logan's birthday, sure. but now his birthday was over, he was still insisting on it, more and more. it had started up in full during breakfast, the following monday.

and today—thursday, dinner, nearly two weeks since logan's birthday—virgil had finally, grudgingly, agreed.

"we'll have to bring over paint swatches tomorrow during breakfast, or something," patton tells logan, because the way virgil had finally actually agreed was because patton promised to stop over and help, and they could make a whole night of it, sometime this weekend. "i think we could just do pretty similar colors to what he's got now, you know how virgil gets about change."

he does not like it, to put it delicately.

"how long do you think it's been, since he's done anything to the diner?"

"before we got here, probably," patton says. "it's been that color for forever. just fading slowly."

"how much time do you think it'll take me to get him to get the furniture reupholstered?" logan says thoughtfully, already plotting.

"maybe by the time you graduate college," patton teases, nudging logan (carefully soft, so he didn't bump his son off the sidewalk and into the road.)

"maybe i can sneak one at a time," logan says. "introduce change slowly."

"that might work," patton begins, but he's cut off by a distant rumbling of an engine.

a distant, familiar rumbling of an engine. that's getting closer by the minute.

no, patton thinks. no, it can't be. my ears aren't that good. it's probably another motorcycle, not that old indian.

"it would probably be most effective if i begin with the barstools, they have the most obvious wear and tear," logan says, and patton tries to focus again, taking away the urge to look back over his shoulder at the motorcycle that's surely approaching. they stop at one of the four crosswalks in town. that motorcycle keeps getting closer.

"hey," the motorcyclist grunts, when they pull up to the stop.

"hi," patton says cautiously, trying to remember if he's seen a motorcycle parking at the inn the past couple days, if it's someone new to town.

"nice shirt," the motorcyclist says to him. "take it off."

huh. okay, so patton's ears really are that good.

patton's smiling despite himself as he tugs off his helmet, and patton bursts out with "christopher!" when he sees that face, those familiar whiskey-colored eyes and that tousled hair and that messy five o'clock shadow and suddenly he's sixteen again.

"hey!" he says, and patton's moved forward before he could have even considered it, hugging him tight and inhaling—same cologne, same old leather riding jacket, same solid chest. same christopher.

patton steps back, grinning at him—it still strikes him as strange, now, that with the addition of t and the growth spurt it'd given him, they're practically the same height. patton's always going to think of him as tall.

"what are you doing here?"

"here to see the birthday boy, of course," he says, and patton turns to see where logan's still standing at the crosswalk, staring at them both. "and you."

"logan—"

"my birthday was two weeks ago," logan says tightly, arms crossed.

"well, i know," christopher says, a little uncomfortably. "i texted you. i wasn't sure if you got it, because i didn't get a response, but—"

"why are you here?" logan says.

"well, my folks are back in town, so i'm here to see them," he says. "and on the way i thought i'd drop by and surprise the sanders guys. are you surprised?"

"the teeniest feather could knock me right over," patton says, because—christopher. here. in sideshire. 

"so, where would someone find a place to stay around here?"

"if you don't mind a couch, we can keep you for a couple days," patton says.

"there's the inn," logan adds. away from us, he doesn't say, like you've been for years and years and only come back when it's convenient for you.

"thanks, pat," christopher says. "you two won't even know i'm there. logan, you wanna hop on?"

"i'd rather not sustain a serious head injury," logan says coldly. "and anyway, i was going to drop by the courant."

"logan—" patton starts, but logan's already moving.

"see you later!" christopher hollers after him, then turns to patton. "god, he's turned into a teenager, huh?"

"you thought a kid of ours wouldn't have his moments?" patton says.

christopher concedes the point with a self-deprecating laugh, before he pats the motorcycle seat.

"what do you say, lor—uh, love?—old time's sake?"

patton bites his lip, trying to unhear the little slip-up he made—it’s okay, it’s okay, he caught himself, he didn’t actually deadname patton, mistakes happen and chris knew him by his deadname for longer than he did his name now—before he grins, shoving all those worries behind him. or trying to. 

"yeah," he says, "all right," and he slings his leg over and slides close behind christopher and clings to his waist, and it's all coming back to him, so old and so familiar and yet like he hasn't been away from him for even a day, let alone sixteen years.

 

patton's busy making up the couch and christopher's in the shower when logan walks in.

"hey, how was rudy?"

"fine," logan says tersely. "i managed to correct several errors before tomorrow's paper went to print."

"that's great!" patton says encouragingly, fluffing a pillow. "can i get any sneak previews?"

"why is he here?" logan says, and patton sets aside the pillow.

"your dad? like he said, i guess, his folks are back in town so—"

"dad," logan says. "i mean why is he here. you could have sent him to the inn."

"he's never been to sideshire before," patton says. "it'd do him well to have some familiar faces around."

"he'd have familiar faces at the inn," logan says. "it's your inn."

patton frowns and straightens up. "are you really uncomfortable with him staying here? he's your dad, and—"

"you're my dad, and do you remember what he did last time?"

"that was a slip-up, it happens sometimes," patton says, trying his hardest not to wince.

"with him it happens every time," logan says. 

"logan, he's trying, and he wants to be here for you," patton says. 

"i don't need him here, nor do i want him here," logan snaps back. "i have you. he's just an—an interloper."

"logan!"

the shower shuts off, and patton quiets himself so he can lecture his son.

"look," patton says in an undertone. "i know he hasn't been here a lot, but he's here. in sideshire. that's gotta mean something different, right?"

"he's going to come and go as he pleases, you know that," logan hisses. "i'm not particularly interested in his attempts of playing happy family and his insistence that he's really got his life together this time before it all comes out that he's here because he needs money, or something else from you, and you're going to give it to him, because you can never see him clearly."

"that is enough," patton says, but there's thunking on the stairs before they can get into it.

"your water pressure," christopher says, toweling off his hair, "is divine."

patton puffs himself up, pleased. "i repaired that showerhead."

"you did not," christopher says, with a laugh.

"i did!"

"okay, you nearly flunked shop class, forgive me if i can't exactly believe that you suddenly know your way around the tool box," christopher says.

"are you hungry?" logan asks mechanically. 

"starving," christopher says.

"we could order some food in," patton says. "we just ate. logan, could you get some of the take-out menus from the drawer?"

logan does as he says, and ends up excusing himself for homework early. 

"tomorrow's friday, nearly the weekend," christopher says.

"i have school on fridays," logan says witheringly. "excuse me."

patton sees right through him, but, well—he can only really sigh after him, and then cough into his elbow again. christopher, somehow, doesn't notice their son's mood. never been too observational, though, christopher, especially with emotion stuff.

"he's a great kid," he says warmly, and any frustration melts away. patton smiles.

"i wish i could say i see more of myself in him than straight hair instead of curls," he adds, fondly tugging at the same curl he used to tug all those years ago—it had been longer, then, but it's in the same place, still just as stubborn about hanging in patton's eyes. 

"i just can't believe you're here," patton says. "here, i mean. in sideshire. why didn't you call?"

"it really was a spur of the moment thing," christopher says. "so much has been changing for me, macaron."

patton's smile widens, and—

"you haven't called me that in years, biscuit."

see, for years and years and years at christopher and his parents' joint gatherings, the most tolerable and most smuggle-able dessert was macarons. patton would swipe handfuls and handfuls into any spare pocket he had, dumping them into christopher's suit pockets, and they'd escape out onto patton's balcony, to eat and drink and giggle in private.

it had been a game they'd played, when they were young. a competition, really, of who could manage to smuggle away the most food. patton's choice had been macarons. christopher's had been biscuits—they'd steal a little honey bear from the fridge, too, little pre-packaged pats of butter, and feast gloriously on their sweet stolen goods.

"i think i finally have all my ducks lined up in a row," christopher continues, smoothing his fingers over patton's curls. "i don't know how much your parents have told you, but i'm on the verge of a big success. for real, this time. i've got a company with actual cash flow, i've got employees, I've got an accountant, for god's sake. i mean, it's for real this time, mac."

patton reaches across to squeeze his wrist. "i'm really happy for you, chris," he says, genuine. "i always knew we'd turn out okay."

"there's some things i need to do. take care of, i mean."

"like what?" patton asks, soft. 

"i haven't been enough a part of logan's life," christopher says, just as soft, just as genuine, and patton can't help but smile, because—because now logan would see, know him the way patton had known him, and they wouldn't be the big happy family that patton had daydreamed about in his weaker moments, years ago, but logan would have both his dads there.

"so i wanna be around more," christopher says, and patton hopes it's because he's bolstered by patton's smile. "to be a pal he can depend on. i mean, i'm not crazy, i know you've got a life going on here, roonie, and god knows he doesn't need anyone besides you, but if you give me a chance—"

"hey," patton murmurs, reaches up to squeeze christopher's wrist, remove his hand from patton's hair and twine their fingers together. "i've always had the door to logan open to you, you know that."

"i do," christopher says. "and thank you for that. i know i haven't used it much, but i wanna use it now. is that okay?"

"of course it is."

christopher huffs out a soft breath of relief. "good," he says. "that's—that's really good."

"yeah," patton says, and smiles wider. "yeah, it really is."

(logan, sitting at the top of the stairs, closes his eyes and tries not to grind his teeth. he consults the segment of his notepad he'd begun working on at the courant. he doesn't get to do this to his dad. to them. not again.)


"been a while since we've done this, huh?"

"hmph. hope it doesn't go like it did before i went to chilton."

"yeah, i'll try my best not to. oh, thanks—can i snag your—? oh, you beat me to it."

"it just seems more fruitful to offer it to you before i drink any, considering you always steal my cherry."

"i could make so many inappropriate jokes about that, but i am a gentleman, so i won’t."

"...i don't think i understand. considering you do, that's just fact."

"it's a slang thing."

"ah, i see."

"you're kinda stalling."

"i suppose i am. blanket?"

"yeah, it's freezing. budge up, we're cuddling."

"body heat is effective."

"mm. why the crisis gazebo meeting?"

"my other father's in town."

"...oh."

"yes."

"you, um. you don't like him much, right? you don't really talk about him."

"that's an accurate assessment of the situation at hand. yes."

"...can i ask about it? him, i mean."

"i just... i don't like how my dad gets around him."

"is he... mean? your other dad, i mean."

"not intentionally, i don't think. no. it's just that when they see each other, all they can think about is how things used to be. they know all of each other's secrets. they grew up together. they used to make all of their bad decisions together—apparently, dad is still saving some stories about his misspent youth. my other father was the first person dad told about transitioning. they always thought they'd be together."

"i'm not seeing how this is a bad thing yet."

"he gets the idea, every couple of years, that he wants to spend more time with us. be there for me, watch me grow up, so on."

"...still not getting it."

"he gets the idea, he spends at most a week attempting to play at it, but as soon as reality comes knocking he rides off into the sunset to chase another unattainable dream and leaves my dad behind again, and dad is crushed because my father managed to convince him that this was it this time, really, and dad believes him over and over and over. is that clear enough for you?"

"..."

"i shouldn't have been so harsh to you."

"no. uh, no, that's, um. that's okay. it sounds pretty rough."

"he comes knocking back for money, or we get together for another holiday, and dad forgets all about what happened last time and all he can remember are the good times. so to answer your question in a very roundabout way—no, i don't believe my other father is being intentionally mean."

"but he breaks patton's heart every time anyway."

"yes."

"because he's..."

"thoughtless, immature, irresponsible, should i go on?"

"yikes, l."

"yes. and the cycle's already begun again. i overheard them. i found—something. and i don't want him doing that to my dad again."

"what about you? you don't want it to do that to you again, right?"

"i would say yes, except i never really got my hopes back up after he promised me over and over that he'd make it for my fifth birthday and he showed up a week late, clearly having been on some variation of booze cruise, i believe the term i overheard was, during the actual time of my birthday. apparently he believed that he was actually on time."

"god, logan."

"i shouldn't be complaining to you."

"hey, having a deadbeat dad and having a dead dad are probably in equally sucky categories. they just both suck in different ways."

"hm. if you say so."

"yeah, i do. at least mine's not about to disappoint me in new and surprising ways. not until the zombie apocalypse, anyway."

"roman."

"it could happen!"

"i have lectured you at length on why it would not possibly happen, on multiple occasions."

"that's what people said about flying across the atlantic!"

"that is a remarkably different circumstance."

"that sounds like you can't think of a more convincing argument."

"you infuriate me."

"yeah, i know, you too."

“...”

"done?"

"yes, i am."

"yeah, me too."

"i'll get the next one."

"i know you will... logan?"

"yes?"

"are you going to do something? about your other dad, i mean."

"oh."

"you don't have to—"

"no. no, i am. i didn't think i would be so... transparent."

"that's patton."

"what?"

"trans-parent—hey!"

"you deserve to get kicked off the step for that one. that was terrible."

"patton would laugh."

"dad has a horrible sense of humor."

"i mean, but, um. seriously. are you?"

"i am. yes. i've already begun."

"...you know you can count me in. right?"

"of course i do."

"because sometimes—lately... no. nevermind."

"what?"

"it's nothing."

"it's clearly not."

"i just—fine. lately, sometimes it feels like with—with everything that's happened lately. jess and chilton and your grandparents and all of it. it feels like we haven't been..."

"i know."

"you do?"

"yes. i thought—i thought, maybe, we could... we could do this a bit more. if that would be all right."

"oh. yeah. i'd like that."

"it wouldn't interfere with... anything?"

"you're my best friend, okay? you come first for me."

"oh. yes. me too."

"so what's this plan?"

"it's really less of a plan, and more of a... of a necessary trade. i think. but it requires research, first."

"oh. so your wheelhouse, then."

"yes."

"if you need my expertise—"

"yes, roman, if i need someone to monologue at him, you'll be the first one i call—hey!"

"that was payback for the response to the pun!"


"so, why are we going here, again?"

"this is virgil's," patton says, a little droopy with the absence of caffeine. "virgil's my best friend. he keeps me in caffeine. he also keeps us at a proper ratio of vegetable-and-fruit to unhealthy things. plus, i promised i'd bring by paint swatches today, logan's been working to get him to try some attempt at remodeling for weeks, haven't you, honey?"

logan grunts. patton hopes to chalk it up to absence of caffeine instead of logan still being upset that his dad's in town. 

there's the cheerful, discordant jangling of the bell above the door, and patton waves at virgil, pointing over to a booth. 

virgil lifts a hand to wave at him, but then he falters and stares, unnoticed by patton, who's sliding into the seat beside christopher, logan across from them. 

"so, what do you have going on at school today?" patton asks him. 

logan starts talking, then, about a lab he's doing in his science class, and virgil swings by, dropping off two mugs of hot cocoa/coffee.

"virgil!" patton says. "this is christopher, he's logan's other dad."

"hey," christopher says, sticking out a hand, but virgil's already sweeping back to the kitchen, ignoring him.

"he wants coffee!" patton calls after him, and turns to christopher, who looks thrown-off, lowering his hand.

"virgil's shy," patton says. "he's not really a people-person."

which is true, except virgil had made one of his virgil-faces, jaw set stubbornly and eyebrows lowered, absolutely sulky. so either virgil was in a Mood, which just happened sometimes, no helping it, or...

"logan, why don't you tell your dad about the franklin?" patton suggests.

"i haven't actually done any work on it yet," he says. "there isn't much to tell."

"ah, i remember the franklin," christopher says. "do they still have the jefferson?"

logan scowls. "yes."

patton scowls, too.

"that old gossip rag," christopher says. "i mean, it was brutal, back in our day, do you remember—"

christopher breaks off at the look on patton's face. of course he remembers one of the main tools utilized to terrorize him at school. 

virgil swings back by, and drops an unordered omelette in front of logan, along with a cup of coffee for christopher.

"there's vegetables in it," virgil tells logan. "eat them or i stalk you until you do."

"i'm hardly the one you need to lecture," logan says, digging his fork into it.

"so, do you think i could get—" christopher begins, but bam, virgil's off again.

christopher huffs out a breath. "it's not even that busy in here."

"i'm going to take a look at what breakfast pastries virgil's got today," patton says decisively, as if he hasn't had the pastry rotation memorized since logan was six months old. "logan, why don't you tell your dad about mel?"

logan shoves a heaping forkful of omelette into his mouth. patton moves before he can lecture him about it.

"heyo," patton says, leaning over the counter.

"hi," virgil mutters. "what's up?"

"i should probably be asking you that," patton says. "i know you're not usually mr. congeniality, but what's with the whole situation with chris?"

"what situation?" virgil mutters, sorting scones into the display case. "there's not a situation."

"virgil," patton says, in his best Dad Voice. he's pretty good at it, if he says so himself.

virgil scowls. 

"he's logan's dad, v."

"you're logan's dad," virgil says sharply. 

"have you and logan been exchanging notes behind my back?" patton says wearily.

"well, you are," virgil says. "in all the ways that matter. you're the one who taught him how to walk and talk, you're the one who helped him through colic, you're the one who—"

"he wasn't in a place to be a parent," patton says, "he was sixteen."

"so were you," virgil hisses sharply. 

"look, i—" patton looks around, coughs, and lowers his voice. "if you have to know, chris actually offered to do the 'decent' thing and marry me. i was the one who said no. i was the one who decided to do it on my own. don't punish him for my choice."

virgil grinds his teeth.

"at least, just—just try to play nice," patton says. "okay? he was my best friend once too. you kind of usurped his title. he's probably still licking his wounds."

suddenly, virgil looks a lot less sulky, and a lot more like he's trying to hide his smile. 

"fine," virgil sighs at last. "fine, but—"

"and i brought paint swatches," patton adds. "bring him a menu, and we can talk about them?"

"i'm not pretending to like either of these things."

"i wouldn't expect it to go any other way," patton says. "can i have a chocolate croissant?"

virgil looks like he's wrestling with it, before he sighs, and says, "you're having the healthiest thing i can wrangle up and no ditching any vegetables, okay?"

"you're a saint," patton says happily, and takes his croissant and floats back to the table.

when he gets back to the table, chris is on his phone, smiling.

"i've been great, emily," he says, and patton slides into the booth.

it's your mom, he mouths, and patton nods. logan's tapping away on his phone.

(behind the counter, virgil digs out his phone when it buzzes to read the second message from this particular number this morning. the first had been My other father is in town for the first time. I dislike him and I suspect something abnormal is going on that will adversely affect my dad. Kindly ensure his breakfast is unpleasant as a form of pre-emptive strike. now, it was I'll tell you more about why later, but the general basis of your understanding should include how my dad gives people too many second chances.)

"well, i'm actually sitting here with your boys," he says, and there's a pause. "sure." he holds out the phone to patton. "she wants to talk to you."

"got it," patton says, and plucks his phone from his hand. "hi, mom."

"patton, christopher is in town!" emily says excitedly.

"yep, mom, i know," he says. "he's staying over at my place. i'm sitting right next to him."

"well, i had this wonderful idea," she continues. "christopher's parents are in town too. you remember straub and francine?"

patton feels slightly lightheaded. he licks his lips, which are suddenly dry. "i—yes. the haydens."

"well, i called them up and invited them to dinner tonight," she says. "they said they're free to join us all."

"us all?" patton says blankly.

"yes," emily says. "you, logan, christopher, your father."

"that's, um," patton says, and tries to clear his throat but it erupts into coughing. "that's quite the gathering, mom."

"well, i should say so," she says. "we haven't all been together since before logan was in the picture, and straub and francine haven't seen logan since he was a baby."

"well, yes, i know, but mom—"

"it'll be like a wonderful reunion," she says blissfully. "all of us together again. i never thought it would happen."

"mom," patton says in a tiny voice, but very suddenly, she's telling him to hand the phone back to christopher, and he does, and then they talk to patton’s dad (it has not escaped richard's notice that planning this little dinner is the most his wife has smiled since whatever revelation she'd had at their grandson's birthday party. it makes him even gladder for christopher's appearance than normal) and patton sleepwalks through helping virgil choose paint swatches and deciding that virgil will get the paint at the hardware store and they'll paint tonight after dinner with his parents and seeing logan off to school and going to the inn for work and—

the haydens.

the dread's like a living thing in patton's stomach.


"i've gotta see my parents," christopher says, anxious.

"i've gotta see your parents," patton rejoins. 

christopher looks at him strangely. "what, no complaints about yours?"

"we've been getting along, lately," patton says.

"because of my assault," logan adds helpfully. 

"your what?!"

but someone's swinging open the door, and emily is beaming at them.

"you're here!" she says, delighted. "christopher, look at you!"

christopher steps forward to hug her. "emily," he says fondly. "as always, perfect."

"i am so glad to see you," she says fervently.

"hello, grandma," logan says, stepping in, and patton trails after. 

"richard's in the living room, he's dying to see you," emily says, beginning to lead them there. 

"can we go back to logan's story?" christopher mutters to patton. "since when is he getting into fights?"

"he got into a debate," patton corrects. "and this terrible boy kept goading this girl and she punched him."

"well, here they are!"

"hi, grandpa," logan says, filtering into the room.

"hello logan, patton," he says, and then he beams at christopher. not for the first time, patton wonders why they're so much blatantly fonder of him than they are of patton. "christopher, old boy, how are you? my gosh, it's good to see you!"

"how are you, richard?" christopher asks, enthusiastically pumping richard's hand.

"well, i'm better than most, not as good as some."

"and annoyed with all," christopher finishes.

richard laughs heartily. "ah, you speak the truth, young man!"

"martinis," patton murmurs, and takes one from the tray. logan shoots him a look, and patton tries to smile at him reassuringly. logan is seated between his fathers on the couch. it's so strange that logan feels the urge to just... squirm until patton's the one between them both.

"so, christopher," richard says, ignoring him, "tell me all about your business."

"oh, let the poor boy relax," emily scolds.

"well, i simply want to know how it's going!"

"it's, uh," christopher says. "it's going great, richard, i'm almost afraid to jinx it by telling you how good it's going."

liar, logan thinks viciously, and his plan is the only reason he doesn't snarl it.

"oh, that is wonderful," richard gushes. "i always knew you had it in you. you have a splash of greatness, as my mother would say. you always had that splash of greatness."

"oh, richard," emily continues soppily, and logan thinks he might throw up from all the coddling. "isn't logan just the spitting image of christopher?"

logan looks at his other father in confusion. just about the only thing he's inherited from him is his straight hair.

"i just hope you inherit your father's business sense also, my boy," richard says.

i'd be so much better off inheriting your son's business sense, and it's so close to all spilling out of his mouth and he has to take a long gulp of soda to keep it from just emerging.

there's the ring of a bell.

"that would be straub and francine!" emily says, and leaves the room.

"i haven't seen your parents in quite some time," richard says. "we were practically inseparable, for a while."

he follows after his wife, and logan turns to patton, suddenly a little panicked.

"what do i call them?" logan asks him. he's never really met these people.

"call 'em what i call 'em," christopher grumbles from his other side. "ass—"

"chris," patton says sternly, and coughs a couple times.

"just, um," chris says. "call them straub and francine. mr. and mrs. hayden? you know what, just avoid calling them anything."

very suddenly, it strikes logan why patton must have been so nervous.

in terms of grandparents, and, in roman's terms, rich white people nonsense? the haydens must be even worse than the sanders'. 

with that revelation, his grandparents lead in a set of two people, and if he hadn't thought it before, he certainly would have thought it upon seeing them for the first time. the woman's wearing the kind of sleek skirtsuit that he's seen before, with a string of pearls, and the man is wearing an officious suit. they look like snobs. they even walk like snobs, noses in the air, sniffing disapprovingly at the world around them.

patton swallows at the sight of the haydens, smooths his sweaty hands over his slacks as chris greets them with a "mother, pop," and patton stands to shake hands.

"mr. and mrs. hayden," he says. "long time, no see."

"you look..." mr. hayden says, and sends an inquisitive, disdainful eye over him. "well." a pause, and then, like a taunt, “now, lorelai lucy, are you still going by... what was it again?”

logan's bristling beside him like a cat. 

" i am doing well, thanks, and yep, my name’s still patton,” patton says tightly. “it’s patton thomas, actually, not lorelai lucy. it hasn’t been lorelai lucy since before logan came into the picture, and i don’t think you forgot that like you’re trying to pretend you did to be polite, but that’s not why we’re here, is it? you remember logan? you haven't seen him in quite a while."

"no, we haven't," straub says, turning his attention off of patton.

"i think he was just starting to speak in complete sentences," francine adds, as if logan is not standing directly in front of her. "logan, hello."

"hello," logan says stiffly, accepting her hand to shake, and then his other grandfather's. he wants to drop them. he wants to sneer in their faces. he wants to kick out any sign of his other father and his terrible parents who have thrown his dad off so greatly. who deadnamed him on first introduction. logan hates them.

"straub, francine, how about a martini?" richard says.

"please," straub says.

"how is retirement treating you?" richard says, and emily continues, "yes, do tell us about the bahamas."

they all sit back down. logan arranges it specifically so patton is between christopher and himself—his dad a familiar line of defense, a known quantity.

"you can get an entire island there for the cost of a decent house here," straub says.

it's small talk. it's boring, but it's small talk, tempered and even and predictable, even if it is so dull and patton's so clearly nervous between them that logan kind of wants to tear his hair out.

"really?"

"how about you, richard, any thoughts of retirement crossing your mind?"

"oh, straub, if only you could talk him into it," emily says wearily. "i've given up."

"we're very pleased about christopher's business success out in california," richard says.

fake, fake, fake, logan wants to shout.

"yes," straub says, angling a similarly disdainful look at his son that he leveled at patton. "it's taken a while but it seems to be finally coming together. seems to be."

"so," logan says. "straub and francine. are you enjoying your time here?"

"how old are you, young man?" straub says, entirely disregarding his question.

"sixteen," logan says tightly.

"dangerous age, for girls especially," he says, and patton stiffens.

right, logan thinks. i have to kill him.

"logan's a very special boy," emily intercedes quickly, panic in her tone. "excellent student, very bright."

"is that so?" straub says.

"you should have a talk with him," richard says. "he could give you a run for your money."

"well," logan says, disregarding that attempt to misdirect entirely. "sixteen being a dangerous age in the way you've so clearly been implying shouldn't be a problem the way you seem to perceive it has been for my fathers."

"oh?" straub says. "we thought christopher was a bright boy, too. much like everyone thinks of you now. why are you different?"

"well," logan says, and then, as if it's a declaration of war, "i'm gay."

straub turns an interesting shade of near-purple. francine looks faint and actually fans herself.

"oh, here we go," christopher says, under his breath. patton and christopher exchange a look over logan’s head, and both patton and christopher down the rest of their martinis like a shot. just like old times.

"though of course," logan says, tilting his head, "that isn't the most effective argument, considering that the relationship between my fathers was between two men, as well, but considering your rampant transphobia, you wouldn't consider it as such. you would be incorrect, but considering your attitude toward my dad, i'd wager it's hardly your first time being an absolute blithering idiot."

patton chokes on air, and then he starts coughing. straub doesn't wait for his coughing to die down.

"i see your grandson is just as out of control as his mother," straub says, and logan surges to his feet, only stopped by patton's fingers closing around his wrist, getting to his feet too.

"logan—"

"pop, keep it civil," christopher says.

"dinner's ready," emily adds hastily, looking wide-eyed between logan and straub.

"we should have known that leaving him with that harlot would turn him to a deviant," and now patton's the one about to surge forward, eyes bright.

"don't you dare talk about my son like that," he says, cold and furious.

"what have you been doing with your life, anyway?" straub sneers. "besides deluding yourself into thinking this phase is real, or perhaps just carrying on and on for attention, lorelai, i'm just curious."

"richard, lead us into the dining room," emily insists, but she goes unheard yet again.

"i run an inn," patton says stiffly, tone still a little off from his coughing fit, and a little off from being called that name again.

"really?"

"yes, really."

now emily is staring between patton and straub, eyes even wider.

"dad, come on," christopher says urgently.

"oh, and your life is everything you hoped it would be?"

"even better," he says, and it's not as sentimental and happy as it might be in normal circumstances, because he's so—

"because it seems to me you might not want to take such a haughty tone when you announce to the world that you work in a hotel."

"there is nothing wrong with where i work," patton says hotly. “and there’s nothing wrong with who i am.”

"straub, please, i'm getting a headache," francine says wearily.

"nice to see you found your calling," straub says snidely. "if you had stopped pitching a fit to get attention, which i see you’re continuing with your histrionics,” he says, flicking a scornful gesture toward patton’s suit, “if you had attended a university as your parents had planned and as we planned in vain for christopher, you might have aspired for more than a blue collared position, though frankly i'm shocked you aren't living off food stamps, begging for handouts you don't deserve."

"don't do this," christopher tries again.

"and i wouldn't give a damn about you derailing your life if you hadn't seduced my son into being swept along with you!"

"chris," patton says sharply, because logan's actually shaking in rage right now, "take logan into the next room."

"dad" and "l—patton" at the same time, and patton says "now" in a voice so strongly commanding that it shocks even him, and chris takes over grabbing logan's wrist to tug him along, out of the room.

"i'm going to have to echo christopher's call for civility here," richard says, as soon as the door closes. "a mutual mistake was made many years ago, but they've both come a long way since."

"a mutual mistake, richard?!" straub shouts. "this whole evening is ridiculous! we're supposed to sit here like one big happy family and pretend that the damage that was done is over, gone? i don't care about how good a student you say that shirtlifter is—"

"HEY!" patton and emily both shout, in the exact same tone of voice.

"our son was bound for princeton," straub seethes. "every hayden male, including myself, attended, but it all stopped with christopher. it's a humiliation we've had to live with every day, because that little slut couldn't keep her legs—!"

logan isn't even the one to burst back into the room to hit him. it isn't chris, it isn't emily.

it's richard.

"you recant that, straub!" richard shouts, from where he's towering over where straub has fallen to the ground.

"you hit me," he says in disbelief.

"you owe my grandson and my son an apology—"

"an apology, that's rich—"

"how dare you?!" richard demands, leaning down to seize straub by the lapels and haul him to his feet. "how dare you?!"

"richard, what are you doing?!" emily shrieks.

"how dare you come into my house and insult my family!" richard shouts. 

"let go of me!"

"whoa, whoa, whoa," patton says, getting over his shock just a little, trying to get between them and break it up, but his father has an iron grip on straub's jacket and starts shaking him.

"shame on you, straub!" richard bellows. "shame on you for your small-minded, hateful language toward your own flesh and blood, for opening all this up again—"

"get your purse, francine—"

"my son is VERY successful at what he does," richard shouts, "and ten times the man you could ever dream of being!"

"we're leaving!"

"you aren't leaving, i'm kicking you out!" 

straub and francine storm out in a huff, richard following closely on his heels to ensure that they leave and patton tries to just breathe, but his inhale is so shaky that it's almost like he can't and—

"patton?"

"could you please check on logan and chris?" patton says, voice odd and faraway even to him. "please. i don't want him to—i want to be sure logan didn't hear any of that."

"patton—" she begins, approaching, but he curls into his jacket, away from her, because it’s so similar to her tone when she said lorelai— when he was fifteen and hurting and close to drowning and he can’t, he can’t, he can’t.

"mom, please," he says, strangled. "please. i just need a—a couple minutes alone."

she lowers her hand, and her usually haughty expression has changed into—into something else, but she turns before he can really identify it, and he tries to get control of his breathing, to calm down, but he just—

patton sits hard on the ground, vibrations reverberating up his spine, and he buries his face in his hands, breathing shaky breaths in and out over and over, willing the angry tears in his eyes not to escape, burying the heels of his hands into his eyes.

 

when he's managed to calm himself down, just enough that he doesn't think he'll cry if someone looks at him wrong, he gets to his feet and goes to look for his dad.

of course, he's right where patton expects. but he's not alone, like patton had expected. emily turns to face the door, too, and it's so clear he's interrupted something that he can't help but freeze.

"oh," patton says, and hesitates at the door of the study. he feels little again—like he's walked into their bedroom after having a nightmare, like he's waiting to be lectured after yet another less-than-stellar report card.

"um, hey, mom. i was just going to—to ask if dad wanted something to eat."

"i'm not hungry."

it strikes patton, very suddenly, how tired both his parents look. how haggard. how old. patton coughs, swallows, and forges onward.

"okay. well, i just—i just wanted to thank you."

"thank me," richard repeats. "for what?"

"well," patton says, uncertainly. "for what you did in there. i'm just—" he darts a look to his mother, meets his father's eyes again. "i'm really grateful for what you said to him. for defending us like that—for defending logan like that, and me. i know i've made it hard for you, but—"

"do you?" richard says, and patton blinks.

"what?"

"do you know?" richard says, voice purposefully even. "how hard you've made it for us."

patton swallows around the sudden tightness in his throat. "i know i put you both through a lot, but i just—thank you."

"why do you think i did it?"

patton blinks, utterly thrown off. "um. i don't know. out of, um. out of protectiveness, i guess. because he was being homophobic and transphobic."

"it’s hardly about all that,” richard says wearily. 

“um,” patton says again, torn between patching up and bursting out with yes it is very much about all that, that is about who i am and who i’ve always been and i don’t like your tone, what do you mean, all that, does it matter so little to you?! but richard goes on before he can.

“you don't need to be protected," richard says, and emily's looking between them now, the way she looked between patton and straub—except patton's on the flipped side of the stare now. "you've made it exceedingly clear that you can look after yourself and that you need nothing from no one."

"wait, that's not—" patton begins desperately, because he was trying to be nice, he was trying to salvage the wreckage of an already terrible evening—

"my family was being attacked," richard says sharply. "the very sanders name was being attacked and i will not stand for that under any circumstances."

"okay, well, it doesn't matter why—"

"yes, it does matter why i did it!" he yells, and slams his hand down on the desk, and patton jumps at the suddenness of it. "it matters greatly! what are you going to take away from this?! that everything you've done in the past is suddenly fine because i defended you?"

"i—no," patton says, in a helplessly small voice.

"that the hell you put your mother and i through for the past sixteen years is suddenly washed away?"

a distant part of patton wonders if all that is part of the hell he put them through, to his dad.

"i—no, dad, i just—"

"well, it's not!"

patton can't help but shrink under the sheer size of his dad's noise, his dad's wrath. his dad was never the one who yelled at him. looked at him disapprovingly, yes. sighed and tsked, yes. but his mom was the one who yelled. never, ever his dad.

"i had to tell my friends, my colleagues, that my only child was pregnant and leaving school."

"i—"

"and then you run away and treat us like lepers," richard says, and this has been an argument sixteen years in the making, and it's been put into motion and patton's too late to notice, to stop it, and—

"your mother couldn't get out of bed for a month, did you know that?"

patton's eyes swivel to his mother, who's still looking at him like—like he's a stranger, like he's an intruder—

"did you?!" richard screams, and patton flinches.

"no," he says, and his voice breaks. "i—no, i—"

"we did NOTHING to deserve that," he howls, "nothing to earn that!"

patton tries to defend himself, he tries, but he can't find any words, he can't—

"do you know how terrifying it was to come home one night to find your only child and grandchild gone?!" he yells. "do you know what that was like?!"

patton bites his lip hard to keep himself from breaking down into tears and can only shake his head.

"you hated us that much?"

patton blinks, hard, looks to his mom, and—

"what?"

"you had to take that little boy away," emily says. "that was bad enough. but to keep shutting us out?"

"but i'm—i'm not anymore," patton says desperately. "i'm here, that was the deal, we agreed and we've been—we've been getting along lately, haven't we?"

"we could have," she says, "if you'd stayed," and patton has to suck in a breath.

"mom," he says, strangled. "we've talked about this before. we wouldn't have, i would have—i would have drowned here. i needed to go somewhere else. i was young, and i was so unhappy, and i just needed somewhere, anywhere that wasn't here—"

but his mother's making this a soft, tremulous little gasping noise he's never, ever heard her make before, and it hits him with the force of a falling star that she's close to crying.

i'm sorry, he's about to say, except—except he's not. he can't be sorry for leaving here when he was so close to losing himself. he can't be sorry for meeting everyone he's met in sideshire. he can't be sorry for working at the inn. he can’t be sorry for going to a place where all that is celebrated and a part of life and just the way things are. he can't be sorry for raising logan in the pool house and then an apartment, and finally, finally a house. he can't be sorry for bringing logan to the place he'd meet his best friend of all time. he can't be sorry for meeting virgil.

he can't be.

"you hated us that much?" richard repeats his wife, and his face is gaunt and haggard, and patton—

patton can't say a word.

and that's when it gets ugly.


logan's in the backseat of the car.

this is not exactly typical. granted, it hasn't been a particularly typical dinner, but he's so used to seeing his dad out of the corner of his eyes, and not the tiny little sliver of a reflection he can see in the darkened windshield.

his dad's pale-faced. red-eyed. entirely, completely silent, the way he'd been since he descended the stairs from the study, where there had been shouting and then silence and then screaming, and christopher had ushered him deeper and deeper into the house so he wouldn't hear it.

and now his father is curled up in the passenger's seat of his own car, head resting against the window, staring ahead of the road and clearly not seeing any of it.

logan isn't inclined toward metaphor, but his father looks like a ghost. he looks so completely and utterly drained of anything of substance—fight, or indignance, or defensiveness, or protectiveness, or happiness—and he's just staring mutely out of the window, not really responding to any of logan or christopher's clumsy attempts at conversation. he just coughed a few times, and that was an involuntary response.

he thinks about how he'd felt when patton was so hopeful about him and his parents getting along now more, that it would continue—"it was a fluke."

logan isn't happy that he's right.

and then he abruptly remembers who he was talking with, and virgil, and his plan, and—

and logan needs to institute this plan. now. if this is the result of his other father coming to town and bringing up the past, he wants him gone, he wants him out, and so he needs to execute the plan. any lingering doubt is gone. there is only certainty.

"virgil," logan announces abruptly, in the midst of the car.

christopher blinks at him, through the rearview mirror. "what?"

"virgil," logan says. "dad, you had plans to paint with virgil tonight. we need to drop dad off at virgil's."

"uh, logan," christopher says, darting a glance toward patton hasn't picked up his head from leaning against the door.

"you had plans with him, dad," logan says, a little forceful. "you promised him. he already picked up the paint. he's probably waiting for you. dad, you promised."

"maybe now isn't the—"

"no," patton mumbles, and it's the first word he's said since logan was pushed out of the living room, and it shocks him, a little, how scratchy and terrible his dad's voice is. "no. logan's right. drop me off. a promise is a promise."

(does he feel bad for guilting his dad? a little. but virgil will help. virgil will make it better.)

christopher looks between them and seems to realize that it's a lost battle, and turns to drop patton off at the diner.

"you hungry?" christopher asks logan, once they see patton get into the diner safely.

"we have food at home," logan says, and looks at him through the rearview mirror. "i'd like to have a chat. just you and i."

(when patton walks into virgil's dinner, virgil starts a story about the various trials of trying to buy paint, and half-turns and trails off when he sees the look on his face, and patton tries for a smile that falls flat before he can even pretend to be okay.

patton keeps trying to tell virgil that he's fine, except virgil wordlessly tugs him into a hug and patton can't, patton can't, and he's sobbing into virgil's chest before he can even try to hold them back, and virgil doesn't even say a word, chest aching as he tries to stroke through patton's hair as patton just bawls.)

when they get home, immediately logan gets to work making a carafe of coffee.

"pretty late for caffeine, isn't it?" christopher says. 

pretty late to attempt to be a permanent figure in my life, isn't it? logan bites back. instead, he says, "it'll be fine. we have frozen pizza, or macaroni and cheese, or supplies for sandwiches. i don't have much of a preference."

they end up loading the pizza into the oven in relative silence, christopher continually shifting awkwardly across the kitchen, leaving logan to be the one who digs out the pizza pan and the cutter and setting up the oven to preheat and then the timer, and eventually taking out two mugs.

"you're pretty quiet," christopher notes, as logan's pouring the coffee.

"i tend to be."

"you mentioned that you'd like to have a chat."

"i was going to wait until we had food," logan says, "but if you insist, we could do it now."

"oh. um—"

"i just need to get some things," logan says, and goes to retrieve the manila folder full of research and a notebook. when he enters the kitchen again, his other father is still standing, just as awkwardly, where logan's left him.

"i didn't really think a father-son chat needed a file folder," christopher says. 

“you'll see,” logan says coolly, and sits down at the kitchen table. “let’s talk.”

he gestures to the seat opposite him. “sit.”

“i feel like i’m in trouble with the principal,” his other father tries to joke.

logan takes a sip of his coffee, sets down his mug, his folder of research, his notebook, and at last clicks his pen. he feels like he’s conducting an interview. the routine sets him at ease. obviously he would never interview his father, bias, but...

"so. you’re planning on proposing to my dad.”

his other father chokes on his coffee. “how did you—?”

“don’t ask how i know things, it gets tedious,” logan commands. “or at least, it will. why do you want to marry him?”

(he knows because he snooped through his father's bag that first night, when he was asleep on the couch, and he'd found a ringbox and immediately decided that he needed to get out of the house Right Then, for milkshakes with roman, and knew that he did not want this and that patton could not know.)

christopher blinks at him. “isn’t it obvious?”

“indulge me.”

“well,” christopher says. “for starters... did you know that your grandparents wanted us to get married? when you first came into the picture.”

“i do.”

“i was all for it. patton wasn’t.”

“i know that too,” logan says. “that can’t be your only reason.”

“well,” christopher said, “we’re already a family, we could make it official.”

“who?” logan says.

“what?”

“who’s already a family.”

“us! you, pattonme.”

“oh,” logan says tonelessly. “well. isn’t that nice to know?”

christopher flinches as if logan’s struck him.

"i don't think you particularly know what a family is," logan continues. 

"it's people living together."

"no," logan says. "being a father especially, it's a big commitment, it's responsibility, it's hard work. those are three things you don't particularly seem to excel at, stating it delicately."

"hey," christopher says, sharp. "i know i'm not here a lot, but that doesn't mean you can talk to me like that."

"i can speak to you as i like, you want to propose to my father. traditionally there's someone to..." his nose wrinkles. "it's an archaic term, but defend his honor. traditionally it would be his father, but considering grandpa would likely be delighted, it seems it falls to me. so. try again. why do you want to marry him?"

"fine," christopher says. "fine. i can be responsible—"

logan sets down his coffee mug to give him the most disbelieving look he can possibly execute.

"i can," christopher says. "look, i told your dad, but my business is actually managing this time—"

"it really would be in your best interests not to lie," logan says.

"what makes you think i'm lying?"

"i was hoping you'd ask," logan says, and flips open his folder of research, laying out his first sheet of paper.

"real estate transaction, when you were first setting out. you used an llc, but that's easily enough tracked."

another sheet of paper.

"only for it to be sold about a week before you came here. no new bids on anything that i could find, under the name of the previous llc, the law firm you used last time, or under your legal name. what i did find under record of your name, however," he says, and lays out another sheet of paper, "is your previous record of bankruptcy, which i don't suppose is very surprising, considering what i remember from then, i don't suppose dad knows the money he gave you went to trying to dig yourself out of a hole of your own creation—"

"logan—"

logan ignores him, lays out another sheet of paper.

"—but then dad's always been the trusting type. though, i did also find your charges, mostly speeding tickets and the like, but i think dad doesn't know that you got charged with a dui a year and a half ago, did he?"

christopher's gone ashen.

"misdemeanor, though i suppose that's small enough considering some of the other charges that could escalate from there. i will say though that it might make dad a bit more hesitant to hop back on your indian knowing this, though."

logan lays out the last sheet, and adds, "your previous accountant was very willing to do an interview, by the way, so don't attempt to lie to me again."

“how did you find all this out?” his father says, staring at the paperwork, sorting through it disbelievingly, flipping the pages of the transcript of the interview logan had with the accountant.

“it’s all public domain,” logan says, secretly pleased that his research was correct—of course it was, but just... the confirmation. “anyone could find it if they were looking.”

“and you were looking,” christopher says, and shakes his head, sitting back with a scoff. “jesus, you’d make a good cop.”

logan’s nose wrinkles without his meaning to, and he taps his pen against his notebook. “journalist, actually.”

christopher sighs. "i was going to tell your dad if it didn't pick up soon, i swear."

"if i recall correctly, you told him it was," and he flips through his notebook to note the exact words. "ah, yes. i don't know how much your parents have told you, but i'm on the verge of a big success. for real, this time. i've got a company with actual cash flow, i've got employees, I've got an accountant, for god's sake. i mean, it's for real this time, mac."

he taps his pen against the notebook again, and says, "that doesn't particularly sound like you were about to tell him anything."

"you were eavesdropping?!"

"don't be obtuse, of course i was," logan says. "and before you start in with any of the how dare you, we're your fathers nonsense, dad encourages my journalistic skills."

he probably wouldn't be thrilled that logan was eavesdropping on him, but it was for his own good, logan reasoned. and besides, christopher wouldn't tell him that, he'd have to reveal the whole nature of this chat and thereby tell his dad everything. 

"so," logan says. "financially, you have nothing for him. romantically, you two haven't been involved since i was a baby and you've certainly had other people in the interim. i ask you again: why do you want to marry him?"

this is it. this is the fulcrum on which his plan has been resting. the scales will tilt depending on the answer: logan will be left to dissuade him or (more likely) offer him a deal. 

christopher takes a deep breath in, and says, "you might be my only child."

ah. deal it is, then.

"you have no conceivable way of knowing that," logan says.

"no," christopher says. "i don't know how much i miss you until i see you again, even if you infuriate me."

"i've been told being a father does that."

christopher snorts, and looks a little brighter, as if he's taken logan's words as some kind of peace offering. 

"so," logan says, and puts his pen down. "i have a solution. one that wouldn't require you to settle somewhere you know no one, one that wouldn’t have my father go through tonight again with the addition of who would be his in-laws, one that wouldn’t have someone nearly misgendering him on a daily basis, one that wouldn't require me to bring all of this forward to my dad, and one that wouldn't require my dad to deal with a proposal when he's in love with someone else."

christopher looks as if logan has hit him over the head with the pizza pan. "what?!"

"virgil," logan says. "he's in love with virgil."

"the diner man?"

"watch it," logan says sharply, "that diner man has been far more present in our lives than you've ever been."

"it's just," christopher says, and frowns. "him?"

"yes, him," logan says, "they're both hopeless and clueless about it and i certainly won't have you interfering."

"isn't it, um. is it kinda weird for you knowing that?" christopher says. "your dad's romantic life, i mean."

logan huffs out an aggrieved sigh—honestly, he's been used to patton and virgil obliviously flirting over meals for as long as he can remember, but it is a little weird, he can't deny that—and says, "do you want to hear the solution or not?"

"fine, yes," christopher says. 

"a deal," logan says. "from my understanding, this marriage is so you can get closer to my dad and myself. is that correct?"

christopher nods.

"fine," logan says. "then for dad, you work on educating yourself about lgbtqa issues. you work on never, ever having a name stumble with him ever again. if you contact dad regularly, he’ll be happy to respond, you know.” 

christopher looks a little cowed, at that. he says, “and you?”

“for me,” logan repeats. “i’m not as trusting as dad, as it happens. but. if you put in the effort to get to know me, i'll put in an equal amount of effort in getting to know you. you text me, i'll text you back. you call me, i'll pick up. you send me an email, i'll respond."

he holds up his hand before his father can speak.

"you haven't been here," logan says simply. "what did you think would happen when you proposed to dad? did you think he'd say yes? did you think i'd be so swept up with delight that oh, my parents are getting married that the past sixteen years wouldn't matter?" 

christopher looks down at his hands.

"so," logan says. "you become a better ally. you don't mention marriage to my dad. we work up to you being another dad to me. slowly. and i don't tell dad about all of this. do we have a deal?"

christopher takes a deep breath in. 

"deal," he says. "yes. deal."

logan sits back, and allows himself the smile of someone who's won.

"but seriously," christopher says, "the diner man?!"


patton tries to creep back into his house as silently as he can—he'd fallen asleep in a booth after his crying-and-painting session at virgil's, which he hadn't done since logan was little-little, and he can feel the difference in his back— virgil had shaken him awake right before opening to see if he wanted to take over virgil's room in the apartment or go home to get more sleep. patton had picked his own house. but now, the pale light of dawn is beginning to suffuse through his curtains and he's trying not to cough.

he comes to a stop in his living room.

there's a mostly-eaten pizza sitting on his coffee table, with an empty coffee carafe sitting between two mugs. sitting on the ground, on his bright orange rug, leaning against the wall and against each other, are his son and his son's other dad.

logan's glasses are askew and in danger of falling off his face. christopher's cheek is resting against logan's hair, mouth agape, snoring softly. they're sharing a blanket. in christopher's lap, if patton squints and tilts his head, he can see a photo album open, and patton—

patton has to bite his lip to keep from crying, but in the happy way, this time. because whatever happened last night while he was gone, it led to this—to logan giving his dad a chance, to chris maybe actually stepping up a little and humbling himself and apologizing, because there's no way that logan would have done all of that otherwise—and it actually seems like chris is going to step through that door now. for real.

however, he's pretty sure that none of them have actually spent the night sleeping where they should, so patton goes over, crouches down, and uses both hands to shake some shoulders.

"hey there, sleepyheads," he whispers, fond. 

"dad?" logan asks, and nearly punches his glasses off his face when he reaches up to rub his eyes.

"ugh," chris mutters, and cracks his neck. "how did we fall asleep?"

"told you it wasn't too late for coffee," logan mumbles back.

"maybe we could go out for coffee now?" patton offers. "or spend some time sleeping in our own beds."

chris' eyes widen. "did you spend the night with the diner man?!"

"i fell asleep in a booth after we painted," patton says, truthful, but chris is already swiveling to logan.

"i thought you said they were clueless!"

"they are," logan sighs, "virgil probably just draped his hoodie over dad and tutted after him and they were all—" he waves a hand dismissively. "sentimental. also, gross, that's my dad."

patton turns wide, betrayed eyes to logan. "you told him?!"

"it's not like it's a secret," logan says pointedly.

"oh, are we playing this game, mister?" patton says, and coughs into his shoulder.

logan blinks. "i'm unaware that we initiated an activity that we're meant to engage in for amusement."

"as in," patton says, "oh, we're playing the game where we're talking about hopeless crushes on someone in town, mister?!"

christopher swivels his head to logan. "a crush?!"

logan's gone very red. "take that back."

"it's a crush," patton teases. "romantic attachment. puppy love. infatua—"

a pillow hits patton square in the face. he supposes he should have expected that.

"you have a crush on someone?" christopher says.

"it's a non-object considering he has a boyfriend," logan grumbles.

"yeah, but," patton says. "you still like-like him."

"i'm going to brush my teeth."

"this is what happens when you have two dads!" christopher calls after him.

"i'm regretting this already!" logan shouts down the stairs.

"he has a crush?" christopher asks, when logan's door has safely slammed.

"he has a roman," patton corrects. "who, again, has a boyfriend. it's a whole situation, i could tell you about it later."

christopher shakes his head, and says, "we made a pretty good kid, huh?"

"yeah," patton says, smiling. "yeah, we made a good kid."

"he's really smart. like, terrifyingly smart."

"i know," patton says, smiling even wider. 

"god, i really need that coffee," christopher says, and patton laughs, clapping him on the shoulder.

"welcome to the sanders household," he teases. "you're fitting right in."

christopher's smiling, and the good moment swells up inside patton like a bubble, bright and shiny and happy and—

"about last night."

—easily popped.

patton doesn't say anything.

"are you, um. are you okay?" christopher asks. 

patton shrugs and tries for a smile. the steps on the stairs save him.

"right," logan says. "virgil's, then?"

"before that," patton says. "we didn't really get a chance to talk about last night. are you okay?"

logan blinks at him. "shouldn't i be asking you that?"

"i asked you first," patton says, because he's a Mature Dad. "you know they were pushing all those horrible things at us and not at you, right?"

"they were directing them at you because you had me," logan says, and then looks slightly furious with himself for letting that slip.

"no," patton says. "they were directing them at me because i ruined everyone's 'citizen kane' plans, that's all."

logan chews at the inside of his cheek for a few seconds.

"um," christopher begins, hesitant. "they're just... look. none of that means anything, right? my dad's actually a pretty good lawyer, and they're both really active in their community, and wow i can't believe i actually kept this up with a straight face."

patton lets out a giggle that's a bit too high-pitched and hysterical to really pass as normal, and a few coughs to boot.

"they're both assholes," christopher says bluntly. "look, i know you heard a lot about disappointments last night, but i want to make it super clear that you—who you are, your existence—have not and never have been, even for a second, been included in that. okay?"

"they're full of anger and stupid pride," patton continues. "it's their loss and a huge one."

"okay," logan says. 

"no regrets," patton says.

"from either of us," christopher says.

logan looks between them and says, "is this what parenting is like?"

patton laughs and reaches over to squeeze logan's shoulder, before he claps his hands.

"okay, everyone, grab your jackets for breakfast at virgil's!" patton declares brightly, before anyone can ask him if he's okay. 

it actually works. on the way, he bears teasing from christopher about his cru-ush, which is so familiar it aches in a good kind of way, and logan complains like ugh, dads, which makes both christopher and patton smile so wide it aches in the good way, and patton nearly forgets the sore throat he's woken up with and the whole disaster of last night, which both ache in the not-good way.

the bell jangles familiarly, and patton gestures to the now-dry walls.

"so, what do you think?" patton asks logan.

"acceptable," logan says, but he's smiling, so patton counts it as a job well done.

they sit (in a different booth than the one patton fell asleep in, because, you know, yikes) and virgil swings by, dropping off three mugs.

patton looks up at virgil in utter betrayal.

"what's that?" logan asks, peering at patton's drink, which is a different shade of brown than his usual.

"tea?!" patton says in disgust, as if being served tea is akin to some benedict arnold-esque level of backstabbing. 

"with honey," virgil says. "you have a cough."

"tea," he repeats, wide-eyed. "virgil. you gave me tea. today of all days."

"i would bet ten million dollars that you have a sore throat," virgil says, steadfast in his decision, "and you are definitely going to sleep when you get back to your house."

"but," patton says, and screws up his nose. "tea."

"for the love of god, just—drink it," virgil scowls. "it's not like i managed to sneak brussels sprouts in there, it's just tea. it'll make you feel better."

patton and virgil have a stare-down for a few seconds. patton then slumps in defeat and sighs, tugging the mug closer.

"i'll drink it but i don't have to like it," patton mutters.

"that's the spirit," virgil says dryly. 

"you know," christopher says thoughtfully, grinning openly at virgil, "you aren't half-bad."

"uh," virgil says, and flees any potential conversational awkwardness to the safety of behind the counter.

patton kicks christopher under the table. "if you try to wing-man me," he hisses, "i will—i'll—!"

"i'm a great wing-man," christopher says, offended. 

"i have two words for you," patton says, and ticks them off on his fingers. "kieran. wagner."

"that was ONE time," christopher starts, "i'm great with romance."

patton starts coughing, but he tries his best to make it sound fake by throwing in a "MITZIE" in there.

"that was one time!" he splutters.

"for three months!" patton protests.

they're interrupted by the jangling of the bell, and logan, who's facing the door, perks up, and then glowers at patton when patton grins at him for perking him up.

"budge," roman tells logan, and logan rolls his eyes, but moves, and roman's about to start talking when he stops and frowns.

"hey, i'm christopher," he says. "logan's other dad."

"oh," roman says, and glances at logan, who gives him a surreptitious nod, like, it's okay. roman reaches across to shake his hand "i'm roman prince."

christopher looks delighted, and then he says "ow!" when someone stomps on his foot under the table.

virgil swings by to drop off a drink for roman, and tells patton, "drink your tea."

patton takes the sulkiest sip he can, and pulls an over-exaggerated face at the flavor of it.

"french toast," roman tells virgil imperiously.

"you're a trial upon my patience," virgil responds, and heads back to the kitchen.

"she wasn't that bad," christopher says to patton.

"roman, you met mitzie," patton begins.

"she was that bad," roman says immediately, and patton gestures at him like there, you see!

"god, when'd you see mitzie again?" christopher says.

"my birthday," logan says, nose wrinkling. "she was the overly personal one who kept insisting she wasn't trying to be rude, wasn't she?"

christopher sighs. "that... sounds like mitz."

patton snorts, and the breakfast is lost in 1, patton and christopher reminiscing about The Old Days, 2, christopher trying to subtly probe both patton and logan about their crushes, 3, virgil continuously heckling patton into finishing his tea.

by the time they're done, christopher shakes hands with virgil with a "good job taking care of our guys, yeah?" and patton...

patton stares at the pair of them.

there's christopher, all leather jacket and broad-chested and straight hair, tan and easy smiles and a face that holds so many of the good memories of his childhood. and then there's virgil, pale and with deep under-eye bags and hunched into his too-big hoodie and hair that flops into his eyes, sulky, and a face that holds so many of the good memories of his adulthood.

like the past and the future are all lined up together. it's enough to give patton whiplash.

"well," virgil says, in the gruff voice that means he's flattered, "i try."

"you succeed," patton says, and his voice comes out softer than he means to be, and virgil ducks his head in the way he does when he's flustered.

"well," virgil says, "um," and then he goes back behind the counter again, to hide from squishy emotions.

patton grins and waves at him when they all walk out together, him and christopher and logan and roman, and virgil looks a combination of relieved and something in his eyes that he can't really name.

"well," christopher says, when the road divulges between the prince studio and the sanders house, "it was nice to meet you, young man."

christopher looks kind of tickled to be referring to anyone as a "young man," like a teenager gets when they do something Adult™ like deposit a check or run a grocery errand.

"it was nice to meet you too," roman says, and accepts christopher's hand to shake.

"i mean," christopher says, with a glint of a mischievous smile that patton loved once (and loves now in a different way) "i've heard so much about you."

logan looks mortified, which he covers up swiftly when roman swivels to look at him.

"thanks," roman says, and jerks his thumb. "i should. um."

"bye, roman," patton says, trying not to laugh.

as soon as roman's turned his back, logan drives his elbow hard into christopher's side as christopher cackles to himself.

(roman notices, a few paces away from christopher and the sanders', that jess is staring at them, and then at him, and roman realizes last second what it must have looked like, him eating breakfast with logan and his dads, and his other dad shaking roman's hand, and roman thinks about a lot of things, like trading his jam cookies for logan's strawberries the first day they met even though jam cookies are his favorites, he thinks about the day that logan came back from the optometrist with an eyeglass prescription and a request for roman to come along to pick out his first pair of frames and that logan still wears the square ones that roman had declared he liked best to this day, and logan volunteering for backstage crew for roman's shows even though he always talks about them as professional make-believe, and how logan's never missed one of his shows ever, and the countless milkshakes at lucy's they've had over the years, and the time that roman had given logan a ring pop when they were seven and had gotten down on one knee to do it, and he thinks about all the old copies of the sideshire courant that he's got in a box with logan's clips, and the way logan's face lights up every time roman gives him his birthday present that he stays up for countless nights to complete and all that exhaustion and writer's block is so worth it, and their late-night talks at the gazebo, and birthday kisses and how he kept wondering and wondering and wondering if he'd ever be brave enough to plant one on logan's lips, and at logan's birthday party, what had flashed through his head, the way i feel about logan is as unchangeable as my blood—

—and he knows it's long past time for him and jess to have a Talk.)

when they get to the sanders house, instead of going inside and immediately crashing, like patton expects, christopher stops both him and logan in the living room.

"patton," christopher says. "you okay?"

patton takes a breath. and another. he shrugs.

"not the best," patton says. "you might be going alone to friday night dinners for a while, logan, sorry."

"i don't want to go," logan says, immediate. "not if they fought with you."

"they were right, a little," patton says, and logan's about to argue.

"i know you'll say i'm being too nice," patton adds wearily. "and i’m not saying they were right about everything, not by a long shot, but at the center of that argument—of every argument we’ve had for a long time, really—at the center of it, they were right. with the perspective of being a parent now, the way i ran away, with just a note and refusing to call for a week and not telling them where i was living for months, it was—"

he chokes up, and forces himself to cough a few times to clear it.

"i think it's the worst thing i ever did to them," patton says, and he tries so hard not to let his voice break. 

"but it was what was best for you," logan says.

"it was," patton agrees. "but things can be good for one person and bad for another, you know. and that wasn't the only thing between us. we have a lot of history, right? and so much of it isn't good."

patton lays a hand on his son's shoulder.

"it was really hard for them, the distance i made between you three," patton says, and he makes his voice gentle. "you have at least one decent set of grandparents, you know. even if their idea of happiness is a lot different from mine. just because i'm fighting with them doesn't mean you have to be fighting with them."

"i don't like the way they speak to you."

"to be perfectly honest, i don't, either," patton says. "but we don't all have to be fighting. don't make up your mind right now," he adds. "think about it. you have time before you have to see them next, almost a whole week."

(oh, patton. he doesn't. not really. he has less than two days, really, since this is a saturday morning. but that's for next chapter.)

"okay," logan says. internally, he knows that when it comes down to it, he's always going to be on his dad's side and not his grandparents'. but if he said that right now, it would probably make him more upset, and more prone to defending his parents, even though his parents had definitely made him cry, and logan very much does want to fight with anyone who makes his dad cry, even if they're his grandparents.

but he doesn't say any of that.

"with that closing note," christopher says, and patton swivels, frowning.

"what?"

"i think i'm gonna," he says, and jerks his thumb toward where his indian is visible in the window. 

"oh," patton says, and he frowns. "so soon?"

"i did mostly come to town to visit my folks," christopher says gently, and reaches out to tug at patton's curl. "i don't want to make things any more stressful than they have to be for you, right now, roonie."

"you can stay if you want," patton starts.

"i know," christopher says. "but you know me, can't stay in one place for too long."

patton sighs, and slumps, because he knows when christopher's mind is made up. christopher grabs his bag, and the two sanders men follow him out to the curb.

"don't be a stranger, yeah?" he says, and steps forward to hug christopher.

christopher wraps his arms around patton tight, and patton rests his chin on christopher's shoulder. 

no one in patton's life knew him quite like christopher did. the pair of them, born just a month apart, with matching silver spoons in their mouths (christopher’s perhaps a touch shinier than patton’s) and playdates scheduled as soon as playdates were a thing both of them were capable of. christopher was there for all his demure moments in his childhood, and his attempts to throw all of those off. he was there for patton's rebellions, and patton's sobbing dysphoric days, and for the whole coming out process. he was the first person patton ever told that he thought he was maybe a boy. he was there to burn patton's skirts and dresses in a massive bonfire to make a statement, even though christopher had mostly thought it was an act of rebellion rather than a loud refusal to act like someone he wasn't. christopher was there when patton needed comfort, and christopher was there when he was euphorically happy, and christopher offered to be there when it was right and proper for him to do so, even though neither of them really wanted it.

patton's always going to love him, in some kind of way. patton doesn't think anyone can know someone in the way he knows christopher and not love them in some kind of way. but he doesn't love him like he did when he was sixteen. it's different. but there's that rememberance, there. that history. christopher knows patton isn't perfect, and patton knows that christopher isn't perfect. god, he’s far from it. but patton's relationship with him gave him logan.

and logan's the most precious thing anyone's ever given him.

"all right," christopher says, and he sounds a little choked up, too, like he was thinking about a lot of the same things. he gives patton several Manly pats on the back, to absolutely Bro Up such a hug, and patton can't help a laugh that sounds a bit like a sob, because they had a kid together, shouldn't they be past that kind of thing?

and then, to patton's ultimate surprise, logan steps forward, and holds out his hand to shake.

christopher stares at it, and then he smiles, wide, and takes his hand.

"remember what we said," logan says cryptically, and patton looks back and forth between them, but neither of their faces give it away.

"i know," christopher says. "i will."

logan nods, a sharp, jerky thing, and steps back onto the sidewalk beside patton.

christopher slings his leg over the motorbike, and pulls on his helmet, and with that familiar rumbling, he rides off into the morning sunlight, getting stronger and stronger with every passing minute.

Chapter Text

"no."

"logan—"

"no, dad."

"i know it's not your favorite option, kiddo, and if you have a better suggestion i'm all ears, but this is the only choice."

"the phrase only choice is an oxymoron, and you clearly have other body parts."

"okay, well, the second one was a turn of phrase, and if you have a way out of that oxymoron, let me know, okay? otherwise, it's the only way. the blizzard's shut down the bus system and i'm not comfortable with you hitching a ride home with anyone the way black ice is forming."

"then i can stay here."

"logan, you can't spend the night at chilton."

"watch me."

"logan thomas sanders, do not take that tone with me right now."

"..."

"look. i'm just as unhappy about this as you are. i know that you are not happy with your grandparents because of the fight we had on friday. i'm not either. i am the furthest thing from happy with them, actually. but if it's between you having an uncomfortable dinner and sleepover at their house and me getting a call that you got into a wreck on the highway, i'm picking you being uncomfortable over you being in the hospital or worse every single gosh darn time, am i clear?"

"...fine."

"okay. after this, i'll call them, okay? i'm sure they'll be thrilled to have you over."

"that'll make two of us."

"i know it sucks, honey. call me if they get too... well, you know."

"i will."

"okay, kiddo. i'm sorry i snapped at you."

"you're forgiven."

"i hope this blizzard blows over fast. eight."

"sixteen. me too."


patton has to walk three laps around the lobby of the inn before he feels ready enough to call his parents' house. he isn't sure which will be worse if they pick up: his dad or his mom.

he sits down with a pastry from the kitchen and dials, trying not to hold his breath, because that would make this cough (that has not faded away despite daily applications of tea with honey, virgil) even worse. 

"hello?"

patton blinks. that's not a voice he was expecting.

"um, hi," patton says. "this is patton. can i speak to my—um, to emi—uh, to mr. or mrs. sanders? please?"

"of course," says—whoever the latest member of his parents' household staff is. usually they tack on a sir. patton quashes the paranoid feeling that his parents told them to stop that if he called, just to get a hidden jab in before they could even talk to him personally.

"emily sanders speaking."

yeah, patton really has no idea if her answering is worse than his dad or not.

"hello, mother," patton says, forcing his voice to sound formal, cool and unmoved. "with the blizzard coming in, i don't feel comfortable having logan take a ride with anyone on the highway. would it be all right if he waited it out at your house?"

there's a long stretch of silence. then:

"you've never let logan sleep over before," she says suspiciously. 

that's true. he hasn't. he says as much and waits.

"what with all the... unpleasantness," emily says. "i'm not too happy with you right now and i assume you're not too happy with me."

"no," patton says. "i'm not."

"is this some kind of trick?" emily says, and patton lifts up his glasses so he can pinch hard at the bridge of his nose.

"this is me not wanting my son to end up in the hospital because of my stupid pride," he bites out. "i don't want that, mom. do you?"

"no," she says. "no, i don't suppose anyone does."

"okay," patton says.

"so i'll send a driver to chilton to pick logan up."

"okay," patton repeats. unhappy as he is with her, he can't bring himself to say thank you. "it's been swell talking to you, mom. i've got to go."

"about thanksgiving," she says.

patton freezes. it's this thursday. and it's monday today.

"right," he says cautiously. 

"just send logan."

patton freezes even more.

"you're... uninviting me to thanksgiving?"

"yes, i am."

patton directs his gaze out of a window, biting his lip powerfully for a moment to keep himself from reacting in any way that she can hear. he could say a dozen things right now: i had the measles when i was six and you made me sit through all twelve courses of thanksgiving dinner. my polka dot dress matched my face and i still had to sit through twelve courses. or even after i gave birth to logan and you were so embarrassed of me i still had to come to thanksgiving dinner and i ran away practically the next day. but what comes out is "fine."

"fine."

"anything else?" patton asks.

"i believe that's all."

"bye then."

"bye, patton."


emily opens the door to her house, ready to hug her grandbaby, to see him standing stiffly with his arms crossed over his chest.

in that moment, he looks so much like her son at that age that it just about gives her a stomachache, but she forges on anyway.

"logan," she says warmly, and he steps inside, just as stiff, arms still crossed.

"dad hasn't told me the particulars of what happened but i'm still on his side," he says coldly. "i'm going to do my homework."

he sweeps up the stairs, to, emily presumes, his father's old bedroom. emily drops her arms. it feels silly, now, to have been expecting a hug.

no matter, she tells herself, as if she can convince herself that's true. no matter. she'll win him over soon enough. he's here for the whole night, he'll have to sit and listen to her soon enough. teenage snits can be broken easily enough. perhaps not for patton, but it's so out of character for logan that it can't possibly be kept up the whole evening.

she does what she's been doing for the past few days, since that dinner ended so poorly: she goes to look for richard.

he's in the library, rather than the study, which he's been avoiding with a level of scrupulousness that surprises her. richard loves that study. it's his favorite room in the whole house. but then, she stepped in there on saturday to fetch a book she'd been meaning to read, and found herself hit with an image of her son, red-faced and snotty and sobbing his way through some attempt of an explanation, and her and richard saying that's not good enough, that's not GOOD ENOUGH and she can hardly blame him.

he glances up from his newspaper when she goes to sit on an armchair (chintz, with lovely hand-carved detailing on the legs, she found it in a tiny charming antique shop for quite a steal) but says nothing. 

"logan is here," she tells him.

"ah," he says, and waits for her to elaborate.

"he's in a mood."

"ah," he repeats, and that is enough for emily to begin to lay out her plan.

"we'll have to have heidi make something special for dinner," she says. "dinners at our house are the only proper food that child eats all week."

"he's hardly malnourished."

"please," emily sniffs. "the only food he gets on a regular basis is from a diner. incredibly unsuitable for a growing boy. it's a wonder they haven't come down with scurvy, considering they never eat real food. then you can talk to him about current events, he enjoys that kind of thing—"

richard looks mollified.

"—and we'll have heidi prepare him a dessert he'll enjoy," she says decisively. "he likes chocolate, doesn't he, patton always—"

she falls silent, remembering. patton's always over here with logan. patton loves chocolate. logan tends to take after his father. but patton isn't over here because—

richard reaches over to pat her hand, jolting her back into the present.

"a dessert he'll enjoy," he prompts, and emily shakes herself.

"right," she says. "and we'll have a lovely after-dinner conversation, have heidi make him a good breakfast and send him off to school, if chilton will be in session. it is snowing quite a bit, isn't it? maybe we can get him to stay an extra day or two. chilton would be having a half-day tomorrow regardless, wouldn't it?"

"according to the newsletter," richard says. "if i remember correctly, it should be the last day before the holiday break."

"and if the roads are clear and chilton is in session tomorrow, perhaps we can take him to the club for lunch," she says. before he goes home, she doesn't say. "he enjoyed looking at the historical records there, such a smart boy."

logan is so clearly his own person, but she can see so much of patton in him—his looks, how pleased he looks when he gets his hands on a newspaper, his level of focus, even the way he looks when he's sulking, it brings her such joy that for a moment she forgets the wreckage of an attempt at a family dinner.

"so," emily says, "it's a plan."

it's a plan that comes crumbling with one phone call from heidi.

"well, i just don't understand why you waited so late to call," she huffs. "fine. yes, all right, goodbye."

she comes into the living room.

"what's the problem, emily?" richard asks, glancing up from where he's examining a first edition of h.l. mencken's memoirs side-by-side with logan, who hardly looks up from the pages.

"the problem is apparently heidi cannot get here because of the storm."

"heidi?" logan asks.

"our cook."

"ah," richard says. "well, we'll have to go out, then."

"oh, richard, please pay attention," she says, despairingly. she loves her husband, truly she does, but his absentmindedness astounds her sometimes. "we can't go out, it's miserable out there."

"we'll figure something out," richard says.

"i'm sure there's something in the fridge we can make," logan says. "it's not like your cooks bring their own material, do they?"

emily blinks at him. "make something?"

logan sighs. he has hardly come out this strop, only sparing interest for the memoirs. "you must have something," he says, and stands, heading for the kitchen.

emily blinks at his back, and then tells richard, "well, come on, mr. we'll figure it out."

richard sighs, spares a longing look for the memoirs, but ambles along after them.

logan's already poking around in their cabinets, fridge, and freezer by the time emily and richard get there.

"you have the basics," logan says, piling some compilation of ingredients on the counter. emily squints at it.

"what on earth will are you doing with all that?"

"meatloaf," he says, as if it's obvious.

"meat...loaf?" emily repeats blankly.

"i'll make it."

"oh, logan, you're not serious," she says.

"that hardly sounds like dinner," richard adds.

"i agree," emily says. "logan, that's the kind of food you eat in a prison."

logan rolls his eyes, and emily tries not to be as irritated with him as he clearly is with her.

"look," he says pointedly. "your options are either to let me cook or you two can figure out dinner. when's the last time that happened?"

"well," emily begins, and then she falters.

when was the last time she cooked anything herself?

"i can take it from here," logan says brusquely, nudging between them to get to the sink so he can wash his hands. "i'll let you know when it's ready."

emily looks to richard, who shrugs.

"it seems like he has it handled," he says.

"are you quite certain about—?"

"i'm fine," logan says, sharply, ducking out from the hand she sets on his shoulder. 

"logan," she says, "that's no tone to take with your grandmother."

"it is to someone who made your father cry," logan says, voice still flat as he shuts off the water and dries his hands.

emily feels a sharp prickle of resentment. so patton didn't tell him the particulars, but clearly he told logan to give them a hard time, regardless. no matter. emily will handle it.

"do you happen to know where you keep your mixing bowls?" logan asks.

"i'd say the chances of that are very slim," richard says, not quite as humorously as he would have done if he hadn't been reminded of the feud.

"then i'll handle it," logan says. "go."

they have no choice but to go.

on the way, emily can't help but scoff, "very slim. thanks for that."


patton's phone starts going off as he sits in virgil's, and he practically lunges for where he's set it down on the counter.

"hey!" patton says breathlessly, cradling the phone to his ear. "hey hey hey, how's it going so far?"

"is that logan?" virgil asks.

"virgil says hi," he adds.

"put me on speaker," logan says, and patton does as he asks.

"virgil," logan says, "it's half an onion in the meatloaf, isn't it, not a full one?"

virgil blinks, thrown off. "hey to you too?"

"ah, social niceties. hello. it is half an onion, isn't it?"

"yeah, it's half an—are you making my meatloaf?" virgil asks, tone a bit louder than usual to compensate for the phone, leaning on his elbows and sharing a what? look with patton.

"i am," logan says. "the latest cook can't come to make dinner because of the storm and i'm fairly certain my grandparents wouldn't be able to make kraft macaroni and cheese, much less anything from scratch, but they have the basics for meatloaf."

"is it going okay, over there?" patton asks. "other than, you know, you having to make their dinner for them."

"fine, i suppose," logan says. "i've been doing homework. grandpa has a first edition of memoirs that have kept small talk to an absolute minimum."

"and school?" patton urges. "how was school? i forgot to ask about school."

okay, so, patton's never had logan do a sleepover on a school night before. not because he had a particularly strong rule about it or anything, but logan just always wanted to get a good night's rest before each school day. patton's kind of taken that for granted. 

is it pathetic that he already misses logan and it hasn't even been twelve hours since he's seen him last yet?

oh god. college. he's always been putting off considering all of that, but how is he going to handle it when his baby is away at college?!

"i sat in on a pitch meeting for the franklin," logan says, and adds, cheerful, "mel liked my pitch best even though i can't technically write it for the franklin yet, but she said i'd get a contribution byline."

patton brightens. "that's great!" he says encouragingly. "oh, my gosh, first franklin byline, logan! that's amazing! i'm so proud of you!"

"congrats, kid," virgil adds. "what's the story about?"

logan begins detailing the story (a brand-new mentorship program in theater program at chilton, apparently, because roman may get some ideas from logan but that's never been a one-sided thing) as patton and virgil offer encouraging comments from where they're sitting on the counter, thirty minutes away, but separated by what's being called the worst winter storm to hit this early in the season.

(in the next room, emily eavesdrops, listens to how her grandson's voice perks up when he's talking to his father and that—that burger-flipper, and how it flattens and is full of disapproval when he's talking to her, and can hardly stop herself from wilting in defeat. but she still has him for the rest of the night, she reasons. she can make a breakthrough by then.)

there's a noise in the background, when patton's telling logan about the latest dramas at the inn, and logan sighs.

"that's the timer."

"oh," patton says. 

"i should probably take it out of the oven."

"right," patton says. "okay."

"just let it cool for a while before you serve it, yeah?" virgil says.

"i will."

"and you have oven mitts?"

"yes, virgil, i have oven mitts. just—"

a pause, a clatter, and then, "it's cooling."

"turn the oven off?"

a sigh. "yes, virgil."

"just—double check you turned it off."

a pause. "i turned it off the first time, and i have checked, and yes, it is still off."

"call me if you—" feel lonely, or homesick, or if they say a single thing that makes you upset or feel small and i'll hijack a snowplow to pick you up right away if you feel even a little uncomfortable tell me and i'll be right there— "want to talk about stuff a bit more, okay?" patton says.

"i will," logan says.

"okay. i love you so much, kiddo."

logan sighs, but doesn't complain about emotional displays like he might otherwise, and says, "bye, dad, bye, virgil."

"bye," they chorus, and there's the deadened buzz of dial tone. 

"he sounds like he's doing okay," patton says, and looks at virgil. "right?"

"he sounds like he's doing okay," virgil parrots obediently, rather than say anything about any of his worries about logan or patton spending extended periods of time around patton's parents. (read: many. many, many worries. this is not the first time patton has stopped in the diner and broken down after a visit with his parents. virgil's practically old hat at comforting him now, but god, he'd trade anything not to be.)

"he's making your meatloaf," patton says, and props his chin on his hand. 

"well, balance of probability," virgil says. "at least one of you has to be able to cook."

patton sticks his tongue out at him, and virgil takes the opportunity to survey patton's mug and cluck his tongue in satisfaction when he sees it's empty.

"i could go for some hot cocoa/coffee to wash down that tea," patton tries, batting his eyelashes.

virgil snorts. "first of all, having a liquid to wash down another liquid doesn't make sense, and second, at this hour, you'd be getting decaf, you know that. third of all, status report, how's your throat?"

"throat's still a little sore," patton says. "coughing's decreased a bit, though, i think. i'm probably on the way to getting better. enough that you probably don't have to give me tea tomorrow."

"nice try," virgil says. "so. decaf?"

patton surveys his options, before he holds out his mug.

"i'll take what i can get," he says decisively.


logan sets the plates at the table, sits, and picks up his fork.

"it's better before it's cold," he says, when richard starts poking it with a fork.

emily takes a bite.

"how is it?" richard asks.

"not cold," she says, fanning her mouth.

richard tries it himself, and says, "it's quite tasty. well done, young man, there was bound to be a chef among us somewhere."

"i'm hardly the chef of the family," logan says. "chemistry and following a recipe, that's all it is. i mostly know the basics."

"the basics?" richard repeats.

"eggs, bacon, pancakes, spaghetti, pizza, grilled cheese, chicken soup, burgers. the like."

"who is the chef of the family?" emily asks, frowning, because she remembers a particular stretch of time when patton had insisted he wanted to become a pastry chef and it had ended in smoke alarms.

logan's briefly furious with himself for saying something that could be perceived as sentimental. good job that patton and virgil weren't there to hear it, he supposes.

"virgil is," he says, forcing his voice to stay light. "obviously."

there's a long stretch of awkward silence. logan can practically see the calculations flying behind his grandmother's eyes to see if it's worth estranging him even further by saying something snide about virgil, or to ask about what made virgil part of the family, or to say something like no family of mine, or if she should just stay silent.

"emily, we should have this more often," richard says, breaking it, and his grandmother's indignance at that means the moment's been swept aside. or quite possibly that she's decided to direct any protests at virgil being part of the sanders family into this argument.

"what?"

"perhaps instead of that horrible salmon that keeps showing up."

"that salmon is a fine delicacy," she grumps.

"potato, po-tah-to," richard says.

"it's probably cooler now," logan says. "i think you can bear—what was it you called it?—prison food for one night."

emily's lips purse, but she cuts herself a segment anyway, lifting it delicately to her lips. 

"mm!" she says, around her mouthful, and then swallows. "that's wonderful!"

logan takes a moment to consider pointing out that it's virgil's recipe, but, for once, decides to let it go.


the house is quiet.

too quiet.

logan's not a very noisy kid. well, he's talkative, and prone to shouting sometimes. but other than that, he doesn't get very noisy—reading and writing aren't exactly raucous activities, and that's how logan spends a lot of his leisure time. but patton's so conscious that the house is empty that he digs out a speaker and puts on a playlist, just to fill up the space, and sits down with some of the homework for his business degree that he really should get done.

he actually gets a bit ahead of schedule (he barely manages to resist the urge to text logan to see if he'd be proud of him, figuring he'll be able to tell him tomorrow. plus it's usual dinnertime or after-dinner-talk-time at his parents and logan would get in trouble if he looked at his phone) and decides to congratulate himself with some hot cocoa. not as good as virgil's plain cocoa, and certainly not as good as hot cocoa/coffee, but, well. he's been Banned.

he really is feeling better, though. his sore throat only hurts when he swallows, and he only coughs once or twice each time, instead of massive bouts that leave him gasping, the way it was yesterday. 

which virgil, uh. virgil doesn't know that it was that rough yesterday. but it's better now!!! so virgil doesn't have to know so he won't get too stressed over anything!!

patton's trying to convince himself of the sound reasoning of this decision when he hears a tapping. patton frowns, and turns the volume down on his music, then off.

taptaptaptap. tap. taaptaptaaptaap. pause. taptaptaptap. tap. taaptaptaaptaap. taaptap. tap. taptaaptap. taaptaptap.

patton checks his front door. no one. patton doubles back to get a frying pan from the kitchen, and ascends the stairs with it held aloft.

it's coming from logan's room.

the pattern's repeating now, a bit quicker, and patton flings open the door and hoists the frying pan aloft—

roman makes a squawking sound of surprise that can be heard even through the window, wobbles in a way that makes patton's heart jolt in fear, and patton gasps, lunging forward to open the window and grab him before he can fall down a full story.

"uh," roman says, when he's in logan's room, and patton's locking the window, "what's up, ra-pat-zel?"

"you, apparently," patton says, making sure that the latch is shut. logan left the lamp that virgil got him for his birthday on, so the only light is coming from that, cassiopeia and andromeda and orion and all the ones that logan can name and patton can only kind of name dotting the walls and the ceiling. 

"do you have any idea how dangerous that is? especially with that snowstorm, there's no telling how slick and icy that climb was from the ground, you're so lucky you didn't—"

he cuts himself off by the time he's turned around to see roman's face, with his red and watery eyes, and the change from parental concern to Parental Concern must be palpable on his face.

"um," roman says, and sniffles a little, tries for a smile. "i, um. i broke up with jess."

"oh," patton says. "i—oh, sweetheart."

"i mean, it was—he was really nice about it?" roman says, sounding quietly, miserably confused about it. "we had a really long talk, actually. i think it's the best i've gotten to know him since we started dating. you know how he's new to town?"

patton blinks at him, nods, and roman offers him a tremulous smile.

"his logan's name is dean."

and oh. oh, that makes sense. anyone with eyes can see how roman feels about his son, and logan's a bit more subtle but if you know how to read him it's so obvious. and if jess was in the same boat... 

well, patton knows a thing or two about throwing himself into a relationship in order to avoid his emotions, that's all.

"i'm sorry, kiddo. do you want a—?" 

he steps forward, lifting his arms in an invitation for a hug, and roman doesn't even wait for patton to fully raise his arms up before he surges forward and buries his face into patton's shoulder.

"okay," patton murmurs, squeezing roman tight and patting him on the shoulder. "aw, kiddo, i'm so sorry. break-ups are hard, but it'll be okay. just let it out."

roman snuffles into his shoulder. "i don't know why i'm so upset, it's not like i loved him or anything. he was nice. we both agreed it was for the best, i don't know why i'm—"

"he was your first boyfriend," patton says gently. "that means something, you know? it's okay to be sad."

it's not a lesson he's fully learned, but, well. his son and his friends should learn and do better than him. that's what parenting is, right? making sure the next generation does better than the one before it.

roman snuffles again, draws back and says, "um, why isn't—?"

"with the snow, it's too dangerous for him to come home from chilton," he says. "so he's with his grandparents."

"oh," roman says, and wipes under his eyes. "oh. okay. i don't even—" he laughs, but it breaks in the middle. he waves a hand. "i don't even know what i would have done if he opened the window, really. um. it's probably good that it's you."

patton does a little half-smile, runs his hand through roman's hair. 

"can i give you some advice?"

roman nods, wipes his sleeve under his eyes. patton guides him to sit on logan's bed with him and holds his hands.

"i think you're probably gonna need a bit of time," he says gently. "even if you started dating jess to avoid your feelings for roman, you still had a lot of moments with jess. you gotta wallow."

"wallow?"

"oh yeah," patton says. "it's thanksgiving break, the timing's perfect. you gotta get in your pajamas, go to bed, eat a ton of ice cream and pizza, don't shower or do anything and just sit in the dark and watch a really sad movie and have a good cry. you know. wallowing."

"wallowing," roman repeats.

"first relationships are really intense," patton says. "and breakups even more so. even if it ends well—"

"he was really nice about it," roman repeats. "he gave me his jacket because i was getting cold while we were talking about breaking up, he gave me a hug when i got upset, we got matching pity sundaes at lucy's and he bought mine, i mean. who even does that?"

huh. so jess is going up a lot of points in patton's book.

"even if it ends well," patton repeats, "your emotions still have to calm down from all of that."

roman nods, absorbing this, and patton squeezes his hands.

"so, to kick it off, you want some hot cocoa?" he asks. "i just made some."

"sure," roman says, and smiles. "that... that sounds nice."

"you can talk about it or, if you want, i can put on a movie and bust out all my emergency snacks and you don't have to talk about it all."

roman nods, and follows him downstairs, where patton overcrowds their mugs with marshmallows. patton adds, "i'm telling your mom that you're spending the night, if that's okay. i don't want you out in that weather either."

"a slumber party with my best friend slash unrequited crush's dad," roman says. "you know what? weirder things have happened. why not?"

unrequited, patton thinks, and tries not to laugh at the poor boy.


virgil's in the kitchen for his late dinner (his dinner's always late, he always eats after the rush, but this is late even by his standards) when his phone starts buzzing, short little bursts that means he's getting a text. or, well. texts. from the love of your life jr., which means that roman's broken into his phone and changed all his contact names again. virgil hastily swaps logan's back to his own name.

logan: Virgil.
logan: Virgil, please help me.

virgil's heart picks up the pace, and he's half-standing and ready to go find logan by the time the next text comes through half a second later, and he snorts when he reads it, sitting back down.

logan: Virgil they're making me play backgammon as a "bonding activity," a phrase which they used without any irony whatsoever.
logan: They're appalled that I don't know how to play
logan: Virgil they want to add in ICEBREAKER QUESTIONS you have to come pick me up

virgil: sorry kid the weather's too dangerous
virgil: that was the whole point of you staying there
virgil: plus how are you not getting in trouble for texting rn aren't your grandparents super strict about that

virgil gets to his recent messages and mutters "uncalled for" out loud when he realizes that roman's changed patton's name to your personal andy except you have all the dumb, APRIL and changes patton's back too, before sending him a screenshot of his son's messages. it takes a few minutes for a response, in which time logan has agonizingly detailed his grandparents' attempts to get him to thaw a little.

patton: ah, family backgammon nights. how little things have changed

virgil: that was a common thing?

patton: the most awkward experience of my life was the backgammon my parents decided was the perfect first family activity after me telling them i was pregnant

virgil nearly chokes on his burger.

virgil: like. RIGHT after you told them???
virgil: like "oh dear. well, in that case, i suppose we won't be playing croquet with the gold-encrusted mallets tonight, as a punishment we shall have to play BACKGAMMON" or???
virgil: your parents are genuinely the most confusing people on this planet

patton: well to be fair it was at least a couple hours after i said something
patton: they'd brought me home bc morning sickness got too bad at school and i got sent to the nurse and then home, and they kept going on and on about how i'd gotten some form of flu that just Was Not Stopping and i just kinda 
patton: "well actually"

virgil: patton oh my god

patton: so to be fair it wasn't RIGHT after, it was after some yelling, scolding, crying, me being grounded for the rest of time, me sulking in my room for a couple hours, a silent dinner, and THEN backgammon

virgil: patton no offense but your family is something straight out of donna reed

patton: wait did i tell you that's my mother's favorite show or was that a lucky guess???

virgil: i genuinely cannot tell if you're fucking with me or not right now

another buzz.

logan: Virgil please come get me, they're plotting to get me a membership at the country club
logan: "To have a place to go where you can socialize, that's very important to a young man. Especially so that you can get to know the right kind of people for your future."
logan: They're asking me my opinion on golf clubs, as if I like or know anything about golf

virgil: tell them it's been really rough since the local crack den on the corner closed down so now you and your friends have nowhere fun to go and golf at a country club is the perfect answer, jesus christ

buzz.

the coolest most perfectest awesome amazing quality superior first-rate brilliant super excellent splendid prince there ever was: stop flirting with patton you're interrupting our bonding time

virgil swaps out the contact name before he responds.

virgil: you're hanging out with patton?

royal pain: i'm trying to calculate the chances of you bringing us baked goods if i tell you the real reason

virgil frowns, but before he can articulate a response, his phone buzzes again.

patton: no seriously she loved that show
patton: i can see that roman's texting you we're both just ignoring the movie at this point
patton: be nice to him he's wallowing

"wallowing," virgil mouths to himself, burger and side salad laying forgotten on the table. his phone buzzes before he can ask.

royal pain: anyway you don't get to say i told you so or be smug or anything but jess and i broke up

virgil's eyes drift toward where they keep the alcohol in the bar and he wonders for a few seconds if it would be worth walking to taylor doose's to invest in some champagne. finally, he sighs, and decides that he and patton (and maybe logan) will celebrate this some other time.

virgil: this is the only time i'm ever going to do pastry delivery for you

royal pain: jam tarts and brownies and those mini pie things and maybe a bear claw thank youuu
royal pain: oh and patton will probably want something too i guess

virgil rolls his eyes but before he can text patton to ask, his phone buzzes and virgil nearly chokes on air.

logan: Virgil I am BEGGING YOU to come pick me up they made a comment about great-grandchildren

virgil: YOU'RE SIXTEEN!!!!!!!!
virgil: YOU ARE NOT EVEN CLOSE TO OLD ENOUGH TO BE EVEN THINKING ABOUT KIDS
virgil: YOU'RE GOING TO GIVE ME A HEART ATTACK

logan: Grandma said, "That will be you, soon enough" when they showed me a picture of a cousin of Dad's who's had a baby recently

virgil: IT SURE WON'T BE YOU SOON ENOUGH
virgil: HAVE THEY NOT LEARNED THEIR LESSON ABOUT ALL OF THIS
virgil: NO OFFENSE

logan: I've been caught texting and told to put my phone away but please call me if you're en route to pick me up

virgil: sorry kid, roads are too bad
virgil: you're on your own


logan's felt his phone buzz twice since virgil's incredibly unhelpful last texts and he's trying very hard not to abandon this truly excruciating game of backgammon to check who and what it is.

he's certainly tempted. currently, the game is between grandma and grandpa after he threw the last one to text with virgil (loser swaps out with whoever was sitting out of the last game and that person plays winner in this house, apparently) which is probably why he got away with it for so long. he might be able to do it again, except then his grandparents would certainly get cross, and he'd get cross in return, and then they'd fight. logan has no qualms about that, but his father would, and otherwise logan doesn't know how long he'll have to stay here—it's still snowing rather heavily. this house, he's heard from patton's (rare) discussions of how strained his relationship had been with his parents pre-pregnancy, may look big, but it gets small very, very quickly. the drawbacks outweigh the benefits.

so he tries not to fidget and watches his grandparents play backgammon, conscious all the while of his phone in his pocket.

he lasts for three minutes.

"excuse me, i'm going to the restroom," he says abruptly, standing, and is waved off by identical little flaps of the hand.

logan shuts himself into the nearest bathroom. like most things in his grandparent's house, it's unreasonably grand. the soap and hand lotion are expensive and smell of orchids, the sink is golden, the countertops fine granite. the extravagance of the bathroom unsettles him—not for the first time, logan considers his childhood homes of an inn's pool house, an apartment on the slightly dodgy end of sideshire (which is to say, not very dodgy at all, but by his grandparent's standards—) and to their tiny, cozy little yellow house. and then he looks around at the near-museum his father grew up in, the kind of house that gets used as sets for movies, the kind of house open for historical tours. not a house where people can actually live.

he checks his home screen and finds the source of the two buzzes: two notifications from roman.

greedily, logan unlocks his phone, and stares.

there's a photo, of his father and roman and virgil. a selfie, clearly, from the angle of patton's arm, the way roman's awkwardly holding up a box of pastries that must have come from virgil's, virgil's stance, like he isn't sure if he should wrap his arm around roman's shoulders or not, and doesn't quite know what to do with himself, the way he always looks in posed pictures.

roman: missing our best nerd!

logan's thumb traces absently over where there's a bit of jam, caught in the crevice of roman's lip and cheek as he smiles. his dad's nose is a bit red, like he's been sneezing, he did have a cold when logan left, and virgil, virgil in that old purple-and-black flannel with the little hole just over his heart that makes him always wear a t-shirt underneath and yet he never, ever throws it away, because virgil's an absolute pack rat when it comes to clothes he likes, would rather stitch and stitch and stitch something up until it's rags rather than spend ten more dollars to just get a new one, and roman's eyes just a bit red and watery around the edges, like he's coming down with something too, and—

and logan's nearly run out of time to pass this off as a believable bathroom break. with a couple taps, he has a new homescreen photo.

he goes out, sits back down in his armchair, and the urge to look at his phone again is even stronger than before. it never leaves the back of his mind, even with the temptations of more first editions to peruse.


virgil wakes up to the sound of someone coughing. and then that same someone trying to cover up the fact that he's coughing.

virgil raises himself onto his elbows, squinting, to see patton's silhouette curling up tighter on the smaller couch as the fit seems to settle. 

he moves closer, then, sparing a glance toward the larger couch, where roman's sprawled out and somehow not woken up, and patton's face grows clearer.

strange, to see him without his glasses on. strange to see him waking up in the morning at all—virgil can count the amount of sleepovers he's had at the various sanders' residences over the years on one hand, and this is the first where he and patton have slept in the same room. virgil's always taken the couch—or, well, the floor. 

like he has tonight. he's really getting too old for this, he notes, as his back twinges in protest as he shifts a little closer to patton.

"hey," he whispers to patton. "you feeling okay?"

patton scrubs at his eyes and flops his head back down on the pillow.

"just haven't had my morning tea and honey, is all," patton jokes, in the same whisper, and virgil smiles back.

he reaches out a hand. only part of it is to stroke a hand through patton's bedhead, those messy, frizzy curls, but the other part is—

"for god's sake, v," patton whispers, fond and exasperated, "you don't need to take my temperature."

"you're feeling a little warm," virgil murmurs back, frowning.

"isn't that normal, right after waking up?" patton asks. he keeps his hand in patton's hair. just to keep tabs on his temperature. (shut up.)

virgil pauses to consider that, before he asks, "do you have a thermometer somewhere?"

"i'm fine," patton murmurs, and yawns. "we can figure it out when the sun's actually risen."

virgil directs a glance toward the windows, and whispers back, "i think it has."

"what? no way, it's so dark out."

"i think it's all the snow," virgil murmurs and, regretfully, detangles his hand from patton's hair. he hands patton his glasses from where patton's set them on the coffee table, and gets to his feet to peek through patton's curtains.

he loses his breath.

"whoa," patton whispers, from where he's standing right at virgil's side.

whoa is right. the snow's built up to at least a foot and a half deep, with the world lazily dusting more and more on them, like virgil putting powdered sugar on the kid orders of waffles (that have protein powder to make up for it) the sky overcast and gray-white. the world's silent, and the snow glimmers in what little light there is, and—

"yeah," virgil whispers back.

patton leans into his side, and they stare out at the snow for a few moments, seeing the way the icicles catch the glimmering, feeble morning light, the unbroken snow spread across the lawns, the way the snow drifts lazily from the sky, even still.

"still snowing," patton murmurs, and chews at the inside of his cheek. "so i guess i have to break the news to logan that he's not coming home yet."

virgil winces in sympathy, for logan and patton both. logan, because he's going to go insane from cabin fever and pull a shining, probably. patton, because he can manage it when logan goes off for sleepovers and so on, but he's never really had to deal with logan being away for a long period of time without any preparation for it, and there wasn't any preparation for this, and if it's still snowing, then it means that it's probably going to mean another sleepover.

poor logan, virgil thinks, and resolves to try and text him pretty frequently during the day, even if his grandparents are strict about phones. he's going to need some kind of reprieve from all that...

well. the way that patton's parents are.

he doesn't say any of that to patton, though, because even though they made him have a breakdown in virgil's diner less than a week ago, patton still believes that they can patch it up, that any day now, he and his parents will come to an understanding and they'll stop fighting and live in some kind of grandparents-son-grandson harmony that will mean civil meals and occasional coffee get-togethers and happy picturesque holidays, and—

look. virgil's parents are pretty great. the only reason virgil doesn't see them more often is that after virgil took over the family diner at the ripe old age of twenty-two, they moved down a few states south so they wouldn't be caught in winters like this anymore, so virgil doesn't really get the way that patton and his parents work. he isn't even sure if patton gets the way him and his parents work. but virgil knows that if his parents were like virgil's, and if patton had his parents, then patton would be fully supportive of virgil cutting out his parents the way that virgil wants patton to cut out his parents.

but patton's hopeful, and optimistic, and always looks on the bright side, whereas virgil is anxious, and pessimistic, and always looking for the ways things can go wrong. so. virgil will be there to listen to the issues that they have, and to help pick up the pieces, and maybe one day...

maybe one day, patton's way of things will win out.

(virgil's really hoping for his way, but, well. with the whole chilton situation, they've got a couple more years to wait that one out.)

but virgil knows better than to bring it up again. he'll probably bring it up again now that they're fighting, but not right now. 

not when patton's staring out of the window, the snow refracting its bright, white light onto his face, illuminating all his features so clearly. not when patton's hair is such a curly, frizzy, beautiful mess. not when patton is staring out at the snow, admiring the beautiful view despite any worries he might have about logan. not when he's got that sweet, soft smile on his face. not when his eyes are sparkling like that.

patton turns to look at him, and then he blinks at virgil for a few seconds.

"what?" he asks, and then brings his hand up to his cheek. "did i drool in my sleep, or something?"

virgil clears his throat, turns to face the window, turning away from the real view.

"no," he says. "no, you're good."

there's a distant, distinctly teenage groan about having to wake up in the very early morning, and patton shoots him a secretive kind of smile before they both turn away from the window, and virgil tucks the smile away in his memory, the way he does with all of patton's smiles, even as roman starts demanding pity waffles.


"good morning, kiddo."

"if only."

"that bad, huh?"

"considering that i think i know what you're calling me about, yes."

"i'm sorry, honey, i know you didn't want to go in the first place."

"and now it's another night."

"we'll do something special when you get back to make up for it! we can—"

"that cough's still bothering you?"

"oh, it's on it's way out, i feel better today. anyway—"

"dad, you've had that cough for a week now and you've been saying that it's on it's way out since you got it."

"i swear you inherited all your worrywart tendencies from virgil, somehow."

"i'm not a worrywart."

"sure."

"i'm not!"

"course not. anyway, we can do something special when you get back, get together all four of us, or—"

"you all got together last night."

"oh, yeah, i guess we kinda did. accidentally."

"how do three people accidentally get together?"

"well, accidentally on my part, i guess. roman came over, i think i was expecting to see you, and then i didn't want him walking home in that cold, and virgil dropped by to check up on me and he brought some pastries and i didn't want him walking home either, so—"

"why'd he bring pastries?"

"hm?"

"virgil. why'd he bring pastries? virgil never delivers food."

"oh. i expect he felt sorry for ussssss—me! sorry for me! being home alone all that."

"you said us."

"slip of the tongue!"

"perhaps, but you said us."

"i guess i was just thinking because roman was there already, he got, um... included. in my head. accidentally."

"you know you're a terrible liar."

"...yeah, i know."

"so. virgil delivered pastries. because?"

"..."

"fine, don't tell me."

"i would, honey, really, it's just not my thing to tell."

"i'd know it. if i was home."

"i know, honey, i'm sorry—"

"it's not fair, dad."

"was it really that bad, last night?"

"they want to win me over."

"yeah?"

"i don't particularly want to be won over."

"honey..."

"i know what you're going to say."

"good, then i'll say it again. just because me and your grandparents are fighting, it does not mean that you have to fight with them, okay? i don't want you to fight with them just because i am."

"i want to fight with them because you are."

"logan—"

"dad, dee slange goaded someone into punching me and you had to try not to fight with him."

"see, i succeeded in not fighting with him. i was perfectly polite to his face, because you can fight your own battles. i'd like to have the same courtesy—"

"it's not the same."

"logan, please. it's still snowing, i'm not sure how much longer you'll be stuck there."

"until tomorrow. or at least thursday."

"what?"

"thursday. thanksgiving. you'll have to come up for thanksgiving and you can take me home then."

"...ah. she didn't tell you."

"tell me what?"

"i've been uninvited."

"you what?!"

"lo—"

"i'm supposed to just sit through their horrible thanksgiving party without you?!"

"hey, be polite."

"no! first i have to be stuck here sitting through small talk about the stupid hamptons and who's retiring when and what divorce is settling out of court, absolutely dying of boredom, while you and virgil and roman get together and have fun without me, and now i have to sit through thanksgiving without you?!"

"i know it's not—"

"you love the food they get at thanksgiving!"

"well, i do, but—"

"the only part of thanksgiving i like is seeing which of us can sneak out the most food!"

(ah, the continuation of family traditions. most years they do it without christopher, but when he comes, the three of them get away with quite a tidy bundle.)

"and now i'm supposed to stay here until, what, friday?! that's three more days!"

"well—"

"and i'm not supposed to fight with them?!"

"no! you are definitely not supposed to fight with them!"

"but they—"

"i do not need you to fight my battles for me."

"it's not about that. it's about—it's about the way they act, sometimes. it's not just you, it's virgil and roman and sideshire, how am i not supposed to take offense to that?"

"i'm not asking you not to take offense—"

"you're just asking me to do nothing about it."

"that's—"

"that's what you're saying. if they say something about you i'm supposed to just sit and smile and pretend it doesn't bother me?!"

"no, but—"

"i can't just act like everything's okay when it's not, i'm not you, dad!"

"hey, now."

"well, it's—i'm not you."

"no, you're not. i think they're thanking god right now that you're not, they've certainly been doing it since you were born."

"dad..."

"sorry. sorry, i'm just—sorry."

"...i know you don't want me to fight them."

"you're right, i don't. just because i messed things up—"

"you didn't—"

"let me finish, please. just because i messed things up with them, and they messed things up with me, it doesn't mean they have to mess things up with you, too. they at least deserve a chance. i took that chance away from them when i ran away. i'm trying to let them have it now. please be open to letting them have that chance, too. that's all i'm asking."

"i..."

"please, logan."

"...fine. fine. i'll give them a chance."

"we'll do something really great when you get home, i promise. we'll go to the planetarium, and lucy's, and—oh, i don't know, you can pick. we can make a whole day of it! but i want it to be something you look forward to."

"dad?"

"yes?"

"...why did you and virgil and roman hang out?"

"sorry, kiddo. not my thing to tell."

"ugh. fine."

"something to investigate, huh? that can be a distraction for you."

"hmph."

"so. tell me about things. any plans for today?"

"well, i was planning on catching up with some of my latin readings, to start."

"metamorphoses, right?"

"yes, ovid's. we're talking about his life and i've already gotten to all the planned ones, but i know that we're writing a paper at some point, so i was planning on making a variety of outlines preparing for a number of prompts, i'm uncertain of what she intends to have us do but i figured i may as well do some preliminary research..."


virgil juggles the variety of tupperware, packages, and shopping bags he's holding, managing to free a hand enough so he can open up the door to the sanders household, calling out, "i'm breaking in!" as he does so.

"i don't have any valuables!" patton calls, and then devolves into coughing. virgil drops off most of the things he's carrying in the kitchen, before entering the living room.

patton's sitting on a throne made of throw pillows, throw blankets, fuzzy blankets, his comforter, the pillows from his bed, and the detritus of kleenexes that hadn't quite made its way to the forlorn wastebasket at his feet.

"i thought you said you were feeling better," virgil says with a frown, crossing the room to press a hand up against patton's forehead. much too warm for his liking.

"i was," patton says, grumpy. "and now i'm feeling worse."

"you're sure i can't convince you to go to a doctor," virgil says, frowning deeper.

"what, for the flu?" patton says, and waves a hand dismissively, kleenex flapping in the artificial wind like a white flag. "i don't want to waste anyone's time."

"they could give you some medicine to keep that fever down," virgil says. "make sure it isn't anything worse."

"virgil," patton says patiently, "it isn't anything worse."

"how do you know?"

"because i just feel sick, not like i'm at death's door," patton says, and sneezes into his kleenex. "crummy but not crumbling."

"not your best pun," virgil says.

"i'm operating on cold medicine," patton grumbles. 

virgil feels patton's forehead with his other hand, just to get an even diagnosis.

"and you're sure you don't want me to stay?"

this is a discussion they've had, approximately, six million times since virgil learned that patton was kicked out of his own thanksgiving from a text from logan.

"one of us is already missing thanksgiving, and you never get to see your parents," patton says. 

"i could take you with me. you know my parents love you."

"i wouldn't be much fun, dripping snot all over the place," patton says. "besides, i think i'm just going to run a movie marathon and nap, most of the time. i'm not up for the two-day extravaganza of a danes family thanksgiving."

"it's a sleepover for today, and a lunch tomorrow on the actual day," virgil says. "i'll be back tomorrow, by dinnertime. i could bring some leftovers. we can have our own little thanksgiving and wait to see if we can go get logan right after the dinner or if it'll take until friday morning."

patton smiles, pats virgil's hand. "you're sweet," he says, and virgil refuses to blush, only clears his throat and gestures weakly to patton's kitchen.

"i dropped off some chicken noodle and some other stuff, i've got all the instructions on it on how to reheat it."

"like i said," patton says, cheeks a little pink from fever, virgil presumes, "sweet."

"i have a reputation to maintain," virgil growls, and patton tries not to laugh. as if the whole town doesn't know about the kitten he housed earlier, as if the whole town doesn't know about the protein-packed pastries he gives to everyone he deems needs it, as if the whole town doesn't know about the way virgil dotes after the little kids and the kids he's seen grown up between orders of fries and root beer floats and burgers and breakfasts, as if he doesn't know about how much virgil fusses and frets over logan, who's practically his in every way but blood.

"of course you do," patton says, and pats his hand again. "you should get going, you have a drive and i don't want you slipping and getting trapped in one of the medians on the highway."

"you're sure i should go."

virgil's been looking after patton when he's been sick since his first cold in sideshire. it makes him feel uneasy that he's leaving town, now, right when patton seems to have taken a turn for the worse. patton never tells him if he's feeling worse, so virgil usually has to deduce it for himself.

"really, really sure," patton promises. "it's a dull one for me. i'll probably take a nap as soon as you get going."

virgil hesitates, and squeezes patton's hand.

"promise me you'll call if there's a change."

"virge—" patton begins, a laugh in his voice, but virgil leans in closer, squeezes patton's hand again.

"patton, promise me you'll call if you start feeling worse."

patton surveys him for a second, before he sighs.

"if it'll make you feel better."

"it would," virgil says.

"all right, then," patton says. "i promise i'll call you if i start feeling worse."

virgil's shoulders slump a little in relief.

"okay," he says. "good. can i get you anything before i go?"

patton considers him, and says, "you're going to hold it over my head for the rest of time."

"no, i won't," virgil says, and patton sighs.

"maybe," he says grudgingly. "some tea might be... nice."

virgil's face splits into a grin.

"don't," patton scolds, but the effect's ruined by the little laugh at the edge of his voice.

"mr. i-hate-tea, sure thing, a tea coming right up," virgil jokes, rising to his feet and heading to the kitchen. "mr. ugh-you've-betrayed-me-tea?! has asked for some tea."

"i take it back!" patton tries to holler after him, but his voice cracks and he starts coughing, which he hastily muffles into his kleenex.

"even if you hadn't asked, which i'm never letting you forget ever, i'd make some for you now," virgil calls back. "you okay?"

"yeah," patton says, trying not to gasp too desperately for breath, in case virgil would hear him, "yeah, i'm fine."


emily rather prides herself on her hostessing skills.

well, she prides herself on quite a number of things, really, but her hostessing skills are the most relevant at the moment, so she'll start there.

she has an eye for detail, that she knows. the kind of detail about the length each candlestick should be sitting apart, (six inches) who should sit next to who, (logan between her and that professor from yale that richard went to college with) what color tablecloth befits each occasion, (a lovely ecre shade, with a neat little fleur-de-lis pattern in eggshell) and which canapés pair best with the courses ahead of them (you can hardly go wrong with prosciutto-wrapped dates with goat cheese and thyme) and she happens to have—well, a number of years putting that eye into practice.

(impolite to discuss a lady's age, after all.)

it's actually easier to focus on the last-minute arrangements on the day of one of the largest gatherings that she and richard throw each year than the recalcitrant teenager they've been housing for the past four days. well, goodness, that takes her back a number of years, but the point still stands that her grandson is just as vexing as his father.

just in an entirely different way.

logan has always been, at least, a polite boy. a stubborn, headstrong boy, certainly, but a polite one. and he has been polite, these past few days. chillingly polite. the kind of politeness you execute when you're very displeased with someone and yet did not wanting it to erupt into some kind of feud. 

he'd been behaving, of course. nothing but polite and reasonable. he was a bit too attached to his phone, texting that prince boy and his father and that diner man, which she'd had to scold him for a number of times. and he was prone to escaping into his room—she knew he was a studious boy, but really, even chilton didn't assign so much holiday homework—and acting as if things were perfectly normal, even as he was freezing them out with a kind of single-minded dedication to doing it as peaceably as possible.

it's as if he's preparing for a fight—on patton's advice, no doubt—but trying to ensure that it would be emily or richard to make the first move before the gloves are off. 

emily felt, very strangely, that she was close to crossing some kind of line with him, and he was simply waiting for her to cross it before his courteous facade would pack neatly and tidily away, only for him to ensue on a feud of such magnitude that it would make the current feud with patton look like a married couple's squabble.

well. emily will certainly see to it that no such thing occurs.

"ah, emily," richard says, as he swings by the dining room. "has everyone been whipped into shape?"

"just about," emily says, sending a scrutinizing eye toward the caterer and saying, stern, "you did pack the cheese in separate bags, didn't you?"

"of course, ma'am," he says, "of course," and continues to place them on the platter.

"you wanted me to wear the tom ford bow tie, didn't you? the red one?"

"that's the one," emily confirms. 

"and logan's been outfitted properly?"

she'd actually managed a bit of an outing yesterday, spoiled her grandson on a bit of a shopping trip. the chilton uniform makes him look rather adult, and he does have a snappy dress sense, she'll give him that, logan's hardly the type of hooligan to go about in low-hanging jeans and too-large hoodies, she's always rather approved of his default polo-and-tie. 

if patton had known about it (she certainly hadn't told him) she surely would have been sent off with a set of rules to follow, absurd things like price limits, as if she and richard couldn't afford to treat their grandson, but hadn't spared much of a thought for whatever those rules might have been. she'd been busy luxuriating in an afternoon spent with her grandson, her beautiful and perfect grandbaby, and nothing would ruin that. nothing.

and nothing did, really, except for another scolding about his phone when emily had gotten distracted in the shoe section. he did very politely attempt to refuse the brand-new tailored suit she was getting him to wear for thanksgiving, and did refuse the new shoes, but really, a boy of his age should start accruing some decently tailored suits, and besides he'd looked very elegant. it's a grandmother's job to spoil her grandchildren.

nothing did ruin it, really, except for when emily would attempt to converse and cajole and joke with him he met her eyes with the same level of even coollness that he had all week, and spent his time with her being perfectly polite and perfectly frigid. 

at least his teenage fits were conducted with a good deal more decorum than patton's.

"emily," richard prompts, and it's so unlike her to get lost in her thoughts like that, much more her husband's role, that she can't help but laugh.

"yes," emily says, "yes, we got him a lovely brooks brothers suit. he'll look very smart."

"shall i do anything, or am i free to nip off to the library before...?"

she can't help a little sigh—her husband's workaholic tendencies she's quite familiar with, and it has, of course, provided quite a bit for their way of life, but sometimes...

"oh, go on," emily says, and spends the rest of the morning ensuring that everything is perfect, perfect, perfect, ignoring the one glaring absence in the placecards, in the reservations, that would usually be right beside logan and delighting in the desserts for the evening and—

no matter. it would be done, soon enough. patton would get over his strop eventually.


logan's going crazy.

definitively. he is definitely going insane. there was no need for any doctor's corroboration, this past week had strained him mentally so much that logan fully felt, perhaps, what sixteen years worth of this week would have done to his father's frame of mind. no wonder his dad had packed up the car and hightailed it to sideshire at the first possible opportunity.

and they hadn't even fought during any of it. well, not in any substantial way, snippy orders to put his phone away hardly counted. but if they say one thing about sideshire, or virgil, or his dad—

logan's not above starting a food fight in front of his grandparents' fancy friends, if it comes to that.

logan takes a moment to mentally review that sentence.

crazy. definitely.

but now he just has to get through this (insufferable) dinner, and then he can make excuses to go to bed early afterward, and then he can hole up in his dad's old room and pretend to read until dad came to pick him up. and then he can show off the food he's managed to snatch from under the caterer's nose and hear his dad's stories about the inn (which get wilder and wilder around the holidays) and they can go to virgil's, because logan is craving a burger. craving. it.

and he can meet up with roman, who's been strangely quiet over text (probably spending the holiday break with jess, he thinks bitterly) and then he'll be back home.

that's all he wants.

but right now, he has to put on a suit that probably costs more than three month's rent back in their old apartment, and sit through even more stupid insufferable small talk, and make insufferable small talk of his own, and answer all their predictable questions (sixteen, sideshire, sophomore, journalist, yes he's sure he wants to be a journalist, yes he knows it's a rough market right now, his dad is sick and that's why he's not here, yes he's really sure he's not going to follow in his grandfather's footsteps) and not meet his dad's eyes over the table and do little eyerolls at each other whenever someone says something absurdly privileged. 

logan sighs and reaches for the hangers that hold his new suit, shirt, and tie, scowling. 

only three or four more hours to go, he thinks grimly.


listen, virgil loves his parents, okay? he adores them. but big family gatherings have a way of draining him to a frankly absurd degree, so he's happy to go and make sure patton's safely curled up on his couch and share the leftovers and whole apple pie he's managed to win in the battle of leftovers with his siblings and cousins and their respective broods.

patton doesn't answer when virgil knocks, soft, at his front door, probably because he's napping. he does that a lot, when he's sick, drops in and out of naps like it's his job.

it's probably why he hasn't really responded to many of his texts—thumbs-up and okay emojis, an "aww" to a picture of virgil's latest niece, but mostly he's been pretty quiet. which virgil takes to mean that he still feels kinda crummy, but at least he doesn't feel worse. he promised to call if he felt worse, virgil tells himself, like he's been telling himself repeatedly for the last twenty-four hours.

virgil lets himself into the dark house with his spare key, and drops the leftovers off in the kitchen and peeks into where patton had kept his comfort nest in the living room—not napping there. so his room, then.

virgil climbs the stairs.

virgil's heart flies to lodge in his throat. time stops. the whole world freezes. virgil can't breathe.

there's a familiar curly head on the ground.

the world starts turning on its axis again. virgil clambers up the stairs and drops to his knees at patton's side, trying to breathe, and reaches to turn patton onto his back.

"patton," he chokes out. "patton—"

he fainted. he's fainted. how long has he been here? how long has he just been on the ground? how long has he—

patton stirs, just barely, and his eyes squeeze tightly shut. virgil's breath leaves him in a whoosh.

"patton, sweetheart, come on," virgil begs, shaking him as gently as he can. "patton—"

he reaches to put his hand on patton's forehead, and patton flinches back.

"no," he mumbles. "no no no no no no no—"

"patton, it's me," virgil says, voice breaking. he didn't call, he didn't call, he didn't—"patton, please, it's me, it's virgil—"

patton's eyes—glassy, and dazed, and confused, and virgil's chest hurts—finally crack open.

"patton," he says. "hey. hey, hey, hey, hey, hey. hey."

"v'gil?"

"yeah," virgil says, and his voice breaks again, and he gulps. "yeah, patton, it's me. i'm gonna try and take your temperature right now, okay?"

patton's responding nod is barely more than a jiggle of his head, and virgil touches his forehead and draws his hand back like patton's skin has burned him.

it's not far off.

"you're way too warm," virgil manages to say around his heart in his throat.

patton takes in a breath, about to respond, but his breath rattles in the most terrifying way, and virgil's stomach absolutely plummets, and patton tries to make it a deep one but he can't before he starts coughing, deep, wet, horrible coughs, and then he's left wheezing for breath, and virgil can't, virgil can't—

"i'm gonna pick you up," virgil says. "i'm going to get you to the hospital."

"no," patton says. "no, don't, donwanna—"

"patton, please," virgil begs him. 

"i don't wanna go," patton says, and his voice wobbles, like he's close to tears. "i don't wanna go, virge, please, i don't wanna go, logan's gonna get here any minute, i have to wait for him, i—"

"logan's at your parents'," virgil says. he's delirious. "he'll meet us there, okay?"

"logan?" patton repeats, soft and confused. "where is he? where's my baby?"

virgil lies, "we're gonna go see logan. right now. okay? but i gotta pick you up. i'll take you to him."

patton hesitates, but then he nods, and virgil's breath leaves him all over again before he carefully situates himself so he can carefully gather patton in his arms, and patton's head flops worryingly, like he's fainted all over again, and virgil goes as fast down the stairs as he can without dropping him, heart racing, out to the car, so he can get patton to a hospital as soon as he can.


"emily, you've outdone yourself yet again."

that's gigi. logan hates her.

"yes, i can't imagine the hours you spent slaving over a hot stove," her husband, alan, jokes. logan hates him too.

"you're teasing me, alan," emily scolds.

"it's delicious, emily," says the professor next to him—john. logan quite hates john too.

"well, a compliment for my chef is a compliment for me," emily says. "thank you, alan, john."

"so," says holland, who logan also hates, "what are your plans for the holidays, logan?"

"i'll probably spend time with my dad," he says, stiff. well, he hasn't exactly stopped being stiff since the first guest came, but even more stiffly.

"oh, it's such a shame he couldn't come," gigi says, "he's always such a kick."

logan hates gigi a little less now.

"patton wasn't feeling well, so i suggested he stay home," emily says.

logan hates her a little more.

"poor thing, what's wrong with him?" holland says.

"a cold that's turned to the flu," logan says. "he's been fighting it for a week or so."

there's a round of appropriately sympathetic murmurs. 

"tell him we missed him," says gigi.

gigi is clearly the most knowledgeable person at this dinner table. other than himself, obviously.

"i will," logan says.

alan and john and richard take over the conversation then about stories from The Old Days, and logan tunes it out, the way he's been doing for most of the night.

only a couple more courses, logan thinks, doggedly consuming everything on his plate. and then it's after-dinner coffee and then everyone will leave and then i can call dad and either go home or go to bed.

he's been thinking this since he came downstairs. logan's most of the way through his plate and he's just finishing it up as the adults still chatter on about... whatever they're chattering on about.

and then he feels a familiar buzz against his thigh.

emily stiffens beside him, but he ignores it as the buzzing continues and slides it out to see the screen, fully expecting a robo-call, but—

Virgil Danes is calling...

virgil calling? virgil never calls him. he always prefers to text. phone calls freak him out. logan's about to investigate when—

"put that away," emily hisses, and, with a swipe and a neat press of her finger, she's hung up on him.

emily. hung up. on virgil.

for a millisecond, logan genuinely considers kicking over her chair. with her in it. or worse.

but then his phone starts buzzing again, and her glare worsens, but logan doesn't care, that means this isn't accidental, this means something's—

wrong.

"excuse me," logan says loudly, and spares a disdainful glare for his grandmother. "i have a phone call, it might be important."

he sweeps out of the dining room to the nearest quiet room, and swipes to answer, bringing it up to his ear.

"what's wrong?" he asks immediately, because virgil wouldn't be calling unless something was wrong, he just—he wouldn't. if it was a holiday well-wish, he'd have texted, and he had, that morning. if it was something nice, something good, he'd have texted. if it was a "we're coming to get you," it would have been a text. not a call. not unless—

"virgil," he repeats, "what's wrong?"

"logan," virgil says, and his voice is gentle, so gentle, far too gentle considering what he says next, "your dad's in the hospital."

logan's brain went absolutely silent. just for a moment. and then it roared to life again, presenting possibility after possibility—car wreck—spontaneous heart failure—a mugging—building collapse—

"is he okay?"

immediately, logan wanted to hit himself. of course he's not okay! some part of his brain that wasn't busy presenting scenarios, likely and unlikely, screamed at him. he's in the hospital!

"uh, i mean, i don't—" and now the panic was in virgil's voice. "i, um, i don't really know. i came to check on him after i got back to town and i thought he was napping because the house was dark but i went upstairs and i found him on the floor—"

"he was on the floor?" logan whispers.

"yeah, i don't—i don't know how long he'd been there, but he was, um. he was pretty out of it. i think it was the fever messing with his head."

"i—fever?" logan repeats, strangled. "dad said he was feeling better."

virgil lets out a laugh, a bitter, wild thing that's closer to a shriek. "yeah, well, he said that to you and me both. he's back with some doctors now and they're not letting me back there, so i don't—i don't have much more information for you, kid, i'm sorry."

logan breathes. "it was just—he's sick?"

"yeah, he's, uh, he's sick. he's really sick, lo," virgil says, and logan breathes again. quantifiable. narrowed down. he can try and figure out what it is from those parameters.

"did he," logan says, and fumbles his words. "i mean—other symptoms? something?"

"his cough was a lot worse," virgil says, "he, um. he couldn't breathe for a few seconds."

he couldn't breathe, keens some part of him, the part of him that still gets too eager and overexcited about things, the childish part of him, he couldn't breathe and logan shakes himself.

"right, i'll be—i'll be right there. which hospital is it?"

"st. luke's. just—could you take a deep breath for me, kid?"

logan takes in a deep breath before he can even tell himself to, body responding to virgil before he can think it.

"okay," virgil says. "okay, good. i'll see you soon, okay?"

"okay," logan repeats, still on autopilot.

"love you, kid," he says, gruff, and then he hangs up.

logan can count on one hand the number of times virgil has outright told him he loves him.

logan breathes once, twice, and then he moves.

his grandparents always keep their car keys in the same place. logan has thought longingly about said car keys at least a thousand times this week. but they're hanging on a series of hooks that also contain keys to the garden shed and the poolhouse, and logan plucks free the closest ones—his grandfather's car—and runs for the front door.

he's throwing free the lock and about to step out into the cold when he hears a door open behind him, and he turns to look over one shoulder.

it's his grandmother, in high dudgeon, clearly about to bring world war three raging upon this household, but logan does not give a single fuck at the moment about propriety or politeness, so when she says "and what do you think you're doing, young man?!"

logan bites out, "i'm going to see my dad, considering he's in the hospital. is that a good enough excuse for me to leave this stupid party, for you?"

emily's lip trembles, and her jaw drops, and logan does not care about her crocodile tears right now, not when her insisting he deny virgil's call could have cost him this news, so he wrenches open the front door and storms out of the house, slamming the door behind him, and heads straight for where his grandparents keep the cars.

it takes him until he's driving down the street to realize that he doesn't have a valid license on his person, and he's a beginning driver regardless, and that the roads really aren't ideal, but he's made it this far, so on he goes.

he's going to see his dad. he has to see his dad.

Chapter Text

virgil hates hospitals. well, arguably, patton hates them more, he always hates going to the doctor even if it's just for a check-up, but the fact that patton is alone back there and delirious and in a place he's afraid of without anyone who knows him to comfort him kind of makes virgil want to put his fist through a wall, so he doesn't think about that, and instead he keeps pacing this stupidly tiny waiting room, clutching his hoodie, not even putting it on properly, because he'd given it to patton when he started shivering and shaking and succumbing to his chills and not breathing a word of complaint about the cold he must have been feeling and virgil had given him his hoodie and patton had sniffled and looked at virgil like he'd made everything okay, so he can't put it on until everything's okay again. right? (it makes sense to him.)

he keeps thinking about patton. not even worrying about him, though there's plenty of that, but memories keep flashing through his head, and it's almost unbearable, to think about patton happy and healthy when the memory of patton lying on his face in his dark house is right there and virgil left him, he left him—

("i've figured it out," patton says triumphantly. he's twenty-two, and virgil's twenty-eight, and logan's freshly six, on his way to the diner to meet with patton after school, when he'll decide if he wants to stay and do homework at virgil's or go with patton to the inn.

"figured out what?" virgil asks, amused despite himself, seeing how smug and satisfied with himself patton is right now.

"The Hugging Problem," patton says, and his grin grows wider. "i've figured it out."

ah, yes. The Hugging Problem. it had been discussed between virgil and patton so often that it warranted the capital letters. The Hugging Problem was that logan had decided he was a big boy now, and didn't need hugs or comfort, even when he was upset and clearly really, really needed a hug and some comfort.

"you did?" virgil says, intrigued despite himself. "how?"

patton taps his finger to his lips, grinning. "that'd be telling."

"patton," virgil whines, "you can't just tell me you have a solution to The Hugging Problem and not tell me what it is—"

"well, i can't just tell you the solution to The Hugging Problem," patton says conspiratorially. "i'll show you. when he needs it." )

"virgil!"

virgil pivots, then, to see logan, in an exquisite, bespoke, expensive suit, rushing toward him, face drawn and tight and worried.

"is he—?"

virgil's already shaking his head, crossing his arms tight over his stomach. "no news. they took him back there to run some tests, or get the fever down, or both, but—"

logan's nodding, and then brushing past him, immediately, to the welcome desk, staffed by a nurse or at least a someone in scrubs.

"excuse me," logan says, voice threaded through with a sense of authority that reminds virgil so strongly of the first time he met emily sanders that it sends a chill up his spine, "my father's been admitted here, patton sanders, would you happen to have any information on him, a room number, maybe, or what tests are being run on him?"

the nurse checks something, glances at virgil (who'd filled out patton's paperwork when they'd gotten there, and he knows all of patton's insurance info because virgil helped him set his up back in the day and virgil's been his emergency contact since that time patton thought he had appendicitis but it was really just a terrible stomach ache because he got food poisoning from al's pancake world) and nods.

"i'll have someone check on that for you," she says, in the tone that means maybe, eventually.

"do," logan says tightly, and comes back toward virgil. virgil reaches out and carefully squeezes his shoulder. for some reason, he feels like something is missing. he dismisses that thought, because the something is probably behind the doors he's forbidden to cross into, it’s the something that he just left behind and he can't—

"hey," he says, and squeezes again. "look at me."

logan looks him in the eyes—tormented and worried and anxious in a way a kid never really should have to be, ever.

"your dad's gonna be fine," he says, trying to make his voice sound gentle, but with some kind of authority.

"you can't know—" logan begins, adam's apple bobbing.

"logan," virgil says, holds both his shoulders now. "look at me. i'm saying that. me, who always thinks every worse scenario is one thousand percent guaranteed to happen. i am. and patton's gonna be okay."

logan takes in a shuddering breath. "but—you're panicking."

"i'm always panicking," virgil says softly. "and i'm panicking right now because we don't know what's going on, not because i think there's any chance of something happening to your dad."

logan surveys him for a few seconds, eyes sweeping up and down his face, staring into his eyes, and virgil's expression must present the answer he's looking for because he relaxes, just a little, slumping into virgil's touch, and virgil knows better than to pull him into a hug right now so he just compensates by squeezing his shoulders a little harder before letting go. logan's arms cross in front of his stomach, too.

"not because i think anything's—going to go wrong," logan says, haltingly, "but... dad has a will, doesn't he?"

"yes," virgil says cautiously.

logan licks his lips nervously, before he says, "if something—if dad didn't—look. i'd want my guardian to be you."

virgil's arms drop from where they're wrapped around his stomach, and he turns to face logan more fully, mouth hanging open in awe, just a little.

"it has to be you," logan says. "if something happens."

"nothing's happening."

"i know," logan says, and he sounds like he really does know it, the way he knows nellie bly had her pencil confiscated from her in blackwell's and was told she never brought one, the way he knows anne royall blackmailed president adams into an interview by catching him skinny-dipping, the way he knows the new york times printed, the day after the launch of the apollo 11, a retraction of an article about no rocket conceivably leaving the atmosphere and reaching the moon. just fact. "just... so you know."

virgil swallows past the sudden lump in his throat.

(—dead on his feet, even as patton pushes a mug of (plain) coffee into his hands, leaning against the counter.

"thanks for helping me with him," patton says wearily. "i love him, he's so smart, he just gets so... nervous. you know?"

"i know," virgil says dryly, and patton winces a little. virgil waves it off. "and you don't need to say thank you, anyway, not when it comes to helping logan. i'll always try and help him. i know he's yours but—" barely a pause, and then, a sleepless tumble of a confession—"i always thought he was a little mine, too."

patton doesn't take offense. he just smiles, a secretive little thing, and takes a sip of coffee.

"well," patton says. "of course he's a little yours. you're a little ours too, you know.")

"yeah," virgil croaks, and clears his throat. "yeah, okay."

"good," logan says stiffly.

"right, good," virgil echoes.

they'd probably stand there saying "good" "good" back and forth and back and forth until a nurse finally appeared to wave them back into patton's room if it wasn't for the burst of noise a good way down the hall.

"but why can't i see him?!"

"they're running some tests."

"well, we would like to meet this doctor who's testing him."

"you will."

"some strange man is working on our son, we have a right to meet this person!"

"you will."

"and i want to see the room you're going to put him in."

"you will."

"and stop saying 'you will,' put together a proper sentence, for god's sake!"

"ma'am, sir, please just wait here."

—and a harried nurse leads emily and richard sanders into the waiting room.

oh. great. just what he needs. patton's fucking parents.

(—patton's eighteen, virgil's nearly twenty-four, and logan's nearly two, and patton has given logan over for virgil to babysit for a while with a written list of instructions and a packed bag, and virgil's only a little terrified, partially because logan's never spent the night at virgil's before without patton there and partially because logan is pre-emptively putting the terrible in 'terrible twos' and partially because patton got his top surgery today and he's being looked after by his parents, and virgil certainly has some Opinions after hearing about the way patton was raised and the environment that surrounded him until he ran away to sideshire.

everything's going fine until virgil realizes that logan's favorite jupiter toy isn't in the bag.

he has seen the meltdowns logan has without that thing. he needs to get it. he can only really hope that the room's empty and he can go right in, go right out, and logan will be reunited with his toy and no one will be any the wiser.

fucking alas.

he walks into the room juggling logan and the duffle bag and the spare key maria gave him, because patton had panickedly rented a room rather than let his parents have any idea about him living in the poolhouse, only to walk in to two very finely-dressed people turning from the bed where patton's lying to see the door.

"papapapapapapapapapa," logan babbles happily as soon as he sees patton, reaching out and opening and closing his chubby little fists, as if to say to virgil hand me over immediately! and virgil can't help but smile a little at the sound of it. logan's been doing this thing lately where he adds thirty more syllables to a word than is necessary, if he's excited about it. it's real cute.

"who are you?" demands the woman suspiciously, the woman who must be patton's mother. patton looks nothing like her. or the tall man with the tie on, who must be patton's father.

"virgil danes," virgil bites out. "i'm babysitting logan, just need to grab a toy of his, so. i'll be right out of your hair."

"oh, well, that's not necessary," emily says briskly, walking forward and holding out her arms expectantly. "we can look after him."

logan draws back, his fingers curling into the collar of virgil's shirt—he gets shy around people he doesn't really know—and without thinking, virgil shifts so that he's more clearly between her and logan, so that she would have to step around him to grab logan. her eyes narrow.

"yeah, well, patton told me to watch him," virgil says. "so i'm gonna watch him."

"papa," logan says, and tugs at virgil's hoodie. "virgil, papa."

virgil winces. "i know, kid, sorry. he's taking a nap right now, okay? we gotta be quiet. shhhh."

logan frowns at him. if there is one thing he doesn't like (the things logan doesn't like are very numerous) it's being told to be quiet. which is fair, really, virgil doesn't like it much either.

virgil spies the jupiter toy, half-hidden under the wardrobe, and goes over to grab it, handing it over to logan, who takes it with a pacified, cheery little babble and immediately sticks it into his mouth. god, virgil dreads the day a toy won't work as a distraction for him anymore.

"don't be ridiculous," emily tells him. "he's our grandson."

"no offense, lady," virgil says, "but you could be the queen of england. patton told me to watch him, so i'm gonna watch him. end of story. besides, patton's going to be a handful medicine-wise and i don't particularly trust you very much anyway."

"i beg your pardon?!" richard says, flabbergasted.

"consider it begged," virgil says. "and to be perfectly honest, knowing you're patton's parents doesn't endear me to you, like, at all, knowing what i know, so."

"how dare you," emily snarls.

"yeah, i'll dare, because your son is one of the best people i've ever met, and you don't seem to understand that whatsoever—")

virgil's violently yanked from his reverie when emily starts up, again.

"my great-uncle founded this hospital! his portrait is hanging in the lobby, go look, it's right above the sign that says 'founder!'"

"holy shit," virgil says, and quickly steps between emily and the nurse that she's harassing. "i'm so sorry about her, seriously, you're doing a great job and any news whatsoever would be appreciated, please ignore her."

the nurse spares a look for emily, gives him a grateful look, and they hurry off.

"ignore me?!" she fumes. "ignore me?!"

"yeah," virgil says, pivoting, "i know you're pretty good at ignoring any of your kid's boundaries, but you also seem to like flooring over them without any regard for his welfare, so i'm sure treating people like they're actual people instead of like they're scum beneath your shoe is gonna be a great big moral dilemma for you. i'd say i live in hope that you'll let people be on their own, but you seem to have a lot of trouble letting people exist on their own terms, so."

oh shit. okay, so, he's started it. fuck. patton's gonna hate that.

"how dare you speak to my wife in that way," richard begins indignantly, puffing himself up like a bullfrog.

"yeah, i got plenty for you too, buddy," virgil begins heatedly, but he sees a flash of a brand new, costly suit, and forces himself to fucking cool it, jesus christ, "but that's not helping right now, none of this is helping, i get that i snapped and i'm a hypocrite, my bad, but can we put aside tearing each other apart the way i know we all want to until we know what's wrong with patton?"

virgil punctuates it with a very significant glance toward logan, who was not old enough to retain and remember the first round of this particular throwdown. emily seethes, richard glowers, but they cluster off together, in their own little corner.

emily reaches to make logan a part of that, make it sanders family vs random diner outsider, but quicker than a flash and slicker than oil, logan slips from her grasp and goes to stand at virgil's side. sideshire vs grandparents.

and suddenly, virgil's brain catches up to where logan's made the logical leap. patton has a will. he must have outlined who logan's guardian or guardianwould be in case of his untimely demise. and since patton asks him whenever he involves virgil in anything legal—being made an emergency contact, for example—and he'd definitely ask virgil before penning him down for something so significant without so much as virgil's say-so.

and if virgil wouldn't be logan's guardian...

"and for god's sake, don't harass them for doing their jobs," virgil can't help but tack on, and turns to look away from—them.

("—virgil, did you, um?"

"yeah?" virgil asks, struggling to hand over logan, the duffle bag, and patton's to-go order of hot cocoa/coffee without spilling or dropping anything or anyone. logan's really mostly squirming to get back to his dad, anyway, and patton quickly takes him before he can squirm himself straight to the ground.

"i just," patton says, and frowns, shifting logan so he's on his hip. "i thought you came over when i was recovering. i dunno, it was probably an anesthesia dream, or something."

it wasn't, virgil thinks, but, well. what good would that do? he dressed down patton's parents, they tried to dress him down back, patton had cracked his eyes open enough to, in his drugged haze, coo at logan, who bopped him softly on the nose with a closed, slobbery fist, before virgil booked it before the sanders' shouting could wake patton up permanently. what good would it do to tell him all that? he'd hate that he was being argued over, anyway. so virgil just makes sure that everything's all handed over and doesn't say anything about it.

"you recovered all okay, then?" virgil says.

patton puffs himself up proudly. "yep," he says happily. "all cleared to work and lift logan," he tilts the hip with logan on it, trying not to wince, as logan has started tugging his hair, "as long as i'm careful about it."

virgil smiles. "good."

"it is, isn't it?" patton says, looking down at his own chest, finally flat without any help from a binder, and virgil reaches out to clap his shoulder. logan takes the opportunity to start babbling for attention at virgil, tugging his hoodie sleeve, as if virgil hasn't been waiting on logan's every whim for the past three days.

"lookin' good, man," virgil says, sincere, and patton beams at him. it just solidifies the belief virgil's had since the first night he met him: that  patton's parents don't deserve him.)

"patton sanders?" a nurse calls, and, identically, all four of them advance on him.

"we've gotten the fever down to a point where seizures are less of a concern, but he's still pretty out of it," the nurse says, brusque. "he's in a test room right now, but we'll take him to his room shortly. we've run an x-ray and we're waiting on those results and some culture results before we—"

"pneumonia," logan says hollowly. "you think it's pneumonia."

virgil hadn't known what any of it could be, hadn't even remotely thought to prepare himself for it, but it still hits him like a blow to the chest.

("—they could give you some medicine to keep that fever down," virgil says. "make sure it isn't anything worse."

"virgil," patton says patiently, "it isn't anything worse."

"how do you know?"

"because i just feel sick, not like i'm at death's door," patton says, and sneezes into his kleenex. "crummy but not crumbling—")

i am literally never listening to your refusals about going to a doctor to see if it's anything worse ever again, virgil thinks, half furious, half scared-out-of-his-mind. left him, you left him, something in his brain hisses at him, accusatory, he’d left patton and now he’s in the hospital with fucking pneumonia—

"it's the most likely result, but it hasn't been confirmed yet," the nurse says. logan sways a little.

"can we see him?" virgil asks, putting his hand on logan's shoulder again, trying to steady him.

"we're still running a test, but once that's done—"

"well, can we see his room, then?" emily says. 

the nurse gestures them forward, and virgil's about to follow when logan swivels to face him, eyes wild.

"i need to do something," he says.

"do what?" virgil says stupidly.

"i don't know, anything," logan says, clearly about .05 seconds from tearing his hair out. "get coffee or make phone calls or do something that isn't just—standing here."

"okay," virgil says, getting it, a little. logan's not exactly patient, virgil's known this for years, and logan's about as well-suited to fretting as he is to smiling and demurring during a debate (that is, not at all.) "okay, um—you got your phone?" 

logan nods.

"call some people at the inn and let them know that patton's gonna be out sick for a bit. after that, get some—" he nearly says coffee but he takes stock of himself and how fast his heart's racing and also remembers half of patton's favorite drink and can't, "—tea, peppermint, preferably. and then go get a paper."

logan's brow creases in confusion, and virgil tries for a smile.

"every morning at breakfast, your dad's been complaining you're not there to interpret current events for him," virgil explains. "he likes it when you do that. maybe get something with a comic section, he likes those."

logan breathes, shoulders slumping a little with the relief of a series of set tasks. "okay. got it."

"right," virgil says. "i'll text you the room number as soon as i've got it, okay?"

logan nods, and sets off at a brisk pace down the hall, woe betide anyone who gets in his way.

virgil picks up the pace so he can catch up, and spots the nurse, who bustles after him, looking even more harried. 

"where's...?"

"your in-laws are currently seeing to it that your husband gets the room with the good view," she says, and virgil shakes himself.

"oh, he's not my—"

then something catches up to him and he realizes that if they think he's patton's husband, he'll have the same family visiting rights as the rest of them.

"—uh, i mean, sorry. yeah. how long until they bring him back?"

"very soon," she promises. "i can appreciate that this is hard for you, sir."

you have no idea, virgil thinks, catching onto what kind of wrath emily sanders might bring down upon this hospital if she realizes that the nurses think her son's married to someone without the right pedigree or a summer house by the coast or an aspiring career as a senator or something. 

"thanks so much for all your hard work," virgil says instead.

emily sweeps down the hall, nearly bowling over some poor man on a gurney.

"we've secured him the room but those pillows are completely unacceptable," she declares. "i'm going to see if i can find him some down ones and some slippers, richard is ensuring the room stays private—" she frowns, as if realizing he's the sole member of her audience right now. "where's logan?"

"he wanted to be useful, so he's going to get his dad a paper and call some people," virgil says. "is patton in the room yet?"

"they're bringing him back very soon, which is an incredible indefinite timespan," emily says. "i'll be back."

off she goes, and virgil thinks down pillows?! with only a slight amount of hysteria. he turns back to the nurse. "which room?"

"202," she says, and he texts logan the room number on the way there, and—

oh, huh. it does have a nice view, all lit up at night like this. there's no bed in the room, though, which virgil thinks is kinda weird, and richard's standing silently at the window, which virgil thinks is also kinda weird.

virgil coughs awkwardly to announce his presence.

"oh," richard says, "it's you."

"uh, yeah," virgil says.

"emily went to get pillows."

"i ran into her on the way here," virgil says, and offers, "logan went to get some tea and a paper, i can text him if you want coffee, or something."

"oh," richard says. "thank you, but no. that won't be necessary."

("—dad wants to take logan to some kind of take-your-kid-to-work-day thing next week, so i'm guessing we'll probably be in here for an early breakfast before i drop him off."

virgil spins patton's plate so that his untouched pile of leafy greens is now directly in front of him. he hopes that logan's eating whatever balanced meal isadora prince has decided to cook up for her son and his new bestest friend without too much complaint.

" what, seven’s just the right age to be introduced to the thrilling world of the insurance business?"

"i guess," patton says with a shrug. "i dunno, dad's always been very—" he adopts a sterner facial expression. "go to work, come home, read the paper, go to bed kinda guy. whereas i, you know. snuck out the window as soon as he was distracted."

virgil hands patton his fork. patton rolls his eyes and obligingly stabs his salad.

"he lives his life the way he thinks he's supposed to," patton says. "worked hard, bought a nice house, provided for my mom. very by-the-numbers guy and i've never been good at numbers. think it gave him the shock of a lifetime that i ended up, well. the way i am."

"but you get along with him better than your mom?"

"dad's disapproval tends to be a lot less shouty than mom's," patton says, with a little sigh. "but yeah, i guess i get along with him better than i get along with my mom.")

"your meatloaf was quite good."

virgil startles, grabbing for the hoodie he's tied around his waist like it's falling to cover for it.

"oh," virgil says, remembering logan's phone call that feels like a century ago. back when patton was healthy enough to pop by the diner and he was conscious and before virgil left him alone when he was sick. "um. thanks. i guess."

richard peers at him. "i know we've met before all this, but i can't quite recall when."

"uh," virgil says. "i mean, i egged your car."

("—oh. it's you."

virgil's spine stiffens, and he turns from where he's been handing over a coffee at the stall of the town-wide easter festival.

"yep," virgil says to emily and richard fucking sanders, who have parked their very fancy car right over there and have decided to come to his stall. "it's me. is there a particular reason you're here, or...?"

she sniffs. "patton said to meet him and logan by the gazebo." she gestures to the gazebo, just to the right of his stall, where the railings are lined with pastel wicker baskets of fresh-painted eggs are waiting to be hidden for all the kiddos to run after and hunt.

"right," virgil says. "well. i've got work to do, so."

"we can wait," richard says.

they wait for about a minute.

"so, you're still acquaintances with my son," emily says, and virgil scoffs without meaning to.

"if you mean we're best friends, sure," virgil says, stacking cups and wondering if he should send one of the part-timers back to the diner to get some more. "then i'm acquaintances with your son."

"don't you think that logan should have a," richard says, casts a discerning eye over virgil's stall, "a  better role model?"

virgil, calmly, sets down his cups, and says, "what do you mean by that?"

"well, it's all well and good he comes by the diner sometimes," richard says. "but don't you think he, well."

"don't i think he what?" virgil asks, interlocking his fingers and calmly, calmly presses outward, cracking his knuckles.

"don't you think you might influence him to a, well," he says, "substandard way of life."

virgil's blood's roaring in his ears. "substandard," he repeats.

"well, patton's has done an all right job with him so far, but logan certainly has enough negative influence on that side of things," richard says.

"what, you think patton is a bad influence?" virgil asks disbelievingly.

"when it comes to certain delinquent behaviors, yes," richard says. "he has a history."

delinquent. virgil wants to grab him by his fancy bowtie and yank him close and and choke him, how could he possibly think that patton, whose idea of a fun past-time is walking rescue dogs at the local shelter, is a bad influence?

"so," virgil says, "let's get one thing straight. you know nothing about me, and you know nothing about the influence that patton has on logan, because logan's a good kid and patton is a good man."

virgil's eyes slide to the nearest pastel basket. almost as an afterthought, he snags the handle, which has a pretty ribbon woven around it.

"but you know what? you think i'm some kind of devil on logan's shoulder, pushing him to become a delinquent? i can show you fucking delinquent."

before he can even think, he has two of the eggs in his hands, and with an aim he didn't know he possessed, he lobs them both straight for their fancy, fancy car.

they smack and shatter against the windshield with a satisfying thwack. they aren't quite as messy as regular eggs, being hardboiled, but the paint smears, and the egg remnants litter the trunk of his car, and virgil can't help but laugh at the looks on their faces, and he grabs another egg and throws, and again, and again—

"cool!" logan shouts, from where he's emerged from the prince studio, roman in tow, and patton stares, slack-jawed, and it startles emily into wailing into action.

"richard—richard, stop him, richard!")

"oh," richard says. "oh, dear me."

virgil's not sure what richard's going to say—i'll send you an old receipt for the cleaning, how did such a delinquent continue to be friends with my son, what kind of example are you setting for my grandson—when the door opens, and there's a rattle of wheels, and—

and there he is. there's patton.

the absence of a bed makes sense now, because they're wheeling him in on one—he's all tucked into too-white, too-starched sheets, with a feeble little blue fleecey thing tossed over the top. he's wearing one of those hospital shirts with the blue dots, and he has on an oxygen mask and an iv and one of those things that clamps down on his pointer finger, and he's—

"is he okay?"

virgil's somehow right beside the orderly, staring down at patton's face. when had he moved?

"he's out of it, right now," the orderly says patiently, "he'll be groggy when he wakes up."

"when's that going to happen?" virgil asks, voice a bit too high-pitched. "the tests? did the tests end up—?"

"the doctor's going to have to tell you that, i'm just the transport guy," the orderly demurs, parking patton's bed and checking on his iv and god, patton looks so pale, so small, the bags under eyes massive, his skin too pale for comfort with the only exception being the flush of his fever high in his cheeks, sweating, his his curls tousled and somehow flatter than usual.

"when's the doctor coming?" virgil asks, digging his fingernails into the hoodie at his waist to keep himself from reaching out and touching patton, from getting in the orderly's way.

"i'm not sure, but she'll come right to the room when she gets here," the orderly says, and, with one last check of patton's vitals, he's off, and virgil—

"i'm going to go find emily and logan and tell them he's here," richard says, and virgil just barely manages to tear his eyes away from patton's face to look at him.

richard looks—faint, he guesses, would be the right word. pale and unsettled and spooked, generally. virgil guesses he understands—if he had to see logan or roman in a hospital bed, he'd be pretty spooked, too.

and not in the way he likes to be spooked. not in the fun halloween way of spooking. the genuinely really fucking scary kind of spooked.

"right," virgil says, and turns back to patton's bed, staring at him. he wants to push his hair back. he wants to hold his hand. he wants—

"i'll, um, i'll be here."

you weren’t, the voice in his head rumbles, you weren’t here, you weren’t here, now look at him—

(and now we hit rewind to see what logan has been doing in the hospital. in a tv show this would be cut scenes, but this is a fic, so. you're getting it in a big chunk.)

logan, meanwhile, has skulked the halls of the hospital. he has been successful finding various newspapers with a funnies section (six separate editions, actually) and successful in finding virgil's tea, but it's—

well, it's the phone calls that are giving him trouble.

see, first he called michel, who's the... you know what, logan's not fully sure what michel does at the inn, he just knows that he's the one who presents dour disapproval to any troublemaking clients and employees who aren't quite up to snuff. he's the bad cop to patton's good cop. michel, unsurprisingly, does not answer. logan really doesn't know what he expected.

then he calls sookie st. james, who's the chef at the inn, and waits impatiently for her glad tidings of a good holiday and at her "how's it going?" he says "dad's in the hospital with pneumonia," and then he has to try to comfort her, which is... something he's Not Good At.

then he calls drella, the harpist, for most of the reason that drella is the only person at the inn scarier than michel, and somehow michel picks up her phone, which is something he doesn't want to contemplate, so he hangs up immediately.

and then...

"you've reached roman prince. i'm so very sorry that you're going to have to settle for my recorded dulcet tones, but leave a message and you'll get the live rendition soon."

"um, hey," logan says, wincing at the sound of his own voice. "i know that you're—that you're probably at the first show of the nutcracker. i nearly forgot that it's still thanksgiving. good luck on all that, by the way, not that you need it, i'm sure you're doing wonderfully. or, well, by the time you listen to this, i'm sure you did wonderfully, but, um, i—"

he takes in a deep breath, glances around to ensure the hallway behind him is still empty, and presses his forehead against the wall.

"dad's in the hospital," he says, and his voice wobbles, just a bit. "i—my dad's in the hospital, roman. they think it's pneumonia. virgil found him on the floor and he couldn't breathe and i just—" he forces himself to breathe.

"i just—dad's going to be back at the room any minute, but i haven't seen him, and i just. can't. so i'm calling people as an excuse not to. which is—foolish. i'm going to have to see him eventually. he'd be confused and upset if i just refused to see him. and it's foolish that i'm leaving you such a long message at all, but i just... i don't know. i don't know, roman."

i don't know what's happening, he doesn't say. i don't know what happened to him, it was a cold, i don't know what happened when he was unconscious, i don't know how he's going to recover, i didn't know until virgil called me, how could i have possibly not known?!

i need my best friend, he doesn't say. i need you. i want to hear your voice. 

what he does say is, "but, um. call me back, whenever you can? you can tell me all about the performance, and i... i don't know what i'll do."

i don't know what i'm doing right now, he thinks to himself in a kind of hiss. what benefit can come from this?!

"sorry," he blurts out. "i'm—apologies. i know you can't do anything about it. i—i'm going to hang up now. bye."

logan removes his head from the wall, "accidentally" spills virgil's tea, and goes to find him a new cup. as well as a snack. and maybe another newspaper.

just. just to be prepared.

(and now we're back to a hospital room where virgil's dragged a chair by patton's bedside, and sits hunched over and staring and worrying the sleeve of his still unworn hoodie between the fingers of one hand and holding patton's hand in the other, pressed against virgil's chest, and he waits and waits and waits to see if he'll wake up. patton doesn't do much more than wrinkle his nose and make soft snuffling noises in his sleep and try to knock off his oxygen mask.)

there's the sound of footsteps behind him, and virgil doesn't turn to look.

"has the doctor come yet?" richard asks.

"no, not yet," virgil says, squeezing patton's hand. they've never actually held hands before, he doesn't think. he wishes this was happening under a different circumstance. it's kind of funny and kind of terrible, when he thinks about how he's known patton for sixteen goddamn years and has only ever held his hand once. 

"richard, i've gotten joshua on the way," emily says, and then they fall into talking about joshua, who is—god, virgil doesn't know, some kind of family doctor or physician or something, but if this joshua dude is going to be able to help patton virgil is absolutely ten thousand percent for joshua getting here, go joshua, go rich people stuff, as long as patton recovers as quickly and painlessly as possible.

patton has fluid in his lungs right now. or something. virgil's not super clear on what pneumonia actually does, but he's pretty sure fluid in the lungs is part of it, and he does not want that for patton. he doesn’t want patton to be here, in a hospital bed, right now. he wants a time machine to be able to go back and slap himself for leaving patton when he was so clearly sick. 

virgil's fully resigned to whatever rich people nonsense has gotta happen for that to no longer be anything close to what's going on with patton's health. god, virgil should really learn more about this. which—

virgil turns enough to see patton's parents. emily has set two pillows on a counter, but they're standing close next to each other, still in their holiday best, and virgil feels absurdly out of place in his jeans and t-shirt and abandoned hoodie. he asks, "have either of you seen logan?"

they exchange looks—one of those Married Couple looks that is so clearly a conversation that no one else in the room can understand—and richard says, "i believe he was going to find some more newspapers."

something in virgil's brain wars with leaving patton alone with these people, the way it did fourteen years ago, or leaving him at all, when the last time virgil left him it turned out like this, but the same thing wins out that won then. the same someone, really. 

he clears his throat, getting to his feet. he squeezes patton's hand, hard, before carefully lying it back down on the mattress.

"i'll get him," virgil says. "just—let me know if there's any change. text logan or something."

"right," emily says, and virgil walks out of the room, trying his hardest not to glance back at him over his shoulder.

he doesn't succeed.


patton's nose. has something. on it. he snuffles experimentally and when that doesn't move it, he reaches to move it himself.

"oh, for heaven's sake," a familiar voice tuts, and a hand closes around his wrist. 

patton blinks, and narrows his eyes. ugh, it's so bright. 

wait. it definitely hadn't been bright the last place he'd been. he'd been... home. hadn't he? he'd been home. he'd been hot and it had hurt and he'd wanted hot chocolate and he'd been home. and he's not now. so where is he? 

he tunes in with the rest of his body, then. head like a bowling ball, chest like a whole rack of bowling balls is resting on it, thoughts... for some reason not really able to keep a thread. or keeping too much of a thread. bowling balls. weird. he's so sweaty and uncomfortable that he figures he'll give himself a bit of a pass on making much sense, though. it's probably the cold medicine. oh, a cold shower sounded wonderful, get him all nice and cooled down and get rid of all this sweat and—

ugh, he's so... icky.

"oh," the voice says, startled, "oh, richard, he's waking up!"

and patton swivels his head a little to squint at where his mother is standing, his father bustling in to stand beside her.

"where?" patton rasps at his parents, and his mother sits on the edge of his bed, wide-eyed.

"you're at st. luke's," his mother says. "joshua's on his way, so is the doctor here, and dr. reynolds, you remember her."

gosh, joshua plus dr. reynolds plus the hospital for a cough? that seems kinda excessive.

"mkay," patton murmurs, and closes his eyes again.

"patton, do you think you can lift your head at all?" his mother asks. "i found you some decent pillows. they're not down, but they at least give a little."

ooh, pillows. patton likes pillows. virgil keeps joking that he collects them. virgil doesn't understand interior design. they give pops of color.

there's a cool, moisturized hand at the nape of his neck, though, urging him up, and ouch that rack of bowling balls on his chest, before he's settled back onto the nice new cool pillow.

"better, yes?" his mother asks, and patton hums sleepily. he's ready to go back to sleep. sleep sounds awesome.

"and one more time."

ouch oh ooh nice.

"now if we could just find you some different sheets," his mom says.

oh. these sheets are kinda nice, though. a bit stiff but not bad. he doesn't wanna move. and if she gets him new sheets he's gonna have to move.

"s'okay, mom," patton murmurs.

"maybe you could get dava to bring some from home," his dad suggests.

"s'really okay," patton says. 

"oh, of course," emily says. "why didn't i think of that?"

"don't need new sheets," patton tries to insist.

"they're completely unacceptable," emily says.

oh, now she's done it, patton's gotta open his eyes now.

"the sheets are fine," patton says, a little louder, or he tries to, because he breaks down into coughs when he says fine, harsh and loud, and patton tries to sit up or curl on his side but that same cool hand's at his shoulder, fluttering nervously, before he sucks in a breath and there's that pain in his chest that's been there for the past—however long?—and patton tries to catch his breath.

"—call button must be broken or something—"

"m'okay," patton wheezes.

"don't be ridiculous," richard says.

"i'm not," patton says. "m'an adult, i can handle it."

"it's the fever talking," emily says. "they really don't have that down, whatever that nurse said, feel how warm he is."

a different but still-cool hand, dry and wrinkled, rests on his forehead.

"i don't have a fever," patton sulks.

"you were at risk for seizures," his father says.

sounds fake, but okay.

"i really am okay," patton murmurs, eyes slipping shut again.

"no," emily tells him. "no, you are not."

"i'm fine," patton says, and yawns. "you can go home, you don't have to deal with me anymore."

there's a silence but it doesn't feel like the end of a conversation. patton doesn't wanna open his eyes again, though. he's so tired. but he can't go to sleep yet. but he really wants to. so he'll just let his eyelids rest. that'll work. right? he'll just keep his eyes nice and closed and explain it and they can get on home. 

"fine?" his mother repeats, strangled.

"it's just a cold," patton mumbles.

she sighs, irritated. "patton—"

"know we fought last week," patton says, trying to talk as loud as he can without risking a cough, or without having to breathe too deep. "and m'sorry i made life so hard on you then, n'm'sorry i'm such a disappointment, an' i'm'sorry i took logan away, an'—"

"oh, patton, hush," his mother says, sounding a little strange. "it's hardly the time for all—"

"and i'm sorry, okay," patton insists, cracking his eyes open, because that's important, "m'sorry i can't fix it. but m'an adult now and i can handle things and stuff. so you don't gotta stay jus' for a cold."

"young man, you have pneumonia," his father says gruffly.

"oh," patton says, startled. "do i?"

"well, we're waiting for the doctor to confirm it."

"oh," patton repeats, quiet. pneumonia. that's not good. that's always the illness that kills people in old timey books. that's the illness that they always look out for when things go bad for old people. that's... that sounds serious. really serious.

that's scary.

"patton?" his mother asks, sounding slightly alarmed, and patton tries to inhale a shaky breath, and then another one. he might be panicking, he thinks. 

"i—" he swallows, hard, and says, "is logan okay?"

"what?" she asks, distracted. "yes, of course. he's getting some newspapers and some tea."

"are you sure?" he asks, because logan has to be okay—logan has to be okay. logan's got to be taken care of, he has to be okay.

"yes, of course i'm sure," she says.

"you have to make sure he's going to be okay," he insists.

"he's fine."

"logan's—logan always acts fine, that's his default state," patton says. "but he always hides his emotions. so he'll always get snappy, and sometimes you just have to let him let off steam, and sometimes you kind of have to poke him into it, but after he rants for a while it helps calm him down enough that he can talk about what's really bothering him and—"

"patton," she says, awkwardly, a little helplessly, and patton swallows hard.

"he always overworks himself," he tells her intently. "so you gotta lure him out with new books, or an opportunity to shred the courant or just a newspaper or a publication in general, or a trip to a planetarium or a museum, preferably a science one but if he goes with roman he likes art ones too, or you gotta sit him down with a crofter's jam sandwich and tell him to take a break, because he always ignores it if he needs a break, because he thinks he's a lean mean study machine who doesn't need to do fun things, but he does, because he's—"

"patton, you don't need to tell us all this—" his father tries to intercede.

he ignores him. they need to know these things about him, in case patton isn't in a place to take care of him, they need to be able to take care of him. 

"—i know that you know logan pretty well, especially over the past couple months, but i think that virgil's the best source on all things logan, especially if he's ever confusing or if he's moping or needs anything, so if you're ever lost, and i know you've had your differences, but virgil knows logan just about better than anyone else, except me, and virgil's always happy to help logan, and sometimes logan just needs to talk to someone who isn't related to him so he'll usually go to virgil or roman and that's a-okay, because they're his best friends, and you have to make sure that he gets to stay in contact with them because i never ever want logan to feel lonely or unloved, never ever ever, and if i die—"

"patton, stop!" she snaps, and patton shuts his mouth, immediate, shrinking into his pillows as she looms over his bed.

"now," she says, "there may be many things happening in this hospital tonight, but your dying is not one of them, am i clear?!"

"i—"

"no!" she snarls. "i did not sign onto your dying when i became your mother, so it is not going to happen. not tonight, not for a very long time. i demand to go first. of all the things you have done to us, you will not put us through burying you first, do i make myself clear?"

patton stares up at his mom, and oh. oh, this isn't just scary for him. this is scary for all of them. and patton freaking out isn't helping things.

"okay," he says, very quiet. "okay, mom. i promise i won't die."

she nods, swallows. "good."

patton reaches over and, hesitantly, takes her hand. her free hand flutters up to her mouth, and his mom looks like she's about to cry, and patton squeezes a little, and closes his eyes. things drop off and go a little dark and blurry around the edges before everything goes dark and blurry and—


this hospital is a maze, but it doesn't take him nearly as long as he thought it would to find a mostly-empty hall containing just who he's looking for.

"hey," virgil says, coming to a stop next to him, and logan shudders out of whatever train of thought he'd locked himself into.

"hi," logan says, and passes over a to-go cup. "tea. peppermint, even. i found some newspapers and i called sookie. well, i called michel too, but he didn't answer, and then i called drella, and then michel answered. did you know that was—?"

virgil's already reflexively pulling a face.

"thought not," logan murmurs. not quite as smugly as he might be on a normal day after figuring out some kind of secret.

"okay," virgil says. "well, thanks. they brought your dad back and a doctor's due at any minute."

logan nods. virgil hesitates, before he fiddles with the little heat-protecting cardboard ring on the cup for something to do with his hands.

("—hate doctors, hate them, hate them, hate them," patton says, pulling a face.

"i'm the one going to a doctor," eight-year-old logan eludicates. "and it's just a check-up."

"and i have hated going to all of your check-ups since the time you were born," patton says, ruffling his hair.

"he has," virgil says dryly. "i've heard this series of complaints since your six-week check-up. eat your eggs." 

"tell him he could just wait in the waiting room," logan says, but he spears some eggs on his fork anyway. "i keep telling him to stay in the waiting room."

patton looks aghast. "and miss any health updates?!"

"but you hate the doctor," logan says. "wouldn't it be better if you just... didn't? since all of that scares you?"

"me being scared isn't the point," patton says. "it's about me being there for you."

"you don't need to be," logan says.

"yeah, but i want to be," patton says. "that's what a dad does—")

"you can't avoid going in the room forever," he says gently, and logan rears back.

"i'm not," he says.

"it's okay to be a bit freaked out right now—"

"i'm not."

"logan," virgil says, keeping his voice gentle and soft and calm. 

logan slumps. just a little.

"thank you for getting tea and making those calls and getting all those newspapers," virgil says, making his voice keep the same tone. "but your dad's in the room now and the doctor's due any minute. i know it'll probably make you feel a bit more at ease to hear what's going on. right?"

logan hesitates, before he nods.

"okay," virgil says. "so. if you really really want, you can wait outside the room until the doctor gets here. we just want to know where you are."

logan nods, and then he follows virgil back, where he comes to a stop just by the door.

("—not scared," twelve-year-old logan sulks at the counter of the diner. "honestly. me, scared."

"well," virgil says, leaning forward on his elbows, "it'd be okay if you were scared of snakes, you know."

"roman's not scared of snakes," he says. "it's not about me being scared, anyway, it's about"

"why are we talking about snakes?" patton asks, sitting back down in his counter chair.

"tell your son it's okay to be afraid of snakes," virgil says.

"it's not about me being scared, which i'm not," logan says. "i just don't want to hold a massive boa constrictor on the field trip."

"and no one can make you do anything you don't want to do," patton says firmly. "if a teacher bugs you about it at the zoo tomorrow, you tell them i said that—")

"you sure?" virgil checks, and logan only holds out a pile of newspapers for virgil to take in.

he sighs but takes them and goes in, to where emily is sitting on the bed and caressing back patton's hair with—

it shouldn't shock virgil that she's doing it with maternal fondness. patton is her son, after all, but after all these years of seeing their fighting and patton falling apart after each of them, it feels like... virgil doesn't know. it feels like she should be just as stern and cold now as virgil knows she can be.

"he woke up," richard says, and virgil's eyes snap to him, and to the now-definitely-unconscious patton. "just for a little while."

"was he—" virgil struggles to find words. of course something happened when virgil left. of course. but at least this one seems to be a good thing.

"not quite lucid," richard says.

"a bit more lucid than we'd like him to be, you mean," emily says archly, and turns to frown at virgil. "where's logan?"

"just outside," virgil says. "keeping an eye out for the—"

"—but he's going to be here for how long?" logan asks a doctor who comes in with a short little man in a suit, and virgil can't help but take a step closer. 

"well," the doctor says to the room at large. "the cultures we took and his chest x-ray came back, and i'm afraid that it is pneumonia. he'll have to stay at the hospital for a couple days to ensure that fever stays down and to get him started on some antibiotics."

"how long?" logan repeats.

"difficult to say at this point," she says. "two or three days, at least, maybe longer if it's necessary. but," she says, and turns to virgil. "i believe you managed to catch him before his condition could have gotten much worse. you certainly brought him in before the fever could do any permanent damage."

virgil does not feel like this is particularly praise-worthy. it had mostly just been a terrifying experience. if virgil hadn’t left patton never would have gotten to this state at all.

"but he'll be just fine," the doctor says. "i'm sure it was a bit of a scare, but once he gets started on antibiotics, he'll be okay."

it's like the whole room breathes a sigh of relief.

"now," the doctor says, "i hear he woke up?"

"a little while ago," emily says, and moves aside a little so the doctor can get a closer look at patton. "he went right back to sleep, though."

"that'll be common," she says. "he'll be in and out of sleep, at varying levels of lucidity—"

virgil sees the flash of a bespoke, expensive suit jacket flutter around the door frame.

("—logan," virgil gasps, and scoops him up into his arms. "oh, my god, we were worried sick about you, you can't just run off like that, buddy—"

logan blinks too-big, watery three-year-old eyes up at him, clutching at virgil's shirt contentedly. "didn't run off."

"yeah, okay, nice try, kid," virgil says, trying to hug him close without looking like he was hugging him close. god, that had been the most terrifying five minutes of his whole life. "when we tell you to stay somewhere and you do not stay in that somewhere, that's running off."

"didn't," logan insists, kicking his bare feet. "i was following—"

"logan!" patton shout-sobs, and rushes over, and before virgil can even make a move to hand him over patton crashes into them both, hugging logan between their bodies, hugging virgil by extension, and—

"oh, my god, honey, you can't do that," patton says, semi-hysterically, pushing logan's hair back from his forehead so he could lean in and kiss him on the forehead. "i was so scared something happened to you, you can't just run away like that!"

"didn't!" logan insists again. "i was following a star bug!"

"star bug?" virgil mouths at patton.

"logan," patton says, high-pitched, "if you want to go follow the fireflies, you gotta tell one of us, okay? something could have happened to you!"

"nothing woulda happened," logan says, and, with all the belief of a three-year-old, "virgil was lookin' after me, i was okay the whole time."

patton lets out a sigh, one of the we're not done talking about this but i'll accept it for now ones, and presses his lips against logan's head again, looking up at virgil as he did, and virgil tries to pretend like logan's absolute faith in him hasn't moved him to the core—)

logan's slumped against a wall, hand over his eyes.

"hey," virgil says, soft, and logan sniffs, standing up straight, trying to pretend like he wasn't five seconds from starting to cry.

"so, um, he's gonna be okay."

"yeah," logan says, and swallows hard, fiddling with his fancy new suit coat.

"they're gonna keep him for a couple days, but he's gonna be fine."

"yeah," logan repeats.

an idea occurs to virgil. a really fucking stupid idea.

("—you might have to see The Hugging Solution put into action today," patton says grimly.

"oh, god," virgil says, freezing and turning from where he's wiping down one of the booth tables. "what happened?!"

"apparently logan found out about the library of alexandria today at school," patton says, "and mrs. donnely called to tell me logan was really upset about it."

"how does a six-year-old even find out about—?!"

"picture book, i guess," patton says with a helpless little shrug. "but, just—play along, okay?"

"uh, okay?" virgil says, but then the door opens and a familiar tiny boy sulks his way to the booth, lip trapped under teeth, probably to keep it from trembling, and eyes watery.

another familiar tiny boy has followed after him, loyally toting two pairs of backpacks.

"hello, mister prince," virgil says, snatching both backpacks and setting them by patton in the booth, where—patton has slumped over, and he lets out an overexaggerated, sad sigh, staring forlornly at the grilled cheese he'd been eagerly eating thirty seconds ago.

"i'm supposta go home," roman says, "but logan was really sad boutta book so i decided to walk him here!"

"well, that's really nice of you," virgil says seriously. 

roman puffs up his small chest. "m'bein—shiv-all—shiv-all-rus!"

"wow," virgil says, trying not to laugh. "that's really cool of you, roman. do you want an after-school snack?"

"please!" roman sings, and patton helps lift him into the booth so he's opposite logan, and then sits back down with another long, sad sigh.

"how about you, logan?" virgil asks.

"no," logan sulks in the corner.

"not even a crofter's sandwich?" virgil cajoles.

logan wavers.

"tell you what," virgil says. "i'll make one for you, and one for roman, and if you decide you don't want it, i can send it home with your dad for later, yeah?"

"...fine," logan says, arms crossed, still staring at the wall. patton, mimicking him, crosses his arms and stares at the wall, too.

"i'll let your mom know you're on the way in a bit, roman," virgil says, and reaches out to ruffle his hair mostly because of the tiny squawk of indignation when he does.

by the time virgil comes out with two plates of crofter's sandwiches, patton has progressed to sniffling with his head down on the table, roman petting his hair, and logan looking grudgingly curious from where he's still sitting with his arms crossed.

"okay, i've got two crofter's sandwiches here," virgil starts, but roman looks up at him.

"leave us alone, can't you see he's having a day," roman scolds.

"where'd you learn that?" virgil says, bemused, and roman grins.

"mrs. torres," he says—one of the old women who frequents the studio for sunrise yoga. "did i do it right?"

"you'd do her proud," virgil says, and remembers patton's play along, and pats patton's hair, too. "i know. he's been very sad since he got here."

logan's arms loosen. just a little. "he has?"

"he has," virgil confirms, somber as the grave. 

"oh," logan says.

"mr. patton," roman says, still petting his hair, "is there anything we can do?"

"oh," patton says, and affects a mopey look on his face when he lifts his head from his arms. "well... mayy-be. but i don't know if you three would want to."

"we'll do it!" roman declares immediately.

patton sighs, and shakes his head.

"i dunno, it might be a little silly."

"well," virgil says, a little louder, conscious of how logan's staring, "i think a little silly's okay, if it makes you not as sad."

patton nods, and slides out of the booth.

"virgil," he says, and spreads his arms. "can i have a hug? to make me feel better?"

all at once, patton's plan coalesces in virgil's head.

"oh, yeah, sure thing," virgil says, when he realizes he hesitated a moment too long. he opens his arms. "get in here."

patton steps forward, and virgil wraps his arms around him, a little awkwardly—but patton's warm and soft and he fits neatly against virgil, and he smells nice, so it's not like it's the worst hug he's ever gotten. pretty far from it, actually.

he steps back, and pats patton on the shoulder, for good measure.

"did that help?" virgil asks.

"i think so," patton says, and turns. "i might need another—"

patton is very nearly tackled to the floor by a pint-sized blur of white and red and gold.

"isthishelpingmisterpatton?!" roman demands, and patton lets out a little "oof, gosh, you're so strong!"

roman squeezes patton harder, as if squeezing hard enough will get rid of all the sadness in the world.

patton pats him on the shoulder, and says, "that was very helpful, thank you. you should eat your crofter's as a reward."

"okay!" roman says brightly, and clambers back up into the booth.

patton crouches in front of the booth where logan's dropped his crossed arms at last, but is biting his lip even more ferociously.

"can i have a hug?" patton asks him gently.

"you've gotten two," logan sniffs.

"yeah, but i haven't gotten any from my favorite son, yet."

"i'm your only son."

"that too," patton says, and spreads his arms. "so? i'm feeling very upset, and i'd really like it if you gave me a hug right now."

logan hesitates, eyes darting to where roman is stuffing his face and to where virgil is standing. "this is a hug for you," he declares imperiously.

"of course it is," patton says, and as soon as he says it, logan squirms off the booth and straight into patton's arms, wrapping his arms tight around patton's neck and burying his face into patton's shoulder.

"hey, there we go," patton murmurs, shifting a little, and when he's sure roman isn't looking, he winks at virgil, who suppresses his smile the best he can and—)

so it's a stupid idea, but it's the only one he has.

virgil heaves a sigh, and resigns himself to looking like an idiot.

"i'm feeling very upset," virgil says stiffly, and lifts his arms a little. "i'd really like it if someone gave me a hug right now."

logan sends him the world's most withering glare. the effect is slightly spoiled by the way he sniffs, smears his hand under his nose, and looks away.

"i'm not six anymore," logan says, and redirects his glare at virgil. "that won't work on me."

"look, kid, this hug isn't for your benefit," virgil says, lying through his goddamn teeth. "i have had a hard day. i had a big family gathering and then i had to drive home for hours and then i found your dad unconscious on the ground and had to bring him to the hospital, plus i've had to deal with your grandparents. so."

he lifts his arms higher. "i am upset. i would like a hug."

"you're way worse at this than dad is," logan says.

"yeah, i know," virgil says, "you know one way to put us both out of this misery?"

"are you seriously trying to embarrass me into hugging you?"

"i can keep going," virgil bluffs immediately, even though logan knows full well about this social anxiety. 

logan sighs, loudly. "fine," he grumbles. "fine, if it'll get you to stop."

so virgil steps forward and wraps his arms around the kid, heart panging—when did he get so big? virgil used to be able to practically hold him in one arm, just the space between his hand and his elbow. and now there's this young man, all gawky and gangly and still growing somehow, it's like he looked down and looked up and there he was, sixteen years flown by, except not really, because time was long, but also kind of really? being a parent person who watches a kid grows up is confusing.

he keeps rubbing a hand up and down logan's back, the way patton does when he hugs people. he's picked up a lot of things from patton, over the years. he couldn't say how many.

"he's going to be fine," logan says, and oh, god, his voice wobbles. 

"i know," virgil whispers, and keeps rubbing a hand up and down his back. "hey, i know. i promised he would be, and now we know for a fact he is, right?"

"right," logan says, and sniffs, loudly, and virgil holds onto him tighter.

"it's okay," virgil murmurs. "it's okay, logan. it's okay."

it's okay, it's okay, it's okay, virgil says, choking up himself, vision blurry and then failing as he gives in to the hectic emotion of this whole day, but he keeps talking to logan, and he keeps saying it’s okay, logan, it’s okay and loses track of the amount of times he says it, it's okay, logan, and logan's shoulders shudder and virgil feels his shirt soak through. 

"it's okay," virgil murmurs, sniffs, and keeps running his hand across logan's back. "there we go, l, it's okay."

"don't tell him," logan sobs into his shirt.

"oh, hey, i'd never," virgil says, as soft and comforting as he can. "patton can't know that we both lost it when he was out of the picture for one second, so it's our secret, yeah?"

"yeah," logan gasps, and draws back, smearing a sleeve under his nose, sniffing one last time. "yeah. our secret."

"okay," virgil says, and reaches forward with both hands to frame logan's ever-sharpening cheekbones in his hands, losing all that baby fat he'd been born with, swiping the tears off his face before starting in on his own face. "you okay?"

"yeah."

"you sure?" virgil checks, dropping his hands to logan's shoulders.

"yeah," logan says, and swallows, following the tracks of virgil's thumbs with his own hands, as if to make sure that virgil hasn't missed any. "yeah, i'm okay, i'm good. do i look like i've been crying?"

"nah," virgil says. “do i?”

"no. i don't want anyone to know i—"

"hey, our secret," virgil says.

(there is an eavesdropped neither logan or virgil notice. emily sanders frowns.)

"right," logan says, and scrubs at his face one last time. "this week has sucked."

if it was any other day, virgil would have laughed. logan hasn't used the phrase 'this sucks' since he was about nine. as it stands, though—

"yeah," virgil says. "i mean, your dad told me something really smart once, wanna hear it?"

"i have a feeling you'll tell me anyway," logan says, a solid attempt at a joke.

"even though today—or this week, i guess, in your case—has sucked, you wanna know the bright side?" virgil says, remembering patton's words from sixteen years ago, on the night they met. "i'll never have to do today again."

logan breathes, and says, "i never want to stay with them for that long ever again."

"i know," virgil says.

"i hated it there," he says.

(emily flinches.)

"i know," virgil says. "hey, we can tell your dad about the will thing once he's up and at 'em again, if it makes you feel better."

"it would," logan says fervently. "i fully understand why dad ran away now. you can't—you can't let me stay there anymore, virgil."

(emily flinches harder.)

"i won't," virgil says. "i promise, i won't. i mean, i know your dad only did it because it was a last resort kind of situation—"

"i know that too," logan says, and then, quieter, more miserably, "i yelled at him about it."

all virgil can say to that is "aw, kid," and tug him back into the hug.

"i yelled at him," logan repeats, voice waterclogged, like he's about to start crying again. 

"hey, i know he's not mad at you," virgil says. "he gets it, you know? he gets that you yelled because you were upset at the situation, not at him. i bet as soon as we walk in there, it's gonna make his day that you're there."

logan snuffles, and virgil draws back so that he can look him in the face. "really?"

"really," virgil promises, and he's been promising logan a lot tonight, but the kid deserves some promises that things would be okay, okay, his dad's in the hospital, because virgil left him alone, it’s the least he can do to help the kid feel better. "you know your dad, he's the softest little puffball we got."

logan snort-laughs, snotty and kind of gross, and wipes under his eyes again. "yeah. yeah, he is."

"you're, like, his whole world."

logan shifts, uncomfortable with so many displays of emotion in such a close time span, but he's saved by his grandfather.

"oh, he's waking up," virgil hears richard say, startled, and virgil claps logan's shoulder.

"you ready?"

logan lets out a shaky breath, straightens his tie, and tilts up his chin—proud, confident, a little arrogant. looking a bit more like himself, then, virgil thinks, relieved. he gestures logan to go ahead of him, and they enter the room to see patton, who turns at the sound of the door opening, and patton—

patton lights up.

his face brightens, his dimples appear in full, he beams—hey, wait, was he supposed to take off the oxygen mask?—and he reaches out both hands for logan, as if logan's still little enough that patton can pick him up.

"hey!" he says. "oh, my gosh, hi!"

"hi, dad," logan says, approaching the bed, and patton's smile doesn't falter as logan takes one of his hands, hovering at his bedside. 

"can i get a hug?" patton asks. "just this once."

logan hesitates. "if i hug you, won't it hurt?"

"what's life without a bit of pain?" patton jokes, and then, more seriously, "as long as you're gentle, it'll be okay, kiddo."

logan hesitates, and then, stiffly, bends so that he gives patton the softest, least-squeezy hug he can possibly execute, before sitting at patton's bedside again. 

"i've missed you," patton says, picking up logan's hand to squeeze it again, "so much."

logan's lip quirks up, just a little, and virgil's heart feels lighter, seeing two of the people he loves most in the world all together again—all that's missing is an obnoxious teenage dance instructor.

"i missed you too, dad," logan says.

patton's smile is blinding, and virgil's knees go a little weak, to the point where he sits in the chair next to logan. 

"okay, so," patton says, and pats logan's hand. "me and virgil have been dying without you to tell us everything that's going on in the world every day, let me tell you, dying."

logan's lips twitch. "don't exaggerate," he scolds.

"we aren't," virgil said. "i told you he'd want to hear you talk about current events, that's why i had you get all those newspapers."

logan rolls his eyes, and patton smiles at him, like logan's done something very charming and sweet instead of just made the quintessential teenage facial expression, and virgil can't help but smile a little, too.

"so," patton says. "tell us all about it. tell us about the news, and about your last couple days at chilton before the break, and how your week's been going, i want to hear everything."

so they listen as logan sticks to the safe and relatively unemotional topic of the news, explaining every headline he can, fishing example articles out of his newspaper pile when he has to, nearly crawling onto the bed in order to fully show the articles to patton. it reminds virgil of when he was little, so eager to investigate the whole world, so eager to show it off to anyone who would listen.

patton, even listening as raptly as he is, is still very sick, so can't help but slip off a little. which means that every time logan will trail off experimentally, staring to see if his dad's falling asleep, patton will start and grumble "m'wake, i'm awake, keep goin', i'm paying attention," and virgil will exchange a look with logan and logan will keep going until patton starts nodding off again.

eventually, logan keeps talking, and talking, and talking, even as he notices patton slip deeper and deeper into sleep until—

"i think he's finally asleep," logan says, hushed.

"i think you're right," virgil says. "good work, kid."

"speaking of sleep," richard says, "perhaps we should consider getting home."

"well, i'm not leaving," emily and virgil say in unison, who both jump and glare at each other.

"me either," logan says.

"you need sleep, you're a teenager, you need more sleep than a baby," virgil says.

"that's actually inaccurate," logan begins.

"okay, well, you still need to sleep," virgil says, frowning. "you should go home, to sideshire."

logan brightens at that, just a little.

what ensues is a solid bickering session: on if logan should go home to sideshire or back to his grandparent's house, on if virgil or emily should stay, on who would take which car and on who would bring logan back to visit if he wanted, and eventually it settled out to—

"bye, virgil," logan says. "thanks for looking after him."

"always do," virgil says. "i texted sarah, she's opening tomorrow, but would you mind swinging by the diner to let people know, just in case?"

"of course," logan says. "i'll even pick up breakfast there before i visit tomorrow."

virgil nods, and gives logan a hug goodnight, just because. 

"you're sure you'll be all right?" richard's asking emily, in the background.

"i'll be fine," she says.

"you can call if you'd like me to come back, or if you need something."

"go," emily says, and kisses her husband on the cheek. "i'll look after patton."

richard smiles, squeezes her shoulder, and then logan and richard are gone.

an incredibly awkward silence descends on the hospital room.

emily sniffs, and drags one of the chairs to the opposite side of patton's bed. virgil settles into his—he notes, with slight relief, that his side does not show patton's iv.

"you don't trust me with my own son," she says, coldly, and virgil crosses his arms, leaning back in his chair.

"was i too subtle, the first time?" he deadpans. 

she sniffs again, and sits up even straighter, looking away from him. for a second, he thinks that might be the end of it, and they'll sit quietly in awkward silence until one of them falls asleep or the sun has risen. 

of course not.

"i don't know what gives you the right—"

virgil sighs, loudly, and pinches the bridge of his nose.

"oh, my god, okay," virgil says, and leans back in his chair again, worrying his hoodie between his fingers. "there are so many goddamn reasons i don't like you. i have a list in my head that's been sixteen years in the making. do you seriously want me to spend the whole night going through it?" 

she arches a brow at him. that is literally all it takes.

"fine," virgil says. "i don't like your smug rich person attitude. i don't like the way you look down at me because i run a diner for a living. i don't like the way you think your privilege is a goddamn god-given right, like you're some kind of medieval king or something—"

"are you quite finished?"

"like i said, sixteen years, don't rush me," virgil says, kicking back in his chair and starting to tick things off his fingers. "i don't like your tacky rich people hair or your tacky rich people outfit. i don't like how you apparently think the bus is for drug dealers. i don't like most of the things you say about people who aren't as rich as you, actually, but that's a whole other thing. i don't like the car that you had that i egged that one time. i don't like how you think having a lot of money automatically makes you better than other people, i don't like the way you treat your son—"

"how dare you," she begins indignantly, loudly, and patton mumbles, shifting in his sleep. they both freeze.

"look," virgil hisses, "i am fully willing to fight with you, we just have to keep the volume low so that we don't wake patton up, clear?"

they both stare at patton for a few seconds. when she's satisfied that patton isn't waking up, she leans forward, and snarls, "how dare you," at a satisfactory volume.

"i dare because you and your husband are shit to him," virgil snarls. back, at a similarly quiet volume. "because you say fucking terrible things to him, and he's sensitive, and soft, and a good man, and he deserves better than you two jumping on him every time you get the chance—"

"you know nothing—"

"i know nothing?!" virgil snaps. "are you fucking kidding me?!"

"no, i most certainly am not!" she declares. "you know nothing about the way our lives have gone, you know nothing about the way our family works, and you have no right to pretend to know."

"oh, i don't?"

"no, you don't!" she says, strident. "it's none of your business how—"

"none of my business?!" 

"it most certainly is not!" 

"it is when patton shows up crying in my diner!" virgil hisses, fingernails digging into his hoodie. "it is when that's what's been happening after family gatherings with you for years! it's my business because sixteen years ago a kid holding a baby showed up and started sobbing in my diner and decided to stick around town, just because the first place he pulled into someone showed him some goddamn kindness for the first time in months, it is when you're messing with the life of my best friend and our fucking kid—"

"you are not logan's father—"

"look, i might not have contributed anything to logan's dna makeup, but that doesn't change that he's our kid," virgil says roughly. "patton's known that for years and logan has too."

there's a flicker of what might be surprise on her face, before she angrily sets her jaw.

"they're the ones whose opinion i care about, so i don't particularly give a fuck what you think about the fact that i've basically adopted your grandson," virgil says. "and i might not be one of logan's biological parents, but jesus christ, i'd never call him a disappointment, not in a million years. so all things considered, i'm pretty sure that makes me a better parent than you."

patton makes a soft snuffling noise in his sleep, and his head tilts a bit in virgil's direction. virgil tries not to feel too victorious about it.

"you have no idea what he did to us," emily says.

"yeah, i do," virgil says. "i was there. i saw how much it tore him apart. still does."

she stares at him, and says, quietly, "i wasn't just talking about him running away."

oh. virgil leans back a little more. right. patton's rebellious teenage years.

("okay, so, you gotta be careful when you try this, right?" virgil says, holding a shot of vodka a bit like it is a nuclear bomb. "drink it all down at once, then you drink this sprite right after or else it'll feel like your throat is burning—"

patton, freshly twenty-one, only stares at him, amused, and downs the shot like a pro, barely pausing to sip his sprite and grin at virgil, to the cheers of the other attendants of patton's fairly sparse birthday party.

"virgil," he says patiently. "this isn't the first drink of alcohol i've ever had."

"oh," he says lamely. "right."

patton snorts and pats him fondly on the cheek. "maybe when i get drunker i'll tell you all about my various teenage shenanigans."

"will it give me a heart attack?"

patton's grin turns a little vicious. "probably," he says. "i mean, it nearly did for my parents. would you say being a teen parent or riding along with chris when he crashed his porsche two hours after his parents got it for his sixteenth birthday is more heart-attack inducing? or the times i shoplifted from department stores? or my five separate fake ids? or maybe my boyfriend who referred to himself as 'the dragon witch' and got me an honorary place in a biker gang? or—"

"patton, oh my god—"

"i'm just warming up, here, we're not even in the good stuff yet," patton chirps teasingly.

"the good stuff? good stuff as in, like, bible study, right?" virgil says, trying to make it a joke to cover that he's about to hyperventilate, but patton laughs and accepts another shot from maria with a nod of thanks before he can get really into it, and then when he surfaces from that shot he demands the music be turned up so he can dance, c'mon, virgil, dance with me dance with me dance with me it's my birthday you gotta dance with me—!)

"okay," virgil says, "as someone who was also pretty stupid when they were a teenager—"

she narrows her eyes at him suspiciously, and he rolls his eyes in return.

"you cannot seriously tell me you haven't done a few dumb things in life you regret," virgil says. "i hung around some kids who weren't the best influences—we called ourselves The Others, i know, it's stupid—and do i regret a lot of the stuff i did with them? yeah, i do. but i've bettered myself, i've moved on, and i've grown. patton has too."

"oh, he has," emily says doubtfully. "of course he has. suddenly, my eyes are open. you've delivered me nirvana. of course patton is no longer a teenager, why, i must have been confused because he insists on continuing to act like one."

"act like one?" virgil repeats cluelessly.

"it clearly isn't news to you that we and patton argue often."

"yeah, no, it isn't," virgil says. "i mean, patton's defending himself, but sure, whatever."

"through asking logan to treat us like lepers?" she snaps. "that doesn't strike you as immature behavior?"

asking logan to treat us like lepers, virgil mouths, and then, "you think patton asked logan to give you a hard time? are we talking about the same patton and logan?"

"well, why else would he—?"

"because logan is a smart, stubborn kid who hates the fact that patton has to sit through you two bullying him in order to secure money for his schooling, holy shit," virgil says. "because logan picks arguments like florists pick flowers, and if someone messes with one of His People it basically means free reign for him to fight back."

"well—"

"logan's literally a debate champion," virgil says. "you're telling me you think it's more likely that patton, your son, the same patton who didn't want to bother anyone when he came down with fucking pneumonia, that patton, you think it's more likely that that patton asked logan, who once got into a full-on argument with a four-year-old who told him that newspapers were stupid when he was fifteen, to be mean to you. you think that patton asked that logan to pick a fight? seriously?"

she crosses her arms and huffs, and suddenly, it clicks.

"oh, my god," virgil says. "you wanna know what your problem is?! you still think that patton's sixteen."

"of course i don't—"

"no, listen," virgil says, warming up to this theory. "patton runs away, and that sucks, i get it, i'm not arguing that. but the only times you see him after that until pretty recently are, what, holidays? so you don't see him on a day-to-day basis anymore. so you didn't see him grow up and grow up fast. and you still refuse to see him grow up, because he's your kid, and on one level i get that because logan becoming an actual adult scares me a lot, but on the other, seriously, lady, patton's thirty-two. he has a house and a good job and he's getting his degree and he has done a great job raising logan, who is, i think we can both agree, while being incredibly infuriating sometimes, is also one of the best teenagers on the face of this planet."

her nod is really more of a jerk of her chin.

"honestly, if anyone would be telling logan to pick a fight with you, it'd be me," virgil muses.

her eyes sharpen. 

"you told logan to—" emily begins, and virgil rolls his eyes.

"no," virgil says, "because when i don't like someone, i don't tell a sixteen-year-old kid to pass on the message for me, god. i'm just saying that if it was between me or patton telling logan to pick a fight, it'd be me."

a pause, a sniff, a "well, that i can believe."

"in the interest of honesty, or whatever, i have been telling patton to not let you into his life anymore for years," virgil says.

the look on her face isn't what virgil's expecting. virgil's expecting her nostrils to flare, her jaw to clench, her eyes to ignite with fury. he's expecting a loud outburst. he's expecting rage. what flickers across her face isn't that. 

virgil thinks it might be fear.

why would she be afraid of—oh. 

oh, that's why patton won't hear about cutting them out whenever virgil brings it up. that's why patton won't hear about leaving them. because he did it once, didn't he? he did it when he ran away to sideshire. 

"he won't listen to me, obviously," virgil says, refusing to acknowledge that he might be saying this to comfort her, but just to establish where they're at, in the fight. because, like, obviously patton wouldn't do that, but she clearly has a skewed idea of who her son is, so. 

"but it's a whole routine. you all fight, you upset patton, patton comes to me, i tell him to cut you two out. he makes excuses. you two... i dunno, god, patton apologizes for whyever you chose to fight him, or he at least smooths things over enough so that you guys get together for the next holiday, the cycle starts again." virgil waves a hand. "he gets irritated if i bring it up too much, so i don't. he's entirely too optimistic about you." 

she's quiet. virgil waits a few seconds, before he continues.

"and you realize that i'm definitely not the one who'd convince patton about cutting you out, but you know the one person he'd do anything for, even if it broke his heart?"

she's gone a little paler. "logan," she says.

"yeah," virgil says. "logan."

"logan wouldn't," she begins, but falters.

"if you keep fighting with patton like this, he might," virgil says. "logan hates it when his dad is upset. he hates it."

"he hates my house," she says, sharp. "he hates me and my husband."

virgil gawks at her.

"what?" she demands. "weren't you going to throw that in my face? weren't you going to lord it over me that he'd rather you be his guardian than us?!"

"i'm not that much of an asshole, jesus," virgil says. "i didn't—i didn't know you'd overheard that."

"yes, well," she scoffs, and fiddles with some of her bracelets. "when patton woke up, then, he kept trying to tell us how we could better take care of logan. even then he said that if we were at a loss, we should contact you."

"i," virgil begins, and shakes himself. "he said all that?"

"when we told him he had pneumonia, he seemed to be under the impression that he was—" her voice cracks. she does not have to say dying out loud—it's written all over her face.

virgil swallows hard, and looks to patton, slumbering peacefully, the beep of his heart monitor, the reassuring rise and fall of his chest. i left him, i left him, and he thought he was dying, he got so sick that he thought he might die because i left him— 

"oh."

"he promised he wouldn't."

"he better not," virgil says hoarsely.

"hmph. yes."

"i—" virgil looks at her, then back at patton. "i mean, he's right. i do know a lot in the whole 'care and keeping of logan' thing."

"oh, i'm sure," she mutters sarcastically.

"i could make it a whole lot clearer, lady," virgil mutters right back. 

she looks away from him, nostrils flaring. 

"i just—look," virgil says. "you realize you have to stop fighting with him, right? all it does it push them both away."

she might be about to say something, but before she can, patton makes a mumbling noise. they both freeze. 

patton's head nods down, sharply, before it tilts back up again. he squints.

"virgil?"

"yeah," virgil says, inching forward in his chair, itching to grab his hand again. "yeah, pat, it's me."

"mkay," patton murmurs, and yawns. "s'logan down for the night?"

oh, gosh, virgil hasn't been asked that question for at least twelve years. virgil figures he may as well play along, let patton get back to sleep faster.

"yeah," virgil whispers back. "yeah, he's out like a light."

well, hopefully true, when logan gets home.

"how many stories did it take?"

"oh, you know logan," virgil sighs, remembering how many storybooks logan would tug from his expansive, second-hand collection and stack them in his arms up to his chin, looking up at virgil expectantly, as if to say we both know you're a softie, you're going to read me all these, let's skip the argument, except virgil would pose a slight argument anyways and convince logan to let go of maybe three of them, because logan had always had virgil pinned on that whole softie thing.

"about a million. i made one up for him, too."

"was it about cecil the space pirate?"

"cecil the space pirate," virgil confirms, lips twitching. wow, the things patton's fever-addled brain thought up. virgil's nearly forgotten about cecil the space pirate, one of the only make-believe stories logan continued to tolerate even as he grew older and older and older. virgil's pretty sure that the second birthday story roman ever wrote for logan was about cecil the space pirate.

"mkay," patton murmurs. "i got work in the morning, don't i?"

"nah," virgil says. "nah, you get to sleep in tomorrow, lucky you."

"you'll be at the diner for breakfast?"

"'course i'll be at the diner for breakfast," virgil says. "i own it."

"want waffles," patton murmurs sleepily.

"if you're nice to me," virgil says.

"m'always nice to you," patton slurs.

"yeah, that's true," virgil concedes. "okay. if you're extra nice to me, how bout that?"

patton lets out what might be a giggle, but he's so close to dropping off again that it's hard to tell.

"get some rest," virgil murmurs, and hesitates, before he reaches over to brush patton's hair back. he promised he wouldn't. i’m not leaving you again. "you just go ahead and go to sleep, patton. i’ll be right here."

patton sighs, head tilting a little further into virgil's touch. he's not nearly as warm as he'd been when virgil found him, which is good, but still too warm for virgil's taste.

he can see emily, out of the corner of his eyes, looking a little more relaxed.

"i'm not finished with you, your days are numbered," virgil hisses in her direction.

patton hums at him quizzically, mumbles, "wha'?"

"i said, do you want some water?" virgil covers quickly, smiling falsely at him. it turns a bit more real as patton squints an eye at him.

"you don't gotta fuss 'bout my hydration all the time, you know."

"ah, but fussing's what i do best," virgil says gently, smiling at patton as he combs his fingers through patton's curls in a slow, repetitive motion. "go on, close your eyes again, there you go. go to sleep."

"you don't gotta fuss about how much sleep i get either," patton sighs, but closes his eyes obediently. his breathing evens out, soon enough. 

she's silent. virgil's thought about this fight—how it might go, where it might happen, who would win—for years. exactly none of it has gone according to how his brain said it might go. virgil has a lot of opinions on emily and richard sanders and the way they treat their son—on days where they've been behaving themselves relatively well, he thinks they're stuck-up, snobbish assholes, and on days where they haven't been behaving well virgil thinks about the things that patton tells him that they say to him and thinks about how they're something that starts with "emotionally" and ends with "abusive," and how patton would be so absolutely in his rights to cut them off, and he has wanted to fight emily or richard sanders for years. and now it's here.

and now it's... off.

"we want the best for him," emily says.

"that's exactly what he says, yeah," virgil says tiredly, and runs his fingers through patton's curls again. "the trouble is, what you think is best for him and what's actually best for him are two entirely different things." 

her lips twitch, with bitter humor. "that's exactly what he says."

and here's the crux of it: "but you don't agree," virgil says.

"no," emily says. her chin tilts up, proud. "no, we don't."

any sympathy virgil has toward her is gone. he kind of wants to reach across patton's bed and throttle her. they're in a hospital, they're in the right place for it.

"why the fuck not," virgil manages to hiss it and not shriek it. she's so close to understanding, so close to actually catching on and getting it and maybe, miracle of miracles, patching up her and her husband's relationship with patton, but now she doesn't get it?!

"because what he thinks is best for him is not the same as what is actually best for him," emily says. 

"okay, then, what do you think is actually best for him?" virgil asks, with a twirl of his free hand he realizes with muted horror he probably picked up from roman.

so she lays it out for him. patton getting his degree is all well and good, but he should get it from a "better" establishment. patton being a manager is all well and good, but not in the inn business—if he adds a bit onto his degree, why, he could go into insurance too, and be a manager there soon enough. and patton having a little country home is all well and good, but he should move into a neighborhood more fitting for him—a house that would be closer to chilton. a house that would be closer to her. and, well, if patton stumbles across a few friends of hers—the sons of members of the dar, the kind of sons who have privilege and strong savings and investments and would be able to take care of him, and  if they just so happened fit emily's bill of approval to a t—well, that certainly wouldn't be too bad for him, either. and with logan going off to an ivy soon, well, he might get lonely, it would be good for him to have someone, and maybe, just maybe, there could be other little perfect grandbabies on the way, and—

"okay, so, what i'm hearing is," virgil cuts in, "basically, you want to redesign his whole life."

"well, not his whole life," emily says. 

"what are you leaving him from the life he's managed to build in this 'donna reed' style daydream, just logan?" virgil says incredulously. "a little small-town summer house he can escape to?"

she blinks at him. "that seems reasonable."

"that seems like patton would be miserable," virgil says. 

she looks at him, blank. "why?"

"well, one," virgil says pointedly, "sure, patton's open to having other kids, but the only way they'd be biologically his is if he'd donate an egg. he never wants to be pregnant again, you do realize that's what messed up his brain to the point it did, back then?"

she looks at him, gobsmacked. "and how would you know that?"

(—patton's nineteen, and starting to go on the occasional date, which is kinda weird but patton's an adult and he can do what we wants, and currently he's going slightly steady with one of the businessmen who swings into town every other week or so, and it's going pretty well, or so virgil's heard and thought until patton careens into the diner one night, eyes huge and watery and gasping, and virgil's out from behind the counter before he can even think.

"hey," he says, and "hey—" and patton's face is crumpling up, and no, patton doesn't want to cry in the middle of the diner in dinner rush, so virgil says, "c'mere, c'mon," and puts an arm around his shoulders, trying to shield him from sight of everyone in the diner, quickly getting him through the back and patton bursts into tears as soon as the door to virgil's apartment shuts behind him.

"patton, patton, patton," he says, hushed, and patton, red-faced and crying, just holds out a shopping bag. virgil blinks, takes it, and takes out one of the three identical things that's in there and—

"oh shit," virgil says before he can really temper his reaction, and patton starts crying harder, and virgil curses, dropping the unopened pregnancy test on the ground, stepping forward and opening his arms in invitation and patton buries his face into virgil's chest, sobbing.

"i don't wanna be pregnant again," he gasps. "i don't wanna be—"

"okay, okay, it's okay," virgil says. "it's okay—do you know if—?"

"not yet, i was too—" patton gulps, and croaks, "i can barely afford logan, and i love him so much, but i can't—i can't do that again, i can't—"

"it's really rare for trans guys on t to get pregnant, right?" virgil says gently, and patton sniffs, louder, and nods.

"okay," virgil says. "okay. here's what we're going to do, okay? we're going to sit down on my couch."

they do.

"we're gonna get you calmed down," virgil says. "next, you're gonna drink some water, and you'll take it."

"and if i—?"

"we can talk about your options if the test's positive," virgil says gently. "but take the test first. okay? then we can cross that bridge if we get to it."

patton snuggles harder into virgil, hiccuping, and virgil runs his hand through patton's hair, over and over, until his shoulders stop shaking as much. 

virgil gets him some water. virgil waits when patton goes into the restroom. virgil waits as patton comes back, buries his face into virgil's lap and curls up hard, hiding from the world.

"why do you think you're—?" virgil begins. 

"i got really bad morning sickness, with logan," patton whispers. "migraines too. and i'm—i just, my period's been irregular since i started t, and it's mostly stopped, but there's been some spotting and i looked it up and that's a symptom too and i—"

"okay," virgil murmurs, trying to mentally sort what each of those might be—summer flu, dehydration, he admittedly doesn't know much about periods so he can't really say much about that—"okay. um. have you guys been, um...?"

"using protection, yeah," patton says miserably. "but apparently that's not very useful when it comes to me, so."

"huh," virgil says. "with logan?"

"condom broke, we think," patton says, and wearily runs a hand over his eyes. "or at least that's the most likely explanation."

"yeah," virgil says, and runs a hand over patton's hair again. he's about to ask patton if he's doing okay, except the timer goes off, and patton lets out a keening, horrible whine.

"i can't look," he whispers. "virgil, could you—?"

"yeah," virgil says, heart in his throat. impulsively, he kisses patton's head. "yeah, of course, i'll look."

he checks the guide. he takes a breath. he looks at all three tests. and then he double-checks them, and double-checks the guide, and he walks out of the bathroom to see patton hugging a pillow to his stomach, hunched over it.

"well?" patton whispers.

"well," virgil says, "i think you have the summer flu, or something, and you should probably make a doctor's appointment to ask about spotting, because you've got three nopes in there."

"oh," patton chokes out, and buries his face in his hands. "oh, thank god."

"yeah," virgil says, and goes over to the couch, hugging patton again. "yeah, buddy, you're okay."

"i justgod," patton manages. "i mean, i want another kid at some point, probably, but i can't—i can't be pregnant again. i can't do that. i mean, i love logan, i love him so much, but being pregnant with himwhat it did to my brain, what it did to my mental health, i can't—"

he chokes up, and can't go on, and virgil's heart breaks a little.

"that's totally understandable and you do not have to justify yourself to me, or to anyone else," virgil says firmly. "hey, do you want me to get you a brownie, or something? i think you just put the 'scary' in 'pregnancy scare.'"

patton lets out what might be a giggle, a bit too hysterical to make virgil actually happy, but it's a giggle, nonetheless, and—)

"we talked about it once," virgil says evasively, fingers twitching through patton's hair as if to comfort distress that's thirteen years past. "look, just—none of what you just said would make patton happy, are you serious?"

"i wasn't talking about patton being happy, i was talking about what would be best for him," emily says. 

virgil blinks. "i'm not following."

she lets out a long sigh, as if he is being deliberately obtuse. "it would make patton happy if he were able to eat nothing but waffles and pasta and sweets all day. it would be best for him if he ate fruits and vegetables and maintained a balanced diet."

"that's an entirely different thing," virgil says hotly, withdrawing his hand from patton's hair and starting to pick at a loose thread in his hoodie.

"is it?" she challenges. 

"yeah, it is," virgil says, "because his life isn't as temporary as a meal. what's best for him in his diet is nowhere near the same way you should treat your life."

"that is where we disagree," she says, terse. "i believe what is best for him is not necessarily what makes him happy. there are procedures put in place, proper plans to be followed."

"doesn't what he want matter to you?" virgil says.

"what he wants is immaterial. sacrifices are often necessary in order to what is right."

virgil stares at her for a few moments, lets her words sink in, lets himself reflect on what following that might have been like, and—

"i am really indescribably sorry for you, right now," virgil tells her, and she sniffs.

"you hardly need to be. i was perfectly happy to follow the life i had set out for me."

virgil stares at her for a few more seconds, and she huffs.

"save your emotions," she says. "i've had just about my fill of them tonight." 

virgil snorts. "finally, somewhere we agree," he mutters.

they're quiet for another long stretch of time. 

"you genuinely think you know what's best for him?" she says, and virgil starts.

"i," virgil says. "yeah. better than you do, anyway."

"why?" she says, and then, derisively, "because you're in love with him?"

virgil doesn't quite reel back like she's smacked him, which is kind of how it feels, but he does pinch the fabric of his hoodie between his fingernails.

"no," he says. before he can say anything else, she plows over him.

"you look at him like he's a porterhouse steak!" she says, vindictive. 

"i do not," he says.

"oh, please, you look at him like he's about to give you a lapdance."

virgil just about chokes on air.

"i do not," virgil insists, "and anyway, that's not what i was about to say, i wasn't about to deny being in love with him, of course i'm in love with him."

she falters.

"i was going to say that me being in love with him doesn't change that i know what makes him happy better than you do," virgil says. 

"fine, then," emily says. "please tell me what you think would make him happy."

"his life, now, for the most part," virgil says. "living in sideshire, managing the inn. waiting for logan to get home from chilton, logan telling him about working at the courant, supervising roman and logan sleepovers. i think the biggest change would be if he got along with his parents."

she stares at him for one second. two.

virgil shrugs. "that's what would make him happy," he says simply. "that's what he wants. when he came home from lunch or brunch or whatever it was with you guys and logan and you guys managed not to fight the whole time, he was so happy."

she's silent.

"and i think that's what you want too," virgil says quietly. 

she's silent for a long time—enough time for patton to stir again, and, slightly hilariously and slightly heartbreakingly, seems to be stuck firmly in the headspace of logan still being a baby, and virgil soothes patton's mumbled worries about how logan's colic should be acting up by now before patton drops back off again. and by then, emily seems to have gotten control of her emotions again.

"you haven't put yourself into that little scenario of yours," emily says.

"the way we are now makes him happy," virgil says simply. "and that's enough for me."

she snorts. "idiots. the both of you."

virgil snorts a little, too, ducking his head. he rubs his thumb and forefinger against the worn spot on the cuff of his hoodie.

her eyes zero in on it. "did you," she begins, and then, almost suspiciously, "did you make that?"

"oh," virgil says, and awkwardly, "um, i mean, i bought the hoodie. but all the extra stitching and fabric and stuff, yeah. i did that."

"hm."

"i gave it to patton when we were on the way here," falls out of his mouth before he can stop it.

she looks at him a little closer. "you did?"

virgil coughs, awkward, and redirects his glance back to the sleeve he's worrying between his fingers. "he was, um. he had pretty bad chills, and i kept turning the heat up in the car, but it didn't help. and he wasn't saying anything, but i knew he was cold, so i gave it to him, but the orderlies had to take it off before he could go back in the test room, but i—i haven't been able to put it back on since."

his mouth snaps shut, and he's fully aware of his cheeks burning, fully aware of her eyes on him, and he stares even harder at the little imperfect faded oval he's rubbed into the fabric over the years, rendering that section of cuff a shade lighter than the rest of it.

"stupid, i know," he mutters.

she's quiet, for a moment, before she says, "i haven't been able to bring myself to change any of the decoration or furniture in patton's room since he left home."

he doesn't really know what to say to that. it feels like... he doesn't know. if it was any other person than one of patton's two parents, he'd say it feels like an olive branch. but with them, virgil's so used to hearing about arguments and bickering and favors offered with full knowledge they'd be paid back in full later, so it doesn't. it feels like a business deal. or like one of the faeries in the stories that virgil used to read to logan, before he insisted he outgrew such things—the kinds of sneaky wishes that would come back to bite you, in some way. it feels like a rabbit's foot. it feels like a monkey's paw.

"he has a way," virgil says at last. 

"he does, doesn't he," she says musingly. 

"yeah," virgil says, awkward.

there's another pause, a long stretch of quiet. enough time for a nurse to come and check patton's vitals, update his data, smile benevolently at them both, and leave.

"not that i'm asking your opinion," she says severely. "but your... idea. of how patton would like to lead his life."

virgil looks up, blinking at her. "yeah?"

she lifts an eyebrow at him imperiously. "do you think it's possible?"

"oh," virgil says. "i think—i mean, i don't really believe in you all that much, but patton does, so. if you keep fighting him and don't, like, remove your head from your ass, you're definitely going to push him and logan away, you know that, right?"

she doesn't really respond, and virgil huffs out an exasperated breath.

"look," virgil says. "you know what would patch all this up?"

"what?"

"if you and your husband apologized," for once. "if you and him apologized to patton, he'd forgive you in a heartbeat, you know. because again, he's way too optimistic about you."

"well, i hardly—"

"holy shit, you started it," virgil says. "you always start it. you cannot seriously expect your son, who is bedridden with pneumonia, to put in his usual work of trying to smooth it over between you three, the way he always does. for once, can you please just fucking set aside your pride for five seconds and apologize?"

"what he did—"

"sucked, know," virgil says impatiently. "it sucks that he ran away, he knows that, he regrets doing that to you the way he did, but jesus christ, it's been sixteen years. he's apologized, hasn't he?"

she barely inclines her head.

"okay, so," virgil says. "can you just see that this is kind of a special circumstance and say the words i'm sorry? just one time. and he'll forgive you basically instantly. even if you don't understand why, just say it, and then you can playact at being a big happy family again."

emily chews at her lip.


"you're quite certain you don't want me to stay the night here?" 

"i'll be fine, grandpa," logan says wearily as they turn down the street to home, even as something in him delights at being so, so close to home again. "you should go back to your house, in case they need anything. you're closer to the hospital than i am here."

"well," he begins, about to turn into the drive, but he stops the car as the lights illuminate a familiar figure.

"who the devil," he begins, moving to lock the doors, but logan's flinging the door open before he can, unbuckling and nearly skidding on the icy driveway as he speedwalks to the front stoop, where the familiar figure is standing up, shivering.

"roman," logan says, and roman steps forward and hugs him tight, so tight, and logan closes his eyes, buries his face into roman's shoulder where he still smells like hairspray and the stage makeup he hadn't bothered to wipe off his face and sweat, still wearing the massive button-down he wears to cover his costumes while backstage at a show under his big, puffy winter jacket, and logan's home, he's home, and—

"oh my god, i'm so sorry i didn't call back," roman says, and draws back. he'd barely made a cursory smear of a makeup wipe on his face, so his stage makeup remains on his face, smeared with sweat. he still has purple glitter on his eyelids and sharp cateye eyeliner, and smudged, faded lipstick. "i didn't know what to do, i didn't know where you were, i didn't know if you were coming home for the night or not, so i just—"

"logan?" his grandfather calls, and logan turns, still holding roman in his arms.

"it's okay," logan calls. "it's okay, it's just roman. i'll see you tomorrow?"

richard surveys this, frowns, grunts a little, waves in farewell, and gets back in his car. logan opens the front door to the house, nudging roman in ahead of him and flicking on the light, turning back to lock the door. roman barely waits until he's turned the key until he's tugging at logan's suit jacket, and logan turns to face him again, and god, there he is, that's his best friend. 

"is your dad okay?" roman asks, frantic.

"he'll be fine," logan says. "i—the doctors said it was pneumonia and he'll be at the hospital for a few days, but they said he'd be okay."

"god, logan," roman says, and reaches to hug him again. logan closes his eyes tight, and leans into it, hard. for once, he won't deny that he maybe needs hugs right now.

they draw back, and logan, a little in disbelief, picks at collar of roman's button-up.

"you came," logan says.

"well, yeah," roman says, like it's obvious. "you were upset, of course i came."

i love you, logan thinks.

"i mean, admittedly, it wasn't like, straight to the hospital, or anything," roman says. "i tried, but i wasn't sure which one, and—"

"i'm going back to visit in the morning," logan says, tentative. "if you'd—if you'd join me?"

"yeah, of course," roman says, and takes logan's hand. he tugs logan into the living room, where the detritus of one of his father's blanket nests is in an armchair. they sit on the couch, where a collection of empty mugs sits on the coffee table. there is so much of patton in this house. logan cannot look anywhere without thinking about his dad.

suddenly, he realizes that roman's been talking this whole time.

"—but oh my god, l, that must have been so scary."

logan wants to deny that it was scary. logan wants to lie. logan wants to say objectively, the risks of pneumonia are relatively low, here are the survival rates and here are the usual methods of treatment and here is what will happen, and here is proof that my dad will be okay, and here are all the reasons why it is illogical to be upset, because he will be okay, and i know he will be okay, because virgil promised he would be okay and the doctor said he would be okay and the family physician said he would be okay, so there is no reason why my brain is still stuck at a point where i should think that he wouldn't be okay, because that is not true, because he will be okay.

instead, logan's lip trembles, and he catches it between his teeth with a groan, pressing his elbows against his thighs and bending to meet his hands, sliding off his glasses to press the heels of his hands against his stinging, hot eyes.

there's a body against him, then, a cheek pressed to the back of his neck, arms wrapping around him again, and logan swallows hard.

"i've gotcha," roman whispers. "i've got you, logan. i'm right here." 

and logan buries his face in his best friend's lap, and for the second time that night, he starts to cry.


there's a weight on patton's hip.

that's the first thing he's aware of, swimming out of the dark gray sludge of sleep, waking up slowly and not particularly liking it very much. there is a weight against his hip, and when at last he cracks open his eyes, the first thing he does is look to see what it is.

it's a familiar head. the face is mostly obscured by the hair flopping into patton's line of vision, but the hoodie that's been spread out over patton like a blanket and the t-shirt and worn jeans the familiar person is wearing are big enough identifiers that patton doesn't really have to wait for any of his reasoning skills to come back online.

virgil's got a hand close to patton's hand, where it's resting on the mattress, and an arm slung out across patton's stomach, not even pillowing his head. it's as if he'd reached out to make sure that patton would stay put.

patton's heart swells with a nearly unimaginable amount of fondness. he carefully moves the hand that virgil had nearly been touching to virgil's head. his hair, feathery and floppy and soft, is familiar under his hand. the hard curve of his skull is, too. patton doesn't get to touch him very much, but they're familiar anyways. he swipes an admiring thumb slowly down, tracing the line of virgil's jaw.

virgil nuzzles against patton's belly in his sleep. in doing so, a bit of his hair slips, and it reveals a bit of virgil's closed eye, bangs parting like curtains. the ever-present bags look slightly darker than usual. that must be why virgil fell asleep on him. well, patton certainly isn't complaining. as a matter of fact, he smiles, and covers virgil's hand with his own, feeling something in his stomach flutter.

he can go back to sleep, now.

 

when he wakes again, it's to the clicking of high heels, and a voice he's known all his life.

"—did you say he'd be here, again?"

another voice—familiar, beloved, feels like he's known him all his life.

"logan's text said 9:30, so they're probably just parking and getting up to the room now."

"hmph. or the traffic's acting up again."

huh. he must be dreaming. there is no actual world where his mother and virgil are being so civil.

"look, they said they'd be here soon. with roman, too."

"the dance boy? patton says logan has a crush on him."

"oh, yeah, logan definitely has a crush on him. but patton really likes him, he's practically another kid. he's my neighbor, plus he's logan's best friend, so. logan probably told him about it and roman wanted to come wish him well."

"he was very well-behaved at logan's birthday get-together," his mother muses.

"yeah, he can be a real little charmer," virgil says darkly.

"he's a prince, it's practically in the name that he's charming," patton mumbles, trying to complete the old joke.

"oh, right on time," his mother says, pleased, and patton cracks open his eyes.

his mother's standing, holding a to-go cup of coffee, and virgil's still sitting at patton's bedside, where he dimly remembers virgil being a few times he'd woken up before. his hand's under patton's, and patton squeezes before he can really help himself. he's never really held virgil's hand before—this isn't exactly holding his hand, just his hand over virgil's, but it's close enough that patton's kind of unreasonably excited

"what were you saying?" patton asks, shifting against the pillows, trying to sit up a bit straighter.

"logan, roman, and your dad are all coming," virgil tells him. "should be here any minute."

patton nods, and makes the mistake of looking down at himself, only to suck in a breath and look up at the ceiling.

"what?" virgil asks, alert.

"needles," patton says, strangled. "i can see it, virge. i can feel it."

ivs! are! the! worst! sure, he's a bit more used to needles now because of his shots of testosterone, but with those he can at least aim and then look away and jab himself, and it's over relatively quickly, but he can feel it now and it is Bad—

"oh," virgil says, scrambling, "um—"

"here," his mother says, and patton turns his head away from the arm that has tubing coming out of it, to see his mother holding out her silk handkerchief. 

"oh!" patton says, and takes it, carefully draping it over the injection site as much as he can without looking at it, and risks a glance. yes, he can still see the tubing, and feel the iv, but as long as he doesn't move his arm and the handkerchief stays there, he should be... okay.

patton offers a tentative smile to his mom—she's been here, patton knows that, his memories are really fuzzy but he knows she's been here, but patton also knows that they've been freezing each other out for the past week, so. "um, thanks, mom."

she nods, once, and virgil says, "you doing okay, pat?"

"i think so," patton says uncertainly. "i mean, i still feel pretty—bleh."

"the doctor said you probably would be feeling pretty bleh for the next couple days, sorry," virgil says sympathetically. "but you're going to be just fine, patton. you're going to be okay."

a wave of relief sweeps through patton. he remembers, distantly, almost like it's a dream, the suddenly more aggressive and more pervasive fear of dying, but—but if a doctor said he'd be okay, and if virgil says he's going to be okay, then patton's going to be okay. 

"okay," patton says, and nods, absorbing this. "okay. um, good."

"uh, so, i think i might go out to the waiting room, wait for logan and roman to get here, if that's... if that's okay."

no that is not okay why are you leaving me alone with her?! patton wants to ask, but virgil's giving him a Look, a it's okay look, so patton lets out a little breath, and trusts him. obviously. it's not even a choice, he just does.

"you can keep an eye on my hoodie for me," virgil adds, flicking one of the sleeves so it folds over patton's lap, and patton looks up at him, blinking.

"you sure?" he says, tentatively running his thumb over a worn little bit of hoodie that he's seen virgil run his fingers over, too. "you never take this off."

"i think i can manage to trust you with it," virgil says, amused. "besides, that way you know i'm gonna be coming back, right?"

patton weighs these options. he fiddles with virgil's hoodie again, runs his fingers over the white stitching, feeling the variance of textures under his fingers.

"okay," patton says. "yeah."

"cool," virgil says.

and then virgil and his mom share their own little Look. patton has literally no hope of unparsing it if he tried—they still aren't fond of each other, obviously, but they look... they look understanding, almost. almost. not quite. but like they've reached some kind of point of agreement, maybe. not necessarily that they entirely agree, but just one point of agreement.

well, that's more than they had, so. patton's all for it.

his mother takes virgil's abandoned seat, and scoots a little closer, crossing her legs primly.

"well," she says, and fiddles with his blanket, pointedly avoiding touching virgil's hoodie, pulling the blanket over him a little more snugly. "how are you feeling?"

okay, so this is... weird. but patton can go with it. at least it's not yelling.

"um," patton says. "not my best?"

her face tightens.

"what?" patton asks in a tiny voice.

"young man," she says. "you were brought into the hospital between having actually collapsed and being on the verge of another one, with a fever so high you could have risked serious brain damage if you continued to refuse to seek treatment, and a case of pneumonia so serious that you have to stay in the hospital for at least three days, and all you have to say is that you don't feel at your best?"

"well, you see," patton says, "i'm really not at my best."

his mother looks five seconds from lovingly smothering him with his own hospital pillow when the door opens, and—

okay, virgil seriously isn't mean enough to leave him to get yelled at while he was bedridden and couldn't escape, right? had he really annoyed virgil recently?

"hello, patton," his father says.

"um, hi, dad," patton says, trying not to fidget, in case it jostled his arm and he had to be reminded about needles again. "are, um. are logan and roman here?"

"virgil took them to get coffee," his dad says. 

(actually, virgil is leaning against the wall just outside the door, out of sight of anyone in the room, monitoring this conversation just in case anything goes wrong, and what he said to roman and logan was "here's ten bucks, scram," and roman had wrinkled his nose at him and said "why?" and virgil said "privacy reasons, there's going to be an emotional moment," and logan had declared "gross" incredibly loudly and grabbed roman by the hand and dragged him in the direction of the hospital cafeteria, roman looking a bit too excited about logan holding his hand to really protest, but sure, the sanders' could all think that virgil took the kids to get coffee.)

richard pulls up a chair to sit beside his mother, and patton—patton is very suddenly reminded of the two other times in his life where he had to stay in the hospital for a period of time, when he gave birth, and when he had top surgery.

they were both there then, too.

neither time, though, had they had a fight quite as bad as the one they'd had last week.

"you don't," patton begins haltingly, and twists virgil's hoodie in his free hand. "you don't have to stay, you know."

they look at each other.

"it was very nice of you to drive roman and logan here," patton says to his dad, quietly, "but i don't—you two don't have to stick around, really. i'm going to be fine, and i can patch things up when—"

"we wanted to apologize," his mother says stiffly, and patton's mouth snaps shut.

"you," patton says, and swallows hard. "you, um. you what?"

"we wanted to apologize," his dad says. patton kind of wants to clean out his ears, and ask them both to repeat themselves one more time, or maybe page a doctor, please, because he thinks he might be hallucinating, but—

"we were out of line," richard continues. "i was out of line. i shouldn't have come down on you as hard as i did—for reopening an argument we've had before."

"oh, dad, that's not—" patton starts.

"will you be quiet and let us finish?" his mother says, snappish, and that almost kind of soothes patton, because if his mother's snappish even if she says she's in the middle of an apology it means his parents probably haven't been bodysnatched, so that's good.

"we are sorry," his mother continues, dignified and refined, and not particularly heartfelt, but that's actually kind of okay, because this was already so weird that if his mom started being the emotional one patton would—well, he doesn't know, really, he just knows it would be very strange. "we are sorry that you were upset, and we are sorry that we upset you further."

"please consider forgiving us," his dad says formally, and patton quashes the urge to giggle. please consider forgiving us in the same way he'd say please consider opening an insurance policy with our company to a client. 

"yes," emily says. "we are sorry for yelling at you, and for aggravating you when you were clearly upset and needed support, and for—"

she hesitates. she adjusts her jacket sleeves.

"and for putting you down," she says, and makes a slight moue of distaste. "for... bullying you."

patton, who is very uncomfortable, cannot help but laugh awkwardly. "i—i mean, i wouldn't say—"

"what else would you call telling you your reasoning wasn't good enough and saying you were a disappointment?" richard asks wearily, and patton shuts his mouth, directing his glance to his lap. he's fisted virgil's hoodie into a bunch he keeps curled in his free hand, with a white-knuckled grip.

"i," patton says, and swallows hard, trying to stop his voice from trembling. he can't say anything at all, and it reminds him unpleasantly of the argument, where he was lost for words, and he couldn't say anything, and he tried so hard to say something and when he did it wasn't good enough, and he swallows again, trying to search for something to say—

"you did nothing to deserve that," his dad says, and patton looks up, then, and oh. oh, his dad's eyes are... suspiciously shiny. "you did nothing to earn that."

"dad," patton barely manages to say around how choked up he is. the only time he ever saw his dad shed a tear was at his grandfather's funeral—and even then, it had only been a few, before he'd wiped off his face and continued stolidly onward.  

"i was being unfair," he says, rigid and unyielding. "i shouldn't have taken out my frustrations on you, much less in such an extreme way. i lost my composure."

"yes," emily says. "so. we are sorry that we were upset, and we made it so that you were upset you, too."

it dawns on patton, then.

they're so bad at this. like, genuinely, they're terrible at apologizing. they've hit almost everything on the stereotypical "what not to do while apologizing list." they apologized that he got upset, not for the things they said that made him upset. they've been snappy and irritable, and sure, a little emotional, but he's pretty sure telling the person you're apologizing to to be quiet is also a thing not to do. they've been uncomfortable, not with their past actions, but with the words they're saying now. 

but honestly? it's the first time they've apologized to him. so no wonder they're bad at it. baby steps, he supposes, and this is a big one. it's the first one. plus, being bad at being humble and nice is kind of quintessential to the way the elder sanders' are. it's comforting, in a really weird way.

"why are you smiling like that?" emily says suspiciously.

patton smiles wider. "nothing," he says reassuringly. 

"well, you're certainly smiling for some reason," she says peevishly. "the least you could do is sit and listen politely without looking like the cat that's gotten the cream, patton, for goodness' sake—oh!"

the reason she's said oh! is because patton's leaned almost all the way off the bed to hug her around the shoulders with his free arm. he sets his chin on her shoulder.

"i love you, mom," he says sincerely.

"oh," she says, and her hand flutters uselessly somewhere along his shoulder blade. "oh, well, that's—how nice."

patton grins even wider, because it's just such a mom thing of her to do, to be so at a loss during an emotional moment. he draws back, and grins at his dad. "i won't hug you, but i hope you know i'm thinking about it."

"it's appreciated," his father says solemnly. 

patton settles back on his pillows, cheeks hurting. "i forgive you, by the way," he adds. "if it needs to be said."

"well, good," emily says, self-satisfied, as if she's succeeded in auctioning for a particularly rare piece of antique furniture. or, well. as if she's the cat that got the cream.

"how was it?" he asks, curious. "having logan spend the week over."

richard and emily exchange a glance. 

"eventful," emily decides, and richard nods in agreement, before he reaches to take one of the abandoned newspapers from the pile logan's compiled for him, and patton almost laughs.

it doesn't take very long for the kid in question to show up at the door, with a diner owner and his best friend in tow, virgil adjusting the chairs in patton's room, before taking a seat himself.

virgil reaches out and takes patton's hand, like it's habit, before he freezes. patton smiles at him, though, and squeezes back, flipping their hands a little so that he can stare at virgil's hand.

he guesses they must have held hands for the first time last night, when he was too feverish to really tune into it. but he takes the time now to marvel quietly at virgil's hands.

logan and roman start talking about roman's opening show of the nutcracker last night, so everyone else is paying attention to that, and patton's absorbing the information, really, but he's a bit preoccupied with virgil's long, bony fingers, his expansive palm, the way he keeps stealing looks at patton out of the corners of his eyes, like he's checking that patton's alright. 

there's dozens of tiny little shiny white burns dotting his fingers, from points where the heat must have leaked through a mitt or he'd forgotten a mitt altogether, or something. there's a longer one, along his wrist. it kind of surprises patton, because he knows how cautious virgil is with heat in the kitchen. he's got calluses and his hand’s a bit sweaty, but warm, and patton squeezes his hand again—an it's okay, an i'm okay, an everything's going to be okay, an i'm really happy you're here right now.thank you. an i love you.

and virgil squeezes back.

Chapter Text

logan can’t focus.

it’s not because of the bowler-capped head in the corner that’s smirking at him. it’s not because he’s lost in the source material that they’re supposed to be silently reading, a series of pages in the poetry anthology that weighed, approximately, the same amount that a concrete block would. it’s not because of the slightly too-noisy tick-tick-ticking of the clock behind him that he’s been trying to limit himself from twisting around to read. he knows the reason he can’t focus fully, but even knowing the reason doesn’t fix anything.

he just. he can’t focus.

this is absolutely not a typical event, for him, especially when they’re talking about poetry in english class. studying poetry is his favorite part of any english class, and the chilton syllabus has actually branched out from the “The-Same-Ten-Old-Straight-White-Men” list that sideshire high had stubbornly stuck to, which had directly led to him and roman founding the least popular club in school, the poetry appreciation club.

logan glances surreptitiously at the watch that his grandmother had gotten him for his birthday and resists the urge to faceplant directly into his poetry anthology. how has it only been thirty-five seconds?!

only five more minutes, logan tells himself, and at most ten. and then a car ride. 

“...and as brock-broido herself once said, she said that her theory is ‘that a poem is troubled into its making. it’s not a thing that blooms; it’s a thing that wounds.’ how can we apply this quote to her poem father, in drawer... sanders?”

logan curses to himself, mentally, and quickly skims an eye over the poem in question

“the poem itself is clearly a demonstration of the speaker’s grief for her father,” logan says, fingernails biting briefly into his palms before he forcibly relaxes his hands. “so affected by the grief that she and her sister—“ he quickly skims for the line he’s looking for— “his daughters’ scales came off in every brittle tinsel color, washing to the next slow-yellowed river and the next, toward west, ohio-bound. this is the extent of that. i still have plenty heart. this poem is, in itself, troubled—troubled by grief, the act of burying her father, of how that grief in and of itself changed her and her sister forever, in an action so massive that brock-broido ventures into the mythical, the grandiose—that its emotional capacity is so large that though the details of it may be particular to the point that only brock-broido, or the speaker herself, could understand them, the emotion is clearly present throughout anyway. it wounds—not just brock-broido, but the reader, as well.”

he sits back in his chair. that will have to suffice. you know what’s happening, he tries to telegraph to the teacher, call on someone else.

“close, but not quite,” floats from the back corner of the room, a bowler tipping up, and forget it, logan’s sticking around to defend his point if necessary.

“why do you say that, slange?”

“well, there’s some soundness in your analysis, but you’re entirely too focused on the parental grief, not on the effect it has on the people surrounding him. i suppose i can’t blame you for being distracted, considering everything that’s going on with you.”

logan grits his teeth. “i’m not distracted.”

“oh, of course you’re not,” dee simpers. “i mean, i can’t blame you, if my father was in the hospital, i’d be too focused on the whole grief of losing a parent thing, too.”

there’s an outbreak of murmurs across the room. angie, whose two bleached-blonde braids swing and settle on her shoulders when she turns in her seat to stare at logan outright, asks, “is your dad dying?”

“he’s fine,” logan says. “he’s coming home today, actually.”

“can we get back to the poem, please,” mr. medina tries to break in wearily.

“what happened to him?” asks dermot, a round-cheeked boy entirely too kind to have been stuck with a name like dermot.

“pneumonia,” logan says brusquely. “anyway, he’s fine. i’m leaving to accompany him home in—” he checks his watch. “approximately three minutes.”

“not to mention anything else,” dee says, settling his chin on his hand and, logan swears, batting his eyelashes for a brief moment. “do you want to share with the class, logan?”

“i have nothing to share except for more extensive poetry anaylsis.”

“yes, thank you,” mr. medina says. “now, about brock-broido—”

the classroom phone rings. angie leans wildly to answer it.

“yeah? he’s right here. okay, i’ll tell him.” angie looks to logan expectantly. “ambroise for signout.” 

logan nods, putting away the anthology in his backpack.

“if your dad’s in the hospital, who’s picking you up?” angie continues.

“a family friend,” logan says curtly. 

“maybe it’s good that you’re leaving early,” dee says, and his eyes glint. “i mean, i’d hate for any distraction of yours to mess with your grades, considering we’re just a couple weeks away from finals.”

a noise of complaint rings throughout the room. there’s a completely different ringing noise in logan’s ears.

finals. his first set of finals at chilton. he hasn’t even remotely begun to prepare. he’d forgotten. in all the chaos of his thanksgiving break, he’s lost a valuable week of prep time, and he forgot about finals week.

(”failure is a part of life, but not a part of chilton. understand?" charleston’s voice rings in his ears, and "i'm also top of the class. i intend to be valedictorian when i graduate. you'll never catch up,” and suddenly logan has to remind himself to breathe.)

“don’t want to fail and ruin those perfect straight a’s,” dee tuts, and logan zips his backpack shut perhaps a touch too quickly, zippers clacking together.

“you’ll hardly find that i’m the one who’s distracted,” he says, and nods to mr. medina before he leaves the classroom, heading for the ambroise building.

the hallways are empty, the only noise his shoes against the marble and the distant drift of lecturing professors or discussion from students or brief breaks of laughter or the orchestra rehearsing for the winter concert that’s coming up, the occasional stray student on a bathroom break passing him with a nod or wave if he knows them, and the occasional stray student who edges out of their hiding place as soon as they register that logan’s in the chilton blue-and-navy, not a teacher. 

he enters the receptionist office, and virgil looks distinctly out of place and distinctly uncomfortable from where he’s sitting on the fine leather couches just outside of charleston’s office, in an old purple-and-black flannel that has his characteristic thick white stitching placing an entirely different purple-and-black plaid pattern over where the original shirt had worn through his elbows and a spot on his stomach, his torn-up black jeans, his puffy winter coat sitting beside him. virgil gets up, mouthing save me at logan, who presses his lips together to keep from smiling.

“sign here,” the receptionist says, and logan does. the receptionist sweeps a disapproving eye over virgil, and says, “you may go.”

as soon as they exit, virgil mutters to logan, “jesus, i didn’t realize you went to school in a castle.”

“falsehood,” logan rebuts, “i know for a fact you’ve seen photographs of chilton.”

“roman would be right at home here,” virgil says, glancing at logan with a glint in his eye, and logan gives him a you’re not as subtle as you think you are look.

“terrifying women and everything,” virgil continues in a mutter, rubbing the back of his neck. “i swear i could feel her plotting my murder when she realized i was besmirching the hallowed halls of chilton because i, god forbid, wasn’t wearing a tie.”

“mrs. fischer’s not murderous.”

“show up without a tie and see how long that stays true,” virgil says, as they exit the building. “i parked over there, so.”

logan heads over to virgil’s trustworthy, top-safety-rated sedan, and drops his backpack off in the backseat before he hops into the front seat as virgil settles in the driver’s seat. he drums his fingers against the wheel.

“how’s dad?” logan asks, refusing to acknowledge that it’s been less than seven hours since he saw him last—virgil drove him to school, too, and they’d visited the hospital then. where he’s stayed, since then.

“good,” virgil says. the drumming picks up the pace. “or, you know, good considering the circumstances. excited to get home.”

logan nods, absorbing this. his dad’s displeasure with his extended hospital stay has been made more and more clear the more and more he’s recovered. he’s officially cleared to go home and take all of his antibiotics and go back for a check-up once those are done, just to be sure his lungs are clear, but checking out of the hospital meant that they were in the last stretch of his illness. 

“i wanted to ask you something, actually,” virgil begins, fingers tapping frenetically, and logan’s first thought is he’s asking permission to propose.

but no, logan dismisses. his father would want to be present to inform him of any romantic change to his and virgil’s relationship. a change would make sense, though, the only person who’s spent more time at the hospital than logan for the past few days is virgil, and his father and virgil have yet to have an emotionally-charged (ick) conversation about virgil finding his dad passed out on the ground, which might lead to other emotions being brought to the forefront, but—no. virgil’s no christopher. virgil wouldn’t rashly propose, he’s not one to go from nothing to everything. he’s one to cautiously, slowly warm up to an idea after percolating on it for months or possibly years at a time.

so something else, then.

“ask,” logan says, keeping his guesses close to the chest.

virgil takes a deep breath in, lets it out, and says, “and if you’re not cool with it, consider it forgotten, i never even brought it up, but—”

“virgil. ask.”

“i was thinking about staying over at your house to keep an eye on your dad just to be sure he doesn’t backslide,” virgil blurts out. “i mean. you know how he is with remembering things, so i’ll just—i dunno, help handle things around the house and remind him to take his meds and—stuff, and i won’t stay very long, just until the winter fest on friday, so.”

(logan remembers, distantly, plotting with roman, back when they were both young enough to daydream together, talking about how obviously his dad and virgil should get married, so that way virgil and patton could live together and logan would move out of the pool house and that way logan could have two dads, so maybe roman could borrow one sometimes since he didn’t have any, or maybe they could get married too so they could share parents, right, that’s a thing that married couples did, and when they were married they would have a library like belle in beauty and the beast and a big pretty dance pavilion like in barbie and the twelve dancing princesses and they’d eat nothing but crofter’s sandwiches all day and—)

“that’s a good idea,” logan says, redirecting his gaze to virgil’s face. “to stay over. you should.”

virgil blows out a slow breath. “yeah?”

“yes,” logan confirms. “finals are coming up. i’ll be at school most of the day, and studying a lot besides.”

“oh, yeah, finals, huh,” virgil says. “i nearly forgot about those.”

logan directs his gaze out of the window.

“yes,” he says tightly. “me too.”


logan walks into the room to see a nurse obscuring the view of his father, having removed the much-complained-about iv from his arm at long last.

finally,” his dad says gleefully. “well, that seems like that’s just about that, mei. it was nice to pneu-know-ya.”

mei giggles. logan turns around to walk out, deciding to wait in the car. virgil, a laugh in his throat, catches logan by the shoulder and nudges him back into the room.

“patton,” virgil says. “your son’s been here for less than five seconds and you’ve already infuriated him.”

“dad,” logan says, anguished. “seriously. pneu-know-ya?”

patton’s grin widens. “not humerus enough for you?”

“i’m disowning myself,” logan decides.

“no, you’re not,” patton says cheerfully, as mei the nurse binds a cotton ball in place over the injection site with medical tape. he waves them over with his free hand. “c’mon, sit down.”

“actually, i’m just gonna make sure the paperwork’s all filled out right,” virgil says, and once again nudges logan forward a little. from the look on patton’s face, it becomes clear to logan that this is a “don’t-let-logan-see-how-much-medical-care-costs” plan, which makes a knot of worry grow in his throat. the last thing they need is for logan to come down with something, too.

logan sits in the chair at patton’s bedside, the same chair he’s been sitting in since friday morning. now it’s monday. he’ll be happy to never sit in this chair ever again. patton looks a little better, but he looks far from his default—he’s still pallid, and the almost-always present sheen of sweat doesn’t help, and his under-eye bags actually might be bigger than virgil’s, and he’s lost a few pounds from being in the hospital, and he just doesn’t look...

well, he just doesn’t look healthy.

it doesn’t help that patton coughs a few times before he speaks.

“okay, v,” patton says, and, with a sly glance out of the corner of his eyes, “suture self.”

mei giggles louder. logan buries his face in his hands and utters a little scream. virgil exits, with his cackles echoing down the hall.

a hand pats his hair. “okay, okay, that’s it. all pun-ned out.”

“for now,” logan mutters, but resurfaces, adjusting his glasses on his nose.

“yeah, for now,” patton says, and shrugs on virgil’s hoodie, which has been somewhere on patton’s person since logan and roman came to the hospital on friday morning, glancing at mei. “is this it, then?”

“once he checks out your paperwork, we’ll be back with a wheelchair,” mei says, and adds, apologetically, at the long-suffering look patton gives, “just policy, i know. you excited to go home?”

patton smiles at logan. “very.”

against logan’s will, his lips twitch up to smile back.

“i’ll go check on that paperwork,” mei says, and leaves the room, and then it’s just the sanders’.

“so,” patton says. “home.”

“yeah,” logan says. “lots of people are excited for you to come home.”

“lots of people, huh?” patton asks teasingly, but logan refuses to be goaded into a potentially emotional moment. 

“i’ve had to rearrange the contents of the fridge three times because so many people have dropped off casseroles,” logan informs him, and patton looks startled at that, the way he always looks a little startled whenever people show up to support him.

“really?”

“really,” logan confirms. “sookie dropped off three, just by herself. plus dr. picani, and remy, and babette and morey, and taylor, and larry and dot, and elliott’s mom, and jackson, and kai, and corbin and sloane, and a few people from the inn apparently grouped up to drop some off, but i didn’t open the cards, so i couldn’t tell you exactly who made which. ms. prince even made one.”

patton looks even more startled. “ms. prince?”

“roman delivered it,” logan says.

“roman, huh?” patton asks, settling against the pillows. “how’s, um. how’s he doing?”

this isn’t exactly an atypical question, patton asking after one of his friends. if it’s roman, patton usually does it with a teasing little tilt of his lips, but the way patton’s asking now is... unusual. logan can’t pinpoint why. 

“fine,” logan says. “busy with the nutcracker and everything.”

recital times are usually the busiest times of year for roman; with friday, saturday, and sunday night performances, plus matinees on the weekends, and special exhibitions, in addition to rehearsals and his usual schedule of teaching and school and extracurriculars, his and roman’s hang-out times usually turn into roman curling up on logan’s lap or leaning against logan’s shoulder, having fallen asleep, even and especially when he tries not to, just because of the amount of effort he’s putting in on a daily basis. this year, as sugar plum cavalier—essentially the male lead role, with the most complex technical performance aspects to go with that—it’s surged to a nearly absurd level.

“yeah?” patton says. “nothing... else?”

logan frowns at him. “no? should there be?”

“i dunno, should there?” patton tries to volley back, and logan narrows his eyes at him.

“why are you being weird?”

“huh, i’m being weird?” patton says. “must be the pneumonia.”

“you’re going to use that excuse for as long as you can, aren’t you?” logan asks, resigned. but logan knows full well that him using that excuse is a good thing—his dad never actually complains when he’s sick, so if he’s using being sick as an excuse, he must be feeling better.

“i have pneumonia, so that probably means you’re going to have to pick up on the chores,” patton says, and logan scowls at him.

finals, dad.”

“huh, already?” patton asks, looking surprised.

“it’s after thanksgiving break,” logan says, refusing to acknowledge that he also almost forgot about finals.

“so the house will be in a shambles, got it,” patton says. 

“actually,” logan says slowly, “not necessarily.”

patton blinks at him.

“virgil asked me if i would be okay with him staying over to make sure you stay healthy and that you recover okay,” logan says, and patton looks the most startled he’s looked since logan walked into the hospital room.

“oh,” patton says, and then he repeats, “oh,” slightly squeakier. he fidgets with the sleeves of virgil’s hoodie, seems to remember that it’s virgil’s, and abruptly stops.

“i think you should say yes,” logan says. 

“i—oh,” patton says. “really?”

“really,” logan confirms. “i’m going to be at school, and you’re still sick, and virgil always looks after you when you’re sick, anyway. it follows that with a more serious illness, he’d watch you more closely.”

“but, like,” patton says, and his cheeks go pink. “stay over stay over?”

logan rolls his eyes. “i’m sure he’ll insist on sleeping on the couch to prevent yourselves from falling into the bed-sharing cliché, but yes, dad, stay over stay over.”

patton swats him.

“you’re terrible at remembering to take any medicine,” logan continues with his reasoning, “and it’s—well, like i said, finals. the first set of finals at chilton.”

“you’re gonna do great,” patton says firmly, but logan shakes that off.

“because i’ll be studying for them,” he says. “and i’ll be at school for most of the day anyway, so—”

“you could just say that you’re worried,” patton says, and logan says, “virgil is,” and patton sombers.

“he—you know, found you,” logan says. “you realize that’s, like, his worst nightmare.”

“i know,” patton says, and nibbles at his lip. “i actually have a good excuse for not calling.”

“i know, i saw,” logan says dryly. “it’s in your room, in case you need proof.”

“oh, good, i guess,” patton says. he bites his lip more. “i should talk to him about that, huh?”

“you really should,” logan says. “while he stays over.”

“all right, all right, i’m convinced,” patton says. “if it’ll make you both feel better.”

“it’ll make virgil feel better,” he says, avoiding that.

“what’ll make me feel better?” virgil asks, from the doorway. logan turns so he can see his face.

“dad just agreed to your plan of staying over,” he says.

“oh,” virgil says, strangled. he’s gone red. “um. great. mei’s on her way with the wheelchair, she was just behind me, i’ve got—” he lifts a little white paper bag and shakes it, so the sound of pills clacking against plastic is clear. 

“good,” patton says.

“so,” virgil says. “i, um. i packed a bag, it’s in my trunk, so. we’ll just... go to your house, i guess.”

“right,” patton says. “um. good.”

“beep beep,” mei chirps from behind virgil, breaking through the awkwardness in the air, and virgil hastily steps aside so that mei can wheel the wheelchair by patton’s bedside.

“right, then, i’ll pull up the car,” virgil says. “the main front loop okay?”

“that’s the one,” mei says, and virgil departs as mei offers her hands for patton. patton, smiling but clearly trying not fidget, takes them and settles in the wheelchair uncomfortably.

it’ll be for less than five minutes, logan wants to say, but—he gets it. patton can clearly walk under his own power. the extent of the fussing patton’s undergone in the past few days must feel stifling by now.

logan falls into step beside mei as she slowly wheels patton down the hall, out of the hospital room, and out of the hospital, and logan watches as patton takes a deep lungful of fresh, wintry air, and he doesn’t cough, because he can do that now, because he can breathe, because he’s recovering and he’s okay.

virgil pulls up right as mei wheels patton onto the sidewalk, and logan steps forward to open the door. patton stands up before mei can help him, and slides into the front seat.

“get well soon,” mei says warmly.

patton smiles at her as logan opens his own car door. 

“i’m going tibia okay.”

“actually, i’m getting a cab home,” logan says, and virgil laughs.

“get in the car, kid,” he says, and logan is sure to heave his biggest sigh before he slides into the car, too.


as soon as they’re home, logan makes an excuse to go to the courant—probably to pull overtime before all his priorities are taken over by finals studying mode—and patton gives him a hug before he goes, and it’s kind of a sign of how much the hospital stay upset him that he permits it with minimal squirming.

virgil, a duffle bag slung over his shoulder, waits as patton unlocks the door to his house, and opens it.

someone’s cleaned the living room—they’ve actually vacuumed, so it’s not logan, because that’s his least favorite chore—and patton inhales the scent of the lavender air freshener he’s got stashed in various cupboards around the house and lets it out in a big sigh, happy that he can, one, breathe through his nose, and two, breathe deeply without erupting into coughs as often anymore.

“good to be home?” virgil asks softly, and patton turns to him, smiling.

“yeah,” he says. “yeah, it really is.”

virgil smiles, too. just a little, just around the edges, and it worries patton that he still looks worried, now, even when he’s home. virgil’s looked worried the whole time patton’s been in the hospital, which patton guesses is fair, but. he was hoping it would decrease a little now.

“good.”

and now it’s just them. well, it’s been just them a number of times over the past few days, but now it’s just them without a risk of a nurse or a doctor or, god forbid, his mother walking into the room in the middle of an emotional moment. now it’s truly just them.

patton bites his lip, just a little, and says softly, “we should probably talk, huh?”

“uh,” virgil says, and turns to the couch, dropping his duffle bag. “sure. i, um, figured i could sleep on the couch, but i wasn’t sure if you wanted to set up shop here during the day, we could figure out something with the loveseat so—”

“that’s not what i meant,” patton says softly. virgil’s back is still to him, so it’s all the easier to see the way he tenses up. and how much more he tenses up when patton can’t quite stifle an inconvenient cough.

“virge,” patton says, quiet, and walks a little closer. virgil’s still so tense. “i know that must have been really scary, hon.”

he tentatively wraps an arm over virgil’s shoulders and puts the other on virgil’s chest, stepping his way between virgil and the couch, so that he can see half of virgil’s face, the tightness of his jaw, the bags under his eyes, the way his eyes close, as if patton’s done something that’s pained him.

“i’m really sorry,” patton whispers, looking up at him.

god, patton,” virgil exhales, and his eyes open. “you don’t have to apologize for being sick.”

“that’s not what i’m apologizing for,” patton starts.

“yes, you are,” virgil says wearily. “at least a little. you were sick, patton. really, seriously sick. i should have—”

virgil chokes up, which means that now patton is choking up, and patton’s already shaking his head when virgil says, voice thick, “i should have known better. i never should have left you like that.”

“virgil,” patton murmurs, “virgil—”

because virgil’s squeezing his eyes shut and bowing his head and he breathes in a shaky little gasp, and oh god, patton thinks, virgil’s about to cry. not his virgil, not his gruff mother hen of a diner owner, if virgil starts crying it’ll be because of patton, and he doesn’t want virgil to hurt because of him, not ever.

“virgil,” he whispers, and something delicate inside of him cracks open at seeing virgil like this. “oh, virgil, darling, please don’t—”

patton slowly worms his way into virgil’s space, gently pushes virgil sit on the couch before he sits, too, and he hugs virgil close, and curls his fingers into the the hairs near the nape of virgil’s neck. 

“don’t cry, virge, please,” patton murmurs. 

“i left,” virgil repeats, voice quiet, and heartbroken, and patton feels him bury his face into patton’s shoulder, at the purple patch of plaid that virgil himself stitched.

“i told you to go,” patton whispers, strokes through his hair once, twice. “virgil, sweetheart—”

“patton,” he whispers back. “your fever was so high that you didn’t know who i was, for a few seconds.”

“v,” patton murmurs, and presses his lips against virgil’s hair, just for a moment. that delicate something’s opened even wider, making him vulnerable, and wanting to keep virgil close until it seals right back up again.

“if i didn’t go—“

“i told you to go,” patton repeats. “i wanted you to go, virgil, i wanted you to see your family. there was no way to tell that i would have gotten that bad that fast.”

“i should have insisted you go to a doctor,” virgil mumbles. patton smiles.

“when’s that worked in the past sixteen years of seeing me when i’m sick?” he chides virgil. 

a pause. then, sulky: “never.”

“that’s right,” patton agrees. “never. neither of us had any way of knowing i’d get that bad. i’m really sorry that you had to—”

“don’t you dare finish that sentence with i’m really sorry you had to see that,” virgil says, pulling his face from patton’s shoulder. patton falls obediently silent.

“it’s just,” virgil says, and takes a breath in before letting it out in a short stream, directed at his bangs. “i dunno. like you said. sixteen years of seeing you when you’re sick, and the one time i leave—”

“virgil,” patton cuts in, fond and exasperated and still hurting for virgil who’s hurting for him, like some kind of weird cycle of hurting that patton would like to stop now, “please don’t tell me you’ve been convincing yourself that somehow, the pneumonia bacteria sensed that you were gone for less than twenty-four hours and set in because you left.”

“no,” virgil says unconvincingly, and patton leans back even further to direct that fondly exasperated look at him, and virgil smiles, just a little, but it’s enough to make patton want to cheer.

“no,” virgil repeats, firmer. “it’s just—” he sighs, and says, softer, “if i hadn’t left, i’d have been able to see how bad you were getting and gotten you some kind of medical care before four days in the hospital was necessary.”

“it was really more like three and a half, since i got there thursday night and left monday morning-ish,” patton muses, and now it’s virgil’s turn to look fondly exasperated right back at him.

“patton,” virgil says, and takes a deep breath in, before he says, “you promised you’d call.”

patton chews his lip, and offers timidly, “would you believe me if i told you there was a really good reason i didn’t call?”

virgil sighs. “what reason would that be?”

patton rolls off the couch, goes to his room, where logan said it was, and sheepishly comes back with his phone in his hands.

his two separate halves of his cellphone, in his two separate hands. virgil closes his eyes at the sight of them, and presses his lips together.

“patton,” he says, measured, and patton could swear it’s the tone he uses when he doesn’t want to laugh. “what. did you do.”

“so,” patton says, setting the phone halves in virgil’s hands, “turns out phones really aren’t any help when you trip over your own blankets you discarded from your blanket nest because they got too sweaty. who knew?”

“you have a heavy-duty case,” virgil says mournfully, weighing the halves of what was once patton’s cellphone in his hands, “for this exact reason.”

“—i know, i know, but i really wanted to clean it because i’d sneezed all kinds of mucus on it and it was getting super levels of germy-gross,” patton says. “so of course, right as i left the case by the sink and went to get a dish towel from the laundry to dry it off—”

“you tripped, fell, and broke your phone in half?!”

“yep,” patton says. “and i know your next question is about the—“

“your landline.”

“—yeah, the landline,” patton continues, “and to be fair, if you go to your apartment and check your voicemail on your landline, you will have a message from me, feverishly mumbling about how i’m not feeling that great, but theeen—”

patton grabs his (truly ancient and dusty) address book, and flips it open.

“—i realized i’ve only got your old number before you had to change it because you switched services, so—”

“you don’t have my cellphone number written down anywhere else?” virgil asks, pained.

patton helpfully picks up the halves of his phone and shakes them at virgil. “i didn’t think i had to, don’t you know what year it is?”

virgil pinches the bridge of his nose, before picks up a pen, scrawls on the corner in circular scribbles to get the ink flowing again, before striking out his old number and writing down his new one in his spiky, slashy print.

“thanks,” patton chirps, snapping the address book shut with a puff of dust and setting it aside.

“okay,” virgil says grudgingly. “okay. those are pretty good reasons.”

patton looks at him hopefully. “so you’re not mad at me anymore?”

virgil looks confused. “i was never mad at you.”

“oh,” patton says, and smiles. “good.”

a beat of silence, before patton adds, “and you’re not upset at yourself anymore either, right?”

there’s another beat of silence. a too-long beat of silence. patton draws back to stare at him, with his best Dad Look.

“virgil,” he says, “you’re not upset at yourself anymore either, right?”

“n...no...?” virgil tries, before he wavers and slumps. 

patton sighs, and decides screw it, and says, “is it okay if i sit a bit closer?”

“um, sure?” virgil says.

“here okay?” patton asks, patting virgil’s thigh, and virgil flushes.

“um? sure?” virgil says, higher-pitched.

so patton squirms into virgil’s lap, and wraps his arms around virgil’s neck, so that virgil’s looking right at him, staring directly into his face.

“okay, think about it like this,” he begins pragmatically. “aren’t you upset with logan, too?”

virgil frowns. “why would i be upset with logan?”

“well, if logan was home, he would have been able to see that i was getting sicker,” patton says innocently. 

"that’s not his fault,” he says indignantly. patton arches his eyebrows at him. virgil immediately looks sheepish. 

“oh.”

“right,” patton says patiently, and runs his fingers through virgil’s hair. “so. if it’s not his fault, then...?”

“it’s not mine either,” virgil mutters, and patton boops virgil’s nose, because it makes him smile grudgingly. his mouth opens, just for a moment (virgil thinks, wildly, i’m happy you’re here, or i’m happy you’re okay, or you’re better now and i thought i might lose you you can’t do that to me before i tell you i’m in love with you) and patton wraps his arm back around virgil’s neck, and snuggles into his chest with a yawn.

“wanna watch a movie or something?” he murmurs.

virgil, hesitantly, leans his cheek against patton’s hair, and patton smiles.

“yeah,” virgil murmurs. “yeah, let’s watch a movie.”

when logan comes home from the courant, it’s to virgil getting up from the couch carefully, with patton cradled in his arms, and logan must make some kind of smug face at him because virgil mutters “not a fucking word” out of the corner of his mouth as he climbs the stairs to tuck his dad into bed.

(Logan Sanders: Roman, Virgil has been staying at my house for less than five hours and I already have one instance of me seeing evidence of them cuddling, complete with my dad falling asleep on Virgil and Virgil carrying him to bed. 

Roman Prince: omg they’re so gay and so dumb

Logan Sanders: I bet you $5 that they’ll get their act together by the winter festival.

Roman Prince: u know what i’ll take that bet!!! but i’m upping it to milkshakes at lucy’s not just $5

Logan Sanders: Deal.)


“okay, so. tissues, check, trash can, check, you’ve taken your antibiotics...”

“check,” patton agrees sleepily, the only light in the room the lamp on his bedside table, shedding soft light onto virgil’s face, which is thrown into shadows because of the way he’s standing now, checking to make sure that the bottle of water on his bedside table is full.

“i’m good, v,” he insists quietly, and virgil nods, setting the water bottle back down.

“if you start feeling gross, you’ll come downstairs and wake me up, yeah?” virgil asks.

patton frowns. “you really don’t have to sleep on the couch.”

virgil shrugs. “it’s a comfy couch.”

“you could,” patton says, and takes a breath, before he suggests, “we could share?”

“i—oh,” virgil says. “um. you really don’t have to if you don’t—”

“i’m offering, aren’t i?” patton says, and pats the other side of the bed. “it’s a pretty big mattress, and pretty comfy, if i do say so myself.”

virgil hesitates. patton does, too, before he goes in with something that he knows will make virgil want to stay.

“it’d probably be easier to keep a closer eye on me if you’re, you know,” he says, and pats the other pillows again. “close.”

“i,” virgil says, wavering, and then, “i mean—“

“virgil,” patton says, soft, and leans forward, making his eyes and his voice soft and beseeching. “i want you to stay.”

virgil bites his lip, before he says, “are you sure?”

“i’m asking,” patton repeats, but lies down and tugs the blankets up over himself anyway. “you don’t have to sleep on my couch to respect my virtue, or whatever, i don’t have any of that left, i’m an unmarried single trans father.”

"it’s not about virtue, what is this, the 1800s?” virgil says with a shake of his head. 

“why, mistah danes, i do declare,” patton murmurs in his best southern belle impression, and virgil laughs, just a little.

“not about virtue,” virgil repeats. “it’s about—”

patton waits, staring at him, and virgil falters, shuts his mouth.

”you know what, forget it.” he says, and patton brightens.

“so you’ll stay?”

“well, in a bit,” virgil says, plucking at the denim of his jeans. “don’t wait up, i’m gonna change into my pajamas, and, you know. get ready for bed.”

“no staying on the couch because you think i’ve fallen asleep,” patton calls after him, as he retreats.

virgil doesn’t.

patton’s eyes are closed, about to drift into sleep, when he hears the door open, footsteps plod closer, a soft sigh, and then the click of his lamp shutting off.

“sleep well, patton,” virgil murmurs, and patton nearly jolts out of bed in surprise when dry lips touch his forehead.

“oh, god,” virgil says, and patton opens his eyes. “oh, god, you weren’t asleep. oh my god it makes it so much creepier that i did that when i thought you were sleeping—”

patton reaches out and catches virgil’s wrist in his hand before he can panic himself right down to the couch.

“come to bed,” he says, a laugh in his voice. 

“but i—”

“v, it was sweet,” patton says, and, rolling his eyes, tugs at virgil’s wrist. “c’mere.”

virgil, grudgingly, steps closer. patton’s eyes are adjusting to the dark, not, so he can see that virgil’s more red than usual.

patton sits up, and presses his lips against virgil’s cheek. it’s very warm, and virgil’s skin is very soft. patton lingers for a moment before flopping back against the pillows and letting go of virgil’s wrist.

“there,” he says. “we’re even. you can get in without freaking out, now.”

“what,” virgil says, voice strained. “what—”

“well, i gave you a surprise kiss, you gave me a surprise kiss,” patton says, and wiggles under the covers, getting comfy again. “now we can sleep together.”

patton can feel the embarrassment coming off of virgil, which confuses him, at first, until he mentally rewinds what he just said.

“not like that!” he squeaks, feeling himself go pink. “oh, my gosh, you know what i mean, just—just get in the bed before either of us makes a bigger fool of ourselves, okay?”

“okay,” virgil says, “okay, fine,” and then he walks to the other side and patton feels the mattress dip, and some cool air rush under the covers, and then virgil squirms a little to get comfortable too.

“good night, virgil,” patton murmurs.

“yeah,” virgil murmurs back. “yeah, good night, pat.”

patton wakes up and immediately decides that he does not want to be awake. he makes a noise of complaint, trying to hide his face from the morning light, pressing his face closer into his pillow.

the pillow moves. that’s weird, patton’s pillow doesn’t usually oh that’s not his pillow.

“hey,” virgil’s voice rumbles, which he can feel from where he’s pressed all against virgil’s back, and patton makes some kind of noise that makes it sound like he’s dying.

“sorry, i didn’t mean to wake you up,” virgil continues, and patton shivers, because virgil’s already-deep voice is somehow even deeper from sleep. “i was just gonna make some hot cocoa/coffee and stop in at the diner for a shift, i figured you’d probably sleep through it.”

“oh,” patton murmurs. “yeah, okay, that sounds good. you should do that.”

there’s a long pause.

“you kind of have to let go of me so i can do that, though.”

“oh,” patton murmurs, and does, scowling a little as virgil and thereby virgil’s warmth leaves, before he claims virgil’s abandoned blankets, wrapping them around himself.

“i’ll be back later, okay?” virgil says. "if you wanna go back to sleep.”

“no, no,” patton sighs, and cracks open his eyes. “i should eat breakfast.”

“yeah, you should,” virgil says, and patton squints at him. he doesn’t have his glasses, so he’s a bit blurry, but patton can see virgil, smiling down at him all soft around the edges, ignited by the morning sun, hair falling into his eyes, and he’s so gosh darn pretty that patton feels a little faint.

“i’ll make pancakes,” virgil says, soft. “welcome-home breakfast.”

patton smiles up at him. “you’re amazing.”

“i think you even have the ingredients for me to make your favorite,” virgil says. 

patton actually sits up, so excited by the reintroduction of hot cocoa/coffee back into his life after a week of no caffeine that he doesn’t think he could fall back asleep now if he tried. “really?!”

“one cup,” virgil says. “that is it. you are having one cup.”

“virgil, you’re the best,” patton declares, beaming, and virgil ducks his head, all aw shucks about it.

“i’ll get ready,” virgil mutters, and excuses himself, and patton flops back onto his pillows for a second, smiling.

the smile doesn’t go away by the time he sits down at the kitchen table to a stack of pancakes so tall that wavers a little, threatening to topple because of its height. it doesn’t go away when logan, nose in his history notes, sits down at the breakfast table.

he does, however, have to fight his flush when logan looks at him knowingly over the rim of his coffee mug, and he has to whisper, “do not say a word, or i swear,” as virgil’s flipping pancakes onto a plate for logan. logan only takes a long sip of hot cocoa/coffee that doesn’t quite hide the smirk on his face.

(Logan Sanders: The couch has not been slept on and Dad’s blushing a lot at his hot cocoa/coffee this morning.

Roman Prince: NO FUCKING WAY THEY SHARED A BED????

Logan Sanders: I’m beginning to regret a bet that involves my father’s love life.

Roman Prince: too late u have to keep me updated

Logan Sanders: Obviously.)


“i’m bored, and it’s your job to entertain me,” patton says into his brand-spanking-new cellphone, to answer the question of not that it’s not nice to hear from you, but, umm...?

a familiar sigh, before, “well, you’re pulling me away from the thrilling job of trying to find a paycheck, so by all means.”

patton grimaces in sympathy, flopping to lie down on the floor, and chancing a glance at the still-sleeping virgil on the couch above him of the corner of his eye, keeping his grip on virgil’s hand. virgil had fallen asleep holding hands with him, which put all kinds of butterflies fluttering in his stomach, and—

okay, sure, he’s definitely glad that virgil’s getting some (much needed!) rest, after his morning shift at the diner and patton’s first real Public Outing since he got in the hospital to get a new cellphone, which was mostly virgil driving him to the store, buying it, and bringing him in to activate it but driving him home before patton can really stretch his legs, and he’s just. he’s really, really bored. he’s been on some level of bedrest for the past week, almost, if you count the day he got worse before he got admitted to the hospital, and he’s very ready to be done with it all.

“i’m really sorry, c,” patton says gently, tucking his phone between his shoulder and his ear so that he’s got a free hand. “i know you thought that you had the one when you came up to visit.”

“the one to be gone by thanksgiving, sure,” christopher says, and huffs out a sigh. “anyway. you’re all home now, back from the hospital?”

patton’s grimace deepens. “which parent of mine ratted me out?”

“which child, actually,” christopher corrects. “logan and i were texting on friday.”

patton’s grimace is entirely erased. “texting, huh?”

“i led in with the strong opener of how was thanksgiving? did you beat our food stealing record? and logan hit back with the even stronger response of dad is in the hospital with pneumonia, so by all accounts, it was a substandard holiday.”

patton stifles his snort against his hand. 

“but you’re okay now?” christopher asks.

patton shrugs, even though chris can’t see it. “on the mend, i guess. way better than i was,” he adds, “but i’m still taking antibiotics and stuff.”

a pause, and then, “do you want me to come up there to help you out?”

patton presses his hand against his smile. “that’s sweet, chris, but no. especially if you’re, well. searching for a paycheck. airfare or gas money or however you’d be getting here is expensive.”

“true,” christopher mutters.

“just,” patton says. “oh, i don’t know, save up for a christmas visit, maybe, or easter. or we could come to you, it’s been a while since logan’s been to california. we could brainstorm a list of things to do.”

“or you could,” christopher says. “later, though, to help save you from boredom.”

patton nods, mentally adding it to a list of things he’s able to do on bedrest, which thus far consists mostly of “watching things” and “playing games on his phone,” so. planning a potential future trip wouldn’t be too bad.

“bedrest,” patton informs christopher, who has been fortunate enough to never have a medical procedure more invasive than a pulled tooth, “is the worst.”

ahhh, bedrest,” christopher says, Getting It. “now i see why you’re so bored.”

patton breathes a sigh of relief. it’s true, he likes a lazy day as much as anyone else. it’s just really different to have a lazy day because you choose to have a lazy day, rather than have a lazy day be forced upon you because your stupid lungs decided to get infected, somehow.

“yeahh,” patton says. “and virgil’s staying over, but he’s asleep, and—”

“the diner man?” christopher teases.

patton rolls his eyes. “yes, the diner man, he’s over and he’s been entertaining me for most of the day and for yesterday and for most of the time in the hospital, too, but he’s sleeping and i’m dying of boredom, biscuit, dying.”

“all right, well,” christopher says. “how can i help?”

“i dunno, just talk,” patton says. “things you’ve been doing lately, stuff you’ve been watching, the latest weird craze that’s taken over that i’m sure will trickle back to sideshire in a few months.”

"oh, hey, i actually did wanna ask,” christopher begins, and adds, tentative, “you know the stuff logan’s read and the books he’s got, right?”

“i can take a look on at his bookshelves and the various stacks he keeps around his room, because our son is a hoarder but he hoards one very specific thing,” patton tells him. “why?”

“uh,” christopher says. “well, i’ve been—okay, i, um. i know you’d hinted at it before, so it wasn’t, like, an out-of-the-blue surprise, but i didn’t know logan was gay for sure for sure until he said something when i visited, so i just—i don’t wanna be my dad to him, you know, and i think i’m pretty okay with being nice about that kind of thing, but i wanna be there for him, like i said, and i wanna be here for him with all of this too, so i’ve been reading some stuff, and watching things, and—d’you know if logan’s seen love, simon?”

patton presses his lips together, and then he has to press his hand against his chest for a moment, suddenly and absurdly tearing up.

of course logan’s seen love, simon. he’s read simon vs. the homo sapiens agenda, and the upside of unrequited, and leah on the offbeat. logan’s devoured just about every book directed at gay teens, or gay people, generally, and he’s branched out to media directed at gay people accordingly. love, simon is one of roman’s rom-com picks for a sleepover movie that logan’s actually agreed with him picking. he and roman had a simon vs. the homo sapiens agenda book club when they first realized its existence. logan’s reread the book often enough that patton kind of suspects it might be becoming a comfort book, for him, the way his agatha christie boxset is. 

and i think i’m pretty okay with being nice about that kind of thing, but i wanna be there for him, like i said, and i wanna be here for him with all of this too, rings in his ears, and god, patton is so so happy that chris is stepping up to being a dad like this, by trying to figure out something logan likes so that he can talk about it with him and bond over it. patton’s so happy.

patton swallows and squeezes virgil’s hand, just a little, feels a little spasm that’s like virgil’s squeezing back in his sleep. his heart feels like it’s three thousand times too big.

“yeah,” he says softly. “yeah, logan’s seen love, simon. he really likes that movie. i think it’s one of the only rom-coms he actually likes.”

“oh,” christopher exhales. “cool. good. um, i was wondering if he—i know it’s based on a book, originally, right? i was wondering if i could send it to him. just as a little, you know, thinking about you, i hope you like it present, because—because he likes books, right, and, you know, he’s gay, so i figured that would be good, but i don’t wanna send it if he already has it.”

nope, there go patton’s emotions. christopher wants to send logan a present. an actually very thoughtful, sweet present, based on things that logan identifies with, and things that logan likes, and so patton might be crying a little, but it’s in addition to the week he’s had, so leave him alone, okay?

“he has it,” patton admits.

“oh,” chris says.

“but you should, um. you should definitely tell him that you watched the movie, and maybe you could read it too? logan really likes rambling about the books he likes. and hey, he’s got tons of books on his to-read list, like, um, aristotle and dante discover the secrets of the universe, or ash by malinda lo, or the star host. those all have gay teens, too, so maybe you could send one of those instead?”

“oh,” chris says, sounding a bit brighter, a bit relieved. “okay, cool, um—could you say all those again?”

patton does, and chris repeats them back to make sure he’s got them right, before he says, “guess i’ve got a to-read list now too, huh?”

patton thinks abruptly of chris at sixteen, loudly complaining about reading and disdainfully pitching books across the room and finding some version of sparknotes for every book they were assigned in english and looking forward to the day he’d graduate and never be forced to read again, but since his son is passionate about reading he’s giving it another try, and nope, patton’s crying again, here we go—

a pause.

“are you crying?!” chris asks, baffled.

“shut up!” patton blubbers into the phone. 

“i just said i was going to read something, roo, are you seriously—?”

“i said shut up!” patton sniffles, and darts a glance over to virgil to make sure he hasn’t woken up, running a thumb over his knuckles when he sees that he hasn’t. “it’s been a long week, okay, and it—it means so much that you’re doing all this to be here for logan, to be a good dad to him, and to show him that you support him, it just—”

“um,” christopher says. “about that.”

“yeah?” patton asks, wiping off his face.

christopher takes a deep breath, and then he takes on a weirdly formal tone. 

“so, i know that, um, as a... straight cis white man, with a lot of privilege considering, you know, the fact that i was born into a pretty wealthy family, i recognize that, um, when we were teenagers, i was kind of, you know. an asshole. and i know that i haven’t, um. been as good a friend as i could have been, or boyfriend, back then, i guess, or whatever we were—”

yeah, they’d never quite figured out what they were in the few months they were together, the vast majority of them overtaken by the “oh fuck oh god oh shit we’re having a baby, we’re sixteen, whaT ARE WE GONNA DO” panic that had been the vast majority of patton’s first trimester (and honestly, the first year of logan’s life, but most of that had been a solo endeavor.)

“—and i, um. i really haven’t been over the past few years? i know being a teenager and not getting it is, like, only kind of an excuse, but i just, um. i wanted to apologize for not being as good of a friend to you back then as you were to me—”

“chris,” patton says, choking up again.

“—which i’m, um. i’m working to understand that—to understand you—a little more, patton, i swear i am. so. i just wanted you to know that i’m sorry for being, well. kind of a dick.”

is it apologize-to-patton-week or something? patton thinks, dazed, and he swallows hard so he’ll be able to talk.

“i really appreciate you saying that, c,” patton says softly. “and you weren’t a—well, you weren’t a butt, okay? we were young, and it wasn’t as well-known then as it is now, and better late than never—”

“i’m supposed to be the one making excuses for me, so stop,” christopher says, amused. “and, um. okay, so, i looked on the internet, and let me tell you i’ve never felt quite as old as i did when i was digging into stuff there—”

“oh, god,” patton chokes out, somehow both laughing and crying, only imagining what christopher could have found.

“but, um, apparently there’s something i’m supposed to say to, you know, communicate support or whatever, so here we go,” christopher says, and then, with the distinct tone of someone reading off a flashcard, “trans rights?”

patton laughs so hard that he wakes virgil up.

(Logan Sanders: Apparently, my other father called dad today to apologize for not being as good of an LGBTQIA+ ally as he could have been.

Roman Prince: yeah??? how’d it go??

Logan Sanders: He said, and I quote, “trans rights.”

Roman Prince: TRANS RIGHTS BABEY!!!!!!!!)


“aren’t you gonna come up?”

“oh. i thought it, um. i thought it was more of a one-night kind of thing.”

“well, i mean, it can if you want it to be. but i did offer my bed to you, and i mean. you said you were planning on staying until winter fest, right?”

“right.”

“and that’s... counting tonight, two whole night’s worth of sleep away. you can’t seriously tell me that you sleep better on my couch than you did in the bed.”

“well, no.”

“okay. so. you could stay down here, if you want, but. i mean. i’d go for the better night of sleep, if i were you.”

“i just—are you sure?”

“yeah, v, i’m sure. i’m really, really sure. unless it made you uncomfortable?”

“no! no, it’s not—“

“—because if it made you uncomfortable, of course you can stay on the couch, i don’t mean to guilt you into it or anything, it’s just—“

“no. no, no, no. no. patton, i wasn’t, um. i wasn’t uncomfortable.”

“oh. good! um, good. i was just—i dunno. i was worried i made you uncomfortable. i kind of get close and attach myself to the nearest warm thing in my sleep, i guess.”

“no, no, that—um, that happens. i get it. i didn’t—it was—well, i mean, it was, y’know. nice.”

“oh. i... i thought so too.”

“i just—you know.”

“...what?”

you know. it’s because we’re...”

“...yeah?”

“we—um. actually, i, um. ahem. it’s, uh. i wasn’t sure about waking you up again. i figured i’d go to the diner in the morning to make sure that everything’s, you know. going okay.”

“...oh.”

“so i figured i’d just. you know. stay down here.”

“you don’t have to stay down here. i’d really be okay if we—um. if we took the extra step and we... went upstairs. together.”

“it’s just that, um. it’s just that i’m nervous about—about waking you up, or messing up your sleep schedule. somehow.”

“but you sleep better, when you’re with me. and i sleep better when i’m with you.”

“well, i mean. we experienced that, sure, but i just—”

“virgil.”

“yeah?”

“do you trust me?”

“of course. god, of course i do, patton, i just—”

“okay, so, trust me. what’s the worst that can happen? i drool on you and steal your blankets? you snore a bit too loud and oversleep?”

“...yeah, okay. i, um. i guess you’re right.”

“i know i’m right.”

“yeah, yeah, okay. don’t be too smug, i’m coming.”

(in the morning, patton will wake up to a snore directly into his ear, and try his hardest not to giggle loud enough that he’ll wake virgil. virgil wakes up to a back-to-sleep patton, and, fresh from the shower, will hesitate before he drops a kiss on patton’s head, thinking he was asleep that time and he wouldn’t notice (patton noticed.))

(Logan Sanders: I cannot believe that, ostensibly, my dad has for the second night in a row convinced Virgil to come upstairs and sleep in the same bed.

Roman Prince: 1. you are the only nerd who’d use the word “ostensibly” in a text
Roman Prince: 2. why are you up this late you better not be studying for finals already we pull an all-nighter the night before and die like men
Roman Prince: 3. i cannot fucking believe them

Logan Sanders: I hope you’ve saved up enough of your allowance for my victory milkshakes.

Roman Prince: wait milkshakeS?????
Roman Prince: we never specified PLURAL milkshakes, cable news nerdwork

Logan Sanders: Getting nervous, are you?

Roman Prince: i can’t believe u just tried to “scared, potter?” me u absolute dweeb

Logan Prince: So, you aren’t?

Roman Prince: ...you wish)


patton’s getting better, which relieves virgil more than anything in the world.

he coughs a little, sure, but it’s nowhere near the horrible, wheezing things he did the night virgil found him. he doesn’t have a fever anymore. he’s only a little achy, or so he tells virgil.

he’s just. he’s doing good. he’s taking medicine, he’s out of the hospital, he’s doing better.

honestly, finding patton in the hospital was the last unpleasant surprise he needed for the rest of his life. as far as he’s concerned, nothing else should change, thanks. he does well when things stay the same. when things are normal.

and things are getting back to normal.

sure, it’s a little weird that virgil’s sleeping over at patton’s house for so long. and sure, it’s a lot weird, the sleeping-in-patton’s-bed thing, but it’s not—bad. it is the exact opposite of bad. but that’s it, in terms of changes. nothing else. that was a big enough step for him, and now he just—he just can settle back into work, and so can patton, and everything will be normal again.

or so virgil hopes.

change isn’t exactly good for him. when he knows what to expect, he knows what to worry about—he knows how to channel his anxiety into something productive, he knows what’s ludicrous to worry about, he knows what might be a thing to keep his eye on. it’s routine. basically one of the first mental health tips anyone gives anyone is establish a routine. he’s maybe taken that a bit too much to heart, but sue him, it helps, okay? he likes routines. it’s normal. 

for instance:

virgil’s back to working at least morning shifts at the diner. he’d taken off abruptly to keep patton company at his bedside, and it’s good to see his workers, his regulars, to deal with the trials and tribulations of the kitchen that he’s been dealing with for sixteen years as owner, as long as he can remember staffing the family diner since he was a kid.

virgil’s back to, occasionally, taking breaks in his apartment. sure, the first night in the hospital was the only night virgil spent in the hospital, without the threat of the wrath of emily sanders hanging over the nurse’s heads, plus the whole near-scare thing, so essentially he’d stumble back to his apartment and not do much else than collapse into his bed. now, his workers force him up there, occasionally, to take a shower or grab a book and it’s—nice. to be back in his own space again. not that patton’s house isn’t nice, it’s just—well, it’s just not his, that’s all.

virgil’s back to hanging out with patton in sideshire. it’s almost easy to convince himself everything is okay when they settle in for a movie marathon or patton attempts to wheedle a hot cocoa/coffee out of him via text at the diner. it makes the night that virgil found him seem more and more distant, like a shockingly vivid bad dream.

virgil’s back to attempting to feed the princes—ms. prince always gets riled up and distracted around recital time, and they’re technically neighbors, so he usually kind of takes it upon himself to do the neighborly thing and cal them in the mornings to see if they want something healthy saved in the back that they can pick up after showtime. most of the time, they take him up on it, even if ms. prince squints suspiciously at her meal sometimes like he’s somehow managed to sneak something greasy and unhealthy into her salad and roman’s chicken-and-rice under her nose.

(okay, he got caught sneaking the kid a jam tart, once, seven years ago, isn’t it time to let that go?)

virgil’s back to translating grunts to mean more coffee and eavesdropping on the tables of gossipers that frequent his diner and managing his teenage waitstaff who think it might be fun to see who can balance the most plates on their arms without dropping things and ignoring taylor doose’s pleas to put up more lights for the winter festival, he’s got one strand, thanks, that’s all he’s doing and taylor can deal with it.

he’s missed his diner. he’s missed his apartment. he’s missed routine.

it’s good. everything getting back to normal is so, so good.

(Roman Prince: virgil was whistling when he gave us dinner???

Logan Prince: That’s... unusual.

Roman Prince: yeah i can see why he fucken sucks at whistling lmao)


patton turns his nose to the air and takes in a deep inhale. again.

virgil laughs. “you’re acting like a puppy out on a walk, pat.”

“i can’t help it,” patton says gleefully. “fresh air! the outdoors! snow under my boots!” he helpfully hops into it to emphasize the crunch, a little, though the snow’s been rather packed down, due to everyone trodding all over it in the past week, so it’s not quite as satisfying a crunch as it would be in fresh snow. 

“a walk that’s longer than your car to the phone store place!” he adds. “the prospect of hot cocoa/coffee with my lunch!”

“it would be one cup of hot cocoa/coffee, you know that,” virgil huffs, but he’s smiling a little bit, too.

“mm, that’s what you say now,” patton says. “but alas, you are a week out of practice in facing the puppy dog eyes, virgil, and i’ve brought my a game. plus!” he adds eagerly. “plus, you’re eating lunch with me, so you aren’t responsible for giving me my food slash beverages.”

he maybe overemphasizes the plural on beverages.

“yeah, but i’m responsible for their paycheck,” virgil grumbles.

“be nice,” patton scolds, as if he doesn’t know that the inn and the diner are neck-and-neck on online ratings about ‘best local businesses to work at in sideshire,’ as according to logan’s research. 

virgil grumbles a little more, but opens the door to the diner for patton anyway, and he practically skips inside, happily inhaling the scent of fried food, of hot cocoa/coffee, of spices and sweets and all the good things in the world—of virgil’s diner.

patton’s heart feels like a balloon filling with helium, and he turns to virgil, beaming, and virgil’s face is—

virgil’s face is doing a thing. patton’s caught his face doing the thing semi-frequently over the past ten or so years, sure, but since the whole Hospital Fiasco it’s been appearing with enough frequency to make patton feel a little faint, because—because the thing virgil’s face is doing is so soft, and so unbearably tender, and so fond that it kind of makes patton’s insides feel like they’re melting into slush like the snow outside, except much nicer than the grayish, polluted snow—it’s more it’s rainbow-colored snow, and it feels like it’s melting in the same way that really good chocolate melts in your mouth, except with the addition of butterflies, and—

and look, patton’s torso is feeling all kinds of ways, so the thing that virgil’s face is doing should stop, but also not stop ever please??? it’s very confusing, is what’s patton’s saying. 

patton is saved from asking “so what’s the deal with your face, all of a sudden, and will you just stand still so i can take a picture and set it as my homescreen for every electronic device i have and possibly print it out to frame and keep by my bed, please?” by someone calling out his name eagerly.

“derek!” patton says, working to keep his voice sounding just as eager as his part-time worker’s, turning in time to give him a friendly little one-armed hug.

“are you doing better?” derek asks anxiously.

“much, thank you,” patton says graciously. “i should be back to running everything on monday—”

“—from your office, and not running around like you usually do—”

“—sure, but how have things been, up there?” patton asks, unaccountably anxious. it’s the longest he’s gone without going up to the inn in about sixteen years, if he’s remembering all his vacation times right. 

derek looks around, as if to make sure that there are no eavesdroppers (impossible in this town, really) and lowers his voice. “michel’s scary.”

well, that is kind of what patton hired him for, but he’d kind of hoped that he’d toned it down in the past week or so.

“but otherwise,” derek continues, “things have been... well, holiday-hectic, sookie says that’s normal.”

“it is,” patton sighs longingly, already anticipating the paperwork and customer issues that he’ll have waiting for him, and he’s surprised to find that he’s excited for it. kind of unreasonably excited. to get back into the routine of things, to get back to normal. plus holiday guests always provide the best stories.

“i’ll, um, i’ll let you eat lunch,” derek says, and laughs. “my lunch break’s nearly over, anyway.”

“oh, right, school!” patton says, remembering. derek’s a senior, which means he can sign out for lunches at home or, more popularly, at virgil’s. “right, right, get back to it. i’ll see you on monday!”

“bye, mr. sanders!”

patton turns back to virgil, who’s moved to lean over the counter to chat with jean, one of his part-time workers, and his face is back to normal, so. moment broken there, he guesses. he sidles up to virgil’s side, and jean grins, tossing a towel over her shoulder.

“tune out of work mode for once, virgil,” she advises him. “do you need me to drop by menus, or—?”

“you know, it’s been a while since i actually looked at one of those,” virgil says contemplatively. “why not.”

patton tugs him over to a booth, and slides in himself, propping his chin in his hand.

“how is it that, after sixteen years, this is only our second time sitting down to have a meal in the diner properly?”

“huh,” virgil says, oddly contemplative. “yeah, i guess the last time we ate in the diner together when i wasn’t working or back in the kitchen was—”

“the night we met, yeah,” patton says, smiling reminiscently. he reaches over to swat virgil when he flinches.

“you were not that bad,” he admonishes. “how many times have i forgiven you for it?”

“i lost count by logan’s first birthday,” virgil mutters back. “i still—i mean, can you at least let me cringe about what a dick i was?”

patton tilts his head, like he’s thinking about it. “as long as it’s just cringing.”

“yeah, okay, i’m gonna keep apologizing,” virgil says, “expecting me not to is just unrealistic.”

“i’ll wear you down eventually,” patton says, and smiles at jean as she brings by the menus, setting his aside basically immediately.

“you know what you’re getting?” virgil says, curious.

“yeah,” patton says. “a hot cocoa/coffee to start, but for lunch i want lasagna and a water too, please?”

virgil looks at him, softening, and his face is starting to do that thing again.

“you know what,” virgil says decisively, after little more than a cursory look at the menu. “me too. plus a slice of double chocolate fudge layer cake to split.”

patton beams at him. “you remember,” he says, sappy.

“of course i remember,” virgil says. “i have to keep apologizing for it, don’t i?”

i told you not to,” patton says, mockingly threatening.

“i’ll be right back with that hot cocoa/coffee,” jean says with a little laugh.

they both thank her, and turn back to each other when she goes.

“virge?”

“yeah?” he asks, and patton bites his lip.

“can i ask you something?”

“yeah,” virgil says. “yeah, ‘course. ask away.”

patton bites his lip, again and again, before he cautions, “it’s going to be really out of the blue.”

“well, now i’m nervous,” virgil tries.

“aren’t you always?” patton tries right back, and virgil lets out a laugh that’s more polite than anything.

“that night,” patton says, quiet. “when we met.”

virgil waits. jean drops off their hot cocoa/coffees and wisely withdraws without a word.

when she’s gone, patton says, “i know this isn’t the—the best way to phrase it, just as, you know. as a disclaimer.”

virgil waits.

patton takes a deep breath. “i thought i was making the biggest mistake of my life.”

“i remember,” virgil says. “you said.”

“what did you think of me?” patton asks, soft. “i mean—virgil, i felt like the biggest idiot on earth—“

“hey,” virgil says, quiet but sharp. “c’mon, hey. no, you weren’t.”

“i was a teenager with a screaming baby and i told you i’d just run away from home,” patton says, “where i had rich parents to support me and my son, and—”

“—and classmates who bullied you mercilessly, and a semi-boyfriend who was at best an absent co-parent, and his homophobic and transphobic parents, and parents who told you to your face that they were ashamed of you, and picked at every little decision you made, and who would have overruled you when it came to parenting logan at every turn, you knew that,” virgil says. “patton, you were hurting, of course i didn’t think you were an idiot. i thought you were brave.”

patton feels his face going soft, going touched, and virgil reaches over to cover patton’s hand with his own.

“i did add a disclaimer,” patton tries, but virgil still looks all—concerned.

“what brought this on?” he asks softly. “you haven’t said something like that about yourself in a while.”

patton shrugs, and says, “we missed the usual coming-to-sideshire-anniversary celebration because i was sick, and—and i dunno. i’m thirty-two, it just—i’ve known you for half my life now, you know?”

“oh, god,” virgil says. “half your life, that’s—don’t make me feel old.”

“i know,” patton agrees. “but i just—i dunno. i was thinking, i guess.”

“about what?” virgil prompts gently, and patton isn’t sure who initiates it, but their grip on their hands shift so they’re holding hands, so it’s not just virgil’s hand on top of his.

this is a new development, too, the holding-hands thing. patton likes it. he likes it probably a bit too much. okay, a lot too much. he just squeezes virgil’s hand instead of try to say any of that, though. too much emotion would probably scare virgil off, or at least prod him into overthinking everything he’s ever done with patton.

“everything?” patton says, and tries to articulate it. “i dunno, it’s just—i’m seeing my parents more frequently than i’ve seen them since i was sixteen, and logan’s sixteen, now, and i just got out of the hospital in the most extended stay i’ve had since i had logan, plus the anniversary, so i just—” he huffs a breath. “i dunno. history repeats, i guess, in one way or the other. i’m getting sentimental. nostalgic. one of the two, or some word that’s better for it that logan definitely knows but i don’t, so.”

“that makes sense, i guess,” virgil says, and swipes a thumb over patton’s knuckles. “similar circumstances, same time of year, same people, even if logan’s gained nearly six feet—”

“he needs to stop growing,” patton grumbles, taking on virgil’s usual line. “eating us out of house and home.”

“—and a vocabulary and an attitude to match,” virgil continues, with a wry twist of his mouth. 

patton smiles, fond.

“i knew you weren’t an idiot,” virgil says, and takes patton’s other hand, so he’s holding both of patton’s hands clasped between both of his. “because you were hurting. i knew you weren’t an idiot because you sat me down and told me the whole story. i knew you weren’t an idiot because you seemed surprised that someone wanted to help you. i knew you weren’t an idiot because you seemed even more surprised that i was trying to comfort you, even if i was fucking it up, like, majorly.” 

“you weren’t,” patton murmurs, but virgil continues anyway.

“i knew you weren’t an idiot because when i was being nice to you you seemed like you were waiting for me to start judging you and you got so startled when i didn’t. i knew you weren’t an idiot because it was so clear from the moment i took a few seconds to watch the pair of you together that you adored logan, you loved him with everything you had—still do—and because you were warring so much with a decision that would hurt you and your parents, but you did it because you thought it would be best for him, and best for you, but that was so clearly second to his well-being, for you. i knew you weren’t an idiot because you were somehow saw all the potential logan had when he was a baby, and you knew he needed a clean slate to be able to access it, whatever kind of potential that turned out to be. i knew you weren’t an idiot because you were being an amazing dad, even when logan had barely been in the world for three weeks. so, you know. i was worried about you, yeah. i called maria to make sure someone was waiting up at the inn as soon as you left, yeah. but i never, not for a second, thought you were stupid for running away, patton. never ever ever. okay? and you shouldn’t either.”

“i never knew you called maria,” patton says past the lump in his throat, because—because he doesn’t know what else to say to all that. what on earth can he possibly say to all that?

virgil shrugs a little, embarrassed. 

patton brings his hands—and virgil’s hands which are still cupping his hands, by extension—up to his mouth. he presses his mouth against virgil’s fingers—not a kiss, not quite, but close.

virgil squeezes his hands harder, and leans forward, eyes wide and standing out starkly from the midst of his under-eye bags and his dark makeup.

“i am so proud of you,” he says thickly, and patton squeezes what little hold he has on virgil’s hands in return.

“v,” he manages, choked up.

“i’m serious,” virgil insists. “look at you, pat. you got your ged, and you’re a year away from getting your degree. you have an amazing job. you own a house. your son’s gonna be the valedictorian of the best school in the state. you’ve managed to patch up your relationship with chris, plus your parents at least a little. you’re the nicest, gentlest, sweetest guy, and everyone in town at least respects you if they don’t outright love you.”

patton sniffles, and tries to joke, as if he is not five seconds away from bursting into really embarrassing tears in the middle of the diner because he’s so touched, “not bad for a dropout teen dad, huh?”

“yeah,” virgil says. “not bad at all.”

patton bites his lip, and says, very suddenly, “you made me a promise, that night.”

virgil’s brow creases, and patton can practically see him trying to run through the memory of a conversation sixteen years prior.

“well,” patton amends, “you never actually said the words i promise, but i kind of, um. i kind of took it as one.”

virgil’s confusion clears, and patton smiles.

“did you ever think we’d be—well, i mean, look at us now, right?” patton says, gesturing with all four of their hands. “sixteen years later, same old diner—well, with a fresh coat of paint,” he amends, and virgil snorts.

“same two guys,” patton continues. “but, i mean. did you think we’d be... like this? even now?”

“we’re even better than i ever thought we’d be,” virgil says, and patton smiles back.

“yeah, me too.” he pauses, before he says, “kinda makes you think about the next sixteen years.”

virgil physically shudders, and patton giggles.

“ugh, i’ll be in my fifties, patton,” he says, sounding horrified. “i thought you said you’d stop making me feel old!”

“i mean, you’re already pushing forty,” patton points out, and falls into even more giggles at the offended look on virgil’s face.

“i’m thirty-eight!”

“thirty-nine, nearly,” patton says, a little gleeful. “you’re so old, virgil, gosh.”

virgil bites his lip, before he says, “you’re really up for another sixteen years with me, huh?”

patton smiles. “logan and roman and you are the parts i’m looking forward to the most,” he says. “and—yeah. yeah, i am.”

“and you’re—staying?”

“of course i’m staying,” he says, soft. “i’m staying with you for as long as you’re gonna keep me, virgil.”

“be careful with that,” virgil cautions him softly. “i might just keep you forever.”

“promise?” patton whispers, and untangles one of his hands from virgil’s to offer a pinky.

the corner of virgil’s lip quirks up, and he hooks his pinky with patton’s. 

“promise,” he whispers back. “i’ll be with you any way you’ll have me, pat.”

“be careful with that,” patton repeats, in the barest whisper. “i might just have you.”

virgil’s face starts doing the thing, again, but his eyes are different, this time, and it’s charging the air around them. they’re full of heat, eyes dark and full of promise and wanting, and virgil looks at him through his lashes, serious and soft and—

and not flirty, patton tells himself firmly, flustered despite himself, because virgil certainly wouldn’t be flirting with him like this, right?? right?

but god, it feels like—it feels like a Moment. it feels like something they’ve been building toward. it feels like the last cresting wave before some kind of tension was released, patton feels like a champagne bottle about to pop the cork—

“i trust you to be careful with me more than anyone else,” virgil says. “i’ll keep taking my chances on you.”

patton’s about to say—something. he doesn’t know what. but he’s so full of the Moment, of the way the air itself seems to have changed around them, of the way virgil’s looking at him, one pair of hands held and the other pair with hooked pinkies, and patton has to say something about—the Something. he has to. he doesn’t know what, but here he goes, he’s gonna say it, he’s gonna—

“hot plates coming in, gentlemen,” a voice rings out, and patton could scream, because virgil startles, and the Moment breaks, and all of the building tension recedes away quick as it surged and their hands break apart and patton looks away, clearing his throat, trying for his best polite smile at jean as she sets down their plates of lasagna.

“um, thanks, jean,” virgil says gruffly. “looks great.”

“you two enjoy,” she says, and flits away, and patton picks up his fork with a barely-suppressed sigh.

(Roman Prince: [one image attached]
Roman Prince: LOOK AT WHAT MRS. TORRES JUST SENT ME FROM VIRGIL’S WHAT THE FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK
Roman Prince: I CANNOT BELIEVE THAT VIRGIL IS LOOKING AT YOUR DAD LIKE HE’S HIS WHOLE WORLD AND PATTON’S LOOKING AT HIM LIKE HE HUNG THE MOON AND THEY’RE  H O L D I N G  H A N D S

Roman Prince: LOGAN STOP BEING AN UPSTANDING STUDENT I HAVE TO YELL AT YOU ABOUT HOW YOUR DADS ARE SO SO GAY

Logan Sanders: Mrs. Torres?

Roman Prince: she’s the worst gossip of the over-55s LOGAN ARE YOU SEEING THIS OH MY GOD

Logan Sanders: Of course I am seeing it, this optometry prescription is in date and I have sufficient wifi to load photos.

Roman Prince: I CANNOT TELL IF YOU ARE FUCKING WITH ME
Roman Prince: IF SO LOGAN THOMAS SANDERS I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU
Roman Prince: TODAY OF ALL DAYS!!!!!
Roman Prince: I ONLY CARE A LITTLE WHO WINS NOW I JUST WANT IT TO H A P P E N  OKAY)


“got your coat?”

logan, without looking up from his notebook, where he’s jotting some last-minute notes, plucks at the collar of the coat he’s wearing—the space one that virgil made for his birthday.

“heavier winter one, too?” patton presses, and logan points with his free hand to where it’s laid over a chair, still not looking up. 

“spare pens?” he checks. “phone all charged up?”

“yes, yes,” logan says absently. 

“you’re sure you don’t wanna walk around with virgil and me?”

“i have reporting to do, dad,” logan says, long-suffering. granted, he’s got the vast majority of the story written, based off pre-event interviews with vendors and people with city hall. he mostly needs quotes and a bit of description, to experience it in order to write a properly captivating lead, and he’ll head back to the press to finish the story after the event’s over.

“i know you usually spend the festival with roman.”

logan shrugs, at last snaps his notebook shut. “roman has his performance in the nutcracker, i have reporting to do. it intersects neatly. besides, he said we’d meet up after the show and once i’ve submitted the story. i’ll text you when i think i’ll be home.”

one of the bonuses of having a cool parent—logan didn’t have a formal curfew. he could count on two fingers the amount of times patton had told him to be home by a certain time when he was hanging out with roman, and both times it was because they had something to do in the morning. as long as logan keeps him updated, he’s free to roam.

“hang on, hang on,” patton says, digging around in his pockets before he passes over a twenty. “get yourself dinner and something else—a souvenir, or a knicknack, or whatever catches your eye, okay? just because you’ve got a job to do doesn’t mean you can’t have fun!”

logan accepts the money, tucks it into his pocket, and taps his pen against the cover of his notebook, before absentmindedly tucking it behind his ear as he stands to get his coat. well, his other coat. it had snowed again last night—an inch or two, really, nowhere close to the foot and a half that had stranded him at his grandparents—and it was forecasted to be a cold evening.

“all right,” patton says, and reaches over to squeeze logan’s shoulder briefly. “i’m looking forward to reading the article!”

“i’m going to the press,” he says, and adds, because he knows patton will ask, “i’ll probably get dinner from one of the stalls, or something.”

“virgil’s running one, this year, but not virgil-virgil,” patton says. “just the diner.”

“um,” logan says, and adds, casually, “speaking of virgil?”

patton blinks at him. “yeah?”

logan lifts his eyebrows, and says, “i couldn’t help but notice that the couch—”

patton turns bright red, and says, “can we not talk about it?”

“is there something to talk about?” logan presses.

“what?!” patton squeaks. “no!”

“you’re sure?” logan says. “i’d be okay if there was, you know.”

“of—of course i’m sure!” he exclaims. “i—why would you even—we’re not—there’s nothing! happening!”

“okay,” logan says simply, and heads for the front door.

“there isn’t!” patton squawks.

“i mean, if you say so,” logan says, opening the door.

“i’m—i—you!”

logan glances back over his shoulder to see his dad actually stamp his foot, looking embarrassed and flustered and much more like logan is the parent questioning their child about their potential significant other, and logan can’t help but smirk at him.

“you’re grounded!” patton manages to splutter.

“no, i’m not,” logan says, a laugh in his voice, and shuts the door behind him, walking the familiar route to the press. and sending a text on the way.

Logan Sanders: Dad insists there’s “nothing to talk about” and there is “nothing happening,” but he also grounded me when I said “if you say so.”

he tucks his phone in his pocket, not expecting a response for a while—roman’s performing, after all—and instead starts to focus on the story at hand, mentally sorting through people to find for a quote, potential photos to take if rudy lets him take the sole newsroom camera, trying to mentally review what he had written and wondering if he should rearrange the story.

the winter festival is a sideshire tradition—booths, food, games, music, and the lighting of christmas tree in the middle of the town, and everything surrounding it: the gazebo, the prince studio, virgil’s diner, among others. it’s the kind of thing that would get featured in a magazine as a sweet, small-town tradition, something the locals do that you should be sure not to miss, and be sure to try lucy’s peppermint or gingerbread ice cream and warm up with a festive coffee from remy’s, or hot cocoa/coffee from virgil’s!

(it’s also pretty well known for having a wedding right after more years than not, and proposals in the midst of the tree lighting, and first dates spent snacking on fresh cookies, which roman is very aware of and therefore has made logan very aware of, as much as he doesn’t particularly want to be aware of the more saccharine aspects of it, thank you very much.)

(well. except for the time they tried to parent trap virgil and roman when they were ten, but that was for science and it didn’t work anyway.)

rudy isn’t at the press when he gets there (logan has his own key) and logan sighs a little, having expected that. but that means he can definitely take the camera, so he does.

he takes shots of set-up. he gets quotes about the set-up from various volunteers and city hall workers. he trawls the booths to take more shots and get more quotes. lucy gives him free samples of caramel-covered apples, insisting he give her his opinion on the variances of each, as she talks about the almost-fifty years worth of winter festivals she’s seen as a business owner in sideshire, and logan makes a note in his phone to pitch a fifty-year profile on lucy next year, as one of the first female black business owners in sideshire who had been in business for so long.

“go on, take this,” she insists, holding out a mini cup of ice cream as he thanks her for her time. “you need to keep your energy up if you keep runnin’ ‘round reporting like this, baby.”

“what flavor is it?” logan asks, juggling his notebook and his pen to be able to accept it, because he has learned over the past sixteen years what happens if he tries to decline lucy’s efforts to feed him. he has never succeeded. besides, it’s only a little more than a sample—he’ll probably finish it in five minutes.

she smiles at him. “caramel chocolate. i can put a cherry on top, since your usual thief isn’t here and you’ll actually get to eat it, for once.”

logan clears his throat, dropping his gaze to the cup, and says, “thank you again for your time—”

she laughs, pats him on the cheek, and says, “give your boy a hug from me. he seemed like he needed it the last time i saw him.”

before logan can ask her what she means, she turns to continue setting up, and logan frowns but keeps moving—he has a job to do, after all. 

he gets a quote from jean, at virgil’s stall (it would likely be a conflict of interest to get a quote from virgil, and he’s already toeing the line a bit with lucy, but, well. it’s a small town. he’d be hard-pressed to say anyone that he doesn’t have some kind of relationship with in this town, even if it’s just in passing.)

he gets quotes from remy, who’s got an arm slung over dr. picani’s shoulders, and emile interjects cheerfully with quotes about how excited he is, and how the festival means that christmas is coming, and it gets him in a mood to celebrate every year. he even manages to get a quote from the mayor, a fluffy, pr-tinged statement that logan’s sure he’ll have to include anyway.

the sun sets, and logan allows the camera to settle around his neck—he’s fairly average at photography, and he won’t be able to really start to photograph the surroundings very well until the lighting ignites his surroundings again—and reviews his notes, jotting down the quotes and the timestamps of the recordings he’s taken of his interviews. 

logan stays to take notes of the ebb and flow of the crowd. logan records the tree lighting for an online feature. logan takes photos of the prince studio lit up with red and gold, of the gazebo strung in pretty fairy lights, of the grudging single string of purple lights strung about the eaves of virgil’s diner. 

as the crowd is growing at its thickest, logan slips away, and tries to focus on his job instead of the person he’s usually here with.

the press isn’t technically a press. they don’t print the paper here, but it really is a bit more thematically appropriate to term this building either the courant or the press, so it maintained the name mostly due to the fact that it houses reporters. (rudy only makes the count on a technicality.)

it’s a tiny, cozy room on top of remy aserinsky’s café, with four tables pushed together and sufficiently ancient computers sitting on top of each. there’s tiny secondhand couches rescued from the sides of the road dotting the edges of the room. there are old, framed editions lined nearly along the walls. 

logan takes in a breath—the scent of ink and paper and coffee—drops off the camera, removing the sd card, and takes a seat at his favorite computer, the one in the corner with his back to the wall and his eyes to the door of the room. he boots up the computer and settles in for writing and editing and photo selection.

it’s a comfortable routine, writing a story. he knows ap style, he knows the common structures, he knows what makes a good quote and what to cut. he ends up rearranging the story to focus more on the booths and the businesses that took them over, rather than the historical aspect, and he’s scanning it word-by-word to ensure that it’s print-ready when he hears someone coming up the stairs.

“knock-knock,” a familiar voice calls, and logan smiles before he lowers his head a little so the smile’s hidden behind the computer screen.

“how was the show?” he asks, glancing up to see roman, in a thick red sweater and jeans, hair a little wet, and holding two to-go mugs. logan holds out a hand for one immediately, grasping at the air as if he will be able to grasp the mug if he opens and closes his hand enough times, and roman laughs, crossing the room and offering the bigger one to him.

“good,” he says. “belle’s a sweetie and i adore her.”

“she’s one of the claras, isn’t she?” logan asks, taking in appreciative inhale of hot cocoa/coffee. 

“she is,” roman says, and digs around in his pocket before proudly presenting logan with a folded-up piece of paper. “look!”

logan takes it and unfolds it, and can’t help but smile, just a little. it’s a card, homemade, dotted over with what must be an entire sheet’s worth of stickers, with good luck! and i love you! and you’re the best! and a drawing of what must be roman lifting up serena, the ballerina playing the sugar plum fairy this year, who is a genuinely professional ballerina. she’s had her doubts about dancing alongside a fifteen-year-old, or so logan had heard, but, well. someone only had to watch roman dance for five seconds before they were corrected of any assumptions due to age. they get along better now, he’s heard.

“you have an admirer,” logan teases, handing back the card, which roman carefully folds and sticks into his pocket.

“i do,” roman says, and frowns. “i feel like i’m forgetting something, now that i’m seeing you, but i can’t remember what it is.”

“well, we’re still coming to the show tomorrow,” logan offers. “my dad, my grandparents, and i. the matinee showing. i’ll text you exactly where we’re sitting, if you’d like. is that it?”

"i would like it, but that’s not it,” roman says, and hooks his chin over logan’s shoulder. logan’s very aware that their cheeks are just a centimeter away from pressing against each other. “eh, whatever, i’ll remember eventually. how’s the fest?”

logan smiles, a little, resists the urge to tilt his head just that extra bit. boyfriend, boyfriend, boyfriend, is a refrain in his mind. he has a boyfriend, he has a boyfriend. 

“good,” logan says. “the crowds should be thinning out by the time we go, and i’m just doing last-minute edits to make sure everything’s accurate. can i show you the pictures? i want your opinion on the ones i pick.”

“yeah, ‘course,” roman says, and he’s the one to tilt his head, and logan’s hyper-aware of the scent of him—the distant scent of floral body wash, deodorant, the more present scent of cologne, (in his most embarrassing private thoughts, he thinks about burying his nose into roman’s neck and inhaling over and over and over until the scent’s in his nose for forever, he loves the smell of the cologne roman uses)—and logan tries to not. react.

“okay,” logan says, forcing his voice not to come out too high-pitched. “so, i’ve got one of the town square as a whole, all lit up—”

“oh, it’s so pretty,” roman breathes.

“—and a closer one of the tree, and a few detail shots of the booths, but that’s what i want your opinion on.”

“okay, show me my choices.”

so logan does, showing the various shots he has, discussing them with roman, flipping through them when roman requests a repeat view, and then roman makes logan scoot over so they’re sharing a chair, slinging an arm over logan’s shoulder.

“okay,” roman says. “ i think you should do the one of the booths being set up, because it’s just a nice picture and i like it a lot. i think you should do the one with lucy serving a customer, because you’ve got her in the article and everyone knows lucy. and i think you should include the one of remy leaning over to kiss dr. picani, because it’s cute and it kinda ties into the whole sentimentalism end quote you’ve got going on. do you want more?”

logan considers, shuffling the gallery so that roman’s choices are included with the other ones logan’s had picked, and flips through them all at once.

“i think that’s it,” logan says, and turns to smile at roman. “thank you.”

“i have an artist’s eye,” roman sniffs, attempting to take on an air of pretentiousness, before he grins back at logan. “you’re welcome. now do whatever you need to do to publish it and get your coat on, c’mon, let’s go let’s go let’s go, we’ve got carnival games to play and ice cream to eat and lights to go ooh and ahh at and pictures to take for social media, c’mon!”

logan smiles a little wider, before ensures that it’s saved and in the process of being published. as soon as he logs off the computer, roman’s tugging at logan’s hand, urging him out of the press, and logan can’t help but laugh as he follows.

“okay, food first, i’m starving,” roman announces. “you’ve probably had dinner, though.”

logan bites his lip. and then he hides his face by taking a long gulp of hot cocoa/coffee.

logan,” he says, exasperated. 

“virgil’s booth, then?” he says, avoiding the question.

“you can’t keep forgetting to eat,” roman scolds him, “aren’t you the one who always lectures me on the importance of keeping a routine?”

he starts tugging logan toward the stall—the crowd has thinned, true, but there’s still enough of a crowd that roman apparently sees it to be prudent to keep holding logan’s hand, to ensure they don’t lose each other. logan isn’t complaining, but he does notice—

“roman, your hand’s so cold,” logan says, frowning, and then he frowns even more as he examines the fabric of his sweater. it’s thick, true, but it’s hardly suitable for it to be the sole outer layer during winter. “did you not wear a coat? that must be what you forgot.”

roman’s the one looking guilty now, and logan sighs, handing over his drink from virgil’s for him to hold.

“hang on,” he says, and sheds his heavier winter coat in order to take off the coat that virgil made him for his birthday, before he drapes the jacket over roman’s shoulders.

“there,” he says, and takes back his drink. roman rubs the collar between his finger and thumb, before looking up at logan as if logan has done something extraordinary, as if logan has made some kind of grand romantic gesture. roman shrugs it on, smiling, and strikes a pose with the jacket, as if he was james dean.

“do i look good?” he asks.

“always,” logan says absently, and immediately feels his cheeks heat as roman laughs at him—kindly, but still. 

“kind of a mix of aesthetics, but it works,” roman says musingly—which is true, logan supposes. roman’s bright red sweater and his light blue, slightly torn, high-waisted jeans didn’t look exactly matched with the black leather jacket with space patches all over it, but—but roman was right. it did work.

“okay,” roman says, “okay. dinnertime, c’mon, let’s go!”

he takes logan’s hand again, and logan’s heart does that familiar squeezing thing again, and they’re off at a sedate pace.

roman sighs lovingly over the decorations, the lighting, and though logan has been reporting on it for most of the evening, it’s like roman’s admiration makes it gleam even brighter, as if logan had been distracted by reporting to even look up and take in his surroundings (entirely possible.)

the town square’s been transformed—usually, it’s the gazebo in the midst of a grassy little area, ringed by the quaint, charming businesses of sideshire. but now, the roads have wooden booths strung with string lights and garland arranged along the main road.  the lights reflect onto the fresh snow, making everything glitter. 

logan catches sight of two familiar people—their arms linked, their heads bent together to talk. his dad brightens as he sees logan, and waves to the pair of them wildly with his free arm, virgil offering a tiny little salute. logan nudges roman, and they both wave back as best as they can, as they’re holding hands plus their drinks.

“so,” roman comments, “nothing going on there, huh?”

“according to dad,” logan says, and sighs. “so i suppose i owe you lucy’s, then.”

“that you do,” roman says happily. “we’ll swing by her stall later, i wanna eat first and then we can cross through the gazebo to get to her stall—it’s right in front of the parlor, isn’t it?”

“it is,” logan confirms. “as it is every year.”

roman grins, and says, “ah, yes, the citizens of sideshire, known widely for our ability to change.”

“dad and virgil would agree,” logan grumbles, still stung that he’s lost the bet. he’d thought for sure something would happen this week. 

“aw, l,” roman says, and tugs his arm. “c’mon, cheer up. we’ll eat junk and i’ll win you a teddy bear at ring toss, or something.”

“you don’t need to win me a prize,” logan says.

“um, i definitely need to win you a prize, are you kidding?” roman says, as they slide up to the stall. “hi, jean, what’ve you got?”

they end up both getting greasy slices of pizza (not a virgil’s regular dish, but for the various festivals and events in town, virgil will cave—easy to keep warm and easy to make for crowds) and, even better, end up claiming a bench right next to the gazebo, all the better to gaze at the decorations (roman) and people watch (logan.) 

except logan spends most of his time watching one specific person. roman manages to stretch out the cheese on his pizza, and gets smears of tomato sauce on his cheek. his eyes brighten whenever someone wins a prize at the carnival games, and he cheers, he encourages, he heckles. he eagerly points out the stalls he wants to visit with logan. he chats with those who stop to bid them both hello.

and logan is... logan is happy. he hasn’t been able to spend as much time with roman over the past two weeks—with the snow, and the hospital—and likely won’t until the holidays—with the ballet, and finals—so it is a brief moment, true. but it’s a night where it can be just him, and just roman. the pair of them. the way it’s always been. the way it’s supposed to be. 

“you’re smiling,” roman notes, tapping his fingers gently on logan’s cheek. 

“you have tomato sauce on your face,” logan retorts, handing roman a napkin, and roman flushes, taking the napkin and scrubbing at his face, tilting his head so that logan can look at him full-on.

“better?”

“no, you missed some,” logan says, gesturing to where it would be on his own cheek. roman swipes, and manages to smear it more, and logan laughs at him.

“stop embarrassing me,” roman whines.

“i’m not embarrassing you,” logan retorts, still smiling, and takes the napkin back to lean in and gently dab the tomato sauce off roman’s face, focusing on his unfairly clear skin, ensuring that he gets all of it off. he surveys roman’s cheek, then crumples the napkin in his hand.

“there,” he says, satisfied. 

“thanks,” roman murmurs, and oh, logan’s leaned close enough that he can feel the warmth of roman’s breath. he hastily leans back, clearing his throat, and fiddles with his empty plate. 

“done?” he asks, glancing at the bit of crust that roman’s got. roman pops it into his mouth, and stands. they throw away their trash.

“do you want another hot chocolate?” logan asks, and roman takes his hand again. logan looks at him, but roman’s eyes are bright and excited—and fixed on the ring-toss booth ten feet away.

“c’mon,” he says, eager, “c’mon, c’mon, i gotta win you a prize!”

“you don’t have to win me a prize,” logan tries, and roman scoffs as he drags logan in front of the stand.

“hi kirk—of course i have to win you a prize, i wanna win you a prize, let me win you a prize!”

“ticket,” kirk says.

“oh, we didn’t—” logan begins, but roman’s digging around in his jeans pocket and handing over a ticket. 

“logan, you amateur,” roman tsks, “you didn’t get tickets?”

“i was busy reporting,” logan huffs, but roman ignores him as he accepts the rings from kirk. 

this is familiar too—roman’s unfairly good at carnival games, which logan always thinks are rigged. and yet, somehow, every year roman manages to win at least one prize.

one toss—two—three—

roman whoops, throwing his arms up in celebration, and then throwing them around logan’s neck.

“i won you something!” he says enthusiastically.

“you did,” logan says, squeezing him back, just a little, before separating and turning to kirk.

“what would you like?” kirk asks roman, and roman bumps hips with logan.

“yeah, logan, what would you like?”

logan heaves a put-upon sigh, as if it is a burden, but eyes stray toward the prizes. well, one very specific prize. 

it’s a dragon, a stuffed animal—actually, it seems to large to be qualified as a stuffed animal, and he believes it’s the kind that can fold out into a pillow—that’s navy blue, as dark as the night sky, as if stars could erupt over its scales.

like cecil the pirate’s best friend, apollo the knight, and his trusty dragon astria, he remembers suddenly, with a nostalgic jolt, and he’s pointing to it before he can second-guess himself.

he accepts it when it’s handed to him, and runs his hand down its flank—it’s still a little fuzzy, and it doesn’t have the unpleasant texture that scaled stuffed animals could sometimes have—and then holds it up to show roman.

“there,” he says. “you’ve won me a prize.”

roman smiles, rubs a hand over the dragon’s head. “i did,” he says smugly, and takes logan’s hand again.

logan’s about to say something else—what would you like to do next, maybe, or is there anything that you really want to do that we haven’t discussed?—when two people pass by them. one familiar, and one unfamiliar.

they’re holding hands. the unfamiliar one is wearing the familiar one’s riding jacket. 

it’s jess.

jess seems to catch roman’s eye when they’re just about to pass where logan and roman are standing, and logan looks to roman to see what his reaction is—sure, roman’s holding his hand and wearing his jacket, but this is his boyfriend, isn’t it?—and roman stares.

and then he smiles, tilting up his chin at jess. he and jess stare at each other. neither of them speak, neither of them make any gestures that logan can see. yet some kind of understanding passes between them—some kind of conversation, some kind of acknowledgement. something that neither of the people they’re holding hands with will be able to understand.

in unison, they both offer little dips of their chin. jess tugs the stranger along and they disappear into the crowd, and they’re gone as suddenly as they came.

“c’mon,” roman says, and logan shakes himself, trying to unparse what just happened, but obligingly follows along as roman tugs him toward the gazebo.

(in the crowd, as patton and virgil wait in line for some hot cocoa/coffee, virgil says, “oh, there’s roman and logan again,” and patton coos softly at them and how cute they are—roman wearing logan’s jacket, the pair of them crowd-watching, all lit up by the christmas lights. it’s enough to make patton want to go get his camera.)

“um,” logan says, distracted, twisting his head to try and see jess again. “did you want to go to talk to him?”

“what?” roman says, similarly distracted. “no, why? he’s with dean, he’s having fun.”

“dean?” logan asks uncertainly.

“the friend i told you about?” roman prompts. “the one jess has known since kindergarten? the one that makes me think of me and you? i guess he came to visit?”

“oh,” logan says, remembering. right. his decidedly-platonic friend. “sure, but—i mean, it’s jess.”

roman stares at him, confused.

“i’d think you’d want to spend time with him?”

roman tilts his head. he does not look any more enlightened.

“since he’s your boyfriend,” logan prompts, equally confused.

roman’s eyes go huge, and he blurts out, “holy shit.” 

“what?” logan says, even more confused.

that’s what i forgot!”

logan frowns. “you forgot jess is your boyfriend?”

“no! no,” roman says, and laughs, leaning against the railing. “oh, my god, i forgot to tell you why i was at your dad’s a couple weeks ago! i forgot to tell you anything!”

"i—oh,” logan says, and now he’s the one tilting his head. “what does that have to do with your boyfriend?”

“well, that’s just it,” roman says, and he leans back against the railing. he offers a soft little smile up at logan, a quirk of his lip that doesn’t quite hide the—something in his eyes. “jess and i broke up, actually.”

there is something exceedingly strange happening in logan’s chest right now. mutually, he feels as if there are fireworks exploding in his chest, and yet he feels—sad. sorry for roman, he supposes, might be the closest statement. roman’s wanted a boyfriend, he’s always been a romantic, and roman’s never been well-suited toward heartbreak, or breakups—

“oh,” logan says, when he realizes he’s perhaps waited too long to give a response than is socially acceptable. “roman, i’m—i’m sorry.”

“eh,” roman says, with an apathetic shrug.

“no, truly,” logan insists. “roman. i’m sorry. i should have been there, and—”

“oh, hey, that wasn’t your fault,” roman says. “you were stranded, and besides, your dad’s got the break-up protocol down pat—um, no pun intended. but virgil brought me snacks, and it was—i was okay, logan, seriously.”

“you could have called,” logan says, a little hurt, despite himself. he and roman have shared everything together. everything. and roman’s first breakup—when roman really liked jess, and he doesn’t know what could have happened to break them apart, even as he’s thinking he doesn’t have a boyfriend anymore, he doesn’t have a boyfriend anymore, he doesn’t have a boyfriend anymore, and it feels like he’s something carbonated, emotions so close to fizzing over.

“i’m your best friend,” logan says. “i—i mean, i could have been there.”

"i know,” roman says, and reaches out to put a hand on logan’s wrist. “hey, i know, it was just—i dunno. i needed to think—that was your dad’s advice, actually, that i take some time and space to think for once—and i did. after all that, it was bad timing, i guess. with your dad in the hospital and the nutcracker and everything. i really did mean to tell you, i just—”

“forgot,” logan fills in.

“yeah,” roman says. “but i am okay, logan, really. i appreciate it.”

“okay,” logan says.

“i did, um,” roman says. “that thinking that your dad mentioned?”

“yes?” logan says.

“i just—“ roman waves a hand. “at the risk of sounding like a reality show, i think i got into a relationship with jess for all the wrong reasons.”

logan waits, patiently, because he’s been friends with roman for years, and he knows when roman’s in monologue mode.

“because i was trying to avoid my own emotions,” roman says. “i kept waiting for someone to make a move on me, and when jess did, i just—i just jumped in, even though i was wanting something else. someone else.”

logan tilts his head at roman.

“and, i mean, i learned a lot of things, with jess,” roman adds. “don’t get me wrong, he was a pretty good boyfriend. i think he and dean are gonna be really happy together. but through the whole relationship, i was still... wanting. you know?”

logan does, but—but roman can’t be saying what logan is wanting it to mean. he can’t be. right?

“sort of,” he manages, which is the most non-committal answer he can think of.

“because i was waiting for that someone else,” roman says. “and i just—i dunno. i was still pining, even when i had this person here who was willing to pursue me, but i guess i didn’t really—i mean, i can chase what i want too. right?”

“of course,” logan says, confused. “you can do anything you want, roman.”

roman lifts his eyebrows at him. it’s the same face he makes when he’s waiting for logan to understand a joke.

“okay, so,” roman says. “patton told me to think about what i want. and i know what i want. so i’m gonna just—go for it.”

roman waits. logan can’t find words.

roman prompts, “because jess and i both knew that we wanted someone else, and we ended up together because we were in denial. and we knew that. and we worked it out, and honestly, we had a very mature, very adult breakup, aren’t you impressed with me?”  

logan nods, mostly on auto-pilot. yes, of course he’s impressed with roman. he’s impressed with anything roman does. not that he’d say that outright, of course.

“so now jess and dean are together. because they’re best friends. and they’ve always been together, and they want to always be together, because—because that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”

he cannot be saying what i want him to be saying. right? he cannot be saying what i think he means. i’m misunderstanding this, like i do when he tries to make a pop culture reference. 

“i mean—” roman sighs, before he grins up at logan, and logan’s heart does that squeezing thing again.

“to be completely honest, jess isn’t really my type. you know?”

logan manages a nod. roman takes a step closer. logan can smell his cologne again. he’s actually feeling rather light-headed, actually. 

“so, um,” and logan’s voice cracks mortifyingly. “what—what, um. what is your type, then?”

roman rolls his eyes, says, “oh, for god’s sake,” and before logan knows what’s happening, roman grabs him by the lapels of his jacket, hauls him close, and presses his lips against his.

it’s over in an instant—there’s an embarrassing smacking noise as they part—and logan can only gape at roman, blinking down at him.

roman looks shocked—like even he didn’t expect to do that.

“oh, my god, i’m so—“ he says, and abruptly lets go of logan’s lapels. “i’m so sorry, logan, oh my god, i thought—i thought we were on the same page but i guess not and i didn’t even wait for you to consent and i—”

roman moves to step back, but logan reaches out and catches roman’s wrist before he can. 

logan scrambles to find words, to explain himself, but what comes out is “i love you.”

roman looks like logan’s hit him over the head with something very heavy.

“oh,” roman says breathlessly, and then he can’t say anything else, because logan pulls his wrist and then he cups roman’s beautiful face in his hands and then he’s the one kissing someone who makes a squeaking noise of surprise. 

(in the distance, patton is making the quietest high-pitched shrieking noise he can, repeatedly hitting virgil’s arm before pointing desperately at the gazebo when virgil asks him what’s going on, where his son is kissing the boy he’s been in love with for nearly all his life and oh my god oh my god oh my god oH MY GOD—)

logan doesn’t really know what he’s doing, in terms of kissing, so he just presses closer against roman, and roman lets out a shaky sigh, wrapping his arms around logan’s neck, and tilting his head up, and parting his lips, and—

oh. oh. oh, roman’s kissing him somehow both so fiercely and so sweetly that it makes logan’s heart do the squeezing thing over and over and over again, and logan feels his cheeks burn, and they part.

roman giggles, and ducks his head, hugging logan closer. logan wraps his arms around roman, too, and buries his nose into roman’s hair.

“i love you too,” roman whispers, and when he draws back to look at logan’s face, logan’s cheeks hurt.

roman’s smile is blinding.


“so,” virgil comments. their footsteps crunch-crunch-crunching through the snow, but patton doesn’t feel cold—he’s arm-in-arm with virgil, and all pressed up against his side. 

they’re on the way home, which, with most of the town either at home or at the festival, means that they’re the only ones on the road.

“yeah,” patton says, and lets out a breathy laugh, a little overwhelmed. “wow.”

“i’m almost tempted to tag along to see how your parents are gonna react to it being logan’s boyfriend they’re watching in the nutcracker.”

“logan has a boyfriend,” patton repeats, trying to wrap his brain around it. “my baby has a boyfriend.”

“you’re okay with it, right?” virgil checks.

“are you kidding?” patton demands. “of course i’m okay with it! i think i’ve been rooting for them to get together ever since the birthday kisses tradition started! roman asked me for my approval to propose to logan when he was seven! granted, it was with a ring pop, but—”

virgil laughs.

patton shakes his head wonderingly. “i mean, they’ve been best friends for eleven years. eleven years of the pair of them being adorable together. and now—”

patton makes the mistake of looking up at virgil, then. and it is a mistake, because virgil’s fluffy hair is haloed by the warm orangey glow of a street-lamp, his breath leaving his mouth in a little cloud in the cold, and his face—

his face is doing the Thing again.

“and now?” virgil prompts, and patton swallows.

“well,” he says, and then, softer, “it’s just a long time to love someone, is all. ten or eleven or so years.”

virgil’s lip quirks up—but patton can tell it’s really just a smile for the sake of a smile, not because he actually feels like smiling.

“yeah,” he says, softly. “i guess it is.”

patton should be thinking about logan and roman. he should be thinking about the day that he ran to the elementary school from the inn and stood, waiting anxiously for his son, before the final bell of the day rang. he’d scooped logan up in his arms, and he’d expecting to hear all about the books he’d seen and the things he’d learned and the teacher he had, and he did, a little, but he’d been so full of stories, babbling excitedly about the boy who’d drawn all over his nametag and told him the second-bestest-story-ever-after-cecil-obviously and traded his strawberries for jam cookies, and how nice and funny and clever he was.

patton should be thinking about the day that he’d brought logan to a prince studio recital because roman had asked him to come and how logan had sat, staring, mouth agape as roman leapt and twirled on the stage amidst his classmates, and patton had asked him what he thought, thinking that maybe logan had wanted to join ballet lessons too, and he’d just sighed, stars in his eyes, “he’s perfect, daddy,” and had refused to miss a show since.

patton should be thinking about countless sleepovers and lucy’s milkshakes and hisses of “dad!” when patton made sly comments about roman and he’d always relent, because patton’s never really wanted to be the kind of dad who embarrassed his son to the point of logan wanting to hide things from him (fine patton’s using personal experience from here) and logan backstage in shows and roman’s birthday stories and roman keeping his newspaper clips and logan tolerating the occasional rom-com because they made roman happy, and all of this, eleven years in the making, the development and the way they had grown closer and closer and the trust that had grown there.

patton should be thinking about all that. but he isn’t.

he’s thinking about the day after he met virgil for the first time, coming in with a practiced “everything’s-okay” smile fixed on his face and logan in a sling on his chest (a favorite of his which meant holding his baby close and having free hands and hiding his chest from anyone who looked) and virgil had gotten so startled when patton poked his head in the kitchen that he burned his wrist on the stove, which left a scar along his wrist that’s still visible to this day.

he’s thinking about countless feuds over hot-cocoa coffee at all times of the day, patton trying valiantly to get more caffeine into his system and virgil trying to wean him off it, and the various endeavors patton’s undertaken in order to procure more and more of it behind his back.

he’s thinking about mango-pineapple smoothies hiding the taste of vegetables that he knows he doesn’t make enough of, and that virgil makes sure he and logan maintain a healthy diet. he thinks about hidden protein powder in pastries, and all the tactics that virgil employs on everyone he deems who needs it, from five-year-olds to full-grown adults.

he’s thinking about the person he trusts logan with most—more than his own parents, more than logan’s other biological parent—which is honestly the biggest sign of emotional anything he’s ever given to anyone.

he’s thinking about the development and the way they’d grown closer and closer and the trust that had grown there, and—

and they’ve just been stagnant. there’s been moments heaped on moments between them, times when patton thought this is it, we’re going to say it. there’s been so many almosts. 

now they’re standing here, sixteen years after they’ve met and only a little less than that patton’s had at least a crush on him, if not being in love with him, and—

"what are we doing, virgil?” patton asks wearily.

virgil blinks at him, awkward, and gestures down the road. “i’m walking you home?”

“no,” patton says, and pushes both of his hands through his hair. “i mean—yes, but i just—i mean. us. you and me. what are we doing? i mean, it’s just—it’s been you and me. it’s always been you and me. right?”

virgil opens his mouth to respond, but the words are flooding out of patton before he can stop himself—he can’t stop the tide, he can’t stop the champagne after it’s uncorked, and he can’t stop him. 

“right,” he pushes on, “and i mean—i mean, i could get it, when i was eighteen and a disaster and barely an adult, for goodness sake’s, and i could get it when i was nineteen and i tried dating other people to get past—“

he makes an emphatic gesture between himself and virgil.

“—this, and i could get it when i was twenty-one and still careening, but i just—i mean, virgil, it’s been sixteen years. sixteen! half of my life, i’ve known you, and i mean—that’s not nothing, you know?”

“i know,” virgil barely manages to say, and patton keeps going, not really taking in the way virgil’s eyes are getting wider and wider and his face is getting paler and paler.

“and i just—you’ve been such an amazing best friend to me, my first best friend ever, and i’d say my only best friend ever except i think logan’s my best friend too, and i get that, and i cherish that, virgil, our relationship is so good, but i just—i see the look in your eyes sometimes, and there’ll be a Moment, and i think maybe this’ll be it, this is when we say it, except it’s never actually when we say it, and i’m just—i’m tired, virgil, can’t we just say it already? can’t we just acknowledge that this—what we are—isn’t lifelong platonic best friends?”

there’s a long silence. patton looks up at virgil—virgil, whose face is unscrutable, at this moment, and patton’s never hated being unable to read anyone more than he does at this very moment.

and for a split second, patton thinks he’s miscalculated. he thinks he’s gotten it wrong. that those Moments really are just him being desperate for attention, and that he thinks everyone thinks like he does, and he’s trying to get virgil to give him this, like he thinks he should get everything he wants, and he—but he was so sure—but what if he’s wrong?

patton’s voice cracks, and he barely manages to say, “virgil, please. this isn’t—i mean. it isn’t just me, is it?”

“no,” virgil manages to say. his voice is barely above a whisper. “no, patton. it’s not just you.”

patton nearly collapses in relief. what he does do, instead, is suck in a big, deep breath, and stare up at vigril with wide eyes.

“okay,” he says. “okay. so—so what do we do?”

sixteen years (except not really, but sixteen years of knowing him, at least) and now that it’s all laid out there, patton doesn’t know what to do. it’s almost funny.

it’s almost funny, except when he takes a step closer, virgil flinches. patton’s stomach drops like a stone, and he immediately takes a step back.

“virgil,” he manages in a tiny voice. 

“i—“ virgil rasps, and clears his throat. “sorry—i—i mean. patton, i—it’s always—you—”

virgil’s breathing, but he’s starting to take in harsh, desperate pants, like he can’t get in enough air, and patton takes another step back.

he’s panicking. virgil’s panicking because of him.

“virgil,” he says. “virgil, can you breathe in for four, honey?”

all that relief’s turned into awful, stomach-curdling guilt. of course patton shouldn’t have sprung this on him—he has anxiety, for crying out loud, and he knows that virgil can’t handle change well, he could barely handle the walls of the diner being painted without a month’s advance suggestion and two week’s worth of arguing, he knows that virgil needs to be prepared for it, and this is just about the biggest change he could have possibly introduced, and patton’s so stupid, why on earth would he do this—

virgil sucks in a hard, sharp breath, and holds it when patton counts, and lets it out in a big whoosh.

“i’m sorry—“

“no, don’t be—“

“patton, please,” he says, his voice thin and reedy, and patton shuts up. he’s run his mouth off enough tonight, he thinks.

“i—i’m so sorry,” virgil fumbles, and takes a step forward, cupping the back of patton’s head in his hand and giving him a nearly bruising kiss on the forehead. “i—i mean, it’s not just you, patton, i—i mean, i just—it’s you for me too, but i just—i need a bit of time. okay?”

“okay,” patton whispers into his sternum, and, when virgil lets him go and takes a step back, a practiced, fixed “everything’s-okay” smile that virgil hasn’t seen in years has taken over his face. patton’s not sure how convincing it is, considering his lower lip is already trembling. “sure, virgil. that’s okay.”

“patton—” virgil manages, but his arms are wrapped around himself, and he doesn’t reach for him when patton takes another step back.

“if you need time, you can have it,” patton says. “just—just tell me when you’re ready. okay? and it’s okay if you never are.”

patton—”

“it’s okay,” patton says, except it comes out as a sob, and he shuts up before he can do something even stupider, like cry all over him when he might be in the middle of a panic attack and he’s requested time and space.

“i, um. i think i’m gonna go home now. you don’t have to walk me the rest of the way.” patton says. he tries to make a “haha, wouldn’t that be awkward” face. he’s not sure how well it holds up.

“okay,” virgil manages. “i—you sure?”

“i’m sure,” patton says. “i’m really, really sure, honey. you find a quiet place and calm down, okay? are you sure you don’t want me—”

“no,” virgil says quickly, and patton’s heart drops along with his stomach. of course. of course virgil doesn’t want you here. he just said he needed space, he scolds himself. god, patton, how much worse can you conduct yourself?

he quickly turns his back on virgil, and he walks away. he wraps his arms around his stomach, and bites his lip to keep himself from sobbing audibly.

he doesn’t hear virgil move at all.

Chapter Text

boys wear makeup all the time, patton tells himself, despite the sweatiness in his palms that nearly makes the tiny glass bottle slip right out of his hands. look at roman. heck, look at—

his brain skitters away from the name before he can think it, and patton shakes himself, gritting his teeth. no more time for crying. not right now, when logan’s about to wake up and he has a ruse to pull off before he can ruin it by not being in his bed.

boys can wear makeup too, he tells himself. men can wear makeup too. it’ll hardly be noticeable. just because you haven’t worn makeup since before you came out doesn’t mean it’s feminine. and if anyone asks you why you’re using it, you can just use the pneumonia excuse.

he takes a deep breath, and, before he can second-guess this whole ridiculous plot, grabs the nearest other two products that he knows he’ll need before he smacks them all down on the counter, all of them clattering noisily.

the cashier—he really should know their name, they’re in logan’s grade—looks deadened to anything in their surroundings that isn’t caffeine as they scan through patton’s purchases, thankfully not saying anything along the lines of golly-gee, mister sanders, you sure look rough! or um, you’re a man, why are you buying makeup...? 

patton quickly grabs the bag, chucks down his cash and blurts out “keep the change!” and moves to hightail it back to his house.

he slows his steps as he gets back to his neighborhood, squinting at where logan’s room window is just barely visible from the street. lights still off. good. that means he’s still asleep.

he creeps into the house, locks the door, and toes off his shoes, careful to put them right back where he’d kicked them as soon as he’d gotten home last night. he tiptoes up the stairs, avoiding any creaking steps, and chances a peek through logan’s door, just barely cracked open.

logan’s flopped on his stomach, snoring lightly. his hand’s dangling off the bed, and he’s barely tucked under the covers—patton, even as he’s in the worst mood he’s been in for a long time, can’t help but want to croon at him—head resting on what looked like, patton would bet, a prize that roman won him last night.

well, at least one of them had a good winterfest.

patton eases logan’s door shut, changes back into his pajamas, hides his purchases in his sock drawer, and lies back down under the covers. he’d given up on chasing sleep around three in the morning, when his eyes were swollen and red and he’d managed to cry his way to a dehydration headache and he still had to stifle his crying into his pillow, which was so stupid, even his gosh darn body seemed to hate him—but, well, that hadn’t exactly been a new thing, considering the whole—

patton firmly redirects that thought. gee manetti, with the day he’s had and he’s going to have, he does not need a heaping dose of gender dysphoria and body dysmorphia on top of that, thank you.

so patton lies in his bed, eyes lightly closed. he wonders if he should be trying for a snore when he hears logan’s alarm go off.

his is due to go off in five more minutes. and it does. and then he turns it off, rolls over, and hikes his blankets up around his shoulders, and pretends that he’s sleeping even harder.

god, patton would love to stay in bed all day. why did his pneumonia time it right when he wanted a sick, lazy day, he was given a (relatively) clean bill of health?

the day won’t be all bad, he’s still trying to convince himself, when the door bursts open thirty minutes later and his lights flood on, and patton stirs very, very fakely and very, very obviously.

“hm?”

“dad, you forgot to set multiple alarms again?!” his son demands, and patton cracks open an eye to see him looking frantic and fully, completely ready for the day.

“oh, shoot,” he says groggily, voice already roughened up from his night of crying. “times’it?”

too late,” logan says, and tears the covers away from patton’s hands. “up, get up, we have to meet grandma and grandpa at their house and then we have to go to see roman perform and we can’t be late—”

“right, right,” patton says hastily, as if this is just occurring to him. “um—you know what, run ahead to virgil’s, get something to eat and get me something to go, i’ll get ready and pick you up on your way out, okay?”

“you’d better,” logan says darkly, and it’d actually be cute, kind of, how clearly frazzled logan is about seeing roman for the first time after Officially Becoming A Couple, if he wasn’t so miserable.

well. it’s still pretty cute.

“go, go, take my wallet,” patton says, and calls, “get me caffeine!”

“obviously!” logan shouts from where he’s already in the hall, and there’s the thump-thump-thump-thump sound of him rushing down the stairs, and then the slam of the front door, and—

and patton lets out a shaky breath, putting his head in his hands.

excuse for day one given.

oh, he’s gonna have to tell logan soon, that something happened between him and virgil and that even though they might be—fighting? disagreeing? giving each other space?—that they both still love him just the same and that it’s no one’s fault. and he’s gonna have to figure out how to do that without crying in front of him. but not today—not when he feels so close to shattering right apart again and he needs to telegraph any of his emotional responses as “Proud-Dad-Seeing-Son-With-Boyfriend-For-First-Time” or “Sighing-At-My-Parent’s-Probably-Well-Meaning-Fussing” or “Sick-Man-Getting-Accustomed-To-Being-In-Public-Again.”

which means getting his face in order—he can’t just show up in front of his son and his parents with red eyes, and deep under-eye bags, and a nose that’s red from being blown into tissues, not when he’s supposed to be recovering from sickness, not when he’s supposed to be okay, so. makeup.

even after so long of not having done it before—gosh, not since he was fourteen, he doesn’t think—he still remembers it from seeing female friends get gussied up and being an occasional backstage dad for the prince studio. wash face, moisturize, foundation, concealer, powder to set. it’s not too shabby—he looks natural enough to the bare eye, as long as they stay a certain distance away, and it’s not like anyone’s going to be doing any close-up examinations of his face anytime soon.

patton tries for a smile at the mirror, the “everything’s-okay” one, and manages it. he’ll have to pass off any of his not-quite-right emotional responses as exhaustion, pneumonia, or exhaustion and pneumonia. he’s kind of out of practice with this—he’s not sure if he’s happy about that or not.

he gets dressed in a suit, and puts on mismatching socks and a fun tie, taking little comforts where he can find them. he runs a hand through his hair, making a slight face at how messy his curls look—well, even messier than usual. messy for him, even. well, it’ll have to do—his ploy into running late has turned to him actually running late, and he needs to get into the car and pick up logan before his parents pitch a fit about timeliness.

he’s really not looking forward to the vast majority of today.

the ballet, yes. seeing roman and logan be cute together, yes. good food at lunch, yes. he’s looking forward to that.

his parents’ potential overstepping when it comes to patton’s parenting, no. his parents’ apology maybe wearing off and going back to the way things have been for all of patton’s life, no. probably running into one of his parent’s snooty rich friends who look at him disapprovingly, absolutely not. 

but he just has to get through most of the morning, and the lunch, and then he can relish this saturday and make excuses that he’s pulling the last lazy day he can before he goes back to work on monday. he’ll change back into his pajamas as soon as he walks through the door. he’ll order pizza for dinner. he might bribe logan into doing a junk-food-and-movie night before they get busy. the world’s his oyster.

he grabs his keys, gets in the car, and parks outside of virgil’s diner, steadfastly not looking into any windows where he might catch an accidental glance at a man clad in purple flannel and a hoodie. 

logan comes out and says “drive” and patton obliges as logan sets two to-go cups of hot cocoa/coffee in the cupholders, and sets—oh, aw, logan got roman a bouquet of red roses—in the backseat. “jean says virgil was sick, so i got you one of those croissant sandwich things.”

“virgil’s sick?” patton says, immediately seizing on the way virgil had gone so still and so pale last night—had his panic attack left him that battered, or was he sick as in flu, fever, cough? or was he making it up to avoid even a chance of seeing patton that morning?

“that’s what jean said,” logan confirms, and patton absently takes the croissant with one hand. egg, bacon, cheese. flaky, yummy croissant. usually, he really likes these things—usually, he thinks they’re tasty.

today, he can’t stop thinking of all the times he’d ordered it before, who he usually orders it from, and it tastes like chalk. he barely manages to choke it down.

logan seems to relax as they get on the highway, back on schedule. 

“you excited?” patton asks, trying to put some pep in his voice.

“mhm,” logan says absently, opening up a notebook, and patton tries to peek at what it is without taking his eyes off the road. he frowns.

“studying?”

finals,” logan repeats, terse.

patton acknowledges this with a nod, and says, “as long as you aren’t studying during the ballet. or lunch with your grandparents.”

“obviously,” logan murmurs, and patton’s spared from conversation for the rest of the ride.

he’s not sure if that’s a blessing in disguise or not.

right as they’re pulling into his parents’ neighborhood, though, patton asks, “so, are you going to tell them about you and roman?”

logan blinks at him. “why are you phrasing it like i might not?”

“because you don’t have to if you don’t want,” patton says. “you know, if you and roman wanted to take it slow, or—”

logan gestures vaguely to the bouquet in the backseat, and says, “i’ll tell them, but i’m relying on your interference if they get too...” his nose scrunches. “well. grandma-and-grandpa about it.”

“on it,” patton says, as they pull up to the driveway.

they’ve barely gotten out of the car by the time the front door swings open, and his parents descend the driveway.

“hello, logan,” emily says, and logan suffers through the hug before he doubles back and gets the bouquet.

“oh, logan, they’re lovely,” emily says. “shall i ask alexia to get a vase?”

“they’re for roman, actually,” logan says, cradling the bouquet in one arm.

“oh?” richard says mildly, unlocking the car. “he’s the sugar plum prince, isn’t he?”

“the cavalier,” logan corrects, as they all get into the car. “but the prince is a common enough interpretation, as well.”

richard begins driving. 

“is your friend excited for you to watch him perform today?” emily asks.

logan sits up, and says, proudly, “he’s my boyfriend, actually.”

“oh!” emily exclaims, and turns just enough to stare at the pair of them. “i thought he had a boyfriend.”

“he did, but they broke up before thanksgiving break,” logan says, the are you implying roman would cheat on anyone just barely unspoken.

“hm,” emily says, and frowns. “is there a reason we haven’t heard about this development?”

“it happened last night, grandma,” logan says, in an attempt to be patient.

“oh,” emily says again, mollified. “so it’s recent.”

“yes, in terms of actual boyfriendship,” patton says. “but roman’s a good kid, i’ve known him since he was little. so we’re going to not do the thing where we pretend logan is not capable of taking care of himself and roman is out to steal his virtue, okay?”

is his parents’ reactions toward dating life a sore spot and any unwanted opinion dispensed on logan is something he’s not going to budge about? maybe, okay, but he has a reason for it to be a sore point. case in point—

“oh patton, please, you’re making us sound like we locked you up in a tower and i was the fire-breathing dragon defending any men from approaching you,” emily says dismissively. “when have we ever done that?”

“kieran wagner,” patton begins pointedly. “quentin hammond, dawson wayne, christopher, reed mccullough, who i wasn’t even dating he was a project partner, ditto to micah blackwell—”

“who’s micah blackwell?” emily asks blankly.

“i believe you threatened to call his mother to send him to military school when he made a tasteless joke about sneaking into the house through patton’s balcony, dear,” richard says absently, a bit preoccupied with a left-hand turn.

yes, thank you, dad,” patton says, “a perfect example of what we’re not going to do to logan and roman today, or ever.”

“well, it’s not like it worked,” emily murmurs pointedly.

patton closes his eyes and takes a breath. he cannot lose it right now. the day has barely even started. he lets out the breath, even and slow, and says in a miraculously level, reasonable voice, “then isn’t that even more of a reason not to?”

emily harrumphs and turns back in her seat.

there’s a long moment of silence.

“so, logan,” richard says, “have you read the times today?”

the theater is intimidating.

oh, it’s absolutely beautiful, of course. patton remembers a lot of afternoons spent at this very theater, sitting between his parents to watch an opera or a ballet or a symphony or a choir. most of the time, he’d liked it—other than the time he spent tugging uncomfortably at the hem of his dress and wishing his parents had given him a choice on if he wanted to come or not, of course—but now, so much later, it just...

well, it’s just so much. 

dark red rugs, gleaming mahogany, gold embellishments shimmering everywhere they possibly can. men in suits that might cost as much as his yearly salary and women in long, sweeping, elaborate dresses. crystal champagne flutes and fancy cut glasses. elaborate floral arrangements in equally elaborate vases. grand staircases and ushers as present and unnoticeable and natural as shadows, sweeping silently along and passing out programs and checking tickets and gesturing people along with gloved hands. murmuring overlapping and overlapping so it creates a din of noise.

at one time in his life, this would have been the norm—he’d grown up surrounded by influence and privilege, after all, and this had been a weekend favorite of his parents, who held the theater equivalent of season tickets in a box and were donors that meant their names were inscribed on a plaque in this building, somewhere, and probably in the program that patton accepts with a quiet “thanks” from an usher who melts back into the shadows. 

but so much of his life had been spent, well. away from this. he’d actively chosen to turn away from all this, so that when he’s reintroduced to it again—it’s overwhelming.

logan doesn’t seem to be faring much better. 

he’s examining everything—to most other people, they’d just notice his eyes moving, but to patton, it’s like logan’s swinging his head back and forth, gaping, trying to see all of it—and he turns to look at patton, bouquet of twelve red roses in his arms squeezed against his chest, and—

patton moves forward and squeezes logan’s shoulder, shuffling him aside under the guise of moving him out of the way of a tuxedoed server rushing silently past, holding aloft a tray of crystal-cut, freshly washed glasses for the nearest serving station.

“you all good?” patton asks him quietly.

“it’s just,” logan says, and shifts in his hand-me-down suit jacket, touching his favorite, well-worn tie. “it’s a lot.”

“i know,” patton murmurs. “it’ll be less—well, less everything when we get to the box, do you want—?”

logan’s nodding, and patton nods with a squeeze of his son’s shoulder, before he leans to talk to his dad.

“logan and i are going to find our seats, if i can get our tickets?”

“certainly,” richard says, extracting a white envelope from the inside of his suit jacket and passing over two tickets. “would you like any refreshments?”

“logan?” patton asks, and logan says, “shirley temple?”

roman’s drink of choice. patton wants to smile. his face just isn’t cooperating right now.

richard nods, and says, “would you?”

“vodka,” patton says absently, already herding logan to the nearest usher.

richard blinks, and says, uncertainly, “did you mean a vodka soda?”

patton blinks right back. “isn’t that what i said?” he says absently, and richard doesn’t get to say much else before the usher says “right this way, sirs,” and gestures for them to ascend one of the staircases.

when they get to the top of the stairs, patton’s a bit out of breath and he has to stifle a little cough into his elbow, and logan looks at him.

“i’m fine,” he says, waving, and thanks the usher when they open the door to the box.

it’s a small one—near the stage, but apparently they’re either the first ones there or the sanders’ have managed to get a box all to themselves. neither would surprise him. it’s relatively quiet—a violin is tuning, a drum is plucking out a cautious beat, a flute is practicing a particular run. there’s murmuring, but the noise is dampened by their height and their distance and the acoustics of the theater.

logan checks his ticket, before he flops down into a seat—crushed red velvet, gold armrests and back—and patton sits in the one next to him. 

“better now?” patton asks.

logan grimaces, but he nods.

“you grew up with all this,” logan says. “how did you—?”

he makes a vague hand gesture that patton interprets to mean bear it.

“well,” patton says, leaning back in his chair. “i—well, i grew up with it. didn’t know any different for a long time. but—oh, gosh,” he says, remembering. “but when i came back, it was like... it was like culture shock. everything i’d been so used to, trained to do, in a lot of ways—people used to make fun of me because i was so used to—”

patton screws up his face, glances around to make sure they’re still alone, and pitches his voice in his best impression of his mother.

now, patton,” he mimics, “you must remember each fork and the purpose for each—whatever do you mean, you’ve just licked the salad dressing off and used it for your main course?! what kind of depraved village do you live in?!”

logan smiles, a little, but patton counts it as a win. he could use a win today.

“but now, i know how much it can be,” patton says, sympathetic. “the first time they brought me to a ballet performance after you were born—oh, i think you’d just turned a year old, and i left you with v—” his voice nearly breaks but he pushes through, intent on showing nothing wrong, “virgil. it was the nutcracker then, too, actually. one of my first society appearances since running away, or at least one of the first ones in front of the general public. i lasted five minutes in the line for refreshments before i had to excuse myself to the bathroom to call and listen to you babble about books.”

“you did?” logan says, looking surprised.

“oh, yeah,” patton says. “mom and dad’s friends would come over and i’d immediately use that as an excuse to bust out all the pictures i had of you.”

“you brought pictures to the theater?” logan says. “printed-out photos?”

“cellphones weren’t also cameras back then—well, not very good ones, and not the phone i had,” patton amends. “so yeah. i mean, the excuse was i’d brought some to give to my mom and dad, but, you know. i did usually carry photos on me in case i had any excuse to bring you up, whenever i didn’t bring you with me.”

dad,” logan says.

“you’re my kid!” patton defends, laughing—actually laughing—and says, “i love you, okay, gosh! i want to spend time with you, is that so embarrassing? have you become so much of a teenager that me talking about baby stories and how much i love you is too embarrassing?”

dad!” logan whines.

“i love you,” patton coos. “i loove you—”

“ugh, fine, i love you too,” logan huffs, slumping in his seat. “if you tell roman a baby story—”

“roman already knows all of your embarrassing baby stories,” patton points out. “i can’t embarrass you in front of him anymore, he’s basically immune.”

except he’s been planning something ever since the thought oh, logan will probably have a significant other someday had occurred to him, and, um. well, it will be painfully awkward, but logan doesn’t know that yet, and he’ll forgive patton eventually. probably?

well, it’s for the best, patton figures. he’ll do it whenever roman comes over to his house next. even if he is! dreading it!

“i suppose you’re right,” logan says, appeased, and with no idea of what storm is brewing on the horizon. poor kid, patton thinks. honestly, poor him. this will be horrible for everyone involved.

“anyway,” patton says, and bumps shoulders with him fondly. “you texted roman where we’re sitting yet?”

“yes,” logan says. 

patton smiles. “you excited?”

logan bites his lip, but he can’t quite tamp down his smile—and honestly, that’s gonna make the whole day worth it.

“yes,” he admits. and then: “thank you.”

patton blinks, a little stunned. despite his best efforts to teach logan manners, they haven’t quite sunk in—oh, sure, he says “pardon me” and “excuse me,” but things like “please” and “thank you” are rare beasts—and turns to face him a bit more full-on. “well, you’re welcome, kiddo, but i don’t really know what for.”

logan hesitates, shifts, and blurts out, “roman told me what you said. when he was with you. he said it really helped him, and i—i’m sorry for yelling at you when you wouldn’t tell me why everyone was there.”

“aw, logan,” patton says, a little choked up. “you really are welcome, kid. i’m sorry it was kinda my fault that roman and jess got together in the first place.”

what?!”

but logan can’t demand more of an explanation, because in flits emily and richard.

“thanks, dad,” patton says, accepting his drink, and passing logan’s to him.

emily settles on logan’s other side, and richard beside her, and patton breathes out a little sigh of relief. no one staring at the side of his face the whole ballet.

“they were just ringing the bell, the show will start soon,” emily says.

patton double checks that his phone’s on silent, tucks it into his suit jacket, and takes a few healthy sips of his vodka soda to take up the time until the lights dim, and the audience hushes accordingly.

and logan leans forward, fingers steepling under his chin, eyes alight.

roman isn’t on stage the whole time, of course. first, they have to see clara and fritz, the doll from drosselmeier, the rush of mice, the gingerbread soldiers and mice and the king, the nutcracker, the pine forest, an intermission, before—

clara and the prince travel to the land of sweets. 

and at last, roman comes out on stage. 

he looks very handsome, in white and purple and silver trim that glitters under the spotlights, crown on his head, hair spritzed liberally with white, and it’s like he’s floating gracefully along as he escorts the sugar plum fairy onstage. every movement of his is deliberate—from his kindly, benevolent smile that he tilts at everyone in the audience, from the elegant way he extends his arm and presents his hand for the fairy to take.

patton swears logan doesn’t breathe for the whole time that he’s onstage. 

admittedly, the first part of the dance is geared around the sugar plum fairy—she delicately steps across stage, spins, lifts her legs into picture-perfect arabesques, leaps and flourishes.

but all the while, it’s roman who’s making sure it goes well. he holds her waist during spins, he holds her hand so she can tilt in her arabesque, he braces his hand along her back so that she can lean back, showing off her elaborate lines. and goodness, roman lifts her, again and again—above his head, holds her so that she can practically do the splits in the air without her touching the floor—and then the music swells, grand and lovely, and the fairy seems to rush him, and patton nearly gasps before—

as effortless as breathing, he catches her neatly on his shoulder, spins them round, adjusts so she can pose, sets her down, and they pose again, before she rushes him again, and roman closes his hands around her waist sets her on his shoulder and carries her across the stage as she extends her legs in a picture-perfect pose, and he carefully cradles her before he sets her down again, and—

and patton is crying as he watches his son watch him, because logan’s eyes have gone so soft and shiny and loving and proud, on the edge of his seat as he barely even breathes, gasping when roman lifts and holds and does it all with a regal, benevolent smile on his face, looking every inch the lovely cavalier with his sugar plum fairy, presenting a dance for a young heroine who had saved the nutcracker prince from the mouse king, and as swiftly as it’s started, it’s over.

logan’s the first to start clapping, and he’s the first on his feet, and eventually, everyone hushes and sits again.

just in time, too, because it’s roman’s solo, and logan leans even further forward—patton would be worried about him falling out of the box if the railing wasn’t so high.

roman smiles, extending his arm out, one, two, and then a slight, brief nod. the music starts. the music’s quicker than the bit with the sugar plum fairy—a good thing, too, roman likes dancing to quick music—and then roman flies.

roman jumps so high, and twirls so beautifully, landing without even the slightest thump that can disrupt the soft violins and flutes, and he does it all with a smile on his face, as if to say, yes, of course i can do three twirls in the air—what, you can’t? it’s so easy!

logan watches each and every twirling leap, every extension of his leg, every flick of the hand, every lift of the arm, every spin and twirl and bounce, every single rise onto his tippy-toes and every single time his legs meet or spring apart, and then roman twirls, and falls onto a knee with a grand pose, grinning brighter than the lights, with a loud flare of the music, and then logan’s shouting, cheering for him, on his feet, and patton gets up belatedly too, emily on logan’s other side saying, “oh, he was lovely!” and richard saying “good show, young man, a good show indeed—”

and logan turns to patton, eyes bright, and says, “that’s my boyfriend,” and turns to the strangers behind them, beaming.

“that’s my boyfriend!” he repeats, pointing to the stage, and the couple—an old, dour pair dressed entirely in black—murmur congratulations before logan turns to patton again.

“he did so good,” patton says, choked up, because he’s seen roman stretching in his living room, using ice and heat when his body aches, using his counters as makeshift barres, trying and trying and trying to hit triples on his kitchen hardwood floor, he’s seen him practice for so long and work so hard and now—

now, he gets to watch as roman soaks up the applause before he gracefully scuttles to the side so the sugar plum fairy can have her solo.

“he did so good,” patton repeats as a whisper into logan’s ear, and squeezes his arm, “your boyfriend did such a good job,” and logan lets out a high-pitched, delighted little giggle. logan. giggling.

the sugar plum fairy is great, of course, but it’s a bit hard to focus after seeing roman so completely nail his parts, defying gravity and the laws of physics, it seems. patton hastily wipes under his eyes with a handkerchief emily passes to him, because he was really, actually crying, and crying about something happy, thank goodness, not something sad.

they join back together, roman and the fairy one last time, this time quicker and more energetic, and logan’s just as enthusiastic in his applause then as he was at the first, and then he sits back with a sigh, and looks at patton.

wow,” he says, and it’s the same tone he’d used eleven years ago when he’d said he’s perfect, daddy, and patton can’t help but throw an arm around his shoulders and squeeze him into his side as much as he can with an armrest separating them.

he kisses logan on the side of the head, too. just because.

patton passes back the handkerchief with a quiet “thank you” to his mother, and they sit to watch the rest of the ballet.

or, most of the rest of the ballet. patton squeezes logan’s wrist and excuses himself to duck off to the bathroom real quick, and he does.

when he exits the restroom, though, he has to jerk his head suddenly to the side to avoid getting clocked in the temple with a hand that is furiously waving the handkerchief.

“what the hell is this?!” emily gilmore demands, and patton blinks, at first not getting it.

“your handkerchief?” he asks uncertainly, before he recognizes the smudging on it. the distinctly patton’s-skin-toned smudging on it. 

ah. right. he’d cried, and his makeup wasn’t waterproof, and—oh, dear.

well?!” she demands.

“it’s... makeup?” he says, edging carefully around the question, and she huffs at him irritably.

“i know that it’s makeup, i’ve been wearing makeup since long before you were born,” she says severely. “why are you wearing makeup?”

patton’s spine stiffens. if he has to have an argument where his mother nearly makes another transphobic comment again, he’s really, really not sure if he can handle it today. he really doesn’t think he can do it. he tries to sound indignant, but what comes out sounds small. 

“men can wear makeup.”

she sighs at him, but it’s less exasperated this time.

“of course men can wear makeup,” she says—her tone has gentled, but only slightly. she still sounds like she’s in the middle of a fight. “why are you, specifically, wearing makeup?”

patton tries for a laugh and waves his hand dismissively. “pneumonia, as it turns out, is not recommended for a beauty routine,” he tries to joke. “i look pretty rough, mom, and it’s my first time out in, you know, the general public, much less—”

he gestures to the grandeur of the theater.

and then she scoffs at him, and demands, “do i look like a damn babe in the woods?”

mom,” he says, a little shocked that she swore—well, she said hell and damn, but for her that’s a lot, especially in public. he glances at the ushers—who certainly were silent and nearly invisible, but for goodness’ sake, they were still people.

“patton, don’t be an idiot,” she says. “you’re handsome enough, i suppose, and you seriously expect me to believe that, of all things, this ballet is what’s propelled you to start wearing makeup again? the pneumonia? i mean, patton, it’s not like you’re getting any younger. if this had been about your appearance it certainly would have started before now.”

“there’s a compliment in there somewhere, i think,” patton says uncertainly. “i just have to get past all the insults first.”

“why,” she demands, looking at him, hard and unflinching.

“mom, seriously, it’s just because i haven’t been sleeping well,” patton says, which is half a lie. he’d slept great when someone else was in the bed with him, but he didn’t get a wink last night. 

but then she steps closer and starts scrubbing the handkerchief against his face, and patton jerks back, arms flailing.

mom!”

“i have seen you without nights of sleep!” she snarls. “and you do not think that you look poorly enough to put on makeup, so why else would you be wearing—“

and suddenly, what his mom might be thinking clicks—because he’d tried to pull this trick once before, when he was fourteen. and she’d caught him then too.

“oh,” he says, soft, and he grabs her wrist and carefully lowers it.

bullies at chilton had escalated to physical violence once. and only once.

because as soon as emily sanders found out about it, she had flown into chilton in a high rage that had embarrassed him at the time, but now, as a parent, he can understand the urge to go all up in arms on anyone who hurt your kid.

“mom,” he says. “seriously. it really is just because i look really rough and i thought there’d be pictures today. that’s it. it isn’t anything else.”

she stares at him, and he continues, voice soft and calm.

“no one’s hit me. i promise it’s just because—well, seriously, i look like i got out of the hospital yesterday, not nearly a week ago.”

he lets go of her wrist, and bends a little so his face is easily within her reach.

“you can poke and prod all you want, and if you find a tender spot, then you can start yelling at me again,” he says reasonably. “but—i mean, really. logan would have noticed if i was hiding something by now, wouldn’t he? he just didn’t notice today because one, he doesn’t have much experience seeing through makeup unless it’s for the stage, and two, he’s really excited about seeing roman.”

she considers this. at last, she lowers the handkerchief. patton tries not to breathe too noisy a sigh of relief.

he sighs too soon, he realizes, as soon as she surveys him. and then she gets that Look on her face. the “I Am Emily Sanders, Ye Mortals, Whoever Beholds Me Shall Tremble In Fear” one that has bent many a restaurant manager or unruly DAR member or chilton head of school to her will.

and, well. forced a confession or two or many out of patton, back in the day, everything from “fine, yes, it was me that broke that dish” to “if i have to hear anyone call me a beautiful young lady again i genuinely fear for what it will do to my mental health.” but he’s an adult now, he reasons. he’s thirty-two, not fourteen. he can do this.

“so no one’s hurt you,” she says. patton gears himself up. he just has to look her right in the eye and say it back. he can do this. he can do this.

he lasts three words.

“no,” he says. “no one’s—“

his voice crumples into croak, unable to complete the lie. 

he fakes a cough, two, and says, “no one’s hurt me,” looking safely at a floral arrangement, but it’s too late. she’s seized on a sign of weakness. she’s like a predator that’s seen a baby deer break a leg and is coming in for the kill.

“so something has happened,” she says, almost victorious.

“mom—”

“well, you have to be hiding something,” she says.

“can we not do this here?”

she scoffs. 

“i don’t want to talk about this right now,” patton tries.

“so there is something to talk about,” she says. 

“it isn’t something i want to talk about,” patton says tightly. he doesn’t want to cry right now. he really, really doesn’t. and if he starts talking about virgil to his mother, for goodness’ sake, virgil, who his mother despises—

patton loves virgil, and virgil—virgil loves him—but everything got so messed up and now he’s waiting, like he hasn’t been waiting for sixteen years, and it’s terrible because during those sixteen years he could at least go and see virgil and be his friend but he can’t do that right now because virgil wanted space, and patton’s gonna respect that, by golly, even if it hurts, because virgil deserves all the best in the world, and so what if it makes him miserable? but he doesn’t want his mom sticking her nose into that before he can even tell logan.

“you’re upset,” she says. 

“can we just go up to the box, please?” patton says with a grimace. “can we just have a nice day?”

“who’s upset you?” she says. “not logan, surely.”

“no, not logan,” patton says, before he shakes himself. “i just said i didn’t want to talk about this, can you please stop?”

“so it must be someone else,” she says, and her eyes narrow and she sighs at him, like she’s disappointed. “patton, for heaven’s sake, surely you haven’t let that burger flipper affect you so drastically—”

what little thread of patience patton’s been clinging to all day snaps.

“will you just leave it?!” and it tears out of him in a kind of shriek. “for god’s sake, mom, virgil is my best friend, he’s one of the most important people in the world to me, the work he does is important and valid and just because he works in a diner does not mean that he’s any lesser than you and you have no right to dictate what upsets me or not, you’ve never had any right to dictate what upsets me or not, and you know what, yes, fine, virgil’s upset me—”

“i knew it,” emily says, looking victorious. “people like that, they are only out to—“

“mom, do not,” he seethes. “yes, virgil’s upset me, but that’s between me and him because we’re both adults and GOD!”

he manages to take a breath, but he is not even close to done.

“i am so sick,” he says, “of you saying people like that and looking down on people who are my friends, mom, who were certainly there for me when you weren’t—” 

“and whose fault was that!”

“fine! mine, mom! mine! i’ve only said that for sixteen years, and apologized for just as long but sure! why not say it one more time! it was my fault! it still matters that they were there!” patton shouts. “i was sixteen and hurting and guess who pushed me to make that choice, mom! i’ll give you three guesses, and the first two don’t count!”

“i never pushed you to leave,” she says. “i never insinuated that you should run away from home—”

patton laughs, humorless. “well jeez, mom, i sure misread the daily ‘what a disappointment you are’ talks, didn’t i! i guess hearing you scream about what an idiot i was was just fun mother-son bonding time, huh?”

“i never said you were—“

the day i told you i was pregnant you screamed that at me,” patton says. “the second after i told you. i was terrified, mom, i was so scared, and the first thing you say to me was how on earth could you be so stupid?!”

she looks stung, but she doesn’t deny it. good, because that moment’s engraved on patton’s brain forever.

“and gee, mom, i guess me and chris must not have heard that right when we were sitting on the stairs overhearing you and dad and francine and straub deciding how the rests of our lives should go, huh?” patton says. “when straub told you i’d never amount more to, what were his exact words, oh yeah, a worthless whore, what did you say to him, mom?!”

“i didn’t know you’d heard—” she fumbles, and then, “i can’t recall—”

"oh, gosh, i sure wish i had that same memory recall problem, mom,” patton says. “because i remember loud and clear that you told him at least your son will still amount to something, imagine how we feel.”

emily’s silent.

“so yeah,” patton says. “you don’t have any right to justify what makes me upset or not. you don’t have any right to tell me if it’s okay for me to be with virgil or not, because hey, i’m just living up to your expectations, right?!”

she looks up at him.

i’m not sixteen anymore,” patton says. “you didn’t have the right back then, and you have even less of a right now to tell me what i can or cannot do, or who i can or cannot be with.”

“i am your mother,” she says.

“that’s on pretty thin ice, right now,” patton says, before he can stop himself.

she stares at him, slack-jawed. “you can’t be serious.”

“maybe i am,” patton says, and shoves a hand through his hair. “i’m just—i’m tired, mom. i’m so tired. every single time we make up, i think something will be different between us, and every single time, i’m wrong. i’m sick and tired of it.”

“well, if you’re so tired, i’ve—”

“you are the REASON i’m TIRED!” patton screams. “it isn’t just there for you to play with and drop when you get bored and—and logan isn’t some project for you to fix up and direct and mold and he owe you nothing, just because you’re giving him money for school doesn’t mean you can tell him what to do, you do not get to parent him because he’s my son, and virgil isn’t something for you to cut out of my life entirely, and i don’t want your input, okay?! i don’t want it! how much clearer can i say it than please stop, i don’t want to talk about this?!”

patton thomas sanders, if you are taking your life down a completely disastrous path, i am your mother, i have to jump in and—”

“mom, seriously,” patton says, “i am tired, i am so tired, and i am this close to snapping demanding you butt out of my life, okay? i’m this close to just—” he breaks off into a laugh that’s more like a sob, and pushes the palms of his hands into his eyes. “god, maybe virgil’s right.”

“you can’t cut us off entirely,” emily says, and patton hesitates, blinks, turns. 

“i never told you what virgil might be right about,” he says quietly, and she abruptly has the look of someone who’s said too much.

“mom,” he says. “how did you know that virgil has talked to me about that.”

she sniffs, and looks off to the side. “you were in the hospital for some time, and we both stayed the night, so it makes sense that we got to—”

“mom, you didn’t,” he begs.

“didn’t what?”

“mom, please tell me you didn’t talk to virgil about either of our feelings for each other and our relationship,” he says.

“well, it hardly counted as a talk,” she begins, but that’s it, patton has to turn away and try not to just scream.

“what?” she says.

mom,” he wails, “i was in the hospital with pneumonia and you can’t see how maybe, maybe, talking to virgil about anything i was feeling was inappropriate?!”

“i didn’t talk to him about your feelings, patton,” she says. “we spoke about many things—”

“great,” patton says, and shoves his hands through his hair. “great. awesome, mom, this is just fantastic, what did you talk to him about?!”

“i do everything i do because i think it will be best for you,” she says, sharp and stern. “i stayed at the hospital, i didn’t sleep a wink all that night, i sat through that—that man berating me for just about every aspect of our relationship, which is none of his business—“

“how can you see that our relationship is none of his business and yet not realize that his and mine isn’t any of yours?!” 

she says, “and what you and he seem to think is best for you is not what is best for you—”

“oh my god, i’m gonna lose it,” patton says. “what did you say to him about him and me.”

“he is not what’s best for you!” she says. “he said that he was in love with you—“

patton lets out a wounded noise.

“—and he seems to think that you stagnating where you are would be what’s best for you. i said that you would be perfectly well suited with someone i could find, i know a great many single sons of friends of mine, you know, all decent fellows—”

decent fellows,” patton repeats, incredulous. 

“he’s wrong—”

“no, mom, you’re wrong,” patton says, but she runs over him.

“—you are my son, i have every right to demand what is best for you,”

“MOM!” he barks. 

“patton!” she snaps right back.

“please hear me,” patton begs. “if i want your input in any way, shape, or form, i will ask for it, but until then, if ever, can you do me a favor and please just shut up?!”

emily’s gone slack-jawed. 

patton shuts his eyes tight, plants his hands on his hips, and takes in one good deep breath. two. and then he smiles—flat, and he’s sure it’s not convincing at all, but he doesn’t want to look at her, right now.

“i’m sorry,” he says, monotone. “i am sorry i yelled. please go back up to the box. i’m going to calm down. have logan text me if i don’t come back before the show ends and i’ll figure out a place to meet you.”

she stares at him for a moment, two, before she turns on her heel and sweeps silently away.

he closes the door behind him, barely checks to see if he’s alone, and presses his back against the door, sliding slowly down until he’s sitting, digging the heels of his hands into his eyes. and it’s so stupid, because he’s about to cry.

he doesn’t lose his temper at his mom. he yells at her, sometimes, rarely. they snap at each other. but he never really loses it like that. but all of what he said is true. he is sick of her trying to pry into his life. he is sick of her glancing disdainfully at boundaries he tries to draw and her stepping over them whenever she feels like it. he is sick of her butting into everything in his life to fix it up to her satisfaction, and he is sick of being looked at like a series of issues to be dealt with, as tedious as figuring out taxes. he’s sick of being looked at like he’s doing everything wrong. 

patton’s sick of crying too.


“logan sanders?”

logan blinks, tearing his eyes away from the stage where dancers are taking their bows to see one of the ushers.

“yes?” he asks. patton, who’d come back from the bathroom looking tired and drained and still red-eyed, turns too.

“i’m supposed to escort you and your family backstage,” the usher says, and logan feels his heart squeeze.

“okay,” he says, a bit overeager, and all four of them get up, following the usher out of the box, down the grand staircase, into a tiny passage, and out into a room.

all the grandeur of the theater had been yanked abruptly away—everything surrounding them was white. white walls, white floors, white countertops. mirrors surrounded by white, with lightbulbs studded all around. the pops of color were the dancers—some freeing their hair from severe buns, some lounging, some touching up their makeup, some chatting and laughing, some refastening their pointe shoes—and their elaborate costumes. 

the usher continues to lead them, and he leads them to a white door with a little whiteboard on which is scrawled ROMAN PRINCE in red marker. logan lurches forward and knocks.

almost before he’s done, the door opens, and there’s—well, there’s the cavalier.

the makeup he’d seen close-up once had been smudged, hours from freshness, but now it was sharp and clear and defined, even as there were beads of sweat at roman’s brow, his hairline. the eyeshadow glimmered in the light refracting from their white surroundings, his lipstick was a shade of light lilac, his cheeks sculpted and highlighted, his eyes wide, bright, excited. his hair, almost like he was dusted with powdered sugar, was swept into a neat hairstyle, the crown glittering.

it was almost like he wasn’t roman anymore, like he really was the cavalier. like he’d been swept back from the land of sweets and deposited here, but then—then he grinned. it was a familiar smile, one logan’s seen all his life, and suddenly, it was roman again—roman, in the costume of a cavalier. his roman.

“hi,” roman says.

“hi,” logan breathes.

roman’s smile widens as he stares up at logan, and logan has to shake himself.

he shoves the bouquet in roman’s direction. “these are for you,” he blurts out.

roman laughs at him—kindly, but still—and accepts the bouquet, face softening. he inhales the scent, and cradles them against his chest.

“logan, they’re beautiful,” he says. “thank you.”

red roses, logan has known for years, are roman’s favorite flowers. and yet, the way roman’s brightened upon receiving them makes logan swell up, proud, like he’s done something amazing, instead of just remembering something that roman likes.

“you’re welcome,” logan says, and, because he apparently doesn’t have control over his mouth today, he says, “you were phenomenal,” in an embarrassingly dreamy tone.

roman’s smile is so wide his eyes are nearly shut. logan’s heart squeezes even more. “really?”

“really,” logan confirms, and lets out a breathless laugh. “i mean—wow, roman.”

“you did such a good job, kiddo, i am so proud of you,” patton adds, and roman grins at him, too.

“thanks, mr. sanders.”

“how many times,” patton begins, but roman jerks his chin just slightly behind him, and—

ah. ms. prince is hovering in the background. 

oh god, he has to deal with ms. prince in the capacity of being roman’s boyfriend now.

“yes, you did wonderfully,” emily says, and richard adds something of the same sentiment, and roman laughs, ducking his head.

“well, thank you,” he says, and smiles up at logan, smile turning a touch regretful. “um—i don’t have much time, i just wanted to be sure i saw you before i got called out for photos.”

“photos?” logan asks blankly.

roman waves his free hand, and says, “you know, people want photos with the sugar plum fairy and the cavalier, or with the nutcracker and clara, that kind of thing.”

“oh,” logan says, slumping a little. right. roman would probably be busy. he probably shouldn’t have expected this to be a meeting that lasted very long—or one where he could steal roman away for just a little bit of time.

those tights—leggings?—he was wearing were very tight, and very distracting. it’s probably good that he can’t see them very close up when they’re standing relatively close like this.

“i’ll be able to see you later, though,” roman says, and logan perks up at that.

“today?”

roman grimaces, shakes his head, and reminds him, “night show, too. i have to do stretching and rehearsal stuff here in between.”

“right,” logan says. “then—?”

“monday?” roman suggests. “breakfast, or after school. whichever works for you.”

monday. logan tries not to mope. of course, he’s known that recital times are the busiest times of year for roman, but—but he was really hoping to spend some time with him before all of his priorities are taken over by finals. 

“how about monday afternoon?” patton suggests. “you can come by our house.”

“okay, then,” roman says, and tries for a smile at logan—but, logan thinks, he might be disappointed by the amount of time apart too. “monday afternoon it is.”

“right,” logan says, and roman darts a glance—at logan’s dad and grandparents, and at his own mother—before he takes a step closer.

“thank you again for the flowers,” he says.

“of course,” logan says automatically. “i mean—you’re welcome.”

roman giggles, places a hand on logan’s chest, and arches up. it’s a soft, chaste kiss—a press of the lips, but it still sends logan reeling. roman takes a step back.

“monday?” he checks.

“monday,” logan says, trying not to smile too widely, but by roman’s wink, he probably fails.

logan watches as roman walks off, intercepted by a girl in a flowy white skirt, her costume like a nightgown—the girl who’d played clara—and serena, the sugar plum fairy, whose voices are pitched in a teasing way and by the way roman glances back, cheeks rosy with a blush, logan can guess what they’re teasing him about.

logan lifts his hand in a wave, and they both cackle at roman. roman shoves clara, lightly, before blowing logan a kiss.

logan barely resists the urge to reach out to catch it. and then all three are gone, behind a door.

“dad, would you mind taking logan with you when you get the car?” his dad asks. “i want to have a chat with ms. prince.”

ms. prince only looks startled for a moment, before her face smooths back into intimidating blankness—her default, really.

“certainly,” richard says, and logan barely has any time to wonder why patton’s approaching ms. prince, cheeks red, speaking in an undertone, before his grandfather’s hand closes on his shoulder and turns him away.


lunch is... strange.

strange, because it’s mostly quiet. it’s mostly him and his grandfather talking about the news, or books they’ve both read. which is pleasant enough, he supposes, they’re conversations he enjoys having, but he’s used to it—well, to it being interrupted. with you know, our friends marlese and gordon, or oh, we had such a lovely time touring, richard, do you remember or mom, please let him finish his sentence.

there isn’t... that. 

sure, emily interjects sometimes, but not nearly as often as she usually does. and his dad is utterly, completely silent—still red-eyed, still tired-looking—and he picks at his food. 

oh, logan thinks. they fought.

he probably shouldn’t be surprised—it happens sometimes—but, well. hadn’t she apologized? hadn’t they had some kind of heart-to-heart in the hospital that virgil had seen fit to guard him from? 

there’s no reason he should be discomfited. they’ve been like this for as long as he’s been alive, and much longer—but it’s still, well. unpleasant.

“well, logan,” richard says. “first semester coming to a close at chilton. how do you think your grades will look?”

logan ignores how sweaty his hands have become.

“if everything goes according to plan,” logan says. “straight a’s.”

but what if it doesn’t go according to plan, something in his brain murmurs. ruin those perfect straight a’s.

“it’ll go according to plan,” his dad says, as if he can hear him doubting himself. “you’re so smart, logan, you’ll do a great job.”

but being smart isn’t always enough, he thinks. he could forget—he could have a bout of test anxiety and be unable to complete his exams—he could completely study the wrong subjects and be unpleasantly shocked by what he’s being quizzed over—and logan grabs for his glass of his water, immediately taking a gulp in an attempt to disgorge whatever’s causing the lump in his throat. some food that hasn’t gone down quite right, surely.

“top five percent of your class, surely,” richard says. “if not the top of the class. you know, this is the time that colleges really start looking at grades, your sophomore year. especially since you’ve just transferred to chilton.”

logan tries to swallow, again.

“he knows that, dad,” patton says, a quiet admonishment. “and he’ll do great. he’s been studying all week.”

“well, a strong work ethic will get you many places in life, young man,” richard says.

“but surely you won’t just be focusing only on finals all week,” emily says. “i was reading the chilton newsletter—“

oh. oh no.

“—and i saw the winer formal was coming up,” emily says. “this friday.”

patton stills, and he turns to logan.

“you didn’t tell me you had a dance coming up,” he says, sounding a little hurt.

“what, you didn’t know?” emily says.

patton frowns at her, and says, quietly, “i’ve been a little busy since the last newsletter came out, mom.”

emily immediately looks reproached by this. logan clears his throat, and hastily speaks in order to get past this strange behavior.

“i don’t think i’m going to go,” logan says.

“nonsense, of course you’re going,” emily says dismissively.

“mom, if logan doesn’t want to go, he doesn’t have to go,” patton says tightly.

“well, i don’t understand why he wouldn’t want to go,” emily says, with a dismissive little gesture with her fork. “he has a boyfriend, who is quite clearly a very competent dancer. you could wear the suit that we got you for thanksgiving—as i recall, the dress code—”

“i really don’t think i’m going to go,” logan says, heading off this tangent before it can get started. “i’ve been a bit distracted with dad, and everything, and that’s a valuable night of studying. it’s the last weekend before finals week.”

a beat, and he adds, “plus, roman would be performing, there are shows on friday nights, too, so—”

“oh, if it’s a date you’re worried about, i’m sure roman won’t mind if you were escorted by a friend,” she says, and gets a thoughtful look in her eye. “would you happen to know chadwick grey? i believe he’s in your grade, and he’s the grandson of my friend harriet, you know, from bridge, or—”

mom,” patton repeats, disbelieving. “drop it, please. logan’s given you several very good reasons on why he doesn’t want to go.”

she frowns at patton. “fine,” she says.

“fine,” patton says.

and it really does seem like it’s dropped—granted, at the end of the lunch, patton and emily hiss at each other in a tone logan can’t hear but is dying to and it ends with patton storming to the car and emily left behind, looking hurt—until logan and patton are alone in the car, heading back to sideshire.

“not that i’m pushing you to go, or anything,” patton says, “but—why didn’t you tell me about the dance?”

logan shrugs, directing his stare out of the window. “i thought you knew. i’ve seen pictures of you and dad at winter formal.”

“well, yeah, but,” patton says, and logan glances over in time to see patton redirect his stare away from logan back to the road. “i know you aren’t mister party guy, and i love you, but i don’t want you missing out on something that could be a really fun experience, even if roman doesn’t go.”

logan grimaces. “it’ll be stuffy and boring, the music will be terrible, and as i don’t have particularly many friends at chilton, i’ll be standing in the back watching dee strategize the way to maximize my misery. or, i could be home studying and ensuring that i keep my gpa as satisfactory as it can be—”

“okay, or,” patton says, “it’ll be all sparkly and exciting, and you’ll be standing on the dance floor listening to music that you really like, and dee will have just been eaten by a bear—”

“what?”

“okay, maybe not a bear,” patton amends. “but—look, if you change your mind, just let me know, and i’ll send in the money for a ticket, okay? or tickets, if roman somehow gets free.”

“he won’t.”

“okay,” patton says. “just so you know.”

logan sighs. “i know.”

“good,” patton says.

logan hesitates, before he says, “you and grandma fought, didn’t you?”

patton grimaces and nods. “she picked at the wrong thing at the wrong time, and i snapped at her.”

“you did?” logan says. his dad snapping at his parents is rare—the last time logan had heard was the first dinner with his grandparents, way back in chapter one august. 

“i apologized right after, but, well,” patton says, and tilts his head at logan with an odd little quirk of the mouth that might be a smile. “you know your grandma.”

logan does. and then logan hesitates.

“what did she pick at?” he asks, mind already going through possibilities—something relating to patton’s pneumonia, something relating to patton’s appearance, something relating to—

it feels like a ball of ice has formed in the pit of his stomach, which is odd, as he hasn’t consumed anything cold recently.

“it wasn’t about—?”

“what?” patton says, distracted, and then his eyes widen. “oh—no, no no no, honey, god no, it wasn’t about you and roman—”

the ice abates.

“she’s old-fashioned, but she’s not that old-fashioned,” patton continues. “it was—“

now patton hesitates, and it takes him nearly thirty seconds before he shakes himself and says, “it was something about me, that’s all.”

“okay,” logan says, still mentally sorting through the possibilities of what could make his dad snap. he’s a journalist, all right, and his dad knows full well how dedicated he is to finding out any mysteries.

it takes until they get home before patton sighs, and says, “hey, um, before you escape to your study den, i should probably talk to you about something.”

patton gestures vaguely toward the kitchen, and logan goes to sit at the kitchen table, trying to mentally sort through what this might be. study habits lecture, asking about roman, laying down house rules when it comes to roman—

but then, maybe, he thinks that might be why patton invited roman to the house on monday, to set some house rules on sleepovers and that kind of thing.

(oh, logan, honey, you’re partially right. but the rest of it will pain you. i’m so sorry.)

“yes?” logan says uncertainly, adjusting his glasses.

“you haven’t done anything wrong,” patton says reassuringly. “it’s, um. it’s kind of what your grandma picked at that made me upset. you should probably know.”

logan blinks at him. “oh.”

patton takes a deep breath, and says, “so, um. you know, i... i went to winterfest with virgil.”

they got together they got together thEY GOT TOGETHER—

“right,” logan says, trying not to sound too excited.

“and, we, um. got to talking, after.”

THEY GOT TOGETHER THEY GOT TOGETHER THEY GOT TOGETHER—

“and, um,” patton lets out a shaky exhale, and wait, that wasn’t the face of someone who had finally gotten together with someone they’ve had a crush on for nearly as long as logan’s been alive.

“and,” logan prompts. 

patton tries for a smile, but his lip wavers, and he lets out a sigh. “we’re, um. we’re giving each other some space right now.”

logan is... perplexed. 

“you’re what?”

“it’s no one’s fault,” patton says, quickly. “and no one’s mad at anyone, we’re still, you know, friends. we’re just... taking a bit of time to figure things out.”

“but,” logan says, and frowns. “but virgil’s in love with you.”

patton chokes out, “yes.”

“and you’re in love with him.”

“yes.”

logan’s frown deepens. “so what’s the issue?”

"oh, gosh,” patton says, and swallows, his smile tight and wrong on his face. “it’s—oh, i know you’re going to hate this, but it’s an adult thing, okay? adult relationships are complicated.”

“i know,” logan says, petulant. “but...”

he hesitates, before he says, “hang on,” and gets up from the kitchen table, going up to his room, to the box that holds most of roman’s creations, digging out a certain piece of paper, before he goes back down the stairs and pushes it across the table. 

“i,” he begins, huffs, and grumbles out the nostalgic thing. “i always thought you two would be together.”

it’s an old piece of paper, a bit yellowed by age. it was a familiar type of paper—the top blank, better for children to draw on, and the lined and dotted wide spaces better for logan’s clumsy lettering.

L-O-G-A-N AGE 5 is printed carefully in blue crayon at the top, no backward letters. logan was the first in his kindergarten class to write consistently, to read, to count to one hundred on his own—

he pushes aside thoughts of academics, and watches as his dad’s eyes get shinier and shinier as he continues to read.

mY familY, it reads as the title at the top—under a clumsily drawn image of patton and virgil in the diner, big black-crayon curve smiles on their faces, holding hands in front of the counter, logan at patton’s side, roman with ms. prince in the background, with parentheses (roman (my best freind) and his mom) denoting them. 

this is virgil and he owns the diner in town and he is the best cook ever. virgil is with mY dad. mY dad is the best dad ever because he reads me all the stories i want and he hugs me when i’m sad even if i don’t tell him and he takes me to the libarY. virgil and my dad are best friends like me and roman exsept virgil and dad love each other like adults like sinderella and prince charming do. i think that one daY theY will get married like sinderella and prince charming and virgil can be mY other dad. then me and roman can get married too and he can have two dads like me because he doesn’t have one and we will live in a casle like belle and the beast. virgil and mY dad alwaYs laugh with each other and hug each other when they are sad and ask each other what theY need. theY know each other better than anYone in the world. i love mY familY.

patton’s face is screwing up, and he carefully puts the paper on the table, wiping under his eyes and sniffling.

“dad,” logan says, awkward. 

“can i, um,” patton says, strained. “can i give you a hug?”

logan gets up from the kitchen table, and patton stands to wrap his arms around him, squeezing him tight.

“i just,” logan says, and repeats. “i mean. i always thought you two would be together—”

patton’s grip tightens, and logan’s sentence cuts off into a wheeze as all the breath leaves him.

“oh!” patton exclaims, and he lets go. “sorry, i’m so sorry!”

“it’s okay,” logan coughs. “you’ve gotten your strength back, that’s good.”

a pause, and then logan says, hesitantly, “are you and virgil...?”

“oh, gosh,” patton says, and offers him that shaky, strained smile that logan hates. “i think you’re probably gonna be going in alone to the diner for a while, that’s all. i’m sure he still wants to see you, you don’t have to adjust your whole life because me and virgil are a bit rocky right now.”

but that is an adjustment to my whole life, logan would argue if his dad didn’t look so torn up about it. that’s the foundation of his life—him and his dad and virgil at the diner, him and roman at the gazebo. milkshakes at lucy’s, late shifts at the courant, coffee snuck from remy’s, helping at the front desk of the inn. bugging the librarian and doing his homework in the pews of prince studio. that’s the way his life goes. that’s the way his life is. 

and now it’ll be—what? awkward silences? virgil skittering back into the kitchen before logan can even sit down and talk to him? jean smiling at him apologetically and telling him that virgil’s sick, again? for how long? days? weeks? months?

no puns about diner food? no watching his dad’s ploys for more hot cocoa/coffee? no virgil and patton bartering fiercely over patton getting some kind of breakfast pastry in relation to some kind of fruit or vegetable instead? no dad and virgil flirting over their food? 

“oh, honey, it’s okay,” patton says hastily, and then, incorrectly identifying the source of his upset, says, “just because virgil wants space from me doesn’t mean he wants space from you, too—”

his voice breaks, his face screws up, and he looks away, putting a hand over his mouth and taking a deep breath.

“dad,” logan starts, awkward, putting a hand on his shoulder.

patton lets out a frustrated, wordless groan and shakes out his hands, before smearing them down his face.

“no,” he says, and he tries to smile again. “no, no. don’t worry about me, i got a bit wobbly there for a second but i’m under control now—”

“dad—” 

“i’m so sick of crying, i’m not going to cry again,” patton says wearily, before he reaches out to tap logan’s hand, where it’s still on his shoulder. “we both love you just the same, and things’ll get smoothed over eventually, sweetheart. it’ll just be a little different for a while. that’s all.”

logan bites his lip, but he doesn’t want to add to his dad’s clearly distraught emotional state. “okay.”

patton nods, and says, “okay.”

logan lets go, and hesitates, before he asks, “what did grandma say?”

"oh, kiddo, we’re gonna need chocolate if i get into that,” patton says. he sounds exhausted, and logan feels bad for asking, but—

well, he has to know. 

“i’ll get the emergency stores, it’ll make up for any friday dinners i’m going to have to miss,” patton says, and turns to go. 

logan gets out his phone and immediately starts composing a message.


“land sakes, virgil, are you sure you’re feeling better?”

“i’m fine, mrs. torres,” virgil says wearily, setting down her plate of meatloaf.

“you haven’t been making food, have you?”

“no, mrs. torres.”

“maybe you shouldn’t be on your feet,” she says, surveying him. “you know, i heard from dot that you were sick this morning and that’s why you weren’t in.”

“i overslept, mrs. torres.”

i’m a coward, mrs. torres, i didn’t want to risk a chance of seeing patton, who told me he loved me but i had a fucking breakdown over it, mrs. torres, so i hid so there wasn’t any chance of seeing him or his son, does that work for you? do you want to pass that on to everyone in town for me?

“hmph,” she says. “well, if you say so.”

“i do say so,” virgil says tightly. “let me know if i can get you anything else.”

he heads back behind the counter, and hides in the kitchen. which he’s been doing most of the day. he hasn’t been cooking, that’s not a lie—with how tired and distracted he is, it’s just begging for trouble in a place full of sharp objects and hot surfaces—so he’s mostly been doing payroll, usually his least favorite part of owning a business.

but it has to be done, and he’s already in a terrible mood, so. plus, he’ll triple check it and he has the aid of a computer, so any distracted mistakes can be fixed with a few backspaces and not with, you know. a few stitches.

“roman!” he hears mrs. torres coo, after a while, and virgil blinks as he shakes himself out of the numbers. ms. prince hadn’t said they wanted dinner.

“hello hello, ms. torres,” and yes, there’s roman’s familiar grandiose tone. virgil closes his laptop and emerges from the kitchen.

where yes, indeed, there's roman in a red t-shirt and jeans and a white-and-gold jacket slung over his shoulder, tolerating mrs. torres’ cheek-pinching for as long as he possibly can.

roman turns to the counter, though, and hops up onto a stool, grabbing a menu.

“your mom didn’t call,” virgil says. “so you’ll have to wait on pick-up—”

“i know,” roman says smugly. “and no pick-up tonight, i’ve managed to negotiate an early cheat meal, so i’m splurging here, sleeping broody.”

then he looks closer at virgil, frowns, and says, “jeez, maybe i should have said cruella de ill, are you okay?”

“that’s barely even a nickname,” virgil tells him. “you just took off one letter.”

“vil is spelled v-i-l, you poser, i took off a letter and added one,” roman says, and then, with a dismissive little wave of the hand, says, “cherry coke?”

virgil goes. he comes back with roman’s drink.

“keep ‘em comin’,” roman says cheerfully. “i’m going to put myself in a carb-and-sugar coma tonight, mark my words.”

“you’re getting two, at most,” virgil says. “maybe three if you’re nice, but that’s impossible for you, so two.”

“you don’t have to moderate my caffeine consumption, you aren’t my dad,” roman says—an old joke. virgil knows his line.

“thank god,” virgil says, and his voice is unintentionally monotone. he winces. shit, he’s supposed to be sarcastic with that—he's supposed to smirk, or something, to temper the joke. he’s not supposed to sound like he’s playing it straight. especially since they’re both gay.

but when he chances a glance at roman, he’s sipping his soda, looking disinterested—joke said dozens of times before, like it’s any old day. virgil breathes a sigh of relief.

he puts through mrs. torres’ check, and buses tables, and by the time he emerges from the kitchen again roman’s waving him down.

“okay,” roman says. “i want lasagna, and chicken parm, and—“

“you better be saying and a glass of water, you are not ordering three meals,” virgil says.

“i’m carboloading!”

“you’re being a brat, is what you’re doing,” virgil retorts, and oh, yes, that felt—more normal. bickering with roman. 

“you said i’m not ordering three meals, but can i order two?” roman says hopefully.

“not at full serving sizes, kid.”

“okay, then, reduced serving sizes for two meals, plus dessert,” roman says challengingly, arching his eyebrows at virgil.

virgil tilts his head, considering this. “reduced serving sizes for two meals, dessert, and only one cherry coke. that’s my final offer.”

“deal,” roman says. 

virgil pens down his order, goes back into the kitchen to put it in, and emerges to the counter again.

“so,” roman says. “um. logan and i—”

“i know,” virgil says. “we, um. we saw.”

roman looks startled, and virgil sighs.

“you were in the gazebo,” he says pointedly. “one of the most visible things in town.”

“true, i guess,” roman says. “i dunno, i—it’s like it was us. just us. you know?”

“get out of here with your sugary rom-com lines,” virgil says.

roman grins at him, unapologetic. which is good, honestly, it’s just as roman should be, unapologetic and confident and happy, but virgil can’t let on that he’s happy that roman’s happy, so he just scowls at him.

roman’s grin widens.  “to me, he is perfect. if he’s a bird, i’m a bird, i’ll never let go, jack—”

“you’ve barely had a boyfriend for three days and you can’t even remember his name,” virgil says with a tsk. 

“logan, oh, logan!” roman says, sighing in a cartoonish way and dramatically sweeping a hand over his forehead, as if overcome by emotion.

“i thought it was jack,” virgil says. “you gotta make up your mind.”

“says you,” roman says childishly, but virgil flinches.

yes. he does have to make up his mind. he has to settle himself down and give patton a good answer and fucking calm it down, jesus, he’s been in love with this man for ten years how on earth is he possibly afraid—

“sorry,” roman says, subdued. even more subdued than he would be if he accidentally made virgil upset, which—

“logan told me,” roman explains, and virgil lets out a shaky sigh.

logan told him. which meant that logan knew. which meant that patton had told him. told him what? told him that he’d denied his dad? made his dad cry? that he’d just stood there and watched while the only person he’s ever wanted just walked away? that virgil’s avoiding him because he’s scared?

would logan avoid him? would logan cut him out? would logan—

“um,” roman says, breaking into virgil’s rapidly derailing train of thought. “it—i mean, it sucks, but he’s not mad at you or anything.”

that’s almost even worse.

“we just—you know,” roman says. “we’re, um, rooting for you two.”

“thanks, kid,” virgil says, and if his voice is a bit rougher than usual, roman doesn’t comment on it.

“it’s just—” roman hesitates, and there’s the thump, thump that means roman’s kicking a converse-covered toe against the counter. “i mean, even back when we were kids, we always thought you two would get married.”

married,” virgil wheezes. if the prospect of even kissing patton is enough to make his hands shake and his breathing come a bit too quick, marriage is—

“well, yeah, i was five,” roman says, “adult who are in love get married, right, that’s what you think when you’re five.”

“you’d know better than me,” virgil says.

“right, because you were five, like, a hundred years ago,” roman says—clearly a joke, clearly an attempt to stray from something serious. “you know, back in the days where you’d only have creepy porcelain dolls to play with and you’d ask mother to please turn on the radio show, so you can listen to captain america fighting nazis or whatever, before you have to get swept away on the trail to oregon—”

“if your mother has high hopes for your history grade this semester, she’s mistaken.”

roman makes a dramatically offended face at him, before he says, “yeah, i just—you know. thought that you two would be together, so logan would have two dads, and—”

his mouth snaps shut, and he turns red.

“what?” virgil says.

and he could lend me one or we could get married so i’d have two dads too,” roman mumbles under his breath. virgil hesitates, licking his lips, before—

“i was friends with your dad, you know.”

“i know,” roman says, stirring his straw through his cherry coke. “i’ve seen pictures. right before you guys would go off to get dressed in your finery to wave to boats taking off, or whatever it is you did for fun back in the stone age.”

“we were hoop rolling,” virgil tries to joke. “all the rage back then. but, um—your dad was, you know. a weird fella.”

“yeah, i know,” roman says. 

“like, seriously. he was just, like, a freaky, spooky guy.”

“yep.”

“like, seriously. just the most bizarre man i’ve ever—”

“i’m getting the picture, virgil, i know what happened to him, i know what he did for a living, i’ve read his books, you have to be, well—you have to be a few peanuts short of a snickers bar to write stuff like that.”

“right, yeah,” virgil says, and rubs at the back of his neck. “he was—older than me, you know. he kind of took me under his wing, and—okay, sure, we made some bad decisions—”

“what, like smuggling moonshine in the midst of prohibition?”

“—we made some bad decisions, but he was—you know. he was a good guy, deep down. really deep down. seriously very deep down—”

“okay, virgil, i get it,” roman says. 

“—and he’d be really proud of you, you know.”

roman freezes. 

“i mean,” virgil says. “he was—well, you know, you get it, but he’d be thrilled that you were dancing, just like your mom. he always loved your mom, in the, you know. platonic way.”

“since he was gay too,” roman says, lips twitching. “mom’s told me the stories, you know.”

“right, yeah,” virgil says, relieved, because if roman asked about remus and his mom virgil would have no answers for him. he’s always wondered why isadora prince had decided to continue her ballerina bloodline with the help of remus duke as a sperm donor, but—he’d never really understood their whole thing. he doesn’t think anyone but the pair of them ever did.

“just—you know. so you know,” virgil says, before he adds, gruffly, “i mean, i am.”

roman’s lips twitch up, and virgil hesitates, before he reaches over and messes up roman’s hair, mostly because of the squawk of indignation when he does.


patton shuffles silently along, blanket wrapped around his shoulders and dragging on the ground. he hasn’t been sleeping well since winterfest, and now—well, honestly, he may as well give up the ghost, maybe read something or watch some tv, since he doesn’t have sleep planned in his—

he comes to a stop, staring.

“what are you doing up?” he demands to his son’s back—his son’s still-suit-clad back, and his shoulders jump up to his ears before logan turns, eyes guilty.

“studying,” he says. “wait, what are you doing up?”

“couldn’t sleep,” patton says. “i—kiddo, come on, you know you shouldn’t be staying up like this, it’s nearly four in the morning!”

“i just,” logan says, and looks at the books and papers and pens and notecards and notebooks he’s got sprawled all across the table. “i lost track of time, i suppose.”

patton sighs, and drops into the seat next to him. “well, c’mon, let’s finish up here, and you can go to sleep, yeah?”

“you don’t have to wait up for me,” logan says, avoiding his gaze. 

“i’m gonna wait up for you,” patton says, “because if i don’t, you’re gonna turn right back to those notebooks, and don’t tell me i’m being overprotective, because i know you and i know you will.”

logan’s shoulders slump. he sighs, and rubs a hand over his eyes, under his glasses—patton sees the stray swipes of ink on his face, from where he’s forgotten he’s holding a pen.

“c’mon, kiddo, you’ve got a whole week until finals even start,” patton says gently. “you can’t keep burning the candle at both ends like this, or you’re not going to be able to keep your eyes open during finals.”

logan physically shudders, as if imagining what would happen if he fell asleep during a final.

“c’mon, we agreed,” patton says. “no more overworking yourself like this.”

“i just—“ logan begins, and wavers. “i’m going to finish this notecard.”

patton nods, and logan scrawls down his notes, before he nods to himself, flipping it over—once, twice, thrice. 

“kiddo,” he says, soft, “you doing okay?”

logan shrugs, sets down the notecard. “tired, i guess.”

“well, that makes sense, we’re two hours from sunrise,” patton says. “but that’s not really what i meant.”

“stressed, i suppose,” logan says, and wow, he must really be tired if he’s admitting that without patton prodding him. 

“but that’s typical, for finals,” logan says. “so.”

“i haven’t caught you staying up this late so early in the finals prep process,” patton says.

“well, i haven’t taken finals at chilton,” he says, and then he sets down the pen with a clatter. “i’m going to get some sleep before my alarm goes off. you should too.”

“i’ve been trying, but thanks,” patton says wearily. “get on upstairs, yeah?”

“night, dad.”

“night, kiddo. eight.”

a twitch of the lip. “sixteen.”


“patton, you’re back!” seems to be the refrain around the inn this morning, and patton’s happy to hear it, he really is, even if he’s so tired he feels like if he shuts his eyes for three seconds he might actually be able to drop off. it’s good to be back at the inn, in some semblance of routine.

“what’ve you got,” he asks, once he breaks through the crowd of well-wishers, where michel is waiting for him.

michel drops a stack of paperwork into his arms.

“ah. lovely.” he says. patton’s eyes ache, and he craves a hot cocoa/coffee, so much that he can taste the phantom sweetness of it. he’ll have to settle for plain coffee.

“you said to save it,” he says, unrepentant.

patton sighs, shuffling the stack. “i did.”

now that he can’t run around the inn, he’d asked that michel save any new paperwork and dig up some old stuff that needs to be handled, so. he shouldn’t be surprised.

“hit me,” patton says.

michel runs through the typical things—customer complaints, payroll, food orders, potential things they might invest in after the new year—but patton says “hang on, hang on, hang on, why do i see an insurance folder in here?”

“the snow caused damage on the roof, so we made a claim,” michel says.

“you didn’t call?” patton asks. “how much damage was it?”

“well, we called the insurance company,” he says. “who have provided you with paperwork.”

patton groans. “fantastic.”

the phone rings, and patton reaches to pick it up.

“sideshire inn, this is patton speaking, how may i help you today?” he asks, brighter and perkier than he usually would, on a monday morning, without caffeine. he really, seriously has missed the inn.

“patton, it’s your mother, i—”

without breaking his facial expression, patton hangs up and sets down the phone back in its cradle with a satisfying slam.

“uh-oh, i see something with auto, what happened there?” patton asks, going back to paging through the paperwork. michel, thankfully, does not note that patton has abruptly hung up on who might be a customer. to be perfectly honest, he probably doesn’t care.

“someone insists we did not salt the parking lot properly,” michel says, and patton sighs.

“any damage, any injuries?”

“bruised pride.”

patton laughs, and the phone rings again.

“sideshire inn, this is patton speaking, how may i help you today?” 

“patton, you just hung up on—!”

slam, smile apologetically at michel. 

“no other injuries, right? i don’t have to worry about any lawsuits?”

michel gives him a disdainful look. “what do you take me for?”

“a great assistant manager,” patton says. “okay, so, payroll, auto, insurance, those are my majors, right?”

“there is a bid for a pay raise,” michel says. “i would pay very special attention to it.”

“is it your bid for a pay raise?”

“perhaps.”

ring.

“sideshire inn, this is patton speaking, how may i help you today?” 

“ah, patton. it’s—” a moment of awkward hesitation—“your father.”

oh, huh. patton probably should have guessed that would be her next move, but seriously, how has his mom not grasped i will talk to you when i am calm enough to talk to you without threatening to disown myself as do-not-contact?

but his dad hasn’t done anything wrong, so. he won’t be mean to his dad.

is it petty? sure. not quite as petty as using his own father as a bargaining chip, though.

and oh. oh, she’s using him as a bargaining chip. that... rings a bell, to patton. and patton would bet all of his bargaining chips that she hasn’t told him why patton’s mad at her.

“hey, dad,” patton chirps. “weird that you’re not at work yet. monday morning, ya know?”

“oh. well, i was just on my way, but—”

“yeah?” patton says. “how’s the insurance biz?”

“busy.”

“busy, that’s good,” patton says. “hey, speaking of, i might need your opinion, sometime soon, depending on how this paperwork shakes out.”

fine. he’s being very petty.

“oh?” richard says, and then, “right, right. apologies for cutting you short, patton—”

“well, thank you so much for the apology, dad!” 

he sounds genuine and sincere. he is genuine and sincere. and if his mom overhears what he is saying, then maybe she’ll take a hint.

“oh,” he says again, flustered. “well—you’re welcome.”

a cleared throat.

he says, “actually, patton, your mother wanted to talk to you for a moment.”

a brief moment as the phone exchanges hands.

“hello? patton, i—“

slam, and patton scoops up the paperwork in his arms.

“i should probably get cracking on this,” he says apologetically. “if my dad calls, let him through, but if my mom calls, tell her i’m—oh, i don’t know, i’m busy planting flowers with the landscapers or something.”

“the ground is frozen,” michel points out.

“then come up with excuses and ice her out,” patton points out. “you love inconveniencing customers and steamrolling over any of their schemes, that’s why you’re my bad cop.”

michel smiles. it is not a nice smile.

“you’re the best,” patton says.

“the best should get a pay raise.”

“i’ll think about it!” patton calls over his shoulder, and heads for his office. well, the kitchen first for some coffee, but then his office to deliberate insurance and complaints and a pay raise.

honestly, michel’s probably due for one, so. that’ll be his christmas present, he figures, as he goes into his office and shuts the door. 

he gets five pages deep into the insurance claims and two-thirds of his way through a cup of coffee before he sees A Problem, mutters darkly, and picks up the phone.

he gets put on hold, of course, and he finishes his coffee, and then he says what he needs, and he gets put on hold some more, and gets halfway through a second cup, and at last he gets to it.

“hey there, blaine!” patton says, perky with the introduction of caffeine into his system. “i’m just coming back from a stint in the hospital to this paperwork that’s been left behind in the aftermath of some claims being, you know, claimed at the inn, i was wondering if you could explain to me the reason why you raised our premium here again?”

“well, you did make claims,” blaine says.

right,” patton says. “except they were very small claims because of the snow, and, you know, who else would we come to but our trusty insurance agent? guy? pick term here?”

a sigh, and, “would you mind holding?”

for the third time in thirty minutes?! but patton sighs. “sure, of course.”

aaand he’s disconnected. great.

patton groans, deliberates calling back, and figures he’ll flip through some of the other paperwork and maybe try again later, when the phone rings.

“yellow?”

“your father is calling,” michel says, and patton blinks. huh. he’d mostly said the thing to michel about patching through his dad because it felt uneven to just say freeze out my mom, and his dad had to be at work by now, so why—

“uh, yeah,” patton says, distracted. “yeah, yeah, um. put him through.”

probably the call of a potential insurance enigma was too great to ignore, patton figures.

“hello,” patton says. 

“patton, it’s your father.”

“well, hello there, my father,” patton says. “what can i do for you?”

“patton—”

“all right, all right,” patton says. “hi, dad. what can i do for you?”

“that was incredibly rude and insensitive of you, he says.

“which part?”

patton.”

“okay, well, dad, i don’t know what to tell you,” patton says.

“you can tell me what you intend to do about it.”

“take some breathing space and calm down before i talk to her again?”

“when?”

patton sighs. “i don’t know, dad, when i’m calm.”

“patton, she is your mother. you have to talk to her.”

“dad, did she tell you why i was mad at her?” patton says. “because i’m betting she didn’t.”

a pause. “well—”

“wait, hang on, before that,” patton says. “did you say anything to virgil? at the hospital, i mean.”

“i believe i complimented his meatloaf,” richard says thoughtfully. “and he reminded me of the time he egged my car.”

patton almost smiles. “i nearly forgot he did that.”

“as did i,” richard says dryly. “but otherwise, i suppose it was just pleasantries. asking each other to get coffee and the like, why do you ask?”

“because it has to do with why i’m mad at mom,” patton says. “d’you remember that story you told me? about granny lorelai and mom.”

“i have told you that... they butted heads quite often, yes,” his father says, cautious.

his father was—still is—quite a mama’s boy, considering that patton had originally been named after her (and taken his name from her father, in an attempt to still honor her) and from what he remembers, and granny lorelai is the only person who can get to patton’s mom the way that patton’s mom gets to, well. patton.

granny lorelai is also, like, The Best for the most part, so. the last time patton had seen her it had been when logan was about a year and a half old and she’d said, so, since i’ve seen you last, you’ve grown up, told us you’re a boy, gotten pregnant out of wedlock, and are now raising a child without getting married. i have always hated a scandal, but i’ve always appreciated self-sufficiency. tell me, how do you support this child? and had sat with him the whole dinner while emily fumingly waited on her hand and foot as granny told him hard work is good for a man, makes him stronger. i admire people who enjoy hard work and that was a joke? very good, young man, a good sense of humor will get you far. and he’s a healthy baby? good, that means he mostly has sanders blood. your mother is always sick with her headaches. sanders’ don’t get headaches, our heads are perfect and faster, please, i shall die soon, you know!

granny is still alive and kicking (and screaming) and terrorizing everyone in london, so she’d been wrong on that count. and the one patton’s about to... okay, he might be exploiting a family secret a little, but his dad would get it much better if he talked about it in these terms.

“the letter she sent you?” patton prompts. “the night of your bachelor party?”

it was a famed sticking point between richard and his mother, lorelai’s repeated attempts to interfere with the relationship between richard and emily. she’d never succeeded, of course, but she’d also never made secret how displeased she was about the whole situation. 

the worst of them was one that emily must never, ever know about—one that patton has been sworn to secrecy about when he’d stumbled across it (well, stumbled across it in the midst of snooping to find something else, but that part of the story doesn’t mater.) on great-grandpappy patton’s grave.

ah,” richard says delicately. “that story.”

“right,” patton says, tapping his fingers against the desk. “so, um, basically, mom told virgil—to his face, i might add, when i was bedridden with pneumonia—that he would be unsuitable for me. that he wouldn’t be what’s best for me. that he wouldn’t make me happy.”

(these are direct quotes from the letter—granny is not known for pulling punches.)

“patton, she didn’t,” he says, dumbfounded, and, “i didn’t know you and virgil—” 

patton lets out a dry laugh.

“yeah, well, it’s not like we were together, or anything. we had a conversation—it was an i love you too, it was a finally we’ve said it, actually, but now it’s an i need some time to think, so,” patton says, a touch bitter. “i’m gonna guess that mom telling him that some random man—someone she’d find for me—would be better for me and my future didn’t helpshe didn’t even say, like—oh, i guess christopher would be my pennilyn lott, but she just was talking about some random stranger, dad.”

“oh,” he says, and then, “patton, i had no idea. well. that... changes things.”

patton sighs. “i just—i dunno, dad, i’m a bit calmer and i can recognize i snapped at her because i was so upset with the whole situation, but i’m still—i just, ooh, you’d think she’d get it, right?”

“yes—“

right,” patton says. “and i just—ugh, every time i think about it i get madder, so it might—it might be a while on me being calm enough to talk to her, dad, i’m sorry.”

“this is a topic i can understand,” richard says. “patton, my sincerest apologies.”

“oh,” patton says, started. “i mean, i—thanks, dad, but you didn’t do anything wrong. i’m not mad at you.”

“oh,” he says, and then, thoughtful, “i see.”

“um,” patton says, and hesitates, shifting. “while i’ve got you on the phone, can i ask you a question?”

“oh. certainly.”

patton sighs, and digs out the insurance folder. “well, the premium of the insurance policy at the inn is going up fifteen percent because of some small damage claims—”

“i’m sorry, you’re asking me a question about insurance?” he says, perplexed.

patton blinks. “...yeah?”

“carry on.”

patton smiles. “great. so, um, these guys came by the inn last week, apparently, but i wasn’t there, so now i’m trying to sort out the paperwork of everything, and this is the same insurance plan that maria filed when she was manager, and i’ve been thinking about swapping for a while.”

his father hums thoughtfully, before he says, “patton, how flexible is your schedule?”

“uh, very,” patton says. “i’m mostly just doing paperwork for the day.”

“what a coincidence,” he says. “i happen to have some time just after lunch. i could bring by a business associate to look at the inn, if you’d like.”

“oh, dad, really?” patton asks brightly, and then falters. “because if you’re busy, that’s okay, i can wait—”

“i’m not busy,” he says. “i could bring something from the city, we could make  a lunch meeting of it.”

patton grins. “nuh-uh.”

“excuse me?”

patton grins wider, and it doesn’t feel as fake as the smiles he’s been wearing for most of the weekend. “if you liked virgil’s diner, you’re gonna have to partake in some local sideshire cuisine.”

“ah, i’m not sure about—”

“c’mon, dad,” he wheedles, “where’s your sense of adventure?”

(in a flash, richard abruptly thinks of one of the photos on his desk at home—he in rolled khakis and a button-down, barefoot in the sand, smiling at the camera. patton, shrieking with laughter, all of eight years old, arms wrapped lovingly around richard’s neck from where he’s perched on his back—and wishes to see his son smile at him like that again with the aid of something he knows as well as insurance, with something as simple as trying a new food.)

“oh,” richard says. “oh, all right.”

 

“so?” patton asks, crossing over the lobby to see his dad and his business associate—phillip, apparently, who is here to help analyze and take photos. “how’s it look?”

“why don’t you go check that landing again, phil?” richard suggests. “i’ll be up in a moment.”

they wait for richard to go, before patton leans in, lowering his voice.

“well? is it good, is it bad, am i screwed? what do you think?”

“phillip and i have thoroughly toured the property,” his dad says, “and with the exception of perhaps a garden gnome too many, we have found it to be in top shape.”

patton beams. “really?”

“yes,” he confirms, and waves the insurance folder. “i’ve also reviewed your policy, and while i tip my hat to the criminal genius who devised this and then convinced you to continue signing off on it, i find it appalling.”

patton wrinkles his nose in agreement.

“you can do better,” he says firmly. “and i can help.”

patton’s eyes widen. “don’t tease me, dad.”

“i wouldn’t dare,” he says seriously.

“so, um,” patton says. “what do we do now?”

“well,” he says. “phillip will go over the property again, he’ll take some pictures, we’ll have lunch, and tomorrow i will put a new policy together for you and send it on for you to overview, and if necessary we’ll have some more meetings to fine-tune the details.”

“oh, my god, you’re my lifesaver,” patton says, resisting the urge to clap his hands. he does, however, clasp them in front of his chest. “c’mon, dad, we can get something to eat now and chit-chat about everything.”

“and some coffee, if you’re offering,” he says.

“dad, it’s like you don’t even think i’m a sanders anymore,” he says. “of course i’m offering coffee. c’mon, sookie’s a culinary genius, you have got to try her scones, plus the lunch today is her braised lamb risotto, it’s amazing.” 

richard blinks at him, startled.

“what?” patton says, stopping in his path.

“it’s just,” he says, and frowns just slightly. “i suppose when you said sideshire cuisine, i thought...”

“velveeta mac and cheese?” patton teases. “ramen noodles?”

“well, yes,” he admits.

“ah, dad,” patton says, and pats him on the back. “we’ll work up to that. now c’mon, we can go to my office and chat business over coffee before we eat lunch. sookie made some lemon scones and those are my favorites.”

he walks in direction of the kitchen, and knocks on the doorway, poking his head in.

“hey, shelly,” he says. “can i get some scones, two mugs, and a pot of coffee with the works to my office whenever anyone’s got a free minute, please?”

she grins and snaps her bubblegum at him. “sure thing, patton.”

“thanks,” he says, and continues leading his dad through the inn—through the dining room, the lobby, up the stairs, to his office.

“you know, i have to say, patton,” he says, “you’ve done a wonderful job here.”

patton shouldn’t be surprised, but he is—and touched, too.

“thank you, dad.”

“well,” he says. “the restoration, the rooms, the homey feel... and the practice golf course, along with the mini-golf for kids! very smart.”

“i thought you’d like that,” patton says.

“people love golf,” he agrees.

“they turned out to be quite a draw,” patton says, smiling.

“hm,” he says, and then, “you know, small inns like this are very fashionable right now.”

“oh,” he says. “i mean—yeah, i’ve heard.”

“larger hotel chains are constantly searching to acquire charming places like this,” he says. “they keep them just as they are, usually retain the management. i could, ah. i could do some sniffing around for you, if you’d like?”

patton blinks as he opens the door to the office. “are you talking about selling the inn?”

“well, you’d still run it,” he says. “but you’d make a lot of money.”

“i don’t actually own the inn, dad,” he says, and glances around before he shuts the door. “however,” he says in a lowered voice. “i have thought about, you know. buying it. or buying a new inn. owning and running it myself”

“have you?” he says, and settles into one of the chairs in front of patton’s desk. “oh, this is very comfortable.”

“thank you,” patton says cheerfully, sitting behind his desk. 

“—but real estate. it’s a wise investment, patton.”

patton shrugs. “it’s a hypothetical investment, right now.”

“still,” he says. “if you’d like me to sniff around for that... i do know quite a few real estate agents.”

that i might take you up on,” patton says thoughtfully, before tilting back in his desk chair, surveying his dad, and suddenly—patton giggles.

“what?” richard says.

“sorry,” he says, and gestures between them. “just—you know, role reversal.”

so many memories of his father were spent together in his study—of richard sitting behind his desk, and patton in front of it.

and now they’re in patton’s office, with patton behind his desk and his father in front of it.

richard considers this, before he laughs, too.

“yes,” he says. “yes, i suppose it is.”

patton’s grin just about splits his face.

there’s a knock at his office door, and he calls out, “come in!”

shelly, balancing a tray on her arm, carefully opens the door with her other hand.

“oh,” richard says, “what is that heavenly smell?”

“scones,” patton says happily, and reaches up to steady the tray, helping shelly set it on his desk. “just wait till you taste ‘em—ooh, clotted cream!”

“special treat for being back from being sick, sookie says,” shelly says, and snaps her gum. “can i get you anything else?”

“dad?” patton asks. when richard shakes his head, he smiles at shelly. “no, thank you, shells, this is great. tell sookie amazing work, as usual.”

“sure thing,” she says, and, with a snap-pop of her gum, she shuts the door again.

“still two sugars?” patton asks absently, pouring two cups of coffee in what sookie calls their almost-china—made from a material that's less breakable, but still delicate-looking and pretty—and setting them on their saucers.

“yes,” he says, and removes one of the tiny plates from the tray, setting a scone onto it and scooping a generous spoonful of clotted cream that plops right on his plate. patton trades him his coffee cup for his own tiny plate, taking one of the scones he knows is lemon and inhaling appreciatively.

in unison, they stick their scones into their mouths, and in unison, they make happy noises.

they both get through a scone in companionable silence, before patton hesitates and takes a second one, and then starts tearing it to tiny shreds.

“can i ask you some advice?”

“certainly,” richard says.

“not about insurance or investments,” patton says, and grimaces above the rim of his coffee cup. “it, um. it’ll probably be a bit awkward.”

“ah,” richard says, and then, “well, steady on, then.”

“right,” patton says, and takes a fortifying gulp before he sets down his coffee cup in its saucer. “so, roman’s coming over today, and i’m going to have to give logan and roman the, um. the house rules now that they’re boyfriends and everything.”

ah,” richard says, a touch higher-pitched.

right,” patton repeats. “and, i, um, have it planned it, mostly—” and oh god, logan might not ever forgive him, but it was for his own good—“but i just—i dunno, any advice, father to son? you were always a bit more reasonable than mom about house rules when it came to that kind of thing, i’d thought.”

“well,” his father says dryly, “it’s not either of our approaches took much of an effect.”

patton stiffens, ready to defend himself and snap at him, except then his tone sinks in, and a smile starts to break out on his face—slow, incredulous.

“dad,” he says, a little delighted, “was that a joke?”

“did i succeed?” richard asks mildly, and patton’s grin gets wider and wider.

“yeah,” he says. “yeah, dad, i think you got it.”

honestly, if it's between clumsy, light-hearted jokes about him getting pregnant and screaming at each other, then by god, patton will practice his fake laugh in the mirror if he gets that choice.

“be firm, i suppose,” richard says. “but not too firm.”

well gee, dad—

“and you must understand, of course,” richard says, “that you need to be, you know. understanding of the kids these days. they like it when you relate to them, you know.”

richard nods at him, as if he is imparting some sage, long-lost advice that is the key to maintaining a healthy father-son relationship. patton resists the urge to laugh.

“right,” patton says, a little strangled, and he coughs a little to clear it. “great. thank you. good advice, dad.”

you know, even if it’s advice that patton took as a general rule, advice that’s not very innovative, advice that patton's known for years—patton will still take it.

“okay,” patton says. “um, enough of that, i guess. back to the insurance—”

“oh, thank goodness.”


he finds himself whistling as he drives back to the office. whistling. 

he supposes it was quite a successful meeting with his son—a great property, a new insurance policy to figure out, a lovely, quaint charming inn, scones that he must remind patton to send on to the latest house chef—and he rather fancies that he and patton had, what did emily call them, an emotional moment. a certain moment of camaraderie. 

the only thing that he needed now, he figured, was a cup of coffee.

he’s been told where to get a great one.

he parks, he walks up the stairs, and he notes the decor—goodness, it reminds him of the greasy spoon he used to go to with john and alan to study, back in his university days—and he goes to sit at the counter, observing the back of a man wearing purple-and-black flannel.

“virgil’s, what can i get—”

virgil turns, coffee pot in hand, and freezes where he stands. richard fancies his jaw drops a little. it is, perhaps, he thinks, remembering one of emily’s common refrains, nice to put the fear of god into a young man—it keeps her young, she says.

“oh,” he says, and swallows. “um. mr. sanders.”

“i was just dropping by,” he says, and straightens up proudly. “had a lunch meeting with patton to discuss a new insurance policy for the inn.”

his lip twitches. “raised the premium enough to finally make him make the switch, huh? they’ve been trying to rob him blind for years.”

“that’s what i said,” richard says. “i didn’t know you knew much about insurance.”

“enough to, well. keep everything covered,” he says, gesturing to the diner. he swallows again. “not that it’s not, uh, nice to see you, i guess, but why—”

“i wanted a cup of coffee before i went back to the office,” he says. “i’ve been told you make a good one. not a scone, i’m afraid, i’ve had entirely too many at the inn.”

“yeah, sookie’s got me beat on scones,” virgil says, and hesitates. “if you—um. patton’s favorite is hot cocoa/coffee, or i could get you black coffee.”

richard considers this. “well, i have been told to frequent the sideshire cuisine.”

“right,” he says. “one hot cocoa/coffee, coming up.”

richard blinks. “you haven’t asked if i take decaf or not.”

virgil looks offended, and then distinctly looks like he remembers to whom he’s speaking. “mr. sanders, i’ve been moderating your son and grandson’s caffeine intake for sixteen years. i know that when they’ve got a choice, a sanders is always going to go full caf.”

“well,” he says. “i suppose you’re right on that.”

he may not be able to sleep tonight, but it will be well worth it—he’s finally been able to escape emily’s instituted ban on caffeine after noon.

“and it’s richard, please,” he tells virgil, as virgil sets down the coffee pot he’s holding and picks up another, pouring him a mug and setting it down.

“can i get you anything else?” he asks.

“a newspaper?” richard asks.

virgil smiles, just a little, before he goes out of sight and comes back with a slightly wrinkled copy. richard checks the date.

“not today’s?” it’s from a few days ago, it seems. which is strange, as richard had just seen a newspaper stand just outside the diner, so it’s not like he doesn’t have the latest copy.

virgil taps the headline on the front page, and underlines the BY LOGAN SANDERS underneath it with his finger. “logan’s latest.”

“oh!” he says, and flattens the paper on the counter in order to look at the photos, the neat columns of text. “thank you, virgil, i haven’t read this yet.”

“no problem,” he says. “let me know if you need anything else.”

he takes a sip of the drink, and finds it a very pleasant taste—sweet, but not without the bitter undercut that marks truly good coffee.

“this is remarkable,” richard says, and looks around—it’s not the busiest, and most people seem to be finishing up their meals from the lunch rush. “how long have you owned this place?”

“coming up on seventeen years,” virgil says. “my parents ran it before me, though, it’s a family business. so i’ve been busing dishes and wiping down tables ever since i could be trusted to carry them without dropping them.”

“have you thought about franchising?”

virgil looks startled. “can’t say i have.”

“well, let me know if you do,” he says. “these charming, independent little mom-and-pop kinds of places are very in, right now, i was just telling patton much of the same.”

“uh, sure,” virgil says. “i’ll think about it.”

“as you should,” he says. “business decisions are often something to be contemplated carefully.”

“...sure,” virgil says. “um, enjoy your coffee and the paper.”

he goes to attend another customer, and richard takes another sip of his drink, letting out a satisfied sigh. he could, he realizes, startled, see what the appeal of this town is, to patton. satisfying work, friendly neighbors, good food...

well, he supposes it’s like michael eisner said. failure is good, as long as it doesn’t become a habit.

patton had made a mistake years ago, and has quite tidily built his life upwards from there. that is something his son should be commended upon, despite the pain that resulted from it.

he consumes his beverage slowly, and reads the story slowly, and is about half-done with his drink and fully done with logan’s story, but now perusing the others, by the time virgil comes back in his direction.

“everything going all right?”

“quite, thank you,” richard says, and traces the edge of one of the photos. “i didn’t know logan was a photographer too.”

“he says it’s mostly for necessity, but,” virgil says, and tilts his head. “they’re pretty good, for necessity, aren’t they? he’s a talented kid.”

“and a hard worker,” richard says.

"sometimes a bit too much, but yeah,” virgil says. “he’s gonna do great things.”

“emily told me that you think of him as your son,” richard says, and virgil stills.

“yes,” he says, softly, and then he clears his throat. louder, he says, “yes, i do. in everything but blood, logan’s my son.”

richard nods, and then glances around the diner—the relatively empty diner.

“patton was originally named after my mother, you know,” richard begins.

“i did know that, yeah,” virgil says cautiously, and richard takes a sip of hot cocoa/coffee before he continues. 

“fantastic woman, trix,” he says, and explains, “a nickname we came up with when patton was small, as to not confuse the two, and it’s rather stuck since. my mother is brilliant, absolutely brilliant—a headstrong, proud woman. smart as a whip. i think logan has a great deal of her in him. in most aspects of life, she and i get along famously. i miss her dearly—she lives in london, you know. emily and i try to visit once a year.”

“that’s nice,” virgil says, the and where are you going with this? clear in his tone.

“however,” richard says. “there is one area in my life in which she disagrees with me passionately, and i cannot seem to find any middle ground, no matter what strategy i try.”

virgil waits.

“she does not approve of emily.”

virgil blinks. “huh.”

“yes, quite,” richard says. “she seemed to be of a mind that i should have married pennilyn lott, a former flame of mine—my mother thought emily didn’t have what she called the sanders stamina, the sanders spark, if you will, and she thought pennilyn lott did.  thought she was much better suited for me. and yet, here emily and i are, married thirty-five years next spring.”

“oh, wow,” virgil says. “congratulations.”

“thank you,” richard says. “what i mean to say is—i know that my mother had my happiness in mind for me, when she told me not to marry emily.”

“but she was wrong,” virgil says.

“yes, precisely,” richard says. “she was wrong. she continues to be wrong. no matter what i say to her, i cannot persuade her to—well. stop being wrong.”

“i... am not sure if you’re asking me advice about your mother, or—” virgil makes a vague hand gesture, and richard sighs. he’s never been particularly good at speaking in metaphor.

“what i am getting at is this,” richard says. “from what i understand, you have done an admirable job taking care of patton. i know it is old-fashioned for me to wish for him to have someone to care for him, i know, and yet i can’t help it. he’s my son, and parents want their children taken care of, it’s natural. whether you are the one doing the caring, or if it’s someone else. i’d imagine you feel much the same about logan.

“i want the best for my son, i won’t deny that, and his life now is—well, it’s hardly the life i would have chosen for him, but he has grown into a strong, capable man. logan is turning into a young man we are all very proud of, due in no small part to patton’s parenting. he runs his business admirably. despite our misunderstandings and disagreements and, admittedly, the confusion i do have considering the life he has chosen, he is happy.”

“yeah,” virgil says, and, quieter, “he is.”

“he would be happier if you were his partner.”

“i—“

“i understand that i am overstepping,” richard says, “it’s—well, it’s uncouth of me to spring this on you in your place of business, during business hours, no less, but patton made mention that my wife may have said some less than savory things to you in the hospital—“

virgil laughs uncomfortably and rubs the back of his neck. “i said some less than savory things right back to her, to be fair.”

“if you will accept an apology i offer on our behalf,” richard says. “i have said some less than savory things to you in the past that came from a place of ignorance and misunderstanding.”

“oh,” virgil says. “um. forgiven. as long as i’m forgiven for the car.”

he flaps a hand. “forgotten. it was an ugly old thing, anyway.”

virgil laughs, and then looks startled that he’s laughed.

“but,” richard says. “i’ll speak to emily. if you are what makes patton happy, then so be it. that is what matters to me. though you do not need it, you fully have my blessing.”

“i—oh,” he says awkwardly.

“i will make an effort to ensure that my wife—well, that my wife doesn’t act like my mother,” richard says. “and i hope—well, i hope that it’s nothing that emily’s said that is making you hesitate when it comes to my son.”

“no,” virgil says. “no, it’s—i’m making me hesitate when it comes to your son. i’m not exactly known for being the best with change, and it’d be, you know. a big change.”

a beat.

“though i will admit that the difficult in-laws thing isn’t exactly, um. a pro, in the whole pro/cons of a relationship with patton thing.”

richard nods. 

“well,” he says, and drains his mug. “you two are adults, and i have full faith that you will, ah, work this out. and if you two do work this out, i do hope you’ll feel welcome at our weekly family dinners.”

he places down money, sufficient to cover the cost of his coffee and a tip, and nods at virgil before he leaves. for some reason, this open invitation to family dinner does not seem to have comforted him.


stomp, stomp, stomp.

“emily, i don’t believe we’ve finished talking about this,” richard calls after his wife, following her into the kitchen, where—ah, she’s sorting out some winter blossoms for the vases around the house, good, things were looking a little dreary. “i think once you take a step back and think about this you’ll see that there’s nothing to be upset about.”

“i’m not upset, richard,” she seethes, and irritably hurls a flower into a vase at full force.

“you’re not,” he says doubtfully.

“no, i’m not,” she snaps, snipping a stem off another bloom and tossing it along with its twin.

“oh, the flowers just had it coming, i assume.”

she glowers at him, and slams down the scissors on the counter. “you’re just loving this, aren’t you?”

he blinks. “loving what?”

“patton won’t take my calls, but he runs to daddy with his insurance problems—“

“well, the insurance company’s been robbing him blind!” richard says, indignant. 

“please,” she scoffs.

“well, would you like to see his policy? the deductible alone—”

“you’re the favorite,” she snaps, “and you’re loving every single minute of it.”

he draws back, stung. “this is not a popularity contest.”

“no, it’s not a contest, you’ve already won,” she says.

“emily, you are acting incredibly immature!”

“you couldn’t wait to run over to that inn of his for your secret clandestine meeting?”

“well, how clandestine could it be?” richard asks, very reasonably, he thinks. “i’m trying to tell you about it.”

“i do not understand why you refuse to stand by me on this, i did what i did for his own good!”

"what good could it be if he’s miserable, emily?” he says. “haven’t we long since given up on patton following the path we expected for him?”

she scowls at him.

“i spoke to virgil, actually—”

“you what?!” she demands. “what did he say to you? oh, richard, no wonder you came home early—“

actually,” richard says. “he was very polite. let me say my piece, asked me to forgive him for egging the car. gave me logan’s latest newspaper story.”

“he,” emily says, and, disbelieving, “virgil. he was polite.”

“well, yes,” richard says. “i gave him my blessing.”

“you WHAT?!”

“it’s not as if patton needs it, but yes,” richard says. “i gave him my blessing.”

“oh, don’t say it’s not as if patton needs it as if it isn’t a big deal, what you just did,” she seethes, “it’s a huge deal.”

“he makes our son happy, emily,” richard says. “he’s been there for logan, quite frankly, much more than christopher. he’s a businessman—”

emily throws up her hands. “is it all business with you?! is that all it takes?!”

“well, it certainly doesn’t hurt!” he says defensively. “why are you so against him?”

“he’s completely unsuitable for patton—a businessman, please emily tsks. “it’s whatever he serves in that diner, i swear. it got patton, and now it’s affecting your judgment, too. will it only be a matter of time before i hear word of logan becoming a housemaid, too?”

emily,” he scolds. “patton’s done a fine job with the inn, you should have seen him, he was in his element—”

emily scoffs, loudly.

“i understand that you’re upset, and you wanted to do what you did for his own good.”

“yes,” she says, “i had to act.”

“you acted, and it backfired,” richard says, and bites the bullet. “you are acting just like my mother.”

she swells, and her eyes flash, and richard distinctly feels the urge to run out of his own house.

“you’re comparing me,” she says, sharp and livid, “to That Woman?!”

“that woman is my mother,” richard says defensively. “patton said if anyone should understand how you driving off someone who makes him wonderfully happy makes him feel, it’s you.”

emily opens her mouth, closes it, and opens it again. richard takes his chance.

“all right,” he says, and cautiously presses a kiss to her forehead. “just—consider it, won’t you? consider what your relationship with patton is worth risking. we nearly lost him once. apparently, he is fully willing to make it permanent if we continue to denigrate this man. isn’t it best to just make peace with the reality in front of us?”

emily deflates.


logan’s gonna kill him. logan will be fully justified in patricide, if patton doesn’t embarrass him to death first, but maybe patton will embarrass himself to death in the process, so, you know, win win, if ms. prince doesn’t become the first person to raise someone from the grave in order to kill him again for getting her son in the collateral damage. 

for his own good, patton reminds himself, it’s for his own good.

there’s the distinct sound of the door unlocking, then opening, then two people’s footsteps.

“i’m home, with roman,” logan calls.

“kitchen!” patton shouts back, adjusting the bag he’s got in his lap. 

they bound by the door, and oh gosh, aw, they’re holding hands. 

“hey!” patton says cheerfully, and pats the kitchen table. “sit on down, i wanna talk to you both and i am literally so so sorry, this is going to be painful for all of us.”

roman’s smile freezes on his face, and he laughs a little. “well, that’s not at all foreboding.”

“dad,” logan says cautiously.

“c’mon, come sit,” patton says, trying not to grimace too obviously. “i made coffee, you two want any?”

they all three pour mugs. patton takes a sip from his and sighs.

“well, i’d better not procrastinate on this. the sooner we do this, the sooner we can all pretend it never happened, right?”

roman tilts his head at logan, clearly a question, and logan shakes his head. they both sit down at the kitchen table.

“right,” patton says. “um. so, you two are—together. boyfriends. i think that it’s been a long time coming and i’m very happy for the both of you.”

“thanks, patton,” roman says.

um,” patton says, and tries to recall the speech he’d planned. in the face of actually, you know, saying it, it’s all leaking out of his head faster than water through a sieve. “however, with that, there comes, um—“

logan’s eyes are slowly widening in horror, unnoticed by roman, who’s still blessedly unaware and smiling at patton, just a little.

he sighs, and says, “well, you two are... teenagers. and at your age, it’s, um, very natural to be curious about—”

no,” logan says. “dad, no, it’s appreciated, really, but you signed the permission slip, you know that we both went through sex ed—” 

roman chokes on his coffee.

“—we really don’t need to hear it again, seriously, thank you,” logan says, as he studiously avoids looking remotely closely at anyone or anything. 

“we’ve barely even kissed!” roman squeaks out, going redder and redder, almost a deeper shade of red than the shirt he’s wearing.

“i know you two know how sex works,” patton says. logan’s hands come up to hide his face. 

“and just because you two aren’t, um, actively knowing each other in the biblical sense now, it doesn’t mean you won’t be actively knowing each other in the biblical sense ever—”

i can’t believe you’re doing this,” logan whimpers, not bothering to move his hands away from his face. 

“sorry, kiddo, i’ve got to, i’m your dad and i want you to be safe and healthy,” patton says.  “and to be fully honest, if your grandma and grandpa did this, you might not exist, so—”

why would you bring that up,” logan says, horrified and still not moving his hands.

“sorry, sorry!” patton says.

“you said you wouldn’t embarrass me!”

“i specifically said i wouldn’t embarrass you with baby stories,” patton says defensively. “just—just let me get through this, okay? this is just as awkward for you as it is for me. once we get through this, we can all go our separate ways this afternoon and ride out the embarrassment, and then we’ll just. never talk about this again, if we don’t have to.”

he waits. both teenage boys are desperately avoiding anything close to eye contact. well, logan’s hands are still over his face, but even so, patton can tell he’s avoiding looking at him. he’ll take that as a yes.

patton takes a breath, lets it out, before he repeats, “it’s very natural to be curious about... um, each other, about figuring out new ways to express, uh. affection. and, um, my parents weren’t—well, their stance on that was don’t and look where we are now, so—“

dad.”

“i’m getting there,” patton defends. “anyway, just—when it comes to house rules for you two being alone together, i’m gonna have to say that sleepovers will be in the living room from now on, okay?”

he waits until they both nod.

“i’m not gonna demand that you two keep the door open when you’re in logan’s room or that i need to constantly chaperone you, or anything. i’ll always knock on the door before i come in, but i would, um, request that you keep it cracked open.”

“okay,” logan says hastily, “is that all?”

“oh, absolutely not, this is gonna be the worst part,” patton says, before he plops the bag on the table. “so, um, i know that this is a really progressive town, but the gay sex ed probably wasn’t the best, so, um. if you’re curious, i’ve got, um. a book, and some pamphlets—“

he sets them on the table, and roman, still bright red, recoils from them as if patton has just presented him with an impaled rat.

“—and there’s a lot of information on the internet, of course, but you’ve got to be careful to check your sources on that.”

great, thank you, can we go now?” logan asks, chancing a peek through his fingers just in time for patton to take the next item out of the bag—a little basket. plastic, pink, kinda cute. also full to the brim with condoms and tiny one-use packets of lube, which makes roman look very faint and then look up to the ceiling, as if mentally asking god why They have forsaken him.

logan, on the other hand, slowly slithers out of his chair and out of sight, under the table, apparently unable to bear even the slightest chance of anyone looking at him lest he spontaneously combust from mortification.

“are you listening under there?”

no,” logan practically screeches.

“good,” patton says. “so, i mean, i know i’m setting up rules and stuff now but i figured, you know, you guys are smart kids, and if you really want to do something, you’ll do it, so. i want you two to be safe if you do decide to, um. get it on.”

roman’s face might have just officially passed the color of his shirt, and it’s like he can’t look away from the condoms, eyes huge. 

“there’s a little card in there for the nearest places that do std testing and stuff,” patton says. “it’s proper protocol to get tested at least once a year, though that number changes if you’ve got multiple partners that you’re doin’ the dipsy doodle with—”

why,” logan demands, “did you just call it the dipsy doodle, is this not painful enough—”

“—and if you ever need a ride to an appointment or someone to buy, you know, supplies—”

“we will never need you to buy us supplies,” logan squawks, incandescent with rage and discomfort.

“—okay, then, if you need a ride, or if you need money to buy supplies, then i’m your guy,” patton says. “does this make me uncomfortable? yes, absolutely, oh my god, as soon as we’re done here i’m going to go try and erase all awkward parts of this memory. but it would be naive of me to think that you two will never, you know, get up to the old adult naptime, so. i’d really rather you be uncomfortable now rather than facing, god forbid, any health problems or something else going wrong with making your guys’ ways downtown. okay?”

okay are you done now?!” logan demands.

patton mentally runs through his checklist. “yeah, that’s it.”

“finally,” logan says. 

patton nods, stands, and tries to figure out what to say after, well, that conversation.

“you guys want a snack?” is what his mouth decides on, and you know what, of course it does, but patton decides to roll with it—

until roman bursts into hysterical, high-pitched giggles, burying his head into his hand.

you guys need anything?” he mimics in a shriek. “some snacks?! a condom?!”

he bursts into giggles again, and ah.

“i’m not a like regular dad,” patton says, and cocks a hip with an overexaggerated wink. “i’m a cool dad.”

please stop talking,” logan begs.

so patton mimes zipping his lips, and gets out some bread to make some crofter’s sandwiches.


“so,” roman says, voice breaking the pall of awkwardness in the air, “i feel like, as your boyfriend, it’s, like, my moral imperative or something to stop you from trying to smother yourself.”

logan feels his heart do that familiar squeeze when roman says your boyfriend, but he is otherwise so uncomfortable that the only acknowledgement he can make of that sentence is a strange groaning noise.

well, his discomfort and the fact that, as soon as they got up to logan’s room, logan had flopped onto his bed, rolled onto his back, grabbed the nearest pillow, and immediately jammed it over his face, where he is still holding it.

“then again, i could join you,” roman says musingly. “finals are coming up, after all, and wow, logan, i had no idea anyone could stiffen up so intensely that i could tell by their feet, jeez.”

logan removes the pillow from his face to squint at roman, who’s sitting on the side of the bed, and smiling at him, as if logan’s father has not just tried to ruin logan’s life.

he is not being overdramatic! 

“right,” logan says. “right. you came over to do homework and study. we should—do that.”

“on it,” roman says, and leans over to kiss the tip of his nose, of all things, leaving logan to reach up and touch his nose in confusion as roman starts digging around in his backpack, pulling out his planner and what he needs for the study session.

because that’s what this is, technically—a study session. roman had been all for stopping by lucy’s and spending time together cuddling and watching a movie, but logan had pointed out that it was a monday, after all, and they both had school tomorrow, and there was so much to do, and logan had to do it all and he had to do it perfectly, but he hadn’t said all that, just pointed out that they could spend time together while also getting something done, so roman had agreed to the study session. 

logan digs around in his backpack, too, and emerges with his finals study plan binder, and his planner, and stacks and stacks of notecards, and several of his textbooks, his various pens as to color-code his notes, and—

“um, okay, wow,” roman says, and picks up his poetry anthology. “what is this, a brick?”

“you’d like it, it’s all poetry,” logan says, taking his book back. roman picks up the nearest binder, opening it.

“logan, you made a binder’s worth of study plans?” roman asks incredulously, and logan takes that back too.

“finals are a big deal at chilton,” logan says, opening the binder. 

“okay, um,” roman says, “i know i’m a snoop, but you know what else i saw was a big deal at chilton?”

“plaid?” logan asks dryly, not looking up from flipping to his page on his math study plan—he has his grades calculated for each class, with one last glaring blank spot for this class, a quiz that will be returned to him tomorrow so that he’ll be able to calculate exactly what he’ll need to get on his final in order to maintain an a in the class.

“the fact that you apparently have three more days to buy winter formal tickets?”

logan freezes, and roman answers what he’s about to ask next: “i followed their instagram after you told me you were going there, and they put out an announcement photo, so.”

“oh.”

“i didn’t know your school had a winter formal,” roman says.

“if it’s a pointless thing for rich people, chilton has it,” logan says wearily. “it’ll be—oh, you know. prepared dinners that you have to fill out a card for that aren’t filling at all, with music that no one can dance to, not that i’m particularly capable at dancing in the first place, full of people i don’t know very well but who know of me as a—i believe the term is ‘studyholic’—who once got punched in the face by louise, who, by the way, is on the dance committee—”

“oof.”

“—yes, and wearing a formal suit and standing in a corner with some kind of sparkling cider, because chilton’s too good for something as declassé as punch, and i just—i didn’t tell you because, well, look at the time it’s going to be happening, it’s during the nutcracker.

roman bites his lip, and says tentatively, “i’ve got one get-out-of-dance free card with my mom, you know. i do have an understudy.”

“roman,” logan begins helplessly, but he doesn’t know how to go on. you love being the cavalier? i want this night free so i can study? i don’t want to go to the dance because i’ll look like a fool? i need to study and i need to succeed because if i don’t—

“it’ll be fun,” roman wheedles. “i can make fun of the rich people, and i mean, i can dance, clearly, and you can take a break from—”

"from what?” logan asks tightly.

“well, studying.”

“i like studying, roman. i like school.”

“trust me, i know,” roman says. “but—well, it would be nice, you know? it could be our first date.”

“this isn’t a date?” logan asks, and roman gives him a Look.

“we’ve studied together for years and years. this is not a date. this is a study session slash hangout.”

“well, what qualifies a date from a study session slash hangout?” logan says. 

“a date means two people getting together with distinctly romance in mind,” roman says. “you know, dinner, a movie, a romantic walk, so on—wait, you’re distracting me, why don’t you want to go to the dance?!”

“who says i’m distracting you?” logan counters, and roman levels him with an unimpressed look.

“we have known each other since we were five.”

logan blinks at him owlishly. “i’m not sure what that has to do with distraction.”

roman, grinning, whaps him lightly over the head with the pillow he’d previously used to smother himself. “c’mon. reason.”

“i told you,” logan says. 

loo-gaan,” he whines.

“roman,” he says right back—not a whine, he’s too dignified for that. (shut up.) 

“ugh, fine,” roman says. “keep your secrets. i’ll figure it out eventually.”

logan’s lips twitch, and roman reaches to smack him over the head with the pillow, slightly harder.

“i will!”

“of course,” logan says placidly, getting out a practice worksheet.

“what, big deal journalist, you don’t think that i can figure you out?” roman challenges, a glint in his eyes. “you think you’re the only one in this relationship who can solve a mystery? i know what you want right now. i know it!”

“oh?” logan says, looking up. “and what do you think i want?”

roman twines his fingers into logan’s hair, leans forward, and kisses him. 

logan has, perhaps, spent an absurd amount of time wondering what it was like to be kissed by roman prince. and roman kisses precisely how he thought he might—bold as his signature colors, that he was confident, and leading—except for one thing.

he’s a clumsy kisser, too. with roman, logan had expected grace, fluidity, but kissing roman is like stumbling over flat ground. all bumping noses and accidental clacking teeth and accidentally getting his fingers caught in a knot in logan’s hair. but he tastes like crofter’s and his lips are so soft and they’re roman’s lips, so even with the clumsiness, it’s still so perfect.

when roman draws back, logan smiles at him.

“that’s what you wanted,” roman says, self-satisfied.

“incorrect,” logan says. “i wanted you to get started on your science study guide.”

logan gets hit over the head with a pillow again, but roman’s laughing so loud that he doesn’t particularly care.


he can’t sleep.

this isn’t news—he’d managed a few hours here and there, over the past four-or-five days, but nothing close to a full night of sleep—but it’s still frustrating enough that when he wakes up from what felt like a deep sleep only to see that it’s 1:43 in the morning, he starts crying, which is so stupid, he’s crying because he can’t sleep, that’s not a reason to cry—

the door creaks open, and patton sniffles, hard, trying to smear his hands under his eyes and prop himself up on his elbow.

“hey, kiddo,” he says, “gosh, i’m so sorry, i didn’t mean to wake you up, i just got a little—”

quietly, so quietly, logan slides into his room, and then he slides under the covers, wrapping his arms around patton, like he did when he was a tiny little boy, when he used to lie in bed and cuddle with patton—mostly because the poolhouse got drafty and freezing, but partially because they’d both wanted hugs.

patton bites his lip when it starts trembling again, and logan buries his face into patton’s shoulder.

“if i’m not allowed to stay up,” he says, voice cutting sharply through the silence, “you’re not allowed to stay up.”

“i can’t sleep,” patton whispers. “i just—i can’t sleep, kiddo, i’m not doing this on purpose.”

“i know,” logan says, soft. “i know you’re not.”

“i’m sorry,” patton says, voice trembling.

“you have nothing to be sorry for.”

“you shouldn’t have to—”

“i want to,” logan says, cutting patton off before he can even start. “try going to sleep, dad.”

patton takes a breath in—logan’s deodorant, their shared laundry detergent—and lets it out, burrowing closer to his son.

he listens as logan’s breathing slows, he listens as logan’s heart rate evens out, and he listens as he takes in big, shaky breaths, attempting to avoid crying on his sleeping son.

(Logan Sanders: You understand that I don’t blame you, right?
Logan Sanders: I don’t. Truly. I understand the reasoning behind taking some time to think it over. But he’s miserable, Virgil, and Roman tells me that you are too. He isn’t sleeping, he only remembers to eat because Sookie keeps pushing new menu options to him.
Logan Sanders: I’d assume that you aren’t faring much better.
Logan Sanders: I apologize if I’m overstepping, and perhaps I am being childish, but if you two love each other, I do not see the problem.

Logan Sanders: Our diet over the past few days would appall you.

Logan Sanders: I miss you too, you know.)


“mr. gardiner?”

“yes, sanders?”

“i wanted to talk to you about the quiz you passed back earlier today.”

“what about it?”

“the grade. you marked these answers wrong, even though i clearly followed the directions that you taught, i double-checked my work, here—”

“your double-checking isn’t necessary, sanders, but i can see where your confusion comes from. you notated this wrong.”

“what?”

“well—“

“no, that’s—you taught us to notate the answers like this, you specifically—”

“sanders.”

“...”

“the instructions specifically show the difference in notation that you were supposed to write. though your answers were numerically correct, i can’t accept this.”

“mr. gardiner—”

“it was in the instructions, sanders. you’re usually very attentive, missing something like that doesn’t seem like something you’d do.”

“it isn’t. look, mr. gardiner, you just acknowledged that my answers are correct, clearly i understand the material—”

“it’s attention to detail that matters, especially in math. wouldn’t you agree?”

“well, yes, but—”

“sanders, i’m sorry, but the rules are the rules. it was a foolish mistake, one i’m sure you won’t make again.”

“yes. a foolish mistake.”

“a b minus isn’t necessarily a terrible grade, you know. not up to your usual standards, but not impossible to overcome, especially with finals coming up.”

“finals.”

“your final’s worth fifteen percent of your grade, if you give it a bit of extra effort then your grade will be fixed right up.”

“extra effort.”

“precisely, sanders. now go on, get to your next class. and be sure to pay the proper amount of attention. you have studying to do.”

“yes. i suppose i do. excuse me, mr. gardiner.”


knock-knock.

patton wakes up with a jerk, sitting up from where he’s slumped over on the desk.

“ugh,” he says, very quiet, and he calls, “come in!”

the door opens, and he smiles.

“hey, shelly, what can i do for you?”

“you’ve got something down at the front desk,” shelly says, and he blinks.

“is it a package or something?”

“or something,” she says, and before he can ask what it is, she disappears down the hall. 

patton sighs, grimaces at the little puddle of drool that’s accrued on his desk, smudges it away, and shrugs on his suit jacket before he heads down the hall, down the desk, and—

“i am not your personal errand boy, please tell your insufferable husband such,” michel sniffs, passing over—

and patton cannot burst into tears in the middle of his workplace.

“virgil was here?” patton whispers, staring at the items that have been placed into his hands.

“no, one of his workers,” michel sniffs. “it’s still from him, the least she could have done was take it to you directly.”

“right,” patton says, and coughs. “um, i’m gonna—i’m gonna be in my office, if anyone needs me, so—“

he flees to figure out his emotions in his office, and sets the items down on his desk.

a to-go cup that’s still gently steaming. a chilly cup that he’s sure is full of mango-pineapple smoothie. a to-go bag—

patton gulps. where there’s usually a receipt stapled, instead, it’s an envelope. fingers trembling, patton reaches to yank it gently off, and to open it.

patton, it reads, in virgil’s spiky handwriting, and patton has to suck in a deep breath of air, staring at the ceiling, before he feels steady enough to continue.

patton,

i realize that writing a letter and sending jean to the inn is pretty chicken of me, but you should probably be used to that by now.

a laugh that’s really mostly a sob.

and i know you’d say that having anxiety isn’t the same as being a chicken, but, well. i’m feeling pretty chicken right now. god, i’m not even making sense. how the fuck am i rambling in a letter?

he’s giggling. giggling.

but i just—well, a couple things, i guess. it’s cruel of me to leave you without answers like this, and i’m sorry. so i want to give you a solid deadline.

saturday. this won’t go on any longer than saturday. i’m going to figure myself out, and i’m going to calm myself down, and we can talk things over on saturday. 

saturday. saturday. so soon—and yet so long away—

a little birdie told me that your diet lately would, apparently, appall me, so. here’s breakfast, on me. consider it an apology, even though you deserve a way bigger one than just a breakfast.

love (if you’ll still accept it) your person, virgil.

“oh, virgil,” he whispers, and touches his cheeks—they ache from how big he’s smiling. “of course i’ll accept it. thank you.

eagerly, patton takes a long gulp of hot cocoa/coffee, and lets out a happy, satisfied sigh at the taste of it, before he tears open his to-go bag—breakfast burrito, and a croissant, and a muffin, and even a doughnut—and lays his feast out in front of him, giggling all the while.

 

saturday. saturday. saturday. saturday. saturday.

it’s overriding all his thoughts—when he’s going to talk with virgil again, when he and virgil will talk out their feelings, when he and virgil will be together—and he’s smiling even as he calls, “sorry i’m so late, work was crazy, but i brought home some food from al’s pancake world, d’you want lo mein or—?”

he falls silent as he walks into the kitchen.

if finding logan at nearly four in the morning had been a little messy, the state of his kitchen table right now is absolute chaos.

pens, paper, notebooks, textbooks, binders, notecards stacked as high as they can go without toppling. it’s all in some system that he’s sure makes sense to logan, but anyone else walking in here would think they’d wandered into a conspiracy theorist’s pinterest dreams for their conspiracy board.

“uh,” patton says cautiously. “hey there, kiddo.”

logan doesn’t respond. he’s busy feverishly filling out a... math worksheet? right, okay, sure.

“loo-gan,” patton sing-songs softly. “earth to logan, come in, logan. it’s time to take a break so that you won’t starve to death before finals.”

“i’d need approximately three to five more weeks of complete food deprivation before that became a possibility,” logan mutters.

“oh, great, that’s what you respond to,” patton says. “c’mon. lo mein or fried rice? you gotta take a dinner break now.”

“finish this worksheet first.”

“great, i’ll watch,” patton says. “and then we can eat dinner together.”

logan grimaces, but he doesn’t protest. patton decides not to bother with asking logan to clear off the table, and instead tugs him to the couch to eat.

which he does. but when patton suggests putting something on the tv, logan puts on a documentary about the french revolution—which he knows for a fact is on his history final.

“logan,” he begins with a sigh.

“you asked what i wanted to watch, this is what i want to watch,” he says stiffly.

“fine,” patton says. “fine, fine.”

he doesn’t engage much with conversation, when patton tries—the most patton gets is when he mentions that he’s going to go to the store after they’re done eating and logan puts in a request for him to pick up more post-it notes—but at least he isn’t studying through dinner.

well, he isn’t reading through dinner. tomorrow he’ll specify that the entertainment is going to have to be entertainment-entertainment, not sneak-studying-entertainment.

as soon as logan empties his takeout container, he says, “am i excused?”

“take breaks,” patton says, and logan lurches back to the kitchen table. patton sighs, but, well. he’ll pick this up again when he gets back from the store.

and he does—but when he was walking out of the store, unnoticed by him, a certain teenage dance instructor was staring at the pile of post-its peeking out of his bag like he was having an epiphany.


if you give a bit of extra effort—

The upheaval was caused by widespread discontent with the French monarchy and the poor economic policies of King Louis XVI, who met his death by guillotine, as did his wife Marie Antoinette.

—don’t want to fail and ruin those perfect straight a’s—

France’s costly involvement in the American Revolution, and extravagant spending by King Louis XVI and his predecessor, had left the country on the brink of bankruptcy.

top five percent of your class, surely, if not the top of the class. you know, this is the time that colleges really start looking at grades, your sophomore year

Two decades of poor harvests, drought, cattle disease and skyrocketing bread prices had kindled unrest among peasants and the urban poor. Many expressed their desperation and resentment toward a regime that imposed heavy taxes – yet failed to provide any relief – by rioting, looting and striking.

the franklin’s fucking perfect. my mistake. like your stupid chilton uniform’s gonna be perfect, and all your new snooty chilton friends are gonna be perfect, and your ivy league is gonna be so fucking perfect, because you’re just too perfect, right—?

In the fall of 1786, Louis XVI’s controller general, Charles Alexandre de Calonne, proposed a financial reform package that included a universal land tax from which the privileged classes would no longer be exempt.

—and you’re gonna get into any college you want, because you’re logan, and you’re so smart, and you work so hard, and you deserve a spot at chilton or any old ivy league that you want, and i am gonna bend the earth and sky to make sure you have all the opportunities you could ever possibly need—

To garner support for these measures and forestall a growing aristocratic revolt, the king summoned the Estates-General (les états généraux) – an assembly representing France’s clergy, nobility and middle class – for the first time since 1614.

—however, since you are starting late, and are not used to this highly competitive atmosphere, there is a good chance that you will fail. that is fine. failure is a part of life, but not a part of chilton. understand—?

In the lead-up to the May 5 meeting, the Third Estate began to mobilize support for equal representation and the abolishment of the noble veto – in other words, they wanted voting by head and not by status.

—you'll never catch up. you won't beat me

By the time the Estates-General convened at Versailles, the highly public debate over its voting process had erupted into hostility between the three orders, eclipsing the original purpose of the meeting and the authority of the man who had convened it.

why do you think i’m here right now? i opened my life back up to you when i established myself enough in sideshire. i accepted the top surgery that you gave me instead of an apology. i have been coming for holidays for years. and now i’ve asked for help for logan. now logan is going to chilton. you have your weekly dinners. i’m back here. you win. aren’t you thrilled about it?! isn’t that all you want?!

On June 17, with talks over procedure stalled, the Third Estate met alone and formally adopted the title of National Assembly; three days later, they met in a nearby indoor tennis court and took the so-called Tennis Court Oath (serment du jeu de paume), vowing not to disperse until constitutional reform had been achieved.

let me worry about all that stuff, that’s my job. your job is school

Within a week, most of the clerical deputies and 47 liberal nobles had joined them, and on June 27 Louis XVI grudgingly absorbed all three orders into the new assembly.

—i mean, i’d hate for any distraction of yours to mess with your grades, considering we’re just a couple weeks away from finals—

(”hey.”

“oh. hello, roman.”

“i hope i didn’t interrupt anything.”

“no. no, i was just about to go to bed, you didn’t interrupt anything.”

“you sure?”

“what?”

“because i figured it out. i know why you don’t want to go to the dance.”

“roman—”

“gazebo. tonight. yeah?”

“...all right.”)


“so does this qualify as a date?” logan asks. “considering it’s not a study session slash hangout.”

“nope, not a date,” roman says. “why are you so desperate for this to be a date?”

“is it bad that i want to go on a date with you?” logan asks. 

roman’s expression softens, and he smiles up at logan from where he’s sitting on the gazebo steps. “well, when you put it like that.”

logan sits beside him, unfolding the blanket he has in his arms, and roman sighs happily, burrowing under it, and then leaning hard against logan's side.

it's nothing they haven't done before—whenever it gets cold like this and they want a gazebo meeting, logan always brings a blanket, and they always share it—but it's still making logan's heart race.

"so, last day to buy tickets tomorrow," roman says. 

he shrugs. 

"and you're gonna buy two," roman says firmly.

"roman," logan begins.

"i can tell my mom that i'm going to a dance tomorrow, too," roman says. "honestly, either the friday night show or the saturday matinee would probably be best for me to miss anyway, you know, so they did a good job timing that."

"you'll need to wear a suit," logan says, in an attempt to deter him.

"okay, cool," roman says, which is fair, logan probably shouldn't have expected an excuse to dress up to deter roman.

logan hesitates, looking away, and roman worms his way under logan's arm, so that logan's arm is slung across his shoulders.

"i know why you don't want to go," roman says. "or, part of it, i mean."

"oh?" logan says, eyebrows arching. "do tell me."

"you don't wanna go because the kids at your school suck—"

"true, but i told you this—"

"—and because rich people events are never as fun as normal people events—"

"—i also told you that part—"

"—and you're stuck so deep in finals studying panic mode that i'm betting that patton has had," roman says and takes logan's face in his hands, tilting up his glasses to get a look at his eyes. "either two or three please take care of yourself and take breaks talks, but you keep trying to ignore it and hide that you're staying up late to study anyway."

logan's mouth closes. and then opens.

"is it two or three?" roman asks, still staring at him expectantly.

"...two."

"if i hadn't called you to meet with me, it'd be three, wouldn't it?"

logan chews the inside of his cheek, before he says, "i can neither confirm or deny."

"you have notecards in your pocket right now, don't you?"

"not notecards," logan says.

"a practice test, then. a worksheet, a something. i bet you were reciting math formulas and science facts in your head on the way here."

logan chews the inside of his cheek more, before he sheepishly pulls out the study guide he's been assembling for his history exam and handing it over.

"ooh, i was close," roman says, glancing at it closely. "french revolution, huh?"

"yes."

"let them eat cake?" roman says.

"that's the one," logan says, and accepts his study guide back. 

"okay, so," roman says. "strategically, i mean, taking me to the dance is your best move."

logan's eyes narrow at him. "i really don't see how that's the case."

"one," roman says, starting to tick things off on his fingers. "by taking me to the dance, patton will see that as a break, and therefore might get off your back a little if you decide to go turbo speed for the rest of the weekend."

that... might be true.

"two," roman says, "by taking me to the dance, we will therefore have that first date of ours that you're so excited for, which means that we can make fun of all the rich people and i can show them up by being a professional ballet dancer if they say anything, and you can show them up by having a hot hot boyfriend."

"modest," logan says.

"shush," roman says. "three, if we decide to ditch the dance early, we can go to lucy's, and you can buy me my bet milkshakes, and it'll be fun, logan, you deserve to have fun."

logan hesitates, and says, "it's just—"

"what?" roman prompts.

"it's just a lot of time out of the day, isn't it?" logan points out. "i mean, you would normally be going to dance at the nutcracker, which is a great opportunity for you, being able to dance with professionals and work with professionals and get a foothold in the industry—"

"foothold," roman snickers. "'cause i'm a dancer?"

"that was not on purpose," logan says, "and i would be studying for my exams next week, and if we go to the dance, it means you lose out on dancing time, which you love, and i lose out on studying time—"

"which you don't need that much," roman says, and logan twitches.

if you just put in the extra effort—

"maybe not in sideshire," logan says, "but chilton—chilton is a whole other level, and i have to put in a different amount of effort in order to do well there."

"you have straight a's," roman says.

"yes, and doing well on my finals ensures i get to keep them," logan says. "one night of—of distraction isn't worth a drop in my gpa—"

"one night won't kill your grades," roman says.

"you don't know that."

"hey, yeah, i do," roman says, "because you've been studying all week, right?"

"right," logan says.

"right," roman says, "so one night of us having fun isn't going to ruin you, logan, i mean, what's the worst that can happen, you get a b?"

"i don't want to get a b," logan says.

"it'd be okay if you got a b, you know."

"roman, you don't understand, i need to get straight a's—"

roman freezes, and he taps logan on his knee. "want."

"what?"

"you want to get straight a's," roman says. "to quote, well, you, the only things you need are food, water, air, and shelter, so—"

"okay, fine, i want straight a's," logan says. "i chose the wrong word, can we move on?"

"nope," roman says. "why do you feel like you need to get straight a's?"

"i just—do," logan says, trying not to fidget. 

"okay, but why?" roman says.

"this is when colleges start really looking at grades, you know," logan says. "your sophomore year."

"sure," roman says. "i mean, you'd know better than me, i guess, so. sure."

"and i want to get into a very good college, roman," logan says. "so i need to do very well in order to do that. the top five percent of my class, if not the valedictorian."

"i mean," roman says, "the other chilton kids seem kinda... dumb, so—"

"they're rich, roman," logan says. "so they may seem dumb in classes, but they ensure that they get private tutoring so they do well enough in their classes to keep a gpa that their parents would approve of. they enter private sports clubs in order to do well on the teams that chilton has so that they can get sports scholarships. they have connections and they network and everything is about college, roman, everything is about your future at chilton, and in case it has somehow escaped your notice, i am not rich, so i don't have private tutors, or sports clubs, or a family friend that works in the admissions office to give me a recommendation, or a private college counselor, so i have to work three times as hard as everyone else and i might not even get the same results—"

"but you will," roman says. 

"if i do well," logan says. "if i work hard, that's how i'll get those results."

"babe," roman murmurs, worming even closer, and now it's his arm over logan's shoulders, and logan feels a flare of warmth in his stomach at the pet name, at the contact, "you can't work yourself so hard you end up missing everything in life that's fun, too."

"what's the point of fun if i don't fulfill all of my obligations first?" logan says.

"what's the point of obligations if that's all you have to live for?" roman contests, gently.

logan's silent, for a moment, before he lies his head on roman's shoulder and lets out a breath.

"i mean," roman murmurs. "i know you're really invested in your future, and everything, and i love you for that, but—but you can't be putting so much pressure on yourself, logan, you're gonna snap."

"i," logan says, but falls silent.

"it's okay if you aren't perfect all the time," roman murmurs, and logan's eyes squeeze shut.

"it's okay for you too, you know," logan murmurs.

roman's fingers card through his hair, before he says, quietly, "seriously. why do you feel like you need to do perfect at chilton? you never went this finals-crazy at sideshire."

"because," logan says, and hesitates.

"you can say," roman says.

"because," logan says, and it bursts out of him, "because i don't want to fail, okay?"

"you're not going to fail," roman says.

"because i'm working hard—"

"because you're you," roman counters, softly. 

"that's the problem," logan bites out, and oh, well. he's said it now.

"what?! no," roman says. "no no no, hey, no, who told you anything like that? do i have to kill them?"

"i mean—i suppose dee came the closest, but you don't have to kill anyone," logan says.

"if you say so," roman says. "i would totally kill him for you, that shady bitch."

"it's just—" logan looks down at his hands, and says, "it's—it's everything. i got into school because my dad was applying for me, and the only reason i'm able to go is because he struck a deal with my grandparents, and because he struck a deal with my grandparents it means that he has to fight with them every single week and that's going to happen for the next two years, and at chilton i have to do well because i'm a matthew and i'm the son of a trans teenage dropout that they've heard all the rumors about because oh, emily and richard sanders, such lovely people, what a shame about their daughter," he spits out, "because to them my dad was a failure and i'm a direct product of that failure and and i'm the kid that rides the bus to school and just sits and reads at lunch and doesn't have any friends and failure is a part of life but not part of life at chilton and everyone is just waiting for me to fail and to show that i don't belong there either and i need to put the extra effort in to keep my grades up because if i don't keep my grades up it means that i'm not doing as well as i should and if i don't do as well as i should i don't get into an ivy league and all of it was pointless and it's just—"

logan chokes on his next word, and roman moves to wrap both his arms around logan's neck, tugging his face into his shoulder.

"i can't fail, roman, i can't let anyone down," he chokes out.

"you won't," roman murmurs, and his voice is like a balm. "hey, you won't fail. you aren't letting anyone down, you couldn't, logan, sweetheart—"

logan sniffles, embarrassingly noisily.

"you haven't told anyone else this, have you?" roman realizes.

"if you think i would be able to get away with thinking poorly about myself with my dad actively knowing about it, you are sorely mistaken," logan says. 

"if you thought you'd be able to get away with thinking poorly about yourself with virgil or me knowing about it, you got another thing coming," roman says back. "you could never, ever disappoint us. okay?"

logan hides his face into roman's shoulder, and he feels roman sigh.

"this is why you need to take a break," roman murmurs, hugging him close. "because you're internalizing everything and you're obsessing over it. you need to take a night where it's just for fun, and with someone you're familiar with, who loves you and knows that you're the best friend on earth, right?"

logan pauses, before he says, "you?"

"do you have another best friend slash boyfriend hiding somewhere?" roman says, drawing back with a smile. "yes, me, of course me."

logan feels the corner of his mouth rise up into a grudging smile, and roman smiles when he sees it.

roman pushes a strand of hair off of logan's forehead. "so. you're amazing. taking one night off isn't going to change that. if you flunk out of chilton it's not going to change that, but you won't flunk out, because you're the smartest guy i've ever met, and you're an incredibly hard worker, which is part of why we want you to take a break."

logan hesitates.

"first date," roman cajoles, voice soft. "dinner—"

"—a bad dinner—"

"—dancing—"

"—only you are good at that—"

"—lucy's after," roman wheedles.

logan pauses, before he nods.

"i'll get the tickets tomorrow."

roman beams, and pulls him in for a kiss, and logan follows willingly.


"pass the syrup?"

"eggo waffles, dad. seriously?"

"hey, it was this or pop tarts. and i did say that you could go to virgil's for breakfast if you really wanted."

"i know, but i wanted to ask you something."

"oh?"

"i—um, roman and i decided we wanted to go to the winter formal."

"oh! logan, yay, that's great!"

"so i—should i call grandma, or should you?"

"oh, no, i've got this. you ready to see one of the tricks i've been saving for a rainy day?"

"um. sure?"

"right, then, here we go..."

"hello, sanders residence."

"hey, mom, it's me, i just wanted to leave you a message letting you know that logan's decided to go to the formal after all! guess you were right on that one—"

"patton, it's me—"

"so sorry i missed you, but—"

"—you didn't miss me, for heaven's sakes, i'm right here—"

"—hello?"

"—hello? patton?"

"hello?"

"hello?!"

"—huh, that's weird, i don't know if your machine cut me off—"

"—is something wrong with this phone?!"

"—anyway, so, since logan's going to the dance, just like you wanted him to, i guess that means we're gonna have to rearrange friday night dinner, shucks—!"

"—rearrange—patton!"

"but i'm sure it'll be lovely, no one knows how to pick out a menu like you, you are the catering queen—"

"—i'm right here, i'm on the phone, patton!"

"anyway, have a good day, give my best to dad—"

"patton, can you hear me?"

"bye!"

"did you just... pretend she was the answering machine?"

"yup."

"wow, dad."

"i know it's a little mean—"

"well, grandma deserves a little mean, at the moment."

"sometimes i wonder if i'm a bad influence on you."

"if anything, it's the other way around."

"nah, i'm the dad, that means i'm the influencer."

"if you say so."

"well, your grandma certainly would. so."

"what?"

"what are you gonna wear?!"


"two short stacks, a chocolate chip waffle, and a biscuits and gravy, plus two sides of hashbrowns," virgil calls, sticking the ticket into the deck. "how're those omelets coming?"

"nearly done," is his answer.

"need more hot cocoa/coffee!"

"on it!" virgil calls back, and goes to start topping off the pots of coffee—they're running low, so he may as well top them off now—

"where's the half-and-half?"

"fridge," virgil calls back.

"well, yeah, where in the fridge?"

"what do you mean, where in the fridge, it's where it's always is!"

"i don't see it!"

"don't tell me we're out, we just restocked on monday," virgil says, exasperated. "did you check the back?"

"oh—wait, never mind, found it!"

"virgil!" jean calls, sticking her head into the kitchen. "someone wants you out front!"

"be there in just a second—caesar, those omelets!"

"dished!"

virgil sweeps them onto his arms, sweeps out to table five, and sweeps back, only to see—

"this is intolerable," michel complains, holding out a rectangular wrapped box with an envelope taped on top. "tell your oppressive husband to stop using me as an errand boy, and if he insists on continuing the least he could do is approve my pay raise—"

"i'll tell him," virgil says, immediately distracted and knocked off-kilter, taking the box. "thanks, michel."

michel sniffs, prissy, and leaves his diner with the jangling of a bell.

a box. patton's sent him a box. was it a present? was it something worse than a present? and a letter, too, patton's written him a letter—

"taking your break?" jean asks.

"what?" virgil says, distracted, tearing his eyes up from the box. "oh. yeah. i'm taking my break."

he retreats up the stairs, to his apartment, before he sits down on the couch—the same couch he's slept on while he had patton take his bed, the same couch patton had sobbed to him about a pregnancy scare, the same couch logan's sat in and he and patton have listened to him ramble about bees or school or roman or—

he shakes himself, and removes the envelope from the top of the box.

for virgil, it says, in patton's neat, rounded lettering that's always made virgil think bubbly, and he traces the v with his finger.

he opens the letter.

virge,

okay, i get what you mean. this is the third letter i've tried to write to you, and i have no idea how people did it in the olden days. i keep feeling like i start rambling and then i have to crumple it up and start this over again. so, here's hoping that third time's the charm, right?

virgil presses his fingers against his lips.

thank you for breakfast. i'm sure it won't surprise you, but it's the best thing i've eaten all week, both in terms of taste and health. don't panic, though, i'm sure al's pancake world has plenty nutritional value, but maybe not as many hidden vegetables as you manage to sneak in.

"al's pancake world," virgil grumbles irritably, wondering absently if he'll be able to convince roman to do a stealth food-sneaking mission to patton's house without letting on that it's him.

i feel like i haven't seen you in a month, not a week, which feels kinda dumb. it also feels dumb because, well. the person i talk to whenever things get weird or hard is you, and i can't really talk to you about you, so. instead i'm just

it breaks off into a sentence scratched out so heavily that virgil has no hope of reading it.

i just want to be able to come into the diner and sit down behind the counter and watch you turn around and smile a little at me and pitch a fit about caffeine and pour me a mug anyway. i want to hear you and roman bicker about the latest thing you're bickering out, and i want to get excited with roman about his ballet while you and logan exchange that look over each other's heads. i want to hear you and logan talk about the news, or the town, and i just want—i want to see you look at me like that again. there's this thing your face does, sometimes, when you look at me. i miss it. i miss you.

it's like you're an ocean away instead of just a little walk away. and it's not your fault, i know you need space and i'm totally respecting that, i just—i dunno. you're my best friend, and i want to talk to you.

so i guess i'm gonna do the second-best thing, and i'll write to you about what's going on, instead. you don't have to write back—again, space, i respect it—and you don't have to keep reading, if you don't want to.

virgil would literally rather get eaten alive by housecats than not read this letter, like some kind of horrible urban legend.

so, um, here we go. logan and me and my parents went to the nutcracker on sunday to see roman. you should have seen him, virgil, he was amazing, i'm so proud of him! he was jumping around like gravity was a suggestion or something, and he was so graceful and beautiful, i swear logan nearly swooned right out of his seat. they were really cute, v, logan got him flowers and everything. 

virgil smiles.

my mom and i did kind of fight, though, but what else is new?

virgil frowns.

she didn't tell me specifics, but she said that she fought with you in the hospital, and virgil—

"do not apologize for her, or i swear to god," he says aloud, before he continues reading.

—i know you're going to say i shouldn't apologize for her, but i feel like i have to anyway, which i know you'll say it isn't my responsibility, but i'm going to, and you aren't here to lecture me, so there.

anyway, i just wanted to say that if she said anything to make you doubt us—

"that's why your dad came over," virgil says, suddenly realizing. "oh, patton, god—"

—i'm really sorry. i mean, i know the whole insane family situation can't really be helping things, but i've made it pretty clear to her that i won't accept her being rude to you, and logan pretty clearly won't either, so. i'm sorry about that.

"patton," virgil begins, and sighs. patton can't actually hear him.

me and my dad are getting along better though, which is nice, i guess. it's a bit of a long story, but basically my dad knows exactly what it's like for my mom to be doing whatever she's doing to you, so. he's on your side too, i think. he's helping me work out insurance with the inn—i know, i know, it's about time, you told me so, i know—but he actually made, like, a joke? about me getting pregnant? which is really weird for my dad, but really good, i think. but he likes town, which is neat.

oh. patton had no idea that his dad came by to see virgil. which is... a thing, he guesses. he'll tell him about it on saturday.

what else? oh! logan's decided that he's gonna go to the winter formal with roman tomorrow night!

"aw, kids," he murmurs.

i'm pretty sure that it's mostly because roman wants to go, since logan's, you know, deep in finals study mode. i think it's good that roman's convinced him to take a break, since logan's been even crazier about school than usual. 

oh! um, funny story, i had to give roman and logan The Talk on monday.

"oh no," virgil says aloud. "oh no, oh no—"

yeah, i'm pretty sure logan's never going to forgive me, but, you know. safe sex is kind of important. i have learned that, exhibit a, logan's existence. i'll tell you the story in person, i think it'll be funnier that way. or it could just be an experience in second-hand embarrassment, we'll have to see.

in person, virgil thinks, underlining it with his finger. in person, in person. just two more days. 

patton goes on, detailing the various trials and tribulations of the inn, of logan's excessive studying, and it isn't quite as good as hearing patton talk in person, not nearly as good, but it's the closest he's going to get and so virgil savors it, reading slowly and laughing when patton jokes and touching where patton's scratched out lines, where he's swapped pens.

well, i think that's... mostly it? i'd like to hear from you, of course, but if you don't want to, no pressure, if you want to wait, that's totally okay. just know that i love care about you a lot, and whatever makes you comfortable, i'm okay with it. 

oh! i got you a present! i hope you like it. someone kind of told me that the pair of us are some real mr. blues', so. i hope it cheers you up. i think you know a bit too well that it cheers me up.

love (of course i accept it) your person, patton.

virgil presses the letter against his chest, briefly, eyes sliding shut. it's he closest he can get to a hug from patton right now, and he knows it's because of him, but—

he shakes himself and turns to the box, slowly ripping off the wrapping paper.

it's... in an empty eggo's box? virgil's brow creases in confusion, before he carefully tips out the contents of the box onto the couch.

it's chocolate. it's candy. it's a flood of tiny, fun-sized candy, hershey's kisses and jolly ranchers and a variety pack of those tiny candy bars virgil gives out on halloween sometimes and those little fruit-flavored hard candies in the plastic wrappers.

it's... junk food. it's tons and tons of junk food. the exact kind of food that virgil tries to dissuade patton from hoarding and eating just exclusively that kind of food. it's patton's comfort thing.

and he's giving it to virgil—virgil, who he knows full well is the exact person who keeps him from devouring this much in one sitting. who is the exact reason patton might need his comfort thing right now. 

patton, who needs comfort, is trying to comfort the person who hurt him.

and it's so utterly patton to do something like that, it's so incredibly him, that virgil starts laughing and laughing and laughing, so hard that he sinks to the floor, and at some point, the laughing turns into crying.


logan's getting ready for school when his phone rings. it's probably roman—since he'd texted him a photo of the tickets, he'd been planning for the dance obsessively—so he picks it up with a "hello?" as he's trying to decide which of his collared shirts is cleanest. both are stained, but he's trying to figure out which is least noticeable. 

"logan, it's your grandmother," she says briskly.

"oh," logan says, and any warmth in his tone that he'd used upon answering is gone.

"i heard you'd decided to go to the dance after all," she says brightly.

"yep."

"oh, that's wonderful, i'm so thrilled," she says warmly.

"sure."

"with that charming roman boy?"

"uh-huh."

"what will you be wearing?"

"a suit."

"which one?" she asks.

"don't know yet."

"well, perhaps i could buy you a new one again," she says. "excuse you from class early, have a grandmother-grandson bonding day—"

"it is the last day of class before finals are you out of your mind," comes out of logan's mouth, near-hysterical.

"logan!"

"grandma!" he says, in the same exasperated tone of voice she'd used.

"this isn't you, this attitude of yours," she says. "this is your father."

"don't bring up dad."

"why are you acting this way?"

"you are old, but you cannot possibly be developing symptoms of alzheimer's with this swift of an onset," logan snaps.

"logan thomas sanders—"

"look, do we have to get into this? i have to get ready for school."

"you are not excused, young man, we're not through—"

"fine," logan says brusquely. "this is only because dad hates it when i fight with you because he is. so just say your piece."

"tell your father to take pictures," she says.

"he will," logan says. "is that all?"

"this is a once-in-a-lifetime event, you know," she says.

"there are winter formals at chilton every year, that's a categorically false statement," he says, and finally deciding to wear the more-stained shirt. he'll wear it with a sweater today, that should cover it, and he'll do laundry over the weekend.

"on the stairs, and one by the front door, and one as you're getting ready," emily says.

"fine," logan says.

"if i get enough pictures, i could line them up in chronological order and pretend i was there."

logan rolls his eyes.

"maybe bind them together, make a flipbook out of them," she says.

"blatant manipulation and guilting don't work on me," logan informs her. "goodbye, grandma."

he hangs up. by the time he's pulled on his sweater, put on his shoes, and ensured he's packed his backpack sufficiently for the day, when he gets downstairs, patton is on his phone, pinching the bridge of his nose.

"i know, mom."

a pause.

"oh, jeez," patton says wearily, and opens his eyes. your grandma, he mouths.

i know, logan mouths back, and sits down at the table, pulling the nearest plate of poptarts closest to him, thinking longingly of virgil chiding him to eat his eggs. eggs aren't exactly his favorite food, but at least it has some distinctly nutritional properties.

"mom," his dad says, trying not to sigh. "i gotta go."

more murmuring. "i will, mom, you know i always take pictures."

more talking. "mom, i—"

he sighs, long and loud. "i know i snapped at you, it was because i was upset, but seriously, you can't say stuff like that about virgil, or, just, anyone, generally."

more talking. 

"mom, for god's sake, logan getting ready for a dance is just going to be him brushing his hair and putting on a suit, it's not as intensive as it was with me—"

more.

"mom."

more.

"mom," he says, mouths SORRY at logan, and says, "fine. you can come over at seven and see logan off to the dance to make up for dinner."

dad NO, logan tries to mouth, but it's too late, she's hung up the phone.

"dad," he groans.

"i'm not thrilled about it, either," patton sighs, dropping into his chair and biting moodily into his poptart.


she cannot believe that she is doing this.

the diner is empty—she made certain to time it so that it would be before any supposed dinner rush—and she stands in the doorway, glowering at the nearest aproned teenager, sending them scuttling back into the kitchen.

"hello, virgil."

she sees his back stiffen—she doesn't blame him, to be perfectly frank, she isn't at ease with any of this, either.

"when you get a moment, i'd like to have a word with you."

"i'm busy," virgil says. he appears to be filling up a coffee filter with grounds.

"that's fine," emily says. "i'll just wait here until things die down."

she casts a glance around the diner—truly, it is just waiters and one old man in the corner staring at a paper—and moves to the counter, setting her pocketbook down, and picking up the nearest menu, opening it. as if she has any interest in eating here.

"you have a wide selection here," she comments, examining the menu options—lunch specials, entrees, desserts—and she frowns at one of the text entries under desserts.

Mud Pie: French silk pie with Oreo cookie crust, gummy worms optional.

her nose wrinkles. well, it's painted a wonderful picture.

"coffee, rudy?" virgil says to the old man in the corner, who grunts at him dismissively.

"i would take some," she says. "decaf."

he sighs, and trades out the coffee pots, pouring her a to-go cup and setting it before her.

"what," he says.

"logan's going to a winter formal tonight," she tells him, digging out a bill from her pocketbook to cover her coffee.

"yeah, i know," virgil says.

"patton pretended he was leaving a voicemail to inform me of this," she says. "while i was on the phone with him."

he snorts, and then he presses his lips together.

"my son and i aren't speaking," she says. "he won't take my calls, he won't come to dinner. logan very nearly put his foot down on my coming to see him off tonight. neither of them apparently want anything to do with me."

"shocking," virgil murmurs.

she ignores him. "you know that patton and i have had many battles. you know that most of them have because i know what's best for him. for some reason, he seems to believe that when we spoke in the hospital i actively drove you away from him. he seems to believe that i am the reason behind every aspect of his unhappiness."

she pauses, in case he decides to make a quip. he does not. she continues.

"but patton has his own ideas about what he thinks will make him happy, and it seems that logan agrees with them. patton wants you, virgil," she says. "he's made his choice, god help him, but there it is. logan wholeheartedly seems to agree. the pair of them have made clear that if it came down to a choice between me or you, there would be no question of who would win out."

that's surprised him—she can tell.

"so," she says. "it doesn't matter if i agree with it, i can't fight it. you've won. i will be out of patton's house by seven thirty, seven forty-five at the very latest. go to him. tell him i have promised to stay out of it."

she stands, and walks out, and virgil doesn't say anything.


there's a knock at the door, and patton yanks it open, smiling his best smile.

"ms. prince, how lovely to see you," he says. "come on in."

isadora prince inclines her head, just so, before she enters his house. 

"roman wanted to make an entrance," she says, when he glances behind her. 

he shuts the door, then. "very roman."

"quite," she agrees.

"well," patton says. "my mother wanted to see logan off, too, so she'll be here any minute. logan's just finishing up getting ready."

she nods at him, and crosses the room to sit, regal, in an armchair.

he always kind of expects ms. prince to be dressed in a matter that befits her poised, graceful stance, her intimidating, haughty personality—silk wraps, fancy blouses, tight dresses that flare out into flowy skirts, like the civilian form of a ballet costume, all of it finery, all of it pretty. he also expects her to be taller, but no to both—here she stands, all of five-foot-three, in an old, overlarge american ballet theatre sweatshirt that slips off one shoulder and comes down practically to her thighs, which are clad in yoga pants.

her hair is scraped back in a severe bun, though, without a strand of hair daring to escape it. that fits.

patton's never really sure how to behave, around ms. prince—he always flounders whenever it comes to small talk, because putting together small talk and ms. prince is a bit like trying to push together the same ends of a magnets and expecting them to click together, instead of repelling.

so he decides to just ask if she wants a drink—which she denies—and sit in silence.

he has to try not to squirm and fidget the whole time, though—sitting in front of ms. prince always kind of feels like he's sitting for a job interview that he has no idea how to succeed at—and actively fight his urge to do the whole small-talk-rambling thing.

fight it, and fail.

"the dance is supposed to be in this historical old building," he blurts out. "very pretty and stuff. they'll take pictures there and send them back to me, if you'd like a copy?"

she considers this, and nods her assent.

"awesome," patton says, and tries not to cringe. awesome?! "um, is roman—roman seemed excited, when i saw him."

"he is," she says.

"he's done an amazing job as cavalier," patton gushes. "i saw him last saturday, he was—i mean, wow, ms. prince. i can't imagine how proud you are of him."

she smiles—an oddly curved thing, more fit for some kind of vicious predator than a human person—and nods.

"no, you couldn't imagine," she agrees softly. and then: "isadora."

patton blinks. "what?"

"you may call me isadora," she says. "our sons have been friends for a very long time. they are now together in a romantic sense. this does not seem like a typical teenage fling. it seems like a fitting occasion in which to change our addresses of formality."

patton nods, absorbing this.

"right," he says. "okay. isadora."

as far as he's aware, he is the second person who has been permitted to call her something other than ms. prince since she'd returned to sideshire to take over her family's studio, and given birth to roman.

the first was roman's father.

she nods, and does—some kind of ballet exercise against the floor, he thinks, remembering from roman's various exercises that it might be a tendu combination. 

she runs through it three times by the time there's another knock at the door, and patton gets up to get it. please be roman, please be roman, please be roman—

rats.

"hi, mom," patton says. "you're right on time, ms. prince is here, too, roman's on his way."

"of course i'm on time," she says, and sweeps into the house. 

"mom, ms. prince," patton says. "ms—um, isadora—this is my mom, emily sanders."

"i believe we met at logan's birthday get together," emily says.

"we did," isadora says.

she says nothing else. emily stares at her. she stares right back.

patton's urge to squirm grows so strong that he feels like he's going to jitter right out of his skin, and then, blessedly, he hears logan's bedroom door open.

"oh, thank god," he says under his breath, and gets to his feet, grabbing his camera. "you ready?" he calls.

"yes," logan's voice floats down the stairs.

"come on down," patton calls. "your adoring public awaits."

there's the soft sound, dress shoes on steps, and then—there he is. there's his baby. looking so grown up.

which seems like an oxymoron, right? logan's clearly not a baby anymore—he looks beautiful, he looks gorgeous, he looks like glamorous movie star about to hit the red carpet, a very grown-up movie star—and yet at the same time, that's his baby. that's his little boy. that's the boy whose day would be made when patton would bust out the test tubes with baking powder and vinegar and food coloring to do experiments, who would herd snails into a little ring, who would give patton a drawing he'd made during class with the same level of seriousness of someone presenting an employment contract.

"please don't cry," logan says, coming to a stop at the foot of the stairs. 

"i can't help it," patton says, voice thick, "you look so grown up, honey, and so handsome."

he smiles. he adjusts his tie—plain, black, resting on his crisp white shirt—and buttons his indigo suit jacket.

"okay, hang on, i'm gonna," he says, and steps back in order to snap some photos of logan at the base of the steps, before gesturing. "c'mon, c'mon, let your grandma get a good look at you."

"you're very striking," emily says.

"thank you," logan says stiffly.

isadora surveys him, and offers a single, approving nod. logan looks touched.

"we'll get some solo pictures done before roman gets here," patton says quickly, because it looks like his mom is about to explode with how moved logan got by ms. prince's approval but she clearly does not understand. "um—bookshelf, yeah?"

"okay," logan says, probably exclusively because it's in front of the bookshelf.

so patton snaps pictures, and he snaps more pictures. he takes photos of logan by the bookshelf, by the door, on the couch, near a wall. he snaps so many pictures his pointer finger kinda aches.

and then there's a knock on the door.

"that would be my son," ms. prince says, and logan smiles even wider.

"i'll get it," he says quickly.

"a young man does not rush," emily calls.

patton hears logan's footsteps pick up the pace in direct defiance, and he presses his lips together to hide his smile, while his mother presses her lips together into a thin line.

"hey," he barely hears logan breathe out. "i—wow."

"hi," he hears roman say, loud and clear. "these are for you."

"oh, roman, you shouldn't have," logan says, and they round the corner—roman and logan holding hands, logan with a bouquet in his free arm, the pair of them smiling ear to ear.

patton starts snapping photos immediately, and then lowers the camera, putting his hand on his chest.

"roman, you look beautiful," patton says.

roman smiles at him, and brings a hand up to his hair—patton has no idea how, but there's baby's breath there, giving him a sort of halo, framing him, complementing his glowing skin, his red suit—also a white shirt and a skinny black tie, the only way he matches logan. "thanks, patton. hi, mom, hi, mrs. sanders," he adds.

"roman," isadora says, rising to her feet and crossing the room to kiss him gently on the cheek, rising slightly up onto her toes to do so. patton takes a picture of that, too.

"that's an unusual bouquet," emily says, frowning at it.

logan frowns at her. "they're bee flowers."

patton examines the bouquet—lavender, garden thyme, crocus, garden cosmos. they are all flowers that bees tend to like, and therefore, the favorites of logan's flowers.

"i'll get a vase," patton says, and gives logan and roman a very subtle wink, because they both came up with the same plan and it's too cute, okay?

logan grudgingly passes over the bouquet, and patton passes over the camera.

"more pictures of them together, please?" he asks his mother, and goes into the kitchen.

he gets out a vase, filling it with water, then the flowers, and carefully places the vase in the middle of the kitchen table. then he gets out the two matching boxes from his fridge, and ferries them out to the living room.

he grins at the pair of them, lifting the tiny little plastic boxes. "let me tell you, it made it way easier that you got each other's surprise boutonnieres at the same florist."

they both look at each other, startled.

"you got—?" roman asks.

"it's traditional and you like flowers. you got—?"

"well, it's romantic," roman says defensively. 

"just—here," patton says, passing each boy's boutonniere to them before reclaiming his camera from his mother. "now pin!"

roman gets out the boutonniere he'd selected for logan—a shade of green carnation so light it's nearly white, a tiny white rose that's barely more than a bud, baby's breath, stems wrapped in a silvery-blue ribbon to hold it all together—and holds it up for approval. 

"green carnation, roman," he says, smiling. "really?"

"it seemed fitting," roman says defensively, and narrows his eyes in concentration as he pins it to logan's jacket, patton snapping pictures all the while.

logan's for roman is a bit more simplistic—a white rose and baby's breath—and he pins it to roman's suit jacket, too. 

"a few more pictures," patton says. "roman, please go full corny prom poses for me, thank you."

"no," logan complains, but he doesn't shift away from the roman going behind logan and wrapping his arms around his waist.

they take enough pictures that the only reason they stop is because patton's camera card gets full, and logan sighs in relief.

"okay, we should go now," logan says, and tugs roman's wrist.

"aw, babe, if you were so excited about the dance you should've just said," roman teases.

"all right, all right, get out of here, keys are on the front table," patton says, and glances over. "isadora, when's your curfew?"

"eleven," she says, and roman's eyes widen.

"really?" he says. roman's usual curfew, as far as patton is aware, is usually nine-thirty on school nights, ten on the weekend.

"do not make me rethink that," isadora says. "go. have fun."

roman's grin widens, and he waves—"bye, patton, bye, mrs. sanders, it was nice to see you again!"—and logan continues tugging, until they're out of sight, and then the door opens, closes, and patton sighs, lowering the camera.

("okay," roman says, as soon as logan's started the car. "c'mon, hit me, i know you've got a stack of notecards hidden somewhere on your person. i'll quiz you on the way over there."

logan turns in the seat, blinking. "how did you—?"

"please," roman scoffs. "you think i don't know you? i know i said a break, and i know you agreed, but i also know that you don't think of breaks like i do, so, you've hidden a study thing somewhere on your person. give it. i'll quiz you."

logan hesitates, before he pulls out the little stack of notecards tucked into his suit jacket pocket and hands them over.

"oh, okay, math formulas, cool," roman says. "okay. let's get into it. tell me how to find the area of a trapezoid."

logan's smiling as he pulls out of the driveway, and recites, "area equals side a plus side b, divided by two, and that answer multiplied by its height."

"i'll give you kisses when we get there for correct answers," roman says, and smiles at him wolfishly. "so we'll have to stake out a coat closet or something."

logan gently smacks his wrist, cheeks flaming red, heart squeezing hard.)

"our sons are cute," he tells her.

"they are," she agrees. "send me some of those photographs."

"of course," he says, and sees her out, before closing the door behind her. 

"well," he hears his mother say. "that's that, i suppose."

"i suppose it is," he says, and sets his camera down on the front table before going back into the living room.

"what are you doing the rest of the night?" emily says.

"watching a movie, ordering a pizza, pressing logan for details when he gets back," patton says. "so, you know. thrilling evening in store for me."

she arches her eyebrows at him. "i'm sure."

patton sighs, and swallows his pride, which is a familiar sensation around his mother. "look, i'm sorry."

she looks at him. "oh?"

"i snapped at you because i was upset, and that wasn't fair of me," patton says.

"well," emily says, and sniffs. "i accept your apology."

"but," patton says. 

she stares at him—imperious, haughty. emily sanders.

he heaves a heavy sigh, and asks her a question he's been wanting to ask her for a while.

"have you ever thought about going to therapy?"

"what?!" she snaps, recoiling, and patton figures, well. he probably should have expected that.

"mom—"

"i am not in the need of having my head professionally shrunk, patton, do you think i'm insane?" she demands.

"i mean, i went to therapy," patton says, and she freezes.

"you did?"

"oh yeah," patton says. "i mean, surprisingly, running away from home and being a single dad at such a young age wasn't really the best sign for my mental health, you know? in addition to, well. bullies at chilton and everything."

she's silent.

"you met my therapist, actuallly," patton says. "emile picani. he helped me out, free of charge. i really—" he gets choked up. "i owe him a lot."

she's quiet. "it helped you?"

"it took a village to help me raise a child," patton says. "yeah. he helped me, a lot. babette and morey, remy aserinsky, sookie, maria at the inn—they all helped me."

"virgil."

"virgil most of all," he says, voice a bare whisper. "i really—i really don't know where i'd be without him, mom. he makes me happier than anything in the world—well, other than logan."

she considers this.

"i just," patton says, and lets out a breath. "we can't keep fighting like this all the time, mom. we can't do it. there'll be something that breaks us, someday, and if we don't address it..."

"we won't break."

"i really don't want to test that theory," patton says quietly. "we nearly did, once. and i know that point is what causes a lot of the fights between us, i know it's part of why our relationship got as bad as it did, and i know—"

patton swallows, hard, and stares at his feet.

"and i know that was my fault," he says, and winces when his voice cracks.

"patton," she begins.

"but i—" patton swallows, hard, and offers her a humorless smile. "i was never going to be the daughter you wanted, mom. i was never gonna be good enough for you, and i knew it. i've always known it. i spent so long trying to—to force myself to fit into the life you wanted me to have, mom, and i was never gonna shape up, mom. even if high society life was what i wanted, i couldn't have—"

his voice breaks again, and he closes his eyes, because he can't look at her when he says this. "i couldn't have survived that, mom. i really, really couldn't have. i was having thoughts that—that scared me," he says, and he gives up on not crying. "i was so scared, and i felt so alone, and i wanted—i thought about—god, mom, i know you probably wondered why i kept throwing myself into situations i knew were dangerous, i know you probably thought that the binge-drinking and the gradually more dangerous boyfriends and all the stunts i kept trying to pull were just teenage rebellion on steroids, but i was just —i wanted to—"

he doesn't finish the sentence. he doesn't have to, because from her soft, horrified gasp, she's put together the picture.

"patton," she says, soft, and quiet, and hurt. "i never knew it was—it was that serious."

"i didn't tell you," he says, and lets out a choked laugh. "i didn't want anyone to know. if anything would've happened to me, i wanted it to be a tragic accident. i didn't tell anyone, not until i started therapy. the closest i've come to telling you is saying i would've drowned, which, you know. sounds like metaphor."

he blows out a breath, and adds, "i've never even told virgil or logan that, so. but i think virgil's guessed."

"but you don't—" she says, and patton shakes his head before she can finish.

"no. not anymore. not since back then."

"what changed?"

"what changed everything?" patton counters, and offers her a watery smile, opening his eyes at last, and—

and she's crying, too. and patton's heart hurts.

"logan," he says. "logan, mom. logan saved my life."

"oh," she chokes out, and digs out her handkerchief, dabbing under her eyes.

"him, and after i—" he waves a hand. "after i came here, when everything else had fallen apart around me because i tore it down and i felt like i'd ruined everything and i was so upset, virgil did, too. the both of them, they're—they're everything, mom."

he takes a deep breath in. "so i can't be sorry that i came here," he says, voice tight and trembling. "i really, really can't be. but i know that you don't feel the same way about it, i know that it's the worst thing i've ever done, and i know i—i know i hurt you, mom, and i'm so sorry, i'm so sorry, i—"

but the lump in his throat's too big to get past, and emily crosses the room, and gives him the first heartfelt, genuine hug she's given him since he was probably fourteen or fifteen years old, and that's it for him. he can't keep going. for the first time in seventeen years, patton falls apart in front of his mother, and knows that she'll help put him back together.


"oh, wow," roman says, hand-in-hand with logan. "it's beautiful, logan."

"historic," logan agrees. "but also, a country club."

"okay, so, very white," roman admits, "but, you know. historic white people did suuuck, but they sure knew how to make a building."

logan laughs, just a little, and squeezes lightly at roman's hand. 

"are you ready to see some rich people nonsense?"

"as much as i'll ever be," roman says. 

they walk up the stairs, together, and logan fishes the dance tickets out of his pocket, handing them to mr. medina. they have to randomly draw marbles for a breathalyzer test—no snuck flasks or tipsy teenagers at a chilton dance—and both get away with not having to take it. 

(besides, even logan knows that the students of chilton save any drinking for the afterparties, not before.)

they're escorted to a table—they've been shoved in with a table of freshmen that logan doesn't know, but that's okay, because roman keeps making up stories about the students on the far side of the room that becomes even more amusing when logan corrects his fanciful assumptions to the reality that logan knows. the dinner's decent—table, service—with dessert.

and then the music starts, and roman perks up so brightly that logan can't help but smile.

"dance with me," roman demands.

"obviously," logan says, and roman pulls him along to be one of the first couples on the dance floor.

there are many benefits to having a dancer for a boyfriend—it is, quite possibly, the most appropriate place to show these benefits at a school dance.

roman leads, during waltzes, murmuring one two threes so softly under his breath that logan can barely hear it, but he uses them to keep time, so that he doesn't stumble and look like a fool in comparison to roman's absolutely devastating elegance. 

roman whirls him around in a foxtrot that doesn't look too ridiculous, during an Obviously Chaperone Selected song, and logan even manages to keep pace, remembering this from when roman had had to do a foxtrot in a recital that he'd recruited logan for backstage work—so logan had at least listened in on the choreography, and seen it in action.

roman dips logan back so far that one of logan's legs comes off the ground out of some strange instinct that somehow makes it look choreographed, like they'd practiced it, even though's logan clinging desperately to roman's shoulders, trying not to fall straight onto the ground.

roman spins him so fast that he gets dizzy and stumbles, forgetting himself entirely and giggling when roman holds onto him to make sure he doesn't fall down.

roman bounces up and down during the quicker, more modern, more Obviously Student Selected songs, looking so energetic and eyes so wide that it's honestly rather difficult to look anywhere else, so logan mostly just sways awkwardly in place and nods along to the beat.

roman grabs him and twists and spins and twirls and wiggles, he's so happy, and having so much fun, that logan can't help but feel happy when he looks at him, can't help the heat low in his stomach when roman throws his head back and laughs, exposing the long line of his neck, can't help the swell of fondness whenever roman shouts lyrics at the top of his lungs, can't help the squeezing of his heart whenever roman touches him—his hands, his shoulders, his waist, his back, his shoulder blades, his face—

the music settles into something slow, and roman reaches up to wrap his arms around logan's neck.

"fun?" he says, and logan smiles down at him, reaching down to fix one of the sprigs of baby's breath in his hair that's gone a little askew in the midst of all the dancing.

"with you," he says simply, and roman smiles wider.

"the chaperones aren't gonna throw me in some kind of rich people jail if i kiss you, right?"

"roman, you know how the legal system works, it's systematically true that rich people would just bail themselves out of jail," logan says, and roman laughs, leaning up to kiss logan.

logan feels dizzier than he did when roman had spun him around when they separate. 

"i owe you so many more kisses than that, mister," roman says. 

"are you thirsty?" logan asks, and roman's eyes crinkle up with how wide he's smiling, and he's so beautiful.

"are you teasing me?" roman says.

"no, in the literal sense," logan says. "i could get you some cider?"

"cider sounds great," roman says. "i'm gonna fix my hair. meet you by the refreshments table?"

logan leans down to press a kiss against his lips, just one last time, before they separate, heading off the dance floor. 

logan's procuring two (plastic) flutes with sparkling cider, when he hears a familiar voice ask, "having fun, sanders?"

he turns around, and nods at mel, smiling.

"good," she says. "i always like chaperoning the winter formal—to celebrate the end of classes for the semester, it's always nice to see my students looking happy."

he nods again, before she leans a little closer.

"i wasn't gonna mention this until the new semester," she says, "but i saw your latest piece."

"the winter festival?"

"yes, that's the one," she says. "i didn't know you were a photographer, sanders."

"oh," he says. "well, when the situation calls for it, the courant has a camera that they lend out for events and the like."

"it was good stuff," she says. "actually—well, as it happens, we're suffering a bit of a photography shortage on the newspaper. most photo-inclined kids join the yearbook, you know."

he supposes that makes sense, and says as much.

"well," she says. "i know they aren't exactly story bylines, but if you'd be willing to pitch in for events like this—you could start getting published in the franklin next semester. if you're willing, of course."

"i'm willing," he says. "i'm definitely, definitely willing."

"good," she says. "we'll meet after winter break to discuss it further, sanders. i'm excited to have you on the team."

"me too," logan says.

she leans in a little closer, and says in an undertone, "you know, my last seven editors-in-chief started in photo their sophomore year, too."

logan feels like he's floating. she winks at him.

"we'll talk about it after the new year," she says. "good luck on finals, sanders, and have fun at the dance. you deserve it."

she goes off, toward a clump of teacher chaperones, and logan beams after her back, before he turns, going to find roman, excited to tell him the news.

someone jostles his shoulder on his way, and logan looks over, about to excuse himself, before he takes in the bowler hat, the cape.

"dee," he says.

"logan," he says back.

the song—bass-heavy, poppish—floods the silence between them.

"i saw you came with your little," dee says, and his nose wrinkles. "boy toy. roman, wasn't it? i'd admire you logan, really, i wouldn't have expected you to come to the dance. i mean, you have so much to do, don't you? with finals and everything."

all kinds of responses pop into his head—how dare you, and roman is three times the man you are, and would you like to take this outside so i can solve this with fisticuffs like a neanderthal—before he remembers something dee did that infuriated him, once.

what's that phrase—giving people a taste of their own medicine?

so instead, logan leans in, and smiles, as wide and bright and happy as he can manage. 

"oh, gosh, dee, i hope even with your blatant projection of your worries about your grades onto me, that everything's okay. i mean, i guess it would be hard for you, and everything, since you thought that the franklin was your domain and i guess you must have just seen mel and i chatting and i've outscored you on every exam in every class we have. but i really wouldn't worry that much, maybe you can still catch up," logan fucking simpers, and lets his smile get even bigger. "even with as worried as you are, i hope you're still capable of having fun at the dance. i mean, i sure am."

dee's face crumples up into rage, and he looks like his eyes are about to pop out of his head, and he might even start shrieking, and logan laughs and floats away, intent on finding his boyfriend.

and he does. logan leans down to kiss him—bright, and passionate, and roman's blinking up at him with wide eyes when he draws back.

"hey," roman says, accepting his champagne flute, "um, not that that wasn't amazing, because wow, but what was that?"

"i think i just succeeded in out-bitching a shady bitch," logan says happily, and lifts his glass near roman's for a toast. 

roman, bemusedly, clinks his glass against logan's.


"okay, so, medium cheese pizza with a side of breadsticks and a cookie cake for dessert, do i have that right?"

"yep, that's the one," patton says. 

okay, originally, he'd just wanted to get a pizza for dinner, but you know what, after having a breakdown on his mom, he feels like he deserves a little something extra. he'd barely managed to convince her to go back home, but it was... patton thinks she might actually take his suggestion to heart.

there's a knock on his door, and patton tosses aside the blanket he'd hauled over himself and shuffles toward the door.

"can i add anything else?"

"no, that's it," patton says, and opens the door, pressing the phone against his shoulder, and starts with, "mom, i told you, i'm really okay, you don't have to—"

he falters as soon as the door opens fully, though, and stares, slack-jawed.

because virgil's on his doorstep.

"oh," he says breathlessly.

virgil—sweet, wonderful, beautiful virgil—is standing on his doorstep, awkwardly holding up two to-go bags from the diner and a tray with two to-go mugs and two of the clear cups virgil gives out for waters.

"uh, hey," he says. "i brought dinner."

patton laughs, breathless, and tells his phone, "cancel my order" and hangs up.

"can i come in?" virgil asks, and patton steps aside immediately.

"you're early," patton says.

"i know," virgil says, and frowns, coming closer, reaching out, like he's going to touch patton's face, before he hesitates. "have you been crying?"

"oh," patton says, realizing his eyes must be red. "um, yeah. but it's okay. i think."

"patton—"

"i might have just guilted my mom into considering therapy, actually," patton says, and virgil stops whatever please don't hide your feelings lecture he'd been gearing up to give.

"oh," he says, and considers this. "huh."

"i know," patton says. "um, do you want—you wanna come sit on the couch?"

they go to sit. virgil sets down the to-go bags on the coffee table.

"so," patton says.

"so," virgil echoes.

patton hesitates, and says, "i told my mom about—um, stuff i hadn't told her before. about why i came to sideshire."

"oh," virgil says.

"i told her you and logan saved my life."

virgil sucks in a breath, because—yeah, patton hasn't said it in terms quite as clear as that before, and he's guessed that virgil's guessed, but it's probably a lot that that guess has been confirmed.

"because you—you did," patton says, and swallows, hard. "i—i was so lost, and so scared, virgil, and you were the first person in a long time—in my whole life, maybe—who offered me comfort and kindness without judging me. without expecting that kind of thing to come with strings attached."

"patton—"

"you've always been so good to me," patton says earnestly. "always, always, always. you're my best friend. our relationship matters so much to me, and i'm sorry that i sprung everything on you last week—"

"i don't think it can count as 'springing' after ten years," virgil says, and patton blinks at him.

"ten years?"

virgil hesitates, before he says, "do you remember when you asked to help with cooking for logan's sixth birthday?"

patton has to think about it for a second before it clicks.

"the time i sprayed cake batter all over the kitchen?"

virgil smiles. "yeah," he says, and hesitates, before he reaches out to tuck an unruly curl behind patton's ear. "yeah. the mixer got it everywhere, and other people might get mad, or—or embarrassed, maybe, but you weren't. you just looked around, and you started laughing, and you were laughing so hard you weren't making noise, and you were crying, and then you looked up at me and you looked so happy and excited and—" virgil snaps his fingers.

"that was it, for me. that was when i knew i was a goner for you."

patton melts. "really?"

"really," he confirms. "i looked at you, on the ground, and i thought, oh no, and that was—that was when i realized i was in love with you."

patton lets out a breath, because that's the first time virgil's said it like that, i realized i was in love with you, and says, voice sappy, "virgil, that's so sweet."

virgil groans, and patton's confused again, before—

"accidental pun!" he says gleefully, and pokes virgil.

"accidental pun," virgil agrees, and his face is doing the Thing again, so fond, and patton just wants to grab him and kiss him silly. instead, he talks.

"i don't have a romantic, wow-that's-it moment," patton admits. "i don't really know when it started, or when i realized, it was just—it was an oh, of course, you know? like oh, of course the sky is blue, or oh, of course logan's going to be a journalist, it was—you know. oh, of course i'm in love with virgil. but i think it's—well, i think mine's longer than yours."

virgil smiles, and says, quiet, "sixteen years."

not really—he'd literally just told patton that it had taken him until ten years ago to realize that he was in love with him—but sixteen years of knowing each other, of friendship, of being together.

"yeah," patton agrees. "it's—every time i think about how long we've known each other, it makes me a little dizzy."

"me too," virgil says, and he lets out a breath. "that's—that's kind of why i freaked out."

patton doesn't say anything—he sits, and he wants to listen. he wants to communicate. he wants to be sure that virgil is comfortable, and that he feels safe, and that everything between them is as good as patton knows it can be.

"i mean—you're my best friend, patton."

me too, patton mouths, reaching forward to take his hand, and virgil lets out a shaky breath, squeezing.

"my best friend," he repeats. "my first best friend ever. it's—that promise was right, you know? you're my person. your letter, it—you said, you know, i'm the one you always come to, and you're that for me, too, and i didn't—"

he lets out a shaky breath, and bows his head. "i don't want to mess it up," he chokes out, achingly vulnerable.

"oh," patton says, and "oh, honey, no, no, you couldn't—hey, c'mon, look at me, please."

virgil lifts his head, just slightly, but his head's still hanging, so patton contorts a little so that he's making eye contact with virgil. he squeezes his hand tighter.

"you could never mess us up," patton says softly.

"patton—"

"this—virgil, please don't tell me you've spent the whole week beating yourself up about how you could potentially mess this up," patton says. 

virgil's quiet.

"you couldn't," patton says. "i—i mean, virgil, we're best friends. right?"

"right," virgil says. 

"i'm a better person, when i'm with you," patton says softly.

"me too," virgil whispers back.

"and i mean—i trust you, virgil," patton says. "i trust you more than anyone in the whole world. i value you, and i appreciate you, and i love you too much to let anything mess us up, and i know you do too."

"you say that now," virgil says.

"i'll say that forever," patton says. "i'll stay with you, forever, if you'll have me."

"of course i'll have you," virgil says. "it's just—we say that now, but what if we—?"

"i'm not saying it'll be perfect," patton says softly. "we might face some bumps and hard spots, along the way, but, i mean. we've faced bumps and hard spots along the way, v, and we've always talked it out. this past week, for example."

"true," virgil admits softly. "it's just—what if, you know?"

"it's no good thinking about what ifs," patton chides him gently. "we only know what we've got right now. there's no way for us to prepare for every single thing that could possibly go wrong, virge, we'd go crazy."

"bold of you to assume that i haven't already," virgil mutters, and patton giggles, a little high-pitched.

"okay," patton says. "so, walk me through it. what do we have right now? no catastrophizing, no maybe, no there's a chance. what do we have right now?"

virgil swallows. "a sixteen-year friendship."

"yes."

"what is, essentially, the split custody of two teenagers."

"yes."

"both of whom apparently wanted us to get married when they were little?"

"oh, they told you that too?" patton says.

"god, the things people have told me this week," virgil says. "your mom said she wouldn't stand in our way since i was what you'd chosen to make you happy—"

"she what?!"

"—and your dad said that i had his blessing and that he'd make sure that your mom wasn't, you know, your mom—"

"he WHAT?!"

virgil looks at him, surprised. "you didn't know about that?"

"no!" patton says. "not either of—"

patton freezes, groans, and drops his head to his hands. "the insurance."

"yep."

"before the dance?"

"uh-huh."

"oh my god," patton says, "i'm going to shrivel up and die of embarrassment."

"well, that'd be a shame, considering we're in the middle of what could possibly be the biggest change to our relationship ever," virgil says.

"i'm so sorry."

"neither of them were that bad," virgil says. "um, your dad asked me about franchising the diner, actually."

"whoa," patton says, impressed. "really?!"

"uh, yeah?" virgil says. "was that a rich person diss or something?"

"the opposite," patton says. "asking after business and money and making sure everything's in tip-top shape is how my dad shows that he likes you."

"oh," virgil says. "um. nice. he told me about your grandma, too."

"ah, granny lorelai," patton says. 

"who is apparently a lot like logan?"

"which is the highest compliment he could ever pay logan," patton says. "wow. my dad, like, adores granny. she's his favorite person ever."

"yeah, i got a bit of a family history lesson, there," virgil says. "apparently she doesn't like your mom? which is something i agree with her on?"

"oh, wow," patton says. "i—wow. my dad was saying all that? richard sanders? the man who once patted me on the head and said that's nice, dear when i told him he was the best dad ever and i loved him so so much?"

"the same," virgil says. "weird guy, your dad."

"yeah," patton says, and then shakes himself. "let's stop talking about my parents, yeah? get back to us?"

"right, right," virgil says. "um. i just—i'm—you know, shockingly, i'm anxious. even if i'm really happy about you, it still scares me more than nearly anything in the world. which feels—dumb."

"it's not dumb," patton says, quiet. "i—i want to help, okay? i want to help with you feeling anxious. you don't have to be scared of entering a relationship with me. i want you to feel safe, and comfortable, and—and happy."

"that's what i want for you too," virgil says. 

"i think you'd be what makes me happy," patton says. "wait. i know you'd be what makes me happy."

"you make me happy too," virgil says, soft.

"this week has kinda sucked, v."

"yeah, i agree," virgil says. "um, my bad."

"no, no, that wasn't what i was trying to—" patton says, and shakes himself. "i just meant—it's sucked because i haven't been able to see you. to talk to you."

"yeah," virgil says softly.

"i don't blame you for taking time, virge, it's a big decision, you know?" patton says. 

"i know," virgil says. "trust me, i know."

"do you," patton says, and bites his lip, squirming.

"what?"

"do you, um," and patton rubs a hand up and down his neck. "do you feel, um—do you think you're ready? to make that decision?"

he gestures, and cannot stop shifting, because he can feel virgil's eyes on him. virgil's hand lands on his thigh.

"patton."

"yes?" he asks, twisting his fingers together, and virgil's lip twitches upward.

"i came early," he says, "because i realized i was an absolute fucking idiot to let this keep going on for a second longer than it had to. because i—i might be terrified of if this goes wrong, but i—i want it. i want it so much that that overrides any of the fear."

"oh," patton breathes, and runs a hand through his hair. "right. yes. great. good. awesome. spectacu—"

"will you just stay still?" virgil asks him, softly, and patton freezes where he sits.

virgil inches closer slowly, so slowly, slowly enought that patton could move away if he wanted to, like he's approaching a spooked animal, and patton thinks if he moves a muscle that virgil might spook, run right out of the door again, and he knows what's coming, knows it like he knows that the sun will rise in the sky and the sky is blue and that he is in love with virgil danes, and so he stays still.

after so much buildup, it's soft, simple, brief. virgil's hand cups his cheek, achingly gentle, so soft, and patton feels something in him unravel at the sensation—like all the tension that's built up between them was physical, and now that it's gone, and patton feels lighter than air.

they pull apart, and patton lets out a sigh. then he leans back in, and virgil jumps.

"what are you—"

"will you just stay still?" patton asks teasingly. 

virgil smiles at him, tentative, and patton continues on his intended path and he sticks the landing—he curls his fingers into the collar of virgil's hoodie, and virgil pulls him closer, and yes, good, that's very good, patton wants virgil to pull him closer, patton wants virgil so close that molecules of air won't fit between them, he wants virgil, he wants anything virgil will give him, and—

they break apart, and patton giggles at the stunned look on virgil's face, forehead tilting forward into his shoulder.

"okay," virgil says. "so. that's that, then."

"that's that," patton says, and grins, huge. "i think you've brought me dinner."

"that i have," virgil says.

"it could be a date, you know," patton says, and virgil smiles—so bright and happy, that it almost doesn't seem like him, except it is him, so patton feels that same something inside him unravel more and more and more—

"yeah?"

"yeah," patton echoes, "yeah."

"okay," virgil says, and pulls out their meal, and patton laughs, pressing his fingers against his aching cheeks.

because this new beginning for them starts with the same food the original beginning did—with lasagna, and hot cocoa/coffee, and double chocolate fudge layer cake cake.


"i can't believe you're making me do this," virgil grumbles as they walk up the driveway, and patton grins, squeezing his hand, and leaning briefly into his shoulder.

"they promised they'd be nice," patton says.

"there are so many ways to spend new year's eve that doesn't involve this," virgil says.

"you're telling me," roman says in an undertone, and logan bumps him lightly.

"it's just a dinner and some cocktails—mocktails, for the kids," patton says. "they want to get to know you both, in the context of a romantic relationship with their son slash grandson."

"am i going to get murdered?" virgil asks.

"they didn't kill me," roman points out. 

"yeah, but you're, you know, a charming little brat," virgil says. "i, on the other hand, have actively yelled at both your parents."

"they both told you they approve," patton scolds gently.

"yeah, under duress," virgil mutters.

"is there any other way people approve of virgil?" roman asks innocently.

"be nice," patton scolds.

"there is only one person at this dinner who has the capability of being nice," logan says. 

"okay, well, just smile and nod if either of you get stuck," patton says. "logan and i are old pros at the whole family dinner thing, we could come up with a codeword if we need help."

"crofter's," logan and roman say in unison, and there's the sound of them high-fiving behind patton and virgil.

"great," virgil says. "i'll have a codeword for what will signal the end of my life."

"hey, don't think of it like that," patton says, and grins. "this is just the beginning."

he leans forward and knocks. it seems like virgil's holding his breath as they wait.

"you're sure everything'll be okay?" virgil asks him in an undertone.

patton grins and squeezes his hand. "just trust me."

"always."

the door swings open.