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Chapter 1: Desperation Cover Image by Hexalys

Something was off with Thomas, but the Sides hadn’t noticed it at first. A lot had been happening in Thomas’ life after all.

There was the Alfred Hitchcoppolucas callback that he wouldn’t be going to, a conflicting wedding that he would have to sit through with a forced smile, and then there was the intrusive thoughts that had only just started to let up—it was understandable that the others had missed the signs for one of Thomas’ infamous “funks”. He was more withdrawn from his friends, just quieter in general. He held himself more like Virgil, with hunched shoulders and a lowered head—as if something were weighing him down. These funks, as Patton had dubbed them years ago, never failed to unease the Sides. They didn’t happen often, thankfully, but most of the Sides had never been able to identify the source of the funks.

Morality and Anxiety tried to find where this funk was coming from, but amongst all the feelings Thomas was experiencing lately, most of them being negative emotions, they couldn’t pin down what the problem was. Logic, naturally adverse to feelings in general, was at a lost on how to deal with such chaotic sentiments and so he studied the situation from afar, hoping a detached perspective might provide an answer. Deceit was always more aware of the funks than the others, but only because the real dilemma was hidden behind a barricade of lies that even he found a little daunting to sift through.

Both halves of Creativity knew what the cause of the funks were. Remus, however, didn’t care to solve the issue, but rather soak in its toxic juices and rub his hands eagerly as he waited for the shit to hit fan. Roman, much to his shame, was in fact the source of Thomas’ funks, and he knew that things could get much worse if he didn’t do something soon.

The was why the grimacing Prince appeared in front of a black and yellow door. On it was a crest of a two-headed snake, Deceit’s symbol, which made sense seeing as this was the Dark Side’s room. Roman knew he shouldn’t be here, he knew the others—especially Virgil—would be upset that he’d gone to Deceit like this, but the Creative Side didn’t feel like he had any other options at this point.

Hidden under his royal outfit of white his body was covered in heavy bruises. They pulsed and ached and were hundred times worse than when he and Thomas had messed up that audition last year. It was so bad, he’d even started to gain cuts, something that was much harder to hide than the bruises. Even now, he was fully aware of the four thick bandages hidden throughout his person. One on his stomach, another on his back, the smallest on his right calf, while the largest was on his left bicep. Unfortunately, the severity of his wounds were also a precursor for what was to come. Roman knew it could get worse and he could feel himself reaching that point. That’s why he was seeking out Deceit. He needed to soothe his ego, even if the remedy was nothing but lies.

The Prince raised a hand to knock, face twisting up as that simple motion set a wave of pain radiating through his body. His knock lacked strength, the thuds barely audible even to him, but his fingers and knuckles throbbed in agony, so much so that he couldn’t force himself to try again.

“Deceit?” He called, voice half-choked from pain, and he grunted to clear it. Just because he was in dire straits didn’t mean he had to let the other Side know it. The door opened and Roman quickly threw a dashing grin on his face and straightened his posture despite how his back howled in protest. “Ah, there you are my scaly friend!”

“Roman, you’re looking especially…” Deceit’s eyes dragged over him in a critical manner and he had to fight the unwelcomed urge to curl up on himself. His clothes were creased with wrinkles, his hair was a mess, the bags under his eyes were large enough to give Virgil a run for his money, and the bruises decorating his jaw, left cheekbone, and right eye made him look absolutely ghastly despite how he tried to hide them with makeup. But Deceit wouldn’t mention any of that. No, he’d say that the Prince looked handsome, regal, amazing— “…beaten down this morning.”

Roman’s eyes flashed in alarm, his hands clenching into fists as he gaped at the persona of lies.

“I– What? But you–”

“And just as eloquent as always, I see.” The Prince’s shoulders raised up to his ears defensively. This wasn’t how this encounter was supposed to go. Deceit was supposed to lie; he was supposed to help Roman feel better!

“Now see here Dr. Heckle and Mr. Snide–”

“Where did all those bruises come from, Roman?” The Dark Side asked as he examined his gloves as if he couldn’t care less. “I can’t think of many things that have happened to Thomas to cause them. Sure, deciding to miss the callback, must’ve dealt a heavy blow, but this seems a little much, even for someone as melodramatic as you.”

“I– They’re–” Roman’s tongue felt impossibly heavy as he continued to stare at Deceit wide-eyed. How could he say that most of the bruises had, essentially, come from the others? Patton’s concerns over Thomas being a good person pebbled his skin with contusions. This had inspired similar thinking in Thomas, who had felt particularly low ever since the trial and his admission of being a liar. And whatever Remus had done or said, seems to have only worsened these doubts. Pile that on with Virgil’s numerous self-directed anxieties—which Thomas and himself were much more susceptible to, since they valued Virgil’s worries much more now—and of course Roman would be bruised up.

But the worst contributor to his current state was really himself.

Maybe it was just Remus striking something loose in his head, but Roman had come to a horrible realization. He wasn’t helping Thomas; he was a hindrance. It seemed that no matter what he did anymore, his actions always did more harm than good. He was trying not to be selfish, and he doesn’t know when he’d started describing himself as such. Perhaps after the ‘Can Lying Be Good?’ video? No, it was before that even, after the ‘Moving On’ two-parter. That was when he’d realized his fantasies could lead Thomas astray and bring him heartache.

Or maybe it went back even further than that, to the first comments that appeared on YouTube. The hurtful remarks that scolded him for his behavior towards Virgil—something he is now ashamed of—calling him a bully. Or the countless comments that claimed he was too loud, obnoxious, an idiot, narcissistic–

Roman drew in a sharp breath as a cut formed along his collarbone. He couldn’t help hunching over, his hands shooting up to the blazing wound in a useless attempt to ease the pain somehow. All he managed to do was press his very white top against the injury, causing red to bleed through.

“Roman, what–” Remembering that he was not alone, the Prince’s eyes darted up to Deceit in horror. The other Side had a perplexed look on his face, and it was the last image Roman saw before sinking out and reappearing in his room. With a curse he tore off his shirt and summoned a mirror to observe his latest injury. It was by far the largest and the deepest gash. With a heavy sigh he flicked his hand and the wound was covered in stripes of gauze. He may not be able to make the blows to his ego disappear, but thankfully he could still tend to them easily enough.

Picking his shirt off the floor, he frowned in disgust at the red stain. With another hand gesture his clothes returned to pristine condition and he shrugged the top on with less grace than usual. He felt like Virgil on a bad day. He shook his head at that comparison, knowing he was being unkind again, and collapsed onto his throne. His last-ditch effort to avoid the inevitable turned out to be for naught.

“Not that I should’ve expected anything different.” The Side said, voice equal parts self-reprimanding and resigned. “Everything seems to be coming up storm clouds and nightshade recently.” He hated sounding so melodramatic, as Deceit had rightly accused him off, but he just wasn’t in the right headspace to be his usual glittery self. Fully slumping into the red velvet cushion of his seat, Roman let his arms spray out along his gold and ivory throne instead of using the armrests. In his sorrowful mood, it took him a few minutes to realize that the cuffs of his shirt, which normally reached his wrists in perfectly tailored fashion, now stopped at his fingertips.

“Oh no!” Jerking upwards, and hissing in pain as his injuries flared in irritation, the Prince saw, to his horror, that his shirt was indeed two-sizes too big. “Please not now!” He moaned as he stood, stumbling a little as his looser boots caught the edges of his now baggy pants. “Damn it all.” With a shaky sweep of his arm the door to his room locked itself, barring entrance to the other Sides. He couldn’t allow to let anyone see him like this, just the thought of it made him shrink a little more. Trying to hold back tears of frustration, Roman stumbled out of the throne room and into his bedroom.

Gingerly easing himself onto the king-sized bed, the Prince curled up into a ball, buried his face into a plush pillow, and let out a broken sob.

Deceit sat idly in his room, trying to get back into his book ‘The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty’, and ultimately failed to absorb anything as he reread the same sentences. Despite his best efforts, he couldn’t stop seeing the memory of bright red bleeding into Roman’s uniform. And bleeding was the right word for it, wasn’t it?

Deceit knew Roman, being Thomas’ ego, could get bruised quite literally, but he’d never known the Creative Side received cuts as well. With how the Prince had reacted, the panic in his eyes before fleeing, it obviously wasn’t something he wanted others to know. But if Roman were in such dire straits, why come to him of all Sides? ‘Not that I’m concerned about the fool.’ He thought to himself, eyes narrowing in irritation.

Still, the Snake couldn’t help but focus on this question, his mind puzzling out the differences between his interactions with Roman’s against the others. Before Virgil integrated himself with the others, Deceit was the Dark Side Roman got along with the best. Anxiety had always butted heads with Creativity in the past. Roman wanted to embark on grand adventures, make every fantasy a reality, and to stand in the spotlight before an adoring audience. Virgil panicked over the slightest deviations to the norm, would prefer to stay in his room with the door locked, and was afraid of being the center of attention.

From what Deceit had seen, their relationship, besides being more friendly, certainly hadn’t changed beyond the basics. Roman still wanted to go, go, go, while Virgil continued to be the collar and leash that held him back. Oh, that was good. He’d have to use that the next time the two got into an argument.

Remus, on the other hand, was ironically simpler to deduce. The Duke embodied everything the Prince despised; everything was afraid of being. Annoying to an unbearable level, perverted in all actions, and without an ounce of charm. The only reason Roman tolerated Remus was because they were twins by human standards, though in truth the two had been one and the same until Thomas turned 8 and was told that some thoughts were not okay to have.

And as for the others—well, the less said about them the better.

Deceit wouldn’t categorize his exchanges with Roman as anything negative, not from the Prince’s standpoint at least. For all the times he’d been warned about the Dark Side’s penchant for lying, Roman almost always took his “compliments” at face value. Admittedly, this amused Deceit more than it should. There was just something about Roman’s gullibility that was infinitely more charming than Patton’s blatant naiveté. But was that really it? Was the Creative Side that desperate for flattery—for an… ego boost?

“Lightbulb.” Deceit muttered to himself, tossing his book onto his desk as he tented his fingers and stared into the shadowy corners of his room. With the state Roman was in, an ego boost would’ve been exactly what he needed, and he’d never failed to pepper the Prince with false praises. Until now, that is. That would explain the stunned look on his face and the abundance of stuttering. And that cut that had suddenly appeared—had Deceit caused that?

Huffing in annoyance, the Dark Side leaned back in his chair, his head titled up towards the ceiling. He was tempted to ignore the situation entirely and let the others could deal with it. Then he remembered how they were all idiots and groaned.

Ugh, why did Roman have to show up and make this his problem?