Actions

Work Header

Paranoia

Chapter Text

title


Chapter One
The Aftermath


[TW: anxiety/panic attack, self-deprecating thoughts]

“Because I was one of them.” 

The second those words left his mouth, he regretted ever saying them. There was no relief, no reassurance, no rationality, no hope… just pure anxiety welling up in his chest as Thomas took a step back in shock. His face was unreadable, and even though Virgil knew Thomas likely had mixed emotions, his mind kept repeating one thing:

Fear. He’s afraid. He’s scared of you again. He thinks you never left. He thinks you’re one of them.

He needed to get out of here. The longer he stared at Thomas’s face, the more he regretted his decision, but no amount of regret could make the truth go away: Thomas knew, and Thomas was afraid. Afraid, afraid, afraid… With a deep breath and no explanation, Virgil sunk out and into the mind palace.

There was a moment where Virgil found himself in an electrolyte void, a metaphysical crossroads, the abyss between rooms. While there was a burning, aching feeling inside that made him just want to curl up into a ball and disappear, another part of him wanted to rush into Patton’s or Logan’s or even Roman’s room for reassurance. It had been ages since Virgil felt this rattled without outside stressors from Thomas’s life, and it was the first time that he had people other than… them… to comfort him.

He started shaking. This couldn’t be happening.

Virgil was more than prepared to make the safe decision of sinking into his own room, but before he could, he felt a certain tug at his metaphysical form. Before he knew it, he collapsed into the nothingness of the abyss… someone had summoned him. The only thing he knew for certain was that person wasn’t Thomas — the sides could always tell when Thomas summoned them. If another side summoned them, they wouldn’t know until they saw the side in question.

Perfect. Virgil simply added that to the list of his ever growing worries, his breath hitching in his chest as he traveled through the cerebric minefield of Thomas’s mind.

Out of instinct, Virgil closed his eyes. He didn’t want to see that scaly schemer or the mustached menace when he came to. In fact, he never wanted to see them again, period. The last thing he needed to hear was their taunting about how they were right all along… 

He held his breath as he felt the room solidify around him. There was no jolt of energy or fantastical inspiration, no sting to the chest or deodorant to the head… no increased stress. There was no emotion attached to the entrance at all, just a general atmosphere of scholarly focus and astute intelligence.

This was Logan’s room. It was just Logan’s room.

He was safe.

Virgil relaxed onto the stairs, pulling up his hood to mask his reddened face. His eyes remained tightly shut. Even though he knew he was safe, the last thing he wanted was for the others to see him tearing up. He'd had enough vulnerability today.

For a moment, there was silence, stillness. No one talked or even moved a muscle, or maybe that was just Virgil trying to block out his surroundings. 

Unfortunately, despite his best efforts, the sensations of reality still came through. 

“Virgil? Kiddo, are you okay?” Patton asked, his voice both uncomfortably close and agonizingly far. Hesitantly, Virgil shook his head, forcing his eyes to stay shut so his tears, his stupid feelings wouldn’t add to their concern.

“Virgil, if you are upset with today’s events, I can assure you that everything has been settled,” Logan said, his voice more distant than Patton’s. “No one is mad at you.”

Humph. 'Cause that sounds likely.

“If anything, we’re all mad at Remus! That stink-filled scoundrel!” Roman affirmed, cursing his brother's name with a tone of disgust and disdain.

Oh, Remus, that stinky bastard... He was one of the others. He was one of them. Thanks to Virgil deciding to open his big mouth, Thomas now associated Remus with him, and him with Deceit, all because Virgil thought he had finally gained the trust of Thomas and the others…

"He certainly is a character."

"And hopefully with today's lesson, we all know to take him less seriously, especially Thomas. Though, I hope you three learned a thing or two as well."

Well, whoop dee do! Look where putting his guard down got him! Alone and afraid and vulnerable and everything he didn’t want to be anymore. He was directly back at square one! Sooner or later Deceit would use this, use Thomas against them. Thomas would lose all of his friends and cheat his way through life to get ahead and Anxiety himself would be powerless to—

"Virgil?"

“He knows!”

Virgil covered his mouth almost as quickly as he had blurted his words. 

Did he really just say that? Oh, God...

Even squeezing his eyes shut seemed to be fruitless at this point. Tears were still escaping and gliding down his cheeks. Everything was crashing down, falling out of his control… even his own words! 

Why did I tell him?!

Roman’s voice broke through the static in his mind, “...I beg your pardon?”

“Thomas knows that I used to be… one of them.”

And with that, there was no more futile front to uphold; his facade had cracked, shattered, and dissipated. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't stop the storm of tears already raining down his face. Uneven trails of eye shadow painted his cheeks. That bitter feeling in his chest of loneliness and regret and loss just grew and grew as he clutched onto himself, desperately trying to feel smaller and smaller. He shook violently.

He hated this feeling. He hated it more than anything in the world.

Everything grew distant, even the sound of the other sides rushing towards him. It was a disorienting sensation, the sound of things getting louder but farther away. He heard the mutterings of the others, but everything was so muffled that individual words were lost on him. His brain desperately tried to process words, or anything at all, but all that came through was white noise. The slew of jumbled drivel just made everything that much more overwhelming.

Out of nowhere, a blanket of warmth surrounded him, someone’s arms, probably Patton’s. He didn’t care to look up. The sight of his bloodshot eyes was the one thing about his agony that, besides maybe his sweaty hands, the other sides hadn’t seen, and he wanted to keep it that way.

“Virgil,” Logan said, his voice loud and clear through the muffled nonsense of the room, "grab my hand.” 

Virgil glanced through his bangs at Logan’s outstretched hand. He furrowed his brow, staring at it for an uncomfortable amount of time. The only thing he could focus on was his pounding heart, his shaking shoulders, and Patton’s comforting presence. Everything else escaped his focus.

“Grounding,” Logan clarified. Virgil gave a small nod (Of course, he thought), shakily taking Logan’s hand. 

Logan’s grip was strong yet strangely delicate. Gently, Logan squeezed Virgil’s hand, and Virgil shakily squeezed Logan’s hand back. The two cycled through this call-and-response method for roughly two minutes, during which Virgil's mind seemed to ease. His grip became more firm, his breathing more rhythmic, his hearing more crystalline.

He was far from okay, but at least he could think properly.

As he hesitantly let go of Logan’s hand, Patton began to rub circles on his back. “You better now?” Virgil took a deep breath. He nodded.

“Better enough to… elaborate on things, perhaps?” Roman pressed.

“You don’t have to talk about anything right now,” Patton said, giving Virgil a light pat as he stood up. “I think it’s been a long day for everyone, so I say we all pull a Thomas and go right to bed, and, if we feel like it, we can discuss this a bit more tomorrow. Right, Logan?”

With those last two words, that uncertain stillness returned. It drenched the room in tension, tension that was evident even before Virgil forced his dry eyes on the scene. Seeing everything just made it more... palpable, as Logan would put it. There was Patton’s paternal smile that hardly hid his worry; Logan’s uneasy look into the distance, occasionally glancing back and forth between Virgil and the wall; and Roman’s conflicted stare that gave off both a reassuring and concerning impression.

“Sleeping would be... beneficial,” Logan conceded softly, looking down at the floor with a furrowed brow.

Patton turned his wavering smile to Virgil, nudging his shoulder. “C’mon, kiddo. Let’s get you some rest.”

As the two sunk out of Logan's room, Virgil couldn't help but give Logan one last concerned glance. Something was obviously bothering him, and when something bothered Logic, Thomas had a major problem. Hadn't they just solved one of those? Jesus...

There was no time to dwell on that, of course. The minute Patton hoisted him into the shiny nostalgia fest that was Morality's room, Virgil's eyes drooped closed. It felt like Patton had just taken the weight of the world off his shoulders, all his anxieties disappearing into the glittering light. For the first time in a long while, he was calm.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow he would explain himself, and then everything would be okay. At least, he hoped.

Chapter Text

roman


 Chapter Two

Mixed Emotions, Part 1


Thomas was optimistic in thinking that a good night’s sleep would help sort his thoughts on the… “Virgil situation.” Two nights of sleep didn’t do much good either, nor did three. Come the fourth night of failure (which included a less-than-helpful nightmare), Thomas realized he'd have to actually think through this dilemma instead of it magically being solved overnight… a dismal realization indeed.

Taking a deep breath, he sauntered into his living room. This situation obviously wasn’t going to go away, so he did what he usually did when there was a life distressing problem: he talked to himself. Er, well, not exactly. He talked to different aspects of himself, which in a way was talking to himself, he supposed… 

After an admittedly hasty intro, he expected his sides to jump up and exclaim their issues or interrogate him on his, as was the custom nowadays. Strangely enough, though, none of them popped up, even after minutes of Thomas awkwardly shifting like he'd lost his friend at a party. After a ridiculous (yet worrying) amount of time, he elected to inspecting each of their spots individually, but Roman wasn’t close to the TV, Patton wasn’t near the blinds, Logan wasn’t in front of the kitchen, and Virgil wasn’t on the stairs. 

He hated that he felt relief in Virgil’s absence.

Thomas returned to the center of his living room, his hands clasped behind his head. “Uh, guys? Can… Can we get like, a dialogue going? For the, you know, the video, and like, my own personal well being?” he said, his voice airy with desperation.

Finally, there was a response, proof that at least one of his sides was there: Patton’s voice. “Sorry, kiddo!” he said, “We’re having some, ah, technical difficulties.” The words came from his spot, and that was undeniably his voice, but oddly enough Patton himself still wasn’t there in person.

Thomas furrowed his brow, gingerly looking in the direction of the blinds. “Technical difficulties? Patton, what’re you talking about?” 

“Well, uh… We - oh dear, how do I phrase this? - uh, we can’t rise up.”

“Wait, you can’t rise up? Like, ‘come in here’ rise up? Why’s that?”

“That’s not exactly factual,” came the sudden voice of Logan, “We can functionally, quote, ‘rise up’-”

“But in this state?” Roman cut in, “It’d only add to your ever growing list of reasons why you don’t understand yourself!”

Thomas performed some impressive aerobics to keep himself from tumbling over after being... surprised, to put it kindly, at the sudden input from Logan and Roman. He heaved, planting himself firmly on the floor. “...Inside voices, please."

Logan sighed, muttering to himself, “This is egregiously inefficient. Thomas,” he said in a louder voice, “are you currently experiencing any… cognitive dissonance about anything?”

“Little words, Logan,” Roman chimed.

Another sigh. “Do you feeling any mixed feelings about anything? Perhaps the callback and the wedding, still?”

“Anything that The Duke has said recently?” Patton said.

“The fact that Virgil used to be a dark side?” Roman offered. 

Thomas choked on his breath at the suggestion, earning yet another disgruntled huff from Logan’s corner of the room. Patton, too, gave his own sigh, though his seemed to be more out of disappointment than exasperation. Roman's spot was uncharacteristically quiet.

Thomas immediately cringed at their reactions, waving his hands around every which way as he tried to formulate some sort of intelligent response. He knew they’d figure it out sooner or later (they were him after all), but for the issue to actually be said aloud made his chest tighten uncomfortably. 

“H-How does that relate to why you can’t rise up?” Thomas eventually sputtered, ever aware of his increasing heart rate. He knew it was a sign of anxiety, and anything concerning that side of him just made him sick to his stomach.

“I have a hypothesis,” Logan said. “Your mixed emotions on Virgil are causing us to react in ways we normally wouldn’t. Thus, in order to try to understand the chaos, you’ve unconsciously… switched us around.”

“Switched you guys around…?” Thomas rubbed his eyes, taking a deep, deep breath. Just how messed up was he right now? “Look, you guys are using very cryptic language about things that I barely understand-”

“I personally thought I was quite clear.”

“Clear as mud,” Patton commented, complete with uneasy chuckle.

“Can you just, show me?” Thomas interrupted, “Maybe? Please? ...Please.”

“Well, okay, but only ‘cause ya said, ‘please’!”

“Patton, wait-”

There was a sudden gush of air to Thomas’s left, filling Thomas with a sense of euphoria. Never did he think he would be happy with one of his sides popping up to point out his flawed thinking, but right now, that was the only thing he wanted. With a grin on his face, Thomas turned towards Patton, ready to finally get to the crux of this issue…

...but, apparently, that was optimistic.

Instead of Patton, Thomas saw Logan standing in Patton’s place. Well, it looked like Logan at least, what with the well-kept hair, neat black polo, straight striped tie… The entire outfit was up to date, so theoretically, he could rule out Deceit. He had to say, though, Logan wasn’t one for exaggerated movements, and curiously, this pseudo-Logan was posed doing jazz hands with his mouth open in an agape smile. 

He was acting strangely like...

“Ta-da!” 

...like Patton.

Just like that, it clicked. 

As Thomas continued to give a confused stare, Patton (at least, he thought it was Patton) decided to try and ease the tension. “Look, Thomas! Instead of your fun-loving father figment, I’m your book-loving brainy bro!” he said, pointing to his chest with his thumb. Thomas had a hard time processing that someone who looked like Logan would act so… theatrically. His logical side wasn’t frivolous like that, at least not most of the time.

“Patton? Is that… really you?” Thomas asked, continuing to gawk at his moral side.

“As sure as pigs can fly!” Patton said. “Say, would this be easier for you if I stood in Logan’s spot? Totally to help you out and not just because I want to stand there." The more he spoke, the easier it was to believe he was Patton, regardless of who he looked like.

“That won’t be necessary.”

Another gush of air hit Thomas, on the right side of his body this time. For that split second of blissful, blissful ignorance, Thomas expected to see an irritated Patton-lookalike pop up. It only made sense that they had simply swapped places, right? 

He was in for a rude awakening when he saw that familiar black and purple hoodie positioned authoritatively in Logan’s spot.

“Virgil!” Thomas shouted instinctively, cowering away before his mind caught up with the situation.

“No need to worry, Thomas. It’s just me, Logan,” his logical side said calmly. “This is the ‘switching around’ I was referring to. We seem to have shapeshifted into another side, but, for some reason, we can’t shapeshift back, or at all.” Logan went to adjust his glasses, just out of habit, but instead grabbed the air in front of his face. He gingerly crossed his arms across his chest.

“So… you’re stuck like this?”

“Until we can sort out your feelings, yes.”

Thomas bit the inside of his cheek. Of course he wasn’t too keen on sharing the details of the “Virgil situation”, but even if he wanted to, he wouldn’t know where to start. There were so many things, so many feelings he had that he wasn’t sure how to properly articulate. But even then, even if he knew what to say, would they think differently of him afterwards? And to think, he was so ready to do this just moments ago...

He forced himself back to the present, seeing both Logan and Virgil (Patton and Logan, he reminded himself) looking at him expectantly. “Well, won’t that be easier if we had everyone here?” Thomas posed, gesturing widely to Roman’s spot.

Before Thomas could even move a muscle, Roman spoke from within the mind palace, “I’m perfectly happy Inside Out-ing this one, thank you!” 

“But Roman-” Thomas started.

“No further questions!”

“We’re… not in the courtroom anymore, but okay.”

Logan turned towards Roman’s spot, fidgeting restlessly with Virgil’s jacket strings. “Roman, Thomas believes it would be beneficial if you were present. I understand your reservations about everything, but this is for Thomas’s sake. Can you please entertain his concerns and come out here?”

“Well, Thomas isn’t always right, now is he, Logan? We’ve proven that countless times!”

“Hurtful,” Thomas said.

“But not exactly wrong,” Patton added.

“Patton!”

“Well, I’m just tryna be honest, kiddo.”

“Patton…”

“Sorry.”

“Just because he thinks I need to be there doesn’t mean I should,” Roman continued hostilely, “You’ve seen me! Given everything that’s happened, surely seeing me would only make matters worse!”

“I literally - not figuratively, literally - look like the source of Thomas’s cognitive dissonance. Your circumstance objectively can’t worsen the situation.”

“It won’t help it either! I want to help Thomas, of course I do, but how can I when I’m a sheep in wolf’s clothing?!”

As Roman and Logan continued their squabbling, Thomas couldn’t help himself from glancing over at the stairs. Had all this chaos really happened because of one simple sentence Virgil said? Was Thomas overthinking it? He couldn’t be… right? It was a complicated situation, and that’s why he needed all of his sides here… all the non-dark ones, anyways.

Suddenly, an idea popped into Thomas’s head. He drowned out the background bickering as he turned his attention towards the television. Hesitantly, he started to raise his arm in the direction of Roman’s spot.

Patton caught Thomas out of the corner of his eye. “Uh, kiddo, I’d rethink forcing Roman out here before he’s ready,” he cut in, but it was already too late. 

Up rose the figure of Remus, the Dark Side of Creativity. 

Remus, or Roman rather, looked horrified upon meeting the gaze of the other sides. He stood frozen in his spot, only his eyes moving as they darted back and forth between Logan and Patton. Thomas had to admit, it was strange seeing The Duke’s face so full of fear when he typically donned a mischievous smirk, but Thomas had to remind himself that this was Roman, and Roman was in no way happy with this turn of events.

“It's a little like looking into a funhouse mirror, but instead of a giant head, or, like, long legs and a tiny torso… it shows you… everything you don't want to be.”

There was an uneasy silence as Roman managed to gain control of himself. He awkwardly gripped the edge of Remus’s flamboyant black coat, not making eye contact with any of the other sides. Thomas could see Roman’s hands shaking ever so slightly as the creative side desperately tried to maintain a confident demeanor, but it was obvious he was ill at ease.

Thomas just couldn’t stop staring at Roman. Maybe he was trying to apologize through the pity and regret that filled his eyes? Quite honestly, he wasn't even sure.

“I now see why you were hesitant to join us," Thomas trailed off, clicking his tongue anxiously.

“Roman? You okay?” Patton asked.

“Of course I’m okay,” Roman replied, giving a chuckle that, despite his best efforts, was drenched in nervous energy. “I mean, why wouldn’t I be? It’s not like my worst nightmare has come true or anything! Next thing you know, I’ll be blabbering about butts and obnoxiously smacking deodorant in Logan’s ear!”

Logan cocked his head to the side, unhinging his jaw. “Please, don’t.”

“But that's the thing, Roman: you’re not Remus!" Patton assured, jumping on the balls of his feet in a childish way that made Logan wince.

“I might as well be!” Roman shouted before anyone could even think of replying. The prince clutched his hair in distress, but he quickly let go as he noticed grey streaks in the front. He let out a frustrated groan.

“But you're nothing like The Duke!” Patton interjected. 

“Exactly!” Thomas readily agreed. “He’s… He’s the Scar to your Mufasa.”

“I must say, I appreciate the Disney reference, but that's... not what I mean." Roman turned his eyes towards the floor. "There has to be... some reason to why I’m stuck as… him.”

“Well, I think it’s like Logan said," Patton noted, "Thomas switched us around without thinkin’ to deal with his mixed emotions on Virgil.”

“Roman has a point. There has to be a reason we’re stuck the way we are," Logan added. He balled his hand into a fist as he once again realized that he couldn't adjust his glasses with no glasses on his face.

“We just have to find that out,” Patton finished.

“And I’m perfectly content with doing that away from the cameras, thank you very much!” Roman announced. Normally such a statement would be decorated with dramatic movements, but Roman looked like he just wanted to duck out and not return until this nonsense was over. The situation was taking an obvious toll on him, and the last thing Thomas wanted was for this to be the straw that broke the prince's back.

“Roman, please,” Thomas said, pursing his lips as he thought. “I need you here. I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, not at all, but if I have you three, it’ll make this a lot easier.”

Thomas watched as Roman's eyes darted around the room. They drifted between Patton's reassuring smile, Logan's expectant stare, and Thomas's hopeful gaze. After a few agonizing seconds, he breathed out a simple, “Okay." 

“Thank you." Thomas smiled at Roman, but it soon faded as he remembered the task at hand. "I just… don’t even know where to start.”

“Well, just start from the beginning! Tell us what happened and maybe we can untangle your mind a little,” Patton encouraged, his fatherly smile clashing with the rest of Logan's features.

Next thing Thomas knew, all three of his sides were staring at him. He was so ready to explain every last detail before any of them showed up, but now? This was the last thing he wanted to do. There was a voice in the back of his head screaming that he was going to disappoint them, and no matter how much he tried to drown it out, it persisted.

He didn’t want to think that Virgil was actually against him, that Virgil had tricked the other sides, that Virgil’s growth was only a ploy. He didn't want any of these feelings.

He didn’t want to be scared of his anxiety again.

Thomas closed his eyes and took a deep breath, clasping his hands together as tight as he possibly could. His heart was beating out of his chest. He knew he had to do it, and he had to do it now.

So, he exhaled, opening his eyes.

Here we go.

Chapter Text

logang


 Chapter Three

Mixed Emotions, Part 2


[TW: self-deprecation, depictions of gore (dream), panic]

Virgil groggily blinked his eyes open only to immediately close them as a bright, shimmering light attacked him. He was still in Patton’s room, that much he knew for certain. For how long? He had no clue. Gingerly, he peeked his eyes open again, glancing around the room. Nothing shifted since he fell asleep... Well, at least he didn’t think so. He couldn't have been out for too terribly long… 

As he sat upright, he noticed a blanket fall from his torso. Patton must’ve put it there, he figured. On the subject of that goofball, where is he? I didn’t see him anywhere… 

“Patton?” Virgil called. No response. “Hey, Pat? H-How long was I out? Is Thomas okay?” Still nothing.

Virgil took in a sharp breath. Why wasn’t he here? It was so unlike Patton to leave a side alone while they were in pain, and Virgil was very much still shoulders deep in emotional turmoil. He jerked into a standing position, whipping his head to scan the room. Not in the kitchen, not in his spot, not on the stairs… No where!

“Patton?! Where are you, bud?” Virgil shouted. When there was no immediate response, Virgil groaned, sinking out.

He instinctively popped into Logan’s room, as Patton seemed to spend a lot of time there. Why Patton, the core of Thomas’s emotions, liked to stay in a place so devoid of feeling, Virgil never figured out. When he arrived, Virgil saw Patton and Roman huddled in the kitchen corner having a hushed, hostile argument. Patton never got into an argument unless he was extremely passionate about some moral question, and Roman only seemed to argue with Logan and Virgil himself… 

Thomas had to be feeling pretty messed up for this to happen.

“Roman? Pat? ...Everything okay?”

Both sides jumped, looking at Virgil like they were deer caught in the headlights. “Woah! You really… you really scared us there, frie… geh, uh, kiddo,” Patton said, straightening the cat hoodie tied around his shoulders.

“A little warning next time for when you decide to apparate in on us, okay, Vol-dour-mort?” Roman requested, shifting his attention to his crooked sash and unkempt hair. Typical Roman, Virgil thought.

“Got it,” Virgil breathed. He couldn’t help himself from darting his eyes between the two sides. They were just fighting. Something wasn’t right. “So, what’s going on here?”

“Nothing, kiddo, just having a conversation on what we should do about Thomas’s-”

“Logan’s acting all hunky-dory with the dark sides!” Roman cut in suddenly, theatrically gesturing upwards with a scoff. He turned around quite dramatically and crossed his arms, refusing to face Logan’s spot in the room. Patton raised his brow.

Virgil, on the other hand, choked on his breath. “W-What?!” he sputtered, staring wide-eyed at Roman, who glanced at the anxious side over his shoulder. Any sense of caution Virgil had about his friends’ behavior flew out the window. He knew something was up with Logan!

“Well, it’s not quite like that-” Patton started, but was interrupted by Virgil’s panic-induced tirade,

“What the hell?! Why is he - what?! Logan, with them? You’ve got to be kidding me. This can’t be happening...”

Patton took in a deep breath, taking a paternal stance with his hands on his hips. “Now, as much as I don’t like their influence over Thomas, they’re still apart of him. Maybe if we just listened-”

“Pat, I’m sorry, but you just don’t get it!” Virgil interrupted again, his tone full of dread, “If Logan of all sides thinks it’s a good idea to start listening to... the others, then that means Thomas is going to start giving in to their bad influences.”

“We listened to you, didn’t we?” Patton calmly responded, and Virgil softened considerably. “You just wanted to protect Thomas. Maybe the others are the same way.” Roman rolled his eyes.

Virgil stopped momentarily, simply staring straight through Patton with unblinking eyes. They don’t know who he used to be, what he used to do… 

“That’s… different.”

“Exactly! Even if we thought otherwise, Virgil has always been the anti-hero, while the other dark sides have been nothing but villainous antagonists!” Roman readily agreed, spinning around to face the moral side. “It’s cinema, Patton. Which is why we have to stop Logan, right?” Patton looked at the floor with a dispirited expression, huffing as he crossed his arms. Roman glanced at Virgil before putting a comforting hand on Morality’s shoulder, muttering, “You can’t save everyone.”

Virgil’s chest tightened. As much as he wanted to help Patton like Patton had helped him, there were things he needed to deal with first.

“Where are they?” Virgil asked.

“Well, when I exited stage left, they were still in Thomas’s apartment.”

“Thanks, Roman.” Immediately after, Virgil hastily left, and the other two sides watched as he sunk out of the room.

After they were sure Virgil was long gone, ‘Roman’ donned a mischievous smirk, turning his gaze to ‘Patton’, who stared back with a malicious glint in his eyes.

“You know, for someone whose whole thing is deception, you really think you’d be better at acting,” ‘Roman’ quipped tauntingly, grinning like a cheshire cat.

“Quiet,” ‘Patton’ said, shoving ‘Roman’ away. “I saw an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, and it worked, no doubt. Now, tell me why you decided to let Virgil have the chance to remedy this situation?”

“Well, you said you wanted him out of our hair, Snake for Brains, and now he’s out! Besides, Thomas won’t even recognize that ball of panic with the state he’s in. I think the words you’re looking for are, ‘Wow, Remus, you’re the greatest!’”

“Oh, I will totally say that… unless everything goes as planned.”


Here we go.

Thomas lifted his head as he let out a shaky breath, wiping his hands on his jeans. Was it bad that he could feel his heart beating in his throat? Even with his ever increasing apprehension, though, he knew he had to do this.

It was now or never.

“Well, when the rest of you left after Remus’s… debut… Virgil was still there, and... h-he was pretty upset with what happened,” Thomas started, glancing upwards to help him recall the memory.

“I-I just… I'm a little disappointed in myself. I thought that I would be able to… protect you from them.”

“Uh, the Dark Sides?”

“The others. I-I thought - I thought I knew how to handle them.”

“Oh, well, I-I think we're all trying to figure them out for now. It'll take some time to figure everything out.”

“Yeah, but I should know better.”

“Isn't that kind of unfair? Why should you be held to a different standard than any other side?”

“...Because I was one of them.”

Those words rang through Thomas’s head, pounding to the rhythm of his racing heart. I was one of them. I was one of them. I was one of them. He couldn’t help but step back, as if those words were bound to harm him if he stayed put. 

Virgil was a dark side. Virgil was a dark side. It made sense with his anxiety’s antagonistic past, he supposed, but Thomas couldn’t imagine Virgil being lumped in with... the others. Virgil never went to the lengths of Deceit or the Duke to get what he wanted - well, at least, Thomas didn’t think so. Besides, even if he did, Virgil was better now. His growth made up for everything he did in the past, right?

He’d actually grown, right?

...Right?

Thomas belatedly realized he was still filming and put his thoughts on hold as he recorded the outro. Even so, he couldn’t exactly keep his mind straight (could he ever?) about the whole situation. He turned off the camera. Against Logan’s wishes, he didn’t go to bed, but instead plopped himself on the couch and tried to develop some sort of coherent thought on the matter… 

…Yeah, that didn’t work. All he had was abstract emotions that were muddled at best. What he did know was that he was shaking, he was teary-eyed... and that he had never felt more uncertain about anything in his life. 

“I honestly don’t know if I could tell you what I was feeling,” Thomas said solemnly, poking the inside of his cheek with his tongue. “I didn’t know if I was scared because Virgil was, or if I was actually scared of him, or if I was even scared at all.”

“Was that the entire conversation?” Roman asked, his brow raised.

Thomas shrugged. “For the most part, yeah." He noticed that all of the prince's movements were calculated to be as regal as possible, to be as jarringly different from his brother as he could be. Both Patton and Thomas gave him a sad smile.

Patton turned his attention to Thomas, his somber look turning into a curious gaze. “Well, has anything happened since then?” Patton asked.

“I mean, not really,” Thomas answered with a sigh. “I’ve kind of been… avoiding Virgil? Heh…” He turned his eyes towards the ground, opting to straighten his shirt instead of looking his sides in the eye. “The only other thing I can even kind of connect to the situation is this… weird nightmare I had last night.”

“Nightmare?” Logan asked.

Nightmare?” Roman echoed, his face scrunched up in disbelief.

Thomas raised his head, giving Roman in particular a rather confused look. “You guys are apart of me; can you not, like, see my dreams?”

“That’s… complicated,” Patton admitted.

“How well can you remember it?” Logan prompted.

Thomas cringed as the nightmare trickled into his mind, threatening to replay at a moment’s notice. “Pretty vividly,” he sighed.

Both Logan and Patton glanced over at Roman, who held his hands up defensively. Logan sighed. Once more, he attempted to push up his glasses only to poke himself in the face. He huffed at this cruel fate, shifting his attention to Thomas once more as he continued,

“Thomas, most people have anywhere from two to seven dreams per night. Some scientists believe that these dreams have no purpose, while others think they are vital to all aspects of your health. Regardless, Patton and I are inadvertently responsible for many of these dreams, as we try to sort through the events and emotions of the day while your body rejuvenates. Roman, and…” Logan clicked his tongue, “...Remus, are responsible for your dreams during REM sleep - the deepest stage of the sleep cycle. These are the dreams you remember most vividly.”

“That doesn’t really solve anything, though. It just means Remus made a nightmare for me,” Thomas stated matter-of-factually.

“Exactly!” Roman exclaimed.

“Not exactly,” Logan countered. “REM sleep dreams are controlled by both you and Remus. And given the situation, it is entirely possible you were the one that made Thomas have this troubling dream.”

“But I would never hurt Thomas in that way,” Roman hostilely insisted. The garnish on Remus’s coat scratched the TV screen as Roman erratically flailed his hands. “I would never make him have a nightmare! Every nightmare Thomas has ever had, Remus created! Not me!”

Logan appeared unaffected by Roman’s outburst, instead calmly turning to Thomas and asking, “Thomas, can you please describe your dream to us?” 

Thomas shifted uncomfortably, crossing and uncrossing his arms. “I-I would rather not. I, uh, don’t like thinking about it...” he trailed off.

“See?!” Roman cried incredulously, “I refuse to believe that I would do anything to make Thomas react like that!” Roman once more flung his arm, and in the process accidentally forced everyone to view Thomas's curséd nightmare.

As soon as the dream started, Thomas was knocked to his knees, any and all air escaping his lungs. The grotesque, muggy atmosphere made him unable to catch his breath. It took all his effort to do something, anything to get even a quick gasp, but it was as if his lungs didn’t exist. His heart started to race faster and faster as his tunneling vision only added to his stress. He needed to calm down. He needed to breathe, but he wasn’t allowed the luxury.

Soon enough, he was surrounded by a dark void, choking on his own air. A strange, mauve light appeared in the distance. The light moved slowly at first, almost delicately, shining nicely against the pitch black abyss. Thomas was convinced it was there to help, but once it was in his line of sight, it bolted towards him at an impossible speed. Everything - light, sound, even gravity - warped around it. He wanted to run, disappear if he could, but all of his energy was focused on trying to breathe.

Just before the light reached Thomas himself, it crashed into an invisible wall directly in front of him, causing the barrier to shatter into millions of glass shards. He stuttered backwards.

As the shards fell to the ground, Thomas finally succeeded in inhaling a proper breath. His chest heaved as he, in his woozy state, saw the glass shards stick to each other like water and start to float upward. They configured themselves into four strange shapes, humanoid shapes. People slowly appeared underneath them.

His sides.

At first, he was elated to see them - maybe they could get out of this! - but the more clear they became, the more he realized it wasn’t a good thing they were here.

The first one he could see clearly was Logan. Remus’s ninja star bore deep into his face, an alien navy blue substance seeping from the wound. His shirt was tattered and torn with his tie completely missing. The word “unwanted” was scrawled across his forehead. Thomas didn’t look closely enough to see if it was written in marker or blood.

Roman came next. Thomas could hardly recognize him without his normal princely attire: the only way to identify him was his bright red sash that covered a large gash to his chest. He was shackled in almost every place possible and actively fighting against the restraints. His sword lay in pieces in front of him. Strangely, Thomas was drawn to the growing peach fuzz on his upper lip.

Patton showed up after. Under his broken glasses were grey and ivory tear streaks that had stained his face. His eyes were permanently bloodshot. The poor side was shivering, his fingertips almost purple, but his cat hoodie was nowhere to be found. Upon opening his mouth, Thomas could see several of Patton’s teeth missing.

Last was the man of the hour, the embodiment of anxiety himself: Virgil. He held his hands to his ears. Thomas wanted to think he was muttering to himself, but it was hard to tell with the yellow snake wrapped around his neck, intently covering his mouth. The morning star The Duke held mere days ago lay in Virgil’s lap. A buzzard sat eerily on the end of it. Much like Patton, Virgil too appeared to be crying, but any tears he had were the same mauve color as the mysterious light.

Thomas lurched forward, reaching out to them, but before he could even think about taking a step, something grabbed him by the arm.

“Ah-ah-ah, Thomas,” warned a voice from behind him. “Have you learned nothing?”

Thomas spun around, his breathing thin and sporadic. A hooded otherworldly figure stood mere feet away from him, gripping his arm tighter every second. Even in the dim lighting, Thomas could very clearly see its stitched mouth, which was twisted into a malicious smirk that revealed its sharpened teeth.

“Look at them,” the figure said, its voice oddly familiar yet strangely foreign. “Look at what you’ve done to them. Unsure, insecure, scared, isolated…” Thomas turned back to look at his sides, cringing at the mere sight of them. “You can help them, you know. You just have to give in.” 

That all too familiar piano tune played in the distance. Thomas jumped, jolting his head from side to side. 

No Deceit in sight… just this strange figure.

“Why don’t you have this figured out? Will you ever have it figured out?” it continued in a harsh, taunting whisper. “You’re letting them down, Thomas. Letting yourself down. Why aren’t you better? Why aren’t you over this already? Maybe you’re just destined to stay in the past, stay here, with them.” 

The figure once more motioned towards the sides. They all stood up in a clunky, unnatural manner, like puppets on strings. Thus started their slow, creepy journey towards Thomas. Their emotions of anger and disappointment and abandonment and fear all hit Thomas like a brick. He shook violently, trying to step back, but the figure kept its grip tight on Thomas's arm.

“They can’t help you anymore, Thomas. They haven’t helped you in a long time. They’re not you. You’re not you. How can you even begin to trust yourself when you don’t even understand yourself?

Give in.”

Thomas wanted to retaliate, but when he tried to speak, no words came out. He couldn’t do anything but focus on his sides - himself - suffering while they inched closer and closer every second. As they approached, he could see how broken they were in much greater detail. Was this really all his fault?

Suddenly, he noticed something that made his heart stop, made everything go in slow motion.

Their eyes were yellow.

The dream sequence ended abruptly. Thomas was breathing heavily, his eyes locked on the ground, slowly realizing that he was no longer trapped in that suffocating nothingness. Even still, he didn’t want to look up and see the broken, zombified versions of his sides staring at him. He somehow found the will to lift his head.

It took a second for Thomas to readjust to the whole ‘forced shapeshifting’ situation. While it wasn’t exactly out of place for Virgil to be wide-eyed and short of breath, it was rather strange to see Logan holding himself in comfort, squeezing his arms as if to remind himself this was the real world. It was just Logan and Patton, though, and they regained their bearings relatively quickly.

Roman, on the other hand, was a different can of worms. 

Long after Patton and Logan had gathered themselves, Roman was still staring at the ground, unblinking, his face drenched in disbelief. “But that wasn’t… I didn’t… I would never...” he muttered to himself, pointing methodically at the air in front of him as if that would help him collect his thoughts.

A minute passed. And then another. Another. Any sense of denial he had about the situation was uprooted and thrown far, far away.

Thomas darted his eyes between the three sides, slowly leaning towards Patton. “Is… Is he okay?”

Patton cringed slightly, staring at Roman for a moment before answering. “E-uh, I’m not sure, kiddo, but I’d bargain for no. Ya see, you only really remember the dreams your Creativity makes,” he explained.

“Your sides, on the other hand, only remember the dreams we had a hand in making,” Logan finished.

Finally, after a silence, Roman spoke, causing attention to turn on him. For the first time, however, it seemed that was the last thing he wanted.

“I did that,” he whispered. “I made Thomas have a nightmare.” He blinked rapidly, flinging his eyes around before settling them on Thomas. He mumbled something under his breath.

“What was that, Roman?” Thomas asked, a tinge of nervousness in his otherwise patient tone.

Roman sucked in a breath, his normally boisterous voice so small. “That’s why you put me as Remus.”

Thomas threw his arms up in exasperation. “But Roman, I don’t think you're Remus! We’ve been over this!” he said in a raised voice.

“Yeah! Just because you did one thing that Remus usually does, doesn’t make you Remus,” Patton agreed.

Stubbornly, Roman crossed his arms, decidedly fixating his eyes on the wall. “If Thomas switched us around because of how we’re acting, then it does. I’m acting like Remus. I’m... becoming Remus.”

After that, silence persisted. It was only then that Thomas noticed Roman’s eyes were watering. Of course, being the side he was, Roman refused to let a single tear fall, but it was heartbreaking nonetheless. Behind The Duke’s villainous mustache was the caring side who did everything he could to bring light into Thomas’s life, and that side was upset because he had failed in doing so.

Patton, probably more so than the others, stared at Roman, his brow furrowed in concern. “Are you okay, Roman?” he eventually prompted.

“This isn’t about me, this is about Thomas!” Roman shot back, still refusing to look at the others. “Didn’t we just learn that we need to listen to Thomas more often?”

“That’s just it,” Patton said with a pensive timbre. “Maybe Thomas’s emotions are based on what each of us individually are feeling.”

“But, we aren’t individuals, Patton. Us having such complex reactions to something so minor is… unlikely,” Logan pointed out. “Besides,” he added smugly, “I don’t have feelings.”

“Falsehood.”

Logan snapped his head towards Patton, his eyes livid with all the emotions he supposedly didn't have. “I beg your pardon?” he asked sharply.

“Sorry, I’ve always wanted to say that! ...What was I saying…?” Patton muttered, staring blankly into space for a moment as Logan rolled his eyes. “Oh! See, all of us represent core pieces of Thomas’s personality, and then some. Since Thomas is both empathetic and emotional, it makes sense that even his logic is influenced by his feelings, right?”

Logan couldn't help but give a crude chuckle. “I’m sorry, Patton, but my duties are an area where you aren’t concerned. I can’t be influenced by mere feelings. I’m an innate, integral part of Thomas’s mind that helps him function and understand his perception of the world.”

“So is Virgil,” Patton mentioned, “and he’s pretty emotional.”

Logan blinked, cocking his head to the side as he slowly looked down to his attire, Virgil's attire, Anxiety's attire. Roman, too, appeared to consider this as Patton continued, “Here, to ease everyone down this rabbit hole, I’ll take the first spin on the Wheel of Emotions. I think that the past is in the past. Virgil has shown time and time again that he has changed for the better. Even if he was a dark side, he isn’t anymore.”

Logan shifted, shaking his head slightly before returning his gaze to Patton. “We… can’t be sure about that.”

“Well, why can’t we?”

“The dark sides are merely parts of Thomas that he doesn’t want to accept. They don’t work against him; they simply have… poor ways of trying to get what they think is best for him. And it’s Thomas himself that categorizes these sides, so if he deems a side immoral, hazardous, or hindering, they get put in one box. Given Thomas’s reaction to this situation, Virgil may be considered a dark side on principle alone.”

“But that's... not fair to Virgil,” Patton mused.

Logan pursed his lips. “There’s... actually some merit to it,” he said softly.

“There is?” Thomas interjected.

“Thomas, state a concern you have about Virgil.”

“...Uh, he’s still working with the dark sides?”

Logan turned to Patton. “We have no evidence to support that claim, but we also don’t have sufficient evidence to dispute it. Virgil could simply be one of Deceit’s pawns. Since Deceit typically blocks out information that Thomas would rather not know or think about, it is entirely possible.”

“But... we still don’t know,” Thomas piped up.

“That doesn’t rule out the possibility.”

Roman broke his pensive stare, looking towards Logan as if to confirm his words. “And if we accepted Virgil, someone that Thomas categorizes as a dark side-” (“That’s TBD,” Thomas cut in.) “-who’s to say we won’t soften up to the other dark sides? If Thomas does that,” Roman paused, turning to Patton with a melancholic look, “he won’t be the person you want him to be, Patton, that we all want him to be.”

“In a sense, it has already started. Thomas entertained Deceit’s beliefs not too long ago,” Logan mentioned, crossing his arms.

“It’s all downhill from here,” Roman said as his bloodshot eyes once more glimpsed The Duke’s outfit with pure desolation.

Logan pursed his lips again, looking towards Patton with some semblance of regret in his eyes. “Perhaps it’s safer to exercise caution, and assume that once a dark side, always a dark side.”

“No!” Patton shouted forcefully, taking the others aback. He took in a shaky breath. “Logan, how can you say that? To imply that Virgil is harmful to Thomas because he used to hurt him undermines how hard Virgil has worked to change!”

“But that’s not just in the past,” Logan countered. “Take the debacle we had with The Duke, for example. Virgil kept taking Remus’s contributions far too seriously, causing Thomas to grow incredibly worried and lose sleep.”

“And so did I. Does that make me a dark side?” Patton took a deep breath. “Logan, Roman, everything you just said is full of these nasty little things called logical fallacies.”

Logan couldn’t stop himself from giving another eye roll. “And what do you know about logical fallacies, Patton?” he questioned, his jaw unhinged in annoyance.

“Well, saying that Virgil can only be categorized as a 'dark side' or 'not a dark side is' a false dilemma, making a problem by saying there are only two options, when there are more than just that. This sitch with Virge is much more complicated than two tiny little boxes. If it wasn’t, well, we wouldn’t all be here right now! Also, Roman was right in saying that things would go downhill if we continued to accept Virgil, because that’s a slippery slope to go down! We accepted Virgil because he worked to change. I don't see the others doing that any time soon.”

As Patton talked, Logan’s stern demeanor melted away. For a short period of time, he even looked vaguely impressed before his expression became downtrodden and unreadable.

“But what Lo said about Virgil’s intentions is true: we don’t really know them. For all we know, he could be working for Deceit and the other dark sides,” Roman said.

“Appeal to ignorance,” Patton stated. “Yeah, we don’t know that, but that doesn’t really prove anything. Just shows that we don’t know fo’ sho.” Patton turned to Logan, his expression a mix between serious and sympathetic. “And we can’t just assume, ‘once a dark side, always a dark side.’ That’s a hasty generalization, because of the false dilemma. That’s like a fallacy within a fallacy, how cool is that?”

Even after a logic-induced spiel, Patton could not look more unlike Logan. He smiled widely at the other sides, his eyes bright with pride.

“Wow, Patton. That was... amazing,” Thomas said, beaming.

“How did you know all that, padre?” Roman asked, an impressed smile teasing his lips.

“Necktie!” came Patton's chipper reply, pointing to Logan’s striped tie around his neck.

“Fascinating,” Roman breathed.

In his corner of the room, Logan appeared to be having some sort of existential crisis. Much like Roman moments earlier, he stared into the distance, face full of unexpected bewilderment. If he didn't know better, Thomas would assume that Logan was actually Virgil. "But... I... That can't be."

“Logic can be flawed sometimes, Logan,” Patton assured. "It's alright."

“But I can’t be flawed,” Logan said. “If I let emotion cloud my thinking, my judgement… Thomas’s judgement… Then I’m no voice of reason. I’m unreliable. I’m… useless.”

“That’s a cognitive distortion,” Thomas said. “Magnifying. You’re turning a few mistakes you made and making them into a bigger deal than they actually are. Everyone makes mistakes. Every side makes mistakes, even you, Logan. And that’s okay.” 

Logan furrowed his brow, looking at Thomas in disbelief. “You remember my lesson on cognitive distortions? That was over two years ago.”

“That’s because I retain your lessons. They’re useful, just like you.” Thomas smiled.

With perfect timing as always, Roman snapped his fingers, a wide grin spreading on his face. “That’s it!” he shouted.

Logan sighed, rubbing his temples. “I don’t need you to inflame my feeli... to make this turn of events worse.” He glanced towards the floor.

“As much as I would love to, that’s not it. I had an epiphany!”

“Somehow, I fear that’s worse.”

Ignoring Logan, Roman excitedly turned to Thomas. It was the first time all day Roman looked even remotely happy, that beautiful light finally returning to his eyes. Thomas didn't know how much he appreciated it until it had faded. “Thomas, we are switched around because of your mixed up feelings, correct? And because of these jank emotions, we’ve been acting a bit, out of character, if you will. Think about it: I don’t usually give you nightmares, Logan doesn’t typically make mistakes, and Patton usually doesn’t, eh… have the answers.”

“That,” Logan started, but his sharp demeanor faded quickly, “...actually makes sense. As much as I hate to admit it, I have been feeling… anxious, since I turned into Virgil. Perhaps I’ve fallen into Virgil’s habit of overthinking.”

“And I’ve let my fear and sorrow about Virgil’s situation control how I make your dreams. Instead of a pleasant fantasy about some smokin’ guy or the best pizza you've ever tasted... I made a nightmare, something Remus usually does.” Roman paused, regaining his composure before returning his gaze to the center of the room. "And for that, Thomas, I apologize greatly. I should never use the powers at my disposal to hurt you.”

“It’s okay, Roman. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, remember?” Thomas smiled at his creativity, and Creativity smiled back.

“Ooh, do me! Do me! Why am I Logan?” Patton exclaimed, enthusiastically pointing to himself.

Logan took a deep breath, seemingly to gather courage. “In this situation… it’s only logical to show sympathy for Virgil.”

“Is that why I feel so bad about having these feelings? Because Patton accepts Virgil for who he is while the rest of us are still questioning his intentions?” Thomas asked, looking around for confirmation.

“I believe so,” Logan answered, nodding to himself.

“Maybe instead of all of these fallacies and what ifs, we go get Virgil and have him tell his story, hm?” Patton asked, making a nudging movement towards Thomas.

Though Patton’s grin was normally contagious, Thomas couldn’t help but feel a weight return to his chest. “I… still don’t know if I’m ready to face him.”

“He deserves to share his side of the story, kiddo. After all he’s been through, we at least owe him that.”

Thomas took a deep breath. He had gotten through the daunting conversation of his feelings… now all he had to do was face Virgil. Easy peasy, right?

“Okay.”

Before Thomas could even raise his arm to summon Virgil, someone appeared in the anxious side’s spot. Thomas choked on his breath, stumbling back. That horrible, horrible feeling of not being able to breathe returned.

It was the figure from his nightmare.

The figure snarled at the other sides, glaring heavily around the room. Its gaze settled most harshly on Patton before turning to Thomas, an unbridled fury evident in its eyes.

“What the hell is going on here?”

Chapter Text

badda bing badda boom


 Chapter Four

Glass Houses


It was here. 

The figure was here. 

Why was it here?! 

It was from his nightmare, just a silly, terrifying fabrication! It shouldn’t be able to manifest in his apartment! Thomas wobbled backwards, his eyes glued on the unwelcome guest.

The kindest way Thomas could think to describe it was… boogeyman-esque. Its fangs snarled at every side in the room, the stitches on the corners of its mouth threatening to unravel at a moment's notice. Mauve colored slits painted its eyelids, hiding behind its furious stare. The horns were a nice touch, though. Very demonic. Just what he liked in an intruder.

“W-Who are you?” Thomas eventually managed to stutter, attempting to stand his own. 

“Ha-ha, real funny, Thomas,” the figure growled, its hostile tone so different from the more suave charm it held in the nightmare. “You’ve got some explaining to do.” It swiftly turned to Patton, its glare intensifying. “You too. Don’t think being in Pat’s spot means I’ve forgotten that you started this.”

Patton cocked his head to the side, sticking his tongue out in thought. “...Started what now?”

“Save it, Logic. I’m not blind,” the figure sneered. “You of all sides should know that listening to - to them is an ob-ject-ive-ly bad idea. I can’t believe you’d even consider this, let alone do it!” 

Thomas watched as Patton recoiled in on himself, not entirely sure if the figure was actually targeting him or Logan, maybe both? His morality glanced over at his logic, who stared at the figure with calculated intent. If he wasn’t so scared shitless, Thomas would be doing the same thing. While it was definitely, definitely still terrifying, Thomas couldn’t help but notice that the figure was acting… off, from its nightmare-induced dream form.

Suddenly, Logan widened his eyes, twisting towards Thomas. “I think I can piece togeth-”

“No, nope!” the figure interrupted, stopping Logan in his tracks. “You’re not talking, Snake Boy, and neither are you!” It gestured to Roman, who simply raised his hands defensively, decisively not taking part.

No summoning of his sword, or even the morning star... Was Roman even afraid of this thing?!

A more prominent thought soon drifted into Thomas’s mind... It just called Logan ‘Snake Boy’, and Thomas only knew of one snake that existed in his imagination. He found it in himself to look back at the figure, who still huffed furiously.

“That’s… not Deceit,” Thomas said, darting his eyes between it and Logan.

“Who else would it be, Thomas?!” The figure gave a crude chuckle as Patton and Roman shared a glance, their faces unreadable but troubling. “Has Logan already messed up your reasoning skills by taking their side? Who else constantly disguises themselves as other people?!”

Logan, unlike the others, seemed unphased by the figure, speaking to it as if it were just any other side, “It’s not a disguise, per se. More of an unintentional shapeshifting experience caused by Thomas’s cognitive dissonance.”

The figure simply glared back. “Look, I’m not falling for any more of your tricks, ‘kay, Deceit? I know it’s you. Jig is up,” it spat.

“But, I am not Deceit. We are all-”

“Nope! Nuh-uh!”

“-we’ve all swi-”

“I told you to shut up-”

“Virgil, if you would let me get a word in-”

“-and look at you, not shutting up.”

“-I could explain the situation-”

“Funny how words are coming out of my mouth-”

“-and all of this could be cleared up.”

“-and you just don’t-”

“Virgil.”

“-listen to them.”

“Just listen!”

Thomas could barely focus on the muddled voices shouting over each other; they became background noise as his mind centered on one thing: Logan just called the figure 'Virgil', multiple times, and the figure had no qualms with it! But that… that thing couldn’t be Virgil, right?

As Logan and the figure continued their back and forth, Thomas managed to get a good, long look at the figure while it was distracted. Its movements were agitated, hysterical, frantic: the antithesis of how it presented in the dream. But, even though he hated to admit it, those movements weren’t out of character at all for a certain anxious side he knew.

He didn’t want to believe it, but it made perfect sense. If all of his sides were affected by his mixed feelings…

“...Virgil?” Thomas muttered, his voice drenched in disbelief.

What?!”

So it was him.

Thomas didn’t know whether or not he should feel relieved.

On one hand, the figure was really just his anxiety, which, while he still wasn’t ready to confront, was better than an actual demonic nightmare figure manifesting in his living room. Though, that realization was a double-edged sword, because it meant the figure from his dream had to be an actual side in order for Virgil to take its form...

Thomas shook his head, regaining his focus. He glanced back over at the figure - er, Virgil. Behind his infuriated gaze, Thomas could recognize the underlying fear in Virgil's eyes.

“Virgil, can you… explain to us, what you think is going on?” Thomas asked, a shaky breath following.

“What’s going on here is that Logan is trying to make a deal with... with t-the others! The dark sides!” Virgil shouted, flippantly gesturing towards Logan and Roman. “Look, Thomas, I know you don’t trust me right now, but you have to listen to me on this one. You can not follow Deceit or Remus, or even Logan at this point. They'll say they know what’s best for you, but the truth is, they’re not going to get it through good means.”

“...Who told you this?” Thomas asked.

“Pat and Roman! Did you not see them? They were just in here! T-They were arguing in Logan’s room about this whole situation!” Virgil responded lividly. Near him, Logan narrowed his eyes, staring blankly into the distance. 

Thomas darted his eyes between the two aforementioned sides, both of whom shook their heads. Something was fishy here. Thomas licked his lips. “Virgil, I’m going to tell you something, and I don’t want you to…  to get mad, okay?”

“I swear, if you tell me you’re actually considering-”

“No, no! It’s…” Thomas paused, taking a deep breath. This was it. “Look, ever since you… told me… I, I’ve been really confused on… wh-what to think about you.”

“Wh- Thomas, that is not the most important thing happening right now!”

Thomas continued as if Virgil hadn’t spoken, because he knew if he stopped now, he would never finish. “My mixed emotions on you have mixed up my sides - literally.” He pointed to his logical side, who had temporarily clocked out of the conversation to drown himself in his own thoughts. “I said he’s not Deceit, because he’s not. That’s Logan. And ‘Logan’ over there-” he pointed over his shoulder, “-is Patton. Remus? Just Roman.”

Virgil only appeared to get more and more aggravated as Thomas explained, clenching his gloved fists together - though, he didn’t seem to notice that last detail.

“They’re lying to you,” he spat, that unhinged sound echoing the room. “That’s what they do. They’ll do anything to get you to listen to them!”

To his left, Thomas heard a sharp intake of breath. He turned to see Patton bashfully fiddling with Logan’s tie. “It’s the truth, Virge,” he said softly, staring at the floor.

“Oh, really?” Virgil shouted. Patton flinched. “Tell me something only Patton would know!”

Patton took a deep breath, gathering the courage to look up at Virgil, who still looked like that terrifying, monstrous figure. “When we first accepted you, the… the dark sides didn’t know,” he said, “but when they found out, they... they sure weren’t happy campers. You stayed in my room for a couple weeks until you were sure they’d leave you alone.”

Rage completely evaporated from Virgil’s face, his breath hitching in his throat. That was... true. Virgil made Patton swear to keep it a secret all those years ago. On the surface, he only saw Logan giving him a concerned look, but as he continued to gawk, he saw bits of Patton shining through. That signature parental glint in his eyes, his relaxed posture, the way he messed with Logan’s tie as if it were the sleeves of his own cardigan…

How did he ever think this was Logan?

...How did he ever fall for Deceit’s disguise?

Virgil nodded to himself, slowly turning to the actual Logan, who appeared ridiculously poised (so unlike Virgil himself - it looked rather awkward, if he was being honest). Virgil blinked, opening his mouth to speak, but the words just stuck to his throat, refusing to be spoken. 

Logan, deductive as always, answered the wordless question, “Virgil, you taught me grounding techniques because you were concerned that, if Thomas were anxious enough, you wouldn’t be able to help him calm down.”

Virgil gave Logan a half-hearted smile, which Logan returned. True again. Hesitantly, Virgil twisted around to face Roman. Knowing that he was most likely the ‘good side’ of Creativity didn’t stop Virgil from cringing at the sight of him and his mustachioed face. He was confused, sure, but it was more than just that. Virgil hadn’t seen Remus - or Roman, now that he thought about it - look so vulnerable in a long, long time.

“Virgil,” Roman started, “I know I... remind you of Remus at times. There was an incident before we had truly reconciled where we were arguing in the mind palace, and you called me by... his name.” He pursed his lips. “We never spoke of it again.”

Virgil’s heart was beating out of his chest. True, true, true... This was crazy, surreal, but he knew it had to be reality. Those words alone made Virgil feel much more grounded, all of his senses becoming much more clear…

That’s when he recognized his personal mishap in this shapeshifting situation.

He sighed. Of course.

Virgil elected to ignore that while he still could, instead focusing on another question. “But if… If you’re all here… T-Then who…?” 

“I believe who you thought to be Roman and Patton may have actually been... the Duke and Deceit,” Logan answered, his tone so shamelessly wistful - which was strange, given Logan’s usual adamancy that he had no emotion.

Thomas, on the other hand, couldn’t help but furrow his brow. “W-Why would Remus and Deceit be Roman and Patton?” he asked. Light sides being twisted into the dark sides he could understand, but the other way around? It made no sense.

Logan pursed his lips. “Well, obviously with this situation, the black and white line you’ve figuratively drawn between Roman and Remus has… blurred. As for Deceit…” He paused, glancing over at Virgil before continuing, “...he might appear to be Patton because he believes his misconstrued views on the world are correct, moral, and that Thomas needs to listen to him more, like how he listens to Patton.”

Thomas nodded, quite visibly uncomfortable but oddly content with the explanation that everyone but Virgil seemed to accept. His eyes eventually found their way to Virgil, the figure. Even knowing it was just his anxiety, Thomas stood still with bated breath, slightly struggling to breathe, just like in the dream.

“Virgil,” Thomas said, pausing as he tried to find the right words, “I… Do… Do you know who you are? Like, who you turned into? Is it another side?”

There was the question Virgil could no longer avoid.

He glanced around the room, his heart beating out of his chest. Here we go.

“It’s... me,” Virgil muttered gingerly, “from… a while ago.” He bit his lip, not making eye contact with any of the others. “Paranoia.”

“Paranoia?” Thomas repeated.

“Was that your super scary dark side name?” Roman asked, a certain playfulness in his tone that made him appear eerily similar to his brother, but if anyone dare point that out, he would leave in a heartbeat. Virgil decided to simply glare, which earned the grumbled response of, “Just trying to lighten the atmosphere, Prince Alarming.”

Virgil elected to ignore Roman for the time being, taking a deep breath. He was really doing this, huh? “It was from when I believed Deceit’s view on what was best for Thomas was... right,” he said, regret caking his voice. “Believe it or not, Thomas, you used to be a lot more anxious than you are now.”

“Oh, I-I know, Virge. I was there.”

“But, I always thought you and Paranoia were separate sides,” Patton mentioned, confused.

“Yeah! We thought you had replaced him as a slightly more chill, still villainous-at-the-time-but-not-anymore clone!” Roman added.

Virgil’s eyebrow twitched as he sighed. “Well, sorry to get your buskins in a twist, but this is who I used to be. Or, well… I guess this is... who I am.”

“But you’re not a dar-” Roman cut himself off by inhaling, a determined, caring look settling on his face that clashed heavily with Remus’s features. “You’re not… one of them, Virgil. Not anymore.”

“All sides grow, change, and mature with Thomas,” Patton assured with a smile, “Remus and Roman used to be the same side, but they split, and now they couldn’t be more different. You’ve grown so much, and you have so much to be proud of.”

“This is all temporary,” Logan added. “We are only stuck like this because Thomas couldn’t disentangle his emotions. With everything sorted through and a good night’s rest, surely our appearances will return to normal.”

Thomas darted his eyes between Virgil and the floor, ultimately deciding that his shoes looked rather interesting. “Well, I... not - n-not everything is untangled just yet, Logan,” he muttered, refusing to look up.

“But… we just debunked all of the logical fallacies you had about Virgil. Did we miss something?”

“No… No, you got all that. It’s just… knowing that I’m objectively wrong for feeling this way doesn’t just make my feelings… my fear, go away.” Thomas cringed at his own words, hating every ounce of truth that was in them, but he knew that if he lied and said everything was fine, it would just make everything worse, for him and for Virgil. 

“But,” he added, looking up, “I think I know what can bring me, can bring both of us the closure we need here.”

“Just say the words, kiddo, and we’ll do it,” Patton said with a reassuring smile.

Thomas found it in himself to lock eyes with his anxiety. “Virgil, I… I want to know your past as a dark side, why you left… everything.”

Virgil’s eyes thusly widened, his breath hitching in his throat. Slowly, he shook his head as his breathing became more and more sporadic, more and more sparse.

“Look, that requires a lot of vulnerability that I’m not sure I’m comfortable with…” he trailed off.

“Virgil,” Thomas said, his voice hardly above a sensitive whisper. “Please.”

To say that Virgil was anxious to talk about his past was perhaps the most grandiose understatement to ever exist. He was terrified, beyond terrified. Just saying six words that barely grazed all the hurt he caused was one of the hardest things he’d ever done, how could he go into more detail?! 

As he tried to control his breathing, he looked around at the others in the room, seeing his friends stuck as people they didn’t want to be. All because of him. Maybe if he just explained everything, he could put everything back to normal by easing Thomas’s mind...

It all came to one potent question. Which did he care about more: his past, or his future?

“Fine. No more secrets, Thomas. What do you want to know?”

Thomas took a deep, shaky breath. “Why… Why were you a dark side? What made you decide not to be a dark side anymore? What makes you different than Remus and Deceit?”

Thomas didn’t intend for those questions to sting, but they stung, and they stung a lot. “No breathing room, huh?” Virgil muttered as he collected his thoughts.

“I was… I was one of them because I was made that way,” he started. “Fear was bad, and you didn’t like that, so I got shoved aside. I became your fear of what went bump in the night, that someone was following you if you didn’t turn around every five seconds… that, that you would never start liking girls, that you would never be... normal.” He looked around, mostly for an excuse to stop talking, but his friends just stared at him intently, waiting for more. “No reaction? Okay, cool. Guess I’m monologuing. 

“As an… enhanced part of your normal functioning, even if you didn’t like me, you couldn’t escape me. I wasn’t trapped under Deceit’s cover like the others were. I was always there, but I'm sure you knew that much. I guess my road to redemption or whatever all kinda started when I stopped going by Paranoia… like a year or two into college, maybe? I realized I was hurting you, trying to follow Deceit’s outline for your life, and hurting you was the last thing I wanted, the last thing any of us want, whether you like us or not. So I would… I would sneak away and see what these guys thought, because even if they didn’t like sides like me, they had to have a better idea on how Thomas should go about his life, a better idea on how I could protect him… 

“But I was still something that Thomas hadn't accepted, so, my motives were questioned. I put a guard up and continued what I did to protect Thomas: being too scary to ignore... but I was trying to do it for better reasons. Deceit didn’t know that, of course. As it turns out, though, the ends didn’t justify the means. I knew that, and I… that's when I decided to leave. Not be light or dark, because Thomas was better off without me.”

Virgil sighed, gaining the courage to look at Thomas with some anxiety-induced adrenaline. Go figure. “I left because I didn’t want to hurt you, Thomas,” he said. “Remus and Deceit will do whatever they can to get what they want, and they don’t care if they hurt you in the process as long as they get that end result that supposedly leads to your happiness... I realized that I couldn’t do that to you. I only became a quote, ‘light side’ because you let me, accepted me… helped me realize that I wasn’t something inherently bad. Thank you, all of you, for believing in me.”

Virgil immediately appeared more flustered, snapping his head towards the wall at light speed. “That answer your questions?”

“Everything and more,” Thomas said, a smile growing on his face. “Hey, Virgil?” The anxious side peered over his shoulder. “I’m not scared anymore. Thank you for being so honest and open with us. I know it must’ve been hard.”

“No matter what happens, you belong here,” Logan assured.

“We’re proud of you and your progress,” Patton said.

“And we will protect you from the others so long as they threaten to attack,” Roman concluded.

“Thanks, guys. That, uh… really means a lot.” A small smile creeped onto his face before he realized. Virgil wiped it away as he cleared his throat. “Now, if you don’t mind me, I'll be going to my room to not interact with anyone for a couple of days so I can get back all the emotional energy I just spent.”

Virgil had practically already left until he heard Patton’s 'dad voice', causing him to pop back into the scene. “Actually, kiddo? It might not be a good idea to go into your room by yourself. Now I know you need your alone time, but if one of the others comes up, you shouldn’t have to deal with them while you’re not feeling your tip-top best.” 

Virgil groaned. Patton was right: if he saw Deceit or Remus right now, he didn’t know what he would do.

“Hey, I know! We can have a sleepover in my room!” Patton exclaimed, “It’ll help energize us up faster, and if any of the others decide they want to come and play, we can give ‘em the ole one-two!” 

At Patton's giddiness, Virgil's smile returned. “I’d love a sleepover, Pat. Sounds great.”

Virgil once again prepared to sink out, but - “Virgil, before you go...” - was interrupted again, by Thomas this time. “I’m... sorry, for ever thinking ill of you after you’ve done so much to prove that… that isn’t who you are anymore," Thomas said. “You didn’t deserve to be turned into your former self, and none of you deserve to be switched around. I really am sorry.”

“It’s... okay,” Virgil responded. “I don’t blame you for being scared.”

“Feelings can be tricky sometimes, Thomas,” Patton said. “I should know that better than anyone. Logan was right. Sometimes emotions can cloud our judgement and make us draw conclusions that aren’t true. But, whatever you feel is valid. It’s just that there are times were we have to fly through those clouds to clear skies and see the situation for what it really is.” Patton beamed at Logan, who returned the expression, albeit much more subdued.

“Listening to any one of us too much is harmful, Thomas, but together, we can get through even the toughest of dilemmas,” Logan added.

“Thanks, guys, for this and everything you do.”

“No problem, kiddo, just here to help!” Patton eagerly turned to the other sides. “Now, give me a few seconds to clean up my room, and we’ll get this party started!” He quickly left with a hasty, “Bye Thomas!” 

The other sides followed suit with their own cheerios and toodle-oos -

A simple but meaningful, “Farewell, Thomas,” from Logan.

A dramatic sing-songy, “Until we meet again, in the great wide somewhere~!” from Roman.

A relieved, relaxed, refreshing, “Deuces,” from Virgil.

Thomas smiled, wanting nothing more than to follow them to Patton’s room and spend time with them after this emotional rollercoaster, but he ultimately decided against it. The minute he entered the room, they would be forced around the so-called ‘invisible column’, and no one wanted that, especially after the ordeal that just happened. Thomas went up to his room, ready to destress with memes and mindless internet videos.

Besides, he thought, his sides needed space, and that was perfectly okay, because he was okay, at least for now.