Virgil wanted to go home. He wanted to sit in his living room with his older brother and watch movies. He wanted to sit at the table with his mom and talk about their days. He would say something bitter and cynical, and she would laugh and shake her head. He could picture the interactions so vividly.
God, he wanted to be home.
Except, the home he was longing for did exist anymore. Not really.
His mom wouldn't be there, sitting at the table with coffee and a book. His brother wouldn't be on the couch, waiting for him, entirely too dressed up for the day. The house would be empty.
His mom would be at an AA meeting. She would go straight from there to his uncle's house, where she was staying for the time being. And his brother, Damian, was in the same boat he was.
Virgil and Damian had been dumped at the gate of Sander Prep Academy by a family friend. They each had two suitcases and a backpack. Virgil gripped the handles of his suitcases tightly. He sank further into his hoodie. Damian finished pulling his things out of the trunk and walked over to the driver's side window. Virgil couldn't hear what was said, but he saw Damian be handed two small envelopes. He nodded and backed away as the car slowly pulled away. Damian stood and watched the car go for a moment before turning to his brother.
"Well, dear brother, shall we?" He said, in his usual formal tone, gesturing through the gate to the path ahead.
"Sure, whatever." He muttered as he turned and started up the path, Damian easily catching up.
The walk to the campus was short and silent, both brothers keeping to themselves. Virgil had wished he'd put his headphones on before walking. His mind was racing. His thoughts were unbearably loud and he wished he had something to drown them out. He wanted something to distract himself from his head. Every step made him feel more and more anxious.
Why was it so hot? Why did I wear a hoodie? Fuck. What if I end up smelling bad? What if my roommate thinks I'm disgusting? What if he makes fun of me? What if he hates me? Fuck.
"Virgil." His brother's voice broke him from his thoughts. He stopped walking and looked up to see he had walked past his brother. They had finally made it to the main building.
"Yeah?" He asked, trying to keep his voice even. He cringed internally at how shaky he sounded.
"We're at the main building." He said slowly.
"Yeah, I can see that, Damian." Virgil snapped.
His whole body felt heavy. Seeing the school in front of him made this whole situation feel so much more real. He could pretend it wasn't happening before, but there was no pretending now.
Damian looked like he was going to respond, but bit his tongue. Instead, he took a deep breath and set his bags down by his feet.
"Are you alright, Virge?" He calmly asked. He purposefully kept his voice even and void of pity. He knew that any bit of pity in his voice would send Virgil into a "fit". His brother hated nothing more than being pitied.
"I'm fine." He said through gritted teeth. His chest felt tight and the bright sun felt like too much. He screwed his eyes shut. Everything felt like too much.
"I'm not trying to be a dick right now, but you obviously aren't fine." Damian responded.
"Oh my god! Do you ever shut up?" Virgil blew up. He threw his luggage on the ground, one case flying open upon hitting the ground. He dropped to the ground, pulling his knees to his chest. He sat there, trying to breathe normally. He felt his hands shaking. Everything was too loud and too bright. He tried remembering the numbers for counting his breath, but he just couldn't. He felt Damian kneel down in front of him.
"Can you hear me?" Damian's voice felt foggy, but he could still hear him. He nodded.
"Alright, good. Do you remember the numbers?"
Virgil violently shook his head.
"Hey, it's fine. I do. I can tell you." Damien attempted to calm his brother down.
"In for four seconds." He instructed.
Virgil attempted to follow.
"Hold your breath for seven seconds."
Okay. He could do this.
"Now breath out for eight seconds."
Okay, Virgil. Just breathe.
He continued counting until he felt his chest loosen and his shaking calm down. It felt easier and easier to follow the counting as he went on. He was finally able to open his eyes and look at his brother.
"Alright, you know the drill. Let's do the countdown. Five things you see?"
Virgil looked around.
"I see," He started, "trees."
"I see our suitcases. I see clouds in the sky. I see you and I see your ugly yellow shirt."
Damian looked down at his shirt, offended. He shook his head.
"I'm choosing to ignore that. Four things you can hear?"
"Birds." Virgil said quickly. He shut his eyes again and concentrated on separating distinct sounds.
"Take your time, Virgil. Don't stress over it."
"I hear you. And I hear rustling leaves. And…" He paused. He sighed, frustrated. "I can't think of anything else."
Damian nodded. "That's perfectly okay. We can move on. Three things you can feel?"
Virgil nodded, taking a deep breath and letting it out.
"I can feel the blacktop below me. I can feel my hoodie. I can feel my phone in my pocket."
Damien lightly touched Virgil's arm, causing the boy to look up at him.
"Good job, Virgil. We're almost done. What are two things you can smell?"
Virgil inhaled. "Grass. And you. You smell like an old man." He teased.
"Spoken like the brat you are." Damian shit back, laughing lightly. "Do you have your pack of gum?"
Virgil nodded and pulled the pack out of his pocket, popping a piece in his mouth.
"Great. Are you feeling alright now?" Damien asked, standing up and offering his brother a hand.
"Yeah, Damien. I'm okay now." He answered, taking his brother's hand. He now noticed his belongings from one of his suitcases scattered around it next to where he had thrown them down. He stood and began gathering the things from the ground. It was mainly books and t-shirts.
"Hey!" He heard a cheerful voice call out.
Him and Damian both turned to see a boy with blonde hair and glasses walking towards them, smiling. He had a puppy like attitude about him. He wore the school's uniform, khakis with a white button down shirt and red sweater. The sweater was tied around his neck like a cape instead. Virgil thought he looked like a hybrid of a middle aged man and a child. A very tall, nerdy looking boy followed slowly behind him.
"Uh, hi?" Virgil offered.
"How's it going, fellas?" He asked as he finally reached them.
"We're doing well." Damian responded, formal as always. "And yourself?"
"I am fantastic! Thank you for asking!"
Neither brother had ever seen someone so absurdly friendly and positive.
"My name is Patton Sanders and I am the head of the welcoming committee here at Sanders Prep!" He cheerfully exclaimed.
"You're the only member of the welcoming committee, Patton." The taller boy spoke in a smooth, slightly monotone voice. "Hello, I am Logan Green."
Damien looked at both of them as Virgil continued picking up his things.
"I am Damian Thomas and this is my younger brother, Virgil." He gestured over at Virgil, who was now sitting on his suitcase, trying to get it to shut again.
"Hey." He said quickly, returning his focus to his case. He wasn't really feeling up to socialization just yet, considering he had just come down from his anxiety attack.
"Well, it's nice to meet both of you! If you wanna follow me, I can lead you to the main office so you can get your keys to your rooms." Patton turned towards the building and gestured for them to follow him.
Damian turned to Virgil, who was still struggling with his suitcase.
"Go ahead," Virgil waved his brother on,"I'll catch up with you."
Damian hesitated before following Patton. Logan, however, stayed put, watching Virgil mess with the case.
Finally, Virgil gave up with a dramatic sigh. He just could not win today.
"Here, allow me." Logan said, crouching down by the case.
Virgil stood from it and watched as Logan opened it, rearranged some of the contents and shut it with ease. He stood again.
"Thanks." Virgil said, shyly, embarrassed at his struggle.
"No worries." Logan said.
Virgil nodded and picked up his two cases, ready to go inside and find his brother and Patton. Just as he was about to start into the building, Logan spoke to him.
"I thought it would be comforting to know that most of the other students have not arrived yet, so nobody was here to witness your attack." He said.
Virgil stopped walking and looked at Logan.
"I'm sorry, have overstepped your boundaries? I have a habit of doing so sometimes." He apologized sincerely.
Virgil shook his head. "No, no. You're okay, dude. I just wasn't expecting that."
Logan looked relieved at that.
"Alright then, Virgil. I shall now lead you to the office where your brother and Patton are." He said as he walked ahead of Virgil.
Between his straight posture and formalness, Logan reminded Virgil of Damian quite a bit. The main difference between the who being that Damian was one of the biggest drama queens he had ever met. Logan definitely did not seem like the dramatic type.
"Lead the way." He said, following Logan inside.