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even if it's not good, it will be okay

Chapter Text

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.

Virgil shrugged.

"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."

4-7-8
4-7-8
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."

Damian nodded.

"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.

Chapter Text

By the time Virgil and Logan go to the main office, Damian held a uniform in his hands, as well as a key and a small booklet. He held his posture straight as Patton leaned against the counter. As he saw them enter, he shot up.

"There you two are! I was starting to think I'd have to send a search party!" Patton joked.

"Not to worry," Logan pushed his glasses up on his nose, "I was simply helping Virgil with his luggage."

"Yeah." Virgil tacked on his agreement.

Patton smiled brightly at Logan.

"Aw! Logi-bear! That was nice of you!"

Logan's face went bright red at the name, as well as the praise.

"Yes, well." He stuttered.

He cleared his throat and left the room as quickly as he could, leaving Virgil snickering and Damian with a smirk.

Patton laughed and then turned to Virgil.

"Anyways, like I was telling Damien, there aren't many other people here yet. Mainly just teachers. The only other students I can think of are the Prince twins." Just as he said that, a lightbulb went off in Patton's brain. "And speaking of the Princes!"

Patton grabbed a set of keys from the wall behind him and handed them to Virgil.

"These are the keys to your room. Your roommate is one of the twins. I'm not sure which one because the dorm list on shows first initial and last name and both of their names begin with R." He explained.

He then pulled out a uniform from the cabinet next to the key rack and a booklet from under the counter.

"Here's your uniform and the school handbook. You have to either wear the tie or the sweater. You can wear both if you want, but you must have at least one." Patton handed the stack of items to him.

A white shirt, black tie, red sweater and a pair of khakis. The school handbook had the mascot on it, a king. The white shirt and sweater both had a little yellow crown on the chest.

"Orientation is tomorrow at noon. That's when everyone else will get here." He continued,"And that's all I've got. If you don't have any questions, Logan and I can walk you two to the dorms." Patton offered.

Virgil looked over his shoulder to see Logan pacing in the hallway. He smiled slightly and looked up at Patton. There was definitely something going on between those two.

"Yes, I have a question." Damian said. "Is it just a coincidence that your last name is Sanders?"

Patton shook his head.

"No, it's not! My great granddad started the school!" Patton explained excitedly. "That's why I am trusted with the welcome wagon stuff! Fun, right?"

Virgil could not decide if Patton's constant excitement was nice or exhausting. Maybe it was a little of both.

The door clicked open and Logan stepped back inside.

"Patton, I have just gotten a text from your uncle. He said that he needs you in the faculty housing as soon as we're done here. He also said he has been texting and calling for the last hour." He spoke, putting his phone into his pocket.

"Oh, my phone must have been off." He turned back to the brothers. "That's my que to get outta here. Logan, can you take them to the dorms while I go see what Thomas needs."

Logan nodded and Patton smiled. He hugged Logan and raced out of the room.

"Bye Logan! It was nice meeting you, Damian and Virgil!" He called out behind him.

Logan straightened his tie.

"If you two will follow me, I'll show you to the dorms."

"Cool." Virgil replied, stuffing the uniform into his backpack and picking up his suitcase.

Logan tilted his head at Virgil's actions.

"That will make your uniform incredibly wrinkled." He warned.

Virgil shrugged. Logan's sight drifted to Damian, who also shrugged.

"I've learned to pick my battles with him. This is one I won't win. He truly does not care." He explained, picking up his own. "Could you possibly help me with my other case, Logan?"

"Of course." Logan responded. He took Damian's second suitcase and turned to the door. He walked down the hall, expecting the other two to follow, which they did.

After exiting the doors of the main building, Logan turned to the left and began down the path toward a large brick building. Virgil noticed four separate buildings. The main building and three others behind it. The two on the sides of the main building looked identical, while the one directly behind was much smaller. He assumed that was the faculty housing that Logan had mentioned to Patton earlier.

On the subject of Logan and Patton, Virgil was sure that there was something going on between the two, even if neither of them were sure what it was.

"So, Logan?" Virgil began.

Logan made a small noise of acknowledgement, but kept walking.

"What's the deal with you and Patton?" He asked.

Logan stopped by walking and choked on his breath. He nearly dropped Damien's case as he whipped around.

"Virgil!" Damien chastised.

"I'm sure I have no idea what you're talking about!" Logan's voice was higher than usual and his face was beet red.

Virgil fought back a smile.

Yeah, you have no idea. Right.

"I'm just saying you and him seem close."

Logan stood up even straighter and began walking towards the dorm again.

"We are childhood friends and student council president and vice president. He's my best friend. Nothing more, nothing less." Logan's voice was monotone and cold again.

Virgil always took comfort in the fact that even the most stoic people had someone or something that made them emotional.

"Alright, Logi-bear. That's all you had to say." Virgil teased.

Logan's grip tightened on the case to the point of his knuckles being white.

Damian smacked Virgil in the back of the head.

"Ow! What the hell, Damian?"

Damian glared at his brother. "Stop being a brat."

Virgil rolled his eyes and kept walking.

Chapter Text

As they made it to the doors of the dorm, Logan turned to face the brothers.

"I will help Damian get his bags to his room, since he has his hands full. Virgil, you are welcome to find yours too if you feel comfortable doing so alone. The room number is on your key." He instructed, giving Virgil a look he could not read.

Virgil nodded and looked down at his key. He read the number.

311.

He looked back at his brother, who was now standing next to Logan.

"Yeah, sounds good to me."

"Terrific. I shall be over to check that you found it okay once I'm finished helping your brother."

Virgil nodded and followed as Damian and Logan entered the building. On the inside, there was a staircase directly ahead and a hallway running past. Next to the stairs were labels for what rooms were on each floor. The first number in the room number was the floor. This meant Virgil's room would be on the 3rd floor. Virgil groaned and began climbing the stairs as Damian and Logan turned to the left. Damian had gotten a room on the 1st floor.

Lucky him.

Once he reached the top of the stairs, he quickly found his room number at the end of the hall. When he got to the door, he found a small banner hanging from the door. It read:

"R. Prince
#15
Shortstop"

Virgil groaned internally. Of course he's get a jock for a roommate. From the looks of it, his roommate was a baseball player. He set his bag down at his feet and took a deep breath.

You're okay, Virgil. Maybe he won't be that bad.

He unlocked the door and pushed it open slowly, peeking inside.

There were two beds, one on each side of the room. They both had a nightstand on each side. At the foot of both beds was a chest. There were two dressers and two desks. It was obviously which side of the room was already taken. The chest at the foot of one of the beds was wide open. The top dresser drawer had clothes sticking out and in the far corner was a sports bag with its contents spilling out. There was a reusable water bottle with the schools logo on the bedside table and a pair of baseball cleats poking out from under the bed.

"He's probably been here like a day at most. How is it this messy already?" Virgil spoke aloud to nobody in particular.

He shoved the key in his pocket and picked up his suitcase. He shuffled inside the room, pushing the door shut behind him with his foot. The room was warm and bright as the morning sun streamed into the windows. Virgil checked the time on his phone. It was 11:23. He decided he'd unpack his suitcases and then see about getting some food.

Virgil set his cases on the empty bed and began unpacking.

-

By the time Virgil was done with his unpacking, there was a brisk knock at the door. He opened it to see Logan standing in the hallway.

"Hello. It's good to see you found your room alright." Logan said.

"Yeah." Virgil nodded.

He let go of the door handle, leaving the door open. He sat down on the chair sitting at the desk on his side of the room.

Logan stayed in the hallway, looking confused. He tilted his head.

"Come in, dude." Virgil said, gesturing for Logan to enter.

"Oh, okay." Logan said. He stepped in, shutting the door lightly behind him.

Virgil leaned back in the chair, shoving his hands in his hoodie pockets.

"So, about what I said in the way here. The stuff about you and Patton." Virgil began, "I was just messing with you. I wasn't trying to be a dick."

Logan just looked at Virgil with another expression he didn't understand. He felt his chest get heavier and his heart speed up.

"I just was curious because you guys seem close. I didn't think it would make you uncomfortable and I-" Virgil cut himself off and took a deep breath.

"I'm sorry." He finally said, making eye contact with Logan.

Logan's face softened slightly.

"It's alright, Virgil." He said.

His voice was softer than the usual cold tone he had. Virgil immediately felt a wave of relief wash over him. He sighed and suck even lower in the chair.

"I don't even want to be here." He said.

His voice was barely above a whisper as his gaze fell to the floor. The reality of his situation was sinking in. He would be here for almost a year. He'd be stuck here. If he didn't like it, there wasn't any break from it. He lived at his school. He couldn't go anywhere.

Logan sat on the edge of the bed. Now, he was at eye level with Virgil.

"Believe me, I know how terrifying the first year here can be. It's new. New things are always scary. You don't know what to expect." Logan said.

His voice was gentle and understanding. Virgil looked up through his bangs.

"It's perfectly okay to be scared or anxious. Just know that everything will be okay. Even if it's not amazing, it will be okay."

Virgil smiled. It was the most comforting thing he'd heard all day. It wasn't over optimistic or saccharin. Logan was real. He was honest and realistic. Virgil could definitely appreciate that.

"Thank you. That actually helped a lot."

Then, Logan smiled. It wasn't a huge grin or anything. Just a slight upturn of the corners of his mouth, barely noticeable.

"I'm happy to help." He said.

There was a moment of silence before Logan stood up, straightening out his shirt and tie.

"I must be going now. Patton and I have student council business to attend to." He said, starting towards the door.

"Alright. Thanks again."

"Don't mention it."

With that, he was out the door and Virgil was alone again. Virgil felt his stomach growl and silently cursed himself for forgetting to ask about food. He leaned his head back and looked at the ceiling. There was a long crack running along the corner. He counted the odd marks.

God, he was bored.

He could listen to music, he supposed. He got up to retrieve his backpack from its place on his bed. Rummaging through, he found his headphones and phone, as well as a half crushed granola bar. It was better than nothing.

He put on his headphones and pressed shuffle on a random playlist. As heavy guitar filled his ears he sat back down in his chair. His shoes were kicked off and his feet were propped up on the desk. He had Halloween socks on. Every year, his mom would buy him a pair from the dollar store down the street from his house. Trick-or-treating was always too much for him as a kid, and his mom didn't want him to feel left out while Damian and his friends were out and about. He would get dressed up in his costume and knock on his mom's bedroom door. She would open it and pretend he was a trick-or-treater. She'd put a full size plain Hershey bar in his little pumpkin bucket with the pair of socks and tell him how scary his costume was. Then, they would sit on the couch and watch Halloween movies, saving Beetlejuice for after Damian got home. Beetlejuice was Damian's favorite.

Even as he was getting older, and wasn't interested in the whole thing, she'd still give him a pair of Halloween socks and they'd still watch movies while Damian was out. And they still saved Beetlejuice for when he was home.

Thinking about his mom made Virgil feel ten times worse than he already did. He tried to close his eyes and focus on the music.

Just as he was finally getting to the point of being relaxed, he felt the ground shake like something fell.

Chapter Text

Virgil ripped off his headphones and turned to the door to see a boy laying in the ground.

He was average height and very lean. His hair was a dark brown and his eyes seemed to match. His skin was tan with freckles dotting it. He had a red baseball hat in his hands and his shirt hung around his neck.

It was obvious from his position on the ground that he had just fallen. His eyes were wide as if something had frightened him.

"Uh, hi?" Virgil offered, half waving.

"Hey, who are you exactly?" The boy asked, standing up and placing the hat on his head.

"I could ask you the same question." Virgil retorted, crossing his arms and leaning back.

"I'm Roman Prince. This is my room. Now back to my question, who are you?" The boy, Roman, seemed frustrated at Virgil for not answering the first time.

"I'm Virgil Thomas. This is also my room."

Virgil turned his chair around and kicked his feet back up on the desk.

He heard Roman walking over to his own dresser and rummaging through the top drawer.

"I wasn't expecting anyone else to get here until tomorrow." He said, "Usually it's just me, Remus, Patton, and Logan here this early."

"Is Remus your twin brother?" Virgil asked.

He saw Roman flinch slightly and clench his teeth before responding.

"Unfortunately." He said.

He was silent for a moment.

"What grade are you in?" Roman asked.

The question was rushed out, like Roman was desperate from the change of subject.

"Ninth." Virgil said, keeping his response short and to the point. What else was there to say. He didn't want to start rambling about bullshit that didn't matter and wasn't relevant. He had a habit of doing so.

"Really? You seem tall for a freshman." Roman responded, genuine surprise in his voice.

"Yeah." Virgil shrugged.

"I'm in tenth." Roman said.

Virgil didn't respond. He didn't really know what to say. Roman finally found what he was looking for in his drawer and closed it. He took his hat off and threw it on top of the dresser before turning towards the door.

"I'll be back in a few, I'm gonna get a shower real quick." He said.

"Cool." Virgil responded simply.

He pulled his headphones back on and tried once again to relax. He opened his granola bar, letting the crushed pieces fall into his hands.

-

He'd finished his granola bar and was officially bored as hell once again.

He bobbed his head slightly to the music playing through his headphones. Slowly, he felt his eyelids growing heavier. Normally he'd fight sleep this early, but today had been exhausting already and he had nothing better to do, so he let sleep have him for now.

-

He awoke to singing. It wasn't coming from his headphones, though. Those had fallen off in his sleep. He looked over to see Roman dancing around the room with no shirt on. He was singing a song he'd never heard before.

Before he could ask what he was listening to, Roman noticed that he was awake and scrambled to shut the speaker off. Color rushed to his face as he stood next to his speaker.

"What were you listening to?"

"Nothing!" Roman had answered before the question fully left Virgil's mouth.

"Right. Okay."

Virgil had no idea how to respond. What could he have even been listening to that he was embarrassed about.

"Uh, I tried to wake you up earlier, but you're a really heavy sleeper. Anyways, you really should sleep in those chairs, they can really mess up your back."

Virgil nodded. "Thanks, Princey."

The nickname formed so easily. He hadn't even meant to say it, it had just tumbled out.

Roman blushed even deeper at the name. He looked down at his feet. Something felt off about his behavior to Virgil. He seemed shy. Shy had not been his first impression of Roman. Virgil prided himself on being able to tell what kind of people others were, but Roman didn't seem at all like he expected. He got the impression that this wasn't how Roman normally behaved.

"What time is it?" Virgil closed his eyes again, the room too bright for his eyes.

Roman fumbled for his phone.

"4:30 pm." He answered, tossing his phone on his own bed.

Virgil felt his stomach growl. He'd eaten nothing but that granola bar all day and he felt that fact.

"Cool. Is there anywhere to get some food?"

"Yeah, there are some vending machines in the common room. Dinner won't be for another few hours, though."

Virgil sat up, grabbing his shoes from the floor and tugging them on, not even bothering to untie them. He stood up and smoothed out his hood. Roman watched as he grabbed his wallet from the bookbag on his bed and walked to the door.

When he didn't hear Roman following him, Virgil turned around and looked at him expectantly.

"Are you coming?" He asked, gesturing to the door.

Roman nodded, grabbing a shirt and his wallet from his dresser. He pulled on his shirt as he walked into the hallway with Virgil. Being as Virgil had no clue where he was going, he let Roman lead the way.

-

Five minutes later and Virgil was walking back to his room with Roman. Both of them had their arms full of snacks. Roman had gotten sweet stuff. He had candy, a pop tart and a can of Mountain Dew. Virgil, however, was a salty snack fan. He held a few bags of Doritos and a bottle of water.

Roman tore open a chocolate bar and took a bite.

"So," He said, the candy still in his mouth, "Where are you from?"

"Florida." Virgil answered simply.

"That's cool. Did you live close to the beach?"

Virgil shook his head. "Not really."

Just then, Roman's eyes lit up.

"Have you been to Disneyworld?" He was practically bursting with excitement.

Virgil watched as Roman practically buzzed with anticipation.

He had, in fact, been to Disneyworld. A few times. Once when he was five, once when he was ten, and then once when he was twelve. He'd always had fun when they went, but Damian was the one who really enjoyed it. He always went nuts over Disneyworld, while Virgil just followed behind and did whatever his brother wanted to do. The one thing Virgil always wanted to do was go see Peter Pan. That was his favorite Disney movie.

"Yeah, I've been there a few times." He finally answered.

Roman squealed with excitement. He immediately started firing questions off so fast Virgil couldn't pick out a single one to answer. It was all jumbled together.

"Woah, chill out!"

Roman shut his mouth and looked down sheepishly.

"Sorry."

"It's cool. Now, what do you wanna know?"

Roman smiled wide. "Did you go see the Princes and princesses?"

Virgil laughed lightly. He'd expected questions about the rides and other stuff. But, what else could he expect from a literal Prince.

"We saw the princesses all three times. I don't think they have people dressed up as the princes, though." He said.

"Which one is your favorite?"

-

By the time they got back to the room, Roman was going on and on about his favorite Disney movies.

"I just love Disney so much! I always wanted to go to Disneyworld, but my dad always said it was a waste of time and money." Roman trailed off, his excitement being replaced by sadness. They had stopped just outside their door.

"That sucks."

Virgil had no clue what to do to comfort him. What could he do. He didn't like contact, so a hug was out of the question. He had no clue what to say.

"I think dads are just predisposed to being assholes." Virgil said.

Roman laughed. It wasn't a laugh like what Virgil said was funny. It was more so an agreement.

"Yeah, I think so too."

There was a moment of silence, both boys just looking at their feet or the wall or anywhere but at each other.

 

"Virgil, dear brother I've been looking everywhere for you."

Virgil jumped at the sound of Damian's voice. He turned around to see him walking down the hallway. He held an envelope in his hand.

"Sorry, we went to get snacks."

Damian stood in front of the two boys. He barely have Roman a second glance before returning his eyes to Virgil.

"I have this for you. I forgot to give it to you earlier. It's from mom." The last sentence hung in the air.

Virgil opened his mouth to say something, but nothing came out. Virgil snached the envelope from Damian and clutched it like it was going to blow away. He realized he must have looked weird do this, so he tried to relax. It didn't work.

"Thanks." He mumbled.

Damian smiled sadly. Virgil was closer to their mom than he was, so the recent events had hit him hard.

Virgil cleared his throat and looked up from the envelope at his brother.

"Is roommate here yet?"

He could have sworn he saw Damian go through the stages of grief after he asked that question.

"Unfortunately, yes." He said. His tone sounded tired.

Virgil couldn't help but laugh at his brother's misery.

"I'm glad you think this is funny, Virgil. I'm sure you wouldn't think it was funny if you were in my shoes."

"What could he have possibly done in the span of a few hours that's that bad?"

Damian raised his eyebrows at Virgil in a way that said 'you'd be surprised'.

"Well," Damian began, "I walked into the room and he had inappropriate content playing on his laptop. He didn't even attempt to shut it off until Logan reprimanded him for it. Then, when I went to take a shower, he went through all my belongings. And finally, when I asked what time dinner was, he looked me in the eyes and said 'right now' and took a bite out of a stick of deodorant."

By the end of Damian's rant, Virgil's eyes were wide.

What the fuck. Who the fuck does that shit?

"It's not real deodorant."

Virgil and Damian both turned to Roman.

"Pardon?" Damien asked.

Can he cut the formal shit for once.

"You're talking about Remus, right?" Roman asked.

Damian nodded slowly.

"Yeah, it's not real deodorant. It's marshmallow fondant. He spends hours making those just to gross people out."

Damian forced a polite smile.

"And who might you be?"

Roman looked like he was dreading that question. Like he dreading what he had to answer it with.

"I'm Roman Prince, his twin brother."

Damian's eyes went wide.

"You lived with that heathen? Good god, how are you alive?"

Roman shrugged. He looked like he wanted a subject change so badly. Virgil could understand that now, hearing what his brother was like.

"Just kind of used to it I guess."

Before Damian could say anything else about Remus, Virgil interrupted him.

"We have to go now. I have to open this and Roman has…" Virgil stopped for a moment, "baseball stuff to do."

Virgil looked over at Roman who looked confused before the lightbulb finally went off and he nodded rapidly.

"Shame. I enjoyed this chat." Damian held his arms behind his back.

"Yep, me too. Bye!" He rushed out before opening the door and dragging Roman in by his wrist.

Virgil leaned his back against the door and sighed. He loved his brother, but sometimes he didn't know when to quit. It was tiring.

"Sorry." He said, looking up at Roman who was stifling a laugh.

"Oh, it's fine. Thanks." He smiled wide. His teeth were practically perfect.

"What's so funny, Princey?"

Roman looked at him and busted out laughing.

"What?" Virgil shouted.

When Roman finally calmed down enough to answer, he looked Virgil in the eye.

"Baseball stuff?"

He immediately started laughing again. Virgil stood there with his arms crossed. He rolled his eyes.

"What's so funny about that?"

Roman wiped a tear from his face. He took a breath.

"Honestly, I don't think I could tell you."

Virgil scoffed.

"Wow, now I see the comedic value."

"Oh, lighten up, Charlie Frown!"

Chapter Text

The rest of the evening had been uneventful. Roman showed him to the cafeteria, but hadn't been able to join him at dinner, stating he had 'baseball stuff' to take care of. Virgil had gave him the finger as he laughed at his joke.

Dinner was just pizza and a bag of chips. He didn't mind though. It was pretty good pizza and he was hungry.

Damian had come down to the cafeteria later, a boy that looked very similar to Roman following at his feet. Virgil assumed that was Remus. He had darker hair than Roman and wore a sleeveless shirt and cargo shorts. As he fully entered the cafeteria, Virgil noticed that he wasn't walking, but rolling. He was wearing heelys.

Oh my god. Poor Damian.

Damian looked about ready to scream as Remus spoke animatedly about something. He whipped around and said something to Remus that left the other boy shocked for a moment before he ripped his head back in laughter and rolled out of the cafeteria.

Damian got his food and walked over the table Virgil was sitting at. He sat down and took a bite of his pizza.

"So…" Virgil started, only to be interrupted by Damian.

"I don't want to talk about it."

The rest if dinner was silent. After he ate, he went back to his room. Roman still wasn't back from whatever he was doing, so Virgil had the room to himself.

He saw the envelope on his desk.

What could it even be? A letter? Money? He both wanted to know and was terrified to know.

He slowly walked over and picked it up. It felt slightly too thick to just be a piece of paper. His name was written in his mom's messy cursive. She must have been shaking when she wrote it, because the lines were even more unsteady than usual. He moved to his bed. He sat cross-legged with his back against the headboard. The envelope suddenly felt heavy in his hands. Maybe he could just not open it. He could set it on his desk and ignore it. Except, he knew he couldn't do that. He couldn't ignore it.

He counted.

4-7-8

He opened the envelope.

4-7-8

He pulled the paper inside out.

4-7-8

He unfolded it and began reading.

Dear Virgil,

I can't even begin to express how sorry I am. I'm sorry I can't be there for you now. I'm sorry I haven't been there for the past year. After your father did what he did, I felt so lost. And I'm sure you did as well. We all did. I know he wasn't the kindest to you. I'm sorry I didn't ever step in. I'm just so sorry, Virgil.
You and Damien are my life. You two are the best thing that ever happened to me. I know I've split us up with my actions, but please know I love you both with my whole heart.
I remember our Halloween tradition. You in your costume, knocking on my bedroom door. Watching Coraline and The Nightmare Before Christmas, but having to wait to watch Beetlejuice because we absolutely could not watch it without Damian.
I remember your first day of school. You wanted to pick out your own clothes, and I let you because I thought it would help you calm down. You have the same style now that you did then. You picked a black shirt and black pants and you felt so proud. You thought you looked so cool and you did. You were the coolest little guy around.
I remember the first time you came home from school crying. A few boys had been picking on you. They called you words you didn't understand. I remember having to look you in the eye and explain what each of those awful things were.
I remember the first time you had a panic attack. It was the first day of middle school and you couldn't find your lucky shirt. It was just a black T-shirt, and you had plenty that looked just like it, but that one shirt was so important to you. Damian had figured out what was going on before I did. He googled what to do. When you had calmed down, both of you had missed the bus. You were crying because you thought it was stupid and you kept saying you ruined everything. You stayed home that day and I drove Damian. That day we made an appointment with a therapist.
I need you to know that it was never stupid and you didn't ruin anything. It was important to you. That automatically makes it important to me.
I know this letter is a jumbled mess. My mind isn't great at the moment. I needed to tell you this, though.
I am incredibly proud of you, Virgil. You've been so brave with everything going on. I know this isn't something you should have to deal with, let alone at your age. And I'm truly sorry that you have to.
I know you're probably not having a great day with all of the change and new things around you, so put some photos in with this letter. Little bits of home to keep you grounded.
Remember to take your medicine.
I love you so much.

Love,
Mom

Virgil had started crying halfway through the letter. Tears fell on the paper as he stared at it. He grabbed the envelope and pulled out the pictures, all varying in size.

The first one was four year old Damian staring at him in his mother's arms. It was from the day he was born. His mom had told him that it had been the first time he'd seen a baby that small. He had apparently been worried that she'd break Virgil.

The second picture was on Damian's ninth birthday. That was Virgil's first time at Disneyworld. Damian had been begging to go all year, so he was ecstatic when they'd gone on his birthday. The only thing Virgil had asked to do was see Peter Pan. So his mom made sure he got to see him. She'd taken a picture of the two of them with Peter Pan. Damian had crossed his arms and tried to look cool, but Virgil smiled so wide.

The next picture was of his first day of school. He stood next to Damian, giving a small smile. He remembered how nervous he'd been. Looking at the picture, his mom was right. His style hadn't changed one bit. Neither had Damian's. Damian had worn a bright yellow button down shirt and black dress pants. Virgil laughed at the odd choice for a ten year old on the first day of school.

The last picture in the stack was a family picture. They had it taken at some department store photo studio. It was taken a little over a year ago, just a little after his parents initial separation. His mom had been keen on starting fresh without his dad. She felt the first step towards that was new family photos. She'd fought him tooth and nail to get him to wear a suit and tie. Damian had been happy to.

Virgil later back in his bed, tears still going. Roman still hadn't come back, and Virgil was great for that. He didn't want anyone to see him like this. He held the letter out in front of him. He missed his mom. He missed his own room. He wanted to go home.

The last thing he saw before falling asleep was his mom's messy handwriting.

Chapter Text

When he opened his eyes, bright sun blinded him. The letter wasn't in his hands anymore, but on the table next to his bed, the photos sitting next to it. He was still in his clothes from the night before, but his shoes were off and a blanket covered him.

He sat up slowly. He knew he hadn't gotten up to move the letter, grab a blanket, or take his shoes off. Roman's bed was empty and unmade. Maybe Roman had been the one to do those things when he came back last night. The thought made panic settle in Virgil's chest.

Had he read the letter?

What if he thought Virgil was a freak?

What if he made fun of him for the lucky shirt thing?

What if he asked about his dad?

Virgil counted his breaths. He really didn't want a repeat of yesterday with the constant feeling a dread looming over him. He knew that today would probably be very stressful and he'd have to sneak off to the bathroom at least once to breakdown. Maybe he'd stick by Damian's side so he wasn't alone when that happened.

Damian wouldn't want to hang around him, though. He probably had his own things to do.

4-7-8

Maybe he would just skip orientation. He'd just sit in his room and fake sick. Nobody but Damian would know he wasn't sick.

4-7-8

He could just run away. He could go live in the woods and regress to primal instinct. That would probably work out better for him.

His thoughts were interrupted by the door to the room opening and Roman stepping in. He was shirtless again, towel draped around his neck. He was half dressed in his uniform, his khakis and worn red converse on. His hair was dripping slightly. Virgil guessed that he had just gotten out of the shower.

Roman sang lightly, almost a hum. It was another song Virgil had never heard before. Virgil pulled the blanket off of him and stood up, looking for his backpack.

He could really use a piece of his gum right now.

Virgil's moving caused Roman stop humming and turn towards him. He smiled at the taller boy.

"Hey, if you're gonna want a shower, I'd get one now. Once everybody else gets here, it's impossible to get a stall for very long." He said, pulling on a plain white t-shirt.

Virgil nodded, still looking for his bag. Finally, he found it tucked halfway under his bed. He quickly sifted through it for his gum.

Roman watched as Virgil did this before nervously clearing his throat.

"Um, I moved whatever paper you were holding to the table last night."

Virgil's head snapped up, a piece of gum in his hand, half unwrapped. He felt his chest tighten.

He read it.

He hates you.

He thinks you're a freak.

Roman notices Virgil's panic and starts rambling.

"I didn't read it or anything! It just seemed important and I didn't want you to crumble it up in your sleep!" Roman took a small step closer, hoping to calm Virgil down.

Virgil shook his head. He had to get out of this room. He ran out of the room before Roman could say another word. He ran to the end of the hall, swinging into the bathroom. It was empty. He went into one of the shower stalls and yanked the curtains closed. He leaned up against the wall and sank to the floor. His knees touched his chest.

4-7-8

He definitely thinks Virgil is a freak.

4-7-8

Who could blame him, though. He was a freak.

Virgil heard footsteps coming in the bathroom his whole body tensed.

"Uh, hey."

It was Roman. Of course it was Roman. Virgil didn't know if he was glad it was him rather than some random guy or if he wished it was someone he didn't have to see daily.

"I brought you a towel and some clothes. In case you wanted to get a shower."

He saw Roman's feet under the shower curtain, about a yard from the opening. He saw his feet shuffle slightly had he adjusted his posture. He heard a deep breath.

"I'm really sorry if I did something that upset you. I didn't mean to."

"You're fine, Roman." He was surprised by his own voice. It sounded weak and quiet.

Roman paused.

"Are you okay?"

Virgil laughed cynically.

Yeah, he was fan-fucking-tastic.

He shook his head, but remember Roman couldn't see him.

"Not really." Virgil's voice cracked.

There wasn't anything for him to gain from lying. Roman wouldn't believe he was fine, do what was the point in trying to convince him.

Roman took a step towards the shower stall.

"Can I open the shower curtain?" Roman asked, gently.

Virgil definitely did not want that. With the curtain closed, he felt protected. Logically, he knew the curtain wasn't doing much. But to him, at that moment, it felt as protective as a brick wall in front of him.

"I'd rather you didn't."

Roman nodded. "Okay, that's okay."

Virgil expected him to turn around and walk out, but to his surprise he didn't. Instead, Roman sat down on the floor in front of the shower stall.

"Can I do anything to help?" He asked.

Virgil felt like he might cry. He felt like this would be the dumbest reason to cry. All Roman did was sit on the floor, not slay a dragon. But, something about the situation felt important. He'd felt pretty small the past few months. He'd felt like everything around him was going so fast and that if he tried to step in and be a part of things, he'd ruin the rhythm everyone had gotten into.

With Roman here, though, he felt like someone had put a stop to the flow of traffic so he could actually get on the road.

He decided he was glad it was Roman. Even if he was embarrassed by the whole situation later, at that moment, Roman's presence felt nice.

"Can you just keep talking?" Virgil asked, timidly.

"What do you want me to talk about?"

"Anything."

Roman made a humming noise.

"Once upon a time," Roman began, dramatically.

Virgil had to smile. Of course that's the route Roman would go.

Chapter Text

About five minutes later, a beeping noise filled the bathroom.

"Oh, that's my alarm. Orientation is in an hour."

Virgil hummed in acknowledgement. He played with the sleeve of his hoodie as Roman stood.

"The clothes are hanging up on the hook outside the stall. They're mine, though. I didn't want to go through your things." Roman said.

Virgil slowly stood, his hand an inch away from the curtain. His hands still shook slightly, but Roman's voice, along with his bizarre story about a dragon-witch hybrid had calmed him down significantly. His hand grasped the curtain and pulled it open.

Roman looked up at him from his phone and smiled. It was wide and genuine.

God, he was so freaking nice.

"Thank you." Virgil said. Both of them knew he meant it for more than just the clothes.

"You're welcome." Roman responded.

There was a moment of silence. It wasn't uncomfortable. It somehow felt necessary, like if anybody said anything, it would ruin the moment. Virgil wasn't really sure what the moment was.

Voices in the hallway broke the silence. Roman glanced over his shoulder and Virgil's eyes fell to the ground. He was suddenly very aware if his wet socks. He grimaced.

"I've got to go change. I got water on my pants."

"I'm sorry." Virgil said quietly.

Roman laughed. It was soft and kind.

"You're not the one who decided to sit on the floor. It's not your fault." He said, looking at Virgil. There was not a drop of harshness in him.

Virgil nodded. He didn't know what else to say. He didn't want to ruin this. Whatever this was.

"I'll wait for you back at the room. We can walk to orientation together so you know where to go." Roman slipped his phone into his pocket.

Virgil shook his head. He didn't want to take up anymore of Roman's time. He probably had friends he'd want to hang out with. He was probably just offering to be nice. As much as he genuinely liked being around Roman, and as comforting as his presence was, he couldn't take anymore of his time.

By the time Virgil looked up, Roman was already leaving the bathroom.

“It’s fine. You don’t have to.” Virgil said. He had to raise his voice slightly so Roman could hear him

Roman spun around, walking backwards towards the door.

"I know I don't have to. I want to!" He tripped on and almost fell on the ground.

After regaining his balance, he looked at Virgil and laughed. Virgil laughed softly.

Roman opened the door and left the bathroom. Virgil stood there for a moment, processing the whole interaction.

Roman seemed so genuinely nice. He was probably the nicest person Virgil had ever met. But, Virgil couldn't help but be suspicious. Nobody is that nice. At least, not without an ulterior motive. So either Roman was planning something…

Or Virgil was paranoid.

Virgil mentally scolded himself for his word choice. His therapist had advised against using that kind of language about himself.

Virgil tried to snap himself out of his thoughts. He needed a shower. Admittedly, he sort of smelled. He supposed that's his own fault for wearing a hoodie in mid August, and then sleeping in said hoodie and jeans.

He looked at the hook to see a uniform hanging there. The items were in hangers, but put on them sloppily. They looked older and slightly worn. He guessed this was from last year. A bright red towel hung next to them.

Virgil stepped back into the shower stall and stripped off his clothes, leaving them in a pile just outside of the curtain. His jeans were slightly wet from sitting on the shower floor. He'd have to wash them. He made a mental note to ask Roman where he could do some laundry.

He turned on the water. He let the almost boiling hot water run down his back.

-

After his shower he fumbled, trying to grab the towel without opening the curtain. He dried himself in a grabbed the uniform the hook, still not opening the curtain. He wasn't sure if there was anybody in the bathroom and was not too keen on anybody seeing him naked.

He pulled in the clothes. The pants were slightly too short and the shirt was a little too tight as well. The sweater fit fine, though. He'd probably have to at least change the pants when he got back to the room. Virgil was right, they likely had been Roman's from last year.

Virgil gathered his dirty clothes and proceeded to his room, barefoot. He really wished he had grabbed his shoes before he ran.

The door to their room was open and he could hear other voices coming from inside. His pace slowed as he peeked around the door slightly. He saw two guys in the room with Roman. One had dark brown hair and wore sunglasses. He did not wear the sweater with the uniform, opting to just wear the tie instead. He held a travel coffee mug in his hands. The other was entirely forgettable in appearance. He had blond hair and blue eyes. His body language gave Virgil the impression that he was kind of a dick.

He slowly walked into the room, avoiding eye contact with anybody. He dropped his clothes at the end of his bed. Grabbing his bookbag, he pulled out his pack of gum and the uniform pants Patton gave him yesterday. He'd wait until the other boys left before he changed. He popped the piece of gum in his mouth. The pack was almost empty, meaning he'd probably have to stop at the vending machine to get a new pack.

"So, they finally let you switch roommates?" The boy in the sunglasses said, gesturing at Virgil.

Virgil tensed for a minute. Roman looked over at Virgil, flashing him a quick half smile before turning back to his friend.

"Yeah, I guess they got tired of me complaining about Remus." Roman laughed. It wasn't his normal laugh. He sounded slightly uncomfortable.

"Is today an actual practice or is coach just gonna give his whole speech?" The blond boy asked. His voice held a layer of annoyance.

Virgil immediately decided he didn't like this boy.

"Why would I know that?" Roman asked raising his eyebrows.

The blond boy laughed. It sounded almost cruel.

"Well, you're basically teacher's pet. I figured he would have told you what he was planning to do."

Roman tensed up and gave the boy a dirty look. Virgil could feel the anger and annoyance seeping from the usually positive guy.

Wow, he really didn't like this blond kid.

"Zack, stop being a dick. Do you think you could do that?" Sunglasses scolded the blond boy, Zack.

"I don't know what we're doing at practice." Roman said through gritted teeth.

Zack scoffed and rolled his eyes. Sunglasses punched him in the arm.

Roman stood up and grabbed his book bag from the ground. His actions were aggressive.

"As much as I'd love to sit and chat, I've got shit to do. So please get out of my room."

Zack held his hands up in defense, walking towards the door.

"Whatever, dude. Geez, you really can't take a joke."

His voice was so fucking irritating.

"That's because you're not funny!" Sunglasses yelled after him. He turned to Roman, an apologetic look on his face.

"I'm sorry about him, Ro." He sounded sincere.

Roman's shoulders relaxed slightly as he looked down. He shifted on his feet, pulling at the straps of his bookbag.

"It's whatever, Remy. It's not your fault." Roman's voice felt strained. He sounded like a different person compared to earlier.

Roman seemed so carefree and happy earlier. Everything he did felt genuine and real. He seemed so unafraid to act like a moron. But now, he felt fake. There was this feeling of self consciousness around him. Like he was second guessing every single action. Checking to see if it fit his act. That's what it felt like now. It felt like Roman was acting.

"Still. I just wish I didn't have to spend so much time around him. He's such an asshole." Remy complained.

Roman gave a forced half smile. "Yeah, but you know how your aunt is."

Remy groaned. He took a swig from the travel mug.

"You mean batshit insane? Like, it's not my fault you raised a prick that can't get his own friends. That's on you, girl."

Roman laughed lightly. A real smile crossed his face for the first time since Virgil had come in the room.

 

"I'd better go make sure Zack isn't messing with some poor freshman. See you at practice." Remy said, turning to leave without waiting for a response.

"Yeah, see ya." Roman almost whispered to no one.

Roman sighed and let his head fall in his hands for a moment. His curly hair fell in his face. He ran a hand through it, pushing it back. Finally, he looked over at Virgil.

"Are you ready to go?" He asked. His voice was soft, despite the fact he was obviously still angry. He had an iron grip on his backpack strap.

Virgil shook his head and stood up.

"I'm gonna change my pants real quick. These are too short."

Roman looked down at Virgil's legs to see that the pants barely came to the top of his ankles. He was quiet for a minute before bursting into laughter. Virgil laughed quietly to himself as well. It was nice to see Roman laugh after seeming so upset. It felt like the Roman he met yesterday was back.

"Where's the flood?" Roman joked, cracking himself up.

Virgil rolled his eyes and turned around to change.

Chapter Text

The walk to the main building was pretty quiet. A few people greeted Roman as they walked by and Roman would flash them a fake smile and wave.

Virgil felt naked without his hoodie. He would go to put his hands in the pockets before remembering he wasn't wearing his hoodie. He felt like he looked like a moron. He felt like everybody was watching him.

Roman seemed really withdrawn. His hands were in his pockets and he hadn't said much of anything since they'd left the room. Virgil had his headphones, but felt like it would be rude if he put them on, so he dealt with the silence.

The amount of other kids got denser the closer they got to the main building. Virgil's nerves worsened as they got closer. His hands shook slightly. He wasn't to the point of having another attack, but that didn't mean he was completely fine either.

They finally had reached the building when Virgil saw Damian, sitting on a bench next to Logan. They both sat with perfect posture. Damian's uniform was neat and wrinkle free, as was Logan's. Both boys had foregone the sweater, only wearing the school provided shirt and tie.

Damian saw Virgil and waved. Virgil gave a half hearted wave. He'd probably see him later and he didn't want to hold Roman up.

There were tables set up at the entrance. One table had a few stacks of papers on it. A man, probably in his late 20s to early 30s sat at the table. His posture was loose and he smiled genuinely at students as he passed papers to them. He wore a white shirt and tie.

The other table had t-shirts and buttons piled haphazardly on it. There was a bright red banner with the word "welcome" painted messily in white paint. Patton stood next to the table, grinning happily at the students, who all brushed him off and rolled their eyes. A girl looked at him and snickered with her friends.

Virgil scowled at the girl. She didn't notice him and he was grateful for that.

At this point, Virgil didn't know where he was meant to be going, so he opted to just follow Roman. Roman seemed less and less energetic as they got closer to the school. By this point, being just outside the building, he looked miserable. Roman stopped for a moment, pulling his phone out to check the time.

Virgil pulled at the sleeve if his sweater. It was cooler than the day before, but it was still too warm to be wearing a sweater.

Roman looked over at Virgil, who shifted uncomfortably in his uniform.

"They get more lenient with the uniform after the first week or so. And Fridays are dress down days. All you have to do is wear a school t-shirt and you can wear whatever else you want." Roman explained. He was quiet and to the point.

Virgil wanted desperately to go back to his room and hide. He knew, logically, that Roman wasn't upset with him. That he was probably still angry from his earlier encounter with Zack and Remy in their room. Knowing this didn't stop the thoughts swirling around his head or the anxiety settling in his chest.

Virgil nodded. His eyes fell to his feet. He counted.

4-7-8

His hands shook slightly. It wasn't enough to be blatantly noticeable, but it was visible to someone who was looking. He pulled the sleeves of his sweater over his hands. He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, letting the slight breeze hit him.

4-7-8

He hoped that after the first few days his nerves would settle. He just wanted one day where he felt fine.

4-7-8

4-7-8

When he opened his eyes, Roman was looking at him, a worried expression on his face. Virgil gave a forced half smile.

4-7-8

As he counted his breath, his hands grew steadier. When he felt comfortable enough to stop counting he went through his countdown in his head. Just as he finished, a man in a suit stepped out of the school doors holding a megaphone. He stood for a moment, assessing the crowd of students. He gave a curt nod and held up the megaphone.

"Welcome, students." His voice was formal and firm, but not unkind. His posture was straight and stiff. He had an appearance that demanded respect.

 

After he spoke, a majority of students stopped their conversation and looked over to him. The ones who didn't immediately quiet down, did once they noticed everybody else shutting up. The man smiled and raised the megaphone once more.

"Would all students please head to the auditorium." He said.

He didn't wait to see what students were doing, he just turned on his heels and walked into the building. It was immediately loud again as the students flooded into the building. Virgil flinched at the noise, wanting to cover his ears, but not wanting to look like a freak.

-

The assembly in the auditorium was boring. Virgil and Roman were just about the last people to get into the auditorium. The only seats left were in the far corner. Usually, the stoners would sit there, but the teachers had caught on to that and made them sit up front this year, leaving the area empty. They sat there, somewhat paying attention.

"Hello, and welcome to Sanders Preparatory Academy. I am Headmaster Sanders. Today I am joined by my brother Mr. Sanders, who is Dean of Students."

The man from the table outside sat in a chair behind the podium. Virgil thought back to when Patton had to go help his uncle. He figured that one of the brothers on stage was probably Patton's dad. He continued to drone on about the school year. Virgil tried to pay attention, but he couldn't be bothered to care enough at that moment. The events from the past few days had left him exhausted.

Virgil heard some rustling before Roman slid over a notebook. A game of tic-tac-toe was scrawled out on the page. Virgil looked over at Roman who was looking straight forward, smiling. Virgil smiled before taking a pen from his backpack and drawing an x in the center square.

-

Twelve games later and the assembly was coming to an end. Headmaster Sanders began dismissing students by grade to go talk to teachers and get their schedule, starting with seniors. Roman frowned at the tallied score in his notebook. Virgil had won nine of the twelve games. He furrowed his eyebrows and stuck the end of his pen in his mouth. He finally just shrugged and shoved the notebook into his bookbag.

Virgil looked up and caught his brother's eye. Him, Patton and Logan were walking together out of the auditorium with the other seniors. Damien looked back and forth between Virgil and Roman before giving Virgil a look that he couldn't quite understand. Virgil raised his hands as if to ask "what?". Damian shrugged and shook his head, turning back to the conversation between him and the other two boys.

Roman looked over at Virgil as Headmaster Sanders dismissed the juniors.

"Are you going to be okay on your own for a bit?" Roman asked.

"Yeah, I'll be fine." Virgil looked down.

He probably wouldn't be, and now he couldn't even bug Damian if he needed to.

"Are you sure?" Something was weird about Roman's tone, "Because I'm sure they would let you go with me so I could show you around."

Oh. Roman was baiting him to say no. He wanted him to say no. So they could stay together. That wasn't what Virgil expected.

He looked over at Roman. Roman nodded his head slightly to the side. Virgil followed the direction of the nod and saw Zack and Remy sitting there. Remy was gathering his things, while Zack was still sitting back in his chair, glaring at everyone who looked his way and leering at the small number of girls who attended the school. Remy was a sophomore with Roman, but Zack seemed to be a freshman.

Fuck that.

"Oh." Virgil nodded, playing along. "Uh, You're right, I could use a hand."

Roman smiled wide. "A Prince is always happy to help."

Virgil snorted, but still smiled back at Roman.

"My hero." He said in a mock Southern Belle voice.

They both laughed quietly.

When sophomores were called, Roman stood up and practically dragged Virgil by the arm behind him.

Chapter Text

The day had gone by quickly. After a quick, introduction, Roman and Remy had shown him around the school and told him about the best and worst freshman teachers. The two had a pretty close relationship from what Virgil could see. He watched them go back and forth with banter.

Virgil wasn't used to Remy yet. He didn't know exactly what kind of person he was. For this reason, Virgil was absent in conversation unless someone spoke to him. He was listening, he just wasn't participating.

Though, he didn't really know Roman either. He'd just met him yesterday. He hadn't even known him a full twenty four hours. It was shocking when he thought about it how quickly he adjusted to Roman. Roman was just so likeable. He was kind and a bit dorky. He hadn't been rude or annoyed that morning with Virgil's attack. He'd tried so hard to help. He cared so much even though they'd just met.

"Hey, Virgil?"

Virgil's head shot up. Remy was smirking at him. "Yeah?"

"Have you heard Roman's secret Spotify playlist yet?"

Roman, who had been taking a sip of his water, choked on it. He sputtered.

Virgil narrowed his eyes at the boy in sunglasses as Roman coughed.

"No, I don't think so."

"Oh, girl! You are going to love it! It's this lovely blend of-"

Roman clamped his hand over Remy's mouth, almost knocking off the boys sunglasses.

"Remy, I swear to God if you finish that sentence you will not like the outcome." He threatened, panic in his eyes.

Remy held up his hands in surrender. Roman nodded before removing his hand.

Remy fixed his glasses and took a sip of coffee from his travel mug. He didn't mention the playlist again.

"Okay." Virgil said slowly.

Remy seemed good. He brought out a different side of Roman. They'd obviously been friends for a very long time. They had a sibling-like back-and- forth at some moments.

Lunch was pretty much the same. Virgil would sit back and observe the conversation, unless someone spoke to him, Remy would mess with Roman, and Roman would fire back at Remy. Lunch was a sandwich and fries. Virgil didn't really care for it, so he didn't eat. Instead, he had chewed gum and doodled on his hand with a pen.

After lunch, Remy had excused himself to find Zack, and Roman and Virgil had decided to head back to their room.

Virgil tried not to look around too much. He didn't want to accidentally make eye contact, so he kept his eyes on the ground. He looked up once in a while to make sure he was still behind Roman. He hadn't noticed the boy stop until he bumped into him.

Roman jumped, started by Virgil. He reached out and caught Virgil's arm before he fell.

"Sorry!" He said.

Virgil shrugged and offered a comforting smile.

"It's alright. Why did you stop?"

There was a moment of silence before Roman sighed. He shook his head, smiling sadly.

"I was just looking at something, It was no big deal."

Virgil looked at Roman. Roman's eyes had a weird look behind them. Like he was trying to silently plead with Virgil not to carry on. Virgil decided not to. He didn't want to push Roman to talk about something he wasn't ready to. Roman took a second glance at what he was looking at before continuing to walk. It was just the bulletin board for club activities.

-

Once they got to their room, they had a few hours before Roman had baseball. The two boys had no idea what to do to pass the time. Virgil was laying on his head, spread eagle while Roman sat on the ground, tossing his baseball in the air and catching it.

"I'm bored." Roman whined.

Virgil snorted. "Join the club."

Roman groaned and let the ball fall to the ground. The sound of the ball hitting the floor startled Virgil, causing him to fall out of his bed. Roman immediately rushed over to help him, while trying to hold back his giggling.

"Are you okay?" He asked, pulling Virgil up by his hand.

"Emotionally or Physically?"

Roman tilted his head in confusion. "Both?" He answered, unsteadily.

"Ha, no." Virgil answered before flopping back on his bed.

Roman didn't really know how to respond to that. There was a moment of silence before Roman smiled wide.

"Do you want to play a game?" He asked.

Virgil smiled softly at Roman's excitement, but only shrugged as answer.

"What game?" He asked.

"Two truths and a lie." Roman answered.

Virgil thought for a moment, not immediately answering. Virgil's silence made Roman nervous.

"I mean, we're going to be living together for a while and we don't really know each other, So I figured this would help us get to know each other." He rambled, trying to justify his suggestion.

Virgil smiled softly at Roman. He wanted to let Roman know that everything was fine and he hadn't done anything wrong. He could tell Roman was often very self conscious, especially about how others perceived him.

"Yeah, sure. You first."

Roman immediately smiled wide. He sat down cross legged on the end of Virgil's bed. Virgil sat up and moved so that his back was against the headboard and they were facing each other. Roman had his eyebrows furrowed in thought.

"Ok," He finally spoke,"I've got it."

"I don't know how to swim, I have a sister, and I was born in Texas."

Virgil thought. He didn't have a southern accent, but he also has never mentioned a sister. He's athletic, but definitely seems like the kind of person who didn't know how to swim.

"You weren't born in Texas?" Virgil finally guessed.

Roman shook his head, smiling. "I only have a brother."

"Well, yeehaw then." Virgil deadpanned before bursting out laughing, Roman following suit.

When the laughter died down, it was Virgil's turn.

"Um, My middle name Louis, my favorite food is spaghetti, and I was on the track team in seventh and eighth grade."

Roman looked at him for a moment, eyes narrowed. Virgil would be lying if he said the gaze didn't make him a bit nervous.

"There's no way you were on the track team."

Virgil smirked, having known Roman would go for that.

"Actually, there is a way. I was."

Roman's eyes widened. Virgil rolled his eyes at the boys shock.

"Don't look so surprised. I've got long legs and my dad made me." Virgil almost choked on his breath as he mentioned his dad.

Roman looked down for a moment and mumbled something Virgil couldn't hear. There was another moment of silence, but Roman was eager to fill that silence as he began listing his two truths and a lie.

-

After an hour and a half of playing, Roman's phone buzzed in his pocket. He drew it out of his pocket and sighed at the ID. He answered the call.

"What do you want?" He said.

His voice was sharp and annoyed. Virgil couldn't hear the other end of the conversation, but as it the person on the other end spoke, Roman only got more agitated.

"No. I can't." Roman stood up and paced slightly.

"What do you mean 'why'? I'm busy, that's why." Roman said, glancing back to Virgil.

The person on the other end said something that made Roman stiffen before sighing.

"You know what? Fine, whatever. I'll be there in 5 minutes."

He quickly hung up his phone and tossed it on his bed. He let his head fall in his hands for a moment. Virgil watched as he took a deep breath, attempting to calm down.

"Are you okay?" He asked, moving to stand from his bed.

Roman turned around and smiled wryly. "Yeah, I'm okay. I just have to go help my brother with something."

Virgil nodded. It was obvious that the brothers didn't get along very well. And given the way Damian had described him, it didn't take much to see why.

"Do you want some company?" Virgil offered, shyly. He mentally kicked himself as soon as the words left his mouth.

Roman immediately shook his head. "No, I'd better go alone. But, thank you."

Virgil nodded as Roman got his baseball bag from the corner and his phone from his bed.

"I probably won't be back before dinner, so remember that it's at six in the cafeteria." Roman said.

Virgil smiled. "Thanks, I'll see you later."

Roman smiled before stepping into the hall and shutting the door behind him.

Then, Virgil was alone. It was only just after three o'clock, so Virgil had time to kill. He sat on his bed and pulled out his phone. He quickly typed out a text and sent it to Damien, asking if he'd like to watch a movie or something. He put on his headphones and waited for a reply.

Chapter Text

An hour after his text to Damian, Virgil felt a presence in the room. He looked up, startled to see his brother standing at the foot of his bed with his arms crossed. He ripped off his headphones.

"I was knocking on your door for five minutes before I gave up and tried the handle." Damian said. His voice carried a layer of annoyance.

"Why didn't you answer my text so I'd know to be listening for you?" Virgil countered.

Damian sat down in Virgil's desk chair.

"I was about to when your roommate barged into my room looking for something for his idiot brother."

Virgil was quiet for a moment. He'd almost forgotten that Damian was Remus's roommate. Well, he hadn't really forgotten. His brain just hadn't connected the dots with the whole roommate situation.

"Did he seem alright?" Virgil asked quietly. His voice was barely above a whisper, but he wasn't sure why. The question seemed… different. He didn't know why that was.

"Roman? Heavens no! I've never seen someone quite so angry." Damian answered. He chuckled softly. Something about his reaction irritated Virgil.

Virgil brushed his aggravation to the side. He reached over the side of his bed to get a piece of gum from his book bag. When he turned back towards Damian, his brother was looking at him. A worried and confused look on his face.

"What?" Virgil asked, shifting uncomfortably under his gaze.

"Are you alright?" He asked. He leaned forward in the chair, resting his arms on his knees.

Virgil nodded, taking a breath.

"I'm fine. He just seemed angry when his brother called."

Damian hummed in acknowledgement. He seemed like he knew something Virgil didn't. Virgil suddenly remembered he was still holding the piece of gum. He popped it in his mouth.

"Where's your laptop? I thought we were gonna watch a movie." Virgil said.

Damian hadn't been holding his laptop and it wasn't on any of the tables in the room. Virgil didn't have a laptop, and he really wanted to watch a movie. He needed to distract himself from everything that had happened today. It was all a lot to deal with.

"We're not watching a movie." Damian said. He picked at his nails.

Virgil felt his nerves build up. "Ok, what are we doing then?"

"We're going for a walk for now. Come on." Damian stood up and walked out the door.

"Wait! Where are we going?" Virgil tried to call after him, but it was no use. He quickly grabbed his phone and bookbag and followed his brother down the hall.

-

The walk was quiet. Virgil was chewing his gum. It was cinnamon flavor. It was probably his favorite. Damian thought it was disgusting, so he wouldn't ask for pieces either. He had one headphone covering his ear.

Damian whistled as he walked. He wasn't whistling a specific tune. Virgil followed him to the main building. Damian walked in, Virgil following. Once inside, Damian turned to Virgil and pulled his headphones off.

"Before we go any further, I'm going to tell you where we are going." Damian said slowly.

Virgil nodded. He didn't know why Damian was being so weird. His mind filled in the blank with the worst outcomes.

"We're going to the drama club meeting."

Virgil's eyes widened as he immediately whipped around to leave the building. Damian grabbed him by the handle of his bookbag and pulled him back.

"No! Why would you think that this was a good idea? Me? In drama club? I threw up when I had to give that presentation in 4th grade! Mom had to pick me up!" Virgil rambled on.

Damian put his hands on Virgil's shoulders and looked him in the eye.

"I'm not making you audition. I'm not heartless, Virgil."

Virgil was breathing faster and panicking. He was about two seconds away from an attack.

"Why are we here then?" Virgil asked, an iron grip on his backpack straps.

"I'm going to ask about being student director. You are going to sign up for stage crew."

Virgil looked at his brother like he was crazy. He had to be for even suggesting this. He knew Virgil didn't handle responsibility well. He already had enough on his plate with school. He didn't need more. And other people would be counting on him, which scared the hell out of him. He knew he'd mess up. That, plus even interacting with other people. He felt his fight or flight reflexes kicking in, and if Damian didn't let go of him, it'd be fight rather than flight.

"No. No, I'm not doing this. You're going to let go of me and I'm going to go back to my room." Virgil said through gritted teeth. His chest heaved as he felt anger rise up in him, only furthering his panic.

 

"Or what, Virgil?" Damian's voice almost dared him. "Listen, I promised Mom I wouldn't let you hide in your room all year."

Virgil stopped. His chest still heaved and his fists were balled right around his backpack straps, but his mind stopped. He really didn't want to do this. He hated extracurriculars and he hated extra responsibility. But, he also felt like if he didn't, he'd let his mom down. She was fragile enough at that time, and Virgil didn't want to add to that.

4-7-8

4-7-8

He unclenched his fists and let his arms fall to his sides. Damian always knew what to say to get Virgil to do what he wanted.

He let his brother lead him to the auditorium by his shoulders, not looking up. He counted his breath as the entered.

The auditorium had a good number of people in it. The first five rows of the center group of seats were filled. Virgil tried to take a seat in the sixth row, but was yanked away by Damian, who dragged him to the only open seats in the third row. Virgil gave his brother a dirty look as he sank into the chair. He looked around and noticed Patton sitting with Logan in the first row. Patton was eagerly talking while Logan calmly listened. On the stage was Mr. Sanders and a stout man in a button down shirt and black slacks.

"If everybody would settle down, we'll get things going here!" Mr. Sanders shouted over the chattering teens.

The room slowly fell quiet. When it did, Mr. Sanders clapped his hands happily.

"Great! Welcome to the first drama club meeting if the year!" He began, "As you may know, I am Mr. Sanders, and this Larry."

The other man, Larry, gave a quick wave.

"Hello, all! I'm going to be your director." Larry introduced himself. The way he said 'director' had Virgil fighting and eyeroll.

Mr. Sanders smiled. "And I have a great announcement!"

There was whispering among the group. Some kids had excited smiles on their faces, while some were just confused.

"As some of you guys know, we talked about doing a certain show last year, but it was shot down by the Headmaster." Mr. Sanders was practically vibrating with excitement.

The whispers got louder and the excited smiles grew wider.

"But this year we got the okay! It was a fight, but this year's production will be Heathers!"

There was some whooping and hollering in the crowd, if you could call it a crowd. There was now loud discussions of who would audition for who and who was likely to get cast. But Virgil was left confused. Heathers? Wasn't that a movie from the 80s? He shrugged. He could Google it later. He heard a clatter from the back of the auditorium. He whipped around to see nobody there. He turned back around.

At this point, he was only half listening to Larry and Mr. Sanders. He noticed people around him standing and looked to Damian for direction.

Damian rolled his eyes. Of course Virgil wasn't listening.

"Anyone interested in behind the scenes stuff is supposed to go with Mr. Sanders backstage."

Virgil nodded. Just as he was standing, he felt something his the back of his foot. He looked down to see a baseball sitting on the ground by his shoe. Eyebrows furrowed in confusion, he reached down and picked it up. Not having time to examine it now, he shoved it in his bag and followed everyone else backstage.

Chapter Text

Virgil was in charge of lights.

Logan had called being stage manager. And some kid called audio board, but when it came the position if lighting board, nobody volunteered. Then, Virgil had made the mistake if eye contact with Logan.

"How about you, Virgil?"

And all eyes were on him and he couldn't say no. He could just about kill Logan in that seconds as he shakily replied. "Sure."

Not long after that, the meeting was over. When he found Damian, he was in the middle of talking to Larry, presumably about being student director.

He stood off my a wall with his arms crossed while he waited for Damian to finish up.

"Are you auditioning for JD?" A voice next to him asked.

He jumped and whipped around to see a girl standing there. She had dark brown hair and was on the shorter side.

"Jesus Christ! You scared me." He said, quickly shoving his hands in his pockets.

"Sorry." She said. It was sincere enough, but he could tell she found his reaction funny. He guessed he couldn't blame her.

They stood there for a minute, the girl looking at him expectantly.

"Well? Are you?" She tried again.

"Oh," Virgil had forgotten about her question, "No. I'm the light guy."

He glanced over at her. She looked almost disappointed.

"Oh, that's a shame. You have a JD vibe." She said.

Virgil looked over at her and tilted his head.

"You realize you just told me I have a school shooter vibe in different words, right?" He said.

The girl immediately panicked. Her eyes went wide as she quickly tried to apologise and correct herself.

"Relax," Virgil interrupted, "I got what you meant."

She sighed in relief. Then she offered her hand out to shake.

"I'm Valarie." She said.

Virgil took her hand.

"Virgil."

She smiled. "Well, Virgil, I guess I'll see you around."

"Yeah, see you."

With that, Valarie walked off. Her steps were quick.

That hadn't gone awful. It hadn't gone well, but he didn't freak out and she seemed to find him decent. So, that was good, he guessed.

Just then, Damian finished up talking to Larry and waved at Virgil to follow as he walked towards the auditorium doors.

Virgil sped up to catch up with his brother.

"Did you get your assistant director thing?" Virgil asked.

"Student director." Damian corrected, "And yes, I did."

"Cool." Virgil said simply.

They continued walking in silence for a moment before Virgil spoke again.

"I'm the lights guy."

Damian stopped and looked at Virgil, surprised.

"Really?" Something about his tone made Virgil feel embarrassed for some reason.

"Yeah, well. Logan asked me and people were looking at me. You know I can't say no in a situation like that."

Damian made a humming noise and continued walking.

"You know I'm very proud of you, right?" Damian said, not looking at Virgil.

Virgil had to admit the praise felt nice. This could be a really heartfelt, mushy moment if they were anyone else. But, they weren't anyone else. They were Virgil and Damian.

So Virgil just snorted.

"Gross." He responded.

Damian shook his head, but it was obvious he was fighting back a laugh.

Virgil decided that today was neutral rather than awful.

-

Virgil decided to skip dinner that night. He wasn't feeling all that hungry and he had something he wanted to do. No, something he needed to do.

He sat in his bed, staring at his phone. It sat on the space in front of him, almost taunting him. He tapped his fingers in his knee nervously.

Why was this so hard for him? It was just a phone call. Maybe he could just wait until tomorrow. But, he knew putting off would just make him avoid it even more. It would only amp up his nerves. It would give him more time to think of the worst possible outcome.

4-7-8

Virgil counted.

Nobody was going to die as a result of a phone call. Nobody would hate him. His mother wouldn't disown him. He'd be okay.

He took a deep breath and picked up the phone. He quickly dialed the number before he could psych himself out.

Now or never.

He listened to the tone as he waited for an answer. Just when he thought it would go to voicemail, the line picked up.

"Hello?"

Virgil's breath caught in his throat. He tried to speak, but words weren't coming out.

"Virgil? Honey, are you there?"

How did she know it was him. Oh, right. Call ID.

He took a deep breath.

"Hey, Mom." His voice cracked as he spoke. Just talking to her made his eyes sting and his chest tighten. He'd never missed home more than he did in that moment.

"Hey. There you are." Her voice was soft and understanding. "How are you, Virge?"

"I'm..." He trailed off for a moment, not sure how to finish his sentence. He didn't really know how he was.

He wasn't necessarily bad. Sure, he'd had 2 attacks in the last two days and had been on the verge of a third, but with so much change he'd expected it. He knew his anxiety would settle to its normal height once he adjusted to the change.

He wasn't doing well, either. Just because he'd expected the attacks, doesn't mean he didn't feel shitty for having them. He'd always felt like that about them. It always felt embarrassing to look back on the things that triggered them in the first place and see how trivial they were. No matter how many times his mom and Damian told him that his feelings weren't stupid or over dramatic, he couldn't help but think otherwise.

He supposed he was okay. Just okay. His roommate was nice, though a bit of a dork. He had talked to three or four new people without freaking out. He felt okay.

"I'm doing alright." He finally settled on, "How about you?"

-

They talked for a few minutes about school, AA, and anything else they could think of.

Virgil took a quick look at the time on his phone and saw that Roman would probably be back from dinner soon. He wanted to end the call before Roman got back. He was a great guy and all, but they'd just met and Virgil didn't feel like sharing why he was close to tears just talking to his mom.

"I have to go soon. But, before I do, I have some news." Virgil's heart sped up slightly.

He picked at a loose thread on the old sweater.

"I, uh, I joined the stage crew for drama club. I'm the lights guy."

There was silence on the other end.

"Mom, are you there?"

Then he heard sniffing from the other end. She was crying. Oh my god, why was she crying?

"Are you okay? What's wrong?" There was an urgency in his voice. What did he do wrong? Why was she crying?

"I'm just so proud of you, Virgil. I'm so sorry I can't be there with you now to tell you face to face." Her voice was weak. Her words hung on the line, lingering.

Everything felt too real again.

4-7-8

"Mom, it's just lights. It's not a big deal." He tried to brush it off.

"It's not just that, honey. You're doing things I never thought you'd do and I'm sure you never thought you would either and I'm proud of you for your effort. I know this all been hard."

Virgil had tears running down his face. He used the hand not holding the phone to wipe his eyes.

"Yeah, well Damian sorta forced me." Virgil joked. His mom laughed.

"What would we do without him?" She joked back.

He smiled through his tears, swallowing the lump forming in his throat.

"I don't know, we probably wouldn't understand those old timey British TV shows half as well."

His mom laughed loudly over the phone. "Yeah, you're probably right."

Virgil heard people in the halls now.

"I have to go now. I love you, mom."

There was another pause. He could hear her wiping away her tears.

"I love you too, baby."

He hung up. And let his phone fall into his bed. He fell back into his pillow. His arms were spread out at his sides as he looked at the ceiling.

Then the door opened and an exhausted Roman walked in, looking around for something.

"Where is it? Where is it?" He repeated to himself. He threw down his baseball bag and pulled the contents out, tossing them on the floor by his bed.

A baseball glove.

Three different baseballs.

Red and gold batting gloves.

Two black cleats.

A t-shirt.

He reached the last of the contents and stopped for a minute. He just looked at the bottom of the bag. Then he let out a yell as he threw the bag on his bed and sat on the ground, his head in his hands.

Virgil was now upright, halfway off his bed. He slowly and carefully stood up and walked towards him.

"Are you okay?" He asked and the mentally slapped himself for even asking. Of course he wasn't okay.

"No." Roman muttered into his hands. He shook slightly.

Virgil had no clue what to do. Sure, he'd had his fair share of freak-outs, but he'd never had to help someone else dealing with one. He stood next to Roman for a second before sitting down next to him.

"What's wrong?" He asked Roman. He tried to keep his voice gentle and calm, but given who he was, it was a pretty difficult task.
Roman mumbled something, but his hands muffled it, so Virgil couldn't understand him.

"What?"

Roman threw his head back and sighed.

"I said it's stupid."

God, Virgil knew that feeling.

"Your feelings aren't stupid." Virgil reassured him.

Roman looked over at Virgil. The two held eye contact for a moment before the older boy looked down at the ground.

"I lost a ball." Roman said quietly.

A ball. Okay. He lost a ball. Virgil had found a ball.

"Like, a baseball?" Virgil asked.

Roman nodded. He face grew red. "I told you it was stupid."

"Hey, I never said it was stupid."

Virgil stopped, could it be the same ball. "What makes this ball special?"

Roman paused.

"Yesterday," he began, "I hit a ball over the fence. And it was a really big deal for me, because I'd been putting in so much extra batting practice in trying to get that hit. I kept the ball and signed and dated it and stuff and now I can't find it."

Maybe it was the same ball. But why would Roman be in the auditorium? It couldn't hurt to check, though.

"One second."

Virgil stood up quickly and went to his bookbag, rummaging through until he found the ball from earlier. And sure enough, Roman's messy signature and yesterday's date were scrawled on the ball in black permanent marker.

Chapter Text

"Is that it?" Roman was staring at him.

Virgil nodded and held it out for Roman to get. Roman stood up and walked over to take the ball. He looked at the signature and date. It was slightly dirty and the marker was smudged, like someone had touched it before the ink had dried.

"Where did you find it?" Roman asked. His voice was so low that Virgil almost couldn't hear him.

Virgil thought about his options for answering the question. He could say he found it outside, but why would he pick up a random baseball on the ground outside. Or, he could tell Roman the truth. And if he was being honest, he was curious as to why Roman was in the auditorium in the first place. He knew he hadn't seen him, so where was he?

Then, he remembered the clattering in the back of the auditorium and how he found the ball just after that. That only raised more questions, though. Why was Roman sneaking around the back of the auditorium?

"The auditorium. It had rolled into my foot during the drama meeting." He answered finally. His voice was just as quiet as Roman's, as if they were sharing a secret.

Roman immediately tensed and screwed his eyes shut. He whispered a string of curses. He opened his eyes and looked at Virgil.

"I, um," Roman tried to stammer out an explanation. Virgil could see something that almost looked like fear behind his eyes. Why was he afraid? What was he afraid of? It was just a drama meeting. But Virgil remembered the middle school incident again. That had just been a shirt.

As curious as Virgil was as to why Roman was hiding him being at the meeting, the boy seemed like he might cry and Virgil didn't want to be the cause of that just for an explanation that Roman had no obligation to give him.

"You don't owe me an explanation. It's cool, Roman." Virgil smiled sincerely at Roman.

Roman just stared at Virgil, a million emotions crossing his eyes. Virgil wanted to look away, but felt like he couldn't. He needed Roman to to know that everything was fine, that he wasn't lying or trying to trick him.

Virgil opened his mouth to speak again, but before he could get any words out Roman wrapped him in a tight hug. Virgil's hand fell stiff at his sides and he tensed slightly.

"Oh."

Roman was warm. He smelled like a generic men's body wash and apple shampoo. Virgil slowly hugged him back. He wasn't really used to physical contact like this. The only people he'd ever really hugged were his mom and Damian, and hadn't hugged Damian since he was eight.

It felt nice, though. Safe. Roman felt safe, which still amazed Virgil. Normally he was so cautious around people, but Roman seemed to bypass his many walls so quickly. He hadn't crossed all of them, but more than Virgil had thought he would.

"Thanks." Roman mumbled into Virgil's shoulder.

"Anytime."

A moment passed before Roman chucked to himself.

"What?" Virgil asked.

"We're both kind of disasters, aren't we?"

Virgil let go of Roman and backed up, shoving him playfully.

"Shut up!" He laughed. "We kind of are, though." He agreed.

Roman turned and began to pick up the items he'd thrown out of his bag. He messily shoved everything back in the bag before zipping it and shoving it off his bed. He sat on the edge of it.

"So, what did your brother need?"

Roman groaned and fell backwards on his bed dramatically.

"He got his head stuck in the gate out front and I had to bring him Vaseline and his inhaler."

Virgil struggled to hold back his laughter, because what the hell?

"I'm sorry, what?" He asked, honestly unsure if he had heard him correctly.

Roman sighed. "He went for a walk and saw it and was wondering if his head would fit through the gap in the gate. It did, but it wouldn't come out."

Virgil had no idea how to respond. That sounded like something a little kid would do.

"I know what you're thinking, but he's not stupid. He just doesn't have any impulse control. If he thinks about doing something, he just does it."

"That," Virgil began, not really sure where he was going with it, "Sounds exhausting."

Roman nodded. "It is. He's been doing better lately, I guess."

"Getting his head stuck in the gate is better than usual?"

Roman just hummed in response, closing his eyes. His breathing was evening out, like he was falling asleep.

Virgil quietly grabbed his pajamas from his dresser. It was just a sleeveless black shirt and grey shorts. He definitely didn't feel like sleeping in his uniform. He grabbed a towel and a drawstring bag that held soap.

Assuming that Roman was asleep, Virgil quietly slipped out of the room into the hall. The halls were relatively empty. Most of the doors were shut, with lights pouring out from under the door. There was loud music playing from a room down the hall. He quickly made his way to the bathroom.

-

After his shower, Virgil quietly walked back into the room. He tossed his clothes and towel at the end of his bed, deciding to deal with finding a proper place for them tomorrow. He looked over to Roman's side of the room to see him lying on his bed, now in his pajamas as well.

Virgil yawned. The day had been so tiring, he couldn't wait to get some sleep. He put on some calming music and put his headphones on, laying in his own bed.

-

Virgil awoke to his alarm going off through his headphones and sun streaming in through the window. There was noise out in the hall, meaning people were already up. He slowly sat up and rubbed his eyes. It was the first day of classes and Virgil would rather die. Despite going to bed at a fairly early time, he still felt exhausted.

Roman was already half dressed on the other side of the room. His hair was wet, the curls sticking to his forehead slightly. His baseball bag was now on his bed. It was zipped up with his bookbag sitting next to it. He was stuffing notebooks into his bookbag.

Roman finally noticed Virgil was up and turned around.

"Good morning!" He smiled brightly as Virgil stood up slowly, stumbling a little.

"Morning." Virgil grumbled out.

He walked over to his dresser, pulling out his own uniform shirt and sweater. He was glad he had thought to pack a pair of nice black pants, because he had yet to get more dress code approved clothes or figure out where he could do laundry.

Roman cursed softly to himself. Virgil turned around to see him pulling out his phone and dialing a number.

"Hey, Remy?"

A pause.

"No, yeah. I'm fine." Roman said, shifting his feet uncomfortably.

Remy must have said something that made Roman embarrassed because he turned bright red.

"No, it was fine! You don't have to do that."

Virgil realized he was just watching Roman and sort of eavesdropping, so he turned away from him and started to get dressed. He didn't want Roman to think he was nosey, even though he really could be sometimes.

Roman hung up just as Virgil was pulling his sweater over his head.

"Hey, Remy is going to stop by in a minute to drop off my bat. I accidentally left it at practice. Did you wanna wait and walk with me to the main building?" Roman asked. There was something hopeful in his voice, like genuinely wanted Virgil to say yes.

Yet, Virgil still couldn't help but think he was probably just offering to be nice. Despite this, he still agreed. He gave quick "Sure" and sat down to put on his shoes.

He noticed Roman's smile grew slightly from the corner of his eye. Then there was a quick knock before the door swung open. Wow, that was quick.

"Sup, girls?" Remy greeted as he stepped into the room. He was entirely too loud at this hour, in Virgil's opinion. He held a silver looking metal baseball bat in one hand and his travel mug in the other. And, of course, his eyes were covered by his sunglasses.

Roman rolled his eyes. "Hey, Rem. Thanks for grabbing my bat."

Remy handed the bat off to Roman, nodding. "No problem. You might want to talk to Coach, though."

Roman tensed up, setting his bat by the baseball bag.

"Why? Is he mad about me running off last night?" Virgil could hear the worry in his voice.

Remy shook his head. "Not really mad so much as concerned. He wants you to stop by during lunch."

Roman nodded, not really responding to Remy. Remy took a long sip of coffee from the travel mug and grimaced.

"God, I wish there was a place to get decent iced coffee around here." He complained.

Remy gave a quick goodbye before spinning on his heels and walking out. Roman was still sort of spaced out. Virgil slowly stood and walked up next to him.

"Are you okay, Princey?"

Roman jumped slightly and looked over at Virgil. He hadn't even noticed him stand up. He let out a dry laugh.

"Yeah, just zoned out. Are you ready to head out?"

Virgil shrugged and grabbed his bag from the ground next to his bed, not bothering with the actual school supplies. After all, it was the first day of classes. They couldn't be getting that much work.

Roman put his bat in bat spot on his bag and grabbed both his baseball bag and backpack. They both did a quick check for their phone, wallet, and keys before walking out the door into the hallway, Virgil locking it behind them

Chapter Text

The first few days of classes went on smoothly. The first day had just been full of syllabi and icebreakers. Virgil didn't know any other freshman, so he mostly kept to himself in class. His art class, though, had the grades mixed together. He found himself sitting at a long table with Logan on one side of him and Valarie on the other.

Logan and Virgil were both quieter, so Valarie did most of the talking. Virgil had to admit, even though he wasn't a huge fan of social interaction, it was nice to have some familiar faces in class with him.

-

By the time Friday came, Virgil was already feeling pretty well adjusted. He'd woke up that morning to Roman getting dressed on the other side of the room. He was wearing a red t-shirt with the schools crown logo on it and a pair of blue jeans.

"Good morning!" He greeted as Virgil got up.

They had stumbled into a routine. Roman got up an hour before Virgil because he took morning showers. He'd get dressed and wait for Virgil to get up and get dressed. They'd walk to the main building together and Virgil would walk back to the dorm by himself because Roman had baseball practice after class.

Virgil started to put on his uniform. Roman had shown him the laundry room, so his uniform was clean, though it was wrinkled. He didn't feel like talking the time to fold it.

"What are you doing? It's Friday." Roman said. He said it as if Virgil was crazy. Virgil turned around and tilted his head at him.

"I'm getting dressed."

"Well, yeah, I can see that. But why are you putting on your uniform? It's dress down day."

Virgil shrugged. "I don't have a school shirt."

Before Virgil could finish his sentence, Roman was digging through his drawer. "Wait."

He made a noise of triumph as he pulled a black shirt from his drawer and tossed it to Virgil. It read 'Sanders Prep King's Baseball' across the front. Virgil had learned the other day that the school's mascot was a king. On the back it had the number 15. Virgil looked at the shirt I his hands. He felt his stomach flip over. He chalked it up to nerves. Would the shirt give people the wrong idea? He really didn't want to wear his uniform, though. He guessed he could just wear a hoodie. Nobody would care if he was wearing a baseball shirt. He threw in the T-shirt and went back into his dresser for some black jeans.

-

"Thanks for the shirt." He said, locking the door behind them after they had stepped into the hall.

Roman smiled wide. "Of course! I can't let a friend miss out on dress down day!"

Vigirl froze. Friend. Were they friends? Maybe it was stupid to get so caught off guard by someone saying that they were his friend, but Virgil didn't really care about that. He had such a hard time making friends at his last school, especially after what happened with his dad.

Virgil shoved those thoughts away. Thinking about his dad wouldn't do him any good. It would only serve to make him more paranoid.

Anxious. It would make him more anxious. Not paranoid.

He turned from the door and smiled at Roman, pushing his thoughts away. He could deal with them later.

-

The day went by smoothly, but also painfully slow. In English they started reading The Most Dangerous Game. In math, they got into the first section. Virgil hadn't really paid much attention to what it was. By the time Virgil got to his 4th period, art, he was so tired. He slouched on his stool, resting his head on his hand. Logan sat up straight next him. Even on dress down day, he still wore a shirt and tie. The only difference was that it was that he was wearing a blue tie instead of the black one.

"Virgil. I wasn't aware that you played baseball." Logan said.

"Huh? I don't. Why would you think that?"

"Your shirt."

Virgil looked down at his shirt, confused. Oh He had forgotten that he was wearing Roman's shirt. He shifted.

"It's not mine. It's Roman's. I don't have any school t-shirts, so he let me borrow one."

Virgil immediately felt nervous. It was just a t-shirt. There wasn't some deep meaning behind it. He pulled his hoodie tighter around himself.

"I see." Logan said. "And you and Roman have been getting along well?"

"Uh, yeah." Virgil said quietly. He paused for a moment. "We're friends, I guess."

Logan looked slightly confused at that, but hid his confusion. "That's good "

Virgil nodded, opting not to respond. It was then that Valarie bounced into the room.

"Virgil!" She shouted as she entered.

Virgil jumped and spun around. A few other kids turned to look and Virgil sort of wanted to disappear in that moment. He cringed as the people who were looking at Valarie turned to look at him.

"Yeah?" He sort of squeaked out.

"Auditions are tonight and you absolutely have to be there!" She declared, sitting in her seat next to Virgil.

Virgil rise an eyebrow. "Larry and Mr. Sanders both said I didn't have to be there until next Thursday."

"That's correct. Stage crew isn't needed until then." Logan said.

Valarie rolled her eyes. "Not for them. For me."

"What? Why?" Virgil asked. Why did she need him to be at auditions.

"Because I'm auditioning for Veronica." She said as if that made everything perfectly clear.

Virgil glanced over at Logan to see if he understood what was going on. He looked confused as well.

Valarie noticed their confusion and sighed.

"I need you to run lines with me before I audition."

"Oh. Wait, why me?" He played with the loose thread from his sleeve.

"Because you're my friend and I need help!"

Virgil froze, not looking up. Friend. What? That was the second time that day someone had called him their friend. Part of his brain was screaming at him that she only needed help. That she was just saying they were friends to get what she wanted. But, Valarie definitely didn't seem like the kind of person to do that. He just couldn't see her lying to someone like that.

Virgil looked up at her. He shrugged, trying to act unaffected by her words.

"Fine, I'll be there."

She clapped her hands happily. The art teacher gave her a look and she immediately quieted down. The teacher was now at the front of the class to begin giving instruction.

Valarie leaned over. "Right after school, in front of the auditorium."

Virgil nodded and began doodling in his notebook, only half listening to the teacher. His chest felt warm. He felt better than he had in a long time.

He had made two friends in the span of a few days. That was more than he had made in the whole time he'd been in his old school district.

He didn't want to jinx himself, but he felt like things were good for once. And if they weren't good tomorrow, he had friends to help him.

-

After art class, Virgil texted Damian to let him know that he wouldn't be in his room after classes. His brother sometimes sat in his room until Roman got back from practice. He did so to get a break from Remus, who had for some reason attached himself to the boy. He wouldn't leave Damian alone and Virgil found it sort of hilarious.

Damian texted back and as usual, it was practically in letter format. It said something about how Virgil was an awful brother for leaving him with such a hooligan. Virgil rolled his eyes, knowing he was joking. Mostly.

After art, he had lunch. The past few days, he'd been sitting in the library, eating chips in the corner that was farthest away from the librarian. He never checked out any books. Really, he just liked the quiet. However, when he got to the library, it was closed.

Well, shit. Now where was he supposed to sit? He didn't want to sit in the bathroom. But the cafeteria seemed so daunting and loud. They weren't allowed to eat outside yet, though, so it looked like his only real option was the cafeteria. He'd been avoiding actually sitting in it while everyone was in it since he'd arrived. He'd been eating snacks from the vending machine for dinner.

He dragged his feet to the cafeteria. As soon as he rounded the corner into the room, it was automatically too much. He looked around nervously. He didn't really know if he knew anybody in this lunch, especially considering he only knew a few people in the whole school.

He quickly went through the lunch line. He grabbed a turkey sandwich and an apple. After paying, he scanned for a seat. He was about to sit at an empty end if a table when he heard someone call his name. He turned to see Roman, standing a table waving him over with a huge grin on his face. He looked at who else was at the table to see a group of guys he assumed were also baseball players.

Oh no. He really didn't want to sit with them. He had a very bad experience with jocks at his old school and was not keen to relive those moments, especially when he was feeling pretty good for once.

On the other hand, Roman seemed to want him to sit with him. He had just said that they were friends that morning. What if Roman were disappointed that Virgil didn't sit with him? What if he decided they weren't friends anymore? He didn't want to disappoint anybody, especially his friend.

Risks had to be taken, he supposed. He slowly made his way towards Roman.

"Hey!" Roman greeted happily.

"Hi."

"Would you like to sit with us?"

Virgil looked at any sign in Roman's face that said he didn't actually want Virgil there, but didn't find it.

"Sure." He agreed softly.

Virgil wasn't sure how, but Roman's smile grew wider as he sat back in his seat next Remy. He nudged the boy in the sunglasses, telling him to move over so Virgil could sit.

Virgil sat down, lightly setting down his tray. He could feel the eyes of the other boys on him.

"This is Virgil, guys." Roman introduced.

He gave a short wave before dropping his eyes to the table. He played with thread from earlier. His chest felt tight again.

4-7-8

A few of the guys gave half assed waves back, a few gave short greeting like, 'sup.' or 'hey'.

Roman bumped Virgil's shoulder with his own. When Virgil looked up, Roman gave him a softer, comforting smile.

"I didn't know you were in this lunch." He said.

Virgil shrugged. "I usually sit in the library."

"Don't you get hungry, though?" A boy from across the table asked.

He shook his head. "Nah, I usually eat a bag of chips while I'm in there."

That sentence apparently caught the attention of a few of the guys. They immediately were very interested in how he'd been able to eat in the library and not get in trouble.

"Dude, she gave 5 days of detention for eating a granola bar last year!" A boy with bright red hair exclaimed.

Virgil felt his face flush at the attention. Roman was laughing next him.

"Teach them your ways, oh great one." Remy said jokingly, only for the guys to agree with him, asking how he managed to not get caught.

"I just walk in and sit in the corner that's farthest away from her." Virgil answered. His voice was quiet and unsure.

At that, the boys went nuts. At first, Virgil thought they were mad at him. He flinched slightly. But, then he noticed that they weren't mad at him, but were laughing and joking about him being a ninja. And Virgil was confused. These guys were nothing like the jocks at his old school. They weren't taunting him or laughing at him. They were joking around with him. They were laughing with him.

He breathed a sigh of relief. He was fine. He was at a table full of jocks and he was okay. He let himself laugh along as he unwrapped his sandwich to take a night.

God, this was a dry sandwich.

Chapter Text

When the final bell rang, Virgil quickly gathered his things and left his History class. He didn't want to keep Valarie waiting, despite the fact that he was incredibly nervous. He really wanted to help Valarie, but was worried that he'd mess up. Valarie was so excited for this audition and he didn't want to ruin it for her. He had a habit of ruining things sometimes.

The halls were almost empty by the time Virgil got to the auditorium. Valarie was standing by the doors, reading a packet of photo copied lines quietly to herself.

"Uh, hey." He said awkwardly as he stood next to her.

Her head snapped up and she smiled.

"Hey!" She greeted brightly, "Are you ready?"

He shifted his feet and shrugged, hands shoved in his pockets. "Sure."

She rolled her eyes. "Are you always so soon and gloom?" She joked as she dragged him by the arm into the auditorium.

It was empty at the time. Auditions weren't until just before dinner, around six o'clock. They had around two and a half hours to practice. Virgil already felt tired. That was a lot of socializing. Would they really need that much time? Surely, they couldn't.

-

They definitely needed that time. They kept getting off track. Valarie would deliver a line and Virgil would try to read JD's line, only to stumble over it. She had to yell at him for being way too monotone four times.

"God, Virgil! How am I supposed to be Veronica if you're a robot instead of JD?"

"Hey! I'm not an actor! You knew what you were getting into!"

"Just read the lines in your normal voice. You have a JD vibe already, remember?"

Virgil snickered.

"I thought we already discussed the implications of that sentence."

Valarie groaned.

By the time they had finished practicing the dialogue, there was a half an hour until auditions. Wow, that had taken way longer than Virgil had expected. He had to admit, though, he had fun. It was pretty nice hanging out with Valarie.

Virgil was gathering his things to leave when Valarie stopped him.

"Wait," She said, "Can you stay? Please?"

She seemed nervous, which was a first for her. She always seemed so confident. Virgil put his stuff back down.

"Okay. I'll stay." He says simply. He didn't want to push her to explain why. She seemed like she had enough to worry about with the audition.

She smiled at him and sat on the edge of the stage. Virgil shifted slightly in his hoodie. He was starting to feel a little too warm, but he didn't want to take off his hoodie. He really just preferred long sleeves, but also, he knew if Valarie saw him in Roman's t-shirt she would make assumptions that Virgil didn't want to deal with. He sat down next to her.

"So, is this Heathers musical any good? I've only ever seen the movie."

Valarie looked offended. "You've never seen the musical?"

Virgil shrugged. "I'm not really a theater person."

Valarie stood up and quickly got her bag. She pulled out a pair of earbuds and her phone, handing one of the earbuds to Virgil. Virgil stared at it for a moment before taking it.

"We're going to listen to a few songs and then I'm going to rehearse my song selection."

Virgil just nodded as she pressed play on her phone. Immediately, a very familiar sounding song played through the earbud. He had definitely heard this somewhere before, but where? It wasn't the opening song. He could tell that much. It was Veronica, he assumed, singing.

"I would fight for you, if you would fight for me." Valarie sang along under her breath.

Virgil sat there and continued to listen, trying to recall where he had heard the song.

-

Valarie had rehearsed her song and now other kids were flooding into the auditorium for auditions. Virgil moved his stuff and took a seat in the sixth row, while Valarie sat in the second. He sat with head leaned back and his eyes closed.

Auditions went by fairly quickly. Everybody performed their sixteen bars, did their scene and either sat back down or left. Damien and Larry sat in the front row, each of them with a clipboard.

Valarie had nailed her audition and was now sitting next to Virgil practically buzzing. He had asked if they could leave, but she didn't want to.

"I have to scope out the competition!"

Virgil knew she was only half joking. They had just finished the last group of auditions, those for ensemble roles. A girl that looked like she had stepped straight out of 2009 finished her scene and left the stage. She wasn't bad, but also wasn't really anything to write home about. Virgil knew she'd get a spot.

Larry stepped on stage and cleared his throat.

"Okay, are there any last minute auditions for any role?" He asked. Nobody spoke for a moment.

"Going once?"

Nothing.

"Going twice?"

Nothing.

"Alright. Thank you-"

The auditorium door ripped open. Everyone turned to see Roman Prince running down the aisle. He was still in his baseball practice uniform and was covered in the red dirt from the field. He had his bag over his shoulder and his hat backwards.

"Can I help you?" Larry asked, confused and a bit annoyed at the boy who had barged in and dragged dirt into the auditorium.

Roman stopped around the fifth row. He struggled to catch his breath.

"Um, yeah. Am I too late to audition?" He said in-between breaths.

There was a faint whispering in the room. Everyone was watching, eyes going back and forth between Roman and Larry. Virgil felt like he was in a dramatic high school movie that he'd watch at three in the morning on Disney Channel when he couldn't sleep. Larry didn't say anything, he just narrowed his eyes at Roman.

Valarie nudged his shoulder. He jumped and turned to her. She looked surprised and confused.

"I don't understand what the big deal is." Hwle whispered to her.

"Well, that's because you're new. That's Roman Prince, the star of the baseball team." She said as if that made everything clear.

He shrugged his shoulders as if to ask 'so what'. Valarie looked at him like was stupid. Virgil returned the look to her.

Larry was still staring Roman down as the boy shifted nervously in his cleats. He adjusted the strap if his bag on his shoulder.

"I'm sorry if I'm late. I ran from baseball practice as soon as I could." Roman explained, eyes darting around the room at the whispering teens.

This made Larry raise an eyebrow. He made a small noise before stepping aside and gesturing towards the stage.

"The stage is yours, young man."

Roman smiled in relief. He set down his bag next to an empty seat and began walking towards the stage. He walked up the steps, his cleats clicking oddly on the wood. As he stepped into the middle of the stage, the audience went quiet. He rubbed the palms of his hands on his shirt.

"What's your name?" Larry asked as he sat down in his seat in the first row.

"Roman Prince."

Roman's voice was slightly shaky, but still loud enough to be heard well.

"And what role didn't want to audition for, Roman?" Larry's voice was curious. He definitely seemed as surprised as everyone else that Roman was auditioning.

"Uh, any of them I guess?"

The kids in the seat in front of Virgil snickered. Without thinking, Virgil kicked the back of their chairs hard. When they turned around, he glared at them before looking away.

"Freak." One of them muttered before turning around.

Virgil almost wanted to laugh. Here they were acting all high and mighty when they had sucked during their auditions.

Valarie gave him a confused look. He just shook his head and looked back at the stage. When he looked back, Damian was handing Roman a rolled up copy of the scene he was meant to read. Roman scanned through them quickly. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath before nodding.

And immediately, it didn't feel like Roman anymore. He still seemed nervous. Virgil could tell, but it wasn't obvious. Instead, he seemed mysterious. Maybe a little bit angry.

"You shouldn't have bowed down to the swatch dogs and diet cokeheads. They're gonna crush that girl."

Then, it hit him. The song Valarie had showed him from Heathers. He'd known it from the first day, when Roman had been playing it when he woke up.

-

After the Roman auditioned, everybody was in a rush to get out and grab dinner before the cafeteria closed for the night. He said s quick goodbye to Valarie before rushing to catch up with Roman, who was quickly walking towards the exit.

"Hey, Princey!" He called out.

Roman stopped. He slowly turned around. "Hey."

Virgil shoved his hands in his hoodie pockets.

"You were really good. In your audition, I mean."

With that, Roman's eyes lit up. Just with that one sentence, Roman seemed to fill with pride. It wasn't even a dramatic compliment. It was just a 'good job'. His face was bright red and he could keep from smiling.

"I, um," Roman stumbled over his words. "Thank you."

Neither of them said anything. They just looked at each other for a moment. When the silence grew awkward, Virgil broke it.

"How was practice?" He asked, as he started walking towards the exit, Roman following.

"It was good. Zack has been getting on Coach's nerves so much lately, though."

Virgil laughed and shook his head. "That kid is a real piece of work."

"Oh, you have no idea!"

-

Once they'd gotten back to their room, Virgil quickly left to get a shower while Roman ate something.

When he got back, Roman was sitting at his desk, still in his clothes from earlier. He was singing softly to himself as he write something in a notebook. Virgil now recognized the song as one from Heathers. "Freeze Your Brain" he thought it was called. When Roman noticed he had returned, he closed the notebook and slipped it into his backpack before standing up.

"I'm gonna go get a shower now. I didn't realize just how dirty I got at practice."

Virgil snoted. "Yeah, you look like you rolled around in the dirt."

"Shut up!" Roman said jokingly as he grabbed his pajamas and a towel.

With that, he left the room. Virgil threw his clothes from the day on the ground and layed down with his headphones on.

It wasn't long before he was asleep.

Chapter Text

Virgil woke up on Saturday morning to Roman rushing around his side of the room, straightening things up. His bed was made and his clothes were no longer hanging halfway out of his drawers. His hair was pushed back out of his face and he wore a red polo shirt.

Virgil slowly sat up. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes.

"Morning." He grumbled as he slowly stood up.

Roman barely acknowledged him as he swiped the empty chip bags from his desk into a trashcan. He set the can down and took a step back, examining the room. He took a deep breath and sat down on the edge of his bed.

"Is everything okay?" Virgil asked gently, concern in his voice.

Roman's look up at Virgil from across the room. He nodded. "Yeah, it's fine."

He didn't know if Roman trying convince him or himself. He seemed like he didn't really want to talk at that moment, so Virgil didn't push him to. Instead, he slowly began cleaning up his own side of the room.

Roman was an extremely messy person. He'd learned that for a fact in the first few days he'd been there. If his side of the room was that neat, there was a good reason for it. Not to mention how stressed he seemed about it being clean.

Virgil wasn't the most neat person, either. He was a lot neater than Roman, though. It only took a few minutes for him to straighten up. When he finished, Roman was still on the edge of his bed, lost in thought.

Virgil quickly changed into a pair of black jeans and long sleeved purple shirt. He made sure to put his pajamas in the pillow case he was using as a laundry bag before tucking the bag back under his bed.

Virgil felt his stomach growl. He hadn't eaten anything after auditions the day before and he was starving.

He grabbed his wallet from his dresser. They wouldn't be serving breakfast that day, so he decided to get some chips from the vending machine.

"Do you want anything from the vending machine?" He asked Roman as he sat to pull in his shoes.

Roman's head snapped up. "Huh?"

"Are you hungry?"

"Oh. Yeah." Roman stood up. "Is it okay if I go with you, I could stand to get out of this room for a few minutes."

Virgil nodded. "Yeah, it's cool."

-

Both boys were relatively quiet on the way to the vending machine. Roman gave a passing greeting to people that he knew, or people who knew him. It was almost noon, so pretty much everybody was up. This made the dorm almost unbearably loud, especially as they got closer to the common room, where the vending machines were. Virgil wished he had his gum on him. Without it, he ended up chewing on the inside of his cheek.

When they finally reached the vending machine, Roman leaned against the wall next to it while Virgil got his snacks.

"So, what are your plans for the day?" Roman asked, breaking the silence between them.

Virgil shrugged, pressing the button on the keypad for Doritos.

"I don't know. I'm probably just going to ask Damian if I can borrow his laptop and watch a few movies."

The chips fell and Virgil retrieved them. The bag felt cold. He put another dollar in.

"What about you?" He asked, pressing the buttons for a bottle of water.

Roman didn't answer immediately. He seemed like he was debating on whether or not tell Virgil what he was doing.

Just as Roman was about to answer, someone shouted loudly behind Virgil.

"Roman!"

Virgil jumped, dropping his chips on the ground. His heart pounded in his chest.

4-7-8

Roman screwed his eyes shut and flinched.

"Yes?" He responded through his teeth.

His fists were clenched at his sides and he was no longer leaning on the wall. Virgil looked over his shoulder to see Remus rolling up to them with his Heelys. He had a neon green shirt and black cargo shorts on. There were long, slightly faded bruises on the sides of his neck. Virgil assumed that they were from when he got his head stuck in the gate.

"Has daddy called you yet?" Remus asked, stopping next to Roman.

Roman flinched. "Don't call him daddy. It's weird. And, yes, he did."

Remus laughed. He sounded like an idiotic, evil henchman from a Disney movie. Now that he was closer, Virgil noticed that he had a patchy mustache, if you could even call it a mustache. Really it was just peach fuzz.

While Roman and Remus did look similar, they're personalities seemed so different. Roman seemed so worried about what other people said and thought about him, while Remus seemed like he couldn't care less. Roman was a kind person by default, but Remus seemed like the sort of person who liked to push people's buttons.

"Is there something else that you need?" Roman asked, impatiently.

Virgil realized he hadn't picked up his bag of chips he'd dropped. He quickly picked them up and grabbed his water from the machine.

"Yes. Can I borrow five dollars?"

Roman groaned loudly. "No! Ask Dad when he gets here!"

"But he'll say no!" Remus whined, pouting like a child.

Virgil decided he really did not care for Remus.

Roman shrugged. "That's not my problem."

Before Remus could even respond, Roman grabbed Virgil by the wrist and dragged him away, back towards their room.

"Oh, you're bossy!" He heard Remus call out after them in a suggestive tone.

Roman tensed for a moment.

Wow, okay. Virgil pulled his wrist out of Roman's grip, but kept walking beside him.

Roman seemed like he was struggling to keep from going off on his brother. His fists were clenched and his steps were heavy. As they walked into their room, Roman flung himself facedown on his head.

"Sorry." Roman mumbled, his voice muffled by his blanket.

"For what?"

Roman sighed and shifted so he was sitting cross legged on the bed.

"For how Remus is. I know he can be a little," Roman paused, unsure of the right word to describe his brother, "Too much." He settled on.

Virgil tilted his head. "It's fine, Roman. You don't have to apologise. You're not responsible for Remus's actions."

Virgil sat down in his desk chair, setting his water and chips on the desk. Roman was quiet, not immediately responding to what Virgil said.

"Do you want some of my chips?" Virgil asked as he opened the bag and held it out to Roman.

Roman look at him and smiled. It wasn't his wide grin or the fake smile he gave people in the hallway. It was a small, subtle smile. But it felt genuine.

"No, I'm good."

"Good, because I didn't want to share anyways." Virgil said sticking his tongue out at Roman.

They both laughed, then fell into a comfortable silence. Virgil ate his chips and Roman scrolled through his phone and everything felt okay.

Then there was a knock at the door.

Roman froze and sighed. He stood up slowly.

"One second." He said, just loud enough for the person on the other side of the door to hear.

Roman opened the door to reveal a middle-aged man. He was tall and athletic looking. He had dark brown hair with light streaks of gray in some spots. Virgil guessed that he was Roman's father. He could definitely see their resemblance, although, Roman's dad was much paler than Roman. He was holding a plastic bag in his hand.

"Hi, Dad." Roman greeted.

"Hello, Roman."

Roman stepped aside to let his dad in. His dad stepped in and looked around the room.

"Why can't your room be this clean at home?" He joked.

Roman faked a laugh.

His dad looked at Virgil and tilted his head. Virgil gave a polite smile.

"Who might you be?"

"My name is Virgil. I'm Roman's roommate."

He offered his hand to shake, as Roman's dad seemed like the kind of person who would like that. For some reason, Virgil found himself extremely worried about what he thought of him. He wanted Roman's dad to like him. He chalked it up to the fact that he was friends with Roman, so he'd probably end up seeing his dad again.

Roman's dad smiled and shook Virgil's hand. His grip hurt a little bit.

"Dan Prince. Pleasure to meet you, son." Dan said.

"You too, sir." Virgil responded, trying not to let his nerves show through. He let go of Dan's hand leaned back in his chair, turning back to his desk.

Roman had closed the door.

"Did you see Remus yet?" Roman asked his dad as he sat on the edge of his bed.

"Yes, I did. What are those long bruises on his neck from? He wouldn't give me a straight answer."

"He got his head stuck in the front gate again."

Dan shook his head and sighed. "How many times is that boy going to do that?"

Roman shrugged. He was quiet for a moment. Virgil glanced over at him. He looked like he was deep in thought.

"Anyways, I got you a jersey when I went to the Royals game with your uncle the other day." Dan pulled a jersey out of the bag. He held it up for Roman to see.

"Merrifield." Roman read aloud. He seemed happy with the gift, but also had a lot more on his mind.

"Number fifteen, baby!" Dan said excitedly. He tossed the shirt to Roman.

Roman caught it and set it on the bed next to him. He took a breath and stood.

"Do you think we could play a quick game of catch?" He asked, his voice almost shaking.

Dan immediately became quiet. He nodded. "Of course."

Virgil was confused. Why were they so serious over a game of catch. He watched as Roman grabbed his glove and a ball out if his baseball bag and followed his dad to the door. Before he left, he turned around and gave Virgil nervous smile.

Virgil sat there, alone, for a minute after they left. There wasn't really anything to do. He decided to bother Damien. He got up and walked to his brothers room. He passed a few people on the way to the room, including a group of guys trying to do something stupid in the stairwell. They had a baseball bat and a bunch of those stress balls that are filled with liquid.

"Hey, ninja!" One of the guys shouted.

Virgil thought he was talking to someone else until he realized he was the only other person in the stairwell beside them. Virgil tensed up and turned towards the boy to see it was one of the guys that sat at Roman's lunch table. He was looking at Virgil. That explained why he'd called him ninja. It did not explain why he was talking to him.

"Yeah?" He responded, his breath speeding up slightly. The boy had been nice at lunch, but what if that was just because Roman was there.

The boy didn't answer. He just turned to his friend, smiling widely. Virgil could feel his flight or fight reflexes kicking in.

"Hey, guys! This is the kid I was talking about! The one Roman brought to the table yesterday!"

The other guys gave half assed greetings before turning their attention back to whatever they were planning. The boy brought the bat he was holding to his shoulder. He raised his hand from his side and Virgil fought the instinct to flinch.

"What's up, dude!"

Oh. It was a first bump. Virgil cursed himself for being overly paranoid.

Fuck. Worried. Not paranoid.

Virgil connected his fist to the boy's.

"Nothing much. You?" He replied quietly.

"It's a secret." The boy stage whispered to Virgil, laughing lightly.

"Ben! Come on! We're about to start!" One of the other guys called out. The boy, Ben, looked over his shoulder.

"One second, guys" He turned back to Virgil. "See you at the table, Ninja!" He said before turning back to his friends before Virgil could reply.

Virgil was stuck for a second, wondering what had just happened.

He shook his head and continued to Damian's room.

Chapter Text

Virgil was sat in his brother's room, watching Peter Pan on Damian's laptop while Damian looked over things for the show. Remus wasn't in the room, but as soon as Virgil had walked, it was obvious which side was his.

Damian was a very neat person. He was very careful about keeping his things organized. His side was spotless. Remus's side, however, looked like a bomb went off. There were clothes and papers all over the floor and empty wrappers everywhere.

Virgil could see Damian's eye twitch whenever he saw the mess. He was so incredibly thankful he got Roman as roommate instead of Remus.

About halfway through the movie, the door burst open and Remus came barreling in. His was searching through his dresser with one hand while the other was covered in a sticky substance. His clothes and hair were also covered in the liquid. It was slightly transparent, but had a purplish tint.

Virgil tilted his head as Damian just held his head in his hands, tensing up.

"What did you do, Remus?" He sighed, sounding like a disappointed parent. Virgil fought the urge to laugh.

"Oh, nothing."

Suddenly, there was a loud, aggressive knock at the door. Remus squeaked and rushed over to the other side of the room. He quickly got down on his stomach and slid under Damian's bed. The door swung open and Ben and the other guys from the stairwell stormed in.

"Where is that little rat?" One of them demanded.

They were all covered in the purplish gunk, as well as what looked like flour.

Damian didn't answer, he turned around in his chair and stared the boys down. His face was void of all emotion. They shrunk under his gaze.

"If you are referring to Remus, he left through the window before you neanderthals burst in my room getting whatever it is you're covered in all over my floor." His words were sharp.

Ben flinched. "We're sorry. We'll leave now."

One of the guys behind him did not seemed pleased with that answer. He made a low growling noise.

"Are fucking kidding me, Ben?" He whined.

Another boy punched him in the arm.

"Shut the fuck up, Ty."

Ty rubbed his arm and gave the boy a dirty look, but stopped talking.

Damian smiled thinly. "I'm glad we're on the same page. I assume you know the way out "

With that, he turned back around in his chair.

Ben turned to leave when he saw Virgil sitting with his headphones around his neck. Virgil froze.

"Hey, Ninja!" Ben smiled, waving.

Virgil lifted up his hand and gave something that resembled a wave.

"Hi, Ben." He said quietly.

The confrontation that had just happened had his nerves through the roof. He knew Remus was here and if the guys saw him, there would be quite a few problems. Virgil was praying that wouldn't happen.

He saw Damian looking at him out of the corner of his eye. He had an eyebrow raised. Virgil didn't acknowledge him.

After the exchange, Ben and the other boys left, closing the door behind them. Virgil let out a long sigh of relief. He closed his eyes and counted his breath. There was rustling coming from beneath him and from where Damian was sitting.

He opened his eyes just in time to see Damian tossing a piece of gum at him.

"Here. I thought you might need that."

Virgil nodded, mumbling a quick thank you before popping the piece in his mouth.

Remus rolled out from under the bed and jumped up.

"Well, that could have gone better!" He said, slightly out of breath.

Damian rolled his eyes. "You're scrubbing that muck off the floor, I hope you know."

"It would be my honor." Remus said in a fake regal voice, bowing slightly.

Damian ignored him and stood. "I'm going to the vending machine. Are you coming, Virgil?"

Virgil looked up at Damian and then over at Remus. He didn't really want to get up, but staying in they room with Remus seems to be the worst option. He could just put on his headphones and ignore him, though. He really wanted to finish watching Peter Pan, despite having had seen it a million times.

"No, I'm good." Virgil said, turning his attention to the laptop and rewinding the movie back to where it was when Remus barged in.

Damian looked like he wanted to say something, but decided against it. He grabbed something from his desk and left, warning Remus to be nice before shutting the door.

The second Damian was out the door, Remus jumped on Damian's bed.

"Howdy, Emo." He grinned ear to ear.

Virgil cursed his decision to stay.

"Hi." He answers back quietly.

Remus stared at Virgil. Virgil squirmed under his gaze and pulled his limbs in, careful to not get whatever Remus was covered in in himself.

"So." Remus began in a sing-songy voice, "You're Roman's roommate."

Virgil kept his eyes in the laptop, watching the movie go. He nodded.

"It seems like you two are just the bestest of friends now."

Virgil just shrugged, not looking at Remus.

Realizing he probably wouldn't get a response on his current track, Remus sighed. He stood up and walked to his side of the room, suddenly very bored of the one sided conversation.

Virgil was grateful for that. He definitely didn't feel like he could handle Remus, especially alone. He went back to watching Peter pan with his headphones on. He kept the volume just low enough that he would hear the door when Damian returned.

-

It was about five minutes later when Damian entered the room. He had a bottle of sweet tea in one hand and a bag of pretzels in the other. He had a strange look on his face. He noticed Virgil looking at him and motioned for him to take off his headphones. Virgil slid his headphones off and let them sit around his neck.

The look on Damian's face made him nervous. It wasn't just confusion on his face, but worried confusion. He had seen that look too many times, and the outcome was never very good.

"Yeah?" He asked quietly.

"Roman asked if I knew where you were. He seemed upset."

Virgil felt a heavy feeling in his chest. He tried to keep his breathing under control as he slid Damian laptop to the side. He chewed the gum in his mouth. It had lost its flavor already, but he didn't care.

He was worried about what happened with Roman and his dad. Roman had seemed off all day, especially when he'd left to play catch.

Remus was now very interested in what was going on. His head shot up from the magazine he was flipping through at the mention of his brother's name.

Damian looked over at Remus. He looked as if he had a mini debate going on in his head before he finally spoke.

"Do you know what might be wrong?"

Remus shrugged, feigning indifference, despite the fact that concern danced behind his eyes.

"That depends."

"On what?" Virgil asked, hesitantly.

"If he went to play catch with Dad."

Virgil tensed up. Why was a game if catch such a big deal to them? Would Roman be alright?

Remus noticed Virgil's reaction and sighed. "He did, didn't he?"

Virgil didn't speak. He just nodded.

Chapter Text

When Virgil entered their room, Roman was sitting on the ground with his back against his bed and his knees to his chest. He looked up at Virgil when he heard the sound of the door opening.

"Hey." Virgil almost whispered.

Roman looked straight ahead. He swallowed the lump in his throat. "Hi."

Virgil closed the door and sat on the ground next to Roman. They sat in silence for a moment, neither of them really knowing what to say.

The noise of the dorms started to seep into the silence. Virgil tried to pick out the different sounds. Someone had music playing very loudly. Someone was screaming to turn it down. He heard a couple of guys goofing around in the hallway.

But he also heard Roman breathing next to him. He heard Roman's clothes rustling every time he moved. He heard Roman. And suddenly, they were in their silent bubble again.

"Do you want to talk?" Virgil asked quietly.

He wanted desperately to not pop the bubble. This all felt safer in the bubble, this whole interaction. He wasn't sure why he felt like he couldn't do this outside of it.

Roman shook his head. "I don't even know. I'm not sure where I'd start."

Virgil shifted slightly closer to Roman. He wasn't close enough that they were touching, but they were close enough to physically feel each other's presence.

"How was catch with your dad?" Virgil tried.

Roman let out a defeated laugh. He didn't answer the question, instead just looking down at his feet. Virgil didn't press for answers. Roman didn't owe him an explanation.

Instead, they just sat in silence. Well, not quite silence. There was the buzz of the dorm outside of their room still, but Virgil didn't really notice anymore.

Virgil had lost track of time by the time Roman finally spoke.

"I'm sorry. This is all so stupid." He said, shaking his head.

Virgil looked at him. "I'm sure that it's not."

"I just wanted to tell him about the audition." Roman began, his voice dry and his tone bitter. "And I just couldn't. I might just quit the show. If I even get a part."

"What? Why?"

It didn't make any sense for Roman to quit the show. It seemed like something he really enjoyed and he was good at it. No, not good. Great.

"I don't know. He just started talking about how excited he was for baseball season to start and how proud he was that I was putting so much effort into practice even though the season is so far away and I just," He stopped, looking up at Virgil, "I didn't want to ruin it."

Roman's voice was shaking slightly. He played with the hem of his shirt, looking back down.

"Why would telling him about the audition ruin him being proud of you?"

Roman sighed. "He has all of these expectations for me with baseball. He thinks if I'm not spending all my time playing and practicing, that I'm not trying. That I'm 'wasting my talent'."

He straightened his legs out in front of him, leaning back deeper into his bed, looking exhausted.

"Ever since I started playing when I was seven, baseball has been my whole life. I just want," he paused, searching for the right word, "More, you know?"

Virgil could not figure out how to respond. He wanted to reassure Roman that everything would be okay and that his dad wouldn't be disappointed in him, but how could he know that? He'd met Roman's dad once, and he could see why Roman didn't want to tell him.

Virgil could definitely understand how Roman was feeling. He remembered being forced into track when he was in middle school. It was like if Virgil wasn't athletic or a genius, he was worthless. He only got to quit after his dad… left.

He'd wasted 2 years of his life doing track and he hated it. He just wanted to be inside, drawing or reading a book. Instead, he ran. All because he was so worried about what his dad thought of him. And none of it was worth it.

"Who cares what other people want from you? Life's too short to give a fuck about what other people think about you." Virgil said.

Roman's head shot up, eyes wide at Virgil's aggressive tone. "What?"

"If you're dad is disappointed in you for doing something you clearly enjoy, fuck him. It's your life, not his."

Roman laughed. "I wish it were that easy, Virgil, but it's not."

"You're right, it's not easy." Virgil stopped. He looked at Roman. "But, it's worth it. "

Roman looked like he was ready to cry. He just looked back at Virgil, searching for something to say. The noise outside the room felt light-years away and the distance between Roman and Virgil felt non-existent.

Virgil tried to make himself speak, but couldn't get the words out.

Then, suddenly, Roman's arms were wrapped around him in a tight hug. It was awkward because of the way they were sitting, but it was somehow still nice. Virgil froze for a moment, almost being pushed over by Roman. He slowly put one arm around him and put his other hand on the ground to hold them up.

The hug lasted a moment before Roman pulled away and gave an embarrassed smile.

"I'm sorry." He said quietly.

"It's not a problem. Are you feeling okay?"

Roman shrugged. "I'm sure I will later. Are you going to dinner?"

Virgil laughed. "Do I ever?"

Roman smiled. "No, I guess you don't." He paused before continuing. "I don't really want to go either."

"We could watch a movie or something." Virgil suggested.

Roman nodded. He stood up slowly and walked over to the trunk at the end of his bed. He opened it, rummaging around it until he found what he was looking for. He pulled out a portable DVD player that looked like it was made in 2005 and a zip up DVD case. He tossed the case to Virgil.

"You can pick what movie we watch." He said, sitting back down next to him.

"Thanks." Virgil said. He opened up the case and flipped through the discs.

Almost all of them were Disney movies. Virgil ended up choosing The Lion King, which Roman seemed happy with. He put the movie in and they waited for it to play. The screen was small, so they had to sit pretty close together for it to be in a spot that both of them could see it. Their legs were touching and the player was balancing on their legs, between the two of them. The volume wasn't very loud, so Roman plugged in his earbuds and each of them took one.

Virgil felt content in that moment. He just hoped Roman felt okay, or that he would at least feel okay later.

At the very least, Roman deserved to feel okay.