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All Of Him

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   I don’t like essays, and I definitely don’t like having to speak to people about awkward topics. Research essays will truly be the death of me. I thought taking psych would be an easy credit course. Everyone said it was until we had to do research essays about a mental health disorder under one of three categories: Anxiety disorders, Eating disorders, or Personality disorders. Most other students were choosing either something under anxiety disorders or eating disorders because everyone knew medical research documents were easy to come by, and also lots of people are gathering the courage lately to speak about personal experiences with those topics. And my dumbass wanted to somehow impress our teacher with choosing a personality disorder. Possibly one of the hardest and most controversial ones I could’ve found; Dissociative Identity Disorder. D.I.D. Formerly known as Multiple Personality disorder.

 

  “I can’t believe you’ve dug yourself into to this hole just because you have a crush on your fucking psych teacher.” Tucker teased me over our discord call. The chat was me, Tucker, Nathan, and Michael. Nathan and Michael were a grade below me but went to the same school as I did, while Tucker graduated last year. He was taking a gap year currently, working at a fast food joint a couple miles from his house. I couldn’t say I blamed him. School was shitty enough to have to endure by force. By choice, I wasn’t sure if it was really for me anymore. Senior year was really making me question if I still wanted to pursue college next fall.

 

   “Yeah, well, now I’m fucked. I’ve signed up for this stupid disorder, and I can’t change my topic. No backsies.” I grumbled into the mic, skimming through a few articles pulled up in different tabs. 

 

   “Not even if you offered to suck him off?” Michael teased, the other guys laughing along with him. I was just happy it was an audio call and no face cams on tonight; my face was too red to get away with. 

 

   “I’m fucked. I mean, I’m really fucked. I didn’t realize that it’s so.. debated about. There’s so little research on it.. no one believes these people.” I said, looking for some sort of reliable source to find some kind of documentation of it. It was seeming impossible. 

 

    “You should’ve just done anorexia or something. That whole Eugenia Cooney thing just happened; would’ve struck gold with those videos for some kind of research.” Nathan pointed out. 

 

   And I swear a lightbulb went off right then. I didn’t have time to say a word before I had opened up YouTube and typed in ‘Dissociative Identity Disorder’ to find something. 

 

   “Nathan, you’re a fucking genius!” I shouted, pumping my fist into the air. I’d found it. Vlogs and videos made by people with the disorder themselves. 

 

   “What? You can’t just change to anorexia now, Louis.” Nathan said, confused. 

 

   “No, there’s YouTubers with D.I.D! There’s this guy right here. His channel’s name is JesterSystem..” 

 

   “What the hell does that even mean? Jester system?” Tucker mumbled, the crunching of a chips bag coming through his mic. 

 

   “I dunno. I’ll call you back later; I’m gonna try to watch some of his videos. Maybe I’ll be able to find something.” I said, leaving the chat after that and clicking on the featured video from his channel. The video started and I was immediately drawn in by him. 

 

   “Hi, guys, this is Harry from the JesterSystem..”

 

   Maybe this project wouldn’t be too miserable after all.                                                                             

Chapter Text

No one cares in senior year. No one cares except the kid who really want to get into that one college they’ve dreamed of their whole lives, or the kids who need to pass a class to not have to repeat the last year before your freedom begins.

I fit into a very very rare category that shouldn’t even have to be a category. The I have an embarrassing crush on my psych teacher and the only way I think he’ll notice me any more is if I turn in an essay no one else would dare to attempt category.

But the thing about it was, people with D.I.D. also fit into a category that shouldn’t even have to be a category. As Tucker put it, “Shit’s fucked.”

I stayed up way too late watching some of that JesterSystem guy’s videos. It started to become obvious that this wasn’t going to be too grueling of a project; I was kind of fascinated in a sad way. The difference in the way his different personalities (which I learned were properly called “alters”) acted and spoke and carried themselves was crazy obvious. He explained they were being open about themselves because they felt fairly safe talking about everything. But then again, anyone can fake anything on the internet.

The annoying part about it was that I got too drawn in to be able to remember to write any information down I was hearing and learning. I’d have to go back and rewatch some stuff. But, that wasn’t too bad, really. This Harry guy really had me drawn in. And some of his other alters, too.

“You never ended up coming back to the call last night.” Michael said, taking a bite out of the BLT his mom made him for lunch. His mom always packed him lunches for school. I always teased him that she was going to have to send them in the mail when he starts college.

“Yeah, guess I just got caught up in trying to get some research done last night. Final draft is due in four weeks. Need to get my sources together.” I shrugged, picking at the food on my school tray.

“Yeah, what was that guy’s channel again? Joker something? Did you end up watching any of his stuff?” Nathan asked.

“JesterSystem.” I said, maybe a bit too quickly. “Yeah, he’s pretty interesting. Very.. informative.”

Nathan laughed at me, making me glare at him a little bit. “You know he’s gotta be faking to get viewers on his channel. Ad revenue. C’mon, Louis, there’s a reason everyone says that shit’s fake!” He tried to reason with me.

“He seems legit. Why would you fake that kind of thing?”

“Anyone will do anything for some sort of spotlight.” Michael pointed out, stealing a chip from Nathan.

“Tell you what, I’ll make you a bet; if you can talk to this kid one on one and get some sort of firsthand evidence that could convince me he’s not lying about it, I’ll give you two hundred dollars. And I’ll get Tuck to throw some into the pot, too. Michael? You in?” Nathan challenged, leaning forward on the table closer to me, holding his hand out.

“Maybe. I’ll see what I have. It would give you some easy research too if you could talk directly to this guy, Louis.” Michael shrugged.

“You guys are assholes.” I grumbled, shaking Nathan’s hand firmly. I don’t know why I felt so defensive over this fucking YouTube guy. But I was. And I knew I would be up $200 and an absolute novel of an essay within four weeks.

Chapter Text

   “I’m really not too keen on working at fucking Wendy’s, Tuck.” I mumbled through a mouthful of a number two sandwich, holding it kind of limp in my left hand. The guys always teased me that I had a gay wrist. If only they knew.

 

   “You need money. We need help at our joint. C’mon, they’ll go easy on you; they’ll owe me.” He tried to reason, munching on his own chicken sandwich. Even though he always smelled like shit when he got off his shifts, he made sure to always bring back “botched” sandwiches. Otherwise known as the sandwiches he pretended to fuck up so he had dinner to take home at one am after work. 

 

   I wouldn’t ever tell him that I didn’t want to end up like him just working in fast food after high school, but yet I was finding myself filling out an online application to the damn hell hole anyways.

 

   Because filling out a minimum wage job application was somehow easier to do than even taking a glance at a single college application process.

 

   It was fucking terrifying. I didn’t know why it was, but it just was.

 

   Everyone else filled out the forms and got help from the guidance departments at the beginning of this second semester, but I took a deliberate sick day that just happened to fall right on that very day.

 

   Choosing the rest of your life’s general direction you’ll take at such a young age is actually horrific. And ridiculous. I don’t want to be the same person I am now in ten years. 

 

   So I’ll take being fry boy for now over dead end office job for the next forty years because I made a shit decision. Happily. Any day.

 

   “How’s the essay comin’?” Tucker asked, and I sighed a little automatically.

 

   “I’m really invested, but it also sucks because I get so invested I don’t know what to write. I just get drawn in, honestly, and then I find myself down a rabbit hole with no notes on my paper.” 

 

   “I heard about the bet.”

 

   “Yeah? Have you heard I’m too much of a wimp to try and message the guy in the first place?”

 

   “No, they hadn’t told me much about it. Been covering double shifts so I haven’t been chatting with ‘em too much now.” He answered. I stopped typing and looked over at him.

 

   “But you’ve had time to talk to me?”

 

   “You’re my mate. ‘S different.” He shrugged it off, so I let it be shrugged off. I didn’t have the energy to pester him much more about it.

 

   “So why haven’t you messaged him? What’s stopping you if you’re just constantly watching his videos? You’re literally binging on this guy’s content. Is it really that interesting?” He asked, and I nodded a bit quicker than I probably should have.

 

   “It’s absolutely fascinating , Tuck. He’s got ten alters including his host. Which, er, is the main personality. Usually the ‘original’. But it’s kind of a dick move to say that. ‘Original’. It’s more complex than that. Honestly, it’s so.. Crazy. He’s not crazy. Just the fact that the brain can develop like this. It’s cool. But.. also kind of fucked up. He doesn’t say what he’s gone through and stuff, but it’s like.. This happens if something really traumatic happens when you’re a kid. I can’t even imagine what happened to him.” I rambled a bit.

 

   “Let’s message him now.” Tucker said, taking his laptop from me and getting on Twitter.

 

   “What?!” I practically choked on my cheeseburger. I was a bit annoyed that he kind of didn’t pay attention to anything I’d said to him, but I was more just shocked he was so nonchalant about messaging the guy.

 

   “No, Tucker, no. We can’t do that. It has to be well worded. Respectful. Meaningful. I don’t want to waste his time here. He’s got a lot on his plate. He-” Tucker cut me off, logging into my Tumblr easily.

 

   “What’s his Tumblr?” He asked. I was deeply regretting letting him have access to my accounts so easily.

 

   “Same as his YouTube channel; JesterSystem.”

 

   Tucker pulled it up and started typing, and I tried to hurry and grab the laptop back. “Tucker, stop! Please, c’mon, man, don’t fuck it up! I need to talk to the guy!” I begged. He was stronger than I was and the laptop obviously wasn’t going anywhere.

 

   “Hi. My name’s Louis Tomlinson. I’ve got an essay I’m doing about D.I.D., and I want to interview someone who has it. I was wondering if you’d be okay talking privately about it.” He read before looking over at me. “See? Harmless. Not threatening at all.”

 

   “That sounds like I’m so fucking formal. It’s intimidating.” I protested.

 

   Tucker just rolled his eyes, handing the laptop back over. “You’re thinking about this too much. He’s still just a fucking guy. He’s not going to break down over a simple message on Tumblr for gods sakes. You’re acting like he could break down any second over someone just wanting to talk to him.” 

 

   He wasn’t wrong. I guess I was being a bit too.. Concerned about him. But I was just.. Weird about it. Like I felt protective of him or something. I didnt know him. I hadn’t even said a word to me. I mean, Tucker was the one who just sent him a message. I couldn’t even manage to do that.

 

   “He just replied.” I murmured, honestly shocked to even get a response from him. 

 

   “You wouldn’t be wasting his time if he’s willing to respond back to you.”

 

  JesterSystem Hello, Louis Tomlinson. I have lots of informative videos about it, if that would be easier for your essay.

 

   “I don’t think he wants to do it.” I whispered to Tucker, looking hopeless at the screen.

 

   “What did he say exactly?” He asked, leaning over and reading the message. 

 

   Tucker took the laptop again, seeing that I was already completely defeated, sending him another reply. 

 

   “Louis, if you get this call with him, you’d better fucking know what you’re gonna say. You can’t even message the guy without freaking out.” He mumbled, and I just sighed. He was right.

 

   JesterSystemMaybe we can work something out. Only if you promise not to record me and just write any answers down. When works for you? Send me a picture of yourself to prove you’re not a creep or something.

 

   I could understand why Harry was being so protective about it. It couldn’t be easy with so many people not believing him and trying to hurt him just to see some sort of triggered switch for proof or something.

 

   Tucker handed the laptop back after we both read the message, and I dug up a decent picture of me one of my sisters took of me about a month ago and sent it to him.

 

   “I completely respect that. I won’t do anything to make you uncomfortable. I just want to talk to you personally about it. You won’t have to answer anything you’re uncomfortable talking about. And you can ask me a bunch of questions to make it even. Say that with it.” Tucker advised, and I typed it and sent it as quickly as I could to follow up with the picture.

 

    JesterSystem : Fair enough, I guess. What’s your time zone? 

 

     LT91EST. 

 

     JesterSystem : Same time zone. Does 5 work? You can add me on skype and we can talk there tomorrow. Please don’t send my skype out to anyone, though. I have other accounts if you do.

 

     LT91I’d never. Thank you so much for your time. 

 

    JesterSystem :  See you then, Louis Tomlinson.

Chapter Text

   On my way from standing up out of my seat at my desk, I catch my teacher’s eyes. And I feel this nervous swim in my stomach, as I can tell he’s about to say something to me.

 

   “Louis, let me speak to you for a moment. If you’re late to your next class I’ll give you an excuse pass.” He offered, and I walked over to stand by his desk to speak to him. A few people smirked as they left the classroom, thinking I was about to get chewed out for something. I honestly thought I was about to be too, for a moment, but then eased up when he explained. 

 

   “I wanted to talk to you about how your essay’s going so far..” he spoke, gesturing towards a seat by his desk. It was his lunch period, so there wouldn’t be any students coming in for fifth bell. I took the seat and held my books in my lap for the time being. 

 

   “Oh.. okay..” I murmured, a little nervous that he would try to talk me out of it now that I was becoming so deeply invested in the topic. And maybe a certain boy online. 

 

   “I just know that it’s definitely one of the most, if not the most difficult topic out of the options you were given. I wanted to check in and make sure you’re getting enough sources and research material available to you. If you needed any suggestions or anything, I’d be willing to help.” He offered, and I sat up a bit.

 

   “Oh, right, well, thank you. I guess I should ask.. uh, so I found something I think would be a good source, but I don’t know if you would agree so I want to make sure it’s okay to use it before I start.. you know..” 

 

   “Yes, what is it?” He asked, leaning back in his desk chair a bit. He was so effortlessly attractive and so.. charming without having to try. God, I wished things were different. I wish it weren’t fucking illegal for me to flirt with him.

 

   “Well, there’s a YouTuber who has the disorder. And he has very informational videos on the topic. But I also got to message him and ask if I could skype him for an interview with him directly. And I didn’t know if you would be willing to credit that as a source..” my voice kind of drifted off at the end, almost nervous to ask because I wanted to be able to talk to Harry about it. I would either way, though. I was nervously looking forward to our call we had planned for that night. 

 

   He thought for a minute, just kind of looking at me for a bit. It probably would’ve made any normal nervous student uncomfortable, but I was just trying not to focus on his gorgeous deep brown eyes. I swear I could feel myself blushing somehow.

 

   “That’s tricky since it is so debated. And you know how fake YouTube can be about those things..” he murmured in thought, and I just nodded back. I’d thought about that too. 

 

   He sighed a bit before he answered, sitting back up in his chair. “I’ll allow it.” I could tell he saw my face light up because he then smiled too. “Seeing as it isn’t super crucial to your final grade, and seeing how much effort you’re putting in to finding a solid source. I admire that, Louis.” 

 

   If I didn’t know how to control myself better I’d be biting my lip and trying not to look so pleased with myself, but instead I nodded enthusiastically, just grinning.

 

   “Thank you. Thank you so much, Mr. Malik. I’ll make sure I have other sources too just to be sure. You won’t be disappointed.”

 

   “I don’t think I will be, Louis. I’ll be looking forward to reading it. Thank you, you’re dismissed. Do you need a slip?” He asked, hearing the bell ring again, marking the time for students to have been in their classrooms. 

 

   “No, I’ve got lunch now. But thank you again.” I said, standing up with my books and hurrying out the room, so thrilled I could’ve jumped up and down. I was going to write the best fucking essay Mr. Malik had ever read, I was going to win that bet, and I was going to get to talk to Harry one on one.

 

I was on top of the world.






Chapter Text

   “I’ve just added him now. I think he’s about to call. I’ve gotta go.” I spoke into the discord chat, having them hype me up for at least a half hour on the call. They were annoyed, but it was understandable. They were out two hundred bucks and Tucker was the one to blame. They were going to lay him out once I left the call, I just knew it.

 

   “Alright, good luck mate. You’ve got your questions written down. Just don’t come across as nervous.” Michael encouraged. I could tell that one was genuine.

 

  I said a goodbye to them and left the call before I took a second to get myself together. I about jumped out of my seat when I saw the Skype call coming in. 

 

   I took in a few deep breaths before I answered, making sure I looked decent in the camera before it fully connected.

 

   “Louis?” Harry spoke softly, and I could sense he was a bit nervous too, which eased me a little bit. I was just glad it wasn’t like I was annoying him. 

 

  “Yeah, hi. Harry?” I asked, matching his soft tone, and he nodded. 

 

  “Yeah, hello.” He pushed a bit of his hair behind his ear. His hair was long, past his shoulders and in effortless curls that were too beautiful not to be adored. “I’m sorry if the messages last night came off like I was a dick. It wasn’t me.” He blushed a bit, and you could tell he was a bit embarrassed about it.

 

   “No, it’s okay, don’t apologize. I watch your videos; I understand. I don’t mean to be rude and guess, but was I messaging with Vik last night?” I asked. 

 

   “Yeah. He’s just.. protective. You know..” he nodded slowly. 

 

   I did know. Vik was one of his other personalities. Or, alters. I needed to get in the habit of calling them by the proper name. 

 

   Vik was a protector in Harry’s system. Basically there to try and help him be safe and to keep him away from anyone that his system could be harmed by. It was understandable to me why Vik would be so apprehensive about me talking to them. 

 

   “I totally get it. I just appreciate you helping me out with this. I’ll just ask you some questions and I’ll read you back your answers I’ve written down to make sure you’re okay with how I’ve documented them.” I said, looking down at my notebook I had ready with questions for him.

 

   “Alright. You don’t have to be so formal about it; makes me feel weird.” He chuckled awkwardly, and I smiled sweetly.

 

   He was cute. Endearing. Like a rescue puppy.

 

   “Ah, Sorry. Vik made it seem like a business deal.” I joked lightly, earning a little laugh from him.

 

   I swear, making him laugh was one of the best feelings I’d ever felt. I never wanted to stop making him laugh. It was beautiful. 

 

   “He’s a dickhead. ‘S why we don’t let him run anything on the channel. He’d be an ass replying to the comments.” 

 

   “He has good intentions. Looking out for you.”

 

   “Yeah, yeah, but he’s still abrasive.” Harry shrugged, and I nodded.

 

   “You’re twenty one, right?” I asked, just making sure I got the basic information correct.

 

   “Mhm. The body and I are both twenty one. How old are you, exactly? High school age, right?” 

 

   “Yeah, but I’m eighteen. Graduate in May.” I answered. He looked a bit surprised. 

 

   “Oh, well, congrats! That’s like, a month and a half. Wow. What’re your plans for after May?” He asked.

 

   “I thought I was supposed to be interviewing you , Harry.” I teased, but I didn’t really want to talk about after graduation. I was still freaking out about it. I didn’t need to be reminded.

 

   “You’re right, you’re right. I’m sorry.” He chuckled, earning another sweet smile from me.

 

   “I’m just gonna go through my list of questions then. I know I could find most of the answers in your videos, but I thought it would be good to get your answers live.” I said, and he nodded so I continued. “How many alters do you have in your system?”

 

   “Ten including myself.”

 

   “And what are their names and genders? Also age or age range if they’re age sliders?”

 

   “Gosh, Okay, ehm, well there’s me, Harry, the host. I’m a male and I’m twenty one. Birthday’s in February. I’m an Aquarius.” He said, and I chuckled. 

 

   “For the other boys, well, Vik, he’s a male.  He’s about twenty four, twenty five. Leonard, he’s male and he’s twenty one. Percy, he’s also a male. He’s nineteen. Quinton, male, sixteen. And Leslie. Leslie’s genderfluid. Eighteen.”

 

   “Let me ask you a bit more about Quinton real quick, because I’ve noticed he’s the only male who’s under eighteen. Why is he younger than the rest of the male alters?”

 

   “Well, with Quinton, he developed as an alter when I was sixteen at the time. That’s not true with all of the alters, Of course, since I’ve never been twenty four so obviously the older alters aren’t from trauma at that age. But Quinton came from that time of trauma, so he’s personally stuck at sixteen. It’s just how he was developed at the time.” Harry explained. 

 

   I scribbled his answers down, slightly summarized, trying to keep up with his slight rambling. But I loved it. And it was so informative. I felt like I was really getting an intimate experience with getting to know answers that I wanted personally.

 

   “Great, thank you. Who’re your female alters? Names and age?”

 

   “Geordie, she’s twenty four. Female. Margie’s twenty two. Ivy’s twenty, and Zoe..” he kind of hesitated for a moment, and I could tell he was uncomfortable with speaking about Zoe.

 

   “It’s okay if you don’t feel comfortable answering anything, Harry. You don’t have to answer anything you don’t want to.” I stopped, putting the pencil down to show him I was serious about it. I didn’t want him to be uneasy with me or my questions.

 

   “No, I’m fine. It’s fine. It’s good that you get honest answers..” he paused, taking in a deep breath before continuing. “Zoe fluctuates from about age three to age nine. It just.. depends on the situations she’s thrown into. If she switches out and she’s stressed, she usually presents herself younger..”

 

   I nodded, jotting it down before looking up at him again, putting the pencil aside to talk to him personally without documentation. 

 

   “I’ve noticed from your videos you cut clips of Zoe out and usually don’t speak about her much..” I spoke gently, leaving it open for him to add anything he wanted to explain to my statement.

 

   “She comes from a deeply rooted.. a very harsh time in my life. She’s a very fragile part of our being. Our system and experiences. I wasn’t protected during that time, so I feel it’s only fair we protect her better.” He explained, and I could tell by the look in his eyes he didn’t talk about it much. He looked scared, vulnerable. It was haunting. I just wanted to reach through the screen and hug him. 

 

   “I think that’s very admirable, Harry. She’s lucky to have you all to protect her.” 

 

   I remembered them saying in one of their videos that they hated being pitied. And if I told him I was sorry he had to go through that, I worried he would take it as me feeling sorry for him. 

 

   “I know it’s probably a bit uneasy hearing it from some guy through the screen who’s just a fan of yours, but if you ever need to talk about anything, I’m here to listen. I support you.. I hope that isn’t weird..” I said, and he shook his head.

 

   “No, I appreciate that. I appreciate that a lot. It gets hard, you know? It’s a lot of weight to carry.”

 

   “I can only imagine. I have so much respect for you. All of you.”

 

   He nodded, his eyes kind of blanking for a second, and I was nervous he was going to switch in front of me. Essentially, a different alter coming to control the body and speak and everything. I would of course be respectful and everything, but I wanted to speak to Harry a bit more.

 

   “Harry? You alright?” I asked softly, a bit of concern written on my face. Seeing it live was different than it was in videos. It was more real. It left me worried for him at the time.

 

   “Yeah, Sorry, my head just really hurts,” he said, rubbing his temples a bit. I remembered from some of his videos that he said when he switches, he starts getting a headache first. 

 

   I didn’t know what to say, really, if I should wait it out or ask him more about it, or hang up and give him privacy. This was such a foreign experience. 

 

   “Harry?”

 

   “What?”

 

   “Should I let you go?.. maybe we could finish this another day, if that’s okay?” I asked timidly.

 

   There was a very long stretch of silence, and he didn’t move. He just sat with his elbows on the table and his eyes closed, his fingers paused against his temples.

 

   “Harry..?”

 

   It was like he was waking up, his hands moved to rub his eyes, a huff and a sigh, opening his eyes back up and looking at the screen. 

 

   “Are you Louis Tomlinson?” He asked, his voice having changed to a higher, more feminine tone.

 

   “Yes, who’s this?”

 

   “‘M Geordie.” He answered- or she, rather.

 

   “Hello, Geordie. It’s nice to meet you.”

 

   “It’s a pleasure to meet you as well, Love. Can I help answer your questions? For your essay, right?”

 

   “Yeah, that’s right..” I answered, a bit tentative about the whole situation. I didn’t want her answering questions if Harry didn’t give her permission to. The whole dynamic was a bit challenging, admittedly. But I couldn't even begin to imagine it from their end. It must be hell at times getting things coordinated. 

 

   “Only if it’s okay for you to answer them.”

 

   “It’s alright. Promise. What do you want to know, dear?”

Chapter Text

   “Geordie, promise me if I ask anything you’re uncomfortable answering, you’ll tell me or won’t answer. Okay? I don’t want to make you uncomfortable in any way.” I said, getting a bit more nervous as I had no clue how to go about this. I don’t know why I hadn’t prepared myself for a switch between alters, but now I was thrown into a completely different challenge from just writing down interview answers.

 

   “Promise, Louis.” She smiled, beautiful dimples showing. Her camera was shit quality, but you could see those through a two bit screen. And her eyes. Fuck, her enchanting green eyes.

 

   “Okay.. can I ask about your switch you just went through? Is that alright?”

 

   “Sure.” She answered, and I cleared my throat a bit nervously.

 

   “Do you have a headache now?”

 

   “Yes, whenever we switch, there’s a headache before and after. It gets passed onto the next person who switches out. But it’s not too bad right now. You get used to it.” 

 

   I wrote that down in the notebook, going completely off script now, and praying I could figure out how to get this in an essay that would still be cohesive. “Are there any triggers you can identify as to why you switched out for Harry?”

 

   “He was having a flashback, I believe.” She answered, pushing a curl out of her face. The way she carried herself was different to Harry. She had a different posture and different air about her from Harry. I don’t think anyone could fake that if they tried. It made me angry at the fact people could just write off something like this. The evidence was right there in the broken people it affected. My heart broke for Harry and his system.

 

   “Geordie, do you feel as though one of your roles in the system is to protect Harry or any other alters?”

 

   “Yes, I’m definitely a protector. I comfort and keep them safe as well. Especially Zoe. Lots of us are very protective of Zoe. Harry, too, but Harry understands things more than Zoe does.” She explained a bit, not seeming uncomfortable talking about Zoe, unlike Harry. 

 

   “Could you help explain co-consciousness to me?” 

 

   “Of course. So, basically, there can be more than one alter who’s awake in the mind at one time. One alter is always piloting the body’s movement and speech, but it’s like we’re still talking to each other in the mind. We hear it like you’d hear anybody else talking. But not everyone is co-conscious at once. Also, there can be times where there’s no one co-conscious, and it’s just the alter who’s fronting alone.” She said, definitely thinking carefully of how best to explain it while being clear and concise. 

 

   “Is there anyone else co-conscious with you at the moment?”

 

   “Yes, Harry’s still here. Ivy and Percy are here as well. Quinton’s kind of there. Mm..” she said, as if she was trying to listen closely for something. “Very quiet. Shy, I think. Knew he was being talked about earlier.” She grinned. Her demeanor was very cheerful on the outside. Positive. It was refreshing in a way. Made me relax and feel less.. guilty for being so intrusive. They deserved a bit of privacy, but they also agreed to do this. 

 

   “So before you switched with Harry, were you co-conscious?”

 

   “Yes.” 

 

   “And when you were co-conscious, could you see what Harry was seeing on the outside? Like, could you see him talking to me on the call?”

 

   “Oh, yes. And you’re very beautiful. Such pretty blue eyes.” She smiled softly, putting her hands in her lap. “‘M quite jealous.”

 

   “Ah, thank you, Geordie.” I was definitely blushing, not quite sure how to react. But I was flattered. 

 

   “Harry thinks so too.” 

 

   My face went even redder. I could feel the heat at the tips of my ears, and I couldn’t help but bite my lip. It felt.. odd to know that. It felt.. wrong in a way. But it also made me feel.. happy. Selfishly happy. I knew he was dealing with a lot of hard stuff, and I felt like taking up his time with some high schooler’s bullshit would somehow just end up fucking with him in the end. Like I would fuck him up. And he was already broken.

 

   “Louis?” She spoke softly, her tone very gentle and nurturing.

 

   “Yeah, Geordie?” I looked back at the screen from having been staring down at my notebook. 

 

   “Do you want to stop for the evening?” She asked, a now sad tone to her voice. It was hidden in there, but I could pick up on it. And I felt like maybe it was from the way I had reacted; it wasn’t the reaction she’d wanted. 

 

   “Oh, Geordie. It’s just been a long day at school today.” I could see her physically relax at the hint of assurance that it wasn’t her. “I want to be able to gather my thoughts better for an interview. I’d love to try again tomorrow night, if everyone would be alright with that?” I asked, and she nodded. 

 

   “Absolutely. If Harry switches out again before tomorrow, I’ll leave a note for him to message you about it. Can I give you our number so you don’t have to message us from Skype or Tumblr?” She asked, and I nodded, scrambling through my mess of a desk to get my phone and put their contact in. 

 

   “Thank you again for your time, Geordie. I’ll talk to you soon, yeah?” 

 

   “Of course.”

 

   “Tell Harry I said goodbye as well.”

 

   “I will. Goodbye, Louis Tomlinson.”

 

   “Goodbye, Geordie. Goodbye Harry and Ivy and Percy and Quinton.”

 

   She lit up a little at me addressing all that were co-conscious, waving at the screen as I hung up. I knew it was probably from being validated that they were all individual and deserved to have their presences acknowledged.

 

   I breathed out a deep breath, running a hand through my hair. I didn’t know why I felt so stressed now, but I just felt so.. happy that I got to talk to them but so wrong at the same time.

 

   Harry was so.. genuine. And Geordie was so pure and sweet. And they fell so fast. They had someone they could seemingly trust and they were probably getting that emotion confused with attraction.

 

   Why did it have to be fucking me? Of all people? Me?

 

   They could do so much better. They deserved better. Why was I even entertaining this idea of some sort of relationship? What was wrong with me?

 

   I couldn’t even support myself. I couldn’t even make decisions for myself. How was my brain thinking that I could possibly help another human being? Another person- no, ten other people technically!

 

   I knew I thought he was intriguing and honestly attractive, but I didn’t ever think I would be considering ludacris ideas like this. It wasn’t a possibility. I wouldn’t let it be. Harry wasn’t allowed to like me. Not Harry, not Geordie, not Ivy, not Percy, not anyone in their system. No one from the JesterSystem was allowed to like me. 

 

   I couldn’t let them.

Chapter Text

   I’m not gay.

 

   Well, that’s the image I want to keep for now as I’m not quite comfortable enough with myself to fully come out. I knew all my family and friends would be accepting, but it was more of a me thing.

 

   Yet another small reason to add to the list of reasons I did not want to go to college. 

 

   But it wasn’t like it was a completely hidden thing. I was pretty sure Tucker knew. But I didn’t know if he knew knew. Although, it would probably be hard to forget catching your best friend making out with your identical twin brother.

 

   Hunter was Tucker’s twin brother. And I kissed him. Which, in turn, would probably make Tucker think that I think he’s attractive. But that wasn’t the case; it was more of an experimental thing at the time. I don’t like Tucker or Hunter, I just wanted to make out with someone, and Hunter agreed he was down to try kissing a dude.

 

   So we did. And I honestly deep down pray that Tucker forgot all about it. Especially now that I had this weird Harry situation.

 

   I couldn’t talk to him fully about it because I didn’t feel like I was personally ready to tell anyone else about being not straight.

 

   But I had to tell him about the Harry thing because I needed advice.

 

   Though, if I didn’t come out fully to him, I wouldn’t be able to get the proper advice. He would see it from a well, you’re not gay so just tell him that kind of perspective. 

 

   I made the dreadful FaceTime call to him at about eleven that night. Just a handful of hours after speaking to Harry and Geordie.

 

   “I’ll be off work in an hour, dude, can you just come get me and we’ll talk then?” He said before I could even ask him anything. He had the phone propped up on something and I could see he was assembling sandwiches on the make table at Wendy’s. 

 

   I don’t know why it was impressive, but it was kind of cool that it was that laid back there for him. Probably because it was so late, but also because Tucker was Tucker and he was so easy going that everyone just agreed they liked him and wouldn’t fuck with him.

 

   “Yeah, is it alright if I crash at yours?” I ask, and he shrugged. 

 

   “Don’t see why not. I don’t know if Hunter’s gonna be home or not.”

 

   “Doesn’t matter. I’ll be there when you get off.”

 

   “See you then.”

 

   I ended the call after that, taking a few slow deep breaths to try and clear my head.

 

   My mother was pretty laid back about spontaneous things like going over to Tucker’s as long as I gave her notice and made sure to check in over text before I went to bed wherever I was. It was definitely a fair agreement the way I saw it. I never lied about where I was or who I was with, and she knew that she could trust me in that way, so she didn’t mind me leaving so suddenly if she knew it was going to be doing what I was telling her.

 

   I headed down the stairs of the house to peek in to the living room so I could let her know I’d soon be gone for the night. 

 

   She was watching tv with two of my sisters. Lottie, who was the oldest sister, was sitting in the corner of the sofa on her phone, and Fizzy, the middle child, was curled up with my mom on the other end. I assumed my youngest sisters, who were twins, were either asleep or at a sleepover for the night.

 

   “Hi, mom.” I said quietly, hopping down the final step and sitting in the loveseat by the sofa. She smiled sweetly, the two other girls turning their heads to look at me too. We were a pretty close knit family, and I was definitely thankful for that. I felt like I could always tell them anything. Especially mom. Except me being gay. Not yet.

 

   “Louis! Are you going to watch tv with us? We can change it to something you’d like to watch too.” She offered, already reaching over for the remote to change the channel. 

 

   “Oh, no, not right now. But thank you. Where are the twins?” I asked, and she relaxed back on the couch, cuddling Fizzy closer. “Sleepover. Just us four tonight.” She hummed a little.

 

   “Well, actually, I’m gonna go pick up Tucker from work and then spend the night at his place tonight.” I said, pulling one of the throws over my legs, curling up in the chair. Lottie went back to doing whatever she was doing on her phone, and Fizzy shut her eyes.

 

   “Oh, alright. What time does he get off?”

 

   “One.” I answered, and she nodded, going back to watching whatever they were watching. 

 

   “Got everything you need for the night?” She asked like she always did. I knew it was out of love, because she knew I had a few things kept at Tucker’s. 

 

   “Yep, everything’s all sorted. All good. Hopefully there’s a ten piece nugget in my future.” I joked, a little chuckle to go along with it.

 

   “Maybe I need to find a fast food friend so I can get some free nuggets too.” She joked along. “Maybe you’ll hear about if you got a position there. I’ll get you to bring me back some fries.”

 

   I nodded slowly, thinking about that. I hadn’t forgotten that I put the application in there, but my mind had gotten flooded with Harry and Geordie and their system and my essay and just- everything I didn’t need to be worrying about on a friday night. I let out a long sigh thinking about all those things again, and Mom cleared her throat a little bit before speaking.

 

   “I’m sorry, I know you’re a bit worried about deciding what you’re wanting to be doing..” She said very softly, more in a nurturing and sympathetic tone.

 

   My stomach kind of sank a little, because I didn’t need to be worrying her about my issues. She had a lot on her plate as it was, and my panicked indecisiveness about my future shouldn’t be a problem for her.

 

   “No, sorry, I was just thinking about some other stuff. School stuff. That whole essay thing.” I said, looking at my phone, trying to think of an excuse to dismiss myself from the conversation. As much as I was open with my family, everything was becoming so complicated and tangled up with the essay and Harry and my future and I didn’t have the energy to be able to open up about it all and explain everything.

 

   “I’m gonna go upstairs and uh.. Get some stuff before I go get Tucker.” I said, putting the throw back over the arm of the chair and hurrying upstairs back to my room.

 

   I grab my notes and a few pens, stuffing them into a spare little bag I had lying around my room, and decided to just wait a little around my room before I headed out to go pick Tucker up from work.

 

   Once I picked him up and we made it back to his flat he shared with Hunter and one of Hunter’s friends, we immediately crashed on the couch, digging into the bag he brought back with him from the night shift.

 

   “How’d the interview go?” He asked, dunking a nugget into a sauce, not looking up at me.

 

   “Well, I dunno. A lot.. Happened.” I answered quietly. He looked up quickly after that, apparently sensing my unease about it. He was curious, but also seemed a bit concerned at the same time.

 

   “Yeah? You wanna talk about it?” He asked, letting me know I didn’t have to open up about it unless I wanted to. 

 

   I sucked in a deep breath and nodded slowly, running my hands over my face. He sat up a little, sensing it was something pretty serious that had happened. It wasn’t like life or death or anything terrifying, but I was just.. Fucked, it felt like. More than usual.

 

   “The interview went alright until the last bit. Harry’s a good guy. Get on great with him, I feel like. But he switched in front of me, right? And I didn’t really know how to go about talking with him- er, her, about it. Like, he switched out into Geordie, one of the female alters, and I tried to continue on the interview with her. She asked me to try, and I did, but then she told me that she thinks I’m cute and so does Harry and then I didn’t know how to fucking react and I think I upset her by being all weird about it. But I don’t know what I'm doing! I’m supposed to just be finding answers to some questions and then- and then she comes out and calls me cute and it’s not fucking fair because like- because they're like.. Charming ! They’re charming and sweet and it’s weird because it’s so fucked. The whole thing is so fucked and I can’t imagine how dealing with that must be for them because I can’t even decide how to feel about it myself! And I’m one dude! I’m one idiot high schooler talking to a twenty one year old guy with nine other people who all see me differently and have different ways of talking and different opinions and different identities and different beliefs and different memories !” I spill out frantically, watching my own hands make motions in the air like a mad man.

 

   There was a big pause as I waited for a response from Tucker. It seemed like he was taking a second to process it all in his head before he spoke. “So, back up for a second, he likes you?”

 

   “Yeah. But, like, I’ve only talked to him like twice. Once over skype and once over tumblr. But it’s complicated because I can have talked to him like thirty times, but it could never actually be him. I’ve only talked to three out of ten of him.” I sighed. “And I don't want to get on his bad side. I feel like I could fuck up really bad by just doing something slighty wrong, and I’m only supposed to be interviewing the prick. I want to be nice to him and give him the respect he deserves, but he’s just.. Starting to like me, you know? And yeah, he’s cute and yeah, they seem sweet and charming, but they’ve also come from a terrible rough place. I don’t want to add anything bad to that, you know? But I’m also so curious about it.”

 

   “So you kind of like him back or what?” he asked, not even bothering to question the fact that it was all over a male. Kind of.

 

   “I’m trying not to. It’s so soon.. And I’m supposed to be interviewing him for a shitting essay.”

 

   “Watching it from the perspective of someone not directly involved, you kinda seemed invested from the beginning, mate. Kinda defensive and protective over him. Stayed up late watching his videos just to get to know him without having to talk to him. Like, you want to get to know him, dude. What’s so bad about just getting to know them? It doesn’t have to go anywhere if you all don’t want it to. You can get to know someone without committing to them. Even if it is ten different people, kinda.” Tucker said, his voice as calm and laid back as always. He rested his hand on my shoulder and gave it a little supportive squeeze. He was a fucking amazing friend. And he could absolutely make it as a therapist or something someday. Easy to open up and talk to, and non judgemental.

 

   I nodded, finally looking up at him. I was definitely thankful to have him around. Always would be.

 

   “You should message him now. Try to talk to whoever you get to talk to. Hell, even skype him if you want to. I don’t mind. You can go to my room if you want some privacy if you want.” He offered, passing me a cheeseburger.

 

   I took the cheeseburger and looked at my phone, mulling over the option in my head before I decided to message Harry.

 

     LT91 : Hey, it’s Louis. Are you busy? Whoever’s there?

 

    JesterSystem : Harry. No, just snacking right now. You’re up late.

 

    LT91 : Give me a break, it’s only 1 :P  I hope I didn’t do anything to upset you at all today.

 

    JesterSystem : No, of course not. Why?

 

    LT91 : No reason. Weird question, and you can say no if you want, but would you want to skype again right now?

 

    JesterSystem   Sure. Let me get on skype. I’ll call you in a sec


    LT91 : Cool. See you then, H.

Chapter Text

   I excused myself to Tucker’s room to go talk to Harry privately, setting his phone up against a book on Tucker’s desk. I was even more nervous about talking to him for the second time than the first, and I’d already spoken to him before. He knew what I looked like and I knew what he looked like. But it still felt risky.

 

   Once Harry called and I answered the phone, I saw him sitting on a couch, a royal blue blanket half draped over his shoulder. He smiled warmly, and I could feel the nerves melting away a little bit. He was very pretty. Very easy to talk to. 

 

   “Hi, Louis. Happy early Saturday morning.” Harry grinned his sweet little smile, and I felt like everything was easing up again.

 

   I chuckled a little nodding. “Yeah, happy Saturday morning. You asked me why I’m awake so late, now I get to ask you the same.”

 

   “Just can’t sleep sometimes. I’m having a bowl of ice cream right now, settling in for the night. Or, hoping to.” 

 

   “Well then why’d you agree to skyping me?” I couldn't help but laugh a little simply from endearment. “You didn’t have to say yes if you’re about to get ready for bed.”

 

   “I wanted to talk to you more.” He answered simply, giving a little shrug. I swear I could’ve caught a hint of a blush on his cheeks as he looked away from the screen, getting a bite of his ice cream.

 

   “What’s the flavor?” 

 

   “Cookies ‘n cream.” He answered, looking back at the screen. Which, I guess was me.

 

   “That’s your favorite, innit?” I ask, and he nodded, his demeanor brightening a little bit.

 

   “Yeah, it is! You remember that from a video?” He asked.

 

   “Yeah, I-.. I really do like your content. You’re really cool, Harry. I mean it. And not just because you have D.I.D.. Even if you didn’t have it, you’d be just as cool.” I gushed a little bit, trying to take Tucker’s advice and loosen up. Let my guard down and just get to know him genuinely.

 

   “Thank you. You’re very sweet. I get questions from people a lot, but I’ve never had someone come forward and ask me for a one on one interview like that. I’ve had another youtuber suggest to me that I should stream and answer questions. Like a Q&A kind of thing.” He rambled a little bit.

 

   “That would be really cool! I think getting to talk to your audience like that will be a really good thing for you guys. It seems like a good thing to have me to talk to. Not to make myself sound more important than I am..” I said, feeling a bit bad for how I worded it.

 

   Harry shook his head quickly. “No, I’m really glad you messaged me. I know a few of us have been getting down in a bit of a rut lately. I was getting discouraged about the channel a bit. I like being able to inform others about it. I had such a bad reaction from my personal life with telling people about having DID, I like to try and inform anyone I can that it’s not like the shit you see in movies. I’m not insane, you know? I’m not going to hurt anyone or have any crazy thoughts. It’s really the opposite.” He confessed. “It’s a defense mechanism from the brain when you’re a child. Like someone tried to hurt us, and then when we feel threatened, we switch out to try and protect ourselves. I hate that people see the disorder as such a scary thing. We aren’t scary. We’re normal people just all developed in one body. Multiple possibilities of a person we could’ve grown up to be if we’d have integrated properly; developed into a single adult personality.” 

 

   “I think it’s very brave of you to broadcast something so controversial and misunderstood. It’s a very personal thing, and I can’t even imagine showing it to anyone like that. Especially since it’s a disorder you’re not even supposed to know about. Right?”

 

   “Yeah, it’s not supposed to be something you’re conscious of if you have it. I mean, it’s not bad if you do know or realize you have it, but the original purpose for the brain doing this is secret protection.” Harry nodded, happy to see that there was at least someone who understood the things he was saying and trying to convey to his audience.

 

   “Do you read your comments on your videos often? Just out of curiosity. I’m not interviewing you formally right now. I just want to talk to you more.”

 

   “Ehm.. it depends. Some of us do, some of us don’t. I usually do, unless I know it’s going to be a possibly controversial video. Vik and Percy read the comments usually, then let us know if we should read them too or not.”

 

   “I know you all have different ways of communicating between yourselves; which ones do you use the most?” I ask, hoping I wasn’t being too nosy.

 

   “I personally like sticky notes. There’s a ton of sticky notes around the house. I use them for small stuff, but some of us only use them for important notices. There’s a few journals we share, but usually we can pass the message around to each other in the brain. Er, communicating with each other when we’re co-conscious. It really is like talking to someone else. I can’t control anyone else’s thoughts. I don’t think thought is the right word to use, but I can’t think of a better way to say it right now.”

 

   “No, that’s okay. So how do you know whose sticky note is whose?” 

 

   “I tried to get us to color code, but it didn’t last long.” He chuckled. “But we either sign them or we can kind of tell by different handwriting styles. Not styles but.. Some of us are much neater than others.”

 

   “Who’s is the neatest?” I asked out of genuine curiosity, grinning.

 

   “I want to say mine, but it definitely isn’t. If I have to say anyone else..” He giggled in the middle of his thought. “Leslie? They’re very organized with everything they do. And you would think Zoe’s would be the worst, but I swear it has to be Quinton. No, maybe Leonard. I don’t know.”

 

   “Their handwriting’s worse than a child’s ?!” I couldn't help but laugh. 

 

   He laughed too, his cheeks turning a bit pink. I don’t think it was from genuine embarrassment, but just a playful banter. 

 

   “I’m just teasing, you know. No judgement here.” I reminded him.

 

   “No, I know. You get it. Or, try to, at least. I can tell you’re genuine about your intentions. Your mind’s open to listen to us.”

 

   “Of course, Harry. You guys deserve that. One hundred percent. You need people to be in your corner for you. Even if I am some high school kid on the internet with an essay to write.” I shrugged. 

 

   “You’re not just some kid on the Internet with an essay.” He said quietly, his face growing a bit more serious. “I don’t believe in coincidence..” 

 

   I felt my face grow a bit more serious too, a weird feeling growing in my stomach. It wasn’t a bad feeling, but it wasn’t.. normal.

 

   “There’s a reason the universe set this up..” he added, and I just kind of nodded. There was just something fascinating about the way he saw things, and I just wanted to keep learning more and more about him. 

 

   “Do you smoke?” He asked, kind of pulling me out of my thoughts for a second. 

 

   “What?”

 

   “Do you smoke?” Harry repeated.

 

   “Cigarettes?”

 

   “Or pot.”

 

   “Uhm..” I squirmed a little in my spot, not really sure what got us on the subject in the first place. “Yeah.. why?” I asked.

 

   “It's a weird request and you can say no if you’d like, but Quinton wanted to know if you’d want to smoke with him on Skype sometime.” Harry looked embarrassed to ask, which was almost strange. But then when I thought about it, was it really that strange for him to be so uneasy about it?

 

   If it was someone else completely in his head trying to convey a message forward, having to do it through means of basically a game of telephone in your brain, it probably wouldn’t be the easiest thing to do. I could imagine he’d had a lot of negative experiences trying to satisfy everyone when more than one person want to talk.

 

   I scratched the back of my neck, thinking about it for a second. “I dunno, Harry.. I’ve never met Quinton, and usually when I smoke, my friends and I all pool the money and split it together..”

 

   “You don’t buy on your own, basically.” Harry said, and I hesitated before nodding.

 

   “Yeah.. I only smoke when there’s someone here in person with me. Just a personal thing. Nothing against Quinton.” 

 

   “Don’t have to explain yourself. If it makes you uncomfortable, then that’s it. Don’t want you doing anything you don’t want to. It goes both ways.”

 

   I cracked a little smile, meeting his eyes. Kind of. Through a screen, but it still counted. “Thank you, Harry.”

 

   “Where’s one place you’ve  always wanted to go, Louis?” He asked, and I swear I could’ve caught a little glint in his eyes.

 

   I thought for a second. I guess I hadn’t thought too much about that before. I mean, of course I’d pulled out some bullshit answers for icebreakers at school and stuff if that was a question, but an honest answer? I hadn’t put too much time into thinking about it.

 

   “That’s a hard one..” I murmured, biting my lip in thought.

 

   “You don’t have like a dream vacation or anything like that?” He asked surprised.

 

   I shook my head. “Don’t really think about things that probably won’t happen, I guess.” 

 

   That was a lie; I was thinking about college constantly and I was pretty positive I wouldn’t be trying to go any time soon.

 

   “That’s fucking depressing.” He mumbled, getting up from his couch, bringing the phone with him to wash his dishes in the sink. “I really want to go on a road trip or something across the country. Just drive around, see the sights, stay in dingy motels, small town diner stops, just- just getting lost.” Harry gushed. It was obviously something he’d thought about a lot.

 

   “So why haven’t you?” I asked, and he looked away from the dish to look at me on his screen. 

 

   “I don’t want to do it alone. My family’s not the kind of people to do that, I guess. I don’t think I’d want to go with them anyways. But I couldn’t do it alone.. too.. risky..”

 

   “You need a companion.”

 

   He nodded, that little gloomy look on his face coming back. It was like the reality of his situation hit him again. Like he’d forgotten about it for a second. Like he could do anything before I brought him back to reality. I felt bad.

 

   “Yeah. It’s hard being on my own with all this going on.” He admitted, drying his dish and just looking at that for a while. 

 

   “You’re so brave..” I reminded him.

 

   “I look at all these other youtubers out there with D.I.D. and they have partners or siblings or roommates to help them out. And it makes me feel a bit alone. I’ve just.. isolated myself with all this shit going on.” He mumbled. “You’d think with nine other people in your head you’d never get lonely.. and yet..”

 

   His defeated sigh broke my heart at that moment, and I took in a deep breath before I spoke.

 

   “Where are we going first on this road trip, Harry?”

Chapter Text

  I learned while talking to Harry that he didn’t live too terribly far from me. It was about a six hour drive, and all things considered, it was not bad at all in the grand scheme of things. He could’ve lived all the way across the country from me.

 

   I don’t know why I was considering whether it was a good thing or bad thing when I told myself I was not going to get involved.

 

   But then Harry- fucking Harry   had to look so sad and so vulnerable and my dumb fucking mouth had to propose the idea that we could possibly meet one day in person.

 

   My mother would’ve smacked me if she had heard me saying such things to a twenty one year old who I met over the internet so recently. 

 

   But then, why do parents let their children run off to college where they stay with other random kids their age like that? No one ever questions the idea of dorms.

 

   I had been talking to Harry for so long that Tucker had come in to take his room back so he could sleep on the bed. I moved out to the living room, talking to him still on the couch. Harry had also switched, and now I was talking to Ivy.

 

   Ivy was definitely energetic and passionate about her interests, and I was actually quite fascinated watching her try on her wigs in front of me. 

 

   “I think this one might be my favorite so far.” I commented, munching on some chips, watching her brush it and adjust it a little bit, going back and forth from using her vanity to look at herself and looking at me. 

 

   “You think? Why? Just ‘cause it’s colorful?” She asked, very carefully brushing through the wig.

 

   “Don’t get me wrong, I like the natural colors, but I really like this one. It’s like cotton candy.” 

 

   The wig was half baby blue and half baby pink, long and straight. Dramatic, but I could already tell it fit Ivy’s traits perfectly. 

 

   “I’ve got a makeup palette that looks really cool with it when I do the whole half thing but opposite. Like blue on this eye and pink on the other.” She said, showing me how it would be reversed from her hair if she did it.

 

   “You’ll have to show me sometime.” I agreed, and she immediately started digging around the drawers in her vanity. 

 

   “I’ll do it now! I love doing my makeup. And just dressing up in general.” 

 

   “You don’t get to do it often, do you?” I asked, popping a chip in my mouth. 

 

   “No. Don’t ever have a place to go and get dressed up for. I hate it here.” She mumbled, setting all her makeup out in front of her.

 

   “Yeah, small towns are pretty shit like that. Closed minded, too.” 

 

   “I’d love to move to a big city someday. Somewhere accepting where I can be me . It’s hard being me in this body, you know, cause it’s not like I can change it with hormones to make me look the way I see myself; I have to share this body with other people.” 

 

   “Where would you rather live? If you got to choose?” I ask, and she thought for a second, pausing rubbing the primer into her skin. 

 

   “If I had to stay in the states, Austin, Texas. Out of country, London.” She answered, looking over at me. I smiled, nodding. 

 

   “London would be fun. Definitely. Just fucking expensive over there, innit?”

 

   “Yeah. That’s the only downside about it. And usually the apartments are so small, you know?” 

 

   “I guess that’s the good thing with you guys though is nine people can fit in a one bedroom apartment technically.”

 

   She did a little snort laugh, rolling her eyes and I chuckled. “Yeah, I guess. It gets crowded, though. Our closet is a mess. Everyone likes to have their own clothes, so we have way too much for how little closet space we have. Right now we’re in this two bedroom apartment, and the girls get one closet and the boys use the other in the office. Er, bedroom we turned into an office.” She rambled a little while she got her foundation on and set. 

 

   “Have you ever thought about having a roommate?” I asked.

 

   “Yeah, definitely. But finding someone willing is the hard part. All the other D.I.D. channels I talk to either live alone or live with their partner. And I don’t know why it is, but a lot of them date each other. Like, one system will move in with another and start dating. But certain alters will date each other and it’s just a lot of crossing, you know?”

 

   “Well that’s the thing, right? Is some of your alters would want to date someone while some wouldn’t? Like obviously Zoe’s not dating anyone. And if Percy’s straight and Harry’s dating a man, Percy’s not the man’s boyfriend.” I tried to wrap my mind around it as best I could.

 

   Ivy nodded. “Exactly. Like Geordie and Harry like you. But Vik doesn’t. You know what I mean?” She said, and I nodded back.

 

   “Yeah, I know what you mean.”

 

   “They’re moving too fast, I think.” Ivy spoke softly.

 

   “I agree. I just don’t want them to get hurt. Not that I would ever hurt them, but I don’t think they realize you can’t trust every nice person in the Internet. But I don’t have the heart to tell them that. I don’t want them to get the wrong idea, you know? It’s more of a ‘get your hopes up’ thing rather than a ‘hurt you’ thing. We’re all at very different stages in our lives, and I’m still trying to figure myself out. What I wanna do and all that” I vented a little to her.

 

   “I get that. I really do. These kinds of things aren’t something you rush.” She agreed.

 

   “Yeah. But Harry’s so charming, you know? He’s just got this thing about him that would make me risk it all. I don’t fucking know what it is and it’s infuriating. I’m not even out yet.” I don’t know why talking to Ivy felt so natural. It was like she’d been my best friend since I was a child or something. There was just this automatic trust and friendly understanding. It was mutual, I felt like.

 

   “Are you really not?” Ivy asks, her eyebrows raised in surprise. “Any reason why?”

 

   “Just already got enough going on right now with shit. Tucker and Hunter know, but..” I blushed a little thinking about that kiss with Hunter. And I blushed even harder thinking about how we got caught by his fucking twin brother. Like a shitty ameature porno or something. But it didn’t end with an orgasm. Just embarrassment and a cold shower.

 

   “Do you think that might be stressing you out even more? Like, subconsciously? When Harry came out for us at the time, it was a bit of a relief to admit. Felt like we had one less thing to hide.” 

 

   “I think if I got any bad reactions, I’d lose it. I’m already losing it now. Graduation is stressful.” I sighed a little, slumping into the couch.

 

   “I wish we could come to your graduation. It would be cool to meet you. Then we could meet the psych teacher who’s gonna give you an A.” She smiled.

 

   That would be really cool, but also a nightmare. Having to explain who Harry was to my friends and family, and if they met Mr. Malik? Fuck. The two people I feel some weird attraction to. Why do I have to fucking like Harry? Or my teacher? I’m screwed.

 

   “It would be cool in theory.”

 

   “I think you should think it over a little more. It would be beneficial for everyone. Plus, we could vlog it! You could be on our channel.”

 

   I raised an eyebrow at her. “Are you trying to bribe me with your YouTube channel?.. You realize I would love to be able to meet you guys in person, but that’s a lot of explaining to be done. And arrangements to be made..”

 

   “We have hotel money. C’mon. We’ll figure it out slowly. See? Taking shit slow.” She gave a little pout, and I swear my heart fucking stopped for a second.

 

  Jesus Christ.

 

   “Ivy..”

 

   “LouLou..”

 

   My cheeks went red and I swear something twinged in my stomach. Or.. lower.

 

   “ Ivy.

 

   “ LouLou ..” she whined now. She was begging .

 

   “Ivy, you gotta stop..” I breathed out, trying not to bite my lip.

 

   “Or what?” She challenged, and I didn’t even know what to say. 

 

   I was definitely fucked.

 

   

Chapter Text

   “Were you taking a shower this morning?” Tucker asked, watching me make the house some easy breakfast for us. 

 

   I shrugged, hoping he wouldn’t question me too much more about it. I was trying to ignore the whole thing, really. Trying to pretend it hadn’t happened and it never took place. It was fucked.

 

   “I’m just wondering. Did you spill something on you? I can wash your clothes for you if you want.” He offered. Tucker was too nice for my own good. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my other mates, but Tucker was just different. We were on a different level with each other compared to me and Nathan or Michael. Like a friend soulmate kind of thing.

 

   “No, just needed a shower.” I wasn’t going to openly admit that I got disgustingly riled up from Ivy teasing me like that and had to hang up and go calm down in the shower. She’d pushed a little further on the call before I had to quickly say goodbye and leave. She looked too good and begged too sweet for me to talk to her any longer.

 

   “Alright.” He said, dropping the conversation. Hunter made his way into the kitchen, still about half asleep, grabbing a soda to start the morning off with. He was weird.

 

   “Morning, sleepy head.”

 

   “Hi, Lou.”

 

   Hunter gave me a sleepy smile and put his hand on my shoulder, giving it a little squeeze before he let go and went back to his room. I got on just fine with Hunter, but we weren’t as close and Tucker and I were. Despite having kissed before. But that was in the weird past. 

 

   One thing that was different with Tucker and Hunter than anyone else I’d ever been close with was how comfortable they were with themselves. Despite how young they were, they really didn’t care that much about how they were perceived. Hunter especially with his sexuality. He was just himself and he was comfortable with that. He didn’t feel a need to explain or defend every affectionate action with another male. And I envied having that ability to care so little.

 

   “So how did your call with Harry go? I didn’t get to talk to you about it yet.” Tucker asked, watching me sort everyone’s breakfast out onto their plates and sitting down with Tucker at the table to eat.

 

   “Went fine. Got to know him a bit more. We talked for a while before he switched and I met Ivy.” I could feel my face going a little pink just thinking about her and what she did to me. I was trying to chalk it up to be I was young and everything got me riled up. I wasn’t going to let myself believe it was because she was attractive and successful in her begs. 

 

   She was dirty for that. Fuck.

 

   And that’s not me fetishizing her. We both knew she did it on purpose. I knew from their videos on their channel that she was the ‘sexual alter’. So it wasn’t just genuine innocence. It was an act to get me riled up. But I couldn’t be mad about it. She seemed to be a great person. She was friendly to the degree that I felt comfortable opening up a lot more than I was willing to admit. And her energy and aura were just something I couldn’t put into words. But definitely in a good way.

 

   I couldn’t stop thinking about how delicate she was with her makeup brush and how concentrated she was on making sure everything was flawless, but somehow able to do that as a second nature while she focused on a conversation with me. She was incredible.

 

   She opened up easy with me, and even though she contradicted herself with not wanting to get too deeply involved with me so quickly but then asked if she could come down for my graduation, I trusted her. It didn’t matter to me if she didn’t fully know what she wanted, she was one of those souls that I instinctively would try and give her the moon if she so wished.

 

   Whatever Ivy wanted, Ivy was going to get. 

 

   “Hello, earth to Louis..” Tucker chuckled, waving his hand in front of my face. I grunted, being pulled from my thoughts and batted his hand out of my face. “I said how did it go with Ivy then? What’s she like?”

 

   “She’s.. unforgettable..”

 

   “You sound fucking whipped.” He laughed a little, starting to eat away at his breakfast.

 

   “You’d understand if you could meet her. She’s.. fuck, she’s.. Persephone incarnated.” I murmured, and he snorted a little. 

 

   “Jesus Christ. Now I know why you had to have that shower.” Tucker smirked.

 

   I kicked his shin hard under the table, and he hit his fist on the table kind of hard, obviously aggravated by that. It was rare he acted out against his laid back hippy like self, and I knew to back off immediately. 

 

   “Piss off, what the fuck is your problem dude?!” He shouted a little, and I could feel myself sinking a little in my chair. He wasn’t much of a morning person, and I should’ve known better. 

 

   “Sorry..”

 

   “I think you might be taking this project too far, Louis. You’re getting too involved with them. Just stick to interviews from now on if this is how you’re gonna let them affect you..” he mumbled, not looking up from his plate.

 

   I guess it took Tucker yelling at me to fully realize how protective I was over some YouTube personality I barely even knew. It was ridiculous how connected I felt to them. And he had a point; if I was going to let them start affecting me in my personal life, I needed to back off. I needed to be professional about this; I just needed some information for an essay. That’s all I needed. 

 

   That’s all.

Chapter Text

   I knew I was being a piece of garbage, but I felt like I was being a piece of garbage for a good reason. A good reason that really only Tucker and I could understand at the time. 

 

   I felt pulled in so many ways at once, feeling terrible every time my phone went off because Harry or someone in his system was trying to message me and talk to me and I would just ignore it. I even considered turning my notifications off at one point just so I wouldn’t feel as guilty as I did about it, but I quickly realized that if he needed something, I wanted to be there for him. 

 

   Those two and a half days were absolute torture. I didn’t think I was even close to him like that, but reading every message and not allowing myself to respond was a type of misery I hadn’t even considered. I enjoyed him too much for our own good. And yet he couldn’t get the fucking hint. And my stupid heart couldn’t let it go and just leave him alone entirely. 

 

   Partially because I still had questions I wanted to ask him about, but I also fucking liked him. Ugh.

 

   Though Tucker reminded me there were ways of obtaining information other than Harry. Plus I needed more sources than just one. I was lucky to have him around to keep me on track with the essay. 

 

   I had been so excited about the essay before, now it was becoming a thorn in my side I never expected. 

 

   I slugged my backpack onto my desk, settling into study hall, immediately pulling out my phone. I should be focusing on all the things that were starting to pile up to get ready for graduation, but I could only focus on how many more messages I probably had gotten from Harry. I hadn’t checked them since last night. But I hadn’t replied to anything they sent since Ivy and I got off Skype Friday night. 

 

    JesterSystem : I’m sorry if Ivy creeped you out..

 

    JesterSystem : I promise she didn’t mean to. She just acts like that sometimes…

 

    JesterSystem : Well, I hope you’re okay.. let me know how the job situation goes for you..

 

    JesterSystem : also let me know I guess if you still want to ask me questions for your essay. I’ll be here.

 

    JesterSystem : if it’s something we did can you at least tell us so we can try to fix it?

 

    JesterSystem : I don’t want this to come across as toxic or obsessive behavior but I just worry you know..?

 

    JesterSystem : Louis?

 

    JesterSystem : can you just let me know you’re safe? So I know you’re okay? Worried..

 

   I knew I couldn’t just leave him worrying about me like that. I knew I was a piece of shit for having him nervous like that, stressing him out when that was the last thing he needed. 

 

    LT91 : I’m fine, Harry. I’m safe. At school rn.

 

    It took a little while to get a response back. I started to feel what I was putting Harry through, because I started to worry a little bit when there wasn’t a message back. I was an ass.

 

    JesterSystem : glad you’re well.

 

    I knew that was definitely passive aggressive. It’s hard to find tone over text, but I could just tell. That lowercase start and the period at the end like that? Absolutely anger. 

 

    LT91 : Are you ok, H?

 

    JesterSystem : This is Percy. Fine. Just filmed a video. 

 

   Oh fuck. I’d never met Percy before. And he already hated me, I could tell. I immediately regretted doing all this to Harry and his system, knowing they didn’t deserve this. They didn’t deserve this without any explanation. They deserved the world, and I knew that clearly. He’d been through so much and he just couldn’t get a break. And I was part of the problem.

 

    LT91 : Percy, I’m really sorry. I’m sorry for what I did to you and everyone in your system. It was extremely disrespectful and mean. I promise I can explain everything if you just give me a chance to talk to you guys after I get off school.. 

 

    JesterSystem : why should I let you even try when you just knowingly hurt us like everyone else does?

 

   LT91 : please, Percy, just let me try to explain myself. I know I’m shitty, what I did was fucking awful, but you deserve an explanation. At least give me that

 

    JesterSystem : why should I give you anything when you talk like you’re gonna do all this shit for us and then ignore us for two days?!

 

    I didn’t have a good answer. I wouldn’t trust me either if I was him. All I’d done was do him dirty. I didn’t even know how to defend myself or try to convince him further, so I just put my phone to the side, trying to get some work done. By the time the period was over and I checked my phone one last time, I saw a message from him again. 

 

    JesterSystem : we’ll talk after you get out of school.






Chapter Text

   I felt bad about just rushing up to my room, dodging my siblings and mother to just get upstairs to call Harry. Or, whoever would be answering.

 

   The rest of the school day went by slowly seeing as I just dwelled on the situation and felt guilty about the whole thing for a few more hours. Which, I should have. I deserved to.

 

   I pulled Skype up as quickly as I could on my laptop, waiting anxiously for someone to answer. I didn’t even have a second to check how I looked, but I didn’t figure it would matter much. This was just to apologize, not to impress anyone with my appearance.

 

   “Louis?” They answered, and I could tell it wasn’t one of the girls, and it also wasn’t Vik. Which, I was thankful for. Vik was intimidating for sure, and I definitely didn’t want to get on his bad side. He was a good protector for their system.

 

   “Yeah, hi. Ehm, can I ask who I’m talking to right now?” I asked.

 

   “Quinton. Nice to finally meet you instead of relaying messages for you.” He smiled, jokingly holding his hand out to the camera, pretending to shake my hand. I chuckled and held mine out, and we both did a shaking motion. 

 

   A smile had returned to my face, and my worry about the situation was starting to ease up. 

 

   “Nice to meet you too. I’ve seen you in some of you guys’ videos.” I commented, and his eyes lit up a little bit.

 

   “Yeah? What did you think of me?” He asked. I had noted before that he was definitely an alter who needed a lot of reassurance and encouragement. His low self-esteem was evident, and I knew I would need to lift him up if I was going to be around him more. He deserved to be confident. 

 

   “That you’re a very sweet guy. Always very energetic and upbeat, it seems. Or, at least for the camera. Very.. lad-like.”

 

   He laughed at that, a bit of an awkward horse laugh. But I loved it. It was actually really endearing.

 

   “What the hell is lad-like?” 

 

   “I dunno, just.. I don’t know how to explain it! Like.. fuck, I dunno the right word.” I leaned back in my chair, trying to think. “Bro-ish?”

 

   “No, absolutely not, mate.” That was one thing about Quinton that was different than most of the other alters, is he had an English accent. The only other alter with an English accent was Geordie. Which, was definitely interesting to me. It fascinated me how that developed with them.

 

   “No? Not a chav?”

 

   “Ah, fuck off!” He laughed, a big smile showing through and some dimples started to show. And I swear my heart skipped a beat then. 

 

   “We’ve missed you.” Quinton added, and I felt my big grin start to fade a little. 

 

   “Yeah, I’m sorry I dipped out for a little bit there..”

 

   “Why did you do that?” He asked. My initial instinct answer would have been dismissive, but they deserved better than that. They deserved an explanation. 

 

   I sighed before I started to speak, wanting to make sure I had my thoughts gathered enough. “I was scared. I know this probably sounds creepy, but I just really started to get invested in you guys. Like, wanting to help with whatever I can. Wanting to be a.. wanting to be someone to you guys. I dunno.. realizing I like you guys..” I kind of drifted my voice off at the end, just praying for a good reaction. 

 

   “Yeah, we’ve been kind of wrestling with that too. We want to be careful, because you could be a weirdo on the Internet, but.. you’re.. easy to trust somehow. A lot of us like you. Ivy’s absolutely just lusting after you since you guys talked..”

 

   I felt my face go red at that, trying not to let that get to my head as he continued. 

 

   “No one’s really been too invested in us like that, you know? Ever since we started the channel, it’s mostly been positive comments and support, but that’s about it. We have a few followers who we talk to and sometimes they send us packages, but we really try not to get attached. Hurts us in the end. Doesn’t matter who it is.” He said, also getting quieter towards the end.

 

   “I know. And that’s why I kind of just.. disappeared. I didn’t want you guys to get hurt. Not that I would ever intentionally hurt you, but there’s just some things I don’t understand, and I would never want you to feel anything negative because of something I did or said.”

 

   “But we get that, you know? We realize the whole shit with it is no one can really understand it unless they have it. I mean, you know what I’m sayin’? You can get it to a certain point but not.. all the way. But we get it. And that’s why we’re understanding about it. If you’re making the effort to try and learn and understand and be considerate, we see that. We appreciate that. That’s one reason why we like you so much; you’ve been respectful to us from moment one..”

 

   “You deserve that. It’s the least I can do. You all are people too, you deserve respect like anyone else does.” I say. I see a little shift in his position, and my guess was that he was happy I didn’t use the term ‘normal people’. I remembered in past videos they really got upset when people would say that about everyone else when comparing them. It was offensive, and again, I wanted to respect them in any way I could. Even if it was just avoiding a simple word. 

 

   “I dunno if I would say deserve ..” He mumbled, scratching the back of his head a little.

 

   “Yes, Quinton. You do. Absolutely. You’re valid. You’re a real person . Just like me and the next guy.” 

 

   He tried to bite back a grin. “Thanks Louis.” 

 

   I could hear something that sounded like a knock in the background on his end, and his face looked startled for a second before looking back at the camera. Almost in a panicked fashion. 

 

   “Fuck, I gotta go. I’ll talk to you later.” He said, and immediately hurried to end the call. That didn’t sit well with me, and a pit in my stomach grew. What was going on?

 

   Who was at his door? Why was his reaction so fearful? And what exactly was he hiding here?