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It was pitch black and freezing when he blearily opened his eyes, already shivering, instinctively flinching at the groans and whimpers beside him. He couldn't pinpoint why his room suddenly felt so dark, cold...terrifying. But with a jolt of realization, Roman swiveled to his side on his bed, finding his brother, curled up and tangled in the blankets, trembling and jerking. Roman placed a hand on his shoulder and shook him slightly, but he was unresponsive. He was finally recalling how he welcomed his brother to his room to sleep—perchance to dream, instead of having nightmares. But his idea seemingly failed.

"Remus?" Roman whispered. The heavy lull and the pleasant paradise of his dreams were slipping away. He hated when that happened, but it almost never did. Until tonight. Roman realized there was fear curdling in his stomach, and he shivered again. "Remus," he tried again, voice barely above a whisper, and jostled him once more. 

Remus yelped, thrumming with terror. Roman hadn't seen him like this decades ago. Then again, it was the first night in years that Roman offered his room to him.

"Don't hurt me," Remus slurred, voice thick with tears. Roman shook his shoulder again, beginning to feel helpless, losing his voice. He didn't wish to scare Remus into waking. Remus never slept, always too enthusiastic or anxious to even consider lying down. 

But then he screeched.

Roman convulsed, felt his room warp, his insides twisted, and before he could think, he was on top of Remus, gripping his shoulders tightly and jostling them violently. "It's a nightmare, Remus! Wake up!"

Remus gasped heavily, convulsing one last time, before staring above at Roman, through unfocused, haunted eyes. He shriveled under Roman, eyes becoming animalistic and ferocious. But then he shoved Roman off with the force of a truck.

Roman yelped before the air was stolen from him as he crashed onto the freezing floor below. He gasped, swallowing oxygen through the pain, and shivered when it froze him to the core. He didn't know Remus could have so much power here. He forced himself to sit up, to see Remus grinning, eyes unhinged, a long knife in his hand.

"You're not hurting me again," he singsonged, trembling every few seconds. "I left my prison, remember?"

"W-w-what—" Roman sputtered, crawling backwards, but Remus was already over him, knife at his throat, free hand pushing against Roman's shoulder. He winced as a sharp pain shot through his arm. Words died on his throat—all he could do was stare at Remus' maddened, bloodshot eyes as his grin widened, pushing his palm deeper upon his shoulder. Roman cried out, searched desperately for words. "B-brother—h-hey, hey, Remus, please—please, p-please don't do this—I don't know what's going on!"

Remus faltered for a second. But then Roman felt warmth slithering down his throat, the acrid smell of iron wafting to his nostrils. Remus giggled at the sight of blood. "You won't fool me!" he raved. "You'll pay for it, dear brother!"

"Pay for what?!" Roman screamed, tears springing to his lashes as he tried to blink as quickly as he could. "Remus, it's me, it's me!"

Remus scowled, eyes dark with wrath. 

"I-I'm not going to harm you," Roman pleaded, voice trembling—but a sickening crack interrupted him. He furrowed his brows, holding his breath...but then wailed as agony rushed to him with a vengeance. His shoulder—his shoulder was—was fractured? Dislocated? He was going to be murdered here by his own brother, with his haunting, deranged eyes. He could feel his bloodstream slowing in the freezing atmosphere, the beginnings of cinders concentrating at the base of his wheezing lungs.

"Prove it, then," Remus growled, pulling Roman against him until they were inches apart, twisting his shoulder behind his back until tears freely streamed down Roman's face. He sobbed, but Remus' glare was ablaze, leaving Roman to sob harsher in terror. "Prove you're my brother, you bastard."

His breath hitched and betrayed him, but he breathed the first words that came to his frazzled mind. "I-I—I l-love you…"

Remus' eyes widened, and Roman collapsed to the floor, no longer held up nor pushed down. He lay there, gasping, quivering, expecting more pain, but it didn't come.

He heard a whimper. Then hyperventilating. Then a sob. But he couldn't register them.

"Deceit!" 

The screech was so far away. Roman marveled at the ashes above him, levitating lazily in the air. They were so serene.

His head was moved, the beautiful sight blocked by a cold, brown iris and a terrified yellow one. He was soon cradled, and he buried himself in the warmth, until he was let go. He now lay somewhere else—not freezing, nor hard. A bed, his mind slowly supplied. But he craved the warmth again. The pain was faded, he couldn't feel his skin crawling anymore—he felt like he floated in an endless ocean. His head lolled to the side, twisting on its own to see Remus, embracing his knees, curled up in the corner of the now stifling room, shadowed by the curtains and increasing inky darkness.

"I swear," he heard distantly, the words out of sync from the trembling lips Roman saw moving. "I swear it was him. I didn't know—"

"Oh, of course you didn't." This voice was so cold, so mocking. Clothed hands were gently scouring his shoulder, and he groaned, the pain being the only thing crashing through his numbness. His eyes flickered to the face above him. It was bitter, but his left eye was haunted, serpent pupil dilated.

He glanced back to the corner of the room in the distance. Tears brimmed in his brother's eyes, one spilled down one cheek. Roman's fingers twitched, but it hurt. He wished to caress the tears away. "It was dark and cold again," Remus whispered, but the voice kept rising and rising until it was a desperate shout. "He was over me again. He was gonna hurt me again!"

"You're not there anymore, Remus!" Roman flinched at the sudden shout, saw Deceit clenching his eyes shut, then swiveling towards Remus, his voice venomous. "You can't just keep hurting everyone else because you're stuck in there! Get it through your thick head!"

Remus was on his feet in a flash, rage distorting his features. "Well, maybe if you try being stuck there for twenty-two fucking years, you'll understand!" he spat, tears now freely streaming down his face.

"Hey...what's going on?"

Deceit subtly rubbed the left side of his face, looking away to hide it from Remus and the visitor's view, but Roman saw how only that side crumpled. Roman shifted his head, hissing as his shoulder screamed at him with the movement, and saw Patton's tired, uncertain...scared features in the doorway.

"I swear I didn't mean to hurt him," sobbed Remus, shrinking back even further into the corner under the newcomer's gaze, pupils overshadowing his brown irises, hunching over. Roman felt a growl in his ears, almost as if inside his mind, echoing all around. He shuddered, closing his eyes to push it away. He opened them, but he still sensed something monstrous breathing here.

Patton's brow screwed up in worry. He quickly entered the room, beginning to shiver, and gasped when his widened eyes landed on Roman. 

Roman tried to smile. He hated seeing Patton like this. He tried to think of words of comfort—or warning, there was something here—to no avail.

"He's in shock," Deceit stated indifferently, cold eyes on Roman only, almost pointedly avoiding Patton altogether. "It happened too fast. I couldn't get here in time."

Patton's breath shuddered, and he gulped. "What happened?" The question was met with unbearable silence, save for the beast curling in the air, behind the curtains, in Roman's head. "...Maybe Logan will know how t—?"

"No," both Deceit and Remus snapped in unison, one impassively, the other desperately. "I'll just take Remus with me," continued Deceit. He finally looked at Patton, emotionally paradoxical eyes dragging to meet the fatherly side's, but the emotions were being slowly buried. Roman marveled at the transformation in them, in his features. "Roman must be reacting badly to his presence, and…" He trailed off, looking at the falling ashes, and then at Patton when he shivered again. "...All of this."

Remus hugged his arms tightly, staring at the floor. Roman's throat constricted. He felt an urge to reach out to his brother's throat wet cheek and strangle stroke it.

"Can't you...snap him out of it?" Patton asked tentatively. Roman could tell that he struggled to keep his face as accepting as possible, but fear edged into his voice, his eyes.

Deceit sighed, staring at Roman again. Only Roman could see the uncertainty in one eye. "I can. Just get him out of here." 

Remus flinched at that, but before Patton could nervously place his quivering hand on his shoulder, Remus bolted out of the room. Patton remained frozen in surprise, but then sighed and promptly left the room, calling out for the other as quietly as he could.

There was a hand on his healthy shoulder, and Roman's eyes fluttered closed at the gentle warmth of it. 

"Roman, I don't need you to look at me."

He furrowed his brows. After a beat, he settled on the belief that it was a lie, and forced his heavy eyelids to open. His vision was blurry, but he focused on Deceit above him. "Hey," he whispered numbly, noticing the empathy on both of the other's eyes. But it quickly disappeared.

"It isn't real." Deceit's voice was a mix of vulnerable and bitter. "The wound, the cold, the dark—none of it is real. You need to ignore the voices and thoughts in your head, they're not yours yet."

Roman nodded, not understanding at all.

"You're not really lucky you weren't in Remus' room. The corruption there is bearable." Roman listened with as rapt attention as he could muster, but still couldn't understand, his mind unable to sift from the truth and the lies—everything just felt frightening, but his core instinctively pushed the fear away. He focused on the way Deceit's brow furrowed, how his eyes contrasted each other in any way imaginable, on the dark bruise of exhaustion painting the skin around his lemon iris, on the scales covering the scars that couldn't be seen from far away, on the smooth balance of his voice that cracked whenever he didn't lie to him. Anything that wasn't the laughter and screams in the room.

"Do you hear them too?" he whimpered, holding on tight to the hand on his shoulder, grounding himself.

Deceit shook his head, but he avoided eye contact, only for the flicker of a second. "I don't hear anything. Because it isn't real."

"Which one is the lie?" Roman breathed out.

"Neither," he bit out. "It isn't real. Listen to me, Roman. Your brother did this. Not on purpose, but he did. Which means the terrors are as real as the monsters under your bed."

Roman hummed noncommittally, closing his eyes. He was so tired. The flashes of blood and screams made him shudder, but he couldn't open his eyes again.

"Sleep terribly, Roman," he vaguely heard. The warmth lingered on his quivering, freezing shoulder, even after the gentle pressure left.

He saw Remus smiling. A real smile, dorky and wide. He was a child with bruises, cuts, dirt, and wild hair, but he laughed. Not a shrill, hysterical one. A childish, free one. He seemed so young and mischievous, innocence shining through the shameful things he'd think. Roman felt himself smile back.

 


 

Remus bit his fist, drawing blood, vainly attempting to muffle his sobs, hidden under the musty covers of the dusty, abandoned bed. He loved and hated his room, with the weapons taunting him and the ashes racing around him, the crimson lightning somewhere in his vision. Yet it was still his, and it held a semblance of humanity for him. 

But he was so foolish to have a semblance of hope. Hope that the damn prison and its games and flashbacks would leave him alone. Hope that time, and the comfort of his brother and his room would bury the nightmares away. But nothing seemed to work. And...

He tortured his brother.

He tortured his brother.

He clenched his eyes shut, cursing Deceit with a thick voice. He was a monster because of him. Perhaps if Deceit knew what that felt like—

A knock resounded in the stifling room, louder than the storm. Was it raging in his room or in his head?

It must've been Deceit. He wasn't sure if he would see rage, guilt, exhaustion, or just a lie in his face. But he needed the company anyway. And Deceit was always best in handling him. He buried the rage that had built and scorched for too long, forced himself to think of all the things he did for him—his health, his nutrition, his freedom. It was always so ironic.

"Come in," he mumbled, and the old, unused door creaked open. He wearily pulled the covers from over him and looked at the door.

Perturbed eyes peered through the small crack in the entrance, until the newcomer hesitantly opened it slightly further. Remus blinked. It was Virgil. He was hunched over, one hand stuck to the doorknob, the other's nails between his teeth. "Sorry. Couldn't sleep."

Remus snickered emptily. "Because of me?"

Virgil paused. Then nodded.

Remus beckoned him, shifting his position to sitting cross-legged on the bed, leaning against the cold wall. The ashes still raced, but the storm wasn't here—it crashed with thunder and lightning beyond the window, or perhaps in his head. Virgil looked around the room as he entered, at the peeling emerald paint, the voodoo dolls, the thriller and horror book and movie collection, the blood and dirt specking surfaces cloaked with dust. Nostalgia was prominent in his eyes. 

"Disheartening, isn't it?" mumbled Remus, ignoring the echoes of Roman's frightened pleads and screams in his mind, following Virgil's line of sight.

Virgil sighed heavily, like life drained from the single breath. It was answer enough. He sat beside Remus, pulling his knees to his chest. Remus realized, in the vicinity to the other, that Virgil's hands were trembling, though he tried to control it by opening and closing them. Remus recognized that used to be his brother's tick. When that was no use, he settled on scratching the skin on his palms. Remus' tick.

"Why my room?" Remus grinned, not sure what to do with the wretched silence and the crushing weight on his shoulders. 

Virgil glanced at him. "I guess you just...understand," he muttered, his eyes now filled with frustration. "The others wouldn't."

Remus twirled his fingers around a whip that floated near his hand, tilting his head more than necessary. "Is this a classic game of telepathy?"

"No!" yelped Virgil, startling a foot away. "You are not getting inside my head again!"

"Well then!" derided Remus with too much cheer, eyes wide with Deceit's form of enthusiasm. "How about we practice some clarity? Much more boring, huh, Virgil?"

Virgil glared, but relented after a beat of silence. "What happened over there?" The quivering of his hands spread to his arms, his torso, until he seemed to tremble from his very core. "Why was Ro screaming?"

Remus laughed breathlessly, until they edged into cackles. He should've known Virgil didn't want his company. Roman was the perfect brother, after all. He was the wanted one, not Remus. "You know, just some good old games!"

"I thought you were better!" cried out Virgil, gesturing madly at him.

"So did I!" Virgil flinched heavily at the demonic corruption in Remus' voice. "I thought it wouldn't follow me to the ends of the Earth, persecuting me and cutting me up every fucking time I close my eyes—" He gasped for breath, feeling so, so cold. "But it does!" His voice was on the edge of breaking. "But nobody sees it—it's my mind that's lacerated." He laughed to bury the sob fighting to tear up his throat, indifferent to the indescribable emotion in Virgil's wide irises. "And I thought that the damn murderer would leave alone for one night, because he hoped that his room could protect me!" He cackled harder. It was hilarious. Hope was the greatest joke in history!

A hand landed on his arm, and he snatched it away as if burned. Virgil retracted his hand, but hesitantly tried again. His eyes were...full of something. "What...happened there? What happened with you and Roman?"

Remus inwardly cursed himself when his grin fell. "Or did I?" he whispered.

Virgil couldn't withhold his gasp, his face screwing up in actual pain. "D-don't tell me—"

"I swear on the worst two decades on my life, it was him." He choked out a sob. "But then it wasn't."

"Holy shit." Virgil stared at his own trembling hand in shock, and inched closer to Remus, avoiding eye contact. Remus stiffened once Virgil leaned his head on the other's shoulder. "Yeah… That's why you understand, and no one else."

"Understand what?" laughed Remus disbelievingly.

"Seeing him."

Remus felt his own features twist in confusion as he looked down at Virgil, who stared at the weapons and the perhaps imaginary storm, entranced. Remus pulled him tighter against him. Deceit couldn't handle three days here, but Virgil could barely handle hours. "You still see him?"

"Of course I do." Exhaustion bled into Virgil's voice. "You cursed me ten years ago, and it lives on in my nightmares. On particularly bad days, I can see him by only entering my room." 

Remus shook his head. "How—why?"

"It's called trauma, dumbass. I just thought you handled it better 'cause you aren't...me."

Remus held Virgil even tighter, his throat and chest constricting. The memories all returned, of a young, paranoid Virgil, with a small, buried hope—that everyone but Dee and Remus couldn't be trusted—shining through. Until a time came when willing visits became rare, reluctant ones—until he came only after Deceit distantly screamed at him that he couldn't handle this alone anymore. Until he never came again, no matter what, and no matter how much Dee lied that he would.

Remus still remembered vividly the last time he came, ten years ago. The horror, the blood, him.

Remus dug the heels of his palms onto his eyes. The whispers that he was a monster, the disgust and the fear in their eyes, everything returned, as if he was back to a damned eight-year-old all over again.

"You know that feeling that—" Virgil's voice caught, but he tried again, effectively cutting off the unwelcome thoughts beginning to scream in Remus' head. "That feeling, where you really wanna let go of something, or maybe just...accept it...forgive it, but you can't?"

Remus nodded, smiling emptily at the blood dripping down the wall. 

"Well…" Virgil shifted closer, his eyes never leaving the exact spot in the wall, the one where all the blood was accumulating. "I always wanted to stop seeing Ro like...like that. And maybe to…" He sighed, but then silence encompassed them again. Remus merely hummed a tune off-key to chase it away.

Remus was tempted to reach in, hear all the whispers in Virgil's mind, the end of that sentence, but stopped himself. His own mind was enough. For now, the sentence would go unfinished. Perhaps forever.

They remained like that, holding on to each other, enraptured in the one thing that seemingly couldn't stop clawing at them, no matter the years. Deceit never entered, but Remus heard his heart beating, heard his pacing, like he always did to convince himself Deceit was alive, and that Remus wasn't alone.

At least he still had those two things.

 


 

Roman woke gasping for breath, the dregs of horror tunneling his vision. He heard dark, sinister laughter echo around him, and the full-size, golden, embellished mirror showed black eyes and a bloody, Cheshire grin in his reflection. He blinked, and it was gone. Roman remained there, embracing himself, avoiding the mirror, feeling the crushing weight of loneliness and...something else. The cackle was gone, and the remainder of the nightmare finally left his reality. He sighed heavily and lay back down, fighting the tears in his eyes.

What happened yesterday? What did he even dream just now?

Why was he so afraid?

He tossed to his side, seeing that it was 10:45 am on the golden clock on the wall, noticing the sun rays escaping through the curtains for the first time. He curled up, sighing again. He wasn't sure why he felt so heavy and wrong, especially in his room of all places. Perhaps he just didn't sleep well. He'd get up when Thomas needed him.

"Roman?"

Curses. If it was Logan's voice…

"Can I come in?"

"Sure, nerd," he moaned dramatically, not in the mood to feign grace. He was still wracking his head to find the cause of this helplessness, his sudden aversion to the mirror, and the strange sighting there.

As he heard the door click open, Roman's eyes widened.

Of course.

Remus.

He sat up again, wiping his brows from sweat, glancing to the empty side of the bed, where only tousled and twisted blankets remained as evidence of who lay there, seeing the drops of blood on the floor, watching to see if Remus was merely in the bathroom. But it was pure silence in here. He was nowhere to be found. He couldn't for the life of him remember what happened.

"Good morning," greeted Logan, nearing him with that efficient stride that Roman always wished to improve his own gait with. "I assume you remember the events from last night?"

Roman furrowed his brow, shaking his head. "I can't."

Logan raised his eyebrows. He hummed, as if it wasn't nearly a problem, and sat beside him. But his forehead creased as he gave Roman a once-over. "You seem unwell, Roman."

"What happened last night?" asked Roman, not keen on responding to Logan's topic.

Logan adjusted his glasses, giving him another once-over. "I have only second-hand evidence. Patton told me what he saw of the aftermath about something we both missed. I was expecting that you would clear some inconsistencies."

Roman closed his eyes, but his head was already pounding from the repeated attempts to recall. "I-I just know I had a nightmare, but I can't even remember what it even was."

Logan sighed. "It's alright. Let's only hope Remus, or even Deceit, are cooperative."

Something cleared. He remembered a lemon-colored iris, haunted. "Wait—I don't think either wanted you to know."

Logan raised an eyebrow, a flicker of anger at the mere thought of being left out flashing in his eyes. "And why is that?"

Roman shrugged, and silence reigned for a beat. "Do I need to come out, or do I have time to sleep in?"

"You've already come out, Roman," Logan groaned. Roman giggled in surprise. "You've also already slept in, therefore you only have one alternative."

"Is this your way of using my own logic against me?" he asked, snickering.

"Yes." A ghost of a smile lifted his lips as he stood from the bed, already picking up abandoned pillows on the floor and organizing the covers. "My plan was successful. Now get up, there's much work to do."

Roman groaned, but stood. However, as soon as he did, the sensation of a cold metal cutting his throat beleaguered him, and his shoulder began screaming in anguish. His legs buckled under him, his surroundings faded to grey—flashes of a deranged, too wide, too white, too crimson grin were all he could see—

And then it was all gone in the blink of an eye, and now all Roman could see was Logan's perplexed gaze as he held his chin up, slowly lowering him to the floor and allowing him to rest his head on Logan's lap. Roman couldn't help the relief to be held by Logan, saving him from crashing to the floor—but the urge to weep was becoming increasingly tempting. "Roman, can you hear me?"

Roman nodded, realizing he was whimpering, shivering in Logan's steady hold. "I think I remember," Roman whispered. 

I linger in the doorway

Of alarm clocks screaming—

Monsters calling my name

Worry bled into Logan's eyes the second the words left Roman's lips. 

"I think he thought I was an impostor." 

Blubbering, hyperventilating, freezing—

Roman squeezed his eyes shut.

Let me stay!

Where the wind will whisper to me

Where the raindrops, as they're falling

Tell a story

Prove it, then. Prove you're my brother, you bastard.

"Roman, I need you to stay with me." Logan wiped away the new tears he hadn't even noticed streaming down his cheeks, his temples. "What happened?"

"He attacked me, I-I don't know why, b-but…" He breathed heavily, too many memories coming to his head at once. "He made it sound like I was going to hurt him." He sobbed, holding onto Logan's arms like a lifeline. "I didn't want to hurt him, he was just having a bad dream, I swear—"

"I believe you, Roman. It's alright." Logan's eyes weren't convincing. "I'll help you solve this. We'll just have to speak with Remus—"

"Don't question him! N-not yet." Roman took a shaky breath. "You didn't see how remorseful he appeared tonight, after everything. Just...just give him time. It'll fade eventually."

Logan shook his head. He opened his mouth.

"It has to," Roman pressed.

Logan remained quiet, glancing at the floor, tilting his head to think. "I'll appease you for now, until the situation abates."

Roman smiled in relief, forcefully pushing the too vivid nightmare away. "I thank you, Logan."

 


 

"Kiddos!" Remus heard in the distance, snapping him out from his obsessive thoughts about the...incident, yesterday. "Dinner's ready!"

Remus craned his neck backwards, using his uncanny flexibility to the max to see into the kitchen from the couch of the Mindscape commons from an inverted perspective. He was still sweaty from the heat here, but he'd take even a hundred degrees over the cold from...home.

Patton and Logan left the kitchen, preparing the dinner table and setting the plates. Patton flinched at the sight of Remus, then laughed awkwardly. "Jeez, kiddo, you surprised me there." He paused when Remus didn't move, grinning at an upside down Patton. "Isn't that a bit uncomfortable, kiddo?"

Remus tilted his head, and it cracked. Patton flinched harsher, his smile almost falling. "Nope!" Remus replied.

Logan put a steady hand on Patton's shoulder. It seemed to awaken the latter from his trance, and he smiled sheepishly before he set the last plates on their respective spots.

Remus swiveled around to hang over the back of the couch, and reverted his head back to its normal position, squinting to see if he saw it right. Six plates. Six. Oh Hell.

He and Dee were eating with them today.

He turned around and shrunk in the couch. The thought of seeing his brother immediately brought back the thoughts that were shaken away by Patton's sudden call, and a certain feeling of endlessly falling. It would be a great challenge to eat today. He wasn't sure how Roman would be faring, how he actually dealt with his...corruption, after so long. Only Dee and Virgil dealt with that, and only Dee could actually deal with it for longer periods of time.

Perhaps he should just skip the whole ordeal. 

"Remus."

He jumped, a shuriken already in his palm, but he imagined it away at the sight of Logan. Remus liked Logan's gaze most. It was always indifferent to whatever the others would be scared about. Right now, it seemed curious. "Are you alright?"

Remus nodded, smiling perplexedly.

Logan nodded, though he seemed slightly amused by the lie. "Can you notify the others to come eat?"

Remus blinked. Oh well. Maybe he could get Virgil to look for Roman. He grinned widely. "Sure! Though I'm too busy with ideas to be hungry."

Logan tisked. "I would appreciate to use that excuse as well, but Patton would be upset by it."

Upset? He saw a flash of the fear in Patton's eyes. It hadn't particularly left, not after last night. "Why?"

"It would be our first meal together." Logan shrugged stiffly. "In two decades. You could comprehend why he is enthusiastic about the whole ordeal."

Remus squinted again, resting his chin in his perspiring palm. "And what of you?"

Logan sighed, adjusting his glasses and tie, but he broke eye contact. "It would be more than satisfactory that we understand each other. To avoid the...errors I've—we've made."

Remus giggled disbelievingly. "Oh, honey! You're the second highest in my list of esteem. You're fine. Consider that, since you're a walking algorithm!"

Logan sighed deeply through his nose, crossing his arms. "I'm not sure what I'm supposed to decipher from the dichotomy of your sentences."

Remus shrugged.

"Hey, kiddos, I get this conversation is fun and all," Patton nervously cut in, "but if Virge and Dee had it their way, they'd never come."

"You'll get Roman, I'll get the other two!" he yelled, and bolted to Virgil's room. He crashed the door open.

"Jesus!" Virgil cried out, ready to throw the phone in his hand. He deflated when he registered it was Remus. "Look, just because we spent the night being insomniacs in your room doesn't mean I gave you permission to give me heart attacks."

"It was fun!" said Remus, already pulling a tense Virgil by the arms. "Dinner's ready!" he sang.

"Not hungry," Virgil mumbled.

"Same! But apparently Patton really wants to see us eat." He gasped dramatically, then dropped his voice to a playful whisper. "Do you think it's a kink?"

Virgil deadpanned, slightly repulsed. "Do me a favor to never mention that again."

Remus threw his head back and groaned. "I can't do anything around you guys." He still yanked Virgil along, who stumbled with the force. "We're still eating, so—"

"Wait, where're we going?" Virgil interrupted, voice increasing in pitch with every word.

Remus stopped short, blinked. He was in the Dark Mindscape already. "Right, it's not here. Dee's here, though, right?"

"How should I know?" 

Right on cue, Deceit almost passed by them, eyes glued to the book in his hands. He stopped in his tracks and looked up, cold gaze lingering on Virgil. "And what do I owe this visit?"

"Patton's calling us all to eat," Virgil summarized, shrugging.

"Isn't that wonderful?!" Remus raved, though bile rose up his throat at the memory of his screaming brother. No, he couldn't see him today.

Deceit paused for more than five seconds, almost as if he malfunctioned. "I definitely understood that perfectly," he drawled, eyes already reading whatever philosophies he obsessed over.

"I'm serious, Dee. Remus came to get me." 

"Well, that was quite the genius joke to pull, Remus!" Deceit mocked, glancing with wide, artificial eyes at him, only to continue reading. Something twisted in Remus' stomach.

"That's…" he tried to smile, but the energy suddenly escaped him. "That's not a funny joke."

Virgil rolled his eyes, bitterness pooling in his eyes in an instant. "Well, Duke, if your jokes were ever funny, then my name isn't Virgil." He sighed. "Dee, just come with us. This place really sucks to stay in."

Virgil pointedly avoided mentioning the fact that he'd stayed here for almost a full night.

Dee sighed, never fully turning to look at them, his scales and yellow eye out of Remus' sight. His voice held the same bitterness Virgil's eyes did, but Remus knew there was something else there in the voice. "I suppose it isn't a useless gesture. Fine, I'll come."

"Didn't miss that sarcasm," Virgil muttered as he turned, wrenching his arm from Remus' grip and striding out the hallway. Remus followed, a skip in his step, eyes fixed over his shoulder to see Deceit skimming the book, walking behind him.

Remus was a terrible liar. But an idea was blooming in his mind, welcome among the growing chaos he consistently dismissed. He stopped short, almost allowing Deceit to crash into him before he froze in his step. "Hey, Dee, can you tell them I can't eat because I'm sick or something?"

Deceit raised his eyebrow. "You're serious?" 

"Yep!"

Deceit paused again. "So, this wasn't a lie to get me out of here." It was not even a question.

Remus scratched his cheek a little too violently, relishing in the pain for a few seconds, but then he imagined Roman's pain when he dislocated his shoulder. His thoughts wouldn't shut up. "Nope, Patton actually wants us there."

Deceit threw his head back to laugh incredulously. He wheezed and smirked sarcastically at Remus. "Now that isn't funny."

Remus giggled, but for him it really wasn't. It was a dream come true for him, to spend time together like so, so long ago, without anything holding them back, or imprisoning them. But it was merely...too good to be true. And he could imagine the terror and rage in Roman's eyes if they saw each other today. 

"If I am to eat there today, so will you," stated Deceit, as if it were the most obvious statement in the world.

"I'd imagine you're more welcome after my stunt yesterday!" It was so easy to ignore the sickness in his gut with a smile. Deceit must've cursed him with that. 

Deceit placed a theatrical hand on his chest, feigning too sweet innocence. "Well, I surely played no part nor caused any of your stunts, of course!" 

"Guys, oh my God." Virgil was leaning on the wall right before the corner, rubbing his forehead in frustration.

"In a minute, Virgil," called Deceit, mirroring the same amount of annoyance in Virgil's voice. He deadpanned at Remus. "You're coming with me."

Remus let out a strained, high-pitched "Yay!" He then allowed to be led by Virgil's grip this time.

 


 

Roman didn't feel all that hungry. 

He remembered another similar day seemingly so long ago, when Virgil was barely accepted to be in their company at all times: sirloin before him, but something deep in his soul forbidding him to enjoy it. That day, years ago, he was used to not remembering his brother, save for those glorious, nostalgic dreams when they played together that intruded his deep sleep. He simply thought Remus hated to see them all. That Remus adored the darkness, and never his brother's light.

If he thought those days, when he felt like a failure, a poor excuse for a Knight and a Prince, as the heaviest, most frightening of his life, he couldn't have been more wrong.

Remus fidgeted in front of him in his own seat, equally repulsed by the steak before him, not once looking in his brother's general area, pointedly ignoring his stare by commenting something about blowjobs, to which Patton choked on the water he was currently drinking.

Roman didn't know why he felt so present, yet so far. He only wished for the nightmares from last night to cease beleaguering him. 

He chose to look at Deceit, who almost incessantly brushed his gloved hand over his scars and scales, disinterested as he played with the meal, eyes glued to the book on his lap.

"Hey, Dee," Virgil mumbled beside him. "Think you can survive without reading that."

Deceit sighed, finally looking up, but not at Virgil, spreading out the hand that balanced his chin to cover his cheek, features clearly irritated. "Well, this isn't awkward."

Virgil rolled his eyes. Remus stared at Deceit with a hidden, deep-seated rancor. No shit, Sherlock; why do you think I asked you to lie?

Roman startled, the fork and knife slipping from his fingers, clattering onto the plate, and eyes landed on him instantly. He held out a placating hand, smiling gracefully, picking the cutlery once more with slightly quivering hands. "Forgive me, it was nothing." The others remained staring a second longer, before they reluctantly returned to Deceit, who barely furrowed his brows, boring his gaze into Roman's soul. Roman tried to hold the smile, feeling his breath tremble within his lungs. Why did he keep having these thoughts?

In truth, this wasn't the first day in which he encountered these disturbing rarities—they were only worsening. The urge to conjure a knife had been electrifying his whole right arm days ago, but he ignored it as best he could. Nightmares were few and far in between since a week ago, when before they were basically non-existent, but yesterday… He wished that was the end of that.

The worst part was not knowing what was real and what wasn't. What was his and what wasn't.

In my field of paper flowers

And candy clouds of lullaby

I lie inside myself for hours

And watch my purple sky fly over me

He forced the thoughts out, thinking of Disney movies instead. Halloween was a couple of months away; perhaps he should begin planning his costume for then. Perhaps Prince Hans wasn't so bad—

He shoved a bite of the sirloin into his mouth, chewing to avoid groaning when he thought of imprisoning and killing a certain queen. He immediately coerced his mind to focus on the next movie that came to mind. Tangled, perhaps, where Rapunzel dreamed of freedom and—

The steak tasted like ashes. He chewed slowly, emptying his thoughts, for they all led to the same idea weighing him down and giving him nightmares. The one thing he should've expected all his life instead of what he forced himself to believe. But he felt a stare boring itself into his head, and looked up. A creased brow and fearful, wild eyes met him, but it was all contrasted with a strained, wide smile.

Somehow, Roman knew exactly what his brother was thinking. Because it was what Roman himself was thinking. 

He shook his head, swallowing the bite, proud of himself for not gagging. His mind was constantly betraying him. Is this what it felt like to think like Virgil? He would visit him tonight and keep him company if it were true.

Remus was still staring while Patton's muffled voice attempted to make conversation, but Roman couldn't stare back—the eye contact kept contaminating his thoughts, reminding him of the nightmares, the actual wound on his neck, the pain in his shoulder—but were those real?

"Earth to Roman."

He snapped his head up, seeing that everyone was looking at him again. "Yes?"

"Are you not hungry?" queried Logan beside him, studying him intensely, yet with a serenity he was vastly envious of at the moment. "You've barely eaten."

To make a point of it, Roman brought another bite to his mouth, schooling his features from any revulsion. He was an actor, for God's sake. Patton was on his other side, his hand already reaching out to caress his shoulder. He stiffened, vainly trying to ignore his flaring agony with the single touch. Patton retracted his hand, brow creased as well. Deceit snapped his gaze from Roman to Remus, back again to Roman. He straightened, seemingly forgetting the book completely, subtly furrowing his brows in suspicion once more. 

"I'm fine," Roman said, straining to not sound vexed.

Virgil scoffed. "Yeah, this isn't familiar at all."

His injured shoulder spasmed, but Roman clamped down the urge to strangle him. But he still couldn't help but snap. "Why, you certainly can't mind your own business, can you, you paranoid emo?"

Virgil flinched, his face cracking in a way that a façade would. Roman swore it was a mirror of Deceit's. His stomach twisted sharply. 

Remus' eyes snapped from rage to resentment to guilt, but they never ceased from looking at Roman save to glance at Virgil once. Deceit snapped his gaze to Virgil, left iris betraying worry, the other cool rage. Logan merely stared in surprise, his gaze numb as he observed and analyzed everyone a mile a second.

Patton slowly turned to Roman, his face slack, his eyes disbelieving. Roman's stomach tightened further, crushing his lungs. He really had crossed a line. With one word. "What did you just say?"

"Fuck it." Virgil stood almost too violently, eyes livid, a terrified memory living in them, in the quiver of his lips and shoulders. His voice poisoned Roman's heart. "We should just stop pretending we don't know who I am anyway." He stormed off, not forgetting to flip Roman off as he left.

Roman felt as nauseous as Remus appeared. But no words sprang to mind—no apologies, no pleads, nothing to appease anybody. All he felt was the energy to harm. 

He stood up, the chair screeching behind him, and ran, tripping on the couch's leg, then on the stairs, and locked himself up in his room.

Don't say I'm out of touch 

With this rampant chaos—

Your reality

He covered his mouth with a trembling palm, attempting to conjure puppies, or candy, or royal attire, or a unicorn—but all that came to life in his room were corpses, way too recognizable, even through their rotting flesh, their bloodied clothes, twitching, crawling to him—

He shut his eyes, biting his tongue from screaming. He recognized the once violet hoodie, the ripped, once striped tie, the gory cape, the spiders crawling over a dirty gray hoodie—all wrapped, draped, and tied around festering flesh. 

What was wrong with him?

I know well 

What lies beyond my sleeping refuge

The nightmare

I built my own world to escape

He choked back a sob, sliding down his door, staring at the growing darkness in his room, sensing his skin call out for his brother.

He felt his brother call back.

 


 

Remus had never seen Patton so angry in his life.

Granted, Remus had barely lived one, but still.

Patton was pacing, murmuring to himself how it could've gone so wrong, eyes livid, but there was a palpable weight on his shoulders Remus couldn't ignore. Logan was still seated at the table, hands clasped before his features as he pondered, eyes gazing unseeingly at the wall. Deceit kept reading, his eyes trailing over to Patton, then to the door where both Virgil and Remus' brother left.

Perhaps watching could allow Remus to stop hearing sobbing. Sobbing that resounded from two separate rooms. Or from his own head.

Deceit all too subtly looked at Remus again, but Remus squirmed under the glance. The possibility was almost obvious, but it still couldn't be. Years ago, their connection was torn apart. It was meant to be that way—they were two different coins instead of two sides of one.

But that didn't stop his suddenly very nostalgic and lonely thoughts. He hated them—he wished to taste the bitterness of loathing more than the sweetness of expectation. He shouldn't hope for anything with his brother—he ruined it after all. He was only setting himself up for heartbre—

He shook his head violently and stood from his seat, making sure the screech of the chair got everyone's attention. "How about we do something fun?"

"Not now!" Patton shouted, glaring in disbelief. "Why do you always have terrible timing?"

"Oh, sure, Remus is definitely to blame for all of this," Deceit said, mirroring Patton's rage mockingly, leaning to speak towards Virgil's empty seat for good measure. "Let's just scream at each other until we inevitably solve this."

Remus couldn't explain the spark of anger from merely hearing his voice. Was that sensation his? No—everything was his, never from somewhere else. The question was: was it intrusive? It must've been. Deceit hadn't said anything to cause it.

Logan tilted his head, clearly listening, but clearly still entranced by his thoughts. "Everyone's vulnerable again," he murmured, as if subconsciously. 

"Look, I thought they had it solved for now, at least," whined Patton, looking to the ceiling like in a prayer. "I don't understand what caused this—they were fine! Weren't they, Logan?" He snapped his gaze to said side, who sighed, rubbing his temple.

"You're the emotionally intelligent one, not me."

"Well, we can all agree that the heart is blinded almost constantly, can't we?" Deceit's words were now laced with venom as he played with his nails, but Patton merely glared back, his eyes glazed with tears.

"I asked," said Remus, cheeks hurting from smiling, ignoring the terror in his gut, the screams in his head, "who wants to have fun?" 

"No one," responded Logan calmly, eyeing Patton doubtfully. Deceit grinned triumphantly. Remus always feared when Deceit became this believable. He abruptly felt something beside him, like a presence, turned around—

Empty eye sockets stared back.

He tripped over the chair, collapsed to the floor, crawled backwards, his eyes fixed on him.

He grinned.

Deceit stiffened, his scales and snake eye morphing the victorious façade to that haunted truth that he always wore when he happened. "He's not here, Remus."

Remus whimpered, already trapped by the wall and the wide grin dripping with gore. He hated him so much. "Leave me alone."

"Remus," Deceit repeated, voice wrought with warning. "He's not here."

"Or am I?" Roman tilted his head, his empty stare boring into Remus' soul. Remus shivered, coughing on ashes. Roman's void, too perfect laughter echoed around the cell—the ashes almost coming to life in the thin, pale skin. He was the only light in the pure penumbra, the ivory and crimson of his skin and clothes glinting on its own. He slowly neared, a katana now in his graceful, slender, clawed fingers—

Remus was slapped before he could be stabbed. 

Light tore through Roman until he was gone, and with him, the darkness. No ashes were here, he was perspiring and shaking heavily. The only constant was Deceit and his embittered indifference, his hand still held up high. But he covered his scales and yellow eye with the other, rubbing and scratching.

"I told you," Deceit said, gritting his teeth, "you aren't there anymore. And he never even existed."

Remus couldn't bring himself to feel anything, but he merely clawed at the glove of the hand that covered Deceit's scales, causing him to freeze. But Remus could only emptily grin. It was a curse for both of them, after all. Enjoyment from inspiring pain and fear was almost a requirement to survive in the darkness. His voice was but a whisper, a fun secret between the two. "Does that explain Virgil's scar in his heart?"

Deceit pulled back and raised his hand again, but the rage in both his irises bled to something else. He wrenched his gripped hand away, ripping the glove from the clawed grasp, and stood, avoiding every stare and holding his slightly bared hand tightly against his chest. He snatched the book with his fully gloved hand. The something in his eyes was unreadable, constantly evolving, but it soon settled on one familiar sighting when he strode too quickly away from everyone, thanking them for the meal he didn't eat.

Roman recognized it too, Remus suddenly realized. Roman lived it constantly.

It was the anguish of guilt.

Patton was frozen still, mouth covered by both hands, but once Deceit left, he surged forward as if revived. He kneeled before Remus, hesitated for half a second, and then began shedding silent tears as he pulled the other into a tight embrace. Remus froze up then, but the warmth was something so beautiful.

"I'm sorry." Patton's voice was a thick whisper. "I should've done something. I'm terrible." 

Tears sprang to his eyes, the numbed shock fading away, and he remained there, in the soft embrace. His locked muscles and racing heart would never understand that perhaps he was finally safe, here. But that was because nobody with a mind like his ever truly was.

Logan stared at the entrance where three have now escaped through. "Patton, is it me, or is this all because of last night?"

Patton took a quiet, trembling breath, already recomposing when he pulled back, brushing his tears away, almost exactly like Deceit brushed his scars. "I think they're pretty upset about that."

Logan sighed, rubbing his eyelids behind his glasses, but then adjusted them like he wasn't affected. "I believe we all are."

Remus felt like conjuring a weapon, any weapon—or maybe fall asleep and never wake up. He was restless and exhausted, his skin crawled every time Roman flashed in his sight. He wasn't sure if his brother was real or not when he remembered him. Thoughts that didn't belong to him filled his mind, and shame and disgust pooled in his gut.

In my field of paper flowers

And candy clouds of lullaby

I lie inside myself for hours

And watch my purple sky fly over me

He closed his eyes, resigning to the chaos, opting for numbness like that one cursed day—the day when neither him nor Deceit could take it anymore.

 


 

"Are you sure you're going alone?"

Logan glanced towards Patton as he adjusted his grip on Remus. He appeared unconscious, if his unresponsive, extremely heavy body was any indication. Patton was biting his lip, his eyes lost and perplexed with everything that transpired in the last approximately five minutes.

Logan hated to admit it, but he felt so...disconnected from all of...that. He repeated the scene over and over in his head, searching for the psychological signs, the symptoms, the motivations behind each insult and each embittered remark. There was something...rotten, within them. Within Remus and Deceit, which was expected, but also within Virgil and Roman.

What happened last night?

He wished to shake awake the man asleep in his arms, interrogate him, get answers, figure out why he wasn't wanted.

"Logan?"

He took a deep breath, realizing he couldn't adjust…anything with Remus in his grip. "I'll be alright, Patton." Patton furrowed his brows doubtfully. "He just needs to be returned to his room. We both know you don't appreciate the atmosphere there anyway."

In truth, nobody did, but Logan was the most unaffected by the Dark Mindscape, and the most accustomed to all the falsehoods of all the troubled aspects. Therefore, it would be most rational for only him to reach that destination.

"Deal with Roman and Virgil," Logan concluded. He knew Deceit was very ladened with buried lies again. He wondered if that would never cease being a problem. But for now, Deceit didn't lash out at him though he certainly didn't seem to want his aid. He struggled not to ignore the pressure in his chest. For him to be dysfunctional now wouldn't only be detrimental, but self-destructive. "I'll speak with Deceit. He must have the answers."

Patton scoffed, a residue of...aggravation in his eyes at the mention of the other. "Good luck with that."

Logan nodded, deciding it to be simpler to sink instead of walking there.

Quite the misjudgement.

He stiffened against the sudden onslaught of cold, feeling his pupils dilate to the darkness. The strange atmosphere seemed to settle in his bones. He held Remus tighter when he almost instantly shuddered in his sleep. He heard pacing.

He strode to Remus' room, almost stopping short when the weapons levitating there turned towards him. He placed the other carefully on the dusty bed, and decided that tomorrow he should clean this place.

"What are you doing here?"

He sighed, seeing his breath materialize before him, shifting the ashes with it, and turned around, rubbing the goosebumps away from his arms. Deceit stood in the doorway, book still in hand. His gaze burned at Logan's unwelcome presence.

Logan shrugged, easily seeing through the lie. "Returning Remus. He went unconscious soon after the flashback you...reanimated him from."

Deceit paused for a second, but then smirked cruelly. "Looks like you do have a purpose after all." He gestured Logan away carelessly. "Now run along. Return to the light and order."

Logan squinted, seeing the scars and scales far better here, attempting to analyze why Deceit had been masquerading them at dinner. Then he saw how bloodshot his eyes were, and realized why Deceit had been avoiding eye contact until this very moment.

Deceit noticed. Subtly turned his head to the side, effectively blocking the scales once more. But his smirk never faltered.

Logan was surprised to think he almost...felt envious of that. He attributed it to the dreadful toxic thinking here merging with his...aversion for emotions.

"Deceit," he said instead, dismissing the other's words, "when was the last time you've slept?"

Deceit raised his eyebrows, rolling his eyes. "And this question is suitable how?" 

Logan adjusted his glasses. "You have no evidence to deny the fact that you look terrible." 

Deceit really did look ill. It was somehow far more discernible in the dim lighting, and it seemed he expected no visitors after the catastrophe everyone caused. The more Logan stared, the more flaws he could see—flaws he'd never seen when Deceit showed himself on his own accord. The scars were more pronounced, even gruesome, overshadowing the mutated laminae on his skin. His yellow eye held more experience, a darkness he always buried before. 

Logan realized he was lost in his thoughts again, analyzing all his memories about Deceit, vainly trying to read into an unreadable book, when Deceit ducked his head, fidgeting under the gaze. "I said leave," he snapped.

"Answer my question first."

Deceit glared, one eye flickering between hatred and something worse. "The answer doesn't matter."

Logan felt his stomach twist. His earlier assumption about Deceit's cognitive distortions was correct. He wish he wasn't right for once. "Remus collapsed from exhaustion. I would rather that the exact situation would be avoided."

"I'm not him!" Deceit yelled, his eyes almost maddened with wild rage. "Stop fucking treating me like I'm the unstable one! I'm fine!"

Logan took a deep breath through his nostrils. He coughed to the side twice when he breathed in undetected ashes. This room, yesterday's mystery, Remus' flashback, and Deceit's own lies. Too many things were affecting Deceit. Logan's mind reeled to find a solution. But then, he paused. He shouldn't be reeling. He was becoming affected by this room's atmosphere as well, wasn't he? "Deceit, let's leave Remus to rest."

Deceit almost gladly stormed off, leaving Logan to follow. Logan saw the heavy, unstable gait of the other, the way the recently revealed hand trembled in a tell-tale signal of fatigue.

"Leave," repeated Deceit, not bothering to even look at him.

"Deceit, you're suffering a relapse."

"I sure am!" he laughed mockingly.

Logan sighed, rubbing the pressure away from his chest. It was draining to deal with Deceit's falsehoods, more than anyone else's. The question plaguing his mind left his tongue without much thought. "What happened last night?"

Deceit froze. "What did Patton tell you?" he growled.

"He couldn't state many details." How could he get Deceit to trust him? What could he do? Send him to Logan's room? It seemed like the best option. He was too focused on finding solutions to notice his quickened heartbeat, his drumming fingers. "Everyone is reacting adversely after last night's events. I don't have any knowledge about it."

"Because you shouldn't."

"Falsehood." He loathed that his voice failed him in a single word. 

Deceit finally turned around, rubbing harshly at his scales, smiling. "Whatever helps you sleep, Logan."

Logan grit his teeth, walked right before Deceit, straightened his posture to tower over the other. "What. Happened. Last. Night?"

The smile cracked. After a beat of silence and Logan's ever-quickening heartbeat, Deceit hunched, avoiding the gaze again. "Remus hallucinated Roman like you saw him earlier."

"For how long has this been occurring?"

Deceit rolled his eyes. "Why do you need to know?"

Heat spread in his chest. "For how long has this occurred?"

Deceit's glare was weakening with each question. "Two years."

"Falsehood," Logan bit out.

"Eleven." His yellow eye was anguished now. Deceit brushed his hand over it.

Logan's eyes widened. This wasn't acceptable at all. How has Remus lived with that for so long? "Eleven?"

Deceit held his newly gloved hand against his chest, breathing harshly through his nose. 

"Deceit, come to my room." He was edging into pleads. This place really was distressing. Logan hasn't even felt this disconcerted in Virgil's room.

"I'm just fine here, thanks," muttered Deceit. 

"So you're perfectly fine with no company at all except for a traumatized, violent side in the darkest place of our host's mind." Logan scoffed. "You can lie all you like to the others, but it's foolish at best, self-destructive and inefficacious at worst, to lie to me."

Deceit sighed, closing his eyes. The skin and scales around them seemed bruised. He was pale and perspiring. Logan placed a balancing hand on his shoulder when he staggered. But Deceit behaved like nothing concerning ever happened when he opened his eyes again, and gestured sardonically at the end of the hallway. "Lead the way."

Logan obeyed, refraining from sighing in relief, slowly guiding Deceit to the Light Mindscape. If Logan had an adverse reaction to the Dark Sides' home, Deceit had an almost dangerous one to this place. He clenched his eyelids shut against the light, flinching at the warmth every five seconds. He sweat even more profusely. But soon enough, they reached Logan's room. It always calmed the logical side, with its navy walls, its many bookshelves, and the calming, dim light. Logan directed Deceit to his bed, and the weary side reluctantly sat on it, seemingly carrying the figurative weight of the world on his shoulders.

"Deceit," Logan began once more, as gently as he could, "can you tell me when was the last time you slept?"

The other side stared at the wall. "I don't know."

Logan furrowed his brows. "Elaborate."

"...Even though everything was fixed for good, I haven't been able to."

Logan took off his glasses to dig the heels of his palms onto his eyelids. "We found a standstill last month, after you admitted the truth, but our problems are far from over."

"Are they, now?" Deceit scoffed, shaking his head. 

Logan readjusted his glasses and frowned. How could Deceit not see? "Remus is still expressing symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder due to the soli—"

"He's just getting used to freedom," interrupted Deceit. "And it had to be done at the time."

Logan refrained from sighing in frustration again. He had no reason to be emotional here. "This situation could also be stemming from the twins' unnatural separat—"

"Let's agree that it's my fault and get this over with." Deceit's voice was a whip of rage, but he refused to look at Logan, eyes fixed on the wall, limbs locked tight. "There's no analysis for this, it was just a mistake. Now can you not mention it?"

Logan paused. Questions rushed through his head. What was the mistake? Everything felt like a mistake recently. The discourses, altercations, and even heavy silences seemed to be the only things he recalled. Perhaps that was what Deceit meant. Or perhaps he meant something worse—the true root of all their suffering.

"Deceit…" Logan glanced back at him, adjusting his glasses. He didn't have the solution as of yet. Neither did Patton, much less Virgil and Remus. No facts or behavioral books he studied provided any solutions. Perhaps for now, helping Deceit reach some enlightenment would help clear what this predicament even was. "Why are you unable to sleep at night?"

Deceit scratched the scales that were out of Logan's sight. "I should be working right now."

Logan sighed, a growing weight in his chest. "Trust me when I say you're causing Thomas more harm than good with that."

Deceit furrowed his brows, turning to look at him through glazed irises. "Which means…?"

Logan sighed again, unsure if it was shame that he felt when he thought of the incident from two years ago, or something else. He could only murmur, somehow easier to admit it here, with Deceit of all people, after ignoring the incident for so long. "Logic is apparently capable of anxiety attacks."

Deceit snickered, leaning his scarred face on his palm and closing his eyes. Logan could only watch as he shook from laughter but then became strangely still, one visible eye deep in thought. 

"Deceit, why can't you answer a question?"

Deceit shrugged, shaking his head. 

Logan raised his hand, hesitantly placed it upon Deceit's shoulder. The other stiffened under the touch, but didn't react otherwise. "You can rest here for the night, and...also the nights after that."

Deceit laughed again, louder, and Logan began to fear he was becoming delirious. He shrugged off Logan's hand and stood. "Consider a career in the comedic spectrum, at least for me."

Logan heard himself growling, and pulled Deceit back down by the arm. "You've hurt Patton's feelings, dismissed Remus' trauma, and derided me all in less than a day."

Deceit swiveled around and yanked his arm away, sneering. "Yes, I'm quite toxic, aren't I?"

"All the queries I have for you are why." Logan stood, seconds away from rage, but swallowing down the urges to lash out. He stopped himself from gritting his teeth and fisting his hands. "Why do you keep pretending? Why do you adopt the persona? Why do you not trust any single one of us? Why do you avoid your purpose and all mentions of the 'mistake'? All I ask is for you to just sleep here tonight!"

Deceit shook his head disbelievingly, his eyes wide. His lips twitched in artificial amusement, but then fell. "I understand everything you are saying, and your motives to aid me right now. I comprehend why you all wish for my company, and why you're so desperate to know me." He laughed before continuing, faux sweetness in his eyes. "To trust me. Tell me, is it because you wish for me to be under your control? Is it because it's better for me to remain as your slave?"

"To think that Virgil's cognitive distortions were difficult to handle!" Logan shouted, gesturing stiffly at the other, but took a deep breath a proceeded with gritted teeth. "This is for the good of Thomas—"

"Of course it is! It always has been!" Logan froze when he saw the tears brimming in Deceit's bloodshot eyes. "Therefore, it makes so much sense that you want me around!" 

"Deceit..." Logan felt his chest tighten, his breath hitch. How...frightening it was whenever he was at a loss for words, but he remembered Patton's words of acceptance even now. He took another steadying breath. "You...adapted to a lifestyle, in which you denied the truth to survive. You act...dismissive, though it is clear there's remorse on your part." Deceit sighed in frustration, but he violently rubbed his scales and cicatrices. Logan reached out to the gloved hand to cease its movement, lowering his volume. "And I can't comprehend your...logic, for lack of a better word, that for some reason, the good of Thomas never translates to the good and balance of all of us." Deceit furrowed his brows, squinting. "You're a necessity to Thomas, even though your techniques sometimes aren't acceptable for his lifestyle and beliefs."

Deceit glared.

"Similar to…" Logan trailed off, feeling his throat constrict. "Similar to how my ways and advice are easily overlooked, and how Patton's negative emotions are an obstacle to Thomas' lifestyle. Or how Roman's excessive pride and unreachable artistic standards make Thomas needlessly endure large amounts of pressure, or how Virgil convinces our host of cognitive distortions." He paused to watch Deceit's heterochromatic irises, observe for comprehension. Deceit's mind was visibly churning, but his exhaustion made it clear he wasn't following. 

But his point was a recently learned one, one that wouldn't cease haunting his thoughts, one that arose in a scene that he consistently replayed in his mind to understand where it all went so wrong, how wrong he had been, twenty-two years ago. Nonetheless, he continued, albeit mortifyingly vulnerable, if his thin, increasingly wavering voice was evidence enough. "None of us are always acceptable, or...even useful sometimes. And sometimes...we're even detrimental."

"You're never detrimental."

"Falsehood. Various times I haven't heeded Thomas' emotional needs, and two years ago, I caused quite the dilemma because of it."

"Yes, and let me guess." Deceit pretended to think, wrenching his hand from Logan's grip again to cradle his chin. "You've done what? Three mistakes? All I know is you're so mistaken to even consider dealing with us and—" He gasped dramatically. "You've solved everything by forcing me to tell the truth and by dismissing Remus' trauma first."

Logan pushed up his glasses to groan loudly onto his palms. Deceit was making negative percentage of rationality. He spoke through gritted teeth again, his shoulders painfully stiffened. "I can't show the truth to those who deny it. You're not always right." He adjusted his glasses again, resigning on attempting to keep a straight posture, conjuring a chronological chart of Thomas' life. "Your stubbornness, like Virgil's, and Patton's, and Roman's, and mine, is exactly what is figuratively tearing us apart and has been figuratively tearing us apart since Thomas was a child." He tapped his fingers towards the age eight in the chart repeatedly. "But have you questioned why Patton, out of all of us, was the first and most keen on compromising with you a month ago?"

Deceit held his chin high, but after a beat of thick silence he subtly shook his head.

"Because…" He sighed sharply. "Because Patton sees your potential to help Thomas with the right execution. His execution. Did you think it was a manipulation tactic to balance you?" 

The silence from the other side as he stared over Logan's shoulder would've perhaps broken Patton's heart. It made Logan's chest constrict. "I understand," Deceit said.

"You don't."

Deceit sighed, closing his eyes. "I don't. You all decide that everything here will change in the blink of an eye, and that I'll adjust. Consider that done."

Logan stiffly reached for Deceit again, gently pulled his hand to sit on the bed once more. He glanced at the clock. It was late for them. "Is that why you remain in the Dark Mindscape?"

Deceit blinked all too slowly. "No."

"You isolate yourself because you're trapped in the past." His chest hurt more from that sentence. The more he analyzed, the more he resonated with the other.

"You're wrong." But Deceit's eyes betrayed the opposite.

Logan took a final breath. "You can't sleep because you're secluded there, aren't you?"

Deceit's shallow breath trembled. He brushed the scales side of his face again.

Logan nodded, standing up to find an extra pillow and another blanket. "Do you wish for my company beside you tonight, Deceit?"

"I under—I don't understand." Deceit wearily stared at Logan like he were enigma. "I don't understand."

"Don't preoccupy yourself with that." He offered his own sleeping attire, but Deceit stared blankly at it. "You will in time. For now, the priority is for you to rest."

Deceit laughed weakly, slowly glancing back up at him in disbelief, covering his yellow eye with his gloved fingers. "How deplorable."

Logan felt the ghost of a smile on his lips. "Indeed."

 


 

He was shaking so harshly, his room felt like it was enduring an earthquake. But the darkness was gone, and so were the undead, with their scraps of very familiar clothing and flesh.

Swallowed up in the sound of my screaming

Cannot cease for the fear of silent nights

He heard a click and whimpered, hiding further behind his propped knees, under the bed, curling in like a serpent.

"Hey, kiddo."

A rough gasp of fresh air escaped him and he looked up, and through the blurry tears—there he was. Patton. Not dead. Not evil. It was just him, crouched on the floor, peering at him with a tilted head. And he was nearing him delicately, beckoning, worry and sorrow in his eyes.

He sobbed, crawled out of the hiding spot, and pulled him into an embrace before Patton could reach to touch him.

"I'm so sorry." He gasped again for breath, voice trembling along with his core. "I d-don't know what's w-wrong with me."

Patton gently hushed him, rocking him back and forth. "It's okay. We all have our bad days, Roman." He pulled back, cracking a small, sad smile. "Remember last time, two years ago? You grew from last time spectacularly."

"This is so much worse than last time," Roman whispered, gripping Patton's arms with white knuckles. Patton winced, but he formed it into a smile again. It was more strained now.

"What do you mean, sweetheart?"

Roman shut his eyes, vaguely feeling warmth slip through his eyelids. A small part of him feared it was blood. But most of him felt a nauseating, eternal fall, and then he felt bone after bone crack—his arm, his collarbone, his ankle, his ribs—and finally, the back of his head crashed against—something—

"Roman?"

Roman wailed loudly, any movement he inadvertently made piercing him with pure excruciation, but then he gasped heavily and opened his eyes, the agony gone. Patton held his shoulders tightly, his eyes morphing into fear, and denial. He shook his head numbly.

Oh, how I long for the deep sleep dreaming

The goddess of imaginary light

Roman breathed like he hadn't breathed in years, quivering and hunching under the pure touch. He felt disgusting before Patton, like he didn't deserve his presence. He couldn't look into the other's eyes.

"Remus woke up." It was all Roman could say. But it was exactly what Patton didn't want to hear.

Patton covered his mouth with his fist, but he still screamed.

In my field of paper flowers

And candy clouds of lullaby

I lie inside myself for hours

And watch my purple sky fly over me