It started with a scream.
Dee jolted awake at the sound of a terrified scream coming from one of his sons. His older son, Virgil, if he had to hazard a guess.
Dee immediately went to Virgil's bedroom, only to find the door open and the room empty. A jolt went through Dee. Was he too late? Did someone kidnap Virgil? What about his younger son, Remus?!
Another of Virgil's screams tore through the house. This time, Dee was close enough to recognize that the boy's screams were coming from Remus' room. Dee sprinted to Remus' room as fast as his legs could carry him, throwing the door open.
Virgil stared back at him with a horrorstruck expression. There were tears running down his face. Dee scanned the room, seeing no immediate threat. "Virgil, my dear boy, what is wrong?"
Virgil sniffed, dabbing at his eyes with one of his hands. "Monster."
Dee let out a sigh, reminding himself to be patient. Virgil was only six, after all, and he still had a hard time telling the difference between reality and fiction. "Do you want me to check and make sure that there is no monster under your brother's bed?"
Virgil shook his head, much to Dee's surprise. Dee frowned. That was always how he soothed Virgil. He would look under the bed, assure Virgil that there was nothing there, and then Virgil would go back to bed.
"If I don't look under the bed, I won't be able to check that there is no monster under there," Dee reminded him.
"But there is a monster under there!" Virgil pleaded. "I saw him with my own eyes!"
"I'm sure you just saw a shadow or something. Here, let me look..." Dee crouched down on the ground, peering under the bed.
Then he heard something let out a roar and scrambled back at once.
"I told you there was something under there!" Virgil shouted, then let out a yelp as the creature crawled out from under Remus' bed. Dee rose to his feet at once. The creature let out a growl, and Virgil immediately scrambled behind Dee. Dee, for his part, stayed directly in front of his son in a protective stance.
"You stay away from my sons!" Dee demanded.
It was a small creature, Dee noted. About the size of Remus, if he had to hazard a guess.
His size wasn't the only thing that reminded him of Remus. The creature might have growled at Virgil, but now that he stared up at Dee, he looked...well, he looked nothing short of terrified if Dee had to be honest.
Dee had a hunch. "How old are you?" he asked the little monster.
The monster frowned, tapping at...was that its chin? "I'm 1...2...3. 3!" he announced in a cheerful tone.
Dee's heart instantly melted. Three? Three? This monster was the same as his youn-
...where was his youngest, incidentally?
"Virgil, where is Remus?" Dee asked his elder son, trying to keep the panic out of his voice.
"I dunno," Virgil replied. Then his eyes widened. "What if the monster ate him?!"
Dee eyed the little monster skeptically. It was possible, though highly unlikely, given their similar size.
"What did you do to Remus?!" Virgil spat, placing all of his hands on his hips in what Dee presumed was supposed to be an intimidating fashion. Instead, Dee found it rather cute.
A glance at the monster told Dee that the young monster thought differently. "Oh dear, you're just as scared of us as we are of you!"
The monster looked as though it wanted to hide behind his own parent's legs. "What is your name, little one?" Dee asked him.
"R-Roman," the little monster told him. Roman. What a delightfully normal name for such a bizarre creature. Dee didn't even know how to describe it. Where Virgil, Dee, and Remus all had six arms and two legs, Roman only had two arms. He had two eyes like Dee, as opposed to Virgil's eight, but his face was completely pale. There were no scales, no feathers, no fur. Nothing.
"Where's Remus?" Virgil repeated, drawing Dee from his observations.
"I dunno who that is," Roman replied, sounding uneasy. Dee was fairly certain that he was telling the truth, but something told him that Virgil wasn't going to let it drop that easily. Sure enough...
"Yeah, because he didn't get a chance to tell you his name before you ate him," Virgil glared.
"Virgil, stop," Dee scolded. Virgil looked somewhat sheepish at his father's reprimand.
"Oooh, I know him," the monster said suddenly. Virgil jumped at the sudden exclamation. Roman was pointing to a picture of Remus and Virgil that sat on the nightstand next to Remus’ bed.
Virgil and Dee turned to the creature at once.
"You do?" Virgil argued an eyebrow.
"Yeah!" Roman explained. "I saw him in the Taween!"
How...helpful, Dee thought to himself. He had no idea what a 'Taween' was...perhaps it was where this monster hailed from? He supposed he'd have to get to the bottom of this mystery himself. He just hoped that Remus was alright...
Yes, this is going to be a new AU of mine. I already have some ideas for how it's going to go. And yes, I recognize the similarities to Monsters Inc. with this chapter, but...yeah, it's definitely not going to follow the same plotline as Monsters Inc, I can tell you that much?
Virgil knocked on the door with one hand, waiting for a response from the other side. When he received none, he proceeded to knock again, this time with all six hands.
This time, the door swung open to reveal Virgil's harried looking father. Dee's eyes widened as he took in Virgil's appearance, then glanced at the clock. "It's that late already?!" Dee quickly ushered Virgil inside before Virgil could say anything in response.
Virgil gaped as he took in the room that surrounded him. There were red and gold balloons everywhere, along with a large banner in the entryway that read, in large rainbow letters, 'Happy Birthday Roman!'. Virgil let out a snort. "You know what, Dad?"
"What?" Dee looked to Virgil in confusion.
"I don't think you've done enough decorating. It's missing something," Virgil commented.
"You're right, it is," Dee replied.
Virgil frowned. "I was being sarcastic..."
Dee shrugged. "Do you think you can get into the hall closet and get down the streamers I bought? They're in the back on the top shelf and they're kind of hard to reach..."
The corners of Virgil's mouth turned upward. "You mean to say you were waiting for me to get here because I'm taller than you and can reach them easier?" he said teasingly.
Dee huffed. "Yes, that's exactly it. It has nothing to do with your webs making it easier to grab onto things or anything."
Virgil made his way over to the closet and pulled it open. He used his webbing to pull down the streamers, catching the container with a couple of his spare hands. He then brought them over to his father, and the two made quick work putting them up. Sometimes twelve arms were better than six, after all.
Virgil and Dee stood back and admired their handiwork. It was well worth coming home from college for the weekend for this.
"I can't believe that Roman was 18. It seems like just yesterday..." Dee smiled wistfully, clearly reminiscent of their past with Roman. He sighed and glanced at an old picture that sat on the mantle. "It's just too bad that his brother isn't here to celebrate it with him."
"They're not brothers," Virgil reminded him. "Roman and Remus didn't grow up with one another." You didn't grow up with Remus either, a bitter voice inside Virgil's head reminded him. But he did at least remember Remus. He remembered his other little brother, the one that they never found. Virgil hoped that he was safe and happy, wherever he was. Perhaps, by some miracle, they might even find him some day. Virgil knew that his father still held out hope, even if the chances of finding Remus seemed rather dismal at this point. And he certainly wasn't as torn up over it as his father; it hurt him, yes, but he was only six at the time. He spent far more time with Roman than he did with Remus by this point in his life, and if he was honest with himself he could barely remember Remus.
He couldn't dwell on Remus too much, though. Not today at least. It was Roman's birthday, and it wouldn't be fair to Roman to spend the whole day thinking of Remus when Roman was the one who was there with them. Roman was the one that Virgil grew up with, and despite his...considerable differences, he'd done very well for himself.
Better than Virgil, in fact.
"He'll be here after his rehearsal, right?" Virgil checked with his father. Dee nodded. Roman was a prominent member of his high school's drama club. He had to work his way up, but he'd earned a starring role in all of the school plays since the second half of his sophomore year, and it didn't seem like anything could bring him down. He was charismatic and popular.
Virgil, on the other hand, did his best to blend into the background in high school. He was part of the drama club as well, but never earned a role in one of the plays - nor did he even attempt to. He knew that he was better off working as a crew member. Roman had a ton of friends, whereas Virgil only had a few. Virgil had come out of his shell somewhat now that he was in college, but the two brothers were as different as night and day. Only a few people realized just how different, though.
None of Roman's peers realized that four out of six of his arms were prosthetic. None of them knew that the fangs that he supposedly possessed were fake as well, or that the scales on his cheek were the result of an elaborate make-up routine that he underwent every morning. This was all for the best - Virgil might have been scared of his little brother when he first met him, but now he wanted only the best for him. He just...wished that there was more that he could do. He could tell that it was hurting Roman, having to pretend that he was something that he was not.
Dee and Virgil accepted Roman for who and what he was, but it was too dangerous to risk that with anyone else. What if they hurt Roman...or worse?
Virgil clenched his fists at the thought. If they dared hurt his brother, he would destroy them.
A knock on the door jolted Virgil from his thoughts. "Wonder if that's him now?" Virgil heard his father ask as he went for the door. Dee pulled the door open, and Roman stepped inside. As Dee closed the door behind Roman, Virgil immediately ran up to his younger brother and threw all six of his arms around him.
Roman chuckled and did the same. "It's good to see you too, Virge."
The three enjoyed a nice dinner together. Dee made spaghetti bolognese, Roman's favorite. It might not seem like much of a birthday celebration, but Roman already had a party with his friends the past weekend. This dinner might not be the big birthday bash that said party was, but Virgil could tell that Roman appreciated it nevertheless.
Everything seemed to be going wonderfully. Virgil even felt somewhat relaxed. Then, in middle of birthday cake, Roman asked the question that would change everything.
...well, technically, it was a series of questions.
"I'm adopted, right?" Roman asked.
Dee arched an eyebrow. "I would certainly hope so, as I am not exactly a single-celled organism capable of reproduction via mitosis."
Virgil let out a snort.
Even Roman chuckled, though his mirth didn't quite reach his eyes. Virgil knew then that this was a bit more serious to Roman than just verifying that he was adopted. "I was just wondering if you know anything about my birth parents?"
Dee nearly choked on the piece of cake that he was eating. Virgil immediately rose to his feet and was about to sprint over and start the Heimlich Maneuver, but then realized that his father was coughing, which meant that he was breathing and therefore not choking. He slowly sat back down, keeping a close eye on his father.
Dee, after a moment or so of coughing, managed to regain his composure and take a few sips of water.
"I have a feeling I should take that as a no?" Roman sighed. The corners of his mouth curved upward. Virgil didn't like the looks of it. Usually when Roman smiled like that it meant that he was in the midst of formulating one of his brilliant ideas. "Not to fear! I will search for them myself! Certainly the adoption agency will have such information-"
Virgil's eyes widened in alarm. Virgil looked to his father for guidance, only to see that Dee wasn't faring much better.
Roman chuckled. "What's the matter? You two look as though you've just seen a monster crawl out from under the bed."
Roman's words were so oddly perfect for the situation that Virgil began to laugh.
Only he was in such a nervous state that said laughter sounded near to hysterical.
Dee ran a hand through his hair. "I suppose I owe you the truth...I was certainly hoping to break it to you another way, but if you wish to look for your birth parents, I suppose you really do need to know..."
By now, Virgil regained most of his composure - certainly enough to observe his father, and enough to recognize that Dee was rambling in an attempt to delay the inevitable.
"You guys are scaring me," Roman let out a nervous chuckle of his own. "Its not like you kidnapped me from my birth parents or anything!"
By this point, Virgil lost what was left of his appetite and set the remainder of his slice of cake down.
"...you guys didn't do that, did you?" Roman looked from Dee to Virgil, clearly concerned by their reactions. Virgil couldn't blame him.
"No, of course not!" Dee said with a nervous chuckle of his own. Virgil didn't think he sounded convincing in the least.
"But you didn't exactly come to us from the most conventional means," Virgil admitted quietly.
"And just what is that supposed to mean?" Roman frowned. "Did you buy me off the black market or something?"
"Would you stop coming up with ideas that make this worse than it already is?" Virgil blurted out.
"Well he's not entirely wrong," Dee admitted.
"What?! Father, I was there, I know you didn't buy Roman off of the black market!" Virgil protested.
"You were there?" Roman gaped at Virgil in surprise.
"I didn't purchase Roman off of the black market, but..." Dee trailed off.
"But what?" Virgil urged his father to continue.
"I did obtain his birth certificate and his records by less than legal means," Dee admitted.
"Dad, that's illegal!" Virgil could practically feel the color drain from his face.
"Oh, is it? My bad, I thought it was a perfectly normal thing to do!" Dee replied, sarcasm practically dripping from his tone.
"You could go to jail for that!" Virgil was grateful that he was sitting, because he suddenly felt dizzy.
"I had no choice!" Dee insisted. "What was I supposed to do, go to authorities and tell them that this random child crawled out from under a bed?" Dee's eyes widened as he realized what he said, and he immediately covered his mouth with his hand.
"...crawled out from under a bed?" Roman repeated. Virgil was fairly certain that Roman's jaw would have fallen to the floor had it not been attached to the rest of his face.
"Oh this is going exactly the way I wanted it to go...great job, Dean," Dee sighed, squeezing the bridge of his nose with his hand.
Virgil and Roman exchanged glances. The fact that their father was referring to himself by his full first name spoke volumes...
Virgil was headed to the bathroom to brush his teeth when he stopped in his tracks.
Roman was staring into Remus' room from the doorway. Virgil let out a sigh; it was usually their father who did such a thing. They kept Remus' room the way it was after all of these years, for the most part. It didn't feel right altering it in any way, and they had a spare bedroom that was easily converted once they 'adopted' Roman, so to speak.
"Its not your fault, y'know," Virgil told him.
Roman jolted, though quickly regained his composure once he saw that it was Virgil. "What was he like?" Roman asked Virgil in a quiet voice.
"Very loud and boisterous. A bit of a brat. Kind of like you, actually." Virgil eyed Roman closely, wanting to gauge his reaction. He was pleased to see the barest hint of a smile cross Roman's face, as he knew he couldn't hope for much else at this point in time. "But...different? I dunno. It's hard to explain. It's been so long..."
"I'm sorry," Roman blurted out.
"I just told you, it's not your fault," Virgil reminded him.
"How can you say that?" Roman scoffed. "The night I appeared was the last night that you saw Remus, and I...I never knew...what if it is my fault?"
"Dude, you were three ," Virgil reminded him. "You barely knew what was going on. You growled at Dad when he looked under the bed."
Roman let out a strained sounding laugh in spite of himself. "I growled at Dad?"
"Yup. To be fair, if you were used to people who looked like you, I imagine Dad looked pretty scary to you. I know you looked scary to me at first," Virgil shrugged.
"Yes, but growling at him ?" Romam let out a snort of his own.
"Again, you were three," Virgil reiterated, but cracked a smile as well.
Roman sighed. "I...still...it can't be coincidence that he disappeared on the same day that I showed up."
"You don't know that for sure," Virgil noted.
"Neither do you," Roman countered, and Virgil didn't know how to respond to that because Roman was right .
Virgil glanced around the room, scattered memories of playing with his other little brother springing to the forefront of his mind as he did so. His gaze fell upon a picture of himself and Remus on the nightstand. He gasped as another recollection leaped forth.
"Oooh, I know him," the monster said suddenly. Virgil jumped at the sudden exclamation. Roman was pointing to a picture of Remus and Virgil that sat on the nightstand next to Remus’ bed.
Virgil and Dee turned to the creature at once.
"You do?" Virgil argued an eyebrow.
"Yeah!" Roman explained. "I saw him in the Taween!"
"You met him!" Virgil blurted out.
"What?" Roman responded, clearly caught off guard by Virgil's sudden outburst.
"You met him. You pointed to that picture," Virgil pointed to the picture on the nightstand for emphasis, "and said that you 'knew him' because you 'saw him in the Taween'!"
"...the hell is the Taween?" Roman arched an eyebrow. "Is that supposed to make sense to me?"
"It did fifteen years ago," Virgil retorted with a bemused expression.
"I was three ," Roman reminded Virgil, echoing Virgil's earlier statements. "Three year olds say a lot of things that don't necessarily make sense."
"You did say you saw him, though. That part did make sense. And you said it unprompted. Neither of us pointed to the picture and said 'have you seen this boy?'. You pointed to it yourself and said that you knew him," Virgil explained.
"...which means that I was the last of us who saw him. That confirms that I'm responsible for his disappearance!" The color drained from Roman's face.
Virgil's eyes went wide. "What? No! That's not what it means at all!"
"Sure sounds like it," Roman replied. "If I was the last one to see him, his disappearance is undoubtedly connected to my appearance. You can't argue against the facts, Virgil, no matter how hard you try."
"You're a stubborn ass sometimes, you know that?" Virgil folded his arms across his chest.
"Takes one to know one," Roman retorted.
"...that's fair," Virgil admitted. "But I'm not arguing against any facts. His disappearance and your appearance may be connected, but that still doesn't mean that you're responsible for his disappearance!"
"How does it not?" Roman looked incredulous.
"Because you were three ," Virgil reiterated. "Because whatever happened, I doubt it was intentional on your part. It might not have even had anything to do with you in the first place. It might have had something to do with the 'Taween', whatever the hell that is."
Roman's gasped, his eyes widening. Virgil blinked in surprise. "What?"
"That's it," Roman murmured. "The Taween!"
"...hate to tell you Ro, but that doesn't really clear up much of anything," Virgil let out a snort.
"The last place I saw Remus was the Taween, right?" Roman asked.
Virgil nodded. "Yeah, that's what you said..."
"What if Remus is still in the Taween? What if the Taween is the key to finding him?" Roman continued.
"...we don't even know what the Taween is, Roman," Virgil reminded him. "How are we supposed to know if the Taween is the key to finding him if we don't know what it means in the first place?"
"Because we're going to find out. We're going to find out and we're going to rescue Remus!" Roman announced triumphantly.
"...I was afraid you might say that," Virgil squeezed the bridge of his nose between his hands. He could understand Roman's excitement. Virgil wanted closure when it came to Remus as well, but...he was afraid of the sort of closure finding Remus might bring. So long as Remus remained missing...there was a chance that Remus was alive and safe out there. But what if, upon finding Remus, they discovered the opposite? What if Remus wasn't safe? What if...
A shudder went through Virgil.
"First we need to pool all of our resources into figuring out what the Taween is..." Roman began.
Virgil sighed. It was already too late. Roman was on a roll, and there was no stopping him now. Virgil had no choice but to tag along for the ride, as he couldn't exactly let his little brother go alone. Not when he made a promise to himself years before that he wouldn't let whatever happened to Remus happen to Roman.
But he had a bad feeling about this, a feeling that they were about to dive into something way over their heads...
"I've figured it out!" Roman announced as he strode into Virgil's room, a triumphant expression on his face.
Two weeks passed since Roman's birthday. Virgil's spring classes were now complete. He wasn't taking any summer classes, which meant that he was home for the summer. It also meant that he no longer had an excuse to avoid Roman's schemes to get to the bottom of what happened to Remus.
That being said, he didn't expect to hear that Roman already had it figured out. Though Virgil wasn't certain that he wanted to know what happened to Remus, in the event that it wasn't good news...he had to admit that he actually felt somewhat disappointed that it sounded as though Roman did the bulk of the work without him.
Not that he would admit this to Roman, of course. "Oh? he set the book that he was reading aside. "You figured out what the Taween is?"
"Nah, still working on that one," Roman admitted, much to Virgil's surprise.
"...I don't get it, I thought that's what you were trying to figure out?" Virgil blinked in confusion.
"...then why did you say you figured it out if you haven't?" Virgil was already starting to get a headache, and it wasn't help by the fact that Roman started laughing at Virgil's confusion.
"I haven't figured out what it is, but I have an idea for how we can find out," Roman told him.
...oh. Virgil supposed that was a start. "What did you have in mind?" Did Virgil want to know? Did it matter whether Virgil wanted to know? Virgil knew that Roman planned to tell him regardless.
"We're going to crawl under the bed in Remus' room!" Roman beamed.
Virgil arched an eyebrow.
"Did you hear what I said? We're going to-"
"I heard what you said," Virgil stopped Roman before he could go any further. "I'm just wondering if you put any thought into this plan."
"Of course I did!" Roman protested. "You guys found me because I crawled out from under Remus' bed, right? Therefore, the answer must lay under Remus' bed!"
"Yes, and you crawled out from under Remus' bed when you were three years old. You were three feet tall, at most. You're only a couple of inches shy of six feet now, and I am six feet!" Virgil pointed out.
"Six hands too," Roman remarked with a slight smirk.
Virgil lifted one of said hands to smack his brother lightly upside the head for that comment. "Point is, we're not going to fit under the bed."
"We will if we stay close to the ground. Obviously it won't work well if we're just crawling along on our hands and knees, but who said we had to do that? Just slither along like snakes!" Roman suggested.
Virgil let out a sigh. "Y'know, I doubted you when you said you thought this through, but I'm actually starting to believe you." He still thought the whole thing was absurd, but...Roman did seem to have taken certain matters into consideration that Virgil hadn't expected him to.
There was something else, though, something that Virgil knew might stop Roman in his tracks. "We've already checked, you know."
"Checked what?" Roman was already halfway down the hall.
Virgil rolled his eyes and ran after his brother. "Checked under the bed. There's nothing there. It's like you just rose up out of solid ground or something."
"Maybe I did," Roman shrugged, then continued on his way. "Worth a check, isn't it?"
Virgil sighed. He couldn't exactly argue with that, though he still thought this was probably a waste of time. They were supposed to be figuring out what the Taween was. Roman might as well be leading them on a wild goose chase as far as Virgil was concerned. He saw their father rummage under the bed. If there was any hint as to where Remus might have gone under said bed, Dee would have found it years ago.
All the same...Virgil could understand why Roman would want to see it for himself. Virgil saw his father search Remus' room high and low for any hints as to where the boy went. Roman hadn't - or if he had, he was too young to remember it in great detail. If this offered Roman some closure, Virgil supposed it wasn't his place to deny his younger brother that.
As soon as Roman entered Remus' room, he moved to the ground, crawling over to the bed. Virgil sighed and reluctantly dropped to a crouching position beside the bed. He peered under the bed, then looked to Roman. "See? Nothing."
Roman let out a huff. "You barely looked!"
"Roman, there is nothing under there. It only takes a second to see that!" Virgil countered.
Roman peered under the bed himself, then looked back to Virgil with a confused expression.
"See? Nothing!" Virgil reiterated.
Roman extended his hand and began patting the ground. Virgil arched an eyebrow at that. "What, you think you're going to find something hiding in the carp-"
"Whoa!" Roman blurted out, catching Virgil off guard.
"Whoa? Whoa what?" Virgil asked.
"Whoa, my hand just sunk into the carpet!" Roman turned to Virgil, a huge grin on his face. "See Virgil? I told you we'd find something!"
"Sunk into the...what are you talking about, Roman?" Virgil looked under the bed, sure that Roman was fooling around with him...but Roman's hand literally looked as though it went clear through the ground.
Alarm bells were starting to go off in Virgil's head. Something didn't feel right about this. "Roman, you need to pull your hand back."
"What?!" Roman huffed. "I finally find something and you want me to pull away? Fat chance! You're just jealous because I found it first!"
"What? No! I just...Roman, we don't know what's going on, and..." Virgil's voice trailed off as Roman reached another hand under the bed, watching as it sunk through the carpet as well.
"Look, Virgil! This one does it t-whoooa!" Suddenly Roman lurched forward, as if something was actively pulling him under the bed and through the floor. And whatever it was, it wasn't stopping.
"Roman!" Virgil shouted. Neither of Roman's hands were free, so Virgil reached for his legs and tried to pull Roman back to safety.
Instead, whatever - or whoever - was pulling Roman - compensated for Virgil's strength.
This is the last time I let Roman take the lead, Virgil thought to himself, closing his eyes as both he and Roman were dragged beneath the bed and through the floor.
"Ungh," Virgil grunted as he fell onto something...soft?
He wasn't expecting to fall onto something soft.
"Do you mind?" Roman grumbled from beneath him.
Virgil scrambled off of his brother and peered around. Virgil wasn't entirely sure where he and Roman were, but he was certain of one thing - This was not Remus' bedroom.
"...Dad's gonna kill us," Virgil groaned.
"Nonsense! He's not going to kill us!" Roman waved Virgil's concern off.
"Dude, we're in some sort of...I don't even know where we are. A forest? How the hell did we end up in a forest? Why is there a forest under Remus' bed?" Virgil had a number of additional questions, but feared that if he continued to list them, he'd panic. As it was, he was already finding it difficult to catch his breath.
"Could be worse," Roman shrugged.
"Worse...we have no idea where we are, Ro, or how to get back! How could this be worse?" Virgil snapped.
"We're not chained up in a dungeon with no means of escape?" Roman observed.
"...thanks, you really know how to comfort a guy," Virgil rolled his eyes.
"...yeah I'm not sure where that came from," Roman admitted. "But it's true! We're not trapped! We are free to explore and make our way around this place! Which also means we may be able to find our way back! Can't do that locked in a dungeon!" Roman asserted.
"Will you shut up about that dungeon?" Virgil demanded through gritted teeth.
"Alright, alright, fair enough," Roman chuckled.
A few seconds later, he let out a sudden gasp, startling Virgil and leading him to fear for his brother's safety. "What? What is it?!"
"We can look for Remus!" Roman grinned.
"...dammit Roman, you don't have to gasp or shout about every realization you make," Virgil mumbled.
He could understand Roman's excitement, but he was trying to stave off a panic attack, not generate one.
"What? Don't you want to find your brother? Our brother?" Roman wondered.
"Of course I do! It's just..." Virgil faltered. "We don't know anything about this place! It could be super dangerous!"
"That's the best part!" Roman beamed.
Virgil leveled an incredulous stare at his brother. "You and I have two very different ideas about that."
"Look, I know there's risk involved. That's part of the thrill for me, but...I also recognize that it puts you on edge," Roman admitted. "I know this is a lot, but...we're here now and we might as well make the best of it! This could be the grandest adventure of our lifetime!"
"That's what scares me the most about it," Virgil muttered.
"Well we're not going to find Remus just standing here! I mean we could, but it's super unlikely," Roman told him. "Tell you what - We stick close to each other no matter what. That way you can look out for me, and I can look out for you. We'll have each other's backs. How does that sound?"
Better than the thought of Roman wandering around this place by himself, Virgil had to admit that much. And Roman was right - Not only would they not find Remus if they stayed where they were, but it didn't look as though they would find their way back either.
They didn't have much of a choice, unless they wanted to stand here indefinitely.
"Fine," Virgil conceded at last.
"Yay," Roman clapped his hands together. "Let's get to it!"
Virgil allowed Roman to lead the way, though stuck close behind him. Virgil figured that he could watch Roman's back this way.
Too bad that Virgil could not see the figure watching them intently from afar.
Said figure took the form of a tall woman, with horns on either side of her head that resembled a dragon. The corners of her mouth curved upward into a smirk as she eyed Roman and Virgil in the distance. "One down and one to go..."
"Does any of this look familiar, Roman?" Virgil asked after they'd been walking for several minutes.
"Not really, but we haven't exactly seen much of anything other than this forest. Speaking of which, didn't we already pass that tree a while back?" Roman pointed to a tree slightly to the left of where they were walking.
Virgil frowned, studying the tree. "Now that you mention it, that tree does look familiar...great, we're walking in circles now, aren't we?"
Roman grinned. "I mean, it's better than walking in triangles?"
Virgil rolled his eyes, but managed a small smile. Roman's grin fell soon after this, and Virgil grew concerned. "What?"
"I just...thought of something, that's all," Roman frowned. Images of a young man in glasses with a bright smile flashed in his mind. He would have shrugged them off as nothing, but then he realized that the young man in the image looked like him. He only had two arms and two legs, no additional eyes, no scales, no fur other than what was on top of his head...
"I think I saw my father," Roman admitted.
Virgil stopped walking at once. "Your father? He's here?"
Roman stopped as well, shaking his head. He closed his eyes, smiling. "No no, not here. I...I think I had a memory of him? He had a big smile and glasses and two arms and two legs and...he looked like me."
Roman's smile fell. "I've never had that happen before. It's always...well anyway, we should probably get a move on, shouldn't we? We still need to figure out where we are!" Roman let out a boisterous chuckle and went to start walking.
"No, Roman," Virgil responded. Roman turned back to Virgil in surprise.
"No?" Roman furrowed his brow in confusion.
"You don't have to feel guilty for feeling that way. You're right, you've never seen anyone who looks like you, at least not for a long time, and...that has to feel pretty nice," Virgil shrugged.
"It does. Sometimes I wish I could step outside without having to put on those fake arms and spend an hour doing up my make-up to make it look like I have scales on my face. I love make-up, yet I dread doing my make-up in the morning, because it's always the same thing. And none of what my friends see is actually me. If they did see the real me, they'd probably reject me...and that would be the best case scenario," Roman sighed.
"If you want, we can try to find your real family too?" Virgil suggested.
Roman blinked. "What did you just say?"
"We can try to look for your real family?" Virgil repeated.
Much to Virgil's surprise, Roman let out a chuckle. "You and Dad are my real family."
...how was Virgil even supposed to respond to a statement like that? "Thanks Ro," Virgil managed to mutter. It wasn't that he didn't appreciate what Roman said, because he certainly did! Virgil just wasn't expecting a statement like that, and thus didn't know how to react.
"Do you think this place is your...well, not your home, but the place you were born?" Virgil wondered.
Roman sighed. "I don't...this forest does seem vaguely familiar, but not enough to determine whether I actually spent the first few years of my life here."
"That's what I was afraid of," Virgil sighed. They were lost in a forest in what Virgil could only assume was some other realm, and they had little to aid their search, aside from a few scattered memories and a vague feeling of familiarity. Virgil doubted that would get them very far.
Virgil heard movement in the trees surrounding them and froze at once. The movement stopped, and Virgil gave a shaky sigh of relief. He went to take a step forward, only to fall flat on his face, his arms splayed out.
"Oof!" he grunted at the impact.
Roman turned around at the sound, his eyes slowly going wide as his face grew ashen. "Virgil, there's..." Unable to finish his sentence, Roman instead pointed behind Virgil. Virgil glanced back, bracing himself for what he might find back there.
Wrapped around his leg was a thick green tentacle. The tentacle was attached to something, but whatever - or whoever - the tentacle was attached to was obscured by shadows. Virgil gulped.
"Better watch where you're going, Lo. This monster almost came after you. What do you think we should do with it, Lolo? Take off its legs? Burn it?" a voice called out.
Virgil went pale. They were going to kill him. He let out a yelp as the tentacle lifted him a few feet into the air. Jeez this tentacle was strong!
"I believe we ought to see what its motives are first, Remus," another voice suggested to the first voice.
"Ugh, fiiiiiiine." The tentacle unfurled itself from Virgil's leg, sending him back to the ground. But he was hardly concerned about that now.
Did...did one of the figures just call the other Remus?
Remus did have the start of a few green appendages when he disappeared...had they grown into tentacles?
There was only one way to find out...
This has nothing to do with the story, but I feel the need to mention it anyway, because it's been on my mind a LOT today. Please don't read any further into this note if you are triggered by mentions of gun violence or school shootings.
There was another mass shooting in the news today. The school affected was my younger cousin's high school. From what I heard, she was just pulling into the parking lot when it happened. A few other students hopped into her car and they drove off.
And now I've discovered that the shooter lived just down the block from them. My aunt and cousins are blowing up social media with updates right now.
So yeah. Still processing all of that. :/
Warning for the start of a somewhat detailed description of performing surgery on oneself (I'll give you one guess as to who the culprit is...)
Virgil and Roman watched as the two figures moved out into the open. Virgil noted that the figure with green tentacles also sported a mustache and a mischievous grin. The other looked similar to how Roman described his biological father.
"Remus?" Virgil breathed.
"Whoa, it can talk?! How awesome! Y'know, maybe this thing isn't so bad after all! Let's keep it as a pet!" Remus clapped his hands together.
The bespectacled figure, the one Remus(?!) called Logan, massaged the bridge of his nose between his fingers. He looked exasperated. "I apologize. Remus is..."
"A once in a lifetime experience!" Remus beamed proudly.
Virgil wasn't sure how to respond to all of this. He couldn't just blurt out that he thought Remus was his long lost brother, they'd look at him like he was insane!
But if the rapidly forming theory in Virgil's head was correct... "Logan?"
"Yes?" Logan looked to Virgil.
"Are you ignoring me? How rude!" Remus huffed, folding his arms across his chest. "I don't think I want you as a pet after all!"
"Good, because my brother is not your pet!" Roman declared, eyeing Remus.
"Your brother? The two of you hardly look alike. Are you sure one of you is not adopted?" Remus chuckled.
Virgil was starting to grow antsy, and realized that he needed to ask Logan his question before things spiraled out of control. "Do you have a brother named Roman, Logan?"
Up to this point, Logan merely looked a mix between exhausted and bored. But at that question, Logan's eyes went wide.
"Jeez Lo, you look as though he just asked you to borrow a kidney," Remus chuckled.
"...borrow a kidney?" Roman made a face. "How would that even work?"
Remus smiled. "I'm so glad you asked! I imagine you'd take a knife and you'd slice open your side and-"
"Yes I have a brother named Roman," Logan blurted out, clearly trying to stop Remus from going into the gory details. "But I haven't seen him in years. He disappeared when he was-"
"Three?" One corner of Virgil's mouth twitched upward.
"...yes, how did you know?" Logan blinked in confusion.
Virgil grinned. "Because my brother Remus went missing when he was three."
Remus glanced over at Virgil. "Wait, are you saying that you're my brother? Freakin' sweet! I have a spider brother!"
"You would focus on that aspect," Logan sighed, but Virgil noticed that there was a hint of fondness on Logan's face even amidst everything else.
And why wouldn't there be? By the looks of it, Remus grew up alongside Logan, and thus their relationship was probably similar to the relationship between Virgil and Roman.
Logan was just as much Remus' brother as Virgil was, if not more.
Virgil could not entirely brush aside the pangs of jealousy as he watched Remus and Logan interact, but...he was happy, for the most part. Not only was Remus safe, but he looked fairly happy and seemed well cared for.
"Can you shoot webs out of your butt?" Remus blurted out suddenly.
Virgil was abruptly pulled from his thoughts at these words. How did one even respond to a question like that? "I...what?" Maybe he'd heard wrong?
"Can you shoot webs out of your butt?" Remus repeated, just as eagerly as he had the first time.
Alright, so Virgil hadn't heard wrong. He...he supposed he ought to take the question at face value, then. "Not out of my butt, no. I can shoot them out of my hands though." Virgil extended a hand and shot one of his webs at a nearby tree branch as an example.
"Intriguing," Logan observed.
"So this is the world I originally came from?" Roman peered around eagerly, drawing everyone's attention back to him. "I like it, though I have to admit I was expecting a few less trees."
Logan furrowed a brow. "The world you come from?"
"Well, yeah. That's what I assume this place is, right?" Roman chuckled.
"Up until now, we were operating under the assumption that this was your home," Logan admitted.
"Ooooh, things just got a whole lot more interesting," Remus grinned, clapping his hands together in excitement.
"Interesting is certainly one way of putting it," Virgil reluctantly agreed. None of them knew where they were by the looks of it, which left him feeling more uneasy than ever.
Now there were two more people in their party, but they were just as lost as ever.
It did give them all a chance to chat, at least.
"I presume that you are Roman?" Logan questioned Roman.
An awestruck Roman nodded.
"Logan. It is...nice to see you again. I hope that you have been doing well," Logan remarked. "Out of curiosity, do you have any recollection of me?"
Roman studied Logan's face for a moment or so. He ultimately shook his head. "No, I do not. Nothing clear at least. I'm sorry."
Logan shrugged. "It's quite alright. I was merely curious, that's all."
But Roman saw right through it. Logan could pretend that what Roman said had not bothered him, but Roman could not get the stricken look that crossed Logan's features at his admission out of his mind. The expression was only on Logan's face for a second, but it was more than enough to hint at how Logan truly felt.
Roman felt terrible for that. He stood by what he told Virgil earlier - Dee and Virgil were his true family - but it wasn't so easy to dismiss his 'old family' now that one of it's members walked alongside him.
"I expected as much, honestly," Logan informed him. "You were three years old when you vanished."
"How old were you?" Roman wondered.
"Seven," Logan replied. A year older than Virgil, then, which meant that Logan was twenty-two.
"Well...at least we have the opportunity to make up for some lost time while we're here?" Roman suggested.
"I suppose we do," Logan conceded. "Where shall we begin?"
All too quickly, Logan and Roman realized that this task was much easier said than done.
Meanwhile, Virgil and Remus were having their own conversation. They walked a few feet behind Logan and Roman.
Virgil hated the fact that he couldn't seem to think of anything to say. He had proof that his long lost brother was safe, that he was alive...and he couldn't even get his stupid tongue to untangle itself so that he could say something to Remus.
"Can you spin webs?" Remus' question brought Virgil out of his thoughts.
Still afraid to open his mouth out of fear of what gibberish might come tumbling out of his mouth if he did so, Virgil nodded.
"Neato! Do you molt too?" Remus wondered. "I saw a video of a tarantula melting once...it was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen!"
Virgil shook his head. "I don't...I don't sleep in my webs, not usually at least. And I don't molt. I...I see your arms grew out?"
"My tentacles you mean?" Remus beamed. "They certainly did! They're absolutely beautiful, aren't they? I just love letting them go free! I don't get much of an opportunity to do so, you know? People would get too freaked out! Not that I necessarily care about people getting freaked out but I also don't want to be subject to any crazy science experiments so I have to be careful who sees me!"
Virgil gaped, having to take a moment to process the large amount of information that Remus dumped on him all at once.
"So you have to hide your tentacles in...in that world?" Virgil managed to say at last.
"Yeah. Feels nice to stretch 'em out a bit!" Remus grinned.
Virgil had to admit that he was caught off guard. The world that Remus lived in with Logan, the one that Roman presumably hailed from? For all of their differences (and there were many), the two worlds actually sounded a lot more similar than Virgil expected.
...but if this wasn't either of those worlds, what was it?
Virgil was beginning to wonder if this entire world was the forest. Logan had the brilliant idea to mark the trunk of each tree with an X so that they would know when they'd already ventured into a certain area and wouldn't go walking around in circles.
That said, no matter how hard they tried, all of their hikes inevitably landed them within a group of marked trees, and they'd have to start all over again.
"What do we do when we're surrounded on all sides by marked trees?" Remus wondered.
"We're surrounded on all sides?!" Virgil whirled around at once, letting out a sigh of relief when he saw that there weren't any X's in the surrounding area aside from the trees in front of them.
"Nope! I'm just saying it'll suck when we are!" Remus replied.
"If we are," Logan corrected.
"What if Remus is right though? What if there isn't a way out of here? What if we're trapped here forever?" Virgil eyed their surroundings warily.
"There are worse places that we could be trapped?" Roman suggested.
Virgil stared at Roman as if he'd suddenly sprouted another head from the side of his neck. "It's not the place that I'm concerned about, it's the trapped part!"
"I doubt that we're trapped. We each made our way to this location, correct? If there is a way in, there must be a way out," Logan deduced.
"How did you guys get here, anyway?" Roman asked Logan and Remus. Virgil had to admit that he'd been wondering the same thing, he just hadn't asked because he was more concerned with getting out of here.
"The ground ate us," Remus replied.
"I don't know that I would describe it like that-" Logan started to reply, but Remus cut him off.
"I would! The ground attempted to swallow us whole, but then found that we tasted icky so it spat us here instead," Remus shrugged.
"That is...certainly a creative way of describing it, but that is essentially what happened," Logan admitted.
"That's pretty much the same thing that happened to us," Roman noted. "It was like we were being sucked into the floor."
"I have a question," Virgil spoke up, wincing a little when everyone's attention turned to him. He could handle it, as there were only three of them, but he still felt put on the spot. "When Remus first turned up in your...your world, Logan, did he crawl out from under the bed too?"
"Crawling outta my bed, and I've been doing JUST FINE," Remus sang.
"GOTTA GOTTA BE UP BECAUSE I WANT IT ALL," Roman continued where Remus left out. He beamed at Remus. "You have a version of The Killers in your world too?!"
"Yes, but it's 'gotta gotta be down because I want it all', not up," Remus snorted.
"No...it's always been 'up'," Roman frowned. "Maybe you've heard it wrong this whole time?"
"No, it's legit 'down', not 'up'. I think you're the one who's heard it wrong the whole time," Remus scoffed.
"I absolutely have not! See, I can even look up the lyrics..." Roman retrieved his cell phone from his pocket.
"Roman, I don't think your phone is going to work here..." Virgil warned his brother. He was caught off guard by the fact that they apparently had the similar music, but his attention was drawn back to Logan once Logan began to answer his question.
"Yes, Remus crawled out from under the bed. I found it bizarre. There is a trope, in our world at least, that children will often fear that there is a monster under the bed. As it so happens, Remus fits our world's description of a monster," Logan noted.
"Damn gay!" Remus smirked, placing his hands on his hips.
"Don't you mean 'damn straight'?" Logan frowned.
"Look, I don't think any of us here are straight..." Remus chuckled, gesturing to himself and the other three.
"I don't know that we can say that for certain," Logan frowned, eyeing Virgil and Roman. "I know that you and I are not, but-"
"Nah, he's 100% right. If you two say you aren't straight, and I know Virgil and I aren't straight, that means none of us are straight!" Roman grinned.
"I don't know that we're going to get anything accomplish if you two keep distracting us with your non sequiturs," Logan said with an exasperated sigh, but the corners of his mouth twitched upward a couple of times. He was still amused, even if he was frustrated at the same time.
Virgil was amused too, but he also felt that he needed to share this next bit of information, so he waited until things calmed down a bit before addressing Logan's statement about monsters. "We have the same trope in our world," Virgil informed Logan. "Only in our case, Roman fits the description of a monster."
"How intriguing!" Logan remarked. "Our worlds almost seem parallel to an extent. We have similar music, but the wording is slightly different, if Roman and Remus' earlier argument is any indication. What we view as a 'monster' is a normal denizen in your world, and what your world views as a monster is a normal denizen in our world. It is almost as if we hail from alternate yet similar dimensions!"
There was a pause, Logan furrowing his brow at the sound of clapping. "Remus, you don't have to clap at my deduction."
"I'm not clapping?" Remus replied, showing his hands. Virgil looked to Roman, noting that Roman's hands were at his side.
Then who was clapping?
As if on cue, a woman with dark hair stepped out from behind a grove of trees, a small smile on her face. She was clapping her hands together. "You've worked it out already. I'm impressed!"
Virgil grew tense as he eyed the newcomer. The woman stood tall, with horns reminiscent of a dragon. There was a regal air to her.
"Good day, ma'am. Out of curiosity, what do you mean when you say that 'we've worked it out already'?" Roman asked.
The woman chuckled. "Why, everything of course!"
"...yeah I call bullshit."
"Remus!" Logan scolded.
"What? She says we've worked out everything, but won't even answer our question! It's bullshit and you know it! You're just too polite to say it. I, on the other hand, couldn't care less." He looked the woman directly in the eye. "Bullshit!" he repeated.
Remus wasn't wrong, though Virgil strongly suspected that Remus' persistence was due to the fact that he was trying to get under the woman's skin.
...Virgil also suspected that he was having fun saying the word 'bullshit' repeatedly.
"I can understand why you might think that," the woman admitted. "I was, in fact, referring to the statement that you hail from alternate yet parallel dimensions."
"That's not everything," Roman frowned.
"You're correct, it's not," the woman noted. "You've figured out that this is a third world, a world aside from the worlds you call home. An in-between world of sorts."
Roman gasped. "Between. Tween. Taween. Virgil, this is the Taween!"
Huh. So it was.
"Taween?" Logan arched an eyebrow.
"When Roman first showed up in our world, he said that he saw Remus in the Taween," Virgil explained to Logan.
"Wait, so that means that Remus and I have been here before?" Roman's eyes went wide. "But...shouldn't we recognize it then?"
"Not necessarily," Logan reasoned. "You may have only traversed through this world for a short period of time."
"You guys were also three years old at the time, so it's not like your memories of back then are super clear anyway," Virgil added.
"So where do you come in to all of this?" Remus eyed the woman. "How do you know all of this?"
"I have been watching you from afar," the woman confessed.
"Stalker!" Remus shouted.
"I admit, I probably should have just approached you when I first spotted you. But you seemed to have a lot on your minds on the time, and I wanted to allow you a chance to gain your bearings before I introduced myself," she explained.
"Go on and introduce yourself, then," Virgil folded his arms across his chest, incredibly wary. He didn't know how long this woman was watching them, and he didn't like that someone was watching them for an indeterminate amount of time without his knowing.
How did she do it? Why did she do it?
"You may call me Drakaina," the woman replied.
"Drakaina," Logan repeated. "In Greek mythology, a drakaina is a female dragon or serpent with humanesque features."
"Fitting, isn't it?" Drakaina indicated the horns protruding from her temples on either side. "They also refer to me as the dragon witch."
"The dragon witch? What is that supposed to mean?" Virgil inquired.
"The horns make the dragon part rather obvious, don't they?" Remus snorted.
"I suppose you want to see my magic. That can be arranged. What is your favorite color?" Drakaina asked Virgil.
Virgil blinked in surprise, wondering what that had to do with anything. "Purple?"
Drakaina snapped her fingers. Roman let out a gasp.
"What? What is it?" Virgil turned to look at Roman. Roman pointed behind Virgil. Virgil turned back around, only to find Drakaina standing with a smile on her face.
"Oooh, do me next!" Remus clapped his hands together.
"Will someone tell me what the hell is going on?" Virgil blurted out. His face was growing hotter by the minute. He didn't know what was going on and everyone was staring at him and he just wanted answers!
"Oh dear, that's right. You can't see it for yourself. Oh, unless..." Drakaina waved her hand and a mirror appeared in her hand out of thin air. She turned the mirror so that Virgil could see his reflection.
His hair was purple.
It looked...not bad? It matched the patches on his hoodie, at any rate.
But she'd still changed his hair without permission to prove a point and that didn't sit well with him.
Virgil wished that he had a moment to sit down and process everything, or even just take notes! There was too much going on, and so much to process at once. He wasn't even sure he'd be able to explain everything to Dad if they made it home.
When. When, not if. It had to be when, because the ifs were too terrifying to think about! Unfortunately, his own racing thoughts didn't receive that memo.
They were going to Drakaina's castle. Virgil didn't trust her any farther than he could throw her - which, despite the number of arms he had, wasn't very far - why would he want to go anywhere with her?
Remus and Roman were all for it, though. Logan, like Virgil, was hesitant. It wasn't until Drakaina revealed that they needed to travel to the castle in order for her to explain everything properly that Logan agreed to go as well. Virgil, at that point, was outnumbered. Roman, Remus, and Logan would be traveling up to the castle with or without him, and Virgil wasn't about to leave them on their own. Logan might have a keen eye, but Virgil knew that Roman could be impulsive at the best of times. Remus seemed similar, if not worse.
"You know, you really do look good with the purple hair," Roman told him as they walked.
Virgil shrugged, chewing on his bottom lip.
"Are you alright?" Roman frowned upon seeing Virgil's tense expression.
"Its just a lot to take in," Virgil replied. It was the truth, it just wasn't the whole truth.
"It is, isn't it?" Roman admitted. Contrary to Virgil, however, he didn't look upset. He looked ecstatic. "I know you're nervous, but this is an exciting adventure! Who knows what's going to happen next?!"
"That's exactly the problem," Virgil sighed. "We don't know what's going to happen next. If something goes wrong, we could be in deep shit." And it was hard for Virgil not to consider the multitude of things that could go wrong. Did no one else care that none of them knew how to get home? Drakaina said that she would explain everything, but how far did 'everything' go?
Did 'everything' even involve the way home? Or were they trapped here forever, no matter what they tried?
At first, Virgil was afraid that their father would kill them, but now a different image flashed in his mind - Their father's devastation that two more of his children went missing. Their father had no idea whether they were safe or not, just like Remus. Sure, Virgil and Roman now knew that Remus was not only safe but happy, but...how long would that last?
What had they done?
"I guess we were on to something with this 'Taween' thing after all, weren't we?" Roman chuckled.
That was when it hit Virgil - When Roman was three, he announced that he saw Remus 'in the Taween'. That meant that Roman and Remus, at the very least, traveled through this realm and made it out in one piece. Virgil had proof that there was a way out standing right in front of him.
It didn't help much, but it was better than nothing.
"We were," Virgil agreed. "I just wouldn't have expected this."
"Nor did we," Logan chimed in. "Interdimensional travel was not even on my list of considerations. I suppose it makes sense in hindsight, though."
"Hindsight? That word always struck me as funny. Like, I get what it means, but doesn't it make you think of eyes on your butt?" Remus chuckled. "Or is that just me?"
"It's just you, I assure you," Logan responded.
"Well, actually..." Roman began, and Virgil arched an eyebrow.
"We're almost there!" Drakaina called out from several feet ahead of them.
At least in this case, Virgil was glad that Drakaina cut Roman off.
They stepped out of the forest at long last. Huh, so there's more to this realm than just the forest after all, Virgil thought to himself. He suspected as much when Drakaina mentioned taking them to the castle, but for all they knew the castle might be in the middle of the forest.
(Or said 'castle' might have actually been a worn down cabin in the woods, and Drakaina might have been taking them there to eat them, in the vein of an old fairy tale...)
As they stepped out into the clearing, they realized that this wasn't the case. Not only was there a castle in the distance, but there also appeared to be a small town surrounding the castle.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" Drakaina commented with a fond smile at the castle ahead.
"It is," Roman gaped at the sight. It felt like something right out of a fairy tale.
But there was always something more than met the eye in fairy tales, and Virgil suspected that to be the case here. He just wished he could put his finger on what...
Warning for gross/potty humor (or poopy humor in this case) by...well, I'm sure you can guess who.
Virgil decided that he absolutely did not like this realm, no matter when Roman and Remus said.
Virgil couldn't tell what Logan thought. With the exception of the moment he realized that Roman was his long lost brother, Logan kept up a mostly indifferent visage. Virgil did suspect, though, that Logan was observing the world around them closely, trying to figure out it's secrets.
Perhaps he was being overly cautious, as Roman insisted when Virgil whispered his concerns to him. Someone had to be, because Roman and Remus certainly weren't.
The first thing Virgil noticed when they arrived at the castle were the number of people bowing.
"Are you royalty?" Roman gasped.
"In a sense," Drakaina shrugged.
"So you're a Queen Dragon Witch? You should have told us! It's like I've always said - If you got it, flaunt it!" Remus grinned.
"Yes, but when you say it, it is not typically in reference to titles," Logan arched an eyebrow.
"What else would he be...ohhhhh," Roman snickered once the realization hit him.
"Come on, who doesn't want a piece of this?" Remus winked.
"I can think of a few people," Virgil muttered, but the corners of his mouth twitched upward in spite of himself.
Even Drakaina chuckled, though Virgil couldn't tell whether she was doing so to be polite, or if she actually found Remus and Roman's antics amusing.
"Your highness," a man came rushing up to them, bowing deeply to Drakaina. He eyed Virgil, Roman, Logan, and Remus. "To whom do I owe the pleasure?"
"These four are from the other realms," Drakaina replied.
The man bristled at that, though quickly regained his composure and nodded. "Is there anything I can get for you, your highness?"
Drakaina shook her head. "That will be all. Thank you."
The man gave another deep bow before walking away.
Drakaina led them into what appeared to be a small meeting room. She motioned for the four to take a seat. Virgil reluctantly took a seat beside Roman, though he wasn't sure why he was so hesitant to sit down. It wasn't like the chair was going to leap up and bite him as he did so.
"I know you still have a number of questions," Drakaina admitted once they were all settled in (or as close to being settled in as they could be).
"Well no shit. You left us hanging like a dingleberry on one's backside!"[/i] Remus retorted.
"...that was a mental picture that none of us asked for," Roman groaned.
"You're welcome!" Remus grinned.
"How does this 'in-between' realm of sorts work? Clearly, this realm is more than just a passage between our two realms," Logan observed, trying to get them back on track.
"You'd be correct, although it certainly functions as that as well," Drakaina admitted. "In fact, this is the only connection that remains between two worlds that were once so intimately connected that they may as well have been sister worlds."
"...sister worlds?" Virgil arched an eyebrow at that.
"Our worlds were once connected?" Roman's eyes went wide.
"Of course. Why do you think that each of your societies have stories painting the other as monsters?" Drakaina responded.
"...the two societies stopped getting along, didn't they?" Virgil realized.
"Isn't that how it always happens?" Drakaina smiled sadly.
Dee didn't know what to do.
Virgil and Roman were gone. He tried to tell himself that they probably went out without telling him, and that they'd be back soon. Virgil was 21 and Roman was 18; they were both adults. He didn't want to seem like an overprotective parent.
Then hours passed, still with no word. He tried calling them on their phones, but there was no response from either of them.
Dee was growing more and more worried. He searched the house high and low, just to make sure that he wasn't missing something.
He paused in the doorway to Remus' room. It looked similar to the way it was when Remus disappeared fifteen years before. Dee made sure it was kept that way.
But there was two things that caught his attention. The first? The skirt of the bed was tucked upward, as if someone were looking under it earlier.
The second? The picture of Virgil and Remus as children had fallen face first onto the table.
Something was wrong, and Dee needed to find out what.
I apologize for not posting yesterday. I meant to but...it didn't happen. Between Thanksgiving and the fact that the internet at my house went out for most of the day (and though I can get internet on my phone, I was trying not to use up all of the data at once, so I was trying to use it sparingly)...I figured it was best to just wait until today.
"There is a reason why stories of monsters, as well as creatures of myth and legend are common features of both of your worlds," Drakaina sighed.
"Did those legends, perchance, start as smear campaigns?" Roman suggested.
"Its hard to say. Some of them may have," Drakaina admitted. "It is just as likely that some of the stories were true. As you have all seen, creatures widely regarded as monsters in each of your worlds not only exist but comprise the primary population of a parallel world."
"...do you have a bathroom nearby?" Virgil blurted out. He could already feel his heart beginning to race. He knew that the question probably came out of nowhere to the others, but Virgil didn't particularly care at this point in time. He had more pressing matters on his mind.
Drakaina blinked in surprise, then nodded. "Down the hall and to the left. From there it will be the first door on the left."
Virgil would have thanked Drakaina, but he was in too much of a rush. He ran down the hall, trying to find the bathroom in question. He must have made a wrong turn in his confusion, though this realization certainly didn't help his situation any.
His thoughts were positively racing at this point, and the only thing he could think to do was trying to find a place to sit.
He couldn't find anything in the immediate area, so he leaned against the wall and opted to use it to support himself instead.
It was just...too much. Not that Virgil wasn't happy to have the answers, it was just a lot to take in!
When Virgil woke up in the morning, he was only aware of the existence of his own universe. It wasn't that he didn't believe in other universes at all - multiverse theory was something that he was familiar with - just that he had no reason to believe that the entrance to one existed just below his long lost brother's bed.
He also wasn't aware that morning that he'd find said long lost brother alive and well. Sure, Remus seemed to have developed a rather twisted sense of humor, but even at the age of three he'd been a fan of things that Virgil considered gross. He could still recall an incident where Remus not only ate a worm in front of him, but did so with gusto, just because he knew it would make Virgil squirm and decided to have a little fun with it.
Virgil certainly wasn't going to blame Logan's influence, not when Logan seemed by far to be the calmer of the two.
And now he was being confronted with even more information about the two worlds and their histories with one another?
Not to mention they still had no idea how they were going to get home!
...and where would Remus and Roman go when they found out? Virgil's eyes widened as he realized that he had no idea what would happen. Would Remus want to come home with Virgil, or would he want to stay with Logan?
What about Roman? Roman might have called Virgil and Dee his family earlier, but did he still feel that way now that he met Logan? Would he want to go home with Logan too? Was it possible that Virgil might wind up losing both of his brothers?
Why did his mind have to focus on these aspects over everything else? Why did he immediately have to jump to the worst case scenario and run with it? He could tell that Roman, Remus, and even Logan were interested to learn all of this new information. Why did it seem like he was the only one overwhelmed?
A jolt went through Virgil as he felt someone tap him on the shoulder. He didn't know whether it was friend or foe, or someone in between. Virgil was already tense, though, so he braced himself for the worst as he turned to see who it was...
Imagine Virgil's surprise when Logan stood before him.
"L-Logan?" Virgil blurted out in shock.
"Virgil, I want you to breathe in for four seconds. I will count for you," Logan instructed.
There was something calming about Logan's voice. Virgil latched on to it like a lifeline.
Virgil managed a nod in response to Logan's request. Logan cleared his throat. "One...two...three...four. Now I would like you to hold your breath for seven seconds. One...two..."
Virgil easily caught on, and Logan led him through several repetitions of this. Virgil wasn't new to breathing exercises, but this was the first time he'd seen this particular exercise used.
"How are you feeling?" Logan asked, presumably when he deduced that Virgil was calm enough to carry out a conversation once more.
"Like crap," Virgil told him. Hey, he asked. If he didn't want the truth he shouldn't have said anything.
"I suppose I should have expected a response like that," Logan admitted. "Though I am not prone to anxiety attacks myself, I have heard that the after effects can be quite cumbersome."
"You can say that again," Virgil rolled his eyes.
"I suppose...nevermind, that was a figure of speech, wasn't it?" Logan caught himself.
One of the corners of Virgil's mouth twitched upward.
"Huh, if those are the results a comment like that can generate, perhaps I should not have stopped myself after all," Logan offered a slight smile in return. However, said smile fell once more as he regarded Virgil with a curious expression.
"Are you able to pinpoint what may have triggered this response?" Logan wondered.
Ha. Virgil should have known that was coming. That said, at least he knew what precipitated the attack in this instance. They certainly did not always have such easy to explain triggers. Sometimes he could not determine what set them off himself, let alone explain it to someone else.
"This is not how I expected this day to go," Virgil confessed.
"Nor did I," Logan agreed. "I knew that Remus initially appeared beneath Roman's bed, but I never would have fathomed...I am no stranger to multiverse theory, but this is no wormhole located millions or billions of light years away in space."
"See, my familiarity with multiverse theory comes from books and movies and such," Virgil admitted.
Logan let out a sigh. "You are not the only one who feels slightly overwhelmed by everything you have learned today. "
"I'd say it was more that 'slightly' overwhelmed in my case," Virgil snorted.
"Duly noted," Logan remarked. "I suspect that this is not your first experience with such an attack?"
"I had my first panic attack when I was twelve," Virgil said with a wry grin. "So I've been dealing with 'em for just under half my life."
Logan nodded, a solemn expression on his face. "I can imagine how difficult that must have been for you."
"Not as difficult as having to adjust to a brand new world like Roman and Remus did. How did they manage it?" Virgil sighed. "I can barely handle it now and I'm in my 20s."
"I believe their young age actually worked to their advantage," Logan noted. "Children are very adaptable."
Virgil nodded. He supposed that made sense. It was a lot easier to adjust when everything was new, after all.
"Speaking of Roman and Remus, I believe it is about time that we rejoin them. I'm sure they are curious as to what is taking us so long," Logan told him. Virgil opened his mouth to reply, but something stopped him in his tracks.
"I don't think you'll have to worry about that," a new voice joined them. Virgil gulped. He didn't want to, but he knew that he had to see who joined them. Virgil slowly turned his head toward the source of the voice. His stomach sank at the sight that greeted him. Drakaina's servant from earlier stood behind them, a leering grin on his face - and he'd brought reinforcements.
Please be forewarned...crude language AND outright mentions of sex in the second half of this chapter. And yes, I'm sure you can ALL guess who the culprit is.
The first thing that Virgil was aware of when he came to? That he was not in a comfortable position.
Firstly, he was fairly certain that he was laying on hard concrete. He also had a crick in his neck from the way he was laying. He tried to adjust his position, slowly attempting to open his eyes without temporarily blinding himself in the process.
"Oh good, you're awake. I was beginning to grow concerned," he heard a familiar voice say. Logan's voice.
Virgil's eyes shot open at once in his surprise. He immediately closed them again, letting out a loud hiss.
"...did you just hiss at me?" Logan's voice sounded incredulous.
"Not you. The light," Virgil clarified. "It's too bright."
"Ah yes, it does take some time for one's eyes to adjust. I had the same issue myself when I awoke down here," Logan admitted.
"...down here? What do you mean 'down here'? Under your brother's bed?" Virgil somehow doubted that was what Logan meant, but...he didn't even want to give voice to the alternative answers coursing through his head.
"If my hypothesis is correct, I believe we are current locked in a dungeon," Logan specified.
...great, that was even worse than most of the alternative explanations that he'd mulled over in his head.
Virgil managed to open his eyes to the point where he was able to squint. It was enough to make out some of the details. It was bright, but the lights appeared to be coming from torches rather than lightbulbs. He supposed it fit the medieval aesthetic of the place. Instead of concrete, the floor appeared to be made of stone. There were bars on the door.
"Yep, my money's on dungeon too," Virgil said with a sigh.
Given their last encounter before losing consciousness, Virgil had to admit that he was not at all surprised at this outcome. Virgil and Logan were caught off guard by Drakaina's servants. Between that and the fact that Virgil and Logan were outnumbered? They hardly stood a chance against their attackers.
Captors now, by the looks of it. Virgil cursed mentally.
"I knew we shouldn't have trusted her," Virgil snarled. "She knew too much."
"I admit that I was suspicious as well, though I did not feel that we should act until we had more evidence. Clearly, that was the wrong decision," Logan mused.
"No shit," Virgil mumbled. "They're probably going to leave us here to rot."
"I don't believe they are. Not yet at least," Logan responded.
"Why not?" Virgil was surprised by how sure Logan sounded.
"Did you not here what the head servant said just before they overwhelmed us?" Logan frowned.
"I was more concerned with not being overwhelmed by them," Virgil snapped in reply.
"...a fair point. I did happen to overhear the lead servant's comment to one of his other servants, however, and I believe that what he said might be of import," Logan revealed.
"What did he say?" Virgil wondered.
"He told them not to bang us up too much, as he wanted us to be fit for interrogation," Logan continued.
"Interrogation? They're going to interrogate us? What the hell for?!" Virgil gaped in outrage. If anyone ought to be doing the interrogating, it should be Virgil and Logan!
Virgil ground his teeth together. He wasn't sure whether to be frightened or angry, and he felt a fair mixture of both.
Virgil lifted one of his arms and shot webbing at one of the bars. He tried pulling it, to no avail.
"Thought it was worth a shot," he explained to Logan, feeling a bit sheepish.
"Naturally," Logan replied. "I would have attempted the same in your position.
"What do we do now?" Virgil groaned.
"I'm not certain, but I suspect that we'll have a considerable amount of time to ponder on the subject," Logan admitted in a grave tone.
Virgil wasn't sure whether that was a good thing or a bad thing.
Roman frowned, glancing over at the door. Virgil was taking an incredibly long time to return from the bathroom, and Logan left a number of minutes ago as well. What was taking them so long?
"Something troubling you?" Drakaina's voice drew his attention away from the door.
"Just wondering what is taking our brothers so long," Roman frowned.
"They're probably fucking in the bathroom," Remus remarked.
"...what the hell, dude?" Roman stared.
Remus shrugged. "What? I can't be the only one who thought it!"
Roman huffed. "I certainly wasn't! First off, Virgil is asexual, so-"
"I think Logan is too," Remus admitted. "Swapping spit in the bathroom, then. Either way, there's definitely an exchange of body fluids going on!" he grinned.
"I..." Roman shook his head in exasperation, then turned to Drakaina. "I'm incredibly sorry your highness."
Drakaina in the meantime wore a bemused expression. "No, no, don't mind me..."
She didn't seem to know what to say, and Roman could hardly blame her.
Virgil and Logan had plenty of time to mull over their options for an escape. Unfortunately, they still had a long way to go when the ringleader of the servants who captured them descended the stairs, stopping just outside of the bars that kept Virgil and Logan from their freedom.
"Who wants to go first?" he called out with a sickeningly sweet smile pasted upon his face.
Virgil glared back at him.
"You don't have to volunteer all at once!" the man smirked. "Though one of you really ought to do so soon, before I do. I don't think you want me to choose whose going to go first. That'll make it worse for both of you!"
"What does this interrogation entail? Why can you not interrogate us both at the same time?" Logan folded his arms across his chest, eyeing the servant.
The man scoffed. "You think you're hot shit, don't you? Yes, I believe I will interrogate you first. Maybe then you'll learn to think better of mouthing off to the wrong people."
A few other servants came down the stairs behind the head servant. He retrieved a key and placed it into the lock of the cell holding Virgil and Logan.There was a rush of activity as the door opened. Two of the servants seized Logan by the arms and pulled him to his feet.
Virgil narrowed his eyes and seized his opportunity. He threw himself at one of the servants, hoping to knock him off balance at best and get him to unleash Logan at worst.
Neither of these things happened. Unfortunately, the guard was more than prepared for his fury and moved to block him. Virgil growled and grabbed him by the wrist, only to receive a nasty surprise as pain coursed through his body all at once, forcing him to let go.
The head guard laughed, clapping his hands together. "Oh, wonderful show. We may just go easy on you for providing that quality entertainment when your turn comes! Do not fret; your friend's turn may be first, but yours will come soon enough!"
Virgil tried to jump to his feet once more, but was horrified to discover that his limbs were so sore that he could barely move them.
"I see you're enjoying one of our favorite little toys. It's imbued with some of the strongest magic in the land. I wouldn't try moving much in the next couple of hours - It'll only make everything hurt worse. Honestly, you might come to see the interrogation as a blessing after that!" the man chuckled.
Virgil glared daggers at the man. Logan continued to wrestle with his captors until one of them smacked him over the head and he fell still.
"Logan!" Virgil shouted. At least talking didn't hurt too badly, though as he tried to get up to check on his new friend, another wave of pain shot through him and he had to grind his teeth together to keep from crying out.
He would not give them that satisfaction.
Much to Virgil's surprise, the head servant did not look entirely pleased with this new development either. "Idiot! We need him neurologically intact in order to extract as much information from him as possible!" he hissed.
"I didn't hit him that hard," the offending servant frowned.
"You better hope that you did not! I'd hate to see what happens to you when the Queen finds out!" the leader snarled as the group ascended the stairs, leaving Virgil alone.
Alone. With no one to talk to, even though talking seemed to be the only motion he was capable of initiating without undergoing severe pain. Alone, worried about what they were doing to Logan, what they would do to him next.
Virgil didn't know Logan for long, but with only the two of them to keep each other company while they were trapped, they had no choice but to get to know each other.
Virgil hated the thought of failing Logan, his new friend. Even more, though, he felt as though he was failing Roman and Remus.
Roman, who finally met the brother he was separated from at the age of three, and Remus, the brother that Virgil was separated from, who grew up alongside Logan.
He failed them both, and he continued to fail them every moment he sat there unable to move without debilitating pain wracking his entire body.
He was utterly helpless, and he hated it...
Over the course of the next hour, the pain in his limbs gradually dissipated. By the time the hour was up, Virgil was not only back on his face, but pacing back and forth behind the bars like a caged animal.
Logan and the guards weren't back yet. Virgil was so worried that he hardly knew what to do with himself. There was little he could do, though - He and Logan already tried every method they could conjure up earlier, and that was with Logan present. Not only did having an extra person make brainstorming easier, but that extra person was Logan. If Virgil had to be honest, most of their escape ideas came from Logan.
That put Virgil at a major disadvantage now that he was the only one left in the cell.
It also meant that Virgil's imagination had nothing to keep it in check as he continued to think of possible worst case scenarios. The guards specifically used the word interrogation over questioning, which led Virgil to believe that there would most certainly be violence involved. They had no qualms over using violence to subdue Virgil and Logan, after all - and that happened twice.
He could only imagine how rough they'd be when they were trying to extract information from someone unwilling.
What sort of information could Virgil and/or Logan have that would warrant that sort of treatment? This was all brand new to Virgil. He wouldn't doubt that the servants had more information than he and Logan did, and that they ought to be the ones doing the questioning.
(Questioning, not interrogating, because Virgil saw no reason to go that far - save, perhaps, for revenge.)
Virgil froze in his tracks when he heard footsteps echoing from down the hall. He tensed at once, his hands clenching into fists automatically. A slight pain shot up his arms as he did so, the last hurrah of the weapon used against him earlier. A reminder that they were willing to take drastic action to neutralize him if he tried to fight back.
He still considered fighting back. His chance of success might be low, but it was better than nothing, and if he did escape, he could concentrate on ensuring that Logan, Roman, and Remus were safe as well and that they all left this place and never came back ever ever again!
Even if...even if he feared what Roman and Remus would decide when that time came.
He supposed that they were done with Logan. That was good, and he hoped that Logan came through it all in one piece. It meant that it was his turn, but...honestly, he had a strong feeling that he'd be able to handle the interrogation better than he handled this. At least with the interrogation he wouldn't spend his whole time worrying what was going on, because he'd be living it.
...what if Logan was unconscious, though? What if they'd beaten him to a pulp? He was convinced that Logan wouldn't talk (mainly because there was little for Logan to say when, like Virgil, he was still learning), so how far would they push him to try to get him to say...whatever it was that they were looking for?
As easy as it was to make assumption, Virgil knew that he couldn't necessarily afford to do so in this instance.
Virgil felt his stomach sink when he only saw one shadow enter the room. They didn't bring Logan back, because Logan was in no condition to be moved. He knew it. He took a deep breath, steeling himself for what was going to come next. They only sent one guard because they were coming to fetch him next, so that he could join Logan.
The figure moved from the shadows, the corners of his mouth twitching upward at the sight of Virgil.
Virgil, on the other hand, nearly fell over in surprise as his own eyes fell upon the bespectacled young man that stepped out from the shadows. "Logan?"