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The Upsides and the Downsides

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It was complicated who started the argument. Look at it the right way, and it could have been anyone. In the end, it turned out to be everyone.

What started as a simple brainstorming session quickly got complicated. Thomas was acting like, well, Thomas, and didn't want to commit to anything.

"I don't see what's wrong with my ideas," Roman sighed after almost half an hour.

"Nothing's wrong with them," Thomas muttered unconvincingly.

"I could tell you what's wrong with them," Logan suggested.

"No." Thomas rubbed his eyes. "We talked about this. Be nice."

"I can be...nice and also be constructive."

"Oh, constructive?" Roman laughed. "I'll believe that when I see it, Super Quantum Unit Idiot Processor."

Logan adjusted his glasses. "Maybe you could wait for me to actually speak my suggestions? You are putting the figurative cart before the figurative horse."

"Fine," Roman grumbled. "How do I suck?"

"Your ideas would take too much work. We need a video by next month."

"Work is the whole point of work!"

"There is no time for some of these ideas."

Roman rolled his eyes. "Well, I'm sorry my ideas are too awesome for you to handle, Logan. I provide the ideas, you handle the scheduling. If you can't make time for this, that's on you."

"I am not a Time Lord, I cannot manipulate the length of a day to include this kind of workload. We need something manageable."

"Good ideas don't need to be manageable."

Thomas groaned. "Guys, guys, stop. You both have good points. I need a good idea that takes less time."

"So you're saying," Roman said, "that my ideas so far weren't good?"

"They were great, Roman, honestly." Thomas brushed his hair back. "They just need...to be...a little more achievable?"

"Exactly," Logan agreed. "We need to achieve success in a monetary sense, and pushing back the video date due to time would decrease our income--"

"That's not the point of videos--"

"--without money, Thomas will fail to live. That should probably be the point."

Thomas sighed. "Guys..."

"...you need to shut it," finished another voice. Virgil appeared in his customary spot under the stairs, glowering. "Please. Just shut up."

"Oh, look, more naysayers." Roman curled his lip. "Go say "neigh" somewhere else, Black Stallion."

"I can hear you in my room and it's making me annoyed."

Logan sighed. "I have attempted to keep it down. All blame must fall upon Roman here."

"Uh-huh. Sure." Roman examined his nails. "Whatever helps you sleep at night."

"I...do not sleep. I am incorporeal and do not need rest--"

"You are so humorless, you know that?"

Virgil covered his ears. "I thought we stopped this!"

"Me too," Thomas agreed. "Guys, didn't you agree to work together?"

"Easier said than done," Roman sighed. "Especially when Logan won't stop shooting down my ideas."

"It is not my fault Roman has such an adverse reaction to constructive feedback."

"It's not my fault Logan's such a buzzkill--"

"Shut up!" Virgil yelled. His voice was beginning to double.

Thomas sighed. "I'm getting Patton. Maybe he can talk some sense into you guys."

Patton rose in front of the curtains, his cat hoodie lopsided and his hair messy. "What's happening?"

Logan and Roman continued arguing, ignoring Patton entirely.

"They're being idiots," Virgil growled.

"Who's they?"

"Roman and Logan."

"Oh, them again?" Patton rubbed his eyes. "Sorry, kiddos, I've been feeling kind of down and I'm not sure I can help much--"

Virgil curled tighter into a ball. "Wonderful. Just when we needed him, Morality's got a stomach upset."

"Actually, that makes sense," Thomas mused. "I got turned down by that guy I liked last week--Patton's bound to be feeling some effects of that."

"Yeah, I said that was a bad idea." Virgil raised an eyebrow. "Did you listen to me? Nooo."

"I'm sure you can handle it," Patton said, trying to smile. "You just need to calm down and talk to each other politely."

Thomas eyed Roman's red face and Logan's cold eyes. "Simple."

"Hey! Princey!" Virgil cupped his hands around his mouth. "You two shut up!"

Logan eyed Virgil. "We are having a discussion."

"A stupid discussion."

Roman folded his arms. "Let's listen to Virgil."

"Oh, so now that I've expressed disinterest in his words you're all for it?"

Thomas held out his arms. "Whoa, whoa! Calm down! Let's be mature, okay?"

Patton smiled. "Yes, lets practice some adultery here."

"It's not--" Logan sighed. "Okay, I will be mature. Roman, I maturely think you are naive."

"Logan, I maturely think you're a prick."

"Better a prick than a grandiose goose-chaser."

"At least I'm moving! At least I'm trying to do something! You're just sitting around popping our beautiful balloons and raining on our balloon-filled parades!"

Logan frowned. "I never understood the point of balloons anyway. It will pop in several days, what's the point in watching it slowly lose air and sink to the ground?"

"The point," Roman said, "is to have fun."

Patton bit his lip and stayed silent. Virgil pulled his hood even farther over his head.

"Fun," Logan said with marked air quotes, "is not the point! Productivity is the point!"

"Maybe it is for you, Draco Malfoy, but creativity is more important than--than--"

"--than time?" Logan blinked. "Or were you going to say money?"

"I was going to say," Roman growled, "you. I am more important than you."

There was a second of terrible silence.

"Falsehood!" Logan yelled. "You are always getting in Thomas' way! You are attempting to initiate a plan which would rob him of sleep and peace of mind, heightening his anxiety and decreasing his level of function. I know I am necessary, but you are relying on me to solve every problem you cause! I cannot babysit all of you until you come to your senses! You need to take responsibility and stop posing stupid ideas and ignoring the fact that they're stupid! You know they're stupid! Yet when I point this out, I'm the bad guy? Falsehood."

Roman opened his mouth, then shut it again. Logan looked around at the stunned Sides and slowly sunk out, carefully smoothing his face to appear as if he didn't care what had happened. Patton looked about to cry. Virgil squeezed his eyes shut and started counting under his breath.

"I--" Roman looked around. "I'm going to go."

"You can't go!" Thomas pleaded. "We need to talk this out--"

Roman was gone before Thomas could finish his sentence.

Patton looked across at Virgil. "You okay, kiddo?"

"Yeah," Virgil mumbled. His voice still echoed. "I don't like arguments."

Patton fidgeted with his sleeves. "Thomas, kiddo, I should probably go find Roman and Logan. Better late than never to help things. Good luck." He sank, morosely waving goodbye.

"Virgil?" Thomas asked. "What about you?"

"Not much I can do here," Virgil said. "Unless you want video ideas from me."

"You'll--you'll all be okay, right?"

"We've fought before."

"Like that?"

Virgil picked at his sleeve. "Not like that."

Thomas stared at him. "You'll be okay?"

"I'm fine."

The Side sank out of sight, and Thomas was standing alone in his living room, with no ideas and a sense that things had just gotten very, very bad.

-[]-[]-

Logan sat in his room and tried to think through the last few minutes. How had things gone wrong so quickly? How had they slipped so far out of control? Yes, those words he had spoken were true, but they were said in a deliberately unhelpful way. Thomas must have been so confused. They still had no video ideas, and surely Roman would not be eager to cooperate after that outburst.

Someone knocked on Logan's door. "Logan?" Patton called. "Can I come in?"

Logan grabbed a book drifting nearby and flipped it open to a random page. "Yes."

Patton tapped it open and sat next to Logan on the bed. "How are you?"

"I am adequate, you?"

"That was...a lot, today."

"It may have come off more forcefully than I intended."

"Is there anything you want to talk about?"

Logan glanced up and looked at Patton--sweet, kind, lovable Patton, with a concerned smile on his face and that cat hoodie around his shoulders. Patton, who lived and breathed emotions. Patton, who would never understand what a mistake it had been for Logan to break.

"No, thank you for asking," he said. "I am fine."

Patton let out a small sigh, patting Logan on the shoulder before leaving. Logan tossed the book aside, where it flew into its spot on his floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Instead, he snapped his fingers and a notebook appeared in his palm. He snatched a pen from midair and began writing.

Facts:

-I have intentionally provoked and argued with Creativity over a project.

-I have ignored reasonable outs from the conversation and drawn others into this feud.

-I have said inexcusable things in a harsh and detrimental tone.

-I have avoided consequences and not paid or tried to repair my actions.

-I have lied to Patton.

Conclusion:

I cannot ever do this again.

"To quote Roman, easier said than done."

Logan snapped the notebook back out of existence and jumped to his feet. Deceit leaned against his bookshelves, paging through a volume on pattern recognition. "You wouldn't even know where to start."

"Deceit." Logan balled his fists. "Why are you here? What do you want?"

"I want to assist in your noble quest to better yourself." Deceit slammed the book shut and smiled. "Wouldn't it be nice if you didn't have those petty emotional outbursts all the time?"

"I have no reason to listen to you. Leave my room immediately."

"Oh, you can't make me leave," he said. "I would think one as smart as you would hear me out."

Logan walked to the door. "I'm leaving."

"I can make them go away."

"What?"

Deceit examined his gloves. "Those emotions that you hate so much. I could help you manage them. Like I've said, I can hide anything from Thomas as long as he doesn't want to know it. It's the same for Sides. You don't want these emotions, do you? All this anger and this fear? It would be a pity if you had more incidents like today."

Logan reached for the doorknob, and despite himself, didn't touch it.

"How would that work, exactly?" he asked.

"It's simpler than you'd think."

<><>()<><>

Roman was deep in conversation with an imaginary Logan.

"You are always getting in Thomas' way," Logan said.

"Shut up!" he said. "I hate you and your shoe's untied."

Logan looked down. "You're right! It is!"

"Yeah, and you're how smart exactly?" Roman sighed and waved his hand, and imaginary Logan vanished into the mix of colors surrounding him, like a watercolor painting or a photo with blurred edges. He flopped back, and a bed appeared beneath him so he could dramatically fall upon it. This was rather pathetic, if he was honest with himself. If he couldn't think of a good comeback in the actual moment, what was the point of finding one afterward? Especially when, like today, all his creativity was gone. He couldn't even think of another insulting nickname for Logan.

"Roman?" Patton called somewhere in the far reaches of his room.

"Run along, Patton!"

"I thought I would--"

"I'm fine! I have stuff to attend to. I'll see you later."

He conjured a pillow to cover his face with.

This was a failed outing. The curtains had closed and Logan had been victorious. Because he was pushed to anger by Roman. Because Roman couldn't think of a good idea and lashed out.

No. This was Logan's fault. He wished his mind would stop working against him.

Roman stared into the colors filling his room. Usually, their gentle undulation relaxed him, but today he longed for them to take some kind of solid form. They were too wishy-washy, too dreamy, too...Roman.

Then a spot of yellow bled through the wall, painting itself into a cloaked figure with a bowler hat and a snake face.

"Deceit!" Roman summoned his sword and held it out. "Surrender, villain! You are trespassing!"

"Yes, I'm not allowed in the Mind Palace. It's not like I'm part of Thomas' mind."

"This is my room."

"I'm not interrupting anything important, am I? It looked like you were just feeling terrible over your interaction with Logan today."

Roman pointed his sword at Deceit and made himself stand taller. "That's ridiculous. It's none of your business."

"It is my business," Deceit complained. "I'm part of Thomas, which means I have to pay witness to all your insufferable sniping. So I thought I could come and help smooth the waters."

Roman kept his arms steady, but his hands started to shake.

()()()()()

Patton didn't go to his room. He sat in the center of the Mind Palace, wearing his cat onesie and eating cookies. He didn't technically need cookies to survive, but he wanted to feel a little better. First the rejection, and now this? His kiddos seemed so upset...and neither Logan nor Roman wanted to talk to him. Not like he could blame them. He should have stopped this before it got so bad. Logan was so...angry. Roman was so hateful. Virgil was so scared. And Patton had been too wrapped up in his own feelings to help.

He ate another cookie and curled on the couch, hugging his knees.

"Patton?" asked a voice. At first he thought it was Virgil, but it wasn't.

"Deceit? What are you--" Patton looked around and held out the cookie bowl. "Cookies? I made them myself."

Deceit stared at the cookie bowl. Finally, he took a cookie in one gloved hand and nibbled the edge. "This is disgusting."

Patton shrunk at the criticism before remembering Deceit's backward speak. "Glad you liked it! I would have shared it with the other kiddos but they're...not talking to me."

"I know," Deceit said, "and I want to help."

^^^^^

"Virgil," Deceit said. "That was certainly an interesting conversation, wasn't it? How do you feel?"

Virgil summoned ropes from the corners of his room, snatching Deceit's arms and legs and catapulting him out the door. Then he sat in his room for two hours, his headphones over his ears but playing no music, his knees pulled up inside of his hoodie, trying to take up as little space as possible, hoping everything would be okay--would be better--wouldn't be this terrible--wouldn't be falling apart--that someone would fix everything and Virgil wouldn't be sitting alone.