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Growing Roots

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Roman was trying to not be unreasonably excited, and failing miserably. Look, college… college maybe hadn’t been the best so far, okay?

He had thought moving to Florida and getting away from the absolute hellhole that was Utah would be a relief. And in many ways, it had been.

For example, he could actually attend congregation for Jumu’ah. With the Friday prayer being just after noon, Roman had never had the chance to attend regularly before. He had fought enough battles when he first moved to Utah to be able to pray at school at all. Trying to figure out a way that he could go to mosque around school hadn’t even been a battle he had tried to fight.

When he hadn’t been an adult, Jumu’ah hadn’t mattered as much to Roman. Children, while welcome, were excused from the Friday prayer. But the minute that Roman had turned 18, the minute it had become an expectation, it became important to him. Islam was his center, and Jumu’ah meant something to him. Not being able to attend had been hard.

Attending college- which proved him with a much more flexible schedule- in Florida- which was a lot better about the idea of ‘religious freedom’ than Utah had been- had been a relief. But it was a relief Roman was expecting. What he hadn’t been expecting was the loneliness.

Roman was lonely.

He thought it was perhaps childish. He was an adult. He didn’t need people. Sure, he wanted them around, but again he was an adult. If he really wanted friends that bad, he could fucking make some. (He hadn’t).

Well until Virgil (and Roman still couldn’t believe that was actually the Incredible Sulk's name) had been annoying again in class and Roman had fallen off his desk and then had to go to the Health Center. On his way, he ran into Patton and well, the rest was history.

Roman maybe had friends now. Hard maybe. He knew Patton was his friend- the guy wouldn’t let him forget it- and he thought Logan and him were on good terms.

Virgil- Virgil was another story. He was rude and annoying and always seemed to be in control. Patton seemed to never disagree with him. Ever. Roman thought that was a little more than unfair. He didn’t get why Virgil’s wants were put before everyone else’s.

But that wasn’t the point. The point was that Roman had at least one friend now. And, for the third week in a row, he had been invited to movie night. Something he was absolutely, utterly thrilled about. Which was maybe just a little bit too extra of a response because it was literally just a normal evening with friends. Totally, completely, utterly normal movie night.

That was- until Virgil ruined it.

They had decided to stick to animated films tonight, after what was last week's disastrous attempt at Star Wars. It did nothing to help Roman’s excitement. “Animation” was a broad term, but they tended to default to Disney for the most part. Patton had unsurprisingly been a fan and Logan didn’t seem to mind Disney over any other animation. Virgil had been the surprising one. Roman had been expecting him to protest, but was shocked to find Virgil agreeing easily. But he’d take it.

The thing Roman had expected to be a problem hadn’t been one at all. No, it had been a much more minor issue that Virgil had blown up at.

“No,” Virgil said immediately.

“Okay,” Patton agreed easily. He slid the movie to the side into “outvoted” pile.

“What,” Roman protested “C’mon, Cinderella’s a classic.”

“We’re not watching it,” Virgil insisted, tone offering no room for any sort of debate.

See! This was Roman meant. Virgil would decide something for the group completely himself with no input from others.

“Uh, I’m pretty sure we agreed to vote,” Roman argued, sliding his hand back over to put the disc firmly in the shrinking “undecided” pile.

“Okay, then I’m no,” Virgil replied.

Then, he moved his hand, sliding the disc back to the “outvoted” pile without even waiting for anyone else’s answer.

“We all vote,” Roman insisted.

Virgil shrugged, leaned back, and waited. This was what Roman meant! The absolute arrogance Virgil had, as if the rest of the groups opinions didn’t matter at all.

“I’m- I’m gonna agree with Virge,” Patton said. He proceeded to avoid Roman’s gaze. Which was a bit redundant considering Patton wasn’t pulling anything different. He always sided with Virgil. Always. Roman got that he was the new person in the group, but Patton would even side with Virgil over Logan or even his very own opinions. It was honestly ridiculous.

“I’ll support that as well,” Logan agreed, barely looking up from his book.

Logan’s quick agreement was less expected but still quite common. Roman didn’t understand it. Logan could either cave quickly and easily without a fight, or completely go against Virgil. It was often the first, but the second still happened, and Roman didn’t get why. Roman couldn’t figure out Logan’s pattern of caving to Virgil. Sometimes, like this, it would be a simple movie. But other times things were more serious or important but Logan would cave just as quickly. And sometimes he’d disagree with Virgil on the simplest things. It didn’t make sense.

“Okay,” Virgil said, “We voted. We’re not watching it.”

For some reason that was Roman’s tipping point.

“Sure we did, totally voted,” Roman said, making sure to lay the sarcasm on thick.

Patton frowned and turned to him.

“What do you mean? We voted. Wasn’t that what you wanted?” he asked.

“Yes, yes exactly Patton!” Roman agreed, throwing his arms up, “I want a vote. An actual vote. Not Virgil deciding something and everyone just doing what he says. You and Logan don’t have to do what he says y’know.”

“We don’t,” Logan and Patton said at the same time. Virgil stayed suspiciously quiet.

“Uh yeah, you do,” Roman argued. He may have only known the three of them for just over a month, but the examples were numerous, “Virgil didn’t want to go to lunch the other week, so we didn’t. A few days before that and we were all going to go stargazing and Virgil refused. Another time we canceled plans to study. Before that, another movie was vetoed.” Roman turned to Virgil. “It’s everything. Again and again and again. You decided you just don’t want to do something and then you expect everyone else to agree with you. You don’t get to decide everything Virgil. That’s just not fair.”

“Virgil was uncomfortable doing those things,” Logan commented as he closed his book, “I don’t see what the problem is.”

“Uncomfortable?” Roman asked, “Uncomfortable? Seriously that’s the best you could go with? Virgil just doesn’t want to be a team player and do things that aren’t necessary his first choice like watching a stupid fucking movie. There’s nothing ‘uncomfortable’ about it!”

Why couldn’t any of them see it? It was so obvious to Roman.

It wasn’t fair that Virgil got to make every choice and every decision in the group. That wasn’t being a good friend. It was unhealthy. Roman liked Patton and Logan and they seemed like smart people so he wasn’t quite sure why the didn’t see how unhealthy that was. How unhealthy it was for one sole person to be dictating every interaction the had. How unhealthy it was for one person to set rules in the group that everyone else wasn’t allowed to question. Virgil was literally restricting fucking movie choices. That wasn’t healthy.

Roman was jolted back to the present as Virgil stood quickly. His dog pawed at his leg.

“I’m not dealing with this,” he claimed, “I’m out.”

“Seriously?” Roman demanded, standing as well, “Are you fucking kidding me? You can’t handle being called out for one fucking second-”

Virgil ignored him and attempted to slip past him on his way to the door.

Which Roman was not having. Virgil could face his actions for once.

(Because this was another pattern, Virgil dipping out immediately once things began to get even a little heated).

So Roman grabbed his shoulder.

Virgil jerked back as if he had been burned, breathing heavily. His dog jerked her head up and moved from Virgil’s side in front of him.

“Don’t touch me,” Virgil warned, a growl sitting in his throat. Roman didn’t have time to act before Virgil was moving again. The door slammed shut behind him.

Roman scoffed at the childish action and turned back to the room.

He didn’t like what he found. Logan was still sitting but Patton was standing now. Logan’s body was tight and tense, hands firm on his book. Roman remembered that he didn’t like loud noises. He’d work on that.

Patton was a different story. Patton looked furious, a fire burning in his eyes.

“What was that!” he demanded. Roman didn’t think he’d ever seen Patton this angry before. His brow wrinkled.

“Uh, me telling Virgil that he needs to stop being to controlling?”

“He’s- he’s not being controlling Roman!” Patton protested.

“Did we not just have this talk?” Roman scoffed. How could they not see how obviously manipulative Virgil was being?

“Yes, yes we did,” Patton hissed. His voice was quiet but powerful, compelling Roman to listen. “We did just have this talk and Logan told you that he was not controlling, but uncomfortable. I thought you would respect that. Guess I had higher expectations for you.”

Roman took a step back as his heart clenched. That comment had stung more than he was willing to admit.

“But he’s not uncomfortable,” Roman protested, “He’s just complaining about nothing. He refused to watch a fucking Disney movie because he didn’t want to and then manipulated all of you to agree with him. How is that okay?”

“He’s not doing any of that,” Patton insisted, “He was uncomfortable and didn’t want to watch it. We can respect that. He’s not manipulating us at all, we’re just giving him basic respect.”

“Respect about what? You keep saying he’s uncomfortable, but he’s not. And then he just storms out without even having a conversation. Like I said, he’s manipulating you and you need to realize that because it’s not healthy Patton-”

Logan shifted, and spoke up, cutting off Roman, “How do you know Virgil’s not uncomfortable?”

The new voice as well as the change in argument caught Roman’s attention.

“What?” he asked, caught off guard.

“How do you know Virgil’s not uncomfortable,” Logan repeated.

“I-” Roman defended, “Well it doesn’t make sense for him to be.”

“Patton is scared of spiders even though they help control pest levels, ultimately being useful to humanity. That doesn’t make sense,” Logan said.

“Well that does make sense,” Roman argued, “lots of people are scared of spiders.”

“So what you’re saying- and please Roman, correct me if I’m wrong- is that while there is no logical reason to fear spiders, many people still fear them. And you consider spiders an acceptable thing to be uncomfortable of, not because of logic, but because they are a common thing to fear.”

“...Yes.”

“And therefore the things that make Virgil uncomfortable aren’t valid because they happen to be uncommon fears?”

“That’s, not. I didn’t say that,” Roman protested.

“You didn’t directly," Logan agreed, “I could be over-analyzing this conversation. I’m sorry if that’s the case. But from what I have seen, that seems to be exactly what you’re saying.”

Which wasn’t fair. Roman wasn’t saying Virgil’s level of comfort valid. He was just saying that Virgil wasn’t actually uncomfortable and just being a dick.

But to Logan’s point- maybe the things that made Virgil uncomfortable were just less common the most. Maybe Virgil wasn’t demanding they agree with him. Maybe Logan and Patton weren’t caving easily like he thought.

Maybe everyone was just respecting Virgil’s boundaries.

And Roman hadn’t.

Shit.

“I should- I should probably apologize, shouldn’t I?”

“Yes,” Patton said. Logan nodded in agreement.

Well that was that then.

“Let’s, let’s finish movie night?” Patton suggested, “I doubt Virgil’s coming back and he’ll probably want space until at least tomorrow.”

Roman could feel the guilt creeping in. Which was fair. He should feel guilty.

The problem was, the shame followed right behind it, and the shame wasn’t good.

Guilt was taking responsibility for his actions that caused problems or distressed. Guilt was often natural and urged change when you made mistakes.

Shame was painful distress and self-consciousness. Instead of filtering into outward change like guilt, shame focused on inward spiraling and failure of self.

They were hard feelings to separate, and for Roman the process had always seemed harder than for most.

He had probably ruined everything now. Patton, Logan, and Virgil had known each other longer than he had. Sure, Virgil might have known them much longer, but he still had seniority by a long shot. Plus, even if Roman had known them for longer, he was the one in the wrong here.

“I can- I can go,” Roman offered.

“But then it’s not really movie night anymore,” Patton commented.

“Yeah. But I-”

“Roman,” Logan interjected, “You made a mistake. You have now made a commitment to work it out. You are our friend, and it is movie night. You are welcome to stay.”

Yeah, Roman got that. He just didn’t get why the were allowing him to stay, why they were still friends after he had messed everything up.

“Okay. Okay sure.”

He sat down and they carried on with the evening. But while the evening might have continued, Roman lost his excitement as his mind stayed stuck in the past.

Later, he’d apologize to Virgil, who would accept with a cautious smile. Roman would become more aware of his actions and Virgil’s boundaries and work to shift and respect those.

Things would get better.

Roman wouldn’t notice how it got better. He wouldn’t notice how he respected Virgil more. He wouldn’t notice him reevaluating his assumptions and stepping back. He wouldn’t notice how he became more considerate.

No, all he’d notice would be all the mistakes. The time when he’d said the wrong words, or did the wrong thing, and somehow fucked everything up.

He’d just notice how he never seemed to get things right with Virgil.

How he could never get things right at all.