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The Shoulder

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Virgil didn’t want to knock on the door. He wanted to turn around and run away, tail tucked between his legs, and face the wrath of his friends sometime next week, when he couldn’t feasibly put off seeing them any longer. Truth be told, he wouldn’t have even come here if it had just been a few cuts and bruises.

But it wasn’t.

No, Virgil’s entire arm was kind of useless at the moment. Mostly because his shoulder got dislocated. While Virgil would love to say he could deal with that wound on his own, he knew better. He also knew that if he didn’t come for help and his friends found out, they might actually kill him. So, here he was. Trying to knock. It was harder than it looked, okay?

Finally, Virgil rapped the bruised knuckles on his functional hand against the door, trying not to wince. He only had to wait a few seconds before he heard pounding feet coming right at the door. Then it flew open to reveal Patton’s excited face.

“Hey, Virge! We weren’t sure if you were going to come tonight or-” Patton’s speech ground to halt as he finally took Virgil in. His hand reached out and gently cupped the less bruised side of his face. “Oh, Virgil.”

“Could I come in?” he grunted. Patton nodded and withdrew, leaving the entryway wide open before Virgil. He stumbled inside, and when Patton tried to wrap an arm around his waist to support him Virgil jolted. There were just too many bruises on his body for anything to not hurt.

Patton helped Virgil into the kitchen and he (carefully) collapsed in a chair. Patton rushed off before Virgil could even say thanks, and then he came back with the first aid kit and Logan in tow.

“Who did this to you?” Patton asked as he began setting up the supplies he needed. Virgil glanced away, and then made an aborted shrug-stupid fucking shoulder.

“Same old, same old.” He tried not to notice the assessing gaze that Logan directed at him, the sharp eyes that would see the reason Virgil had come here likely before Virgil felt like addressing it.

“Virgil, that’s not a name.” Patton began wiping Virgil’s face with something wet, a little harsher than he needed to. Virgil hissed and jerked back.

“Jesus, Pat. Are you trying to reopen the cuts?”

“Stop complaining,” Patton shot back and continued cleaning up the blood with barely any change to his methods. “You know, if you could just call us before doing something so-so-”

“Obtuse? Ludicrous? Half-witted? Shortsighted?” Logan suggested.

Stupid , then you wouldn’t be nearly as hurt half as often. We could help you. You know we would.” Patton hesitated, eyes softening for a second. “We take care of our own, Virge.”

Before Virgil could refute that, say that they shouldn’t have to, or explain that it actually wasn’t his fault this time, he heard two more pairs of feet stomping down the steps.

“Padre! Nerd! What’s taking so long-” Roman stopped dead as he entered the kitchen, causing Dee to walk face first into his back. Roman barely budged, eyes glued to what he could see of Virgil’s injuries. His voice was an unbearably soft, concerned whisper as he said, “What the hell, Virgil?” and then turned angry and much louder as he proceeded it with, “Another fight? Are you fucking serious?”

Once again, no one waited for Virgil’s response or defense. Logan told Roman to calm down, and Roman began yelling at them both, and Logan got in Roman’s face. Then Patton abandoned his station as caretaker to get between the two of them and prevent the second fight that Virgil could lay witness to that night.

It was only Dee, who edged around the brewing tensions, that acknowledged Virgil in the situation at all.

“Damn,” he muttered, taking in Virgil’s face and pinching his chin to move it around to see from all angles, “I’d hate to see the other guy.”


“What.” Dee’s voice lost all emotion and he brought Virgil’s face back to stare directly into his eyes. “What the fuck did you just say?”

“Guys. Plural. As in more than one,” Virgil spat. He was glaring, but they both knew it had nothing to do with Dee.

At least, Virgil thought they both knew that.

Dee dropped Virgil’s face and stalked across the kitchen like a storm, finally gathering the attention of the other three. His face was curled into a snarl, scar standing out stark white against the burning red. He stood at the sink for a moment, staring out the window. Logan reached forward.

“Dee, is everything-”

He spun, startling Logan into going quiet. “Are you telling me,” he said - at Virgil more than to him, but at least he was speaking with Virgil in mind, right? “Are you telling me that you went out and fought multiple people at the same time without getting us first ?” Dee’s voice had gone from barely controlled anger to outright yelling, and as soon as he finished the others were all piling on, adding their two cents to something they knew nothing about.

Virgil launched himself out of the chair then, and went for the back door. Gods, he wouldn’t have come at all if he had known that they would react like this, if he had realized they were just going to yell and scream and set off his anxiety after he’d already had his ass beat once tonight. This was bullshit . And really, wasn’t it what Virgil got? The one time he actually tries to get help, accept the offer that they will always be there for him, of course they would only get mad and blame Virgil for it, as though Virgil wanted to be covered in bruises and blood and injuries and-

Virgil felt the hand wrap around his dislocated arm, and Virgil tried to backpedal before his arm got yanked by his own stupid momentum, but -

But it was too late.

Virgil screamed as his arm wrenched backward and he hit the floor, curling in on himself. He could only be vaguely aware of the hand on his arm disappearing because the pain exploding from his shoulder was taking up all his senses. It pounded through him like a hammer and anvil, and all he could do was press his face into his knees and force breaths through clenched teeth in the same pattern Logan had taught him so long ago. It helped with panic, so maybe it would help with pain, too.

Minutes later, or hours or days, Virgil could hear Logan’s voice in front of him. “Just keep breathing Virgil. You’re doing very well. Keeping breathing.” He could also hear Logan’s hand making a steady beat against the linoleum of Patton’s kitchen, and he began the nerve-wracking process of matching his breathing to that pattern. Logan was a much steadier counter than Virgil was. It made for a much more effective breathing exercise.

It took at least ten more minutes for Virgil to be able to think coherent thoughts past the pain, and another two to even consider talking when every part of him hurt so badly.

“I’m-I’m good now,” he panted to Logan. He slowly uncurled himself from his knees. “Help me up?”

“Where-where will it not hurt?” Logan asked, and Virgil snorted. (Which hurt and almost threw Virgil headlong into a round of crying, but he had some self control, give him credit.)

“Everything hurts, L. Just, just take my hand, yeah?” Virgil offered Logan his more functional arm, and after a moment’s hesitation Logan used the arm to pull Virgil up. When he was standing again, Virgil pressed his head against Logan’s shoulder with his eyes closed and chanted I will not puke in his head until the vertigo passed.

“Virgil? What’s wrong?” That was definitely Patton’s voice, shaky and soft. Virgil glanced at him to see Patton was standing farther away than the other two, and he was holding his hands to his chest like he’d been burned.

Patton had been the one to grab his arm, then.

“I-it’s, um, can I-sit. I need to sit down.” Logan helped Virgil to the table, barely touching him like he thought one wrong move would kill him. Virgil wanted to laugh, but that wouldn’t be appropriate right now, and it would probably kick start another argument and Virgil would definitely have to leave if that happened.

“Is your arm broken?” Dee asked, and he tried for his regular look of nonchalance, but he was pale and holding Roman’s hand. Virgil opened his mouth to speak, but another bout of nausea almost had him redecorating Patton’s kitchen, so he clamped his hand over his mouth and tried not to let the bile come up.

“Who did this, Virge?” Patton asked. “How did this happen?”

Virgil took a deep breath in, and tried to focus on the others’ breathing. It was better than pain and more real than the chair he was sitting on.

“I was coming here, and I crossed the alley by the river,” Virgil said.

“Stupid,” Roman whispered. It was less an accusation than a plea. Virgil whole-heartedly agreed. Stupid didn’t even kind of cover it, and he wished he could stop.

“Yeah, well, I thought-I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. Point is, Remus’s friends were hanging down there, and I didn’t realize that until I was getting the shit kicked out of me.” Virgil did laugh then, small and cold and painful. It was too funny, really. He was always warning the others not to take that path, not to go where they knew those assholes hung out alone, and yet Virgil decided to do it. Alone. At night. All because he’d been running a little late and had missed more than his share of their hang-outs. It wasn’t fair, and Virgil was tired of not seeing his friends. Virgil was tired of showing up with bruises. Virgil was just very, very tired.

“I am going to kick hisss asssss,” Dee muttered, slipping into the hiss that only his closest friends got to hear. The look on Logan and Roman’s faces seemed to say that they agreed, which was odd considering Logan was the one most opposed to violence in their group.

Virgil decided not to dwell on that.

“So, what’s wrong with your arm?” Patton murmured.

“Shoulder’s dislocated, I think. I felt something pop and it hurts like a bitch.”

“God, I am so sorry, Virgil. I didn’t even-”

“It’s fine, Pat. It’s not your fault.” Virgil kept his eyes firmly on his hands in his lap. “I didn’t exactly tell you.”

“No, V, it’s-”

“Not now, Patton. We need to handle this injury before anything else.” Logan was eyeing Virgil’s shirt and jacket like a particularly difficult puzzle. “I need to see your shoulder to fix this, and to do that I will need to remove your clothes. I can infer that such an action would cause you immense pain, so I am unsure as to how we should go about this.”

“Cut it off,” Roman suggested. Virgil’s head shot up to him incredulously.

“What?” he demanded.

“Cut it off,” Roman repeated. “That jacket is shit, no offense Virgil. It’s not even lined and you’ve been wearing it so long it’s not even black anymore. It’s gray. And the shirt isn’t anything special either. It’s just a plain shirt.”

“I don’t have any clothes here, you moron. What am I supposed to wear?” Virgil said.

“Patton has clothes.”

“I am four inches taller than Patton.”

“And I’m three inches shorter. What’s your point?” Virgil looked wildly between Roman and everyone else. They all seemed to be in agreement.

“This is so stupid,” Virgil mumbled. He leaned back in the chair, one arm crossed and the other hanging uselessly at his side.

“Actually,” Logan said, staring consideringly at Virgil’s clothes, “we may not need to cut it off completely. The jacket is big enough it can probably be moved out of the way with relatively little difficulty, and the shirt would only need a cut through the fabric so that I can see your shoulder. But past that, I don’t think we would have to cut the whole garment off.”

Virgil sighed. “Fine. Do whatever.” He did his best not to whimper or flinch when Logan leaned closer, though judging by the look he got from Roman he still looked pretty damn pathetic.

“Definitely dislocated,” Logan announced. Virgil refrained from shrugging. “I can fix this. However, it will hurt. It will hurt a lot. I’ll be quick, Virgil, but I have to pop it back into place. That entails quite literally moving the ball of your arm around the socket in your shoulder until it goes back into place.” Logan’s eyes were large and worried behind his glasses.

“That’s supposed to be quick?” Virgil asked. He definitely didn’t whimper it or mumble it at his lap like a scared kid. He asked, because he was Virgil and Virgil got hurt enough that he would never embarrass himself by being scared of it.

Really. That’s...mostly true.

“It sounds a lot more complicated than it is,” Logan said. “But you are going to have to stand up. And I would feel a lot more comfortable if Roman could also come over here to steady you.” As Roman crossed the room, Logan looked over to Patton. “He’s going to need a sling. Do you think you could find one or perhaps something we can turn into one?”

“There should be one in the basement,” Patton murmured, staring with a distant horror at Virgil. But then Dee grabbed his arm and he snapped out of it. They both went downstairs.

“I’m not entirely sure I can stand back up,” Virgil said. Roman smiled, strained.

“That’s what you have me for, Dark And Gloomy. I’ve got ya. Just push with your legs.” Roman secured one hand under Virgil’s good elbow and put the other on his opposite side. On the count of three, they pulled Virgil to standing and he swallowed the vertigo down again. There could be time for puking up stomach acid later.

“Alright,” Logan said, placing one hand on Virgil collar bone and wrapping the other around his wrist. “I’m going to, well, essentially I’m just going to yank your arm and then the ball should pop back into the socket.”

“Should?” Roman asked. Virgil knew if he looked at Roman’s face and saw the incredulity there, he wouldn’t be able to do this.

“Fuck this,” Virgil said.

“It will ,” Logan rephrased, then looked at Virgil. “Are you ready? On the count of three. One, two, three.”

The next thing Virgil knew, he was blinking awake and laying in Roman’s lap on the kitchen floor. His arm hurt like hell, but a lot less of hell than it had been before. He didn’t try to move it. He’d honestly rather just sleep.

“Are you awake there, Edgar Allan Woe?” Roman asked. One of his hands was brushing through Virgil’s hair. Virgil grunted and shook his head. Roman laughed. “Good for you. You really, uh, scared me there, Virge. I thought Logan had killed you.”

“‘m harder to kill than that, Princey,” Virgil mumbled.

“Obviously,” Roman agreed. “So, Logan got you a glass of water then went to see what’s taking Patton so long. I could give you the water, or I could move you to the couch in the living so that you’re resting somewhere comfortable. Your choice.”

“I doubt you could move me. I have seven inches on you.”

“And zero pounds,” Roman retorted. “To the couch we go.” Virgil hissed as Roman stood up with him and carried him to the other room. Roman set him down more gently than Virgil felt he’d ever been treated before, and then Roman was grabbing the glass of water from the kitchen and making Virgil drink.

“You have any other major injuries we should know about?” Roman asked. Virgil shrugged, winced, and then shook his head.

“Just bruises and stuff.” Virgil shut his eyes. “I’m going to sleep. Wake me if something cool happens.”

“You got it, Count Woelaf. See you in the morning.” Roman wedged himself under Virgil’s head and began running his hands through Virgil’s hair again. “That’s totally unfair. Somehow, even when you’re covered in dirt and blood, your hair is still softer than mine.” Virgil snorted, and let himself drift off. It was probably the most comfortable and safe he’d felt in weeks, and he was fucking exhausted. Putting on a sling could come later. For now, Virgil would sleep. And in the morning, he would eat. Simple as that.