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A Vessel

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“Thanks, you guys. This makes me feel a lot better.”
Thomas exhales, his sides sinking back down into their spots inside his mind.
A stray thought drifted into his mind, wondering why they were the way they were.
Why did he choose to share these moments with the world?
This was himself, broken down to his essentials.
And he was comfortable showing them?
He was still uneasy about the warning he had to place before… the Duke’s episode. This wasn’t his standard content but he did have a lesson to teach.
Never to be done again, though. He wouldn’t alienate his audience like that.
If it was a side of him, it would be shown as little as possible.
Something twists in Thomas’s stomach. Wasn’t that… dishonest?

No, he decides. It wasn’t dishonest. He was protecting them from Remus and his potentially triggering content.
He puts the recording equipment away, trying to calm himself.
He felt… alone.
So he called one of his friends.
Ten minutes later, Joan was crunching Cheetos on Thomas’s couch.

“I just feel like I shouldn’t be doing this sometimes. Like my issues are weird and wrong and I need to keep it from my viewers.”
He’s laying on the couch looking at the ceiling, pondering.
“Thomas, the work you do with the sides helps people every day. You opening up and sharing those issues helps make other people feel seen.”

“Not recently. They haven’t even been helpful.”

“What do you mean? DWIT helped a lot of people and you know that.”

“I’m-“ not talking about the episodes. He thought, keeping his mouth shut.

“Thomas, buddy, you’ve been super strange lately, please tell me what’s going on.” Joan asks in a serious tone, their brown eyes pleading.

“I told you. They’re not being helpful. I can’t listen to them all the time.”

“What- you can’t listen to them all the time? Thomas, you’re not supposed to use these episodes as a moral rule book.”

“I’m not talking about the episodes, Joan.” Thomas’ voice is low, still, and on the verge of trembling.

“Where do the sides exist outside of the episodes?” Joan looks confused.

“Here. With me. All the time.”

“Oh my god can you see them?” Something in Joan’s tone changed.
“Why didn’t you tell us you could see them-“
They whipped out their phone.
“Talyn and Cam are coming over, this qualifies as an emergency.”

“Joan, please, please don’t call me crazy.”

“I know you’re not crazy, what I don’t know is how they interact with you. I want to find out exactly what’s going on and for that I need witnesses.”

“Witnesses?”
We can’t let them do that, Thomas. You shouldn’t have opened your mouth.

Joan is my friend, he thought.

Do you think they want to know all your dark, twisted secrets-

“Joan. I love you and I know you want the best for me. But some parts of myself I can’t show on camera. It’s too dangerous.”

“Thomas, what the fuck are you on about? Nothing in your mind is dangerous, you just have Disney villains calling some shots. And it sounds like they should shut the fuck up.” Joan reasons, putting a hand on Thomas’s shoulder.

“Nothing about you is evil or bad.”

“You don’t know that-“ Thomas breaks away, squeezing his head between his hands.

“I’ve been friends with you for years-“

“And you think you know everything about us?”

Thomas turns around, voice distorted, eyes glowing yellow.

Joan, you’re lucky we’ve hidden these parts from him for this long, or your precious friend would be long gone.

“Who…” Joan exhales shakily, trying to wrap their mind around the scene unfolding in front of them.

“Who am I talking to, right now. Deceit?”

A curled lip smirk graces what used to be their friends’ face.

The one of many.”

“Okay, uh, can I talk to Thomas?”

You are.

“Bullshit.”

You just don’t want to admit the truth.

“I know you’ve been nothing but a pain in the ass since 'Can Lying Be Good?' Give him his sanity back.”

In order to get the goods of the piñata of life, he must take off the blindfold. The second he understands that, I’ll let up.

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean-“

Ding.

“Shit that’s Talyn and Cam-“

The door opens, smiling faces breaking the tension as the yellow fades.

“Hey Talyn! Hey Cam! Joan was just talking about you guys.” Thomas’s tone sounds compressed.

“Yeah, they said it was an emergency… but you look okay.”

“I’m fine now, just had to get some things off my chest.”

“Bullshit. He’s being possessed. By his sides. Which are spiritually real.”

Silence falls at Joan’s accusation.

“Right now, it’s not him at the helm of his mind.”

Cam looks at who he thought was Thomas.
“Okay… so who is?”

“Nobody! It’s me, I swear, pinkie promise!”
Thomas looks desperate at Joan’s glare.

“Deceit. You can prove it by this.”

Joan turns back to their friend.
“What color are you?”

“Blue.”

“Thomas doesn’t have a color.”

SHIT-

Talyn and Cam reel at the distorted voice.

Fine. It’s me, nobody’s favorite reptile. Now what?

“Now we call the ER-“

“Talyn, no. This is something that needs to stay here.”

You can’t get rid of me. They’ve tried. Do you know how destructive it is to have murder attempted on you? Thankfully he came to his senses.

“I… what the fuck is going on?” Cam looks confused.

There are parts of Thomas that I hide. Not you, nor the audience he holds so dearly, are permitted to see these parts. It would eat him up inside if you all, his closest friends, knew the twisted things he thought and did.

“He’s not killing people, right?” Talyn asks, combing through their brightly colored hair nervously.

Of course not. Even I have standards. Murder isn’t something he can pull off anyway.

“That’s… somewhat calming. I think. If it’s not murder… what is it?” Joan asks, curious.

That’s not my secret to tell. In fact, I was the one in charge of hiding it.

“So, even if we can’t know… can we at least know if it makes him feel better? Are you looking after his well being?” Talyn says.

No unintentional harm will come to Thomas. You have my word.

“Don’t you mean intentional harm? Like you won’t hurt him on purpose?”

My words are a tricky thing. But I can swear Thomas will be better because of it.

“Tell us you won’t hurt him.” Joan demands.

I promise I’ll hurt him.

Deceit knows he’d have to pull some verbal trickery to keep the secret and the promise. By fooling Joan into thinking he was promising not to hurt Thomas, no promises were actually broken and no secrets were exposed.

“Tell us you won’t hurt him, why is that so hard?”
Talyn implores, a frown on their face.

It’s more complicated than you think it is. I have it handled. Let me take care of him. He’s in my care.

“Are we seriously gonna trust this guy?” Cam asks, turning to Joan and Talyn.

I am Thomas! He isn’t taking part in anything he doesn’t, on some level, agree to!

Joan gets more confused.
“You know what, this sounds like a really personal problem. Call us back when you’re done arguing with yourself. Please, Thomas. I know you’re in there. Don’t let him win.”

The door closes and Deceit materializes, grabbing Thomas by the chin.

“You almost blew it. Leave the talking to me.”

“I’m sorry-“

“Shut up. God, shut up.”

Deceit shoved him backwards and starts pacing.

“I’m the only reason your friends haven’t clutched their pearls and called you a freak. Appreciate my services for what they’re worth.”

“Dee, I’m sorry I didn’t mean to ruin what you planned I just hate lying to them-“

“Would you rather tell them the truth? Tell them what goes on that twisted mind of yours? Tell them you feel you’re nothing but a host to a bunch of parasites and you want them to eat you alive?”

“Pick up the phone then, Thomas. Tell them you spend your nights crying as your pride wounds you. And you wanted more.”

Thomas is rendered speechless, the wind knocked out of him.

“I- I… What should I do, Dee? What do you want me to do?” He blinks, mind falling into a space it was newly familiar with.

“Never do that again. Understand? If I say we keep our mouths shut, don’t disobey me.”

“Yes, Dee.” He gulps. “I… I will keep my mouth shut.”

“It’s so frustrating when you think you have the moral high ground. Really, it throws a wrench in my plans. Especially when your morals disagree.”

“Hey, Thomas. Heard you wanted to babble to your friends?”

“Patton-“ Thomas sighs in relief. “You’re here, thank goodness.

“I’m shocked, Thomas. I thought we agreed as a family this wasn’t something to be shared. Are we not enough for you?”

Something twists in Thomas’s stomach.

“I don’t think he thinks so.”
“How sad. It’s like he doesn’t know how much we love him.”
“Roman, Logan, Virgil, Remus? Mind showing yourselves?” Patton asks.

The missing sides pop up, all with a disappointed look on their face.

“Thomas, what the fuck was that?” Virgil scolds, shadows swirling around him.

“Do you want to lose us? The one thing that makes you special?” Roman says, walking behind Thomas.

“You can’t function without us. You need us. In a way they would never understand.” Logan says.

“Look at him, he’s trembling!” Remus squeals. “Feeling the consequences of your actions now, little bitch?”

Thomas squeezes his eyes shut.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry I love you guys more than the world, I don’t want to lose you, I need you-“ He breaks into a sob as the six sides surround him, hugging him and then pulling away.

“That behavior isn’t acceptable and you know it, Thomas.” Patton says, placing a hand on his shoulder.

“Without us…” Roman begins.

“I’m nothing but an empty shell.” Thomas finishes.

“There’s a good boy.” Patton smiles, looking towards the other sides.
“I think we’ve berated him enough. He’s learned his lesson.”
Some skeptical looks from the other sides are shared.
“And if he hasn’t, we’ll do what is necessary.” Deceit says.

“Thomas, don’t you have a deadline for that sponsorship email to take care of?” Logan asks.

“I do. I’ll go take care of it.”

It’s a few hours when Thomas is scrolling through Instagram that Roman comes over, sitting down next to him.
“Who’s that dude?” Roman asks, curious.
“His name is Michael. He followed me a week ago.”
“That’s his insta you’re scrolling through.” Roman pauses. “If you accidentally like his picture, he’s going to know you were stalking him.”

“I’m not-“

“Yes you are, you’ve sat here doing this for thirty minutes.”

“Okay, so what? It’s not like I’m brave enough to act on any of it.”

“Thomas, what an attitude! Is that any way to speak to your prince?”

“Maybe if you let me breathe every so often-“
Thomas’s phone is yanked out of his hands and thrown aside.
Roman’s hands are pinning his shoulders into the back of the couch as the red side looms over him, face set in determination.

“I said, is that any way to speak to your prince?” Roman’s voice was lower.

“N-no. Your Highness.”

Roman shifts at the nickname, knowing what it meant.
“I’m taking Thomas to my room.” he announces, grabbing his hand.

The door to Roman’s kingdom closes, sealing Thomas’ fate.

“What is this, the second time this week? Roman keeps jumping on him before any of us can and it’s just not fair.” Virgil complains.

“It’s easier for Roman to sense when that’s going to happen. That’s more his area.” Logan says.

“Remus, let us know when he plans on acting up again so we can get a turn.” Virgil says, playing with his hoodie strings.

“Will do, Jackoff Skellington.”

Groans were heard all around.

Logan notices Thomas’s phone going off with a text notification.

‘done dealing with that snake bastard yet?’

“Give me the phone.” Deceit demands, snatching it from Logan.

‘yeah he left as soon as patton told him he’d take care of the situation’

‘and what situation is this exactly’

‘a personal one i can’t talk about’

‘wdym can’t’

‘i mean it’s not a good idea to’

‘when have you ever shied away from venting to us’

‘this is different’

‘i’m coming back over’
‘you need to get out of your own head’

“Shit.” Deceit says. “I’ll impersonate him, it’ll be fine. Don’t take him from Roman’s room.”

“I’ll clean this place up a little.” Logan offers.

It’s a few moments later when Joan busts through the door, seeing the sides in all their individuality.

“Oops.” Patton says as Joan’s jaw almost hits the floor.

“Holy shit.” they say, shocked. “You’re real.”

“I would hope we aren’t, for your sake.” Logan says.

“This is the coolest thing ever oh my god-“ Joan looks around, doing a head count.
“Where’s Roman? For that matter, where’s Thomas? And I don’t want to know where bowler hat man is, spare me the details.”

“Roman is fighting an evil beast, or so he told me.” Virgil says, deadpan.

“Thomaaaas! Joan came back!” Patton exclaims.

Deceit comes out, having raided Thomas’s closet for what he thought was an appropriate outfit.

“Hello, Joan.” he says, smiling, teeth not showing.

“You’re not freaking out over me seeing the sides?” Joan asks, confused.

“I mean, I told you. What more reason would I have to be freaked out? Just wait until you see their rooms.”

“How real is this?” Joan asks.

“As real as you want it to be.”

“Thomas you seem really weird, are you sure…. you’re you?” Joan turns to Thomas, not sure if they saw their friend or someone else more sinister.

“I promise I’m the same person that beat your ass in MarioKart on Wednesday.” Thomceit rolls his eyes.

“Hey now that’s because we did 200cc races-“

Crisis averted.

“Wow. I can’t believe you guys are real.” Joan rubs the side of their face.

“How do you live like this every day?” they ask Thomas.

“Lots of banter and lots of chaos.”

It’s then Virgil’s head pops up.

“I have to go help Roman, be right back.”

A few moments later, Virgil has disappeared while a mildly flushed Roman has reappeared.

“Hello, dear Joan! What a wonderful surprise.” He says, holding his arms out for a hug.

Joan pats the side of Roman’s arms in disbelief.

“So you can take physical forms-“

“All kinds!” Remus throws his arms up. “One time, i was a Kraken from Pirates of the Carribean-“

“Remus! Shut up!” Thomas hisses. “Nobody wants to know where that story leads. Or ends.”

“Ooookay, not quite what I expected but he is your intrusive thoughts so I get it.” Joan says, laughing.

“He’s a bit more than that-“ Thomceit chuckles.

“Then what is he, Thomas? Because you seem awfully comfortable around him now compared to the last interaction you told me about.”

Deceit shifts under Joan’s tone.

“He’s a part of me. Unfortunately. I have to deal with his bullshit just like how I have to deal with everyone else’s.”

“Yep, okay that’s enough out of you, snake man. I was trying to figure out which one of you was who. I know Thomas isn’t here. Or he would have been happier. Relieved. Smiling with the sun beaming out of his face.” Joan's face hardened into a glare.

“You can never smile like he can.”

Deceit’s face snarls, scales shining through.
“Where he’s located is none of your business.”

“Logan. Buddy. Please. Tell a pal where to find Thomas?”

“Sorry Joan, I’m afraid I can’t do that. Even if I wanted to.”

“Even if you- asshole!” Joan looks on, shocked.

“Which one of you is hiding him? Why?”

Virgil comes thundering down the staircase.

“We have him. He’s fine.”

“He’s not yours. He has friends outside of his head.”

“We will decide what he does.” Virgil is more insistent now, smoky purple tendrils lurking.

“We are him. Do you not trust him?” Logan asks.

“I don’t trust him.” Joan points to Deceit. “And right now, for some fucking reason, he’s the ringleader.”

“You don’t want to see Thomas right now. He’s compromised.” Roman says, a last attempt at trying to shake Joan off.

“I don’t care. Where the fuck are you keeping my best friend?”

A silent decision is reached.

“Remus. Go get him.” Deceit orders.

The green side comes back with Thomas slumped next to his shoulders, barely conscious.

He was not looking okay.
He had red marks and burns almost everywhere. His eyes were wet from crying. His lips were red and puffy.
His legs were weak and his throat was hoarse, every muscle in his body begging for him to lie down.
His breath was shaky, the effects of Virgil's room leaving a dark residue under his eyes.

“Joan… what are you doing here…” he croaks.

Joan was stone, rooted to the spot, unable to process what was happening.

“What happened?” they ask, heart pounding.

A weak smile forms on Thomas’s face.

“Just doing some self exploration. You know how it is.”

“Thomas Foley Sanders, what the actual fuck is going on?”

“I’m fine-“

“No, you’re really fucking not! I can see you really, really injured!”
They turn.

“And none of you are doing anything about it- Remus what the hell- ARE YOU TAKING A FUCKING PICTURE-“

Joan turns to their friend, waiting for Thomas to explain himself.

But he never does.