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The Worst Thing in the World

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Virgil paused outside the closed door, holding his breath and listening, ensuring everything was silent for what had to be the hundredth time. 

It had taken him an embarrassingly long time to work up the courage to even make it down the hall. 

But everything was quiet. Logan was with Thomas working on the schedule for the week and should be occupied for a while. It was fine . Virgil could slip in and out and no one would ever know. 

He really shouldn’t be pushing his luck like this. They’d been so...so ridiculously nice to him since he’d tried to duck out, and it had been everything he’d wanted for longer than he knew how to say. 

They were welcoming, understanding, and patient. And most of the time, he was able to convince himself it was genuine. That they were all trying. 

And yeah, he knew it wouldn’t always be this good. He was still getting used to all of this, to being a part of things, so they were cutting him some slack. Letting him adjust. Giving him time to get comfortable. 

Honestly, at times it was a bit painfully obvious how hard they were trying, especially considering how far from perfect he’d been despite his best efforts. 

They’d let far too many things go in favor of getting Virgil to relax. Things that never would slide if he’d been around longer. 

 He’d put a clean glass in the wrong cabinet after his first dinner with the light sides, and Patton had only smiled, quickly corrected him, and moved on. 

He’d accidentally spilled his drink on the table, and Roman had just shut down his string of prepared apologies with an almost odd smile before actually offering to clean it up himself. 

(Virgil had, of course, shut the offer down. He knew what they were doing, pretending his mistakes could be overlooked, but it didn’t mean he was useless. He was still trying to be good)

Virgil had even bumped right into Logan the other day, moving too fast through the darkened hallway in his haste to get to his room, causing the logical side to stumble and drop some papers he’d been holding. Virgil hadn’t even gotten a chance to open his mouth before Logan had gracefully picked up the papers, gently told Virgil to slow down, and continued on his way. 

It was...really kind of sweet, once he realized what they were doing. They knew he was wary, knew he wanted this so badly. So they were giving him extra chances, careful to be gentle as he settled in, not wanting him to duck out again. 

But now, weeks later, things had been changing. Not in a bad way, of course. Far from it. Things were just...more comfortable. More familiar. He was actually starting to feel like a part of their family, like maybe he could actually belong, and the others seemed to actually agree, gradually relaxing in his presence. 

Of course, it also meant all those extra chances wouldn’t be handed out freely anymore. He couldn’t expect to get away with things so easily now that he was settled in. 

Which was why he really shouldn’t be sneaking into Logan’s room. 

He was just...he needed something to do. His anxiety had been through the roof since he’d woken up, making him antsy and restless, and with the others busy all day he hadn’t had an outlet since breakfast. 

He’d noticed Logan had been lost in a book for the past few days, rambling on about it a bit once he was finished that morning, and while Virgil couldn’t exactly remember any details, something about the title and general idea had piqued his interest. Or maybe he was just desperate at this point. 

It had been a while since he’d been able to get into a good book, but it usually did help him calm down. 

And of course, he could just ask Logan but...he could all too easily picture the logical side mocking the request or turning him down without question, and while Virgil knew it was unrealistic, he couldn’t muster up the courage. 

But it was fine. He knew what the cover looked like, he’d find the book, read it alone in his room, and return it when he got the chance. 

Easy. 

Except...well, that thought went right out the window as soon as he actually stepped inside. In hindsight, he should have seen it coming with how much Logan valued literature. 

He just hadn’t expected Logan’s bookshelf to be so big. 

Jesus, how many books could a guy even read? Logan barely even had any free time as it was. His library took up an entire wall, floor to ceiling, and Virgil didn’t think he’d ever seen so many books in his entire life. It was like something out of the fantasy stories Logan liked to deny enjoying. 

Virgil knew he should turn back. He was still trespassing, and there was no way he’d find the specific book he was looking for in the limited time he had. 

But...maybe the specific book didn’t even matter. He could find something to read, maybe even a few, just to keep him occupied until Logan was distracted in a few days and he could return them. 

He carefully shut the door behind him, waiting a moment like Logan would pop up at any moment, and carefully approached the shelf.

They were all clearly meticulously organized, first by genre, then author in alphabetical order, and Virgil wondered how long it had taken Logan to do. 

He scanned the genres: fiction, nonfiction, historical fiction, sci-fi, textbooks, articles…

There was a brief moment of panic as he ran his finger along some of the book’s spines, frantically wondering if he would even be able to put it back in the right place, and what Logan would do if he found out Virgil had stolen-- 

“Greetings, Virgil.” 

Virgil jumped so hard his shoulder slammed into the edge of the shelf, fear and realization hitting full force as two books toppled over and fell to the ground, leaving behind silence louder than a gunshot. 

Virgil was frozen like a deer in headlights, gaze locked on Logan who was giving the fallen books a quizzical look. 

“Apologies for startling you,” he said, which was not how Virgil was expecting this to start, but it was almost worse than the anger he knew was coming. “I hadn’t expected you to be in here.” 

Virgil tried not to flinch, legs feeling like jello, panicked mind running through endless possibilities of how this was going to go. He’d seen Logan angry, of course, heard him yell, seen him lose himself to frustrated rants. 

It was impossible to know for sure how Logan would handle this, though. Handle him . He would want to discover the best method for a lasting impression, right? He’d probably been waiting to experiment with different responses. 

“Virgil?”

“Sorry,” Virgil said quickly, realizing he’d gone silent. “Sorry, I wasn’t...um, I wasn’t stealing. I-I know how it looks but I promise I was gonna bring them back I was just...I-I knew you were busy so…” 

He trailed off, heart sinking when it occurred to him just how guilty he sounded. He was a thief whether he was going to return them or not, and here he was, babbling like a scared child in front of the evidence. 

He swallowed, knowing there was no way out of it. He shouldn’t be trying to make excuses. “S-sorry.” 

He couldn’t meet Logan’s eyes, but he saw the logical side take a cautious step forward. “You were...oh, the books. Virgil, if you were interested in borrowing some reading material you could have simply asked.” 

Virgil did flinch this time, the reminder like a punch to the gut. God, why couldn’t he have just asked? A few seconds of anxiety and a bit of awkwardness would have been worth avoiding this. 

What the hell was wrong with him? How could he sneak around and steal from the people he tried so hard to earn the trust of? 

“I...I know,” he managed. “I just...sorry. I shouldn’t have, um, yeah. I know I shouldn’t have snuck in.” 

“Oh, it’s quite alright,” Logan said, the blood rushing to Virgil’s ears as he came closer, voice nearly drowned out by his own racing heart. “It can hardly be considered sneaking- you do live here. Besides, I’ve read most of these already so you are welcome to--” 

At the moment, all Virgil registered was Logan’s presence now beside him, and the hand moving forward just in the corner of his vision. 

He was moving before he had the chance to even think about it, crumpling to the ground out of Logan’s reach, hands moving to protect his face, hunching his shoulders and waiting for the blow. 

The blow that...that didn’t come. 

“Virgil.” 

Virgil flinched at his voice, biting his tongue to keep from whimpering. He could feel Logan standing above him, annoyed even more now, no doubt. What was he waiting for? 

“Virgil,” he said again, softer this time. “Will you look at me, please?” 

Oh. Oh, of course. Logan wouldn’t want to punish Virgil if he wasn’t sure the anxious side was even aware enough to understand. He wanted Virgil to see what he deserved. 

He got that. He understood.

So he nodded, hating how hard it was, digging his nails into his palm when he felt himself growing dangerously close to hyperventilating. He wouldn’t let himself fall under a panic attack. He wouldn’t hurt Thomas because of this. 

Virgil slowly raised his head, realizing idly that he was shaking. His throat felt tight, eyes burning, and Virgil kind of wished he could just hit himself. 

God, what was wrong with him? He wasn’t going to cry. He couldn’t. He’d known what he was doing, knew all too well what would happen if he fucked it up, and he had (of course he had). 

He deserved this. It was fine. 

He was, however, mildly surprised to find Logan lowered to his level, the logical side crouched down on the balls of his feet, watching Virgil with an almost worried frown. 

“Take some deep breaths, please,” he said. “I was only going to help you pick the books up off the floor. I apologize if I moved too quickly.” 

Virgil shook his head, clenching his jaw to keep the tears at bay, not even sure how he was supposed to respond to that. Why the hell was Logan apologizing? 

“It’s...it’s whatever,” he managed. “Sorry for, uh, you know. F-freaking out like...like that.” 

“It’s quite alright.”

Virgil took a shaky breath, realizing Logan’s silence was probably him waiting to make sure he wasn’t about to send Virgil over the edge in any way that could affect Thomas.

His heart was in no way slowing, dread and apprehension rising unbearably but...but the waiting was only going to make it worse, the anticipation sickening. Best to get it over with. 

“Alright,” he said, almost impressed with how steady his voice came out. “I’m ready.” 

Virgil expected something to happen right then and there. He was less than prepared for the hesitation followed by...nothing? 

“Ready?” Logan echoed. “Ready for...what?” 

Virgil forced himself the shrug, still not able to quite reach Logan’s eyes, struggling to maintain nonchalance he didn’t feel in the slightest.

“I don’t know,” he muttered. “However, uh...however you wanted to do it, I guess. Whatever you’re gonna do.” 

A beat of silence and Virgil remained tense, bracing himself, willing himself to relax and take it. But all that happened was Logan awkwardly clearing his throat, leaning back on his heels. 

“Well,” he said. “I...had only planned on replacing the fallen books and assisting you in picking out some things to read.” 

Virgil nodded, blinking furiously to push back tears fighting to break through. “Ok? Uh, you mean...before or-or after?” 

“I’m...I’m afraid I don’t understand,” Logan admitted, incredibly out of character. “Have I missed something? What...exactly do you believe is happening?” 

Virgil wasn't exactly sure why that mattered. Was this...was this part of it? Making sure he understood? 

“Uhm, I-I broke into your room? I mean...I know I shouldn’t have taken your stuff without asking. I know...I know that’s not ok. I’m sorry.” 

He saw Logan tilt his head slightly, frown deepening. “It really is not an issue, Virgil. My books aren’t exactly locked away. I would only prefer you ask next time so I do not end up startling you, but you’re reacting as if I--” 

He stopped himself, and Virgil saw the moment realization dawned, something in Logan’s expression hardening. 

Oh. Of course. Logan hadn’t been sure Virgil would know something like this was coming. 

But he did, of course. He understood, as much as he hated it. He was anxiety, there wasn’t any other way to handle him. There wasn’t a choice. 

“Ah,” Logan said, softer than before. “I see.” 

Virgil nodded again, heart still racing so fast he thought Logan might be able to hear it, glad that now they could at least get it over with. 

But Logan still wasn’t moving, still talking in that achingly gentle voice. “Virgil, I have no intention of harming you in any way. I’m not even remotely upset with you.” 

And that...that didn’t make any sense. Virgil had literally just gone into someone else’s room without permission, and Logan had just said he’d prefer to be asked so why--?

Unless...unless he was being given another chance. Again . Another chance he didn’t deserve in favor of over the top friendliness. 

“Don’t,” he said, before he could even consider stopping himself. “Don’t keep doing this, Logan, please I...it’s ok, you guys don’t have to keep pretending. I know you’re angry, I know--” 

“I’m not angry,” Logan interrupted, firm but somehow still gentle, and Virgil shrank back. “I believe we have a larger issue to discuss as a group but for now please understand that I am not angry with you. And even if I was, I would never intentionally bring you any harm. I know for a fact the others would not either.” 

Virgil shook his head, hating all of this, hating feeling small and pitied, hated delaying the inevitable like things could work any other way. 

He hated the treacherous, nagging hope in his chest. 

“But they will ,” he insisted. “You all will, I know you're just...waiting to make sure I won’t leave again but I won’t. I know it's how it works, ok? It’s fine.” 

The lie tasted like acid on his tongue. But some of it was true, at least. He wouldn’t try to leave again. He was finally feeling like a part of things. And if he was good, well...maybe that could last. 

Logan was silent for a long moment, and Virgil was just beginning to think he’d finally managed to convince him to set the pity aside when he was speaking again.

“Virgil, do you think you could accompany me to the commons? I believe it is imperative to discuss this with the others.” 

Virgil froze, realizing he may have just made a simple situation worse by raising his voice. Did Logan really need to get everyone? It was bad enough that just Logan was upset with him but all of them...

But he knew better than to risk any further anger by arguing. And Logan was carefully offering a hand, palm up, no sudden movements or pain when Virgil hesitantly took it and was helped to his feet, so maybe...maybe Logan wasn’t actually angry. 

Not right now, at least. 

Logan led them down the hallway to the living room, Virgil unable to stop his trembling the entire time, legs a bit unsteady and weak. He almost wished the short walk took longer, dread building up in his gut the closer he got like a man being led to the gallows. 

He had to remind himself to breathe when he saw both Patton and Roman already there, lounging casually, all smiles amid easy conversation. 

Logan cleared his throat, Virgil left to shift awkwardly beside him, the other two sides immediately glancing up with bright, welcoming smiles. 

Virgil felt guilt twist in his gut at having to ruin that. 

“I believe,” Logan started. “That we need to have a...family meeting, as Patton might call it. There’s been a bit of a miscommunication that needs clearing up.” 

“Everything alright?” Roman asked as Patton, cheerful as ever, waved them both over. Logan didn’t answer, and Virgil was too busy staring at the ground to think of a reply. 

He ended up being seated on the couch beside Roman, Patton sitting across from him and Logan standing at the arm of the couch. For a moment nobody spoke, Roman and Patton clearly at a loss. 

“Virgil,” Logan prompted. “Would you mind telling the others what happened from your point of view?” 

Virgil’s eyes widened, head snapping up to look at Logan with something almost like betrayal, and any hope he’d had that this was going to be forgiven without consequences suddenly vanished. 

But Logan was quick to reassure him, hand moving to rest against Virgil’s clenched fist. “I assure you, nothing about my previous statements will change. I only want to ensure they have all the context.” 

Virgil shakily nodded, like he had any choice in the matter, trying not to wince when his voice came out small and breathy when he finally spoke. 

“I...I went into Logan’s room,” he admitted, waiting for yelling that never came. “While he was with Thomas. I-I was looking for something to read but-but I was going to give it back, I promise, I wasn’t stealing I was just too anxious to ask, so I--” 

“Wait,” Roman interjected, curiosity turning to something close to amusement. “That’s all you did? I steal from Logan all the time!” 

Logan blinked. “You what?” 

“Kiddos,” Patton chided, unable to help the small smile on his lips. “Now we usually don’t go into people’s rooms without asking but I’m sure Logan understood. What’s this all about?” 

Virgil suddenly had absolutely no idea how to respond, this entire conversation now taking a much different turn than he’d expected. 

What the hell was happening? Was this... part of it? It sure felt like he was being punished, but Patton’s smile was as genuine as ever. 

Logan leaned forward, furrowing his brow. 

“Virgil, can you tell us what you believe is going to happen to you? What you thought was happening when I found you?” 

Virgil, far too lost to do anything but comply blindly, couldn’t understand why Patton and Roman suddenly looked so confused. 

“I was...I was going to be punished, right?” He didn’t understand the purpose of making him explain something everyone already knew . “I mean, Logan said he wasn’t mad so I guess I’m getting another chance but any other time I would’ve--” 

“Wait a minute, what?” It was Roman’s turn to sound baffled, all his attention now focused solely on Virgil. “Punished? What do you mean, like- like grounding you? You aren’t a child, Virge.” 

“I do not think that’s what he meant.” 

“But he...Logan, he--” 

“Virgil believed,” Logan cut him off, sounding more hesitant than Virgil had ever heard him. “That some type of...physical punishment was inevitable. At least, that is what I gathered.”  

“You think we’re going to hit you?” Patton’s voice, verging on frantic, easily overpowered the others. “Over this? Over anything?” 

Virgil flinched back against the couch, desperately trying to figure out what he’d done wrong, how he’d managed to make this so much worse than it was just five minutes ago. 

“I don’t...I'm sorry?” 

“We’re not going to punish you, kiddo,” he said, the word ‘punish’ almost spat out like something sour. “We’d never do that to you. Never.” 

And oh, that was Patton, trying so hard to be kind, even when he was so visibly furious. Looking out for all of them to the end. Careful not to let Virgil’s emotions affect Thomas. 

“You guys don’t have to keep doing this.” 

Patton blinked, trying and failing to get Virgil to meet his eyes. “Keep doing what, kiddo?” 

“I’m not gonna duck out again,” he said, the smile he offered meant to be reassuring but he was certain it was wobbly and frail. “I-I like it here. With you guys. You don’t need to keep...cutting me all this slack. I know I keep messing up and I know if this is going to...work I have to be--” 

“What the hell are you talking about?” 

Roman’s language wasn’t even corrected, Patton hardly acknowledging the outburst at all, but the moral side looked somehow just as furious. 

And there it was, genuine fear and panic returning with a vengeance, the sudden knowledge that he’d probably done irreversible damage in an effort to reassure them. 

“Kiddo you...what is it that you think you’ve done wrong? You’re not...oh my god, you’re not talking about the little things, are you? Spills or- or misplacing something or...or…” 

“I- yeah?” Because what else would he be talking about? “I’ve been...I’ve been trying to be good, so I-I don’t think I’ve done anything else to--” 

“Is that how you think we handle things?” Roman was rigid beside him, his fury overwhelming, and Virgil hoped one of them would hurry up and just knock him unconscious. “So, what? If Logan drops something am I just supposed to hit him?” 

“Roman,” Logan said, sounding oddly choked. “Please.” 

And oh. Oh. The realization hit like a punch to the gut, and Virgil realized all at once why they were so upset with him. He hadn’t done anything wrong, it was just a stupid misunderstanding. 

Oh, god. 

“No!” He insisted, voice a little stronger in his desperation for them to understand their mistake. “No, of course not! That’s not...guys, that's not what I meant.” 

The tension in the room dropped a bit, Prince relaxing just slightly, but three pairs of eyes were still watching, painfully concerned. 

“Sorry, I’m so sorry I didn’t realize you thought that,” Virgil continued, a little lightheaded. “Not you guys, never you guys. Obviously not, you all wouldn’t...you shouldn’t be punished like that. Ever. I promise I was just talking about me.” 

He expected relief, understanding, and hopefully to just get this whole thing over with so they could hurry up and go back to normal. 

But apparently he’d only managed to make everyone even more distressed. Logan and Roman’s eyes had gone wide and Patton...Patton had tears streaming down his face. 

“Why would you think that?” It was quiet, barely a whisper, but Virgil had never heard Patton sound so furious, so cold and lifeless. 

“I...I don’t know why you’re--” 

“Virgil, why would you think that?” Patton was standing now, taking a step away from the couch with a hand moving to cover his mouth. Logan reached for his shoulder, only to be quickly shrugged off. 

“Patton, please attempt to calm down.” 

“But he...he said... why, Virge? Why just you?” 

Virgil blinked, fighting to swallow past the lump in his throat, still hopelessly lost to what he’d managed to do wrong. Did they...not know? Even Logan? Wasn’t it just...common sense? 

“It’s...because it’s me?” he offered weakly. “I-I’m anxiety. I tend to- to mess things up, guys. I have to be, you know, dealt with differently so it doesn't affect Thomas as much, right?”

He was met only with deafening silence, before Logan cleared his throat, looking for once like he wasn’t entirely sure what he should be saying. 

“That hardly seems logical,” he said, no malice behind it. “How would punishing you more severely do anything but succeed in making your mental state worse?” 

“I...I don’t know. But it works. It makes me more...cautious. You guys haven’t really had to deal with me and my fuck ups before but now that I’m here you’ll have to...I just uh, figured you knew this, I guess. I thought everyone did.” 

“No,” Roman said, hardly audible at all. “We didn’t.” 

Oh. Well...at least it was out now. Virgil may not like it, but he knew getting hurt sometimes was necessary. If it made their lives better, it was worth it in the long run. 

But still…

The thought that if he’d only known, realized sooner that their willingness to let things go and love him unconditionally really was genuine, he could have maybe lived without the fear of punishment for the first time in so long. 

So much for that. All he’d done now was manage to make them angry, and he honestly wasn’t even sure what he’d done to make them all so upset.  

“Who told you that?” Roman asked, Virgil wincing despite himself. “Was it...if it was my brother--” 

“It wasn’t,” Virgil said, not really sure if that was the answer Roman wanted, but it was the truth. Remus and Janus had never been the ones to use any sort of physical violence on him, though Virgil never had any doubt that they could. “It was the others. I...they told me...I really thought you guys knew.” 

Now, looking at it from a suddenly concerning perspective, he wasn’t even sure Remus or Janus had known. 

“Sorry,” Virgil said to the silence, not even sure why anymore. “It wasn’t always that bad. That’s why I asked Logan, I wasn’t sure how you guys...uh, planned on doing it but apparently you didn’t even know you had to so we can--” 

And suddenly Patton was gone, stalking through the kitchen doorway, practically leaving behind a visible trail of utter fury as he went, and Logan was following with one last worried glance over his shoulder. 

Oh god, they were both mad. He’d managed to upset everyone, ruin everything in one conversation, and he couldn’t even apologize properly because he still didn’t know what he’d done wrong. 

He’d just been trying to tell them it was ok, that there was no other way to deal with him, that it really wasn’t that big of a deal. He hated it, sure. It terrified him. He wanted so badly for it to stop but it couldn’t, it…

It couldn’t. Could it? 

He felt Roman shift on the couch, probably to hurry and follow the others into the kitchen to get away from the mess on the couch they’d accidentally welcomed into their family. 

Before he could stop himself Virgil was reaching forward, grabbing Roman’s sleeve with a weak, trembling hand. 

“Please.” And there was absolutely no point in trying to hide the unsteady wobble of his voice. “Will you...I-I just don’t know what I did wrong.”  

“Oh, Virgil.” 

When Prince moved, there was a split second of blind panic where Virgil thought he was being attacked. But it faded as soon as he registered strong arms around him, pulling him against Roman’s chest, and Virgil immediately burst into tears. 

Roman was shushing him gently, holding him tight but somehow not uncomfortably confining, running his fingers through Virgil’s hair as he muttered quiet reassurances. 

Virgil could only sob into his chest, overtaken by hiccuping gasps that left him dizzy and weak and unable to stop. 

And yet he was distantly aware that through his tears he hadn’t stopped his string of endless apologies, the desperate words falling without his permission. 

“You’re alright, darling,” Roman said, impossibly soft. “You’re alright. You didn’t do anything wrong.” 

“I-I ma-made him mad,” he insisted, breath catching on nearly every word as he tried in vain to calm down enough to speak properly. “Patton, I-I...h-he was mad, he’s upset and he’s...he’ll--” 

“Patton isn’t angry,” Roman said. “He’s just a little upset. But not at you! You haven’t done anything.” 

“But I…” he paused, aware enough to consider the words before he said them, how utterly unfair and selfish they were. But maybe…

“I don’t want you guys to hurt me.” 

“We would never,” Roman said, holding tighter without hesitation. “I know you won’t believe this right away, and you’ll need to hear it from the others too, but just listen to me for now, ok?” 

Roman pulled back, but only slightly. Virgil could still feel the Prince's heart beneath his own shaking fingers, and the creative side carefully cupped Virgil’s face in his hands. 

“Nobody will ever hurt you again, Virgil. Nobody . I know we’ve only recently become friends, but I swear to you, for the rest of your life, you never have to be afraid of that again. Not from me, not from the others. Not from anyone.” 

Virgil struggled to breathe, chest aching, lungs screaming for air, but the tears wouldn’t stop flowing. “But they...you have to th-they said--” 

“They were lying,” Princey said, with so much venom Virgil had to forcibly remind himself that Roman wasn’t angry with him. “You heard Logan, it doesn’t make sense. No one should...you didn’t deserve that, Virge.” 

But...but he’d...all this time he’d just…

“Patton will you please--” 

“No, Logan! I can’t I- did you hear him?” 

Patton and Logan were still in the next room over, and Virgil could now just make out the two of them standing at the threshold. He forced himself not to whimper at the obvious anger that came from both of them, but didn’t stop himself from clutching at Roman tighter, beyond grateful when Princey did the same. 

“I did,” Logan said. “I was standing right there. But Patton--” 

“How could they…god, how could they just--?” 

“Patton.” Logan hadn’t yelled, not exactly, but it was loud and stern enough to quiet the other’s rant. “I know. I understand that you’re upset- we all are. But right now Virgil thinks you’re upset with him.” 

Virgil’s breath hitched in the sudden silence that followed, doing his best to focus instead on Roman’s breathing, feeling the Prince move to rub along Virgil’s back, still hushing and whispering quiet reassurances. 

He cringed when he heard a tiny gasp followed quickly by two pairs of footsteps making their way towards the couch, and he wondered just how far Roman would have to go to keep his promise. 

“Oh, baby I’m so sorry.” That was Patton’s voice right above him, soft and sad and...and no longer quite so angry. “Honey...can you look at me please?” 

Virgil tensed, reluctantly moving his head away from Roman’s chest, face burning as he let the others see his tear stained face, heart clenching when he realized Patton wasn’t much better off.  

“Sorry,” Virgil whispered, guided more on frantic instinct than anything else. “Sorry, sorry , I’m sorry.” 

“You have nothing to be sorry for.” Patton reached forward, slow and nonthreatening, lacing his fingers with Virgil’s. “I’m sorry. I’m not angry with you, kiddo. Nobody’s gonna hurt you. We would never do that.” 

And god, Virgil wanted so badly to believe that, to hold onto every word, every sympathetic gaze, everything that was so clearly real love rather than pity and never let it go. 

He wanted to feel safe with them. He wanted it more than anything. 

But...but they had all been angry. He’d seen it just moments ago, heard the unmistakable fury in their voices. 

And maybe he’d spoken aloud without realizing, or maybe Logan was just exceptionally good at reading him, because suddenly the logical side was crouched beside Patton, carefully meeting Virgil’s watery eyes. 

“We were not angry at you,” he said slowly. “We’re only angry at whoever thought it was alright to hurt you. Who made you think you could ever deserve it.” 

 “But I…” he didn’t know why he was arguing, why he was frantically searching for reasons to destroy something he wanted so desperately. He settled for the only reason he’d ever really been given. “I’m anxiety.” 

“You do represent Thomas’s fears, yes,” Logan said. “As well as many other fundamental functions.”  

“That doesn’t make you bad, kiddo,” Patton chimed in.  “We love you. All of you. We’re all gonna mess up sometimes, and that’s ok. Mistakes are part of being human.” 

“Well technically we are not human,” Logan pointed out, earning an exasperated sigh from Roman. “But Patton’s point still stands. Each and every one of us will make mistakes. That is, of course, why we have each other. Not to punish, but to assist each other.” 

And that...wow, that sounded good. Impossibly good. God, how did he manage to surround himself with the kindest people in the universe? 

“But what if I…” he swallowed, trying to figure out how to phrase his worries. “If I do something wrong, like...like really bad--” 

“Then we will discuss it as a group,” Logan said. “And work together to determine what happened and how to fix it without any lasting negative effects. Not just for Thomas, but for all of us.” 

“Indeed!” Roman agreed with his usual flair, reaching around to lightly squeeze Patton and Virgil’s intertwined fingers. “And if any of the others attempt to bring you harm again, they’ll have to get through me first!” 

“All of us,” Patton said, wiping his eyes with his free hand and flashing Princey a grateful smile. “We won’t let that happen to you again.” 

Virgil shrugged, overwhelmed, aware the gesture did nothing to mask the emotion in his eyes. “It’s...it’s really ok, you guys. They aren’t like you, they were just...doing what they thought they had to.” 

Logan frowned, averting his gaze. “Unlikely.” 

“That doesn’t make it ok,” Patton said before Virgil could question exactly what that meant. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know. “And we can see it left you really afraid, kiddo.” 

“I-I guess. Yeah.” 

“Sometimes talking about traumatic experiences can be the first step to moving past them,” Logan said. “And we will, of course, be willing to listen and help however we can.” 

Virgil... didn’t really want to talk about. He still wasn't quite able to wrap his head around the fact that it wasn’t a necessity, never actually had been, a part of him still wholly convinced this was some kind of cruel, awful trick. 

But...but Logan was looking at him with such gentle earnestness, Roman and Patton both nodding and smiling in gentle encouragement, those doubts were quickly being pushed to the side. At least for now. 

They all looked so eager to help, Virgil couldn’t bring himself to shut them down the way his panicked brain, so used to isolation, was screaming at him to do. 

And besides, maybe it could help. Maybe talking would help him come to terms with...whatever it really was that had happened. 

But not right now. He wasn't sure he could handle anything else. 

“Maybe,” he said after a moment. “Just, uh...not now. I don’t...I mean, i-if that’s ok, I don’t think I’m...ready.” 

“Of course, sweetie,” Patton said, not sounding disappointed in the slightest, only understanding and patient. “Whenever you’re ready. You can come to us in your own time.” 

“Is there...anything we can do for you now?” Roman asked. “Anything to make you feel better?” 

“I guess, uh-” he paused, wondering if it was too much, too selfish a thing to ask. “Maybe just...stay here for a bit? All of us? Only if- if you aren’t busy, obviously, it’s ok if you are, I just thought maybe--” 

“I think that is an excellent suggestion, Virgil,” Logan said. “Having some company will do you good.” 

Patton practically squealed, squeezing Virgil’s hand before hurrying to his feet,  blinding smile on his face. “Ooh! We can make some snacks and bring some blankets over! Be right back!” 

Virgil was carefully maneuvered (probably a bit overly careful, like he was glass that could shatter at any moment) so he was now comfortably pressed against Logan’s side, Roman hurrying to follow Patton with promises to return in seconds, departing with a kiss to Virgil’s forehead. 

Virgil was almost surprised when Logan’s arm moved to wrap around his shoulders, keeping him close, almost as protective and warm and Princey. He’d have thought Logan would be more averse to physical content. 

He’d never been so glad to be mistaken, basking in the warmth like it was a sunlit room. 

Virgil took a breath, breathing a bit easier now. “I really am sorry. I probably...really freaked you out, huh?” 

“No apologies necessary,” Logan said. “I believe it’s safe to say you were much more...err, freaked out, as you would say.” 

Virgil smiled, relaxing into his hold, but there was still something heavy sitting in his chest, nagging at him to voice it aloud. 

“I feel like an idiot.” 

“You shouldn’t.” 

“But I do.” He didn’t move, terrified he’d lose his nerve without the warmth at his side. “I...it was stupid. All of this. I actually thought that...I still don’t really think that this can work. Without...doing all that when I screw up. I want to but it’s...I thought there wasn’t any other way.” 

“There is no reason for you to be held to a different standard than anyone else,” Logan said, slow and careful. “We plan only on treating you as an equal. As someone we care very much for.” 

“I should have known,” he muttered. “You guys are r-really...really great. I shouldn’t have accused you of that.” 

There was a beat of silence that stretched on just a moment too long, and any other time Virgil might have taken that as a perfectly reasonable excuse to begin panicking all over again. 

But with Logan’s protective hold still firmly around him, the easy warmth in his chest that lingered from everyone’s kind words...he couldn’t find it in him to be particularly worried over Logan taking a moment to think. 

“You did not accuse us of anything,” the logical side said, continuing before Virgil could argue. “You reacted to what you assumed to be normal, no one can fault you for that. You’ve been taught to have a very particular mindset. As...upsetting as it is, your reaction was perfectly logical based on the information you had.” 

Logan’s arm moved, just for a moment, to reach around and squeeze Virgil’s hand, just like Patton and Roman had done, just another reminder of newfound safety. 

“What we need to do now,” Logan said. “Is work on making sure you never feel that way again.” 

Virgil nodded against him, finding that, at least for the moment,  his want to believe, to be safe and welcomed, was enough to outweigh the storm of doubt in his racing mind. 

“Ok,” he said, glancing up just in time to see Logan’s relieved smile, loosening his hold as Roman and Patton hurried back to the living room. “Thank you.” 

As the four of them settled down and rearranged themselves, there was an all too familiar burning in Virgil’s eyes, a tight twisting in his chest. But this time, it wasn’t from panic or fear.

This time, if he cried from this feeling, from being content and accepted, it might not be the worst thing in the world.