What You Don’t Know Can’t Hurt You
Janus woke up slowly, and that was weird.
He didn’t wake up slowly. He woke up to Remus banging on his door shouting obscenities or breakfast ideas. On worse days he woke up to one of the others banging on his door, and a note from Remus that he was going over to bug Patton and try and sneak maggots into his pancake batter when he wasn’t looking. He didn’t wake up to quiet and stillness. Something must be wrong.
Janus opened his eyes and sat up quickly, and that was when he recognized the room he was in, and all of last night came flooding back. Had Virgil actually asked him to stay here? Had he actually agreed? Why the hell had he done that?
Janus rubbed his eyes and slumped back against the headboard. Maybe he could find some way to take it back. He could tell Virgil he was delirious from blood loss, or tired from being hunted down by Pride and he didn’t know what he was saying.
He doubted Virgil would let him take it back, though. He was stuck here at this point. Which meant what, exactly?
Well, he’d have to move his and Remus’ rooms over here. He’d lock off the other side of the mindscape more completely, he didn’t know for how long. Virgil would definitely keep trying to convince him to tell everyone else, even though there was no longer a point. There hadn’t ever been a point really, but Virgil wouldn’t agree with that. He was supposed to be done with Virgil trying to convince him to tell everyone.
Janus pressed his hands over his face again as a thought struck him. What was he supposed to tell Remus? ‘Hey, we have to move over to live with the sides that hate us both, but I can’t tell you why?’ Remus had to put up with Janus not telling him a lot of things, but Janus suspected that would be too far even for him.
Before he could think much longer on the subject, the door in the wall to his left opened and Virgil walked in. He glanced over and seemed relieved when he spotted Janus, though Janus had meant it when he’d said he’d stay here until Virgil got back.
“Hey,” Virgil said, and shoved something towards Janus, which was when he noticed Virgil was holding a plate of eggs. “Eat.”
“So you’re waiting on me like I’m sick now?” Janus asked as he took that plate.
“Well, you’re not sick, but you’ve kind of been stabbed, so.”
“I can handle myself with a stab wound,” Janus muttered, taking a bite of eggs.
“I know that,” Virgil said, in a tone that meant he also didn’t care. He sat down on the edge of the bed. “We need to talk now, Janus.”
Janus sighed. “I agreed to stay here, Virgil, can’t that be the end of it?”
That wasn’t quite what Janus was expecting. He looked up at Virgil curiously. “Almost?”
Virgil gave him a look that made Janus realize he still wasn’t going to like this conversation.
“You need to tell Remus,” Virgil said, and would you look at that, he didn’t like this conversation.
Virgil seemed to sense his objection before he even started speaking, though, and just kept talking.
“He was already confused by me dragging him into a sleepover with Roman last night,” he said. “If you think he’s just going to accept the idea of moving over here with no questions, you don’t know him very well. And I know you know him well, Janus. He’s going to want to know what the hell is going on. Especially when I’m the one who brings up the idea. He’s not going to let it go this time.”
Janus glared away. He knew all of that, but it’s not like he was going to admit that Virgil was right. And he wasn’t ready to tell Remus, if he was ever going to. He wasn’t sure he could take any of Remus’ angry questions, especially not right after such a hard night. He couldn’t take Remus hating him on top of everything else.
“Janus,” Virgil said.
Janus glared back at him. At least Virgil didn’t look pitying or something stupid like that.
“Come on,” Virgil said. “It’s time he knows, Janus.”
“He doesn’t have to know,” Janus hissed. “He doesn’t have to know ever if I say he doesn’t get to. What would be the point of telling him anyway, if we’re staying over here?”
“Hmm, so there was no point in telling him back when you thought you were stuck dealing with the others, and now there’s no point in telling him since you won’t have to anymore. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s sounding like you might just be scared to tell Remus.”
“You know he’s not going to hate you, right?” Virgil asked.
“You did,” Janus pointed out.
“No, I hate you because you were a total dick to me and tried to force me to do things I didn’t want to,” Virgil said. “It never had anything to do with what you were going through.”
“It had something to do with me not telling you,” Janus muttered.
Virgil seemed to consider that for a moment. “Yeah, okay, fair enough,” he said. “But you’re not going to make it easier on yourself by continuing to keep it from him.”
Janus didn’t say anything, and after another second Virgil sighed.
“Do you want me to tell him to go easy on you?” he asked.
“No,” Janus snapped. “I do not want you to tell anyone to go easy on me. I want— I don’t know.” He glared away again. “I don’t open up to people. It’s not something I do.”
“I know,” Virgil said, and he at least didn’t sound dismissive. “But you’re gonna need to step outside your comfort zone for a bit.”
“Why? I like being in this comfort zone. It’s comfortable in this comfort zone. And for the record, you’re only able to say that because it’s not you who has to do things you’re not used to. You’re totally not being hypocritical or anything.”
“Oh, trust me, I’m well aware,” Virgil said. “But you need to tell Remus anyway.”
“Because it’ll help you. Because then you can talk to Remus openly, and I think you’re underestimating how good that will feel. Because you need someone to talk to and putting that all on me is super unfair. And because it’s easier now, before Remus starts pestering you to death about it.”
Janus glared away once again. That was becoming a habit in this conversation, but he didn’t want to look at Virgil anymore.
He had a point. He had multiple points. Janus didn’t want to acknowledge them, but he did. And he knew that eventually he’d have to tell Remus why they were going to stay here. Just… did it have to be today?
Janus sighed and looked back at Virgil. “I want my clothes first. And breakfast.”
“Deal. Your clothes are in the wash. Finish your eggs. I’ll bring Remus back here in an hour and a half.”
“Fine,” Janus snapped, not at all happy with the current situation. He took a bite of his now-cold eggs and glared at Virgil again until he finally headed out.
Janus finished his eggs and walked over to set the plate on the dresser. He glanced up into the mirror to see that his night in Virgil’s room had left him with eyeshadow under his eyes. Virgil must have been showing serious restraint to stop himself from commenting. He’d head back to his room for a minute before he started being affected by the room again now that he’d woken up.
Thankfully, he’d locked his room, so when he appeared down there again nothing was out of place or broken. But leaving Virgil’s room didn’t seem to help in the slightest, as Janus instantly felt himself tense and he looked towards the door as if one of the others would be waiting there.
Okay, maybe he did need to live somewhere else.
He changed into some clothes while he was there, and waited long enough until the nerves from being in Virgil’s room faded, then headed back. This time he could get in without issue, at least. And despite the fact that he was entering Virgil’s room, he felt his anxiety lessen as he did so. He hadn’t realized quite how unsafe he felt all the time until he suddenly felt relatively the opposite.
Virgil showed up with his clothes not long after and handed them off to Janus, who sent them back to his room to grab later and handed Virgil his own shirt.
“Okay,” Virgil said, tossing his shirt into his hamper. “You want me to go get Remus?”
“No,” Janus said. “But you’re going to do it anyway.”
“Do you want to do it after you guys move over here?” Virgil asked.
“What, to put off his hatred of me until after lunch?” Janus deadpanned. “Why bother, really?”
“Janus, he’s not going to hate you,” Virgil said.
Janus sighed and waved towards the door. “Just go get him.”
“He’s not going to hate you,” Virgil said quietly, but left through the door.
Janus moved to go sit on the desk chair once Virgil left. His night of sleep hadn’t seemed to do much for his aching legs or stomach, and he already needed to sit again.
It wasn’t long before Virgil came back with Remus in tow, who looked deeply confused by what was happening.
He looked even more confused when he glanced over and saw Janus sitting at Virgil’s desk.
“Janny, what’s going on?” he asked. “Virgey says we’re moving over here or something? Is he bullshitting me?”
Janus took a breath. “No, Remus,” he said. “He’s not.”
“What— why the hell are we doing that? That sounds like a terrible idea.”
“There are worse ideas,” Virgil muttered, and Janus glared at him.
Remus glanced back in confusion. “What does that mean? Can somebody please just tell me what the fuck is happening?”
Janus sighed. So this really was going to happen. He couldn’t really back out at this point. “Alright, Remus,” he said. “Could you sit down?”
“I have some things to tell you.”
Janus started from around the point that Virgil found out and explained up to the present and what had happened last night. He kept his gaze firmly away from Remus’ face in some way or other as he talked. Remus would either look pitying or horrified or angry, and Janus didn’t want to see any of the three. The fact that Remus wasn’t saying anything as he explained was already a bad sign.
The room was still silent when Janus finished talking. He gave it a couple seconds, then braced himself and looked over towards Remus. He couldn’t read his face at all.
“Remus?” he asked hesitantly.
“So—” Remus shook his head to himself and fell silent again. A second later he looked over at Virgil. “You knew about this?”
“And— and you didn’t tell me?”
“I didn’t let him,” Janus said, before Remus could start getting mad at Virgil. “I didn’t let him say anything to anyone.”
Remus looked back at him and shook his head again. “You didn’t— okay,” Remus took a breath and bit on his middle finger hard enough that it came off. “I— why? Why didn’t you tell me? Did I— did I make you think I wouldn’t help?”
Janus blinked. “Of course not,” he said.
“Just because I threw a morningstar at Logan’s head doesn’t mean I don’t care if you’re hurt, Janny,” Remus said, stepping forward further. “You’re not Logan. I care about you.”
“I know that, Remus,” Janus said, though he couldn’t say he wasn’t surprised to hear it. Remus tended to be more inclined to show affection through surprise bear hugs or disgusting displays of ideas. He only really said he cared about you if he was upset.
“Why didn’t you tell me, then?” Remus asked, looking more distressed.
“I didn’t think there was much you could do,” Janus said. “And I didn’t want to put you in danger.”
“And why the hell not?” Remus snapped. “I love danger!”
“Remus,” Virgil said quietly.
“Oh, what? You don’t get to say shit,” Remus said, spinning to face Virgil. “You knew what was happening and you still fucking left!”
“Remus,” Janus said. “Leave him be, it’s okay.”
“No, it’s not,” Remus spat. “He left you alone, when he knew you didn’t have anyone else to help you! You— why didn’t you tell me anything?”
“I’m sorry,” Janus said weakly, and he was surprised to find that he actually sort of meant it.
Remus shoved his finger back onto his hand and then buried his head in his hands and screamed.
Janus exchanged an uneasy look with Virgil, who shrugged, looking nervous.
Janus’ gaze was drawn to Remus again as he started dragging his hands back through his hair. After a moment he looked back at Janus. “Are you gonna be okay now?” he asked.
“Are you gonna tell me if anything like this ever happens again?”
Janus looked at Remus’ determined face, then over at Virgil, who narrowed his eyes.
“Okay,” Janus said softly.
Remus sighed. “Okay,” he said, walking across the room and stopping beside Janus’ chair. He pulled Janus up and into a bear hug that he was more used to.
“Then I forgive you,” Remus said, and Janus’ breath caught in his throat.
“What—” Janus started. “Why?”
“Because I can’t hate you for protecting me,” Remus mumbled into Janus’ shoulder. “And you’re the only family I’ve got left.”
Janus reached around Remus and grabbed the back of his sash, and Remus squeezed him tighter. Janus’ energy reserves that were still low didn’t like him standing for so long, so eventually they both sank to the floor, and Janus leaned heavily against Remus.
He looked over Remus’ shoulder at one point and spotted Virgil turning to leave, but he shut the door after him before Janus could call out.
Him leaving without saying anything probably meant that he didn’t care how long they were here, so Janus buried his head in Remus’ shoulder and decided to stay here for as long as Remus wanted. That could very well be a while, but he was pretty sure he wouldn’t mind.
Virgil apparently gathered the other core sides while Janus and Remus were in his room. They walked out to find all of them waiting in the living room and looking confused as to why exactly they were there.
As soon as they noticed Janus and Remus they all turned more baffled looks towards Virgil.
“I see Remus and Deceit are here?” Logan said, raising an eyebrow.
“Did you not consider this worth mentioning?” Roman asked, shooting a glare over at both of them.
“If I said something you would have interrupted them, and they were busy,” Virgil said.
“What?” Roman asked, turning back to Virgil. “Since when would you care about that?”
Virgil glanced over at Janus and Remus. “Do you want to sit down?” he asked. Janus was still rather drained, so he moved over to the unused couch and sat down, joined by Remus a second later.
“Virgil?” Patton asked anxiously. “What’s going on?”
Virgil moved to stand in front of everyone, wearing his serious face that didn’t allow for any arguments, which was rather rare for him.
“As of today,” Virgil said, looking between the three of the others even as he kept his gaze firmly away from Janus and Remus. “Remus and Deceit are moving over here. This is not up for debate.”
“I… what?” Patton asked in bafflement.
Logan shifted as if considering saying something, but ultimately he sat back and remained silent. He looked puzzled, but not necessarily upset.
On the other hand, Roman leaned forward, looking very obviously upset. “What? By Disney's drawing board, why?”
Virgil looked at Janus and raised an eyebrow. Janus narrowed his eyes and shook his head.
Virgil sighed and turned back to Roman. “It’s necessary.”
“For— can you give a little more of an explanation than that?” Roman exclaimed, throwing his hands up.
“Actually, no,” Virgil said. His gaze softened. “Sorry, Roman.”
Janus looked down and pulled his cape over his lap so he could clench his hands underneath it.
Remus next to him leaned against the back of the couch with a loud thump and looked away from everyone towards the wall. The action seemed to draw Roman’s attention, and Janus looked back up just in time to see his gaze turn confused.
“Why aren’t either of them acting smug and superior?” he asked, crossing his arms. “Seriously, Virgil, what’s going on?”
“Kiddo, is something wrong?” Patton asked.
“I really can’t tell you,” Virgil said. “I’m sorry.”
“Why not?” Logan asked.
Janus tensed slightly, but surprisingly all that happened was that Virgil glanced at Logan and said, “It’s not my story to tell.”
Was… was he not going to take this opportunity to tell Janus off for forcing him to stay silent? Or did he really not care as much because Janus was safe now?
…Was he safe now?
“I— I don’t understand,” Roman said, and Janus looked back over at him before he could start going down that train of thought. “We’re just supposed to let them both stay here?”
“Yep,” Virgil said. “That is in fact what’s happening. I appreciate the cooperation.”
Roman tried a couple more times to protest, but that was pretty much where the conversation ended. Janus wasn’t going to let him give much more information than he already had, so before long Roman threw up his hands and left the room, and Logan went after him with a remark about calming him down.
Patton looked over at them for a second before standing. He moved over to stand in front of them both. “If you two need anything to help you get settled,” Patton said hesitantly. “You can ask me.”
Janus nodded slightly, surprised at the gesture. Then Patton headed off after Roman and Logan, giving Virgil an unsure look as he left.
Virgil didn’t look too happy with that, but he looked determined too, meaning he wasn’t backing down from this decision no matter what Janus tried to say.
Remus finally stood up to Janus’ right, and Janus glanced over at him.
“Let’s go set up our rooms,” Remus said. “I don’t want to be here when they come back out.”
Janus nodded, and stood up to follow him. As they passed Virgil, Remus stopped, bit his lip, and looked at him.
“Thank you,” he said, and both Janus and Virgil blinked in surprise.
Virgil nodded after a second, but still looked too surprise to say anything.
Remus nodded back, and then kept walking, heading out of the room. Janus stared after him a second before following, leaving Virgil alone.
Things didn’t get easier right away, though Janus hadn’t really been expecting them to.
He still wasn’t going to let Virgil tell anyone what was going on. That extended to Remus too now, but Remus didn’t seem to mind nearly as much as Virgil had. Probably because they weren’t close to any of the core sides and he didn’t care whether they knew or not.
Otherwise, there was the truly weird experience that came with adapting to being safe for the first time in his life. Remus and Virgil both seemed very aware of how new it was for him, and he got plenty of offers to talk from Remus and rather angry glares from Virgil.
Janus didn’t realize how many things he did because he was scared of the others until they suddenly weren’t around anymore, but he still found himself looking around corners and pausing to listen for noises and generally sneaking around most of the time. He also didn’t really like it when people moved too quickly in his direction, though that certainly wasn’t going to stop any time soon with sides like Roman and Patton around. Things were a little easier when Remus was there, as he seemed to be some kind of signal to his brain that he was safe and could calm down. But he couldn’t expect Remus to be around him constantly, so the rest of time he was out of luck.
He was sure the other core sides noticed this, though they seemed to take it more as Janus trying to sneak around for some nefarious purpose. He was perfectly alright letting them think that, though it did earn him quite a few suspicious looks.
But eventually, Janus started to settle into the idea that he didn’t have to constantly be on guard anymore. The core sides may not like him, but they weren’t going to hurt him.
He started to realize that wasn’t quite true one morning when he woke up about half an hour early and didn’t feel like he was going to get back to sleep. After about ten minutes he went downstairs to get breakfast started for Remus and him, and was about to walk into the kitchen when he heard voices speaking up.
“I don’t see why you think this is such an issue, Roman,” Logan said, sounding done with whatever the situation was right now.
Janus paused behind the wall to listen.
“Are you kidding? Have you seen him? He’s slinking around like a villain! He has to be up to something!”
Janus swallowed. He figured that Roman would be the one to decide he was plotting something. He didn’t like that Logan seemed to be there too. What was Roman trying to convince him of exactly?
“You don’t know that, kiddo,” Patton said hesitantly, and Janus swore under his breath. Patton being there too didn’t mean anything good either.
“Patton, Virgil told us he was staying. Virgil! He has to have done something to him,” Roman insisted. “Virgil isn’t going to bring Deceit over here for no reason!”
“Why are you assuming he doesn’t have a reason?” Logan asked. “Do you not trust Virgil?”
“Of course I trust Virgil,” Roman said, sounding offended at the accusation. “But I also trust that there’s no way Virgil would let Scale Face stay here unless someone was forcing him! Come on, do you honestly think Virgil would welcome him with open arms?”
“It doesn’t really sound like Virgil,” Patton said quietly.
“He’s not welcoming him with open arms,” Logan pointed out. “He doesn’t seem to be any more welcoming of Deceit than he was before.”
“Then why is he insisting he stay here?” Roman snapped. “I’m telling you, Logan, something’s up. And I’m not going to stop until I find out what he’s done to him. And then we’re getting both of them out of here.”
Janus sank out to his room before he could hear any more of the conversation. That was something he hadn’t considered, the other core sides trying so hard to kick him out again. He’d imagined Roman would snap at him when he saw him, Patton would give him a couple of fake smiles, and Logan would simply look at him in displeasure, and eventually they would all adapt to his presence. He hadn’t assumed they would distrust Virgil’s heel-face turn enough to try and kick him out. That was foolish of him.
What was he supposed to do now? He couldn’t go back now, he could only imagine what the others would do to him, and Remus, now that he knew. They had to stay at this point. But if the other core sides were this suspicious, then he and Remus were going to need someone other than Virgil on their side.
Well, Logan was an obvious choice. He was the one who seemed the closest to giving Janus the benefit of the doubt down there, and there’s also the fact that he’s Thomas’ logical side. If he was already assuming Virgil probably had a reason, then all Janus had to do was explain what that reason was.
He sighed and leaned back against his door. There really wasn’t another option at this point. Even if he couldn’t convince Virgil to send them back— and he wasn’t sure if he really wanted to anymore, but that wasn’t the point— Janus didn’t have much doubt that Virgil’s actual family could. He’d need more than one of them to understand why staying here was so crucial.
Besides, it was Logan. He could at least expect Logan to listen carelessly if Janus gave him the straightforward facts. He would not care how Janus was doing, or whether or not he was scared. He would accept that Thomas was safer with them over here, and that would be that. Out of all the core sides, Logan would be easiest to tell.
All of which led him to be standing in front of Logan’s door half a day later trying to convince himself to knock. He didn’t want to put this off long enough for Logan to ruminate on it and decide Roman was right. But what he’d said to Virgil was still true. He was not good at opening up to people. He only did it if he had to. Virgil had forced his hand with both himself and Remus, and Roman was forcing his hand now. But consistently being forced to open up to people didn’t make it any easier.
Eventually, however, Janus managed to knock. Logan was at his door not five seconds later, punctual as always.
“Deceit,” he said in surprise. “I was not expecting you to come here.”
“Really? Logan, I can’t believe you forgot our weekly tea time.”
Logan’s brow furrowed. “We have never had any such thing.”
Janus sighed. “Yes, I know,” he said. “I was— oh, nevermind. Do you have a minute?”
“I do,” Logan said, stepping aside to let Janus into his room. “I just finished up with what I was currently doing, so I have time for a short break before I have to get back to work. What’s going on?”
Janus took a breath. He hadn’t been sure how to start this conversation at first, but eventually he’d decided that if the rest of the conversation was going to flay him open while Logan watched, there was no point in starting with a keeping to form.
“I overheard you all in the kitchen earlier,” Janus said. “And I thought I would explain Virgil’s reason for letting me stay here.”
Logan’s eyes widened slightly in surprise. “You… do not need to do that, Deceit,” he said hesitantly. “I trust Virgil’s judgement. I believe that if he is insisting you stay here it is for a good reason.”
“I appreciate that, but Roman doesn’t,” Janus said. “And it would not be safe for Remus or I to go back now if he convinces you all to make us.”
Logan furrowed his brow in confusion. “It would not be safe? Is the subconscious dangerous for sides? I didn’t think that was a side effect of the subconscious.”
“Not the subconscious itself,” Janus agreed. “However, some of the other residents of the subconscious can be very violent.”
Logan’s eyes widened in what looked like shock. “I’m sorry?”
“There are several residents of the subconscious that have always been very angry about being stuck down there,” Janus said, looking away so at least he didn’t have to be so vulnerable while looking Logan in the face. “They decided they wanted to take their anger out on Virgil, Remus, and I. So rather than let them, I allowed them to do what they liked to me as long as they left Virgil and Remus alone. Now Remus and I are both staying over here, and of course Virgil came here a long time ago, so we’re all safer, which I’m sure you understand will improve Thomas’ mental health. That’s why Virgil is letting us both stay here. I hope I’m right in assuming that now that you know this—”
“Wait,” Logan said suddenly, and Janus looked back over at him. “Slow down.”
Janus blinked in surprise. Logan looked deeply disturbed all of a sudden.
“Logan, are you alright?” Janus asked in slight concern.
Logan stared at him. “Am I alright?” he asked. “You— Deceit, what exactly did these other sides do to you?”
“I… why does that matter?” Janus said, starting to fidget with his gloves without moving his gaze away from Logan.
“What do you mean ‘why does that matter?’ Deceit, are you alright?”
“I… I’m fine,” Janus said in surprise. “Most of whatever wounds are left have almost healed, and I haven’t died for quite a bit longer.”
“You have died before?” Logan asked, taking a step forward and shocking Janus into taking a step back.
“I thought that would be clear from that statement,” Janus said. “Why are you reacting like this?”
“Deceit, I would like you to refrain from sarcasm right now,” Logan said, rubbing at the bridge of his nose.
Janus blinked in surprise. “I wasn’t…” he said in bafflement. For once, he hadn’t been using sarcasm. He didn’t understand anything that was happening right now.
“You were not being sarcastic?” Logan asked, looking more bewildered. “Deceit, are you actually confused as to why I am concerned when a side tells me he’s been hurt and killed before in order to protect others?”
“I… yes?” Janus said hesitantly.
In the next second, Logan looked almost offended. “I would like to think I am capable of recognizing when something has happened that is serious and warrants concern,” he said. “What you have just described to me is several levels above deserving concern, Deceit.”
“Why?” Janus asked. “I told you, Remus and I being here makes both of us safe now. That ‘both of us’ would of course include me. Nothing like that has happened to me for as long as I’ve been here. I was just explaining why that meant Remus and I shouldn’t leave.”
“You are certainly not going anywhere, but that does not even begin to approach the point,” Logan said. “You should not have been in a situation where something like that was necessary in the first place.”
Janus shrugged. “It was,” he said. “So I dealt with it.”
“Why didn’t you ask for help?”
“Would you have helped us if I did?” Janus asked.
Logan’s eyes widened again, and after another second he looked away, for some reason seeming much more upset.
“So you wouldn’t,” Janus said gently, trying to figure out why Logan suddenly looked guilty. “That’s okay.”
“It is not,” Logan said, looking back towards him.
“Morals are Patton’s domain,” Janus said.
“This is not a moral issue,” Logan said, suddenly very firm. “Moral issues involve much more complex problems. You are a side just like us, you were hurting, and thus you deserved help. We did not give it, and thus that puts us in the wrong. That is not complex.”
“You didn’t know anything was happening,” Janus said, still thoroughly surprised by the direction this conversation was taking. “And you weren’t ever the ones who did anything. There isn’t anything to fault any of you for.”
“Roman is attempting to kick you out.”
“He doesn’t know either,” Janus said. “And anyway, that’s why I’m telling you.”
Logan sighed and shook his head. “He will be just as upset when he finds out,” he said. “But that is not the point either.”
“He’s not going to find out.”
Logan gave Janus a look. “Janus, you cannot expect to keep something of this multitude from everyone else.”
“I can, and I will,” Janus said, standing taller. “And I forbid you to tell anyone. Just like I did Virgil when he found out and Remus, when he did.”
Logan stared at him for a moment.
Janus smiled slightly. “Not so simple now, is it?” he asked.
“Janus,” Logan said tightly. “I would advise you to reconsider this decision. If we are best to help you—”
“I don’t want your help,” Janus said, adjusting his gloves. “I didn’t then, and I don’t now. The only help I need from you is to let Remus and I stay here. It will make both of us safer, and keep Thomas more mentally healthy. You can talk with Virgil or Remus if you want further reasoning.”
Janus turned at that and walked out Logan’s door, heading back to his own. That had been a thoroughly weird interaction, but at least he could trust Logan to agree to let them stay here now, and that was all he really needed. No matter what Logan said.
Logan suddenly taking Janus’ side did not improve the situation in many ways. There was no way Janus and Remus were going to be sent back now, which is what he wanted, but other than that Janus telling Logan had seemed to split up the core sides. Logan and Virgil were now in agreement that Remus and Janus both had to stay here, Roman was still avidly against the idea, and Patton was generally polite but still didn’t like Janus and Remus.
Janus hadn’t been intending to make them fight, but he and Remus were still here, so he couldn’t feel too badly about it. He was a little weirded out by the way that Logan was starting to talk to Remus and Virgil about him, as well as checking in on him and asking how his wounds were healing. He seemed to consider this something that he needed to be up to date about, despite how many times Janus explained to him that he was fine now.
Really, though, that was only mildly annoying in the grand scheme of things. Janus’ biggest irritation was still Roman, who told him multiple times a week that he was still going to find a way to get rid of him. While he no longer had enough support to make that a possibility, Janus couldn’t say he wasn’t getting sick of it.
He wasn’t the only one, either. He could tell it was really starting to get to Remus, and he’d snapped at Roman about it numerous times. Janus hadn’t been sure how much it was actually getting to him until one morning that Roman was being particularly dramatic, having found Janus alone in the kitchen.
He glared at Janus all throughout making a cup of coffee, and finally Janus had enough.
“Is there something I can help you with?” he asked, glancing over at Roman.
“As a matter of fact,” Roman said, narrowing his eyes. “I demand to know what you’ve done with my sash.”
Janus raised an eyebrow. “I didn’t touch your sash. You’re wearing a sash right now.”
“Yes, I had to wear my backup. Do you know what that looks like? This sash was supposed to go with tomorrow’s outfit, if I can’t find my missing one today I’ll be thrown off!”
“Can’t you just make a new one?” Janus sighed. “Either way, I didn’t take it.”
“And I’m supposed to believe that? You’re the villain here, you snuck over here when no one wanted you!”
“Ah, of course, my nefarious plan to invade your mindscape and steal your backup sash,” Janus muttered, taking a sip of his coffee and turning a page in the book he was reading.
“Well you have to be using your time up here to plan something. Am I supposed to believe you just wanted a new place to stay?”
“I didn’t take your sash, Roman,” Janus said. “Would you mind terribly letting me read? Yesterday was busy, and I’d like a chance to relax this morning.”
“Villains don’t get a chance to relax,” Roman snapped, reaching over to the table and slamming Janus’ book shut.
Janus glared up at him. “And here I thought heroes weren’t supposed to be rude. I imagine we’re changing the roles up today.” He pulled his book away from Roman and flipped it open to around the area he’d been reading through to start looking for his page.
“I was talking to you!” Roman snapped, but before Janus could reply, a balled up red sash hit him in the side of the head.
Both of them turned towards the entrance, where Remus was now glaring at Roman. “I took your sash, dickwad,” he snapped. “Because you were being a dickwad.”
Roman, somehow, took that as a sign to glare back at Janus. “So you sit around and look innocent while you have Remus do your dirty work, is that it?”
“Hey!” Remus stormed across the room and yanked Roman towards him by his backup sash. “I don’t do anyone’s dirty work except my own. Don’t give Dee credit for me being annoying. I took your sash because you’re the worst.”
“I’m the worst? You two are the ones who just showed up here without considering how anyone else felt about the matter. And then you blackmailed Virgil into letting you stay!”
“We didn’t blackmail anyone,” Remus growled.
“Alright,” Janus said, standing. “Can both of you back off? I’m still trying to enjoy my book and neither of you are making it easy.”
“You can enjoy things when you stop with your—” Roman gestured to Janus’ general form.
“I have to earn the right to enjoy things now?” Janus asked in irritation.
“No, you don’t,” Remus spat. He glared at Roman again. “He doesn’t.”
“Remus,” Janus said warningly.
“What? He’s the one being an asshole!”
“Leave it be, Remus,” Janus said, sitting down again. Remus gave a very frustrated grumble and sat down across from him.
Roman glared at them both, but grabbed the sash that he’d come for and left the room.
As soon as he was gone, Janus looked at Remus. “I don’t suddenly need protection, Remus.”
“You were, and I understand, but I’m not suddenly fragile. I can handle Roman being a jerk.”
Remus huffed and sank down in his chair. “I know,” he muttered. “Just… I want him to stop.”
“I can’t say I disagree with you,” Janus said, opening his book again. “But I don’t think you’re going to manage that.”
Remus was silent for a couple seconds before he suddenly grabbed Janus’ free hand. Janus glanced up at him.
“Let me tell him,” Remus said, and Janus yanked his hand away.
“Let me tell him and he’ll stop being a jerk. He won’t be mad if he knows why you’re here.”
“You sound so certain of that,” Janus said, taking a drink of coffee so he wouldn’t have to look Remus in the eyes.
“He’s a hero or whatever. And also, getting mad at you being here when he knows the reason is too dickish even for him. Let me tell him and he’ll stop.”
Janus sighed and set his mug down. “I don’t think that’s a good idea, Remus.”
“Why not? You told Logan, didn’t that help?”
“I told Logan so Roman wouldn’t be able to kick us out.”
“So if I tell Roman he’ll stop trying entirely! That’ll help more!”
“Remus,” Janus sighed.
“He’s being an asshole, Janus,” Remus said. “I’m so sick of it! Not even Patton is being this judgy, and it’s his literal job to be judgy! I want him to stop it!”
Janus paused as he took Remus in. He actually looked angry. Maybe he was more bothered by this than Janus thought.
A part of him, a large part of him, didn’t want to tell Roman anything. Remus seemed to think it would get him to stop being a jerk, but while Janus would lie to people to get them to do things, telling the truth to get them to do things did not come as easily to him. Being honest with someone felt like giving them a reward, and Roman hadn’t earned that from him.
But at the same time, Janus really didn’t want to annoy Remus further by telling him no, and the longer he had to deal with Roman while Janus was refusing to let him tell him, the more likely he would get frustrated with Janus. Anger that didn’t have anywhere to go tended to find a new target, after all. Would he lose Remus like he’d lost Virgil? That sounded worse than telling Roman when he wasn’t ready to.
It sounded worse enough in fact, that after a lengthy pause, Janus looked up at Remus, sighed again, and said, “Okay.”
Remus’ eyes widened. “Really?”
“Yes. You can tell him. But I don’t want to be there.”
“Deal,” Remus said with a nod, looking relieved at the prospect of telling Roman, which was something at least. Janus picked up his mug to take another sip of his coffee that was lukewarm at this point, and opened his book to start reading again. He’d probably get approached by Roman later, so he was going to spend the rest of the day doing things he actually wanted first.
He ended up being right about his prediction, though, as after lunch he got a knock on his door, and when he walked over and opened it he saw Roman, looking incredibly distraught.
Janus sighed. “I suppose Remus has told you then,” he said, turning and stepping back into the room.
“He… he did,” Roman said hesitantly. He followed Janus inside and thankfully shut the door behind him. “Why didn’t you say anything, Deceit?”
“Oh, yes, I definitely owe you information that’s so personal,” Janus said, turning and narrowing his eyes. “I’m most certainly required to tell you something that makes me—” Janus cut himself off, and took a deep breath. Just because Roman knew now didn’t mean he was required to spill all of his secrets.
“Why did you let Remus tell me then?” Roman asked hesitantly.
“Because Remus was tired of your behavior,” Janus said plainly. “And you weren’t going to stop otherwise.”
Roman winced. “I… I’m sorry, Deceit.”
Janus shook his head and turned away. “It hardly matters. Just leave it alone from now on, won’t you?”
“It… it does matter, Deceit,” Roman said hesitantly. “I don’t… I mean, I’ve been… I haven’t been very princely in my behavior towards you lately.”
“Yes, we established that already. You can let it go now.”
“That’s not… but I can’t just…”
“You really can,” Janus snapped. “Especially considering I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Oh, yeah, I mean, we don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.”
“Great,” Janus said. “Then why are you still here?”
“I thought you might want some kind of explanation.”
“I don’t particularly care, no,” Janus said.
Roman looked away. “Oh,” he whispered. “Okay.”
Janus looked at him for a second. He was probably going to let this get to him if they didn’t talk about it, wasn’t he? He sighed and crossed his arms. “Fine. Go on.”
Roman looked up again. “We don’t have to—”
“Do you want to talk about it or don’t you? Go on.”
Roman flinched. “Look, Remus… he told me what happened with the others in the subconscious, and with Virgil and Logan, but he never mentioned…” Roman stopped and bit his lip.
“Yes, clearly you want to talk about this so badly,” Janus grumbled.
“He never mentioned what happened between you and me as being related in any way,” Roman said quietly.
Janus rolled his eyes. “It wasn’t,” he said. “Is that all? You’re just upset about being used?”
“That’s not—” Roman snapped, but stopped and looked firmly away. “I… I suppose that’s it,” he said through gritted teeth. He took a deep breath. “I’m… sorry, Deceit, I’m not trying to be selfish.” He looked down. “I just don’t think you really understand how badly that hurt.”
“That’s not selfish,” Janus said simply.
“What do you mean that’s not selfish? I—”
“Roman,” Janus cut him off. “I think you are foolish and impatient and too full of yourself. I think you have a lot to learn and struggle to admit that fact. But I also think you get far too insecure and fail to acknowledge how much you bring to the table. I think you assume your actions are selfish when they are not. And if I have hurt you,” Janus walked across the room to stand in front of Roman. “I do not want you to forgive me because I was hurt by someone who isn’t you. Do you understand?”
Roman nodded, looking a little stunned at that idea. “Okay,” he said softly. “Um, either way, I am sorry that I’ve been trying to throw you out, Deceit. If you’re safer here of course you should stay.”
“I plan to,” Janus said. “Now can we please move on and not bring any of this up ever again?”
Roman nodded again. “Agreed,” he said. He started for the door, and stopped just at the edge. “Thank you, Deceit,” he said hesitantly. “I still don’t like you though.”
“I never asked you to like me,” Janus said, finally turning to go back to his book. Roman shut his door as he left, and Janus let out a relieved sigh. For how much he wished it hadn’t happened, at least the conversation was over with. And now he could stop having to be bothered by Roman attempting to kick him out over and over again.
He was really getting tired of opening up to people, though.
The wedding finally arrived. Janus had been dreading it more since moving over here, but he also hadn’t really been focusing on it. He hadn’t forgotten about the situation (how could he), but it had slid to a back burner with everything else that had been going on. He knew he wasn’t going to change Thomas’ mind about going, so he’d been preparing himself to help pick up the pieces, but otherwise he’d had other things on his mind.
The wedding still happened, however, and Janus still swooped in afterwards and helped Thomas start to understand what was wrong with his thinking. It led to all of the lovely consequences that came with a crisis of morality. Speaking of Morality, everything involving that also came with the more unexpected result of Patton learning to be okay with him. Suddenly he was checking in on him and hearing him out and asking for his opinion.
It was bizarre, but Janus took a sort of comfort in it as well. Logan had softened on him slightly since learning what had happened, and Roman, despite still loudly announcing that he hated Janus whenever it came up, had stopped actively trying to bother him or kick him and Remus out. Patton was the only one who didn’t know what had happened, and Janus won him over anyway. It was proof that he didn’t need to be pitied in order to be liked by a core side. And it was also a relief in the fact that he never had to tell Patton if he didn’t want to.
He’d been forced to tell Remus, and Logan, and even Roman, but no one was insisting he tell Patton. Patton liked him regardless, and Janus didn’t have to be raw and honest with him to get there. It was refreshing. For a little while, Janus almost thought he wouldn’t have to, and that things could go on like they had been.
Then Remus started to get worse.
Janus had never thought that Remus wouldn’t be at all bothered by what had happened, but he’d kind of figured what had happened with Roman was the end of it. But apparently that had been more of a distraction than anything else, because now that everything was starting to settle down and they were both more or less a regular presence, it looked like Remus was finally starting to process everything, and his way of doing such wasn’t exactly pretty.
Janus was very good at turning inwards when he needed to process something and refusing to let anyone else see him do it. For example, he’d completely processed everything that had happened with the others, obviously, and no one had to help him through it in the slightest. Remus, on the other hand… when he was working through something, you could tell.
Aside from general irritation and snapping at other sides, Thomas was starting to get quite a few intrusive thoughts about close friends sacrificing themselves for his sake. It didn’t take a genius to figure out why that was happening, and everyone put the pieces together in about two seconds. Well, everyone except Thomas, of course. And also Patton, which was a different problem.
Growing closer to Janus didn’t mean that Patton had taken any more of a liking to Remus, as a matter of fact he was still pretty grossed out and disturbed by him. Remus, on the other hand, wasn’t in a place to give him much thought, and Janus wasn’t sure he would have anyway. So the thoughts continued, and while Janus was trying to figure out a way to help Remus through this better, Patton was getting frustrated with the whole situation before he actually got there. And with the two of them being closer than they used to be, it seemed he’d decided to bring it up to Janus.
When he did so, Janus was reading. He had grown into a pleasant habit of reading in the living room after lunch. Everyone usually went back to their rooms after lunch for some reason or other, jobs or leisure or naps, so Janus had most of the commons to himself. The spot on the couch in the living room that was closest to the window got just the right angle of sun in the early afternoon, and Janus could curl up there and read and be content with everything in the world ever.
Today, however, Patton followed him into the living room after lunch, and when Janus sat down he stopped hesitantly in front of him.
Janus looked up at him before opening his book. “Can I help you?”
“I was wondering if I could talk to you about something,” Patton said hesitantly.
Janus set his book on the arm of the couch and turned to face Patton. “Of course not, can’t you see I’m incredibly busy?”
Patton chuckled a little and moved to sit down next to him. “I was just wondering… I was wondering if you knew what’s going on with Remus?”
Janus tensed. He looked at Patton to see he looked both bothered and a little worried, the latter of which he wasn’t expecting.
“I do know,” Janus said. “I’m working on it, don’t worry.”
“I just… is he alright? Is he angry, or upset, is there something I could do?” Patton asked.
“I appreciate the effort, Patton, but no,” Janus said. “Remus is working through something, I think he’d benefit the most right now from some space.”
The answer didn’t really seem to satisfy Patton. “Okay,” he said hesitantly. “It’s just… Thomas is having nightmares, Janus. Virgil’s having some too, and I’ve kind of— I mean— I was just thinking—”
“I know,” Janus said. “I’m sorry, but it can’t be helped for now. I’m working on it, I promise.”
Patton took a breath, then seemed to hesitate. “Maybe…”
“Maybe what?” Janus asked.
“What if… Remus went back to the subconscious?” Patton asked, and Janus’ blood ran cold. “Just so he doesn’t affect Thomas as directly? Or—”
“No,” Janus said, swift and firm.
Patton held his hands up. “I know you care about him, Janus. It wouldn’t have to be forever. It wouldn’t even have to be long, maybe just until he can figure out whatever he’s struggling with? It might help everyone up here feel a little better too.”
“No it wouldn’t,” Janus said.
“Janus, I know everyone thinks it’s super important that you two stay up here, and I’m not trying to argue that, I swear,” Patton said, and at least he sounded sincere in that. “I wouldn’t be trying to kick him out. But you said he needed space. Going a little further away from Thomas’ conscious mind might actually help him. He could come back if it doesn’t end up doing that.”
“It wouldn’t help him,” Janus hissed. “It wouldn’t help anyone. He’s here for a reason, Patton.”
“What reason? He’s not helping anyone right now. He seems like he’s kind of the worst side Thomas could have around right now, he could go back to—”
Patton blinked. “He… what?”
Janus’ throat felt dry, and he tried to sidestep. “He isn’t going back, Patton,” he said. Unfortunately, Patton seemed to get what he actually meant.
“He isn’t the worst side Thomas could have around right now?” Patton asked in confusion.
Janus squeezed his eyes shut, and took a minute to mourn the loss of what felt like his last real friendship. “No, Patton,” he said, opening his eyes. “He isn’t.”
Patton was silent as Janus told him everything, but the look of horror on his face was pretty expected. He explained everything that had happened with the others, what happened with Virgil, Remus coming over here and the consequential worsening of the others, and then the night Virgil insisted they stay here.
“Janus, you—” Patton said weakly when he finally stopped. “Why didn’t you tell anyone?”
Janus sighed. He was getting so sick of that question. “I don’t know, Patton,” he said. “I just didn’t.”
Patton was silent for a long moment. “I’ve been having nightmares about other sides sacrificing themselves for me,” he said quietly. “That’s what this is about, Janus. They scare me and I hate them.”
Janus nodded. “Okay. I’ll talk to Remus.”
“Can I hug you?” Patton asked.
Janus looked wearily over at him and nodded. Patton reached his arms around Janus and squeezed him tightly, and it felt surprisingly nice. He melted into the hold after a second.
“I’m so sorry that happened to you,” Patton said quietly. “I love you, you know.”
Well, now Janus had to focus on breathing for a second as he processed that. No one had ever had that response to him telling them. That was probably because when it came to Patton, Janus actually hadn’t done anything wrong that he needed to apologize for. And, well, also the fact that it was Patton.
“Okay,” Janus said weakly, and Patton laughed a little and held him tighter.
“I do,” he said again. “I promise.”
“I… believe you,” Janus said hesitantly. He swallowed the ‘thank you’ that had been about to come out, because then Patton might stop hugging him, and Janus was quickly coming to realize that he really didn’t want that. Thankfully, Patton didn’t move, and he didn’t ask Janus to move, and Janus tried to breathe his way past the sudden flood of emotions he was feeling.
They’d move, eventually. But they’d also both fall asleep first.
Janus still wasn’t sure how to bring what was happening up to Remus. He’d been aware that he had been affecting other sides, but the fact that he was causing other sides nightmares was definitely more concerning. He needed to come up with some way to bring everything up to Remus. It didn’t matter how much he didn’t want to talk about it.
Fortunately for at least one part of everything, at least, Janus didn’t have to come up with a way to mention it, because Remus snapped first.
Neither of them had talked to Virgil much since moving over here, so Janus wasn’t totally aware of how much things had been changing for him, but he’d started to notice that Virgil was seeming to be alone more often then not.
He couldn’t really pin down a reason why, no one seemed to be intentionally excluding him. He just suddenly stopped appearing at meals or being a presence around the commons or coming to movie nights with the core sides— the last part mentioned by Patton. Times everyone got together to talk about Janus when they thought he wasn’t listening in were starting to slow down, but when Janus stumbled across them Virgil was starting to be there less and less. Overall, it was becoming a rarity to find Virgil with someone else.
So, when he and Remus came across Virgil listening to music alone in the living room, Janus didn’t immediately pull them both out of the room, despite Remus not being in the best mood today and probably not in a good space to be around Virgil.
They both sat on the empty couch, and Remus leaned against him as he started to brainstorm ideas in a notebook. Janus, meanwhile, was trying to figure out how to balance the way Remus had tensed on spotting Virgil with the way Virgil hadn’t been seen by anyone else in almost a week.
Remus had been on edge today already. He’d been jumpy and bothering Thomas and the others more than usual. He’d reflexively torn his arm off and had to reattach it to his shoulder several times. If Janus tried something that would likely just bug him more, it wouldn’t end pretty.
But on the other hand, this might be his last chance to talk to Virgil for another too-long stretch of time. Virgil was Anxiety. He didn’t do so well by himself all the time. He needed alone time, sure, but he needed companionship just as much, and he seemed to be depriving himself of it.
Finally, Janus took a breath, making his decision. “Hi, Virgil.”
Both Remus and Virgil looked over at him, Virgil in surprise and Remus in irritation and a little disbelief.
“Uh. Hi? What do you want?” Virgil asked, dropping quickly from surprise into annoyance.
“I just wanted to check on you,” Janus said. “No one’s seen much of you lately.”
Remus pushed off of him and kept almost-glaring at him. In response, Janus shifted to sit upright on the couch.
“And how is that any of your business, exactly?” Virgil asked, glaring down at his phone and tugging on his hoodie sleeves.
“I’m just worried, Virgil,” Janus said, trying to keep his voice soft and genuine at the same time.
Virgil scoffed and glared away, and Janus wondered briefly if this was worth it.
“Why?” Remus asked suddenly.
Janus gave him a look. “Remus.”
“No, seriously, why? You don’t need to care about him anymore. No one would blame you if you didn’t.”
“Remus,” Janus said, crossing his arms. “That isn’t fair.”
“Oh, it’s not? Tell me, what about it isn’t fair, exactly? I vote you kick him to the curb and don’t look back!”
“Fuck off, asshole,” Virgil snapped. “Both of you.”
Yeah, this had definitely been a bad idea, but stopping now would probably just make it worse. “Virgil, you can’t shut yourself away all the time,” Janus said. “It’s not a good idea.”
“Did I ask?” Virgil snapped. “I don’t care what you think.”
“Of course not,” Remus said, rolling his eyes. “That would require you to be a somewhat decent person.”
“Could you back off?” Virgil spat at him.
“When you earn it!”
“Remus,” Janus said firmly.
Virgil laughed a little, drawing his attention again. “Fine, sure,” he muttered. “Everyone else is already mad at me, at least you’re direct about it.”
“Virgil, no one’s mad at you,” Janus said in concern.
Virgil gave him a look. “I’m not stupid, Janus. You’ve told everyone at this point, right? You think they’re not going to get pissed about what I did?”
“And what did you do, exactly?” Janus asked, raising an eyebrow.
“He left,” Remus said simply.
Janus glared at him. “Remus, could you back off?”
“No, seriously, he left,” Remus snapped. “He knew you weren’t going to be safer with him gone, and he left anyway.”
“He wanted me to!” Virgil snapped, gesturing vaguely at Janus without looking away from Remus.
“That doesn’t matter!”
“Yes, Remus,” Janus said, pulling him back. “It does. Virgil’s actions don’t exist in a vacuum. He is allowed to get angry and decide to leave when I treat him terribly.”
“He knew you weren’t going to have anyone there to help you!” Remus moved his glare over to Janus. “He knew I didn’t know anything was happening, and that you were going to have to deal with everything alone all over again! He didn’t even try to help you!”
Virgil took three steps across the room and shoved Remus backwards hard enough that he fell. Remus looked up at him from the ground, a little stunned.
“Fuck. You,” Virgil said. “Yes I did. He refused to let me tell anyone what was happening. I started keeping medical supplies in my room because he refused to let me confront the others directly either, and even then, I was fucking terrified that he would hide an injury from me when he really needed help. Do you know how badly I wanted to tell you? Both so I wouldn’t have to deal with everything on my own and so we could better figure out an actual solution. But I was forced to deal with everything alone, and then he started trying to make me want to leave. Newsflash, when someone you’re that close to starts trying to hurt you, it usually works!”
Janus took a hesitant step towards Virgil and reached a hand out, but Virgil batted it away. “And in case you forgot,” he snapped back at Remus, who was pushing himself up and staring at him. “I’m the whole reason you two got to stay over here in the first fucking place, which, by the way, I also offered to try and make happen before I was anywhere near as close to the core sides as I was after I ducked out. I did everything I could, asshole! You don’t get to tell me it’s not enough! You think I don’t know that?”
“Virgil,” Janus said, putting a gentle hand on his shoulder. Virgil jerked away and shoved Janus backwards.
“It’s supposed to be my job to protect Thomas,” Virgil said weakly, wiping at his eyes. “All of him. You wouldn’t let me do my job, Janus.”
“I’m sorry,” Janus said, meaning it more than he thought he ever had before. “Virgil, I’m sorry.” He reached out for Virgil again, and this time, when he didn’t move away, pulled Virgil close. Virgil grabbed the edges of his cape and buried his face in his chest.
A second later much louder sniffing came from the other side of the room, and Janus looked over to see Remus wiping at his eyes too.
“Hey,” he said, making another hand appear so he could reach out to him. “Remus, it’s okay.”
“You were hurting because of me,” Remus whispered. “Because you were trying to protect me. Does that make it my fault?”
“No,” Janus said firmly, stretching his arm out and pulling Remus up and towards him, stopping when he was at his side. “How about instead it’s the fault of the sides threatening to hurt anyone in the first place? Let’s blame them.”
Virgil made a small noise of agreement. Janus offered his hand out, and Remus joined in on the hug, attaching himself to Janus’ other side.
“I’m sorry,” Remus said quietly, and Janus wasn’t sure who exactly he was talking to until he nudged Virgil. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be mad at you for not saying anything. I know you couldn’t. And I… do get why you left.”
“It’s okay,” Virgil said, wiping his eyes again. “I just… I’m tired of everyone being mad.”
“No one’s mad at you,” Janus said again. “If anything I would assume more of them are mad at me for not saying anything.”
The words felt sour on his tongue, but he brushed the feeling aside for now.
“I love you two, you know,” he said instead, and those words felt much less terrible to say.
“Love you too,” Remus said, muffled by Janus’ side.
Virgil pulled back slightly from Janus’ shoulder and simply mumbled, “Never stopped.” It was a little less direct, but it still formed a lump in Janus’ throat.
Eventually they all moved over to a couch and curled up in a slightly miserable, but also somehow content pile. They wouldn’t move from that spot for hours.
Patton would approach him after a few days and tell him he wasn’t having nightmares anymore.
The idea of telling Thomas was petrifying in every sense of the word. For more than one reason. He was his center. Their relationship wasn’t at a place where he felt comfortable with that yet. Thomas was the last person who didn’t know. Telling him what other sides did to him would also tell him the fact that those other sides existed at all, and that would remove one pretty solid barrier between them all. Janus wasn’t ready. He didn’t want to tell Thomas. So, in a brilliant move sure to shock everyone, he decided he wouldn’t. Not yet, anyway.
Which was fine. There was nothing wrong with secrets, after all, so long as they weren’t hurting you. And in this case, what Thomas didn’t know wasn’t hurting anyone anymore.
And everything with the rest of the sides seemed to be settling into an actual normal. Remus, Virgil, and Roman were starting to work together to set up pranks for other unsuspecting sides (the three of them were included in the possibilities, naturally). Logan was proving himself capable of dealing with all of Remus’ rants by being willing to listen. Patton had given Janus an offer to talk if he ever wanted to. He also consistently gave hugs to any side who wanted them, Janus and Remus now included in that. Janus accepted sometimes, though he didn’t typically ask. Having Virgil around and not hating him was strange, but in a very good way. Janus’ original prediction of having plenty of time to take long bubble baths and read and spend time with people he cared about was proving true.
He did still know, for the record, that not everything was fixed. For how good he was at denial, he couldn’t ignore that fact entirely. Naturally, he was perfectly fine, but it was taking everyone else some time to move past everything they’d learned, which was completely understandable.
The talks when they thought he wasn’t listening hadn’t stopped, which he didn’t fully understand, as he couldn’t imagine what they had left to discuss. He sometimes walked into a room to see Virgil and Remus discussing what had happened, which was fine, and they deserved space to discuss things like that with someone else who would understand. The rest of the core sides looked at him a little differently than they had before they knew, which was also fine.
And besides, everything else was great. It’s not like he was still bothered by the fact that everyone now knew everything before he’d really felt ready for that. It’s not like every time someone gave him a knowing look or they all fell silent the second he entered the room it made Janus want to scream or groan or storm away or do something that made it clear that he knew what the hell they were doing.
But it was still fine. The talks had still been dropping steadily, so it wasn’t as large of a problem as it would have been otherwise. It had been several months since the last one, and Janus was starting to wonder if they were finally done.
Then suddenly, they all started having talks out of nowhere again.
Janus couldn’t imagine what they all thought he did wrong this time, but apparently it was something big, because they were talking a lot, and he could see them gearing up for something. He couldn’t say he was looking forward to whatever it was.
The day that they ended up talking to him, he’d been reading in his spot by the window after lunch and very much enjoying the warmth from the sun. The book he was reading was a very good one, and he liked what he had for lunch. Everyone had been doing well lately, and generally speaking life was good. Just about the last thing he wanted was for anything to interrupt him, so of course everyone decided to show up.
“Hey, Janus?” came Patton’s sudden voice. Janus glanced up to see everyone standing on the other side of the room, looking apprehensive.
He raised an eyebrow. “Is something happening?”
“We just wanted to talk to you for a minute, kiddo,” Patton said.
Janus managed to avoid sighing aloud and closed his book. “Yes?”
“Okay, uh,” Virgil said, looking away. “So we all kind of noticed you’re not exactly doing the best.”
Janus shoved down his spike of panic and raised an eyebrow. “I’m fine.”
“No you’re not,” Remus said, crossing his arms. “And denying it to yourself for so long isn’t helping.”
Janus scowled. Who were they to say that denying things to himself wasn’t helping? It was working perfectly fine! Or rather, it wasn’t working at all because he wasn’t denying anything!
“Kiddo,” Patton said, walking hesitantly towards him. Janus tensed the closer he got. “We’ve just noticed that you’re still kind of sneaking around like you’re on edge and feel like you’re in danger. And that sometimes you tense up when someone looks at you or talks to you.”
Janus blinked at him for a minute. He only ever tensed up when someone looked at him differently, or talked to him like they thought he was fragile. That wasn’t something to be concerned about, that was something they needed to stop.
He opened his mouth to say such, but then Logan stepped forward instead. “As I said before, Janus, we are all willing to help you, but you need to let us. You can’t assume that we will be able to do everything perfectly if you don’t tell us what you need us to do.”
“I don’t need to tell you anything because there’s nothing I need,” Janus snapped. “I’m fine.”
“Janny,” Remus said, moving closer to him. Janus tensed up more and pushed himself further back against the couch. “You’re really not.”
“We were thinking of some possible solutions?” Roman said hesitantly. “If you’re open to hearing about them?”
“I don’t see why they would be necessary,” Janus said, crossing his arms.
“Janny, come on,” Remus said, and Janus turned his weakening glare on him.
“Maybe just try, kiddo?” Patton asked. “If what we try doesn’t help we can do something else.”
“We don’t need to try anything at all,” Janus snapped. “Because I’m fine.”
“Janus, be reasonable,” Logan said. “At least hear us out.”
“Why should I? I already know your suggestions aren’t going to be helpful. You came here and interrupted my reading for something that won’t help anyone. Why should I give it the time of day instead of just going back doing what I actually want to be doing?”
“Because we care about you and we’re trying to help you,” Patton said softly.
Janus scoffed and picked up his book. “That reason hasn’t worked in the past.”
“No, but I figured you’d be trying to do better,” Virgil said, giving him a very pointed look.
Oh, fuck you Virgil.
“Fine,” Janus said, sitting back down and setting his book down firmly to show his disapproval of this situation. “What are all of your brilliant ideas?”
Everyone exchanged a glance, and then Patton stepped forward again. “Well, we were thinking that we could put some mirrors around corners for a while,” he said. “It sounds kind of silly, but it would let you see around you so you wouldn’t feel like you have to sneak as much.”
That… was very much not what he was expecting Patton to say. And it did sound ridiculous, but also kind of nice for some reason?
“And we’re all going to try and be a little more vocal about when things make us uncomfortable,” Roman said, and at least he didn’t look thrilled by that idea either. “Just to hopefully make it a little easier to talk about.”
“And we were thinking,” Remus said, sounding hesitant, which keyed Janus into the fact that he was definitely not going to like this next part. “That you should probably tell Thomas.”
Janus narrowed his eyes and stood. “No.”
“Janus,” Logan said, far too casually. “I know that probably doesn’t sound appealing to you—”
“I’m not telling Thomas,” Janus said. “We can talk about the other things you mentioned. But I’m not telling Thomas.”
“Okay,” Patton said hesitantly. “So we might need to talk about that one a little more—”
“No. We don’t. I’ll decide when I’m ready to tell Thomas. I’ve decided that I’m not ready for that. So let’s move on.”
“Or what, are you going to force us to keep quiet again?” Virgil said, raising an eyebrow.
Janus glared at him. “That’s not fair, Virgil.”
“Oh, it’s not? I think it’s a pretty valid concern. I don’t want you to put off telling Thomas until the last minute where you can’t anymore.”
“I won’t,” Janus said.
“And we’re supposed to just trust you with that?” Virgil said, moving past everyone until he was right in front of Janus.
“I would appreciate it, yes,” Janus said through gritted teeth.
“I don’t see how you expect me to do that,” Virgil said. “If I hadn’t found out what was happening all those years ago, I think the three of us would still be down there and Remus and I would still have no clue what was happening!”
“You’re probably right,” Janus admitted, still low and angry.
“And so I’m supposed to trust you now why?”
“How about because I’m asking you to?” Janus said, clenching his hands into fists where no one else could see. “And it’s generally respectful to listen to people about when to share secrets?”
“Kiddo,” Patton said, stepping forward. “I just don’t think we really know how well you can decide these kinds of things—”
“Oh, right,” Janus snapped. “Because obviously, when I say I’m not ready to share something, it doesn’t really count! I’m just being unreasonable or sensitive because of what I’ve gone through, or because of my function, or because I don’t understand how the other person won’t care! I can’t be trusted to know when is an appropriate time to be vulnerable, right? Who cares whether or not I feel comfortable? Obviously my comfort when it comes to sharing secrets doesn’t really matter!”
He turned to glare back at everyone again, because now that he’d started, he might as well get it all out there. “Virgil found out and dragged what happened out of me. Then he made me tell Remus. I told Logan because Patton and Roman and him were talking about kicking Remus and I out. I let Remus tell Roman because he wanted him to stop being a jerk. And I told Patton because he was talking again about kicking Remus out. Do you think I would have told any of you anything if I wasn’t forced to?”
“Janus—” Remus said hesitantly.
“The idea of telling Thomas too is petrifying,” Janus cut him off. “Because I’m afraid that he’ll start treating me like I’m fragile, just like all of you have! I’ve decided I’m not ready to tell Thomas anything, which is fine, because it’s my secret and I get to decide when to tell it! It’s not hurting anyone anymore, which means I don’t have to tell anyone. And no, none of you are going to either. And now, I’m going to my room, because I would like to have this conversation another time. Or never. Never is also an option.”
Janus turned and grabbed his book off the couch, and because he wanted to be a dramatic little shit, he stormed up the steps and slammed his door instead of just sinking out.
Well, that was his day ruined then. How lovely.
Remus and Virgil were the first ones to knock on his door. Or at least he assumed it was them when Remus called out very loudly, “Janus, it’s me and Virgil, can we talk?”
For a second, Janus considered being petty and saying nothing at all. He also considered saying “I’m not really interested” or something similar. But after a second someone knocked again.
“Janus?” Virgil called. “Look, we’re sorry, okay?”
Janus sighed heavily and climbed up from his desk. He walked quickly over towards his door and yanked it open, startling the two sides standing there.
“I’m really not in the mood to talk to anyone right now,” Janus said, crossing his arms and leaning against the side of the doorframe.
Virgil nodded, and took a step back. “Okay,” he said. “We can come back later.”
Janus paused and raised an eyebrow. “You’re giving up just like that?”
“You said you’re not in the mood for talking,” Virgil said. “So I’m trying to respect that.”
Janus narrowed his eyes again. “Okay, sure. Why are you really leaving, then?”
But Virgil just looked distressed now. “That… that is why… have we really done that bad a job of listening to you?”
“Snakey,” Remus said, moving forward slightly and grabbing his hands. “We’re sorry. All of us are. We should have listened to you.”
Janus shook his head and pulled his hands away from Remus. “It’s fine,” he muttered, turning back around and starting towards his desk. “I haven’t exactly had the greatest track record for telling you all things you need to know.”
“But it’s different,” Virgil said. He heard two sets of footsteps coming towards him, but neither of them shut the door. Janus wondered if that was because they’d still let him kick them out if he wanted.
“You’re right, it’s different,” Virgil continued. “Forcing you stay here so you’ll be safe and forcing you to be vulnerable with other people when you’re not ready for that are two very different things. I… I’m sorry, Janus.”
“Jan,” Remus said, and Janus felt a hesitant hand on his shoulder. “If you’d said you didn’t want me to tell Roman I wouldn’t have told Roman.”
“Well, yes,” Janus agreed, looking over his shoulder at Remus. “Because I wouldn’t have let you.”
Remus shook his head. “Because I would have known it would make you uncomfortable,” Remus said. “It doesn’t matter if you physically stop me or not. If you don’t want me to tell someone else stuff about you, I won’t. Especially if it’s personal stuff.”
“We’re not gonna push you to tell Thomas anything, okay?” Virgil said. “None of us. Promise. We should have accepted your answer when you said you’re not ready.”
Janus glanced over his other shoulder at him. He looked sincere.
He sighed, turned to face them, and walked over to shut the door, to signify allowing a longer conversation about this. He turned hesitantly to face them again.
“The other ideas you suggested weren’t… awful. And it’s not like I want to be on edge all of the time. I…” Janus took a breath in and let it out harshly. “I don’t know how to stop,” he admitted.
“I can give you some tips,” Virgil said quietly. “If you want.”
Janus bit his lip, but after a second nodded slightly. Virgil nodded back, but thankfully didn’t say anything else.
“Jan?” Remus said. “Can I ask you something?”
Janus looked warily at him. “Okay.”
“Do we really treat you like you’re fragile?”
Janus sighed. “Sometimes,” he said, and Remus winced. “That’s kind of why I tense up when you look at me sometimes. It’s like you all think I can’t tell. You’re not exactly subtle.”
“I don’t think I even realized I was doing that,” Remus said.
“I didn’t either,” Virgil said, rubbing the back of his neck.
“You,” Janus hesitated, looking at Virgil. “You don’t. As much. I don’t know if that’s because you were there for some of it, or something else.” He laughed a little. “Or maybe you were just angry for long enough that you stopped pitying me.”
Virgil tried to smile a little, though it came across as weak.
“That might be right,” Remus said hesitantly, and Janus looked back at him. “I mean, it’s hard for me to connect the idea of you just like, coming to movie nights and listening to me ranting about ideas and making me breakfast and stuff and also getting hurt by other sides all the time. I want to go back to my past self and shake him and tell him to pay closer attention.”
“Remus,” Janus said, finally closing the distance between them enough to grab Remus’ hands. “It’s not your fault. It’s okay if it takes you a little while to believe that, but at least know that I don’t blame you, and I never have. I intentionally tried very hard to make sure that you didn’t notice. I… shouldn’t have. I shouldn’t have made a deal like that in the first place. I just wanted badly to keep you both from pain that you didn’t deserve, and I couldn’t think of another way.”
“You didn’t deserve it either,” Virgil said firmly.
Janus nodded. “I know,” he said quietly. He took another breath and looked between both of them.
“Acknowledging what happened doesn’t have to mean walking on eggshells around me,” he said. “Just ask. Ask if I’m alright with talking about it right then. And for the love of God, stop giving me looks like you think I’m a kicked puppy.”
Virgil and Remus both nodded.
“Okay,” Remus said. “I will.”
Janus let out a relieved sigh, and then paused. “But, um,” he said hesitantly, thinking about Patton’s reaction to learning the news. He turned to look very firmly at the wall by his wardrobe. “If every now and then you want to give me a bear hug and tell me you’re sorry it all happened, please be aware that I would absolutely despise it.”
Remus seemed to take that as a cue, and instantly pulled Janus forward into a tight squeeze. Janus relaxed in Remus’ hold and laid his head down on his shoulder. A second later, Virgil joined from the other side.
“Tell us next time we cross a boundary, okay?” Virgil said quietly. “We’ll listen, I promise.”
“Okay,” Janus said.
“Do you want us to tell the others?” Virgil asked. “Or do you want to tell them, or do you not want to tell them?”
Janus took a moment to assess the question and how he felt about it. “You can tell them,” he said after a moment. “Just leave out all of the hugging and emotions.”
“Deal,” Remus said, right before suddenly hoisting Janus up in the air. Janus yelped in surprise. Remus carried him over to his bed and then laid back down on top of him, which Janus took a second to adjust to and then found himself enjoying quite a bit.
Virgil joined again in the next second, and Remus squeezed them both tightly to the point where Janus was pretty sure neither of them could breathe. But despite that, and despite the fact that Janus was far from used to hug piles with Remus and Virgil, if they were this nice, he definitely wouldn’t mind getting them more often.
It was a long time after that day before Janus considered telling Thomas anything that happened. No one talked about it without either him bringing it up first or asking if they could, which was much more helpful.
And Virgil had meant it when he’d said they’d take boundaries more seriously. It took Janus a little while to feel comfortable with bringing them up, but when he actually started to, they were respected. It was… nice.
Things calmed down. The mirrors helped, Janus was almost embarrassed to admit how much, but eventually they were also removed, and he still felt okay. Remus got very physically affectionate very quickly, and so did Virgil, to a lesser degree, and Janus didn’t mind in the slightest.
He and Remus also started to be included more, in movie nights and game nights and meals and other various activities. Their relationships with the core sides continued to improve. Eventually, Janus apologized to Roman, and Roman apologized to him too.
It was only after Janus felt truly safe around the rest of the sides that the idea of telling Thomas came into his head again. He recoiled instinctively, but then paused and considered the idea. Thomas no longer hated him in any capacity. It could probably be said that he trusted him. Janus would feel much more comfortable enforcing boundaries with him at this point, even if he was his center. The idea didn’t scare him nearly as much as it had originally. Maybe it was time. The idea of choosing to tell Thomas himself was very pleasing, after all.
He still ended up deciding to wait for a video, one they would all be present in. Janus did not feel comfortable asking to talk. It had to seem like a spur of the moment thing, at least a little bit. He wanted to be there for another reason first.
Fortunately, they were all present in videos more often nowadays, and it wasn’t too long before one came up. Janus still ended up putting off the actual telling until the last day of filming, because, well, if he didn’t deny what was happening until the last possible moment he’d be a lousy Deceit, now wouldn’t he?
“…and until next time, take it easy guys, gals, and nonbinary pals, peace out!” Thomas called. He moved to turn off the camera after, and all of the rest of the sides relaxed as soon as he did, with the exception of Janus himself.
“Thomas?” he called, and Thomas glanced over at him in surprise. It wasn’t unheard of for them to stick around after filming, but it wasn’t terribly common either.
“You need something, Janus?” Thomas asked, sounding curious.
“I was hoping we could all talk for a minute,” Janus said.
“Oh, of course. What’s going on?”
“Nothing in particular, I just had something I felt it was time to tell you.”
He got surprised looks from all the rest of the sides in the room.
“Oh, kiddo, are you sure?” Patton asked.
“I’m sure,” Janus said with a nod to him, and now turned back to see Thomas looking very suspicious.
“Okay, so clearly something has been happening that I don’t know about,” he said, raising an eyebrow.
“No, nothing like that, Thomas,” Janus said. “Nothing’s been happening for a long time. It’s just something that I haven’t felt comfortable sharing until now.”
Thomas’ gaze went from suspicious to confused. “Oh,” he said. “Okay. Are you alright?”
“I am now,” Janus said, and Thomas’ eyes widened in concern.
“You are now? Does that mean you weren’t?”
Janus bit his lip and didn’t say anything, which didn’t seem to help.
“I think you might want to sit down, kiddo,” Patton said eventually.
After another concerned look, Thomas did, and Janus moved to stand in front of him. Patton moved to sit next to Thomas on the couch, and Remus moved to stand next to Janus, but otherwise everyone stayed where they were.
“I want to make clear,” Janus said, turning to face Thomas. “That I don’t want you to treat me any differently. All of this happened a while ago, and it’s not anything anyone’s actively dealing with anymore.”
Thomas narrowed his eyes in concern. “Janus, what happened?” he asked.
Janus took a breath and clutched his hands together under his cloak, and then started to explain. He didn’t really share more than the immediate details, because the idea of sharing how scared he’d been with Thomas was ludicrous and was definitely not happening, thank you. But the lack of details didn’t change what Janus had suspected Thomas’ reaction would be; he looked horrified and deeply concerned.
By the time Janus finished explaining, he wanted to go back to his room and stay there for the rest of the day, but he wasn’t done with what he had to share, and he had no doubt Thomas would have some questions.
“Wait,” Thomas shook his head. “I don’t understand. Did I let this happen somehow?”
“I don’t think that quite follows,” Logan said, and Thomas looked over at him. “If you had known something like this was going on, I have no doubt you would have found a way to put a stop to it. However, I… I do think that having these aspects of yourself and wanting so badly to deny that you have them could do quite a bit of harm to that same sense of denial and self-esteem. And if that side wanted to prevent others from getting hurt as well, then you end up with what has happened.”
Thomas shook his head again, not seeming to know quite what to do with any of this. Janus didn’t blame him.
“It’s okay, kiddo,” Patton said quietly. “Like Janus said, all of this happened a while ago.”
“Still,” Thomas muttered. He looked up at Janus. “You’re alright?”
“I’m alright,” Janus reassured.
“Besides, they’re all locked up now and they’re never coming back,” Roman said, waving his hand dismissively.
Janus sighed. This was the part he hadn’t been looking forward to. “No, Roman,” he said, glancing over at him. “That’s not a good idea.”
Roman gave him a disbelieving look. “I… what?”
“Uh, yeah, you want to catch us up on that particular idea?” Virgil’s voice called from behind, just before he moved up towards the other side of Janus.
Janus gave him a look, ignoring for the second how bothered Virgil looked. “I’m not saying it’s happening anytime soon,” Janus said, turning towards Thomas. “But denying them and locking them up is how we got into this situation. You don’t ever have to listen to them, but at some point you’re going to have to acknowledge them.”
“Wow, okay,” Virgil said. “I hate that idea.”
“Thank you, Virgil, duly noted,” Janus said.
“No seriously, I— are we going to—” Virgil took a deep breath, seeming to try and calm himself down, and Janus looked over at him.
“Can we talk about this?” Virgil asked.
Janus nodded. “We can,” he said. “Not tonight.”
Virgil glared away and grumbled under his breath. “Fine,” he said eventually.
“Yeah, I don’t like that either,” Remus mumbled, crossing his arms off to Janus’ side.
“I’ll admit,” Thomas said, and Janus looked back over at him. “I’m not the biggest fan of learning about new sides and then immediately learning that they have been consistently hurting another one of my sides and then immediately having to think about the idea of talking to them.”
“I understand,” Janus said. “I don’t think it should happen anytime in the near future. But I think eventually it’s going to have to be something we talk about.”
Virgil made a displeased noise off to his left, and Remus shifted just as uncomfortably to his right. None of the rest of the core sides seemed to like this plan either. Janus could understand why. He wasn’t thrilled with the idea himself. But if they left all of the others down there they were just going to get more angry, and that was just going to cause more problems long term.
That didn’t mean Janus was going to allow them to hurt him. That deal wasn’t ever going to be on the table again.
“We don’t have to talk about it tonight,” Janus said. “I’d rather not, actually. In fact, if none of you mind, I think I’d rather go take a long bubble bath and drink wine with a good book.”
Virgil snorted, sounding a little better. “You’re so ridiculous,” he said.
“Yes, thank you Virgil,” Janus said. “Now I think I should—”
“Hey,” Thomas said, and Janus suddenly turned to see Thomas standing in front of him. “Can I give you a hug?”
Janus blinked. “What?”
“Can I hug you?” Thomas asked.
Janus blinked again. “Um. Sure?”
Thomas pulled Janus forward and into his arms, and Janus had to take a sudden minute to process. “Thank you, Janus,” Thomas said quietly, and Janus’ breath caught in his throat. “I would never ask you to do something like that, but thank you for protecting Virgil and Remus.”
Janus was finding it very hard to take his eyes away from the wall across from him. “…Hey no problem,” he said weakly.
Thankfully, Thomas pulled back a second later, because Janus wasn’t sure how much longer he would have lasted like that. In fact, as soon as Thomas did he stepped back several feet.
“Well, I have a very important bath to get to that you all have kept me from. I hate all of you. Never talk to me ever again.” Janus sunk out quickly, to several looks that said no one was buying any of his crap, but he sank out before any of them could say anything and moved quickly to start a bath and grab a glass of wine and the book he was currently reading.
He settled into his bubble bath and floated his book just far enough away that it wasn’t in danger of getting wet, but close enough that he could still read. He summoned a glass of wine and immersed himself in the calm feeling that came with self care, while also thinking over everything that had just happened. About halfway through the bath, he came to a conclusion, being that he would always be right. What you don’t know can’t hurt you.
But sometimes… having people know could be nice too.