Joke's on You
Summary: Roman had been so adamant about dragging him to his first party, Logan should have known there was some kind of ulterior motive. He should have known this was just another big joke. It always was.
Notes: First fic for my high school au because I adore it and I wanted to finally make content for it. Thank you @cheshirevalentine for creating the au with me and helping to edit this fic
TWs: Implied drug use/non-con drug use, panic attacks, bullies, overstimulation, minor violence, ableism
Logan had never been to a party before.
He didn’t really have any interest in going to one now, he had a math assignment to finish by Sunday, but Roman had insisted- wide eyed and grinning, so unabashedly excited- and Logan couldn’t possibly bring himself to turn the invitation down.
He knew he could have said no, explained it wasn’t a situation he was used to or comfortable in, and Roman would have understood.
But… this was the first time Logan had ever had friends. They’d invited him to sit with them at lunch a few months ago, Patton waving him over excitedly when he saw him alone in the library, everyone taking a genuine interest in who he was despite how quiet and wary he’d been in the beginning.
It had taken a while, but he’d managed to start convincing himself this wasn’t another cruel prank or joke.
This group really did want him to be their friend, and Logan had never thought that could actually happen. Nobody ever wanted to be around him.
Logan didn’t want to risk messing it all up because he felt uneasy about going to a stupid party.
He didn’t have good experiences with any students outside his new friend group but… maybe now it would be different.
His friends weren’t exactly popular, outcasts that they all were, but Roman was decently liked, tolerated at least because of his size and good looks. He was friendly and outgoing and charismatic, and people seemed to accept that.
Befriending the twins had scared off a good chunk of Logan’s bullies, though he suspected that had more to do with how intimidating Remus was than anything.
“So you’ll go?” Roman asked, excited as ever, and Logan couldn’t bring himself to disappoint him. “I don’t really go to these things but everyone from the cast is going and the show’s coming up so I won’t see them as much after that. Virgil hates parties and Pat’s busy and Janus is—“
“I’ll go,” Logan cut in, ignoring the curl of anxiety in his chest. “I understand that you don’t want to go alone. I’ll accompany you.”
Roman’s eyes lit up, but something in his expression softened too. “Well, yeah I don’t want to go alone but I also just want to hang out with you, Specs.”
The lightness in Logan’s chest was… not something he was used to. He couldn’t remember the last time someone had wanted to do something with him specifically.
“That… would be enjoyable,” Logan said, wincing at his own bland tone. They’d all assured him they didn’t mind when he had a hard time with his tone, they understood what he was trying to say, but he couldn’t help but feel guilty when he was unable to match their enthusiasm out loud. “Could you send me the address?”
“Don’t worry about it, I’ll pick you up.”
“Oh.” Logan’s father was in town for once, but he’d be home late and Logan could easily make up an excuse about heading to the library to study or work on a project. “Alright.”
“Great!” Roman was still beaming, sending Logan a wink as he grabbed his keys and stood up from their table. “It’s a date, then.”
Logan was fairly certain two friends going to a house party together couldn’t be considered a date, but he decided to keep his mouth shut to avoid ruining the good mood. Roman was already gone by the time Logan realized he had probably been joking.
Logan didn’t want to go to this party. They hadn’t even gone inside yet, and Logan already wanted to go home.
But he was in the passenger seat of Roman’s jeep, the Disney songs he’d been blasting on the aux cord finally silenced, parked in front of the house of someone who had probably given Logan a black eye at least once.
Not that he planned on mentioning that to Roman. His friends knew he was bullied by most of the students, they’d seen it themselves (and Remus had intervened more than once, no matter how many times Logan told him to ignore it) but he had no plans to explain just how bad it really was.
This would be fine. It was just a party, and he had Roman. Nobody would do anything to him when he was with one of the twins.
“You okay?” Roman asked, and Logan jumped a bit when there was suddenly a warm hand on his knee. “If you’re not up to this we don’t have to go in. Just say the word, Lo, and I’ll take us somewhere quiet.”
And Logan had no doubt that he would. But that didn’t mean it wouldn’t be one more step towards his first real friends eventually getting tired of him.
“I’m fine,” he assured. “I just… I’m not sure what to do once we get inside. How- how do I act?”
“It’s just a house party,” Roman said, like that answered anything. “It’s people from school, anyone’s invited. Just… you know. Go in and be yourself.”
Logan quirked an eyebrow. “I don’t think being myself is a very good idea, Roman.”
Not a single person at their school liked Logan, whether they went out of their way to hurt him or not, and Logan couldn’t name a single student he was particularly comfortable around.
“It’s gonna be okay,” Roman promised. “You’re smart and sweet and funny, and it’s their fault they don’t know that. They’ll all love you when they get to know you.”
Logan didn’t believe him, not for a second, but he nodded nonetheless and followed Roman out of the car.
Roman had convinced Logan to ditch his tie for the party, leaving him in just a polo shirt and jeans. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt so out of place.
Without his tie there was nothing to fiddle with, nothing to pull on when he got restless, and he forced himself to shove his hands in his pockets instead of grabbing onto Roman’s arm like he wanted to.
“Hey.” But once again Roman had reached out first, still shocking Logan with how open he was with physical affection, his friend’s hand on his shoulder. “I’ll be with you the whole time. If you want to leave early just let me know, alright?”
Logan had no plans to ruin Roman’s night by doing that, but he nodded again. “Thank you.”
He knew Roman had mentioned he didn’t really know the party’s host, and when Logan realized whose house they were at, he decided not to mention that he was unfortunately well acquainted with Jake.
Logan had gotten his fair share of black eyes and bruises from Jake throughout the years, starting back on the first day of eighth grade, and he wasn’t particularly looking forward to his reaction when he saw Logan walk into his house.
But maybe it would be different tonight. Jake was one of the many people at school who hated Logan because he was different (understandably, Logan had to admit) but going to parties was something normal people did, wasn’t it?
Maybe they wouldn’t hate him when he was doing something normal for once.
Roman sent him one last grin, keeping a steadying hand on the small of Logan's back as he led them both inside, the music audible from the front porch, the door propped open with a rock.
The party was loud. There were crowds of students Logan only vaguely recognized, all crammed together in groups and shouting over the speakers blasting music Logan had never heard before.
It was… it was a lot, and Logan suddenly wanted to go back to the car and sit in the blissful silence until the night was over.
But normal people didn’t get overwhelmed by lights and noises and crowds so easily. Normal people didn’t want to bury their faces in their friend’s chest and beg to go home less than a minute after stepping foot into a party.
Jake caught sight of them and Logan tensed when the larger boy made his way over, two friends Logan vaguely recognized shadowing him like bodyguards.
They were all smiles, drinks in their hand, waving Roman and Logan over from the doorway. Logan forced himself not to flinch when Jake raised a hand.
“Roman, right?” he asked, shouting over the music with a grin, but his eyes were glued to Logan. “Glad you guys could make it!”
“Of course,” Roman said, nudging Logan’s shoulder. “The theater department’s been talking about it all week- I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
“Good to hear,” Jake said, and Logan stiffened when he looked him up and down. “Didn’t expect to see you here. How're you doing, bud?”
He sounded friendly, no trace of the usual anger and disgust that laced his voice when he usually addressed Logan. He took a breath, trying to smile like he’d seen Roman do.
“I am doing very well, thank you.”
Jake snickered and his friends laughed into their hands, and Logan had a brief moment of blind panic and confusion as he scrambled to figure out what had been so funny.
It wasn’t until he glanced at Roman, and saw the crease between his brow, the way his eyes hardened and his jaw clenched, that Logan realized he was being mocked.
Oh. Of course he was. He didn’t understand why he couldn’t pick up on things like this. He didn’t… understand what he’d done wrong.
Before, it had always been easier to assume he was being mocked no matter what was said to him. It was safer that way, and he was usually correct anyway. But his friends- Patton especially- had carefully coaxed him out of that mindset these last couple of months.
It was… nice. He felt relaxed enough around them now to talk freely, to not shut his mouth and count his words and panic over annoying someone into slamming Logan against a locker.
“Good to hear,” Jake said, and Logan almost preferred it when he was violent. “I’m glad you two could make it.”
“Right,” Roman said, his smile a bit strained. “Well, we’re gonna get some drinks. Thanks again for having us.”
“Yeah, no problem.” Jake stepped aside to let them through, still grinning right at Logan. “See you guys around.”
Roman’s hold was gentle, but he practically dragged Logan to the back of the party where the snacks and beverages were set up along the table. Logan kept his head down, almost certain he was being stared at as they weaved through the crowd.
“I apologize,” Logan said, and he knew he tended to speak more formally when he was nervous or overwhelmed, but he couldn’t stop it no matter how annoying he knew it was. “I don’t… understand what I did.”
“You didn’t do anything,” Roman said, grabbing two plastic cups and filling them both up with soda. “You’re fine, Lo. People are dicks, we’re not gonna let it ruin our night, ok?”
Logan nodded. Roman enjoying the night was the reason Logan had agreed to come in the first place. “Alright.”
“Seriously, I promise you’re okay. Here-” he handed Logan one of the cups, and he cautiously took it. “It’s a party, we’re gonna have fun. That’s what parties are for!”
“I have never been to a party, Roman.”
“Well then we’re going to make your first party one to remember,” Roman declared. “Now I wouldn’t… encourage it, but I’m driving so if you want to have a few drinks—”
Logan cut him off with a sigh, smiling despite himself. “I’m not going to get drunk, Roman. I don’t believe I would enjoy it.”
“No, probably not,” Roman agreed, sipping his soda. “But I won’t tell Janus if you decide to try.”
Logan was smiling easy now, already more relaxed than he had been when they’d first stepped in. Janus would- figuratively- lose his mind if he found out one of them had gotten drunk at a party, even though Logan knew he and Remus had a habit of drinking White Claws until they couldn’t stand at least once a month.
“We’re gonna have fun,” Roman said, offering Logan a hand. “I promise, I’ll make your first party one to remember!”
Logan had lost track of time completely, something terrifyingly foreign to him. Typically, he had a perfect grasp on the seconds and minutes floating by. Right now, all he knew was that they had been at the party a couple of hours- maybe more.
While he wasn’t as miserable as he thought he’d be, Logan still desperately wanted to go home. The music was too loud, the lights too bright, everyone pressed so close together, everything relentlessly overwhelming.
And Logan was definitely being stared at, no matter what he did. He didn’t understand.
But Roman had kept his word, never leaving Logan’s side as the party progressed, always making sure to include him in the conversation no matter who he talked to.
He never once acted like he was ashamed or embarrassed to be seen with Logan. He just acted like he was with a friend.
And while Logan appreciated Roman’s presence, he could see his friend slowly getting more and more restless, and Logan wasn’t an idiot.
“You can use the bathroom, Roman,” he said, raising an unamused eyebrow. “I can handle myself perfectly fine.”
“I know!” Roman said. “I just… this is new for you, and I don’t want you to get overwhelmed or… or scared or something, I don’t know.”
“You can use the bathroom,” Logan said again, but the genuine thought and concern behind Roman’s words brought that light feeling back to his chest. “I’m alright, Roman.”
Roman still hesitated, but he eventually relented and threw his cup away (he’d warned Logan never to leave his drink laying around) promising to be back in five minutes- ten if the bathroom had a line.
Logan tried not to focus on how much worse the noise was without Roman there to ground him.
He clutched his soda with one hand, so tight the plastic cup started to bend, his other hand tapping frantic patterns on his thigh. He reached up to pull at and fiddle with his tie, only to remember a second too late that it wasn’t there.
It felt like he was being stared at, everyone laughing and gawking at him. Knowing Logan, they probably were.
Maybe he could step aside for a minute, make his way to the wall away from the crowds of friends shouting to be heard over the ear splitting rap music.
Surely Roman wouldn’t mind if Logan wasn’t exactly where he left him. He could see the bathroom from the wall, he’d be able to wave Roman over when he came back.
He stood up from the armchair he and Roman had placed themselves at, started making his way to the other and of the room and—
Something slammed into him, sending Logan stumbling backwards and his drink tipping over, the shock of the cold liquid seeping into his shirt pulling a quiet gasp from his lips.
“Oh shit!” Jake was in front of him and Logan’s shoulders hunched, waiting for the worst. “Hey, sorry man. You okay?”
“I’m fine,” Logan said quickly, even as his soaked shirt clung to his skin. “I apologize for getting in your—”
“Hey, no that was on me,” Jake said, and even though the interruption made Logan shut his mouth and shrink back on instinct… it wasn’t the out-of-control fury he usually associated Jake and his friends with. Some of his worst bruises had been because Jake had insisted Logan had gotten in his way. “Sorry about your shirt, dude.”
“It’s… quite alright,” Logan assured, still a bit stunned. “It will wash out.”
Jake turned to his friend- a much taller student Logan couldn’t for the life of him remember the name of, jerking his chin towards the bathroom. “Go grab Logan some towels, ok? It’s a nice shirt, don’t want it getting ruined.”
Logan found himself desperately wishing he was smart enough to pick up on sarcasm. He had no way to tell if Jake’s concern was genuine or not.
The logical part of his head was screaming at him that it wasn’t, that he needed to get away and find somewhere quiet to wait for Roman.
The stupidly hopeful part of his head wanted to give this a chance. Maybe he’d been doing good. Maybe they were finally going to treat him like they treated all the normal kids.
Jake suddenly had an arm slung around Logan’s shoulders, his hold strong, and Logan had no choice but to follow as he was practically dragged across the party to the back tables.
“I’ll get you another drink,” Jake said. “You want something stronger?”
“No thank you,” Logan said quickly. “Just soda, please.”
“Yeah I figured,” Jake teased. “It’d loosen you up, though.”
Logan tensed. “No thank you.”
“I’m joking,” Jake said, pulling them to a stop. He cut him off when Logan opened his mouth to apologize again. “Relax, I know you’re kinda slow.”
It was said offhandedly, Jake already moving his arm to grab a fresh cup, but Logan still felt a flash of hurt blossom in his chest. He almost wanted to argue that he was not slow, he’d been top of his class for years and he knew Jake was well aware of that.
But… everyone always got angry when Logan talked back or disagreed, and Jake was being so nice. Logan couldn’t risk ruining that.
Besides, it had probably just been another joke Logan hadn’t been able to pick up on. Maybe that did make him a bit slow.
Logan watched him closely as Jake poured him a fresh soda. He wouldn’t put it past him to slip Logan some alcohol while he wasn’t looking.
But Jake did as he said he would, and when the soda was poured Logan’s attention was briefly pulled away by one of the party host’s friends shoving a towel under his nose.
He was hoping that would be it, that they’d go back to ignoring Logan so he could still make his way somewhere quieter while he waited for Roman.
Unfortunately, Logan found himself herded back into the sea of students, seated on another couch on the opposite side of the house from where Roman was supposed to meet him.
Jake was sat on the coffee table, one of his friends leaned against the arm of the couch, another right beside Logan, keeping him boxed in.
They were all smiling, and they looked friendly, but there were so many people staring and he couldn’t—
“So Logan,” Jake said, grinning. “How come we never see you at parties, bud?”
Logan thought it was fairly obvious why, they didn’t exactly give any indication that he’d be welcomed. He’d honestly expected to get thrown out the second he showed his face tonight.
“I am usually too busy,” Logan settled on, and his face felt hot when someone snickered. “But Roman insisted I accompany him tonight.”
“Yeah?” Jake asked, and Logan took a sip of his soda to hide how confused he was becoming. “So… where’s Roman? I don’t see him.”
“He—” Logan glanced at the hallway leading to the bathroom, but it was impossible to get a clear view with all the people standing in the way. “He’s just in the restroom.”
“Really?” Jake scooted forward until their knees were touching, and Logan took another sip of his drink to stop himself from asking Jake to back up. “I don’t see him. Are you sure he’s still here?”
A spike of anxiety curled in Logan’s gut, clawing up to his throat, and he clutched his drink close to his chest. “Of course he’s still here.”
Roman did not drag Logan to a party just to abandon him. This… this wasn’t a prank or a joke. Roman’s friendship wasn’t a prank or a joke.
It was different this time. Logan really did have a friend.
But the panic wasn’t going away, white hot dread settling in Logan’s chest, and he quickly drained half his cup in a desperate attempt to drown it out.
“He probably snuck out the back,” someone said, and Logan’s throat tightened. “You wouldn’t give him a break all night, he was probably desperate to get away from you.”
Everyone laughed, shrill, thunderous, and loud, and Logan forced himself to join in, quiet and lifeless as it was. He didn’t get the joke.
“It’s cool that you’re trying to make friends,” Jake said. “But like… this is the first time I actually feel bad for those misfits. I know what a fucking nightmare it is trying to talk to you.”
He was still smiling, his friends laughing along with him, so there was no reason Logan should feel so hurt over a simple joke.
His friends (His new, real friends. They were real.) did the same thing, joking and teasing, poking fun at each other, gently bumping Logan’s shoulder and smiling gently if Logan expressed that he didn’t understand.
But none of their jokes ever made Logan feel like this, cornered and small, scrambling to figure out what he’d done that everyone found so funny.
Logan swallowed, his throat dry. “I am not… very adept at socializing.”
Jake laughed outright, and the uproar that followed made Logan want to sink into the floor and disappear forever. He wanted to go home. He wanted to find Roman.
Everything was too much. The glaring lights overhead had somehow gotten brighter, the music was grating against his suddenly pounding skull, everything overwhelming and wrong and painful.
“If- if you’ll excuse me,” Logan managed, but his voice came out small and quiet. His tongue felt heavy in his mouth. “I have to… I- I’ll be back.”
He stood from the couch, breath catching in his throat when he almost stumbled, the room tilting dangerously as he started pushing his way past the crowd of people.
Someone shot out a leg to trip him, cackling when he really did stumble this time.
Logan ignored it, not even bothering to turn and figure out who it had been, breathing coming out quick and panicked as he made his way towards the bathroom.
Everything felt far away now, and somehow still too loud at the same time, and once again all Logan wanted to do was rush into Roman’s arms and beg to go home until his voice was hoarse.
He froze in his tracks when he made it to the bathroom, heart sinking.
The door was open ajar, the light off, and someone beat Logan there, slipping inside and locking the door behind them. Which meant Roman definitely wasn’t here, and Logan had nowhere to lock himself away to hide.
Logan couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t understand why he was panicking, Roman had every right to leave if he wanted to. Logan… supposed his need to stay by his side all night had been a bit annoying. He’d just been too selfish to consider Roman’s feelings.
He turned himself around, silently begging for Roman to be right on the couch where he’d left Logan waiting, but the seating area was empty, surrounded by mingling, tipsy friends.
Roman wasn’t here. He wasn’t…
It happened again. Logan had been strung along, fed promises of friendship he wanted so bad, only for it all to be a big joke Logan was too slow to pick up on.
It had happened so many times, over and over again since elementary school, and Logan fell for it every time, would probably continue to fall for it, all because he had that stupid, illogical need to just be liked. To be wanted.
All at once, Logan realized that if he didn’t get out of here right now he would break down. And that was unacceptable, because the one thing he had over these people was that he had never ever let them see him cry.
No matter what, no matter what they did or said, none of them had seen that it actually got to him, that the helplessness and confusion and loneliness hurt. Not one person had ever seen him in tears, and he planned on keeping it that way.
He couldn’t get into the bathroom, and he’d have to walk past Jake again if he wanted to get to the front door, but the party took place entirely downstairs, which meant the second story would be empty.
Logan knew he wasn’t supposed to go up there, this wasn’t his house, but… nobody would even know. He just needed a few moments to be alone, to pull himself together somewhere quiet, and then he could focus on getting home. If Roman really had left, he’d have to calculate how long the walk would be.
Nobody paid him any mind when he made his way up the stairs, forced to cling to the railing like a lifeline to keep himself upright, his legs wobbling, struggling to support his weight.
He didn’t understand. He’d been overstimulated before, plenty of times, but it had never been this bad. He’d never had trouble just keeping himself standing.
Upstairs was empty, and though it was impossible to completely escape the noise of the party, it was blissfully muffled as he stumbled up the last few steps.
The pounding in Logan’s head was getting worse, breath hitching in his throat every time he fought to calm himself down.
He found himself with his back up against the wall, hands digging into his hair, slowly sliding down to the floor and squeezing his eyes shut.
He needed to breathe. He needed to calm down and just breathe. He was being ridiculous.
Of course Roman had left. Of course he had. This had happened so many times before, over and over again, Logan didn’t understand how it could still hurt so bad.
His own heartbeat was so loud it drowned out the surrounding noise, apparently including the footsteps coming towards him. Logan jumped, completely unprepared for a hand to drop down on his shoulder.
His eyes flew open, breathlessly hoping for just a second that it would be Roman staring back at him, quiet, concerned, and gentle.
But all he saw was Jake, boxing him against the wall where he sat, eyes shining with something painfully familiar, a hatred that made Logan’s stomach twist.
“Hey buddy,” Jake said, cold and condescending enough for Logan to easily latch onto. “You feeling okay?”
Before Logan could answer there was a hand twisted in the collar of his shirt and Jake was yanking him to his feet in an instant, Logan’s stomach lurching at the sudden movement.
His legs wobbled underneath him, giving him the unfortunate appearance of a scared newborn deer, and Jake practically had to keep him upright by his hold on Logan’s shirt.
Logan tried to twist away, scrambling to get a hold of Jake’s wrists, but his hands were slow and uncooperative, fingers heavy, sluggish and useless.
Jake yanked him forward until Logan was inches from his face, eyes narrowed. It was the anger Logan was unfortunately used to, somehow less terrifying than the bright smiles and polite words Jake had been feeding him all night.
It still made Logan’s heart drop, all too aware of what was coming.
“I don’t know why the fuck you thought you could step foot in my house,” Jake snarled, but Logan could barely hear him. “Nobody wants to fucking see or hear you, Logan. Nobody wants you around!”
Logan’s breathing was just coming out faster and faster, blood rushing in his ears. “I was just—“
Jake suddenly shoved him, so hard Logan gasped as he stumbled and fell backwards, only to be caught by another pair of hands, rough and painful as they held him upright by the arms.
Oh. Logan hadn’t even realized Jake had brought friends.
He didn’t get a chance to dwell on that before Jake’s fist collided with his stomach. Logan wheezed, the air knocked out of him, legs buckling under the pain.
“I just said nobody wants to hear you,” Jake said. “Jesus- someone takes pity on you once and now you think you’re allowed to talk? I thought we made it clear years ago, nobody wants that.”
Logan forced himself not to react, always a blank slate whenever someone would snap and take their frustrations out on him, but he was fairly certain his panicked breathing gave everything away.
He’d been told for years by people like Jake to stay quiet, that he talked too much, that his voice was just annoying. Everything he said was pointless. Nobody wanted to hear him.
He’d barely been able to say two words when Patton had waved him over to the group’s lunch table, everyone terrifyingly kind and genuine.
He’d opened up slowly, and when Logan had eventually lost himself to one of his rants- rambling excitedly about the plot of the book he’d been immersed in- everyone had stopped what they were doing to listen. They’d all looked so excited.
That couldn’t have been fake. That couldn’t—
Jake punched him in the stomach again, harder this time, sending Logan staggering back against the chest of whoever was holding him still. There was a third strike to his face, Jake’s knuckles colliding with Logan’s cheekbones, knocking his glasses askew.
Jake suddenly switched tactics, taking Logan by the collar and yanking him forward as hard as he could, Logan’s arms still held tight in a vice grip behind him.
For the first time all night he was glad Roman had convinced him not to wear a tie. He’d been yanked around by it one too many times for his liking.
Jake raised a fist again and Logan flinched back before he could stop himself, squeezing his eyes shut in preparation for another burst of pain across his face.
But the blow never came, and when Logan risked cracking his eyes open, Jake’s attention had been pulled to the staircase, towards—
“Hey, fellas.” Logan’s head snapped up at Roman’s voice, just able to make out his figure standing at the top of the stairs, frozen. “What’s going on?”
Jake didn’t drop Logan's collar, and the hold on his arms only tightened painfully. “Hey, Roman. We thought you left.”
“I didn’t,” Roman said tightly, and Logan felt dizzy with relief. “What the hell are you guys doing?”
Jake smiled almost sweetly, his fist still hovering in the air, knuckles bright red. “We’re just chatting with Logan.”
“No, that’s not what it looks like.”
“We’ve all had a few drinks,” Jake said, and Logan couldn’t bring himself to argue no matter how badly he wanted to. “We’re fine, Logan just can’t hold his alcohol. He’s having fun.”
Jake tugged a bit on his shirt collar, and Logan forced himself to keep a straight face. He was fine- it was fine. Roman was here. He was still here and he hadn’t left Logan alone.
Roman was still as a statue, his expression unreadable, but his voice was tight when he spoke again. “No, he isn’t.”
“Aw, sure he is.” Jake tugged Logan forward slightly, his shirt collar starting to dig into the back of his neck, and Logan quickly averted his gaze. “He’s fine, Roman. You don’t have to babysit, we got him. Right, Logan?”
Logan couldn’t answer, his heartbeat so loud he was certain they could all hear it, throat unbearably tight, breaths coming out faster and faster.
He risked a glance up at Roman, wide eyed and pleading, letting out a shaky sigh when his friend started towards the group, eyes narrowed dangerously.
“You have three seconds to get your hands off him before I throw a fucking punch, Jake.”
Jake scoffed, but his fist lowered to his side. “Jesus, dude—“
Logan didn’t get a chance to prepare himself before something slammed into his back and shoved him forward, hard enough to knock the wind out of his lungs for the third time that night.
He crashed to the floor without any hope of catching himself, his already throbbing cheek finding purchase against the carpet. The fall knocked his glasses from his face, leaving him blind and completely helpless on his stomach, waiting for another punch or a kick to the ribs he’d have no chance of stopping.
He thought he could hear voices above him, far away and muffled, drowned out by the pounding of his head and his own heartbeat.
The room was spinning worse than before, the floor moving underneath him like a merry-go-round, faster and faster and—
He jumped, picking his head up with a quiet groan, forcing himself to relax when he recognized Roman’s voice. All the anger and tension had faded, his voice quiet and concerned as he kneeled on the floor.
“Hey, it’s ok,” Roman soothed, and Logan worked on pushing himself up off the floor. “They’re gone. I’m so sorry, Lo.”
“It’s fine,” Logan said, but it came out quiet and slurred. “I’m… I can’t—“
“It’s ok,” Roman said again. “Can I touch you?”
If it was anyone else, Logan would have said no, he would have shrunk back immediately, scrambling to get as far away from any more touch as he possibly could.
But this was Roman, carefully kneeling beside him, his voice the only thing cutting through the music blaring from downstairs and Logan’s own nauseating panic. Roman hadn’t abandoned him here, even when so many other people would have. He was still here, safe and gentle and trying to help.
Logan nodded, regretting it immediately when the movement sent a flare of pain shooting through his skull, the room only spinning faster.
“I’ve got you,” Roman said, and when he touched him it was warm and grounding, not rough and painful like Logan had learned to expect. “Come on, Teach.”
Roman kept one hand steady on Logan’s arm, the other carefully wrapping around his back to help guide him up into a sitting position. Logan had no control over the pathetic noise that escaped his lips at the movement, but he squeezed his eyes shut and let Roman guide him off the floor.
He couldn’t keep himself upright, ending up leaning against Roman’s side, his head resting in the crook of his friend’s neck as he waited for the dizziness to pass.
Everything hurt and he didn’t understand. The party had been overwhelming, and he knew he’d have some bad bruises tomorrow, but he’d never felt this bad before.
“I’ve got your glasses,” Roman said, and Logan forced himself to crack his eyes open. All the lights in the room were off, the only illumination filtering in from the party downstairs, but it was still bright enough to feel like knives digging into his skull. “Can I put them on for you?”
Logan couldn’t risk nodding again, choosing instead to hum in affirmation and move his head away from Roman’s shoulder.
Roman’s movements were slow and careful, and Logan forced himself not to whimper as his glasses were gently slipped onto his face and pushed up his nose. The spinning had slowed but not stopped, the dimly lit room a bit more clear now.
“Of course,” Roman said, still holding Logan steady. “How’re you feeling?”
He felt like he was dying slowly, but he figured Roman wouldn’t want to hear that. “I’m… dizzy. I’m really dizzy.”
“Are you overstimulated?”
“I was,” Logan said, wincing at his own voice. His words were slurring together, his tongue impossibly heavy in his mouth, barely able to form coherent sentences. “That… that’s why I went upstairs.”
“That was smart.”
“It… it’s not…” he hesitated, gritting his teeth against the growing agony in his head. “It’s getting worse I don’t… I- I don’t know why I feel so bad.”
Roman was silent for a moment, tightening his hold protectively, and for a second Logan was worried he was going to be shoved off, that Roman was going to tell him to suck it up so he could get back to the party.
But he didn’t- of course he didn’t- carefully adjusting his hold to hold Logan more comfortably. “Logan, you… you kept an eye on your drink, right?”
“I’m not drunk,” Logan said as quickly as he could manage, throat tight. “I didn’t… it was just soda, I wouldn’t—“
“I know, Lo.” Roman ran his free hand through Logan’s hair, and some of the tension leaked from his shoulders. “I’m not asking if you drank, I’m asking if you kept your drink close to you.”
“I… I did.”
“Are you sure?” Roman craned his neck to get a better look at Logan’s face, frown deepening when Logan clearly had trouble focusing on him. “Logan, are you sure nobody touched your drink?”
Logan didn’t understand why Roman suddenly sounded so angry, his hold almost desperate now. “Jake… spilled my drink on me. I- it was an accident, he didn’t… he got me a new one. But it was just soda, I swear it was just soda.”
“I’m not drunk,” Logan insisted, pushing down a new wave of panic. “I- I didn’t have any alcohol.”
“I believe you,” Roman said softly. “But you… you may have been drugged, Lo.”
Logan froze, swallowing past the nausea once again, feeling his heart beat in his throat, everything around him loud and painful and too much. Everything but Roman.
He took in his pounding head, his dizziness, the way he could barely move his body, his limbs heavy and sluggish, the world blurry despite his glasses being back on his face. He knew everyone hated him, but they wouldn’t… they…
“They wouldn’t do that,” Logan said, even as the dread started to settle in. “They… wouldn’t do that to me.”
“They might have,” Roman said softly. “It… looks like they did.”
Logan couldn’t breathe again, his chest aching with each panicked breath he fought to take. The room suddenly blurred even further, hot tears pooling in his eyes, and he frantically pushed them back, swallowing around the lump in his throat, refusing to fall apart.
“I don’t know,” Roman said. He kept his voice low, carefully controlled. “But I think it’s time to leave.”
The panic only worsened at Roman’s words, dread settling against his chest as Logan realized what he’d done. He’d been stupid and careless, still not normal enough to be tolerated, and it had ruined Roman’s night.
“We don’t have to,” Logan said, but it was getting even harder to speak properly. “We- we can stay. You’re having fun, I can wait up here.”
“That’s alright,” Roman said, and his tone left little room for argument. “Come on, I’ll take you home.”
“But, I’m ruining—”
“You’re not ruining anything.” Roman carefully adjusted his hold, one of Logan’s limp arms now draped over his broad shoulders. “You’re okay, Lo.”
The next few minutes were a blur. Logan made a pitiful noise he planned on denying to his grave when Roman pulled them both to their feet, the world dipping into complete darkness for a terrifying moment, his stomach churning.
“I’ve got you,” Roman had soothed, letting Logan lean completely up against him, slowly guiding them to the stairs. “We’ll be in the car soon.”
Logan’s breath caught, the commotion from the party growing louder as they made it to the top of the stairs. “I can’t, I… they- they’re going to—”
“I won’t let them near you again,” Roman promised. “You can keep your head down, just hold onto me. I’ve got you.”
Getting down the stairs took a ridiculously long time, but Logan did what he was told, holding onto Roman’s shirt as best he could when his hands were barely obeying his commands, shaky and weak and useless.
They made it back to the first floor, the blaring music and flashing lights like someone pounding against Logan’s skull, and he ducked his head to hide his face in Roman’s chest, trusting his friend to get them out the front door. Roman’s hold was tight, something fierce and protective, his arms the only reason Logan didn’t crash face first into the floor in front of everyone.
The house was big, but Logan knew it shouldn’t take them long to make it to the exit, even as they had to weave through the onlooking crowd. He counted their fumbling steps, desperately trying to distract himself from the pain. One… two… three…
“Hey!” Roman froze at Jake’s voice, suddenly dangerously close, and Logan nearly lost his balance. “You guys leaving so soon?”
Roman tightened his hold, dangerously still. “Get out of our way, Jake.”
“The party isn’t over,” Jake said. His voice made Logan feel sick. “What’s wrong with Logan? Is he okay?”
“You know he isn’t,” Roman snapped. “Move.”
“Hey, it’s not my fault he drank too much,” Jake scoffed, and Logan thought he heard some snickers from the watching crowd. “He shouldn’t have—”
“He’s not drunk!” Roman exploded, the sound making Logan flinch when it split through his skull. “You drugged his fucking soda!”
Laughter erupted from the crowd, shrill and mocking, and Logan wasn’t sure how much longer he could hold it together.
“Yeah he had no clue,” Jake cackled, like it was all a big joke. Logan didn’t get what was so funny. It felt like he was dying. “I knew he was slow but jesus. Come on, Roman I did you a favor. Just dump him outside and come have a few drinks.”
“We’re leaving,” Roman said. “Don’t come near him. I’m taking Logan home.”
There was more laughter from the party, a few cheers and whistles that grated against Logan’s skull. “Have fun, Roman!” Some shouted, and while Logan couldn’t exactly place the meaning of their tone, it made Roman’s breath catch and his hold tighten even more.
For a terrifying moment, Logan thought Roman might set him down and throw a punch. He wasn’t as impulsive as his twin- or even Janus, who Logan was fairly certain still carried his pocket knife with him despite promising Patton he’d leave it at home- but Logan could practically feel the fury radiating off of Roman.
Logan didn’t think he could handle being in this house for another second. He was still practically limp, struggling to get his arms to obey his desperate commands, but he managed to raise a hand and tug weakly at Roman’s sleeve, silently begging his friend to get the message.
And Roman did, thank god, shoulders dropping almost immediately as he readjusted his careful hold, once again guiding them both forward.
“I’ve got you,” he whispered, for Logan’s ears only. “We’re almost there.”
Logan kept his eyes shut tight the rest of the way to the door, trusting Roman to get them to the car in one piece. The cold night air hit without warning, making him shudder, but some of the panic ebbed away as the sounds of the party finally quieted.
As soon as the door shut, Roman switched tactics to hook an arm under Logan’s legs, one hand still firmly supporting his back as he scooped him off the floor and quickened his pace, his movements almost frantic.
Logan forced himself not to cry out, even as the nausea worsened. “I can walk, Roman.”
“I know,” his friend said. “But we need to get out of here. Just… just trust me, okay?”
Logan didn’t reply, just gave a quiet hum and dropped his head back on Roman’s chest, breathing in the fresh air. Roman hadn’t abandoned him, even when it would have been so much easier to look the other way. Logan would trust him with just about anything right now.
They made it to the car fairly quickly now that Roman didn’t have to move at Logan’s sluggish pace, and Logan lifted his head as Roman managed to unlock and open the passenger side door, carefully depositing Logan in the seat.
Logan slumped forward immediately, unable to keep himself upright, watching with lidded eyelids as Roman hurried around the front of the car to slip into the driver’s side. He reached over to buckle Logan’s seatbelt for him, a task that would have taken Logan all night with his uncoordinated limbs.
“Alright,” Roman said, breathless. He turned on the engine and bucked himself in, now clutching the steering wheel in an white knuckled grip. “You good?”
Logan swallowed. “I… do not feel well.”
“I know,” Roman said, reaching over to squeeze Logan’s hand. “I’m gonna get you home, just hang in there.”
The words made Logan’s head clear a bit, blind panic rising for an entirely new reason this time. “We can’t, I… my father he- he’ll think I was drinking, I can’t… he’ll—”
“I can explain that you got drugged,” Roman said, and Logan shook his head. “It wasn’t your fault, Logan.”
“He thinks I’m working on a science project, he- he’ll kill me, Roman.”
“Alright,” Roman said, steady and calm. It was odd- Logan was always the one who was supposed to stay unwavering under pressure. “My dad’s out right now, you can stay the night with me. We can tell your dad you’re spending the night so we can finish the project in the morning.”
Logan nodded, his racing heart starting to slow again. “Are- are you sure that’s alright?”
“You’re always welcome,” Roman said. “My bed’s big enough for two, but we’ve got a pull out couch if you’re more comfortable with that. Remus will be thrilled to see you in the morning, anyway.”
“Oh.” It was touching, his chest blossoming with warmth until movement at the front door caught his eye. “They… they’re watching us.”
Sure enough, Jake and his friends were all crowded on the front porch, pointing at laughing, a few of them with their phones pointed at Roman’s jeep.
“Goddammit.” Roman’s outburst took Logan by surprise, slamming his foot on the gas pedal and peeling down the street, steely anger back with a vengeance. Logan inhaled sharply, the sudden acceleration leaving him pressed up against the back of the seat, still barely able to keep his head upright.
Roman was fuming, refusing to take his foot off the gas until Jake’s house was out of sight. It almost scared Logan how quickly Roman hopped from emotion to emotion- gentle and concerned one moment, then on the verge of screaming the next.
Logan should apologize. He knew he should. He opened his mouth to do just that, but Roman beat him to it.
“I just… what the fuck?” he demanded, and Logan didn’t know how to answer. “I don’t… how could they do that? How could they- you weren’t even doing anything!”
Logan wrapped his arms around himself as best he could, turning away from Roman to stare out the window. Everything was still a blur, his eyes refusing to focus. “I clearly upset them. I was attempting to appeal to them and I… failed to do that. Again.”
He’d just been trying to be normal. He thought he’d finally managed it. He didn’t understand why it was so hard.
“They drugged you,” Roman spat, like Logan was unaware. “They drugged you so you couldn’t fight back when they beat you.”
“It was unnecessary,” Logan agreed, voice still quiet and unsteady. “I’ve never been able to fight back before, Jake had no reason to think tonight would be different.”
He could feel Roman staring at him, incredulous and horrified. “Jesus, Lo.”
“I… I apologize.”
“No, not you, it’s—” Roman paused, running a shaky hand through his hair. “It’s not fair. I was looking for you when I came back from the bathroom and they… the shit they were saying—”
“People say a lot of things about me,” Logan said, lifeless and resigned. “I have learned to ignore it.”
“But they thought this was a prank,” Roman said, and Logan froze. “They… when we got separated, people kept asking me if my plan was to ditch you there or- or get you drunk or… or… god, they didn’t even think we were actually friends. They assumed it was just some big joke!”
And Logan… didn’t know what to say to that.
He’d never planned on voicing his worries to his friends, the constant nagging at the back of his head that it was all just another joke, but he’d always assumed that if he did, it’d be brushed off with eye rolls and laughs.
But Roman was clearly distraught, gripping the steering wheel so tight it looked like it might break, eyes brimming with unshed tears. Roman was emotional and often overdramatic, but Logan thought he knew him well enough to recognize true, genuine distress.
The guilt was suddenly overwhelming, and Logan hunched his shoulders, turning back to the window. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s not your fault,” Roman said. “None of this is your fault.”
“They… told me that was your intention,” Logan admitted, knowing he shouldn’t. Maybe if his head was more clear, he’d have kept his mouth shut for once. “Jake told me you left as soon as you got the chance.”
“And he was fucking with you. You know that, right?”
Logan didn’t respond, eyes on the blurred road outside the window, because no matter how badly he wanted to believe Roman, he still couldn’t quiet those thoughts.
To Logan’s horror, the car slowed to a stop and Roman veered to the side of the road, dropping his death grip on the wheel to give the passenger seat his full attention.
“Logan,” he said, his voice low and steady. Serious. It reminded Logan of himself. “You’re my friend. That’s not a prank or a joke. Me, Remus, Janus, Virgil, and Patton- we love you. You know that, right?”
“I…” Logan closed his mouth and opened it again, struggling to find the right words. “I’m sorry.”
“You believed him.” It wasn’t a question, and Logan couldn’t turn to face the heartbroken look on Roman’s face. “You believed Jake. Why would you—”
“Because it keeps happening.” Logan’s throat tightened again as hot tears pooled in his eyes, and he quickly pushed it back down because no. He’d kept it together this long, he was not going to break. Not even in front of Roman. “It… it’s happened so many times, Roman.”
Despite his best efforts, he found himself wiping furiously at his face to get rid of the few stray tears that escaped, pushing up his glasses to his forehead.
“It… no matter what I do it’s always a joke. They know I won’t pick up on it so they keep- they keep getting my hopes up and then they just- just—”
Roman reached for his hand, squeezing tight, and Logan’s breath hitched in a sob he barely managed to hold back. He couldn’t cry. Roman wouldn’t stay if he did something so pathetic.
“Nobody likes me,” Logan said simply, because that was it. That was the whole truth of it. He’d just never let anyone see that it got to him before, that he wanted to be liked. “This is the first time anyone’s ever… you’re all… you’ve been kind to me and I want to be your friend but I can never tell if it’s a joke!”
“It’s not a joke,” Roman said, voice soft and a little unsteady. “We like you a lot, Logan. We wouldn’t do that to you.”
“I- I know.” And he did- he did know that, and he felt awful for ever assuming anyone so kind could do something so awful, but the thoughts wouldn’t leave him alone. “I apologize for my outburst, I just… I keep thinking.”
“I understand,” Roman said, in a way that made Logan feel like he really might. “I’m not upset, I don’t expect you to just… get over it. I know it’s hard, and I know it’s gonna take time.”
Logan’s eyes were stuck on his lap as he fidgeted with the sleeves of his shirt, still wishing he’d worn his tie tonight. “I’m trying.”
“I know. We’re gonna show you that we love you, no matter how long it takes. Okay?”
Logan hesitated, still refusing to lift his gaze, painfully uncertain. “Alright.”
“And think about it logically,” Roman added, and Logan had almost forgotten they were holding hands until Roman started running his thumb along his knuckles. “It doesn’t make any sense for us to do that to you.”
“I don’t know,” Logan said. “I never… understood why they did it, but I’ve never… really understood humor. I’ve tried, but—”
“It’s not funny,” Roman cut in, a tight coldness seeping into his tone. “It’s not a funny joke, Logan. It’s cruel and unfair.”
“And it’s not something we would do,” Roman said. “Have you ever seen Remus not tell someone to their face that he hates them?”
Logan swallowed. “I… suppose not, but—”
“Janus wouldn’t bother with something like that,” Roman continued. “He’d get bored with it after a day, and he’s only manipulative if it’s to get you to take care of yourself. Not to mention Patton and Virgil are horrendous actors, and Pat would feel too bad to let it go on more than ten minutes.”
It pulled a smile from Logan, because he supposed that was true at least. They were all kind to him, but he’d never met anyone as friendly as Patton.
“You’re an actor,” Logan said quietly, the words falling without his permission. Maybe he could blame it on the drug still in his system. “A good one, too.”
“I am,” Roman agreed. “And I don’t… know how to convince you that I really do want to be your friend, but I’m not going anywhere. Not until you get tired of me.”
“I cannot see myself getting tired of you,” Logan said. He tried to shift his position, only to be forcibly reminded that he probably had several bruises already forming across his stomach, gritting his teeth and sinking back against the passenger seat. He ignored the way Roman’s brow creased in worry. “I agreed to accompany you to this party to spend time with you.”
Roman suddenly looked guilty, which was the opposite of what Logan had wanted. “I’m sorry. I should have kept a closer eye on you.”
“You shouldn’t have to keep an eye on me.” It came out more bitter than Logan had intended, a defensive tightness in his chest. “I should be able to go to a party like anyone else.”
“You should, and that’s… it’s not fair that you couldn’t tonight. It’s not fair. But it isn’t your fault.”
“I’m inclined to disagree,” Logan said. God, his head hurt so bad. “They’ve always disliked me because I’m… I’m doing something wrong. I haven’t been able to figure out what that is, obviously, but if I—”
“No.” Roman scooted forward as much as he could in the small space, and Logan couldn’t look him in the eyes no matter how badly Roman seemed to want him to. “You aren’t doing anything wrong. You’re… yeah, you’re different but that’s not a bad thing! They don’t like you because they’re assholes, Lo. It’s not anything you did.”
“But none of them like me.”
“I like you,” Roman said, and after everything tonight that shouldn’t be what almost made the rest of Logan’s tears finally spill over. “I like you a lot. I know for a fact the others do too. We don’t want to change anything about you. So don’t… don’t think like that, okay?”
And Logan might not be the best with emotions, but he could hear the unabashed pain and desperation in Roman’s voice, the hope in his eyes when he glanced up, and for just a brief moment his own doubts silenced. Maybe he just couldn’t bring himself to disappoint Roman any more.
He nodded, small and quiet. “Alright.”
“Alright,” Roman echoed, brightening just a little, dropping back to his seat. “Okay, yeah. Good. Thank you.”
Logan dropped his head back against the headrest, yet another brief wave of dizziness washing over him, the mark on his cheek throbbing. “Are we going to your house now?”
“Nope,” Roman replied cheerfully. “Change of plans. We’re going to Pat’s, I’m gonna text Remus and he’s going to pick up Jan and Virgil, and we’re going to cuddle pile and take care of you until you feel better.”
“That’s…” he had to cut himself off, swallowing past the new lump in his throat, warmth blossoming in his chest. “That is completely unnecessary.”
“It’s tradition when someone gets hurt,” Roman said, leaving no room for argument. Not that Logan particularly wanted to. “And you’re no exception, Specs. We’re gonna take care of you.”
Logan swallowed again, and this time he was a little less desperate to wipe away the tears escaping from the corners of his eyes. “If you insist.”
“Oh, I do,” Roman said. “And the others will too when they see the state you’re in. Patton is going to spoil you when he sees that bruise.”
Logan reached up to gingerly touch his throbbing cheek, wincing at the new spark of pain that broke through the heavy fog around his head. “I… would not be opposed to that.”
Roman smiled, warm and bright and so genuine Logan didn’t doubt for a second that it was real.
He let himself lean back and shut his eyes against the lingering dizziness as Roman pulled away from the curb.
“You can rest, Logan,” Roman said, still right beside him, the same grounding presence he’d been at the party. “I’ll get you there safe. You’ll be okay, I promise.”
This time, Logan believed his promises without question.