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Will you ever preserve, will you ever exhume? (Will you ever watch petals shed from flowers in bloom?)

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Danny's head hurts—a pounding little ditty playing in his ears, as his eyes shift in and out of focus. There was ectoplasm flowing from his side as he stumbled, his hand awkwardly putting pressure on the wound. It hurt, but he didn't want to go to sam or tucker for help– it would worry them, he was sure. Last time he was injured this bad, they flipped. He doesn't want to see them panic again, but he needs medical attention. He didn't really have many options, he knew; going to his parents was out of the question, even if they did help him—an impossible thought, really—they would view him as a test subject of sorts, his whole stay with them would be riddled with anxiety. Best case scenario? They make him feel even more inhuman than he already feels. He can't exactly go to the hospital, really, either. There'd be too many questions, it would cause to much anxiety in the town, knowing their hero could get injured as such. He might even break the tentative trust they have on him. But there were some who never doubted his intentions; the popular kids, mainly. He didn't really like that thought; he'd much rather handle this by himself, but he wasn't so stubborn to deny that he couldn't. Hey, maybe it will even knock down their idolizing and dependency on him, right?

That being said, Danny really really didn't want to do this.


He supposes he could go to any jock or popular kid, star seems intelligent despite her attempts at hiding it, and apparently quian is quite pleasant—but, embarrassing to admit, those two were out of the question. He didn't know where they lived, unlike with dash and Paulina—he still remembers when she went to the dance with him, remembers when he went to dashes house for a party, foolishly selling ectoplasmic infected junk at a garage sale. He remembers saving her from a dragon sam roaring shallow girl!—which he didn't believe, by the way, no one was truly shallow—still remembers the row of teddy bears in dashes room—even he needed comfort.

So he knew how to get to their houses.

And only their houses.


Fuck.

 

 

 

He went to Paulina; unlike dash, she didn't push him into lockers daily; they only thing she did was hurl insults sometimes, but they didn't really have much effect on him usually. After all, he was far crueler to himself than Paulina could ever be.

 


When he got there, she was patting some kind of cream on her face.

It was scary, if he was honest, how much she cared about her looks. He had heard what spectra said about them, how she feed into their fears; somehow, in Paulina's mind, being ugly meant you'd be alone. It was a sad thought, really, how she felt this way, why she felt this way– Danny could only take guesses, and it wasn't his place to pry.

He had a crush on her, he supposes, back in his first year—it was a selfish crush, for she felt safe, normal. She wasn't the ones who fought alongside him, who got injured at five am, who sent him into a panic attack because what if they're not alright? What if they dieShe was completely removed from his ghost powers, she didn't witness his screams, didn't suggest he go in, didn't carry the guilt—she was normal, maybe. Except, she wasn't, because no one's truly normal, in the end—she still had faults, and feelings, and insecurities just like everyone else. The thing with him and Paulina, was that he didn't want to see that—he was only interested in using her to make him feel normal. Once Danny had realized this, he felt awful.

He didn't love Paulina; he never did, really, not her as a person.

He loved the idea of her.

The ones Danny truly loved were the ones he felt like he couldn't protect, the ones that sent gnawing guilt through him whenever they were hurt, they ones who smiled and reassured him they were fine, here, alive.

He loved sam and tucker.

Which is why he couldn't go to them—not for this. Just like Danny, but to a lesser extent, they liked to blame themselves when things go wrong. It wasn't their faults, they couldn't come, and it couldn't be helped. In fact, Danny was glad they couldn't—he really, really didn't want to lose them.

He doesn't think he could live without them.

Besides; this was his fault, he had this responsibly, and if he wasn't good enough, and he got hurt, it was his fault, right?

That's what he thought, at least.

When she sees him, she squeals, until she takes stock of the ectoplasm dribbling down onto her floor. Oh. He's getting her room dirty. Maybe he shouldn't have come after all.

Paulina gaps, for a second, processing, before she promptly begins freaking out.

"G-ghost boy? Are you ok?!"

"Yup, doing just peachy, bleeding out and all."

She deadpanned at that a bit, it seemed to have calmed her down from her panic, snapped her out of it, if just a bit. She rushed over to the, as she put it, love of her life, and helped pull him to a chair. She glanced briefly at the floor, furrow brows and a whine as she stared at the place he had dirtied. She hoped it would come out.

Danny groaned, and Paulina realized that this wasn't the time to be thinking about her carpet—no matter how good it looked or how much she wanted to keep it like that—as she had more pressing matters, like, say, the town hero bleeding out on her floor.

Ok, yeah, this is a thing that's happening right now, isn't it?

Right. Try not to panic. Vaguely she realized she was probably going into shock. Probably. Maybe. She wasn't sure how all that worked, to be honest.

“Ghost boy, how did this happen?”

“I have a name, you know. And you know, the usual. Protecting the town isn't always peaches and cream, you know. I'm saying you know way too much, you know.”

He tried to joke through his slight panic—he was still bleeding, green goop sinking into his glove—showing a smile that looked more like a grimace, before wincing as his wound is aggravated from his forced laughter, sore ribs groaning.

“Oh. Well. Never doing that again.”

He muttered, shifting his now soaked, squishy hand to cover his wound better.

Paulina contemplated this; did her love—she ignored how that felt wrong, her thoughts trying to stay away from a blonde hair goddess, always orbiting her like a satellite—always get scratched up like this? Why didn't he come to her sooner? Why didn't he stop putting himself in danger? It occurs to her she doesn't know, she doesn't know how many times she's been cheering when he's injured, thinking it will all be ok, because he's a hero, and heroes never lose. How childish of her, maybe, to think that. Has she been seeing him as a fantasy this whole time, instead of as a person? She knows the answer to that one. She feels guilty. Does she even love him, or does she just love the image of him? The thought of him? To have someone everyone desires, to have someone who could save her, to have some sort of trophy? She hates that thought—that's what everyone did to her, the kind of vanity she refused to commit; or, at least, thought she refused to. But was that not what she was doing? She knew from experience the dizzying intoxication that comes from stares, along with the discomfort, how she hated it, but got addicted to it, because she was noticed. She did a lot to stay on top, to not be forgotten. Did those geeks she ruin stay up at night, cursing her name? She feels sick. Her head hurts.

This isn't the first time she's thought of this, though—thought of the nerds she dated then dumped, ruining their social standings for her own gain, own popularity.. She's not dumb. She knows she's hurting people. But still, she'll probably continue to the next day and so on, pushing down her turning nausea. She was selfish like that. She hates herself; hates that she doesn't regret tearing everyone down for a moment if it gets her what she wants.

Her thoughts again drift to that bright bright goddess, orbiting, star.

“Hey, I'm sorry to ask you this, but do you by any chance know how to sew?”

She's broken out of her thoughts by her loves—no, the ghost boys question. He stares at her with remorse and regret, sorry that he has to even ask. Maybe he should have went to someone else, instead of getting a civilian involved. In hindsight this was stupid.

“H-huh? Yeah, I do, I actually design and sew some of my clothes, but I never wear them out, that would be social suicide. Though, I do kinda want to be a fashion designer, but my papa says that it's not a stable job. Why do you need to— oh.”

Her eyes widen in realization, nearly flawless skin—a mole, a signal goddamn mole ruining that for her, she hated that mole, no matter how many shitty guys in shitty allies told her she was perfect, beautiful from head to toe; no matter how many kisses and you're amazing, no matter how many guys she blackmails, don't talk about this, I'll ruin you, she's never, ever, good enough, pretty enough—blanching. She laughs, a little, perhaps just a touch hysterically, as it sinks in.

Normally she would be excited about the prospect of seeing the ghost boy naked, but not like this.

He seems even worse off than her—somehow looking even paler than the dead, like all his life was sucked out of him and then he was stuffed in the freezer—sweating nervously.

He wonders if this was a good idea, now that he's actually here. If he does this, he’ll have no clue what will happen, how she will react, and- and he's scared. Of course, logically, he has nothing to lose—he can go intangible for christs sake, the worst thing that happens is he loses some fans, depending if she leaks it or not. There was also the possibility that she could be perfectly accepting—he really couldn't say. Combined with his still bleeding injury—shouldn't it have stopped by now?—he feels like he's going to puke. Still, though, he gently removes the top of his jumpsuit, green ooze and pus, clinging some, tearing it off as it sticks. He hisses, the ecto goop fighting to hold on, as it stings.

“Y-you know, I think you should do it.”

He says throw gritted teeth, prying the sticky fabric from his wounds, taking careful note to hide the scars not made by anyone else besides him.

“Do the fashion thing, that is.”

She looks at him, a bit shocked. Was he still thinking of her? He should focus on his injuries.

It's then, when the top part of his jumpsuit has been removed, she sees it.

A binder.

“Y-you're trans!”

She looks at him in surprise–and a bit of awe?–before a determined look crosses her face, and she takes the scissors in her hands.

“Sorry for this, I know binders are like, super expensive. Well, not all of them, but the good ones are. You don't want the poor people ones, they don't work as well. My papa and I will buy you a knew one.”

She talks distractedly, fluttering nervously, snipping at the ecto covered restricted fabric. He stares at her a bit; he expected a lot, but not for her to be so… well versed on the subject. Noticing his confused gaze, she sighs, just a bit, before explaining.

“I'm a girl, yeah? But, like, I'm not always a girl. Like this one goth bitch–sorry, my bad, witch, papa doesn't like me using that language–but like, I'm not a loser about it.”

Despite how she tries to play it off, he can see her hands go up and nervously play with her hair, aqua eyes darting a bit. And he's surprised, but somehow he's not.

“Do you still prefer she/her pronouns or should I switch?”

“Oh, don't worry about that, I'm fine with feminine terms.”

She looks relieved—he's sure he does too, and a smile creeps into his face before it's replaced with a grimace, a groan slipping out.

With that Paulina takes it as her cue to start looking at the wound, sewing needles tugging as he winces. She takes note that his ribs are bruised—from a fight, or unhealthy binder habits? She makes a note to ask later—and decides that after sewing him up she'll wrap them some, which was something she was more comfortable with, more familiar, though she's happy to say that since her dad divorced her mom she's no longer in the habit of wrapping bruises. Somewhere between the routine of stitch stitch stitch, the near instinct of a needle going through his skin, in and out—which, if she was honest, was kinda a freaky thought—she started talking, a low mutter, almost whisper, like a well kept secret escaping from her mouth like a breath.

“That's…that's why I hate her. She's, well, she's so open, and I'm…not. Sometimes I just want to shout it, but… what would star think? Or the other a listers? I did everything to be well liked I… can't just risk that…”

Her fragile voice, a state he hasn't seen her in, she was always so strong seeming, trails off, and they sit in silence, contemplating this, occasional hisses of pain from the white haired boy.

 

If in the morning Paulina didn't tear into the geeks as much as usual, no one mentioned it.