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Your Words On My Skin

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Bonjour, mes chers! Here at last is the complete and full version of the Iambic Prose Soulmate AU! This was originally a fulfilled request for a soulmate au where whatever is written on your skin is mirrored on your soulmate's skin. While this originally started as a one-shot, it turned into a full fledged story for those of you who wanted more of it!

Remember too to follow me on tumblr at ibelieveinahappilyeverafter so you can keep up with all my updates, announcements, and everything else in my life. You can search the tags 'everafterlifeupdates' on my blog to see what I'm doing now!

This story is a Soulmate AU story in the way that whatever a person writes or draws on their skin shows up on he skin of their soulmate. It was originally a request given by aforetempus413 over on tumblr.

 

Enjoy the story and don't forget to take a reading break when you need to!


"Oh, Jack… Isn't he beautiful?" Maddie Fenton was exhausted, sweaty, and wanted nothing more than to take a very long bubble bath, but all of that was easily pushed aside as she held her baby boy in her arms for the very first time. Jack was squeezed onto the bed beside her and already tearing up as he gently played with their baby's hand. "Our sweet little Daniel."

"Daniel James Fenton," Jack laughed, the noise quiet and rumbling in his chest as he squeezed them both close. "He's amazing, Mads." Nodding, Maddie paused as she saw something on the back of Danny's arm.

"Jack? What's that?" Maddie shifted Danny in her arms, Jack careful as he turned the baby's arm around and oh… Soulmate writing. "His soulmate is already born?"

"Could be a few years older than him," Jack mused as he gently released the baby's arm. "Crazy timing, though. It usually takes a few years for writing to show up, doesn't it?"

"Not always. My sister had hers show up when she was a few months old, but Danny hasn't even been here for an hour, yet." Carefully shifting her baby, Maddie took the arm and inspected it herself, heart dropping as she looked- As she read the writing. "Jack."

She wasn't sure if Jack tensed at her tone or the words, but they both saw it there clear as day. The words were cramped and close together on such a small arm, but there were sentences. Full, complete, and complex sentences were winding their way around Danny's arms and the sight filled Maddie with a crushing fear and motherly instinct to hide her baby's skin as quickly as possible. "Just how much older is his soulmate…?"

Doodles and maybe a few words would be nothing. It would have been fun to take pictures of all the words and show Danny when he was older, but this? This wasn't the writing of a five-year-old or a ten-year-old. They were seeing some words that Maddie hadn't even known until college- "Oh, Danny."

Her son had only just been born and it looked like his soulmate had been in the world already for quite a while. By the time Danny was fifteen, how old would his soulmate be? Thirty? Forty? Older? She couldn't… Soulmates were precious, but they were all still so human. She couldn't put her baby through that.

"Mads?" Jack rubbed at her arm, Maddie looking down to where a half-scribbled science formula was written across both their arms. Soulmates were precious, but if it was between that and her baby's safety… "Maddie, I know what you're thinking."

"Just until he's older." If Danny grew up with that, then parents and children alike would judge him. They would torment him. "We can cover up his arms and make sure he's covered just until he's a little bit older. Until we can explain it to him. Not all soulmate matches are perfect."

Jack didn't say anything, but Maddie knew that he was thinking the same as her. Danny having a soulmate that was so much older than him would be hell. They could just- They would wrap up his arms and encourage him to stay covered until he was older. Hopefully… Hopefully he would be able to forgive him.

"Oh, my sweet baby boy." Maddie reached for the baby blanket that had been left for them, wrapping Danny up in it until not a bit of skin besides his face showed. "Don't you worry, Danny. We'll keep you safe."

And that's what Maddie Fenton did for fifteen years. She made sure to keep Danny's arms covered with clothes, bandages, or gloves, she always told him that it was important that no one see his skin if he could help it, and she gave him as many notebooks and sketchbooks as possible, so he would always have something around him to write properly on. She even made him necklaces out of pens and pencils.

She knew it was wrong of her to hide his soulmate from him and to keep him from ever letting his soulmate know he was there, but she would rather suffer that sin than see her baby boy be hurt. There was a chance his soulmate was closer to his age and had merely been a child prodigy, but that was a very low chance and not one she was willing to risk.

It was horrible of her, but she kept her son as safe as possible and always made sure his sister knew what was at risk. She, Jack, and Maddie were the only ones to know why Danny needed to keep his skin covered, and if Maddie had her way, they would be the only three to ever know. Soulmates weren't the end of it all - there were people who were happy together and weren't soulmates. There were people who never had a soulmate. There were billions of people and she was positive her baby would find happiness even without a soulmate in his life. Danny didn't need a soulmate to be happy.

That didn't mean Danny wasn't curious about it all, though. He knew he had to keep his skin covered for some reason and he wasn't allowed to write or draw anything on it, but that didn't stop him from studying other people's skin.

He loved watching words and drawings appear on other people or watching a tic tac toe game play out across skin. It was fun to see a string of letters and numbers start out on his mom's arm before being finished by his dad later that day when his mom was cooking dinner. He loved seeing Tucker's doodles of computers and wires and game controllers being taken over by vines and flowers and sassy little remarks. He loved when Sam looked at him and made a shushing motion each and every time before pushing her sleeves down low enough to hide even her fingers.

The idea of writing something on his skin and having someone see it - someone who was meant to see it - was an amazing idea. He knew his parents, though, and he knew better than to try anything. It was possible that maybe he was allergic to ink, so they kept him from writing, so he wouldn't hurt himself and they kept him from watching his skin, so he didn't get disappointed. Or maybe writing on his skin hurt his soulmate and his parents had figured it out and wanted to protect them both.

People always found it a little odd he kept his skin so covered, but others did similar, so he at least wasn't the odd one out. Besides, it wasn't like he was dying to know. He was curious and found it interesting, but not knowing wasn't affecting his life.

"Danny? You alright?" Glancing over to Sam where she was drawing vines destroying a computer on her arm, Danny gave a weak smile.

"Yeah. Just thinking." Alright, maybe it was affecting his life a little. "Hey, Sam?" Waiting until she hummed, Danny sighed. "Why don't you ever tell him?"

"I like watching him struggle to figure it out. It's fun to see his frustration," Sam snickered, Danny trying not to laugh. "Besides, if he can't match up handwriting, then he's not ready to know."

"You just like watching him suffer." The other didn't deny it, Danny hiding a smile. "Don't you ever want him to know, though? I mean, you two are soulmates."

"Yeah, but we're friends first." Friends first. That was a good way of looking at it. "I don't know if I love him like that, so I'm content to just wait and see where things go."

"You know, most people blush or avoid talking about stuff like this." Wrinkling his nose as it was poked with the blunt side of the pen she was using, Danny stuck his tongue out. "You think you'll ever tell him?"

"Do you think you'll ever look at your skin?" Ah… Vicious as always. "You know, you could just ask your parents why you have to go through all of this."

"I could, but they probably have a reason for all this and they'll pull their 'you're not old enough' excuse out." Ah, Danny was getting too good at lying. "Besides, what soulmate would want someone who's half ghost?"

"Shut up, you're great and your powers are cool." The two sat up as Lancer walked into the classroom, Sam managing to glare at him even as she looked at the board. She was possessed by a demon, probably. "You should ask them."

"I'll think about it." He wouldn't ask, though. It wasn't that his parents had a good reason, which they might, but… Danny was afraid of them not having a good reason to keep his skin covered.

He would be fine, though. Soulmates weren't all that important after all, right?

::

"You know, there's a reason I keep bringing you back notebooks. Have you ever considered maybe using one?"

"Mm, why waste the paper?" Andrew jotted down his latest idea across the back of his arm, the rest of it already filled with bits of dialogue that he could use within the story itself. "I'll transfer it over soon, anyways."

"Yes, that's what all my complaining is about. Wasting paper." Pausing in his writing, Andrew swallowed before continuing and ignoring his brother as best as possible. It was rather hard considering Randy didn't know the meaning of the word 'silence.' "You're going to have to talk about it eventually, you know."

"I could, but we both know that I'm not going to." Finishing the last line with a flourish, Andrew capped his pen and looked up at Randy. He made sure to keep his expression as neutral as possible. "When are you going to let all of this go?"

"When are you going to listen to me?" Uncapping the pen, Andrew met Randy's gaze evenly before darting forward with as much speed as he could. The pen didn't even touch Randy's skin before he was on the floor, Randy sitting on his back and no doubt smirking. "Is this your way of asking to start training sessions back up?"

"No, this would be me telling you to go burn in hell." Throwing his energy out to wrap around the closest book he could, Andrew held his first two fingers together and flicked them to the side sharply and snickered when he heard Randy yelp. "Please keep in mind we are in a library and I can keep this up all day."

"Cheater." Randy floated off him before dragging him back to his feet, Andrew huffing as he started to cap his pen before pausing and scribbling something else down on the back of his hand. "Maybe I should just tie a notebook around your neck. Use a nice strong chain."

"I'd break it within two seconds." Wiggling free, Andrew shook Randy off and adjusted his clothes. "I don't see why you continue to want to discuss this. It's been decades and the same conversation every single time."

"Oh? So, you're completely over it, then." Both looked to where Andrew's skin was filled with his writings and quick scribbles - and only his. Shaking his sleeves down, Andrew quickly headed for one of the study rooms in his lair, knowing Randy was following him from the simple fact it was Randy. "Andy-"

"Oh, please. Spare me. There's nothing that can be done. Some people have soulmates and others don't and I'm someone who doesn't need a soulmate. I've never needed one." Brushing off Randy's look a bit less effectively this time, Andrew only shook his head and continued on.

He didn't need a soulmate after what he had gone through in his life- In his death. He was used to the silence and stillness of words never being returned. Besides, he didn't need someone pure and untainted knowing what he had done. There was a reason he went by the name Ghostwriter, now. He didn't need anyone else to ever know who he was- He didn't need anyone to know what he had done.

The lack of a soulmate had made him the most effective assassin there had ever been in his time and now he had moved past that and he was an effective and dedicated writer. That was all that mattered. Effective was all he had ever needed to be.

"You've always wanted one, though." Of course, Randy was effective in the way that he would never let this go. Turning back to throw a glare at him that was as menacing as possible, Andrew near flinched at the gentle look that was aimed at him. "You care too much, frérot. Your heart is far too big."

"Heart? Heart?" Please. "You, grand frère, made sure I didn't have a heart." Turning on his heel, Andrew glared as Randy stumbled in his steps, viciously pleased at the hurt in his eyes. "What I write on my skin is of no matter to anyone but myself. Do you know why? Because it's mine. My words, my worries, my fears, my thoughts, my skin. It belongs to no one but me and it is mine. I have no need of a soulmate."

"That doesn't stop you from wanting one, though." Ready to snap back, Andrew stopped when Randy shook his head. "Andy, look at where you write, sometimes. You write on your palms, the back of your hands, as far up your neck as you can. You write wherever there's a chance of it being seen. You wouldn't do that if you had accepted it."

"Like you're any different." Randy's skin was perfectly clean with not a spot of ink anywhere on him. "You used to draw on yourself all the time."

"I did. Then I grew up." Randy said it without a scrap of bitterness- He said it so casually. He said it as if he had accepted it and was okay with it. He… "Like I said, Andy. Your heart was always too big."

As always, the fight drained out of Andrew as he fell forward, leaning his forehead against Randy's shoulder. "That's fighting dirty." Randy laughed against him, hugging him tightly. "You think I would be used to the fact that life isn't fair for me."

"That's what makes it all so fun, though." Mm, he begged to differ. "You know, I really only came by to make sure you were eating before heading off on my next job."

"Didn't you just get back from the last one?" Andrew gave Randy as judging a look as he could, pleased when Randy looked away first. "You're running yourself ragged."

"Last one. Then I'll spend a few weeks annoying the shit out of you. It should only last a few days. It's a relic hunt." Mhm. For Randy, a relic hunt usually meant a good chance of almost dying at least three times - maybe more. "I'll make whatever you want for lunch?"

"Better." Andrew pushed himself off Randy before pushing at him even more. "Go on, then. You know what I want by now."

"So demanding," Randy tsked, grinning anyways as he destroyed Andrew's hair with his fingers before flying off. "Don't get lost in your books, nerd!"

Waiting until Randy was truly gone to let his smile drop, Andrew sighed as he looked down to where he had scribbled a few words on his palm. Randy was right, at least. He did write in places where it would be easy to notice - not that anything ever came of it.

At first, he thought his soulmate merely hadn't been born yet, but he had grown older and older and there had been no answering scribbles or drawings in reply to his own. Then he had died, and all hopes had died with him - more so when he met ghosts who still gotmarkings from their soulmates.

There was no chance of his soulmate being younger than him when Andrew had been waiting for decades- And if his soulmate was born before Andrew, then they had never bothered to contact him. Or perhaps, fittingly enough, they had died before communication could be had. That would be Andrew's luck… That would be the Priest of Death's luck.

Whatever the case was, Andrew had no soulmate and he needed to accept it and move on before he let it tear him apart. He couldn't keep living with the idea that a part of him would never be complete because he would never meet his other half. It was a stupid way of thinking, anyways. It was a weak way of thinking. He needed to be better than this. He needed to be stronger than this.

"Make sure you write down that idea before it rubs off!" Not bothering to suppress a smile, Andrew sighed as he went to search for a notebook. "And stop writing on your palms before your lair yells at you for getting ink everywhere!"

Besides, he didn't need a soulmate. He had Randy looking out for him and the two of them were just fine - just like they had always been. They were fine. Things were fine.

Maybe if he told himself that enough times he would believe it.

::

"Oh, come on… How am I supposed to remember all of this?" Danny felt something close to hopeless defeat at the string of numbers and letters that was Vlad's password into his servers and databases and just what they needed to see what the man was up to now. "Dammit, Vlad."

Of course Vlad had to come up with a password that was more complicated than anything else he had ever seen. Maybe it would be fine if Danny could use a piece of paper and a pen to write it down, but this was Vlad. The second something went missing or was out of place he would know about it and then he would know that Danny had been there snooping. He could use his phone- Oh, wait, no, he couldn't, because Tucker had disassembled it.

Tugging at his hair in frustration, Danny near screamed as he realized there was no way of getting that password without writing it down on something- Danny looked down at his arms and the pen that was hanging around his neck. If he… If he wrote it down on his skin now, then he could write it down on paper as soon as he got home.

"Okay. Okay, think this through, Fenton. If you write on your skin, then it's possible your soulmate will see it. That could be good?" Or… "Or you could be hurting yourself or your soulmate by writing on your skin. Right. Great. Brilliant. Just perfect."

Time limit. Vlad would figure out the distraction was a distraction soon enough and Danny needed to be gone before that happened, so he needed to do something now. "Oh, Mom and Dad are so going to kill me for this."

Tearing his glove off, Danny pushed the sleeve of his suit up and grabbed the pen around his neck, looking for a blank spot to write the password down and pausing at seeing how his arm was covered in writing. He knew he had a soulmate that was always writing - it was hard not to know something like that when showering and getting dressed every day, but he had never really thought about how much his soulmate wrote.

Curiosity already taking over, Danny slid off his other glove and stared at how there was just as much writing, although the writing on his left arm was a little bit neater. His soulmate must be right… Right handed. Huh. Danny knew something about his soulmate. Danny knew that his soulmate was right handed. It was such a stupid little thing to get excited about, but he knew something about his soulmate.

"At least you shouldn't feel any pain from words appearing on your skin," Danny mused, pen held loosely in his fingers as he looked at the strings of sentences wrapped around him. There was so much that was written down.

'"I promised myself I would never fall for anyone. I wasn't looking to fall and then I met you and oh, god, I lost so badly."' 'The air seemed to freeze and still inside his lungs, Ab unable to even move as the words rang through his mind. Two words, yet they carried with them the promise of everything.' 'Andrea pressed her back up against the stone bricks and held her breath, heart near shaking in her chest as she heard heavy steps follow after her. If she was found now… It would all be over.' '"Oh, Mason… You've always wanted to find the truth behind Mavis. You've always wanted to help her. You heart, little brother, is far too big."'

They were stories. Everything on his arms were snippets and excerpts from what seemed to be story after story after story and they were all- They were all absolutely amazing. Each snippet seemed like a story in of itself and Danny wanted to know more- He wanted to read more. Maybe he could write a message and ask his soulmate to write a bit more-

No. No, no, no, he wasn't- He wasn't even supposed to be looking at his skin. He wasn't supposed to be looking at any of this! Chewing at his lip and pulling his glove over his right hand, Danny looked back to his left and this was a bad idea. He could always break into Vlad's lab and get the password another time, but if he wrote anything down, then his soulmate would know he was out there. His soulmate would know that he was out there. That there was a match for him. That… Fifteen years and there hadn't been a single spot of ink that hadn't been put there by his soulmate, so if they saw something now and then nothing after that… Not even Danny could be that cruel.

"Sorry." He wasn't apologizing to his soulmate. Gripping his pen tightly, Danny quickly scribbled the password he needed across his left palm, right where there was free space and right where it would be seen as clearly and quickly as possible. He would have to figure out what to tell his parents later, but for now, Danny tucked his glove back over his hand and capped his pen.

He wasn't sure how he got out of Vlad's mansion so quickly or how he got back to Amity Park so fast, but it seemed between one moment and the next he was sitting in Sam's room and copying down the password in one of his notebooks.

"You actually wrote something down on your skin. You never write on your skin. Holy shit, why do you have so much written on your skin?" Tucker was near bouncing around him as he fretted and worried, Danny doing his best not to laugh.

"It was an emergency." Tearing the paper off and handing it to Tucker, Danny stared at the palm of his hand for a moment longer before grinning. He didn't bother to scrub the letters and numbers away. "I don't see why you're freaking out. You write on your skin all the time."

"Yeah, but you don't!" Mm. He hadn't, at least. "Dude, your parents and sister are gonna flip. They're always so paranoid about your skin being covered. I mean- I thought it was just where your soulmate kept writing swear words or something."

"Nice, Tuck. Real classy," Sam snorted, sleeves tucked under her fingers as she grinned at Danny. "Having fun being the rebel, then?"

"Sam, come on." Danny grinned, leaning back against the bed and knocking into Sam's legs from where she was sitting on the bed and he was on the floor. "When don't I?"

"If your sister tries to kill me over this, then I'm revoking your best friend status." Tucker studied the piece of paper for a moment before heading over to Sam's computer. "Sam, I'm using your computer."

"You could ask, you know." The two watched as Tucker stared at them both before flicking the computer on. "Ass."

"You love me for it." Seeing the sappy look Sam was getting, Danny cleared his throat. "Right. Your soulmate problems."

"I wouldn't call them problems." At the dual looks, Danny stuck his tongue out. "Shut up. It's just- It's complicated, but it's not really a problem." Not yet, anyways.

"It might be when your soulmate finally sees you wrote something back." Shit. He hadn't really thought that far, yet. "There's still time for you to erase it, you know. Cover your arms back up and ignore it all."

"That…" Danny looked down at his arms, his coat on the ground beside him and leaving his skin bare to the world. "I don't think I can do that, Sammy." Beautiful lines of stories he wanted to know more than anything twirled around his skin in such a way that they looked like tattoos with how uniform and pressed together the words were. "That seems…"

"Like you'd be running away?" No- Yes, but also no. It was that, but it was more than that, too. It was so much more than that.

"That seems cruel." His soulmate wrote so much. His entire body was filled with words and Danny knew with everything in him that it was to try and grab the attention of whoever had the words mirrored on their own skin. "That seems way too cruel."

"And finally replying back with a random string of letters and numbers isn't?" Pausing at that, Danny looked back to his left palm and- And shit. That- Fuck.

"I don't think I thought this one through very well." Because it would be one thing to say hi, or yell at the other for writing so much, or even write down a list of things to buy, but writing something so random? "How much do you think my soulmate will hate me for this?"

"Oh, Danny." Sam leaned over and ruffled his hair fiercely, Danny whining and trying to fight her off even as he fought against the laughter that came bubbling up. "I don't think you have to worry about your soulmate hating you."

::

It wasn't making sense. No matter how much Andrew counted every single object in the room or pinched himself or even poked himself with one of his knives, he wasn't waking up. He was contemplating throwing himself off somewhere very tall when Randy walked in and ah, perfect, another way to wake himself up. "I need you to shoot me."

To dream Randy's credit, the man didn't automatically turn into something strange or start lecturing him on his choice in reading material. He was acting very much like real Randy, though, in the way he took a few steps back, checked to make sure his guns were holstered, and gave Andrew a look as if he was insane.

"It'll make sense when I wake up- Or I suppose it won't for you, really, since you're merely a dream manifestation of my real brother."

"I would ask how much you've had to drink, but I'm not sure if I should be worried about alcohol or caffeine. You do know ghosts aren't immune to the effects of those things, right?" Hm, his dream was quite realistic this time around, wasn't it? "Andy, why do you want me to shoot you?"

"Because I'm dreaming, and I would quite like to wake up. Used to, I could do it by realizing I was in a dream by flying, but obviously I can't do that anymore." Shame, too. That was always the quickest way to wake himself up. "So, I figure having you shoot me will trigger a traumatic enough memory that I'll be forced awake."

"Yeah, okay, I see your point, but say you weren't dreaming and you asked me to shoot you." Unlikely. "And then say I actually shot you to prove a point. I don't think you'd be the only one dealing with something traumatic."

"Good point, except for the fact it's hypothetical and I'm dreaming." Seeing that the other was about to ask why he thought he was dreaming, Andrew held his left palm up and glared. "This showed up on my hand."

"Yes, and? Words typically show up on your hand when you write them- Did you go on a writing binge, again?"

"Yes- No, that's not the point- Randy." Andrew walked forward and held his palm up in front of Randy's face. "This isn't my handwriting. These aren't my letters. I didn't write this. didn't write this and it's not coming off no matter how hard I scrub at it."

"You…" The dream manifestation of Randy, because he had to be dreaming he had to, stared before grabbing his wrist and flipping his hand around to study the string of letters and numbers more closely. "A code?"

"I don't know. I was reaching for a book, I saw something on my palm, I wanted to make sure it wasn't an idea, and then I saw that. So, before my hopes get any higher, I would like to wake up now."

"Andy…" No- No, see, that was a look very close to pity and Andrew didn't want it. Andrew didn't want a look like that. Not now. Not ever. "Andy, mon petit, you're not asleep."

"I have to be because I didn't write this. This isn't my lettering, so I have to be asleep." He didn't have a soulmate. Andrew Claude Riter didn't have a soulmate, so why were words appearing on his skin? It didn't make sense. It couldn't make sense.

Instead of agreeing with him or saying something random that didn't make sense like a dream should, Randy only held his hand between the both of his and squeezed lightly. "Andy. Andy, this isn't a dream. You're awake."

"I'm…" Andrew watched as Randy freed a hand before giving a little flick. A pen appeared between his fingers before he was handing it off to Andrew and letting go of him completely. "I'm awake."

"You're awake. So… What are you going to do about it?" His soulmate- His soulmate had just written something on his skin- Their skin. He… He had a soulmate. "You could always write something back."

"I- Why? Why now?" It had been- Andrew hadn't been alive for long and he had been dead for so much longer, so why now would his soulmate's words show up on his skin? "I've been writing for years, so why would they write something now- It isn't even a word! It's just- Just some code!"

"That sounds like something you should ask your soulmate." Randy hesitated for a moment before patting at Andrew's cheek. "Does it matter if it's late if it's the happiness you want?"

"I…" Andrew watched as Randy gave him a smile, as if he had heard the answer he was waiting for, before walking off and away from him. "Randy?"

"I think I'll make us some dinner. It should take a while, so maybe find something to do in the meantime until it's done, yeah?" Randy tossed out a wave as Andrew looked back down to the pen he was still holding.

By the time he looked back up, Randy was already gone, and Andrew was left staring at the doorway in slight frustration. "One day, I'll get the last word in." Uncapping the pen, Andrew looked down at his palm and okay. Okay, his soulmate was looking, now. He didn't- This shouldn't be something crazy or extravagant. He probably shouldn't yell about the long silence, either. At least, not yet. Okay, then. Something simple. Easy? Something that could be said in a word or two that was short, concise, and to the point. Something his soulmate wouldn't be scared responding to.

'Hello.' There. Right under the code and- Code. Was this a test? Would his soulmate not talk to him again unless he passed a test and figured out what that code meant? It seemed unlikely, but Andrew was also a ghost, so he was willing to have a little faith in strange things happening. Furthermore, was his soulmate a ghost? Maybe that's why they never wrote back. Maybe they thought it would hurt because they were dead, and their soulmate was alive- So why now? Why this silly string of characters that made no sense?

"This probably won't work, you know. Nothing will come of it!" At least when Randy was here he could pretend he was rambling at him instead of to himself or his lair. "This is stupid, Randy!" Andrew threw himself into a nearby armchair, glaring at his palm. "You're stupid."

A string of letters and numbers and right underneath it there were five letters written small and cramped. Andrew kind of regretted writing the word that small. What if his soulmate missed it? What if they didn't see it? It wasn't like it would be easy to pick out such a small word among so many.

"This is stupid." Why should he even care, anymore? He had made peace with not having a soulmate. He had accepted it and moved- Alright, he might not have moved on, but he had accepted it. He wasn't supposed to care. He wasn't supposed to clutch a pen tight enough to break and stare at his palm as if it had the answer to every question in the universe. He was- He was supposed to- To do anything but that!

Fuck, he shouldn't have even written that hello on his palm. Now his soulmate knew he was watching and what did he do now? Did they try to find out who the other was? Would his soulmate even tell him why he had been kept waiting for so long?

"Randy, I changed my mind! Do you have a wet washcloth!" Predictably, there was nothing but silence and, if he listened carefully enough, the sound of something cooking in the kitchen. Andrew didn't want to say he was bitter, but he was bitter. "Fat lot of help you are, then."

Closing his palm, Andrew groaned and threw his head back, staring up at the ceiling. "Do you think I'm mad for wanting this too, then?" His beautiful lair sang a response within his mind, notes played upon a violin tumbling through his head and bringing with it a tone of don't worry you're okay you're safe it's okay you can be happy you're safe it's okay. Andrew rather hated how much it made him relax.

"It's stupid. It's stupid wanting this so much." He was just going to be disappointed in the end. That's how it would go just as that was how it always went. He would probably have that hello on there for the rest of his unnatural life. He would always be waiting for a response that would never come.

"Why am I like this…" Looking back to his hand, Andrew uncurled his palm, looking at his… Two new letters. Two tiny letters written in black ink with a no doubt shaky hand. They were two letters written just for him- To him.


 

Chapter Text

"Right, right, okay, Fenton, you can do this." Taking a breath to steady himself, Danny walked into the kitchen with as much courage as he could possibly find. "Hey, Mom, hey, Dad."

"Hey there, Danny boy!" Jack didn't look up from where he was scribbling across a set of blueprints, Danny trying not to laugh at seeing they were upside down. He had a feeling that somehow, even with that, the new invention that he was designing would work. Somewhat. "How was school?"

"Oh, uh, good. School was good." Wait. How was school? Danny vaguely remembered homework, Dash tormenting him, and a B on a pop quiz, so, yeah. Good day at school. "So, uh, what's up with you guys?"

"We're fine." Oh, jeez, Danny could hear the raised eyebrow in his mom's voice. A second later and he could see it, too. "Alright, Danny, what are you up to today?"

"Rude," Danny huffed, feeling a bit of a smile on his face. "It's not like I'm up to something every day, just, you know, most days." Maddie smiled at him and Danny felt himself relax a little bit more, and, right. His parents loved him. Time to test that. "Actually, I… I wanted to ask you guys something."

"Danny? Everything alright?" Maddie was turning the stove off and putting her apron aside before walking over to him, looking worried already. "Are you in any trouble?"

"No, no, I'm not in any trouble." At least, he wasn't in any more trouble than he normally was. "I…" Okay, Fenton. Take it slow. He had to approach this topic carefully. "Why did you try so hard to keep me from my soulmate?"

For a heartbeat, the kitchen was utterly silent as his parents exchanged a look. It was a parental look that had Danny wondering how fast he could get to his room, change, and fly away as quickly as possible. "You know what, forget it, that's probably a dumb question, I think I'll just go to my room, get some rest, do a bit of homework-"

"Danny." It wasn't Maddie saying his name that got his attention, but it was the tone. It was… Jeez, Danny didn't know how to describe it. Pained? "Danny, sweetie, why are you asking about your soulmate? I thought you weren't curious."

"Oh, uh, well, I- You know, all the kids at school are starting to get curious and find their soulmates and I was just-"

"Did." Jack startled Maddie and Danny both, Danny looking at him and, uh, what? What was that supposed to- "You asked why did we keep you from your soulmate."

"Ah." Shit. He forgot that for as much as his dad was his dad, he was also a scientist who had helped create a portal into the Ghost Zone. Really, Danny shouldn't be so surprised, at this point. "I, um… I might've accidentally maybe sort of kind of wrote something down on my hand? And then I may have answered back when I saw a hello."

Danny really didn't want to say that his parents looked at him with dread, but… Yeah, no, there was no better word than dread to describe the looks on their faces. "Danny- Danny, you have to understand that we were just trying to protect you."

"I mean, yeah, I figured that much, but from what? What was so bad that you had me keep my skin covered for fifteen years?" It had to be big, right? Something huge and important that would explain away the pain he had lied to himself to hide, right? Something huge.

"Oh, Danny." Maddie moved forward to pull him into a tight hug, Danny startling a little, but carefully hugging her back. "Danny, you were- You weren't even an hour old and words were appearing on your skin."

"What?" That- That wasn't right, was it? Yeah, okay, words could appear on the skin of newborns, but not even an hour old and words appeared? That was near unheard of, as far as he knew. "What do you mean words?"

"Sentences." At Jack's admission, Danny darted his gaze to his arms. They were covered now, but he could still remember the words that had wrapped around them in all sorts of shapes. "Sentences, paragraphs, and words that were far beyond a child."

"That were beyond a teenager." Oh. Oh. The writing had led them to believe that his soulmate was old, then. "We were trying to keep you safe, Danny. If people saw your skin or found out, then…" Maddie pulled back, cupping Danny's cheeks and looking at him with near tears in her eyes. "I just wanted you safe."

"I…" People would have mocked him because that's what people did. They were mean and cruel and heartless. He knew that. He understood it. "I understand, but…" He understood, but he was still- They had never even bothered to tell him. Did they expect him to keep his skin covered for the rest of his life? Did they just expect that he'd never get curious- They didn't even hint at anything like this!

"But you're upset." Upset was a very mild word at the moment, but Danny gave a nod, anyways. "I won't lie to you. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat." Heh. Guess Danny knew where he got his hero complex from. "Even if you hate me, I just want you to know that we were doing our best to keep you safe. I won't apologize for that."

"Yeah- Yeah, I get it." He got it, but that hello that had appeared on his skin had been small, and cramped, and written as if the holder of the pen had been terrified of silence. How long had his soulmate been alone? "I'm gonna go take a shower."

Pushing away from his mom, Danny was grateful they didn't try to stop him as he ran up the stairs. He was willing to bet his limited allowance that he would have said some very nasty things if they tried to 'explain' anymore. That was one good thing about scientist parents, at least. They knew the value of giving someone time to think.

It just- Why?! Near everyone else grew up seeing words and drawings appear on their skin, but Danny had to keep his hidden as if it was something shameful. Apparently, it was. God, Danny couldn't even fathom the idea of someone writing on their skin day after day, always waiting for a response and never getting one. He, at least, had known he had a soulmate. He hadn't been allowed to 'talk' to them, but he had known. His soulmate probably thought he had been born without anyone. That… That was sad. It was sad enough that it was pissing Danny off.

Glaring down at his skin as he got in the shower, Danny huffed as only his words washed away. "You came into the world too soon." It wasn't fair. He should have been able to grow up being able to write on his skin and getting to know his soulmate. His soulmate should have been able to grow up knowing there was someone out there for them. God, how old even was his soulmate? How many years had they been alone if what his parents said were true?

"Fenton luck strikes again." Fentons, he had found, never had very good luck with things. Danny thought the ghost powers and portal had been bad enough, but this? This was just cruel. This was nothing but cruel. Tearing his gaze away, Danny tried to avoid looking at his skin as much as possible as he showered, finally coming out and starting to get dressed. Maybe his soulmate would ignore him, now. It'd only be… His skin was clean.

Yeah, okay, shower, yeah, but his skin was clean. As in everything - every word, every story, every trace of ink - had been wiped away and there was nothing but bare skin. It was something that Danny had never seen before because even when seeing quick glimpses of his arms while growing up, there had always been something written there. To see it blank-

Seeing words, Danny quickly turned his left wrist around and there, in small letters, were the words, 'My name is Andrew.' Andrew. His soulmate's name was Andrew.

Rushing into his room, and near tripping half a dozen times, Danny finally found one of his pens and tore the cap off and okay- Okay. His mate's name was Andrew. Guy. That- He was going to be honest, that was not that big of a surprise and he had a soulmate. Okay. He couldn't lose this chance. Not again.

'Danny. My name is Danny. Nice to meet you Andrew. Well I mean I say or uh write meet but I guess really its more like' Danny was cut off from continuing as the word like was covered up with scribbles in a pen that wasn't his own, Andrew's words appearing under his own quick, clean, and precise.

'I had a feeling that if I didn't stop you there, then you would have never stopped writing.' Wha- Okay- No- Dammit. It was not fair that his mate already knew him so well. That was cheating. He had to be cheating.

'Probably not.' He was so rude- Heh. Andrew. His name was Andrew, he was rude, and he was right handed. Right. He could- Danny could ask Andrew anything and he had no doubt Andrew would tell him. He could ask anything. 'Whats your favorite color?'

Danny watched as a 'u' was squeezed into the word favorite, and, what? A single word followed that was written in shining purple ink. 'Guess.' Staring for a long moment, Danny slowly laughed, not stopping until he realized his chest was hurting and there were tears on his face, but…

He had a soulmate. He, Danny Fenton, had a soulmate. His soulmate's name was Andrew and he was rude and funny, and he was right-handed, and his favorite color was purple, and god. Danny never thought he would care so much about someone's favorite color, but here he was, absolutely naked from a shower and not even managing to care as he cried on the floor of his bedroom.

'I don't know if I have a favorite but I like blue.' Biting his lip, Danny looked around before quickly finding a blue pen, doodling a set of three stars next to where he had written.

'Blue is a good colour. You like stars, I'm guessing?' Pausing at the words, Danny narrowed his eyes and wait. Favourite. Colour. Ah, crap, was his soulmate someone obsessed with all the British stuff?

'A stupid amount yeah.' Scribbling out the u in color, Danny grinned as there was a little frowny face drawn above it and okay, yeah, Dany was crying again, but- But come on. This was incredible. 'Nerd.'

'And you, dear mate, seem to be a brat.' Fuck. He and Andrew were going to get along great and Danny didn't even care anymore about how old Andrew might be because he was talking to his mate and oh… Oh, this was going to be amazing.

::

Andrew didn't stop writing back until Danny - his soulmate's name was Danny and he was male and thank god - admitted that he needed to get some sleep where he had school tomorrow and, yes, right. School. That- That part was tripping Andrew up a bit. His mate was in school- College? High school? Hopefully, if it was high school, it was the other's senior year.

Goodness, he still had so much to learn about his mate and he had a mate. Years and years of wishing and hoping and praying and he had a mate. It… Andrew could read the words on his arms and it was handwriting that wasn't his own, and yet it still all felt too good to be true. Andrew had a feeling that he wasn't going to be believing this one until he met Danny in person- Mate. Randy. He needed to tell- Oh.

Andrew had shot up to rush to the kitchen and tell Randy about his mate, and perhaps brag just a touch, but it seemed Randy was already in the room with Andrew. He also seemed to be asleep on the couch next to him and snoring. Trying not to laugh, Andrew looked around before grabbing a blanket and throwing it over the man, pleased when he didn't even twitch.

"I'm very glad you're asleep, because I'm only going to be saying this once. You were right." Andrew gently pet Randy's hair down, easily picturing the blank arms underneath the blanket. "Oh, Randy." He knew that no matter what his brother claimed otherwise, a part of him would always wish that writing not his own would appear on his skin. He also knew, without a doubt, that Randy would be nothing but happy for him.

Bending down, Andrew pressed a quick kiss to Randy's forehead, just like he used to do when they were little. "Thank you, Randy, for being such a great brother." Standing up, Andrew paused when he saw a slip of blue and oh. Oh, no.

"Someone has to keep you out of trouble, yeah?" He was awake. "You say such sweet words, little brother."

"I'm glad you think so, because soon you won't remember them." Grabbing a pillow, Andrew stepped forward with the intention to smother his brother into a final afterlife, huffing when Randy was up and dodging the attack at once. "You're far too cruel."

"Maybe, but it seems my cruelty works, yeah?" Randy looked to where Andrew's arms were filled with words - and only half of them were his. "Good talk?"

"He's absolutely perfect." Andrew sighed and collapsed back on the couch, trying not to grin like an idiot. "His name is Danny, he seems to be in school, his favorite color is blue, he loves the stars, he wants to be an astronaut when he grows up, he has two best friends who he shares everything with, and-"

"How long have you two been talking?" Randy cut him off with laughter, tugging at Andrew's shirt before Andrew could swat him away. "What did you two do, write wherever there was some blank skin?"

"Oh, hush." Andrew phased out of the grip and headed towards the kitchen, full of energy and he should bake- Baking sounded great. He would make some cookies. "He's perfect, Randy, absolutely perfect."

"And you almost didn't want to talk to him." Yes, yes. Andrew supposed he could allow Randy to be smug just this once- Only this once. "What do you mean seems to be in school?"

"Hm? Oh." Andrew paused from where he was gathering ingredients, the pile in his arm tilting sideways and oh, there went the flour. Mm, Randy would catch it. "He wrote that he had to go to sleep where he had school tomorrow. I didn't get to ask what his level of education was, yet."

"For your sake, let's hope it's college or very late high school." One could only pray. "Did he tell you, then?"

"Tell me? Tell me what?" Andrew set all his things down at the kitchen counter, accepting the bag of flour from Randy with a frown. Randy's own frown was a lot more serious.

"Did he tell you why he never wrote back." Ah… That didn't sound like much of a question. Turning back around, Andrew swallowed as he grabbed a bowl, ordering his supplies by when he would need them and trying to distract himself as much as possible. Maybe Randy would just forget what they were talking about and- "Andrew."

"I'm rather afraid it slipped my mind to ask." Andrew hated himself for the way his hands shook as he poured ingredients into the bowl. He could see some of Danny's stars peeking out in various places where words near covered them up. "I'll have plenty of time to ask tomorrow, I'm certain." After all, Andrew had all the time in the world to talk to his soulmate, now. He didn't have to worry. Right?

"Oh, Andy." Randy's voice was soft and quiet and so much like their mother's that Randy had to steady Andrew's hands before he could drop anything. "It's okay to be scared, you know."

"I'm not scared." He wasn't. He was terrified. What reason would his mate have to hide from him for years. No matter how old he was, he was obviously old enough that he should have known what the words on his arms meant, so what had kept him from writing back? What had kept him from writing anything back? He had mentioned the code was a password he had to write down before he forgot, but was that… Was that really it? If Danny hadn't needed to write that password down, would they have ever talked like they had?

"No, you're not." Ah, Randy knew. Of course Randy knew. Randy had always known the emotions of others and he had always known Andrew's emotions the best of all. "You're going to be okay, Andy."

"I don't know if I am." Did Danny truly care about mates? If he didn't, was he just going to disappear again when he got bored? As for Andrew… He was dead. He was dead. He was a ghost who wasn't meant to come back and he would never age again. What if his soulmate was already older than him? It would just get worse as time went by.

"You will be, though." Randy slowly let his hands go, Andrew noticing that his own were steady again. "I'd offer to take over, but I could never make that recipe the way you two did."

"That's because you always add too much chocolate," Andrew laughed, bumping his shoulder against Randy's. "You can stay and help, though."

"Oh? I just knew you liked my clever humor." Throwing an egg at Randy's head, Andrew was entirely unsurprised when it was quickly caught, cracked, and added to the mix. "Where do you keep getting all these ingredients, anyways?"

"Who do you think does all the shopping?" Strictly speaking, ghosts didn't need to eat, but if Andrew suppressed his aura, then he could usually get away looking like a sick human when the sun was out. He made sure to shop outside of Amity Park, though. "Besides, I refuse to substitute ingredients with that trash you bring home."

"No need to be so rude." Ha! He didn't even deny it was trash. "You know, Vidya probably shouldn't be able to have electricity like she does."

"Magic." Really it was most likely the properties of the Ghost Zone, as Randy should well know, but it seemed to be a favorite subject of his to complain about how physics and logic didn't work in the Ghost Zone. It was too fun to play devil's advocate. "Now grab the pans."

"So bossy." Randy ruffled Andrew's hair and Andrew let him without a fight just this once. Randy's presence, for as annoying as he was, really was helpful and normal after he had just discovered his mate. As for finding out why he was only just now learning of him…

Andrew glanced to a patch of Danny's stars right over his left wrist and smiled softly to himself. He had all the time in the world to find the answer to that question.

::

Stumbling through his morning routine, Danny wasn't sure if he was honestly awake until he started getting dressed - mostly because he had been about to put his long-sleeve shirt and coat on and then realized the biggest thing in his entire life had just happened to him. Dropping the clothes, Danny held his arms out, staring at where faded words of his own were pressed against his skin next to the sharp, clear words of his soulmate.

"Okay. Not a dream." He half thought it might be one, actually, all things considered. Looking back to his clothes, he stared at them for a long few moments because… Because he didn't need them. Well, no, okay, he obviously needed clothes, but he didn't need ones that covered his arms and every scrap of skin he had. He- He could talk to his soulmate and not have to worry about hiding from him, anymore, and oh, man, that was going to take some getting used to.

He had a soulmate. He had a mate named Andrew. Andrew loved baking and writing, he wrote like an English person, he was rude, he was right-handed, he had an older brother who worried far too much over him, his favorite color was purple, and he was funny. That- He already knew so much. He already knew more than he ever thought he would know.

Grabbing and throwing on a short-sleeve shirt he just barely remembered owning, Danny threw one of his pen necklaces on and uncapped the pen only to see his arms were near bare. Twisting his left arm around for a moment, he paused when he saw a scribbled out 'Good morning.' written across his arm in writing that was much neater and better than his own.

"Oh, yeah, I could get used to this." Trying not to bounce with what felt like glee, Danny scribbled out his own good morning before rushing downstairs, just remembering to grab his backpack and toss his coat back into his closet. "Hi, good morning, bye, gotta get to school, love you!"

"Danny- At least eat something before you go!" Heeding the unsaid warning lurking in Maddie's voice, Danny tore through the kitchen before emerging successfully with a slice of toast, a few pieces of bacon, and a cereal bar. "That is not a meal, young man-"

"I'll eat a big lunch at school, promise, love you, bye!" Danny rushed out of the kitchen just as Jazz entered, Danny hearing her speak even as he was halfway out the door.

"Was that Danny up and early without complaining? Were his arms uncovered? What- Mom! Wait- Danny!" Aaand that was when Danny shut the door and started thinking about running.

"Well, someone looks happy this morning. Should I worry about the world ending?" Hopping down the stairs and gathering Sam up in a hug before spinning her around, Danny quickly started munching on his hard-won breakfast.

"What's there not to be happy about? It's nice and warm, it's getting close to summer, Mom somehow made it so the bacon didn't burn, and I have a soulmate. It's a great day, so far!"

"Should I be worry about my best friend being replaced by a Skrill?" Staring at Tucker for a moment, Danny offered a slice of bacon. It was snatched up in a heartbeat. "Skrills are cool."

"So, Danny." Sam threw an arm around his shoulder as they walked, smile teasing, but happy. "How's your soulmate doing?"

"His name is Andrew," Danny grinned, finishing off his toast before pausing as the taste sunk in. "Ugh, I hate toast."

"Then why did you eat all of it?"

"Sam," Tucker frowned. "We're teenage boys and it's food. We'll eat anything."

"Very true," Danny agreed, ducking away from Sam as the two started an argument about… Something. They were arguing about something. Danny didn't care. 'Note to self I hate toast why do I do this to myself and holy shit have you even slept?'

'Define sleep.' Oh, wow, his soulmate was even worse than him when it came to sleep. That was great. 'It's possible I lost consciousness at one point. Does that count?'

'Was it in a bed?' There was a little frowny face drawn next to his question, Danny choking on laughter. 'No it didnt count. Hows the story?'

'Well, I seem to have written an additional 20 pages, but I have no memory of actually WRITING those 20 pages.' Oh, man, Andrew was an absolute wreck and Danny loved it.

"Dude." Startling as Tucker's arm was thrown over his shoulder, Danny looked up to see his friends on either side of him. "Don't get me wrong, we're happy for you and all, but…"

"You look like you were given some experimental drug with how happy you look right now." Oh. Cool. "Seriously, Danny. You look stupidly happy."

"Stupidly happy," Tucker agreed, hugging Danny close for a second. "It's a good look on you." Danny stuck his tongue out, trying not to beam. Most friends, he was pretty sure, would tell him to be careful considering he had spent fifteen years never speaking to his soulmate. Sam and Tucker? They probably wanted to write a hello on his skin themselves.

"I'll have you oh holy shit." Danny paused, looking down at his arm before looking back to his friends. "I don't even know where my soulmate lives yet- I should get his number! That'd be easier than writing on skin all the time, yeah- Can I do that? Can I ask for a number?"

"Aw, it's like watching him try to ask someone out," Sam cooed, Danny making a face as she near cuddled against him. It was great. "Do you think you can do that?"

"I mean- Yeah? No? I don't- Help. I need a lot of help in this area." He had fifteen years to make up for, after all. "Do you think he'd even tell me where he lives? Like- Like a town, or city, or something."

"I think that you have plenty of time to find out." Yeah… Yeah, that was definitely true. He had what seemed like all the time in the world to find out more about his soulmate.

::

Andrew had always thought that he wrote on his skin more than the average person with a soulmate, but that was nothing compared to how much he wrote, now. Before it had been stories, ideas, or even little reminders to himself to do something before he forgot. Now, though? Now his skin was filled with so much more.

There were entire conversations written down on his arms that he had to keep washing away so more space could be made, there were doodles and drawings that filled up every blank space between those conversations, and each idea he jotted down usually had a patch of stars next to it. The ones Danny liked, he had found, were usually stars that were colored in.

The fun part, he had found, was seeing how many places he could write his ideas and timing how long it took Danny to find them. He was still trying to figure out how the other had found the idea he had written on his ankle in only ten minutes. He was positive that his friends had helped him with that one.

The only problem with all of this writing was that sometimes he had to be… Well, he had to be careful with what he wrote, or, really, what he didn't write. It wasn't like he could tell Danny how old he really was. The other would run off in terror in a heartbeat- Ah. Right. There was also the fact that Andrew was dead and a ghost. That would put a damper on any kind of meeting, he was certain.

Then there was the fact that no one outside of Amity Park even knew ghosts to be real. At least, sane people didn't believe in the physical formation of ghosts. Perhaps if Danny lived in Amity Park it might be different, but the chances of that were slim to none.

So, yes, maybe lying to his soulmate wasn't the best way to start a relationship, but he wasn't technically lying. At least, that's what he kept using as an excuse to justify it. Vidya was humming along in his head in sheer delight at his suffering, the sadistic little thing- Or, wait. Vidya was Andrew's lair, so would that make him a masochist? Maybe-

Oh, dear, Danny was asking for a phone number. "Do you think Randy could find a way to get me a working phone?" The trilling notes in his head held as much faith in that as Andrew held in the idea. "Yes, I'm aware it's a stupid idea, thank you." Okay, alright, no phone- Email address. He didn't- Oh, goodness.

"Why did no one warn me how difficult relationships would be?" Andrew chewed his lip to near shreds as he stared down at the words and while he technically had an email address, it wasn't exactly like he had internet within the Ghost Zone. He could check it in the human world, but that would require getting to a library, and he didn't have an address to get a library card, and he wouldn't be able to talk to Danny all the time anyways, and-

'I don't believe in technology.' Staring at the words and trying to fathom why anyone would write something like that, Andrew slowly realized that he had written those words and, right. Aha. Because that was a good lie.

Collapsing onto the nearest soft surface, Andrew groaned as he looked up to the ceiling. "Do you think he'll believe that?" Vidya's notes were as close to laughter as they could be, Andrew whining as he threw an arm over his eyes.

He had a feeling that having a soulmate was going to be very, very difficult.

Chapter Text

"Doesn't believe in technology- What kind of person doesn't believe in technology?!" That was- That was such a bad lie that Danny bet his dad could have seen through it- And his dad believed every lie everyone told him!

"Are we sure this guy is your soulmate and there isn't some kind of mix-up?" Tucker asked, looking very serious about the matter. Danny probably would have laughed if he wasn't so keyed up and worried. "Come on, Danny, maybe he's just shy."

"When you're shy you say that you lost your password, or something. You don't suddenly blurt out that you don't believe in technology." Yeah- Yeah! See! Sam got it! If Danny's soulmate was going to lie, then he could have at least made it a believable lie.

"I should pry. I should pry, right? No- No, that's a bad idea. Prying is a bad idea." He wanted to pry and dig his way to the right answer, but what if he ended up being insensitive? Or rude? Danny didn't want to drive his soulmate away when he just got one!

"You can always try asking for an address and mailing him?" Yeah, but… That'd be an even slower way of communication than writing across their skin. "You really can't do much without phones or an email, can you?"

"Maybe he doesn't want you to find a picture of him and realize he's ugly or something." Tucker gave the worst points- Except… Well. Danny's parents had kept him from looking at his skin for a reason. Just how old was his soulmate?

"Danny." Glancing to Sam, Danny paled at the look he was being given. "You know what you have to do-"

"No. No, no, no, I can so totally handle this on my own. I mean- I mean, I don't need her help." There was no way Danny would sink that low as to go to her for relationship advice. He'd rather ask Dash for help.

"Dude, I mean… I know she's kind of low on relationships herself, but I mean, when hasn't she made you feel better after you talk out a problem with her?"

"That's not the point! She'd never let me live it down is the problem!" Seeing the dual looks, Danny groaned and whined as pathetically as he could. "Guys, please. Please, please, please don't make me go to my sister for love advice."

"Come on, man, Jazz wouldn't torment you that badly." Yeah, Tucker said that now, but it was Jazz. She would bring this up in the pettiest fight and then crush his will to win beneath sensible, kitten-heeled shoes. "You're being dramatic in your head again, aren't you?"

"Maybe." He would have asked his soulmate for advice, of course, but his soulmate didn't believe in technology. "Why would he lie about this, anyways? I mean, yeah, okay, maybe he doesn't want me to find out who he is, but how could I do that from a phone number?"

"He's trying to keep you from guessing where he lives? I mean, area codes, yeah?" Damn, that was a good point, but it wasn't like that would narrow it down enough to have any real effect.

"Just go to Jazz and get her advice on what to do," Tucker sighed, throwing a pillow at him. Danny let it phrase through him out of spite, pleased when Tucker frowned. "You couldn't even throw it back."

"Never doubt my pettiness, and… Yeah. At least she'll give me good advice before destroying my will to live." Okay, yes, the flat looks he got were deserved this time, but his point remained. "But not believing in technology-"

"Go to Jazz!" Wisely choosing to change into his ghost form when both of his friends yelled at him at the same time in the same tone, Danny fled out of Tucker's room and headed straight for his own house.

"'S still stupid." He could have just told Danny that he wasn't comfortable enough yet to give him a phone number. Yeah, okay, Danny would have felt a bit hurt and pouted about it, but at least he would have understood. He was just- He was sick of being lied to about things.

God. He was such a hypocrite. Shaking his thoughts off and taking a deep breath, Danny phased into his room before changing back and heading into the hall, staring at the door that led to his own personal hell- Right, okay, maybe his friends had a point about him being dramatic.

"Hey, Jazz?" Knocking on the door, Danny raised his voice a little. "Can I talk to you for a bit?" A bout of silence and oh, god, he was going to have to say it, wasn't he? "I need advice-"

"And you came to me?" Jesus Christ did she teleport across her room to open the door that quick? Danny didn't even get to ask before Jazz was pulling him in, shoving him to sit down on the bed, and then taking a seat in her computer chair. "I want you to know-"

"Nope, no, don't- No. If you're about to say your whole speech about how you're 'thankful I came to you' and 'this is a safe space' then I will walk out that door." Crossing his arms, Danny waited, raising an eyebrow when Jazz was silent for a long few moments before shutting her mouth and looking away. "You're unbelievable."

"Yet you still came to me for advice." Okay, Danny wouldn't fault her for being a little happy. He had been kind of busy with everything, lately. Jeez, he needed to spend more time with her. "So, what-"

"I have a soulmate, his name is Andrew, he loves to write, he's rude, he's right-handed, he draws frowny faces when I guess something he didn't want me to know and I'm right, and he just told me he didn't believe in technology when I asked for a phone number or email address."

There was a long silence and Danny could almost see the tangled thoughts above Jazz's head. In her defense, he supposed he had kind of unloaded a lot of information in that one sentence. When the silence went on for what felt like too long, Danny cleared his throat. "Uh, Jazz? You okay?"

"He doesn't believe in technology." Oh, good, she had focused on the important part of the conversation. That was good. "Okay- Okay. And how does that make you feel-"

"I need big sister Jazz, not therapist Jasmine." Danny could almost see Jazz flip personalities as she relaxed into her seat and crossed her arms.

"Your soulmate is an idiot, isn't he?" Ah, that was much better. "I mean- I mean no offense, but that's just a really bad lie- I think even Dad would know that was a lie."

"See! That's what I thought, too!" Danny slumped back to lay on the bed, sighing as he stared at the ceiling. "I don't know. Maybe he just realized I'm an annoying soulmate and didn't want to deal with me anymore than necessary."

"Your self-esteem is terrible. Remind me to throw a pillow at you, later." Fair enough. "Okay, it was a lie, but maybe he was lying with good intentions? There could be a lot of reasons why he doesn't want to have too much contact with you, right- Wait."

"Wait?" Danny sat up, blinking as Jazz narrowed her eyes and oh, boy, that was a look. It was a mix of sister and therapist rolled into one.

"Andrew." Yeah? "He." Ye- Oh. Right. "I know you hate this line, but this really is a safe space, and if you need to talk-"

"Jazz." Waiting until she looked at him, Danny shook his head. "After everything, that doesn't even make the top ten." Danny liking guys really wasn't that big of a shock after everything else in his life - plus, well… He had kind of figured that out on his own last year, anyways. "Lying for a good reason?"

"Right- Right! Sorry, but, you never know. Maybe he's just trying to protect you." Protect him, huh? Mm…

"Maybe."

::

"I don't believe in technology." Andrew was angrily pacing around one of his offices, not even sure which one he was in and not really caring because he had more important matters to worry about at that moment, like the fact that he was a writer and he couldn't even lie well. "I told him that I don't believe in technology."

"Hundreds of lines, lies, and excuses, and you go for that one?" Randy looked to be holding back cackles as he watched Andrew pace, Randy's shoulders shaking with his suppressed laughter. Andrew kind of wanted to throw a knife at him. "Andy-"

"I know! It was bad, and stupid, and now he's just going to be suspicious, but I don't- I don't exactly have a phone or cell service here, Randall!" He didn't even have internet besides when he went to the human world.

"Actually, I hear Technus is attempting to get phones to work in the Ghost Zone. He's been noticing that radio signals from Amity Park slip in where there's a stable ghost portal always open."

"Really?" That… That didn't really sound like science, but, well. They were all ghosts. Science rather went out the window once one died. "Any idea on when he'll get that working?"

"Long enough that you need to figure out how to tell your soulmate that you lied." Hmph. Figured. God, this was awful. "Just tell him you're shy and don't want to talk, yet. What's so bad-"

"Because if he gets any closer then he might find out I'm a ghost!" That's what Andrew was worried about. He could handle Danny knowing all about his bad habits and quirks and odd ways, but he couldn't… He could not let Danny find out that he was a ghost. "Randy, could you imagine what that would do to a person?"

"Well… You're still alive in a way, yeah? I'm sure he'd understand once you explained it to him." Randy looked about as confident in that idea as Andrew felt. "Look, I know this is hard, but-"

"Randy, imagine if you had a soulmate-" Andrew paused and swallowed, feeling a little shame at the way he chose to word that before Randy gave him an understanding smile, and, right. "Imagine if you were alive and you had a soulmate who was dead. What would you do?"

"I…" Randy trailed off, tilting his head back and going silent. Andrew was thankful that he was giving it some honest consideration instead of joking around. "I suppose I might think about killing myself to be with them."

"I want to talk to my soulmate- I want to talk to Danny and see him and learn about him, but I don't- I don't want to know that it was my fault if something happened."

"Andy, it wouldn't-" Randy cut himself off, sighing in the face of Andrew's glare. "That won't happen."

"No, it won't. I need-" A tumbled idea of a character standing on the edge of a cliff with steel in his words and blood on his hands and it's not going to happen, and it was such a weak lie that no one believed it except he would make them believe it and no, it won't-

Andrew shot towards Randy and shoved him around to get to his pockets, dragging out a pen and writing the idea down on his arm as quick as possible. Once he was done and satisfied that he would remember it, he looked back to Randy and… "What do I need?"

Randy snorted and choked on a laugh, taking his pen back as he shook his head. "You, frérot, never change."

"Yes, yes, but- Ah, yes, right. I need an excuse. A better one, preferably. Perhaps I can say I broke my phone in an embarrassing manner and I didn't want him to find out about it."

"And then he'll ask for an email address." Damn. Andrew hated when Randy had a good point. "Have you ever considered maybe, just maybe, telling him the truth?"

Staring at his brother for a few seconds, Andrew groaned as he collapsed onto the couch Randy was sitting on, throwing himself over the man's lap and whining as loudly and annoyingly as possible. "That's the worst idea."

Randy, for his part, gently ruffled Andrew's hair instead of shoving him to the floor and oh, dear, he must be bad off if Randy was being careful with him. Sighing and feeling as if all hope was now leaving him, Andrew looked to where he had written his idea down, pausing as he saw a group of stars and a little note.

'This should be right after someone important gets seriously hurt not the mentor though thats too obvious make it either the love interest the best friend or the little sibling and then have them die either just as the day is saved or right when the hero is about to fail.'

Staring, blinking, and having a thought of an impressive battle across an airship with broken glass cracking underneath feet- Andrew groaned, dropping his arm over his eyes. "Fuck." He was pretty sure he was already in fucking love with this kid.

He felt Randy move his arm around and then heard a quiet noise. "Damn. He's perfect for you, isn't he?" He could see it in his head so clearly. The precocious little brother who was built up to take the hero's place when he failed only to push the mentor out of the way and take the hit meant for him and then life finally leaving and the glass was cracking more and more and it was an eternity down to the ground below and there was only one more chance and the world may not be safe for him anymore, but he would make it safe for everyone else-

Andrew felt more than saw the pen dangled in front of him before he was grabbing it and flying over to his desk in a flash, digging for a notebook and writing down everything he could remember as quickly as possible.

"So, what are you going to do about your little soulmate problem?" Fuck. Glancing up from his notes, Andrew looked to his brother and groaned. "You have nothing."

"I have nothing." He didn't want to hurt Danny, but that was all he would ever do if he kept lying and distancing himself, and, really. Fifteen years was enough distance. If Andrew could help it, then Danny would never know what it was to feel decades of loneliness. "I don't want to hurt him, Randy."

"You will." Flinching at that, Andrew shot his gaze to Randy and saw nothing but kindness in his eyes. "You love him already, Andy, even I can see that. You love him, so you'll end up hurting him."

"That's… That's very depressing." Andrew swallowed, clutching his notebook closely. "I don't want to hurt him."

"I know, but you will, and that's okay. We always hurt the people we love, yeah? 'S okay, though, as long as we can fix it."

Fix it. Right. He could fix this. He could find a way to fix this and, if he was lucky, he could find a way to fix the fifteen years of silence between them. "I know this might sound bad, but I'm very thankful you died."

That had Randy giving a loud, bright laugh, Andrew relaxing at the sound as he looked back to his arm where Danny was already throwing more ideas out. He was such a bright, eager little thing and Andrew loved him. Oh, he could tell right now that Danny was going to push him to his limits and annoy him to hell and back, but he loved him. He was going to love him. This was the one he would fall in love with.

"Oh, Danny." He would find a way to make this work. No matter what happened or what truths would end up coming out, Andrew would find a way to make them work.

He always had been partial to a happily ever after.

::

"A-hem." Wincing at Jazz's not-so-subtle cough, Danny hesitantly glanced up from where he was writing on his arm and gave a weak grin. "Oh, you have it bad, don't you?"

"So bad," Danny groaned, collapsing back against the bed once more. "I see him write something on his arm, and then I have to comment, and then he has to comment, and soon enough I'm laughing and can't remember why I'm laughing so much."

"It's worse than I thought." Even through the dramatics, Danny could tell Jazz was both happy and worried for him. Honestly, at this point that might as well be her normal state of being. "We're in for a long conversation, aren't we?"

"Probably. And I mean, yeah, okay, I get the whole- The whole 'trying to protect me' thing, especially after what Mom and Dad told me, but… It's weird." No matter how much they talked, Andrew never sounded… He never sounded old. He sounded like Jazz's age, maybe a bit older, but not much more than that.

"What's weird?" Jazz scooted her chair over, raising an eyebrow down at Danny's arms. "Do you two just write wherever there's space?" Mm. "Danny."

"Maybe- Unimportant. Hey, okay, so, uh, it's weird because- He should be like forty or something, right? According to you guys? He doesn't- He never sounds it. I mean, he acts and talks like your age."

"That doesn't have to mean anything." Ah, so they were doing Devil's advocate, today. Great. Danny loved a good debate. "There could be a multitude of reasons. Maybe he's trying to seem closer to you, perhaps he's trying to hide his real age, and maybe that's just how he naturally is. Personality doesn't change very much once we hit a certain age."

Okay. He loved a good debate when it wasn't with Jazz. Jesus, she knew how to make the Devil himself give up. "I don't think that's it- At least, not the first two. I mean, if it was, he would be trying to find ways to get closer to me, wouldn't he? Wanting to meet up and all that? Right now, it's more like he's trying to distance us."

"Hm." Jazz leaned back, looking to be thinking the problem over. As she did so, Danny saw more words were appearing on his skin.

'I believe I might end up stabbing my brother today. Oh, yes, I love him, and he is very helpful sometimes, but he's also destroying my kitchen. He has to die.' It took everything Danny had to not burst out laughing.

'If it helps my sister is helping me with a problem and shes just making little humming noises as she thinks it all over and its getting annoying but she never REALISES that the noises are annoying so now im stuck here suffering'

'Truly, we suffer as the younger' The words stopped, Danny raising an eyebrow and waiting. Andrew never did stop writing for long. 'He touched the chocolate chips. He dies now.' That was all it took to have Danny bursting into laughter and oh, god, Andrew's brother sounded worse than Jazz!

"Am I truly that boring?" Ah, shit. "You're smitten with him, aren't you?" Alright, yes, okay, Danny was maybe just a little bit smitten with him.

"You know, I'm pretty sure I came in here for advice on the whole 'not believing in technology' thing of his." Which, yeah, Danny was still kind of frustrated by that, but Andrew wasn't shutting him out or anything, so that was good. "How do I pry into someone's life without them knowing I'm prying? I mean, that's something psychologists have to know, right?"

"Technically…" Jazz made a face, Danny doing his best to hold in a laugh. "I wouldn't say pry but establish some open communication with him. Let him know that you understand he may not want to take that next step, but you're here to talk about why he doesn't if he wants to." That…

"Holy shit." Danny stared at Jazz, slowly giving a shake of his head. "Jazz, that's- That's actually good advice." And it made sense! "You might actually be a good therapist or whatever one day!"

"Thanks," Jazz snorted, moving to sit on the bed beside him and oh, no. Here came the- Yeah. Yep. He was being hugged. "I'm… I'm worried about this, Danny, but I trust you and I trust your judgement. If he's good for you, then I'm happy."

"You're so sappy." Danny squirmed around to hug her back, grip tight on her. "Love you, Jazz. If you tell anyone else that I ever said that, though, I'll deny it."

"Yes, God forbid that someone thinks you love your sister," Jazz laughed, hugging him a touch tighter for a second before letting him go. "So, what are you going to do next?"

"Establish open communication?" Waiting until Jazz looked fully proud, Danny grinned. "Then I'm going to see how long it takes for him to realize I'm flirting with him." Ah, sister glares. All was- Ow. "Why?!"

"I told you that I was going to hit you with a pillow." Yeah, but- But he didn't think she would actually do it. "Why are you so mean to me?" Oh, there was new writing.

'He's begun making brownies, so he's been spared for the current moment.' Okay, Danny would calm down at the promise of brownies, too, though. 'Perhaps I can shove his head in the bowl if he's not paying attention.'

'Dont risk it instead get a bit of mix like you want to taste it and then slam it on his head' Danny watched as a delighted looking smiley face and a few exclamations appeared next to his words and oh, god, that was so cute.

"As I said. Smitten." Yeah, well, there was nothing wrong with being smitten with his soulmate. "I'm happy for you, Danny. Really."

"I just… Fifteen years, you know?" Andrew had been alone with the idea that he didn't have a soulmate for fifteen years. "There's a lot to make up for."

"Yeah." Jazz brought him back into a hug, ruffling his hair. "I have faith that things will work out. Maybe not the way we expect, but… Things have a habit of working out for us Fentons, right?"

Wasn't that the truth. It would be okay, though. Even if there was something weird about his soulmate, Andrew was still amazing. Besides, it could still just be the child genius kind of thing? That wouldn't explain why Andrew never told him his age, though. There was… There was a lot of mystery in this, but, well. Danny probably had his soulmate beaten in the bad luck category considering his own 'life.'

'Success! I'm hiding as far away as possible, but Randy has successfully been brought down a few pegs.' Plus, how bad could someone be if they were able to shove brownie batter on top of their brother's head?

'Good but maybe stay out of sight until the brownies are actually done' Danny paused, drawing a little heart after his words and biting his lip. He didn't realize he had held his breath until four others were drawn around it, and, god, okay, that was- That was just- He was so in over his head.

"You know," Jazz grinned. "There's a reason they call it falling in love." Snorting, Danny capped his pen and stood up with a stretch, snagging the pillow he had been hit with and tossing it in Jazz's face.

"Yeah, but this isn't me falling in love." That had Jazz pausing and looking up at him in worry, Danny laughing at the look. It wasn't… He wasn't falling in love. "This is me walking straight into it."

Andrew was going to be the one he was in love with for the rest of his life, and Danny couldn't be happier for it.

::

Tapping his pen against the pages of the notebook he was currently using, Andrew looked between the half-completed sentence he had been writing and the words that were scribbled out across his skin. He had been writing down Danny's commentary on his ideas to save as notes for his next rough draft, but he had stopped once a thought hit him- Not 'a' thought, really, but the thought.

He still hadn't asked why Danny had kept silent for so long. It would be understandable if Danny was in elementary or middle school, although thank god he wasn't, but he had to be in high school or even college, by now. He still didn't know which one, but a part of him knew he was too afraid to find out the answer. God, he still didn't even know Danny's age - not that Andrew was much better.

While Andrew would talk to Danny as long and often as possible, he had been careful to not reveal anything specific, especially anything that could link back to who he really was and just how old he really was. Danny may not have mentioned his age, yet, but that was probably because he hadn't thought to. Andrew was just hiding out of fear as he had always done.

"He should have mentioned something by now, shouldn't he have?" Since Randy was asleep in a corner somewhere, it was Vidya to answer him, brushing against his thoughts softly and warmly. "It's- He hasn't even hinted at why he kept silent for so long."

Perhaps he was scared? Depending on how long he had been alive, Andrew's words had been on him for a very long time.

"Fear doesn't explain why he would start writing now and then never mention it. Yes, alright, he started writing because he was out of paper, but there has to be more to it than that." Right?

Or maybe not. Their circumstances were odd, yes, but they were finally together. Shouldn't they be happy with that?

"We're not quite yet together, though." Andrew sighed, floating out of his chair and flying over to collapse on a couch. A blanket fell over him and Andrew knew Vidya would have wrapped him up in it if she could. "There's- There's so much to this that I can't even begin to guess."

Perhaps he should speak with his mate about all of this? He was one half of their pairing, after all. Without speaking to him, an answer would never be found.

"I know," Andrew groaned, half-glaring up at the ceiling as Vidya played along in his head a tune that he had heard Randy play thousands of times. "You're not cute."

Talk to him more. Find out more of the little things. You don't find out who a person is by asking of them, but you find out by talking to them. Put himself in his mate's life. That much alone would allow him to begin to find his answers.

"What if he doesn't want me in his life." Danny always responded to him, yes, but there were times it felt like… It almost felt like Danny was trying to keep them at a distance. No… Maybe that was just Andrew who was keeping them at a distance and was too afraid to get any closer to him. "There should have been a response by now. He should have written something about it by now."

Not necessarily. They had written only a few words to each other and then they had meshed as if they had known each other for lifetimes. Maybe they had. Either way, why speak of the past when the present was being lived?

"You're supposed to agree with me," Andrew grumbled, sitting up and letting the blanket drape around his shoulders. "I don't like it. I need- I- Maybe I don't need to know, but don't I at least deserve to know?" Because… Because he had spent so long alone.

Decades was a long time to be alone… But he had never been truly alone, had he? He may have deserved to know why his mate was silent, but would he truly risk everything to get that answer?

"Yes. Yes, I would." Because what if Danny went silent, again? Andrew needed to know how to avoid that.

Looking down at his arms and seeing just how much free skin was left, which wasn't much, Andrew huffed and tucked his blanket around him before heading off towards the kitchen. He usually didn't bother to wash his arms off until he showered, but this was… This was too important a question to risk it being unseen.

"I'll find a way to tell him who and what I am eventually, but this seems like the lesser evil for the moment." Getting to the kitchen, Andrew flew over to the sink and turned the water on, lathering soap on his arms as much as possible.

It may be the lesser evil, but it was still an evil. Did Danny really deserve to be pushed for this information when he seemed just as lost in all of this as Andrew?

"Do I deserve to be pushed?" There were still questions from Danny on his arms where he had been trying to find out more information. Andrew didn't dare answer any of them, only turning them around and distracting Danny before he could notice he had never truly answered. "I need- I need to know."

Perhaps. There would be no going back once his mate saw that message, however. He would have to wait and perhaps an answer would never truly come.

"I know, but I deserve to have at least one truth told." Scrubbing at his arms a bit more viciously, Andrew sucked in an unsteady breath. "I won't push if he doesn't answer, but, Vidya, I have to try."

Yes. He did. That was just who he was, it seemed. He was someone who could not leave a mystery unsolved and, while that might end up being his end, she would stand by him through it all.

"What did I ever do to deserve you as a lair, Vidya?" Andrew rather had the feeling that Vidya would be smirking if she could. She certainly got close to it with the cheeky tune she was playing. Shaking his head, Andrew shook his arms off before patting them down with a towel, most of his writing faded or vanished completely.

Grabbing his pen, Andrew carefully uncapped it before chewing on his lip, and, right. He needed to find the best way to phrase this so Danny knew he wasn't angry or blaming him for anything. Then again, overthinking it could just lead to even more problems, which was something Andrew wanted no part in, honestly.

Okay. Okay, okay. Writing. Right. Except now all the words in his head seemed to have vanished and Andrew had no idea how to ask the questions he wanted and-

Why not just ask it? It was a question. There was no need to upset himself by overthinking such a thing. He just had to breathe, calm himself down, and ask. If nothing else, his mate would tell him that he wasn't comfortable enough to answer. Yet.

"You're right." Danny had been the one to write to him, after all, that it was okay if Andrew was scared to give him a number or address. The words had been sweet, but Andrew had been wracked with guilt for hours. Still. The point was the same. Danny would understand, and Andrew would understand if Danny didn't want to talk. "Right. Just ask him."

As he wrote across his left arm, the words felt… They felt heavy. Andrew couldn't bring himself to be very surprised by that fact, though. He had spent so long wondering over this very question and had spent years knowing that he would never get an answer, but now… Now he had someone who knew the answer to that question. Hopefully Andrew would get an answer, but if he didn't, well… At least he had tried.

"Why don't we make some cookies, Vidya, and surprise Randy with them for tomorrow?" A happy little tune played through his head as Andrew collected the ingredients, mind still on the question he had asked.

'Why did you never write back?' Hopefully, when next he looked, there would be an answer.

Chapter Text

"Fuck." That seemed to be the only word possible to accurately describe Danny's feelings as he stared at his arm where all of Andrew's words had been cleaned away and replaced with a question that made him feel like his heart was being stabbed.

He had woken up and expected to see a 'good morning' or a new story idea that Andrew had scribbled down in the middle of the night - day? - and instead he was greeted with a heaping amount of guilt and irrational anger that it would be so much easier to explain all of this if Andrew had a phone. Right, okay, shower first and then brushing his teeth and then explaining why they had the worst luck ever when it came to soulmates. That was a good plan. Right… Explaining…

He could explain all of this, couldn't he? It was pretty simple when he laid it all out neatly. He had just stayed quiet because words had appeared the moment he was born, and his parents had terrified him into never even looking at his skin. Right. Easy.

"Time to get up for school, Danny." Hearing the knock on his door, Danny looked up as Jazz peeked into the room. Judging by her expression, Danny's expression was even worse than hers. "Soulmate troubles or ghost troubles?"

"He just asked me why I never wrote back." It seemed to take a moment for Jazz to understand what he meant, but when she did she gave a wince. "How do I even- I can't- He doesn't have a phone."

"Okay, okay, don't panic. Hey, it's okay, we'll figure this out." Thank whatever fucked up deity was out there for taking pity on Danny and giving him a great big sister. "Has he written anything else, yet?"

"No, and he erased everything else, too." Danny moved over as Jazz sat down beside him, chewing on her lip and, okay, good, she was thinking. Maybe she would think of a plan to get Danny out of this mess. "What do I say?"

"Well… There's always explaining to him the truth. Does he know how old you are, yet?" Yes- No. Maybe? Danny couldn't remember if he had ever actually mentioned his age. "That's a no, then."

"He might know. Maybe- Possibly." He… He probably knew. Nn. "Okay, so, maybe he doesn't, but does that really change anything?"

"Danny, that could change everything, and you know that." Yeah, but… He didn't want it to change everything. "I know your situation is difficult, but if you want it to work, then you need to communicate with each other."

"Mhm, yeah, so, hey, can I get big sister Jazz back, please?" Therapist Jasmine made him feel bad about his life choices.

"Write to him, explain what's going on, and if you need to then dump him." Well, besides that last part, it was a pretty solid plan. "You should probably take a shower first, though. You have school today."

"Right- Yeah, that first, but, yeah." Sliding out of bed, Danny quickly drew Jazz into a hug. "Thanks, Jazz."

"No problem, Danny. Now go fix things so you don't sit around here moping." He hadn't been- Okay, so he had been moping a little. He was good now, though! So good. Right. Shower and then talk.

Rushing through his morning routine more than a little, Danny was soon sitting on his bed in a tank top and staring at his clean arms before forcing out a sigh and uncapping his pen. "Alright, Andrew… I hope you don't hate me for this." If his soulmate was decades older than him, then… Well. He was about to be in for a very nasty shock.

Still. After everything the least Andrew deserved was the truth- Danny had been through fifteen years of silence, too, but his probably hadn't caused the pain that it had to Andrew.

Danny made sure to not make any of it sound like an excuse as he wrote, because, well, he was just as much at fault as his parents were, really. Danny had put his soulmate through fifteen years of silence because he had been too scared to look at what might - or might not - be there. This- This was just as much his fault as it was theirs. All of it.

It took a lot of small writing and a lot of awkward twisting, but Danny eventually managed to explain everything. He explained about his parents, and how words began appearing when he was just born, and how he was scared to look because his parents made it seem like he just didn't have a soulmate, and if he never looked, then it couldn't be proven true, right?

He made sure to tell Andrew that he was fifteen, sixteen in April, and was currently a Sophomore at a high school in Amity Park, Illinois. He talked more about his friends, his sister, and- Well, he may have left his last name out. Andrew might not 'believe in technology,' but if he lived close enough then Danny didn't want him to know that he was 'one of those crazy Fentons.'

'So yeah it kind of built up a lot over the years since the moment I was born really and it built and built and I know it's not an excuse but for what its worth Im so so so sorry Andrew.'

It felt like an eternity before Danny began to see words written in purple pen that was squeezed in on his upper right thigh. 'I suppose that would explain a lot.' For some reason, Danny had a feeling that Andrew was very, very shocked by everything.

'Im mature for my age?' Jokes. Jokes would help. Right? Hopefully? Maybe? A moment passed by and the words were then viciously crossed out with the purple pen, and, right, Andrew was probably panicking a little bit. 'Deep breaths?'

'Is it too much to ask for some time to think?' That- That was fine, honestly, because Danny sure as hell would want time to think- Hell, he had needed time to think after what his parents told him.

'Take all the time you need Andrew Ill still be here' A few seconds passed, and Danny couldn't help but grin as he saw a few hearts doodled around what he had written down. Danny made sure to draw a few of his own before capping his pen and collapsing on his bed with a tired sigh.

That… It hadn't gone bad, at least? Granted there were probably places he could have explained a little better, but overall it seemed like Andrew accepted it okay.

"At least it can't get any more dramatic to-" A wisp of blue escaped out of his mouth and Danny groaned as he rolled over to smother his face into his blankets and why today of all days! Right, okay, time to go be a hero-

Ooh. He could work off some aggression depending on who it was… "Come and face me, whelp! Let the true hunt finally begin!"

"Oh, that is just perfect." There was nothing for stress relief like bashing in a tin can a couple hundred times. Besides, Danny didn't even have to feel guilt where Skulker's suit, was, well, a suit.

Besides, it would be a nice distraction until Andrew wrote him back.

"Fifteen. He's fifteen. My soulmate is fifteen-years-old- Randy, he's fifteen-years-old." Instead of looking appropriately horrified, Randy only stared at him before slowly raising his eyebrows in a rather insulting manner. "He's fifteen."

"You know, funnily enough, I figured that out myself when you woke me up screaming about how your soulmate was fifteen." That- Andrew hadn't been screaming, he had been… He had been loudly panicking, was all.

"Randy, my mate- Danny is fifteen and I'm- I'm-" He wasn't even sure how old he was, right now! Fifty? Probably fifty- Actually, it might have been the late forties. Maybe. Somewhere in that age range, at least- He was old. "I'm a horrible, selfish, loathsome, despicable-"

"Would telling you to calm down do anything besides earn me a punch?" Turning to glare at his idiot brother who was not at all taking this matter seriously, Andrew looked around for whatever was closest that could be used as a weapon. "You're not horrible. It's not like you can control how old your mate is, Andy."

"Yes, yes, I know, but he's fifteen, Randy. That- That's hardly anything!" Andrew remembered what they were like when they were fifteen and it was, well, it wasn't the best. God, he had been alive perhaps longer than his mate's parents had been alive. Oh, dear, that was such a horrible thought.

"If it helps, you're technically twenty-two and, as far as we know, you won't be aging again. That leaves Danny plenty of time to catch up to you, yeah?" Right- Right. Plenty of time to catch up and pass him and become even older than him and then Andrew would be the one so much younger and-

"That's worse. That's so much worse, Randy." Because finding out he had been alive longer than his mate was one thing, but finding out that his mate would live, grow older, and die, and that Andrew would be left behind and forced to continue- Worse. Very, very much worse. "Please stop helping to make it worse."

"Look, you two aren't going to be solving anything by worrying and fretting and avoiding the important questions. You finally asked him why he never wrote back and now you know - which, really, this is a much better option than a sadistic, sociopath of a mate."

"Yes, yes, I suppose you would be right, except that makes me the sadistic, sociopathic mate!" God, Danny would never want him once he found out his age- As well as a ghost? If that didn't drive him off than the fact Andrew was a former assassin would. "Perhaps I can shift reality-"

"No using reality shifting powers to solve your relationship problems!" Making sure to be as petty as possible, Andrew collapsed onto the couch Randy was on and did his best to sit on the man's arm. "Andy, c'mon, you're a writer. You're good with words. You two will find a way to work this out."

"Yes, but- Oh, hold on." Danny's words from before had been messily scrubbed away recently, Andrew seeing a faint imprint of the explanation that he had been seeking for years. What was left behind had Andrew's blood- Heart- Fuck.

"What is it? Did he ask you why you don't believe in technology again? Or maybe- Oh." There, written on his skin in words that were written too fast and too small, was a question that might damn it all.

'how old are you?' It should have been a simple question that would be easy to respond to, but- But if he said twenty-two, then Danny would be suspicious and think he was lying, now. If he said his true age, however, then Danny might never want to talk to him again because he was older than his parents, probably.

"Any idea how to answer that one, then?" Mm, yes, see, now- Now that was the question of the day. How to answer this without driving Danny off. "Maybe if you just stretch the truth for a little bit-"

"Randall." Andrew glared over to where Randy had his hands raised peacefully. "I am not going to lie to my soulmate about my age of all things! I don't want to lie to him period!" Which, okay, the technology thing had broken that a little, but- But he only said that, so he didn't lie to Danny further! Yes, okay, alright, he hadn't exactly been honest with Danny about some things, but he had never lied about anything too important! He had just neglected to mention a few key points of who he was.

'I suppose you would want to know- Don't you have school this morning?' Ignoring Randy's snorting noise that was supposed to be laughter, Andrew sighed in relief when he saw swears scribbled out before Danny stopped writing.

"So, your plan is to distract him, instead?" Yes, well, it wasn't a very bad plan, now was it? It had worked, after all! "He'll ask you again eventually, you know. Especially when he doesn't see an answer."

"I know, I know, I just- I need to figure out the best way to answer, is all." Standing up, Andrew chewed at his lip as he headed towards the kitchen. Maybe some baking would help clear his thoughts. At most, it wouldn't hurt matters any more than they already were.

"You're living off borrowed time, now, frérot." See! That- That wasn't helping. It was ominous, and worrying, and made Andrew wish he was still alive just so he could start breathing funny and distract Randy from his problem by making him think he had asthma or some such rot and- "Hey, hey, breathe, Andy, breathe."

"In case you haven't noticed, we don't exactly need to breathe, anymore." Andrew didn't even complain as he was pushed towards a kitchen chair, instead just collapsing in it, propping his arms up on the table, and hiding his face.

He had spent years wishing and hoping and praying for a soulmate, and it led him to this. A fifteen-year-old boy who was scared too often, alone too much, and wanted to know his soulmate despite what his parents had told him. Danny has no idea that Andrew was a ghost. He probably thought Andrew was fifty - or at least near that age - and he still wanted to talk to him and spend time with him and get to know him.

"You know, there are some bonds that lead to platonic soulmates." Randy's voice was quiet, the man close enough to ruffle his hair. Andrew didn't even bother to smack his hand away. "It doesn't always have to be-"

"This is." It was. Andrew knew it as well as he knew Danny knew it. They were meant for each other as soulmates often were. They- Well, Andrew wasn't quite sure on Danny's exact feelings at the moment, and his own were a little murky, but he knew it wouldn't be long until he fell in love with his mate. "I want to tell him, Randy, but what if…"

What if he ran? What if he stopped writing again? Danny had always known silence, too. It wouldn't hurt him to just stop writing and continue as he had been. Andrew… He had spent so long wishing and praying and if his mate just left out of nowhere- He hated it. He hated so much that he knew something like that would break him.

"Andy." Feeling Randy's hand on his shoulder, Andrew at least peeked his head up to see that Randy was looking serious for once. "Worrying yourself like this isn't going to help either of you. I know… I know this is difficult, but wouldn't it be better to let each other know the truth of everything at the start?"

"What if he runs away, though? Randy- We're ghosts. We weren't meant to have connections like this with the living." It was so stupid. It was a trope that Andrew had never wanted. The dead in love with the living. Souls meant to be, but bodies that could never touch. Love for someone that they should never feel love to. Star-crossed lovers.

"What if he stays?" It… It wasn't impossible. Oh, it was improbable, that was certain, but their situation- It didn't have to be impossible. "You bought yourself some time for now, so take a breath, calm yourself down, and don't fight back as I take over your kitchen."

"Take over my- Randall! You are not taking over my kitchen!" Randy was already grinning and flying over to the fridge, Andrew loving more than hating how he was already laughing, and, right. He had bought himself some time. A little time was all he needed.

No matter what, he would find a way to fix things between him and Danny. Somehow.

"Danny… You're in the library. You're in the library during study hall- Are you studying during study hall?" Staring at his friends, Danny wasn't sure if he had ever gone from surprise to annoyance as quickly as he had then. "Sam, punch me, I need to see if I'm- Ow."

"You know, you're usually supposed to be quiet when you're in a library." Was it petty that Danny hoped their school librarian would toss his friends out? It was probably petty, but dammit, it was earned pettiness. "And no, I'm not studying. Jesus, who do you think I am, Jazz?" The shared looks between Sam and Tucker were just insulting.

"Okay, you're in the library during study hall and you're not playing video games on the computer you're using- It actually looks like you're in a database- Hang on, what are you really doing?" And as usual, Sam's judgement fell away to insatiable curiosity as she started pushing Danny and his chair out of the way.

"You know, this is why I have ghost powers." Sam and her damn curiosity. "Not that you need to know, but I'm actually looking up people with the name Andrew Riter-"

"You're looking for your soulmate." That was a very judgmental tone, but considering Tucker was still rubbing at his side, Danny would rather not get punched. "And you're not asking him where he lives because…"

"Because he won't tell me? Because he figured out I'm fifteen and he's not? Because I just told him why I've been avoiding him for all these years- Look, do you want a list? It's a very long list- Okay, okay, sorry, no need for violence."

"Oh for- Why do you boys never know how to communicate!" Sam grabbed his chair and pushed him back in front of the computer. "Why are you using a school computer to do this?"

"Because my parents and Jazz snoop. Look, soulmates typically live pretty close together, right? Only one out of every million end up living more than two or three hundred miles apart, so if I can find an Andrew Riter near Amity Park or close by, then I'll find him. See? Easy."

"Right, you just have to sort out one of the most common names ever. Easy as can be." Huffing and nudging Sam out of the way, Danny went back to his very important research. "You know what I'm hearing? Stalking-"

"I am not stalking my soulmate." That would require finding him, first. "Look, at least I'm not as bad as Tucker with his last few crushes-"

"Hey!" Taking the chokehold with grace, Danny squirmed only a little as he glared back up at Sam. "If I do this then I can at least find out what he looks like or how old he is or something. Sammy, he hasn't even told me how old he is, yet. It was a battle to get his last name out of him!"

Glaring down at where his question had been ignored in favor of a short idea about star-crossed lovers or something, Danny spitefully drew a few stars over the idea. "Are you sure you wouldn't just rather wait and have him tell you this on his own terms? What if he finds out you're looking for him and he doesn't want that?"

"Dunne. Haven't thought that far, yet." Danny hit print as Tucker finally let him go, Sam crossing her arms and looking at him. It was the look of guilt that usually had Danny caving, but not this time! "Sammy, c'mon. What would you do if you were me?"

Sam could claim she was uncaring about soulmates all she wanted, but Danny saw her clutch at her sleeves and glance to Tucker too quick for the other to notice. "I still think this is a bad idea."

"We tend to excel in bad ideas, though." Tucker grinned before snatching up the printed papers and going through them quickly. "Right, make a list of what you know, and I'll start coming up with an algorithm to cross out some of these."

"Wait- You're helping me?" Danny looked between the two, not even flinching as Sam whacked him with her sleeve. "But you just said-"

"If it's important to you than it's important to us." Sam took half the papers, flipping through them herself. "Oh, wow, that's a lot of results."

"Over a thousand," Danny groaned, looking back down to his arms and biting his lip at seeing his stars had been scribbled in with a blue pen. Underneath that were words appearing about star travel and space and pretty much everything Danny loved and dammit. He was weak. He was very, very weak. "I just… It's not even that I want to know what he looks like, but I want to know- I want to know he's out there."

"What do you mean?" Seeing a librarian lurking nearby, Danny logged off his computer and grabbed his bag, Sam and Tucker falling into step with him near at once.

"I mean it's like- When it's just writing back and forth on our skin, it's- I don't know. It's weird. It's like if I look away from his words, then they were never there. I know the words are there, I can read them and see them and everything, but it's…"

"The words don't make up for the rest of it," Tucker finished quietly, Danny raising an eyebrow when his gaze slid to Sam and then back to him and oh. That- Alright, Danny would definitely be coming back to that, later. "I'm sure he'll tell you who he is eventually, but until then we'll help you as much as we can."

"You are stuck with us." Sam linked their arms together, Danny trying not to laugh as Tucker did the exact same thing on his other side. "And until your soulmate shows up to sweep you off your feet and steal you away, we'll be here for you."

"You want to encourage the three-way rumors between us, don't you?" The two both grinned in the exact same way and oh, come on, they had to know they were soulmates. Fuckers. "You're awful." Danny loved them. "You think we can do it, then? Track down my wayward soulmate?"

"Dude, after what we've been through, I think we can do anything. I mean, this is nothing compared to some of the stuff we've done." That was true, but it still felt- It felt bigger than everything they had done before.

"We'll sort this out, Danny," Sam smiled, kissing his cheek and smirking when Tucker raised his eyebrows and- Oh- Oh, no.

"I swear to god if you two start some fight on who can show me the most affection, I will be very upset with you." Escaping out of their grips, Danny stuck his tongue out as he ran along ahead to class, trying not to laugh at their loud complaints about 'leaving them.' Dorks.

For as great as his friends were, though, there was still the fact that he wanted to know. He still knew so little about Andrew and not enough ink in the world could tell them everything there was to know about each other.

Looking to his skin, he saw plenty of new words, along with a small, scribbled little 'sorry' written on the back of his wrist. Danny slowed to a stop, staring at the word and quietly groaning. "Why do you have to make this so much more difficult?" Now he was feeling guilty.

'if you could only be trapped in one place for the rest of your life where would you be trapped?' Distractions. Distractions would help and learning about Andrew was always a great distraction.

'My library.' Whoa, wait, what, Andrew had a library? 'Would I be supplied with food for this hypothetical forever?'

'probably' Most likely. Danny stared at the reply for a few moments, biting his lip and he could try asking again, but… 'you can only eat one food for the rest of your life what is it?' Not yet. Andrew would try to avoid the question, still, so Danny would just work up to it. Besides, if Sam and Tucker pulled through and they got lucky, well.

Andrew wouldn't be able to avoid Danny's questions if they were face-to-face.

Staring at where Randy was sleeping on a pile of books, Andrew frowned and very slowly and carefully pulled out one of his knives. Seeing Randy tense, Andrew threw it in a smooth, quick motion, amused when Randy's arm snapped up to catch it as the rest of him stayed still. "It's no fun if you make it look so easy."

"You know, most people don't find it fun to throw knives at their sleeping brothers." Randy tossed the knife back to him, yawning as he sat up and stretched in a way that gave a few loud cracks that had Andrew wincing. "Alright, alright, next pile."

"I know you agreed to help me with my research, but perhaps you should actually sleep in a bed instead of on my books." Plus, Andrew was starting to feel a little bad about recruiting Randy into his soulmate research binge when he was fresh off a job.

"And perhaps you should worry less. Done stating what we're never going to do?" Randy stood up and his back gave another crack, Andrew letting out a small whine. That sounded like it hurt. "'M fine, 'm fine. Besides, I'm not leaving you on your own again. When I got back you had worked yourself up into an attack."

"It wasn't an attack. I was just… I was a touch worried about not finding the materials I needed." Ignoring his brother's look, Andrew cleared his throat as he gathered a few more books to him. Surprisingly, he didn't have that many books on soulmates. It was rather disappointing.

"Uh-huh. How many books have you read since I last asked you that question?" Oh, aha, wow, Andrew very much did not want to answer that question. "You're obsessing."

"We're ghosts, obsessing is what we do." Snagging one of the books Randy had been sleeping on, Andrew sighed as he brushed it off. "There has to be a case like mine and Danny's documented somewhere, surely."

"Yeah. Definitely a case where an alive kid ends up being soulmates with a ghost who's been dead longer than both of them were alive for." That… When said like that… "Ah, jeez, c'mon, don't get the depressed look-"

"I do not have a depressed look, thank you very much. I'm simply concerned on the fact we haven't found anything even remotely similar to my situation." They had been through dozens of books by now and there was still nothing even close to what they were going through.

"Hey, hey, Andy, c'mon." Randy threw an arm around him and trapped him in place, Andrew huffing and upset over the fact that he didn't even try to escape. "It's possible that all of this will work out-"

"I know that." That was the part that was terrifying him. "This could all work out and if we do this right, then we'll both be happy, and that's…" It was terrifying because he knew what happened when he held hope.

"Oh, Andy." Randy pulled him into an actual hug and oh, god, it was that bad, wasn't it? If Randy was actually hugging him, then he must have looked more pathetic than he thought. "We're not used to good things happening to us, are we?"

"I believe an argument could be made that such a statement is very much an understatement." Andrew finally sighed and leaned against Randy, feeling more than a little hopeless at the situation. "I don't know what to do, Randy."

"Well, the whole research thing is a good start." Yes, he supposed, but there was still… Randy was right. A situation like this had never been seen or heard of. A ghost being soulmates with a teenager who was still alive? It… No matter how one looked at it, there was nothing but heartbreak, except… There was still a chance of it ending happily and it terrified him. "What do you need?"

"I need- I need a book- I need something to help me figure this out." Knowledge had never let him down before. There had always been a book to help him out of a situation. Whether it was to distract him, give him inspiration, instruct him on what to do next, or even just to give him an escape, there was- Books and knowledge had never let him down before.

"Okay, we're off to a good start on the whole book thing." Randy finally let him go before pushing him down into a seat, Andrew huffing as a pile was pushed in front of him. "These should be the last ones, yeah?"

"The last ones with an academic approach to the subject, yes. I've yet to go through and pull the books that have a fable outlook." Watching his brother stare at him, Andrew huffed. "I am not simplifying that when I know for a fact you understood it perfectly."

"Damn. You were so much more fun before you caught on to the fact I was smart." 'Smart.' Randy was certifiably a genius if Andrew could just get him to sit still long enough to take one of the tests. "Okay, we have the nonfiction checked off, but maybe check fiction? Kernel of truth in every story?"

"That was my thinking, yes." Andrew flipped open the book closest to him, staring at the blurry words before he was staring at the cover again. "That was rude."

"You haven't slept and for as much as you want to complain that ghosts don't need it, you do need sleep if you want to stay sane."

"I'm not tired. My eyes just need to rest, is all." This time the book was pulled away from him, Andrew collapsing back in his seat and looking up at Randy as pathetically as he could. "Randy."

"Five hours, one meal, and three brownies and then I'll let you get back to work." Mm… No. Andrew didn't like that. He would just keep reading- "Andy. Do you really think Danny would want you driving yourself crazy like this?"

"That was low." That was just- That was just mean. "You're awful." Completely ignoring his brother's grin, Andrew pushed himself up and oh, alright, yes, maybe a bit of rest would be good if he was seeing that many black spots. "There's still at least a dozen books-"

"I'll keep searching." Oh. "Hey, at least I know your crazy filing system, and I know how to take notes you can actually read. Just go get rest and I'll take care of this."

"You're so awful." Aiming for a hug, Andrew slumped more than anything, amused when Randy easily supported him. "You're supposed to be an annoying big brother who never shuts up and ruins my hopes and dreams and-"

Andrew's words were drowned out by Randy's laughter, the sound making him relax more than anything else. He may have had horrible luck when it came to the soulmate area of his life, but at least it was made up for with such a great brother.

As helpful as Randy was, though, he had been right when he said this was a unique situation. Something like this… Stories, maybe, but it was doubtful this had ever happened before. That begged the question of why did this happen?

Maybe his mate was as cursed as he was. Danny seemed like a sweet kid, but even through written word Andrew could tell that he was hiding more than he wanted to admit to. They all had secrets, but Andrew knew what the ones hidden in darkness looked like in daylight. Danny was hiding, yes, but Andrew… He was doing so much worse.

Danny had been honest and told him so much, and yet here Andrew was dodging questions and avoiding answering due to not wanting to hurt their feelings. It- Was there any way out of this that didn't hurt Danny's feelings?

Randy had been right back at the start of this mess. Andrew was going to hurt Danny and break his heart because, well… Andrew looked down to where patches of stars inked with pen were scribbled across his words. He didn't need Randy's look to know there was a hopeless look on his face, and, really.

He had fallen so quickly, hadn't he?

Chapter Text

"You've got to be kidding…" Danny knew that his friends had been looking into the whole Andrew Riter matter, but this was just ridiculous. He thought it was funny when Tucker handed him a thick packet of papers with a serious look on his face, but there was nothing funny about it now. There were about fifty pieces of paper and all of them had the name Andrew Riter with different addresses.

Some of the names were circled, others were crossed off, a few were highlighted, and there were notes on about half of them. There had to be at least a thousand results on these pages alone and, right, okay. Research. He just had to treat this like a research paper. He could do that.

"Hey, Jazz!" Then again, Jazz was much better, and Danny really didn't want to try and usurp her when this was so clearly her expertise.

"Ghost, soulmate, or friend problem!" Dropping the papers that he had been holding, Danny threw a glare to his bedroom door and that was just insulting.

"It could be something else, you know! Like school! What if I had a school problem!" There were a few moments where it was quiet before his door was gently pushed open, Jazz poking her head in and raising her eyebrows. She was so uninvited to his friends' future wedding.

"Is it a school problem?" Hoping that the silence was just as uncomfortable for Jazz as it was for him, Danny finally huffed and pushed his chair back from his desk to reveal the folder.

"Soulmate." Seeing the confusion, Danny looked back to the folder and then to Jazz again. "I might be doing a bit of research into my soulmate and it's… It's a lot."

"And does your soulmate know that you're attempting to stalk them?" It- It wasn't- Jesus, why did everyone think he was trying to stalk his soulmate? "Alright, alright, what do you need my help with?"

"Fifty pages and definitely over a thousand results. And that's just assuming he lives within five hundred miles." Danny hopped over to his bed and shoved his blankets aside so Jazz could take the seat, happy when she started looking through the papers at once. He felt vindicated when he saw how horrified she looked. "Sam and Tucker have been helping."

"I- Yes. Yes, I see that- What is this?" Seeing bright, florescent pink words over an Andrew that said he was twelve and liked dogs, Danny scratched at the words and paper before giving a firm nod.

"Crayon. I think." Seemed like something Tucker would do, but it looked like Sam's handwriting. Maybe they were just fucking with Danny. It wouldn't be the first time. "It's legible, at least-"

"Crayon." Oh, jeez, maybe Jazz hadn't been the best to pull into this research project of his. "Okay- Alright. What do you know so far?"

"Well I managed to glance through the notes they left, but none of them… None of them really seem to fit my Andrew." At the look, Danny stuck his tongue out. "You know what I mean. I've learned all these little things about him, but none of the Andrews here seem to make any sense. Of course, it'd help if I actually knew his age."

"Oh, Danny." Jazz looked through the papers again, shaking her head as she saw one that was heavily, heavily marked up. "Have you tried asking-"

"Yes. That's the problem." No matter how many times he asked, Andrew would find some way to dodge the question. "Andrew never answers any of my important questions! There has to be- There has to be some way to narrow it down even further. Maybe- Ooh, maybe we can trick the information out of him."

Andrew did tend to get lost when he was writing down new ideas, after all, so maybe Danny could catch him at the right time and Andrew would answer his questions on auto-pilot just so he could keep writing. It was a longshot, but it might-

"Stop laughing at me!" This was bigger than a life or death matter! It was a love and loss matter! "Soulmates shouldn't have to go through this much trouble to find each other!"

"I know, Danny, I know." Jazz stood up and moved to sit on the bed next to him, rocking the mattress a little and almost losing the papers as she passed them back to Danny. "It's not fair."

"No…" Danny glanced to where Jazz's arms were clean and bare. "No, it really isn't." The Fentons had gotten screwed over in more ways than one in life, it seemed. "I just… I want this to work, Jazz."

"And when have you ever been stopped when you wanted something?" Well… Smiling at Jazz's laughter, Danny leaned against her and looked back down to the papers. None of it felt right, but this was his best chance for finding Andrew. "You're not on your own in this, you know."

"Yeah… I know." Sam and Tucker had always had his back and Jazz had all but leapt to help him out, and even his parents… They were doing their best to make up for what they had done- Well, maybe not make up for it. They were just doing what they had always done which was to put him first. "That still leaves a lot of work to do, though."

"And we're right here to help you out with it." Jazz grabbed half of the stack, flicking through them before pausing. "'Likes pancakes'?"

"Tucker. He's pretty good at finding people on whatever social media site they use most. Pretty sure one or two sites caught him hacking and tried to hire him right away." Smiling at the little snort of laughter, Danny sighed and looked down to his own stack. Ages and jobs and little things were written down next to each name and Danny knew near all of them were wrong.

"It's like a needle in a haystack, but you know what?" Jazz gave a silly little grin, bumping their shoulders together. "We have a magnet."

"That was- That was bad. Jazz, this is me telling you that was bad." Danny could barely keep a straight face through his laughter, already feeling so much better. He knew this wasn't the best way to go about finding out who his soulmate was, but it was the best he had.

Looking down at short-covered thighs, Danny watched words begin to appear as Andrew took notes on something. It was hard to tell what with how abbreviated everything was, but the sight made Danny smile anyways. One day he'd get to see Andrew write those words himself and it was…

God, what did Andrew look like when he wrote? Danny didn't know what color his hair or eyes were, but he could easily picture a scrunched-up expression when Andrew was stuck and searching for a word. It wasn't too hard to picture a stuck-out tongue when he was in the middle of an action sequence, either, or a half-hidden grin at a scene that was more comedy than drama. It was definitely easy to picture that little satisfied smirk when he wrote a line that would let his readers know that all their guessing had been wrong and that this was what it was all truly leading to.

"You know, I really hope this Andrew of yours is going to be able to keep up with you." Startled at the words, Danny looked to his sister and shook his head as he grabbed a pen and doodled a few hearts next to the words.

"I don't think we have to worry about him being the one to keep up." The hearts were colored in at once and a few more were squeezed into what free space there was. Danny drew a star inside each one.

"You're right. It looks like you two keep up with each other just fine." Hiding what was probably a blush - one that he would never admit to - Danny looked back to the papers and pulled them towards him. Right.

Andrew may be hiding because he didn't want to hurt Danny, but Danny had that stupid goddamn hero complex for a reason. He was going to figure out just who Andrew was and, if things went well, go straight to his door, look him in the eye, and give him a good punch to the shoulder. He was then going to never let him go and right… Right. He had a soulmate to find.

::

"This is pointless." Andrew closed the book he had been reading with more force than was probably necessary and, for a terrifying moment, had the overwhelming urge to throw it against the wall as hard as he could. He made do by throwing it at Randy, who easily caught the book without even looking up from whatever he was cooking. "There's nothing in these books that can help!"

"That doesn't mean you need to go around throwing your books." Randy, insultingly enough, gently set the book aside on one of the kitchen counters instead of giving it back to him to throw again. "No luck with that book either, then?"

"No luck with any of them. I mean- Even if we figured out a way then who would want a ghost as a soulmate?" Andrew slumped in his seat, looking down to the words and drawings that littered his skin. "It may be fine for right now, but it's all going to come crashing down the moment my living mate discovers that I'm dead."

"Andy, it's not going to be that bad. It might be difficult, but there's still a chance for you two to work this all out."

"Oh, yes, of course. Everything will work out fine, Danny won't care that I'm dead, and I'll mysteriously come back to life! Anything else we want to list that will never happen?" Unable to sit still for another moment, Andrew pushed himself out of his seat and began pacing up and down the kitchen floor. "How could I be stupid enough to think that this would all work out?"

"I think we've had this conversation before, you know. Something about having a big heart?" Randy held out a piece of whatever he had just pulled from the oven, Andrew glaring at it before snatching it and- Oh, this was quite good. "New recipe. Thoughts?"

"Mm, maybe leave it in the oven a bit longer? The chocolate chips will melt better." He received another piece of the chocolate concoction for his efforts, Randy looking quite pleased at having distracted- Wait.

"Stop distracting me." Andrew ate the treat out of spite. Nothing else. It was just spite and- Alright, it was Randy baking. Of course it was going to be delicious enough to distract him for a few minutes. "I am trying to have a sensible panic attack."

"And as big brother it's typically my job to stop the panic attacks." Randy wiped his hands off on a dish towel before moving towards him. Andrew assumed he was about to suffer through another hug before he was given a punch to his shoulder and ow.

"What was that for?" Dodging another punch and ducking under Randy's arm, Andrew quickly grabbed a piece of whatever looked done.

"It's also my job to do that when you start feeling too sorry for yourself." Randy stared at him before moving quick, Andrew whining and unable to dodge a sharp flick to his ear. "That was for not waiting until it's all done."

"But grand frère your cooking is so wonderful-" This time Andrew successfully dodged the hit, beaming when Randy tossed him another small treat.

"You're going to get fat, you know, if you keep that up." Cheerfully flipping Randy off, Andrew collapsed back into his chair, good mood quickly fading when he saw the other books that were there waiting for him.

"I don't know what to do, Randy." The worst part of that was that Andrew couldn't even try to make his voice dramatic. He was just… God, he needed so much help to deal with this one-

"He draws stars on you?" What- Oh. There was a cluster of stars by the brief idea he had written down about a shapeshifter stuck in cat form that had escaped from a government testing site. "That's adorable."

"He does tend to enjoy drawing stars, but he typically only colors them in on the ideas he likes- Oh." Seeing Randy's look, Andrew quickly shook his head. "No- Nothing bad. Just… That's another thing I know about my soulmate." Danny liked to draw stars next to his ideas and he colored in the ones next to the ideas he really liked.

"Oh, Andy." Yeah… Yeah, he was really lost on this one. "You know you can't keep something like this a secret for long. You already know why he kept away from you so long and now you're doing the same."

"I'm-!" The fight drained out of him as quick as it had come, Andrew sighing as he rubbed at his eyes and near shoved his glasses off. "I'm not trying to." He was blocking Danny out, though. He kept writing and talking to him, but he never- He never answered any of Danny's questions. He avoided them all with everything in him and distracted him every single time. "How do I explain that I'm not…"

That he was dead. If Danny didn't think he was crazy, then- God. Andrew was dead. It was so easy to forget that when it was just him and Randy and the rest of the Ghost Zone, but that was- That was how it was. Andrew had died years and years ago- He had died long before Danny was ever even alive. How did one even begin to explain something like that?

"I'm scared that anything I say will drive him off. I'm afraid that he'll take one look at me and run the other way. I'm- Randy, I'm so scared, but…" Andrew looked up to his brother, knowing Randy already knew what he was about to say. "I'm more scared he'll be alright with it."

"Because then there would be nothing to stop him from trying to join you." Death was a barrier. It always had been. The fear was that Danny would see that there could be a way for them to be together without that barrier. The dead couldn't return to the living, but the living… "You could never be responsible if something like that were to happen, Andy."

"He's fifteen." Danny was fifteen, sixteen on April 3rd, and he was just beginning to experience life. He didn't need a soulmate that was the opposite of all of that. "Just… Just a bit longer. I can keep this up for a bit longer." Because at that age it all seemed like a good idea. That… Jesus, Andrew's upbringing wasn't the most normal, but even he knew what that age was.

Fifteen, sixteen, seventeen… Those years were the years where love was a physical, tangible presence. It was a story that they couldn't wait to live out. Those were the years that started with 'once upon a time' and always ended with a 'happily ever after.' Beyond his soulmate problems, there was no way Danny could have experienced what life really was like, yet, and that was why Andrew was keeping his distance.

He wanted Danny to still believe that. He wanted Danny to go around thinking that there was a happily ever after around every corner. These were the years where you could meet someone's gaze across the street and fall in love with them without any problem - soulmate or not. These were the years where anything was possible.

Andrew didn't want Danny to think death was one of those possible things. So, for now, for a bit longer, he would keep his distance. He would let Danny grow and enjoy these years as much as he could and then maybe when he was nineteen or twenty Andrew would tell him the truth. The only problem was…

"You can't keep this up forever, Andy, you know you can't." Andrew wasn't scared of losing Danny. He had gone this long without a soulmate before and if Danny was better off without him then so be it. That wasn't what scared him. "And, no offense, your mate doesn't seem the type to give up so easily."

"No, he doesn't, does he?" What scared him was Danny finding him first. Already he knew that teen was the most stubborn force on this earth. He had no doubt Danny was already doing everything he could to try and find out who Andrew really was. "I just need a bit longer." Just a bit longer to figure out something that was better than just hiding.

"Well, let's hope you get it." As Randy went to retrieve something from the oven, Andrew looked down to where more stars were appearing next to another idea that was so abbreviated Andrew was surprised he could even read it.

"Just wait a bit longer, Danny." Just a bit longer until he could figure something out. Andrew would hate to ruin a good 'happily ever after,' after all.

::

"Okay, so, I have a plan on how to deal with the whole soulmate avoiding me problem." Considering his past plans, Danny tried not to be too upset at his friend's expressions. "Hey, this is much better than some of my other plans."

"That remains to be seen." Sam sat up and laced her fingers together, looking every inch the daughter of a mob boss- Actually, that wouldn't even surprise Danny. Her parents were far too happy and peppy sometimes. "What's the plan?"

"I'm going to trick Andrew into telling me where he lives. Even if it's just the state, then we can narrow it down a bit more than what we do have." Waiting for them to be amazed by his very brilliant plan, Danny frowned when the two shared a look. "What?"

"You have to admit, he has had worse plans." It was hard to be sure whether he should be happy at Tucker's support or devastated at Tucker's support. "How do you plan to trick him?"

"Yeah, no, that was as far as I got, the whole 'trick him' part." At the frown, Danny quickly spoke before they could. "Hey, hey, no, it's a good plan, right? If I can distract him late at night or something, then he'll probably write something without thinking and I can copy it down before he erases it!"

"That- That's a horrible plan. Danny. That is a horrible plan. It's not walking into an untested portal horrible, but it's right up there with starting a prank war with your arch-enemy horrible."

"Hey, Vlad was the one that started that, not me." Sort of- Kind of- Okay, so Danny had dealt the first blow, but Vlad had retaliated! Vlad, as the adult, was supposed to be better than him, so, really, it was all Vlad's fault. "Look, just- I need some advice on just how to trick him exactly."

"Because you suck at tricking people?" That… There was no need for Sam to be so truthful. And, really, he wasn't that- "Last week when Jazz tried to talk to you at school you said you left your car running and then ran."

"Wasting gas in this day and age? It's a crime I couldn't let stand, Sammy." Grinning at the glare and snort that earned that him, Danny tapped his palms against his desk to get their attention - and also because it was appropriately dramatic, and class was about to start in ten minutes. "So. Advice?"

"Danny, you don't need to trick your soulmate. Just talk it all out with him and tell him what you're so worried about."

"Yeah, see, I thought of that, too, but it's kind of hard when he doesn't believe in technology." Danny didn't care if he ended up eighty and trapped in a wheelchair, but he would never let his soulmate live that one down when he found him.

"Well, hey, I'll help you trick him, buddy-" Tucker didn't even get to finish before Danny was pointing at him.

"You don't get to help. You? You don't get to help. You can't even figure out who your own soulmate is and come on, Tucker." There was a beat of silence where all three of them were silent before Tucker held a hand to his chest and Sam started cackling.

Groaning, Danny scrubbed his hands against his face and okay- Okay. So, he was a little at the end of his rope, but he could figure this out. Maybe- Maybe he could get an address? Yeah- Yeah. He could get an address and they could mail letters except his soulmate would probably say no because he didn't want Danny to even know what he looked like and- Post office box.

"Well, you look like you just had a brilliant idea." Looking to Sam, Danny gave a slow nod before grinning and that- Yeah. "Share with the class?"

"P.O. box." It took a moment, but Sam didn't immediately look dismissive. That was progress! "Look, we know he's hiding from me, yeah? So, either he can get a P.O. box or I can and then we can mail each other letters that way. Neither of us has to know where the other lives and he can feel better and we can write more than we can on just our skin."

"That's actually not a bad idea." Ha! In Sam that meant it was a great idea! "You might be able to figure out what state he's in and narrow down the Andrew list, too."

"Might. He might be able to." Tucker shook his head. "He might live in a tri-state area place and get a box in a post office in another state. That'd mess with the results."

"Can you get a box in a state that you don't live in?" That… That was actually a good question. Danny made sure Sam and Tucker looked as confused as him before he was reaching for his phone. It was an effort to not laugh when he saw the other two do the same- Oh, Andrew had finally written something back about his favorite movie.

'Any movie that wasn't a book originally.' Sassy. Danny loved him already. Maybe one day - hopefully soon - he'd be able to say that to his soulmate's face.

'hey now some book movies are good!'

'Name one.'

'Holes'

'I don't know that one.'

'oh well alright then I know what movie Im gonna make you watch when we first meet up' And, as predicted, there was silence and a few little hearts doodled after his words. Danny knew it was Andrew being either cautious or scared and he drew the hearts to let Danny know that he wasn't angry at him or anything but come on.

'My brother and I would sometimes visit the cinema when we were in town.' Glancing up as Lancer began the roll call, Danny paid attention long enough to raise his hand before looking back to his arm. 'We usually were kicked out for making fun of them.'

'I hope you know I was dangerously close to laughing in the middle of class just now' Biting his lip, Danny thought back to his 'plan' he had just made and… It could work, right? 'hey you know what a po box is right?'

'Of course. Why do you ask?' Okay. Good start. That was a very good start. Right. Just ask him about the letter thing and that would be a huge amount of progress and-

'what color is your hair?' Danny supposed he was more scared about all of this than he wanted to show. 'and your eyes? how tall are you? do you slouch or walk straight? what color do you wear most? any weird hairstyles?'

It felt like hours before words began appearing, the slightly shaking handwriting letting Danny know that Andrew was probably laughing at him. 'Black. Green. 5'8? 5'9? Straight unless I'm sitting down. Grey and purple. I have a goatee?'

'Im divorcing you.' A goatee. His soulmate- Andrew had a goatee. 'first present Ill get you is a razor I promise Ill even help you shave it off'

'I am not shaving! I have a point to prove to my brother!' What? Danny drew as many question marks as he could, Andrew scribbling through some to get him to stop. 'When we were young he bet me that I would never be able to grow facial hair.'

"Oh my god." The words left him before he could even try to stop them, Danny thankful Lancer wasn't paying attention and that everyone else was used to him acting strange, but- But Andrew- He was a fucking dork. 'you dork.'

'I'm winning.' Fighting off a laugh, Danny's smile slowly fell as he re-read his words about the P.O. box and right- Right. This plan would work. It had to. He… It had to work because he… He was starting to run out of options.

::

"Fuck." Andrew was both thankful and enraged that Randy was out on a job right now. He was thankful because every time Randy heard him swear he went on this tangent of 'where had he gone wrong' and he was enraged because the one time he really needed some advice and he couldn't get any. "Why must you be so difficult, mon cher?"

There, written over hastily scrubbed off words, was Danny asking for his address or a P.O. box, so they could start mailing each other letters. It was an adorably sweet idea that had Andrew wanting to smile if it wasn't for the fact that he lived in the middle of the Ghost Zone.

'I'm afraid I'm out of the country right now.' Not a lie! It wasn't a lie! Andrew technically was out of the country. If they wanted to get specific, he was out of all countries.

'you could just say no you dont have to lie' No- No, no, no, he was trying not to do that. Groaning, Andrew looked up to the ceiling where it was a nice, soft purple color that served to calm him down a little.

"Any advice?" Perhaps his lair would have some useful advice beyond 'tell him the truth' or some such rot.

Except that rot was exactly what he should be doing. There could be no bridges built upon mounds of lies.

"You're of no help." Slumping down on the couch even more, Andrew glared at the words and okay. Okay. Don't lie. 'I'm French.' A slew of question and exclamation marks appeared, Andrew quickly writing a few things in French.

'you could still be lying and just know french but Ill believe you for now and also french looks stupid as fuck.'

'It is.' Okay- Okay. Andrew could work with 'believe you for now.' Now he just had to make sure Danny believed he was in France without telling him he was in France. Then he wouldn't be lying! 'It was a good idea, Danny.'

'but not the right one.' No… No, it hadn't been the right one. 'sorry your soulmate is a dumb american.'

'I, too, am sorry that you're an American.' He could tell by the silence and line through his words that Danny was laughing. It made him feel a bit better.

'so. France. right cool okay I guess that explains your crazy schedule and why you always seem to be awake when I'm about to pass out and why you add that u to everything.'

'I suppose it does.' Andrew slowly felt himself start to calm down. He had avoided another one of Danny's 'plans,' but he knew that the truth really would have to come out someday. He just wasn't sure when that would be.

At least it didn't take much to distract Danny with stories and conversations about France. He made sure to tell Danny as much of the truth as he could without letting slip anything that could hurt him. It… It wasn't honest, but trying to tell him the truth about everything else had to make up for it at least a little, right?

Did it really, though? Honest lies were still lies. Just how far was he willing to go with this? Until the end of his mate's life?

"You're really not helping." Andrew huffed, glaring at the ceiling and, really, he needed to find a better way to glare at Vidya when she was being unhelpful. Glaring at the ceiling made him look and feel crazy. "They're not lies."

They were twisted truths. They were twisted truths coated in honey-sweet words and slipped into a willing mouth.

"And Randy says I'm dramatic. If only he could hear you." He wasn't… He wasn't trying to hurt Danny. That was the exact opposite of what he was going for!

Oh, dear little lost one. He could try to hide from his mate, but it would never last for long. The truth, after all, was such a messy thing to try and hide.

"I don't need a forever. I just need a bit longer." Maybe he could use the France excuse to try and keep Danny at a distance? He could suggest that they shouldn't try to start anything when they lived so far apart and-

'fate really screwed us over huh?' And… Oh, Danny. Andrew didn't want to hurt Danny like this, but- But what other choice did he have!

He could tell his mate the truth and trust that he would love and accept him and understand the barriers that existed for the moment. Death would come to him in time, but Andrew could trust that he wouldn't seek it out.

"No- No. That's far too great of a risk." He just- He could do this. This France excuse could buy him a year or two of time and that would be enough for right now.

'how old are you?' He… That question. That question had the potential to be the most dangerous of them all depending on how he answered. 'I mean Im fifteen and Ive grown up thinking the worse all this time and after everything I know you have to be past your thirties at least so its not like Im going to be surprised or anything at this point so come on you can tell me its fine just give me even a number close like 30s 40s or something'

Watching the words wind around his arm and squeezed in between other words as Danny began running out of space, Andrew carefully capped his pen. There… There was no safe way to avoid this question, anymore. There was no way to answer it, either.

Answering that question would either lead to lying to Danny or damning them both. There… Silence. For now, he would just stay silent until Danny dropped the matter. Silence had always helped him before when faced with a difficult problem, so maybe it would help him now.

He was risking everything by doing this. Silence had helped him, but silence was never the answer. To continue this path would mean the chance of losing it all.

"That's better than dragging him down into my hell." Andrew had suffered enough in his life and afterlife. He didn't need to add to that suffering by hurting Danny with his own selfishness.

Oh… His brother had been so right about him. Oh, little one, your heart is far, far too big for a life such as this.

"'Life.'" That word was a joke… Ah. Danny hadn't stopped writing, yet. "Oh, Danny." To be stuck with him of all people.

Running his fingers over the words that were getting smaller and smaller to fit into the free spaces, Andrew pulled up his knees and hid his face and how had this fallen apart so quickly? Just a few weeks ago everything had been perfect. He had a soulmate, they got along wonderfully, Andrew had smiled, and it hadn't hurt.

Now look at them. Andrew was hiding like the coward he always was, and Danny would be left writing without any response and god. The situation hadn't changed, the positions had just been flipped.

Danny had been right. Andrew couldn't stop himself from finding those words that had summed up their lives so well and… Heh.

Fate really had screwed them over.

Chapter Text

"You know, maybe he's just searching for the right words." Seeing Tucker ready to open his mouth, Danny quickly shook his head. "No, you're right, he should have found the right words by now. Okay, then maybe he's just trying to figure out how to let me down gently?" This time Sam gave a quiet sigh, Danny nodding. "Yeah, no, you're right, Sammy, I need to have more faith in myself. Maybe-"

Blinking at the hands now covering his mouth, Danny looked to Sam and tried to look as annoyed as possible. Sam didn't even flinch, the traitor. "You were rambling to yourself, again. It had to stop." He hadn't been- Danny really wouldn't have called it- Ugh, god, he had been rambling to himself. "How long has it been since he last wrote to you?"

"Four days." And again with his traitor best friends sharing looks that he wasn't a part of. Seriously, why hadn't they confessed they were each other's soulmates, yet? He was absolutely certain Tucker knew, at this point. "He should have given me an answer by now, right? But, I mean- I haven't even seen a 'I don't want to talk about it.'"

"How would you know if you saw one?" That… Good point. Danny may have gone a little overboard in trying to get Andrew to answer. He was pretty sure he was more ink than skin at this point. "Maybe he just needs more time, Danny. Time without his soulmate hounding after him for the answer."

"I…" Yeah, okay, time- Danny could understand needing time, especially after meeting Clockwork and everything, but they had been writing back and forth for months, now. It- Danny didn't like looking down at his arm and seeing nothing but his own writing. Jeez, was that how Andrew always felt? "I'm worried."

"Hey, it'd be weird if you weren't worried about this." Tucker lightly nudged him under the lunch table, giving a bit of a smile. "It'll work out. I mean, soulmates are soulmates for a reason, right?"

"Yeah- Yeah. I mean, something good has to come out of all of this, right?" Otherwise what would have been the point? "I'm sure he just needs a bit more time to think it all out."

"That's the spirit!" Wait. Staring at Sam and her grin, Danny slowly narrowed his eyes and she didn't. She did. "Someone has to pick up the slack, here."

"Alright, alright, you two are adorable. You know what we should be focusing on, though." Watching as Tucker picked up his lunch meat with bare hands, Danny made a face as he heard Sam gag beside him. "This is our last lunch before Christmas break tomorrow."

"And that means you're trying to gross us out?" Danny shook his head as Tucker rolled the meat into a little ball and oh- Oh, no. "Tucker- Tucker, remember our last detention-"

Tucker, brave and stupid soul that he was, stood up, pulled back his arm, and launched the ball of meat right at the back of Dash's head. Danny wasn't sure whether to cheer or be horrified as silence fell over the room in that awkward way it did when spreading out from the epicenter of a disaster.

"You know," Sam whispered quietly, "I'm kind of impressed by how much better his aim is." Dash slowly stood up and Danny and Sam ducked under the table at once just as the cafeteria exploded into chaos. "Think I can get some of that lunch meat down Paulina's shirt?"

"I think we won't know until you try." Danny watched as Sam beamed at him before scrambling into the fight, Danny content to stay under the table and sit this one out. He couldn't believe it was already almost Christmas, though. It seemed like just the other day he had been starting high school and now he had been half-ghost for over a year and was turning sixteen in a few months.

The thoughts of just how much had changed were on his mind for the rest of the day and all his way home, Danny finally washing all the ink off his skin and writing the question a single time where it would be seen easily. He then may have gotten a bit impatient after a few hours because he asked the question again on the other arm - just to be sure.

That's how he spent the next few days, filling up his skin with question after question and all of it was the same and why wouldn't Andrew just tell him? It wasn't- It wasn't like he would turn Andrew away if he found out the truth. Did Andrew think that? Did Andrew think Danny would turn him away?

Like- Like yeah, okay, things might be a little awkward and complicated for a while, but they could figure it out, couldn't they? Every one of their conversations and stories and exchanges had shown them both that they- That there was something there. They could work this out and still get along and figure it out, they just… They just needed somewhere to work from before it could be figured out.

Silence had damned them both and Danny was sick of it, now, and, come on. Fate wouldn't be so cruel as to distance them like this and make them ill-suited together, right? Andrew was decades older than him and in France, but they… They had to be able to make it work to overcome stuff like that… Right?

Groaning and collapsing onto his bed, Danny had the overwhelming urge to scream into his pillow before he pushed himself back up. "Alright, Fenton. Just- Start small." Right. Small steps. He could… He could wipe all these questions off and write an apology. That would get Andrew to at least say something to him, right?

Because it was Christmas and this… He didn't want them to spend their Christmas angry and ignoring each other. Danny's Christmases were shitty enough and he didn't want to add a fight with his soulmate onto the list. So, he could go take a shower, wipe all these questions off, and explain to Andrew why he was so upset before apologizing. Even if Andrew was still upset, at least Danny would know that the other was okay.

Depending on the answer, this Christmas could actually be a good one! So, he would just- Thoughts halting as a shudder wracked his body and a wisp of cold slipped past his lips, Danny paused, blinked, and then groaned.

"You've got to be kidding me." Of all the times for this to happen it was right as he was about to apologize to his soulmate? That was just… That was mean. Okay. Okay. He could be blowing this out of proportion. Maybe it was just Box Ghost or something and he could get rid of him quickly. "Alright, come on out! I don't have time for this, today!"

"Funny. I was about to say the same thing." Startling at seeing Skulker in his room, Danny snorted and let the change take over him, already feeling better. At least he could get out some aggression. "Let's end this now, whelp."

"Well, well, if it isn't the Ghost Zone's lamest hunter. Haven't you learned your lesson, yet-" An overheated blast of energy was shot at him and Danny just barely dodged, hissing as the blast clipped his shoulder and both burned his shoulder and his suit and that… What had that been? "Okay, guess you got an upgrade."

"I'm not here for your pelt, whelp." Oh? Something else, then. Okay. Danny was game. He could do with some plea for help or threat on his life. "Plasmius didn't appreciate that stunt of yours a few months ago."

"Stunt- Oh." The password. The password that had ended up leading him to Andrew and that he had stolen to get into Vlad's server and then he and Tucker had deleted just about everything they could. "Let me guess, he lost a few plans to kill my dad and marry my mom?"

"According to him he lost millions in business deals." Oh- Oh, jeez. Danny wasn't dealing with a pissed off Plasmius. He was dealing with a pissed off Masters. "It seems he wants to talk to you."

"Ha- Aha! Right! Great! Why don't we schedule an appointment for never going to happen and I'll show up in his dreams? Sound good?" Danny was moving the second he heard the whining noise of guns charging up and ooh, his bed was pretty thoroughly destroyed, wasn't it? Okay, okay, not important, he had an angry Skulker working for Masters after him and Jesus, Vlad's revenge was always worse than any of Skulker's hunts could ever be.

Wincing as he pulled on his shoulder, Danny phased down to the basement and started up the portal. He could at least hide in the Ghost Zone for a while, and, right. So much for having a decent Christmas.

"There has to be a right answer to this. Everything has a right answer." For once, Vidya was silent in his head and that was very much not helping matters. That was doing the opposite of helping matters! "If you'd like to chime in with some advice, now would be a brilliant moment to do so."

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. "See if I get you anything for Christmas." A book narrowly missed his head from where it had been thrown and Andrew glared in the direction it had come from. "You had best put that back where you got it!" This time, the book did hit his head.

"Well excuse me for panicking!" Was he panicking? He felt like he might have been slightly panicking- Okay. It was okay. He could work through this. He just needed to think about this problem logically. He could tell Danny he was twenty-two, which he was, but that had the problem of not explaining why his writing had been so advanced when Danny was first born.

He could… What else could he do? He could always tell Danny his chronological age. Of course, that had the very severe backlash of making Danny run away from him all while calling the police- God, he didn't even know how old he was some days. Perhaps in his late forties- Nope, no, thinking about it tended to make it worse. Okay.

Calmly and rationally. He needed to think this through calmly and rationally. Danny hadn't pushed him away yet and he was already aware that Andrew's age was… advanced. He wasn't going to run if Andrew told him his actual age. That was good.

There was also the option, however, that he could tell Danny he was a ghost. Danny seemed rather open minded, so if Andrew gave proof then perhaps Danny wouldn't think he was lying or just plain crazy. Great. Two choices, then.

Would he rather have Danny think he was certifiably insane or would he rather have Danny think that he was his parent's age?

Groaning, Andrew collapsed on the nearest soft surface and contemplated using a book to render himself unconscious. "None of my books prepared me for this." Because there hadn't- There- Yes, alright, there had been a few cases of romantic soulmates with an age gap, but nothing with one of them being dead and having an age gap.

There was just… There had to be some way to fix this without hurting either of them. There had to be something out there to fix this mess, right? Nn… Maybe Randy would have some good advice.

It was a sad day when Andrew went to Randy for life advice, but, well. Randy screwed his life up daily, but he was careful to never screw up Andrew's. At least, not too badly, which was about the best Andrew could ask for.

"Is he in the kitchen?" Vidya gave a little affirmative and the very strong feeling that he should just tell the truth, but Andrew easily brushed that last part off. "Randy! I need you to resist whatever foolish urges my next few words are about to instill in you!"

"Is this an urge in where I get my guns or one in where I resist the urge to tuck you away in your room and keep you from getting your heart broken?" Randy was stress baking again. Great. Andrew's stress was so great it was getting to Randy.

"Neither. I need your advice." Insultingly enough, Randy only raised an eyebrow at him. "Advice I plan on taking."

"Don't make promises you can't keep," Randy 'scolded,' sticking something chocolate in Andrew's mouth and honestly, how dare- Oh, this was good. "Yes, you should tell your mate the truth."

"I didn't even ask my question yet." Andrew avoided Randy's judgmental looks and instead moved to collapse into one of the kitchen chairs. "I just… There has to be a right answer to all of this."

"Oh, Andy." Randy gave him such a sad smile as he shook his head. "Love never has a right answer, frérot." It certainly seemed- Wait.

"Did you just quote Heart's Desire at me?" At the suspicious silence, Andrew scoffed and looked around for the nearest heavy object to throw at him. "You did. I can't believe you just quoted my own book to me!"

"Okay, okay, there's no need to throw things! I'm trying to make a soufflé, right now, and I need a calm environment."

"I thought you couldn't make-"

"Well I can, so shut the fuck up." Ah, still a touchy subject. "Want some crème brûlée?"

"Are you just making every French desert you know of?" Andrew was already grabbing a spoon and squirming his way between Randy and the counter, happily digging into the desert. The sugar was perfectly crystalized to where it didn't taste burnt, either.

"Right. You want some life advice?" Yes- No. Maybe. Quite possibly a maybe, on that one. "Start small."

"Start small?" That… Hadn't he already been doing that the whole time he had been writing to Danny?

"Start small," Randy laughed, stealing Andrew's spoon and next bite. "Explain that you're too scared to explain. He'll understand if you're scared to tell the truth, Andy. He's been understanding of everything else, hasn't he?"

"I… I suppose." Taking the spoon back, Andrew chewed on the next bites slowly before swallowing and sighing. "Do you really think he'll understand?"

"Andy, the kid didn't even try to push you when you said that you didn't believe in technology. If that's not true love, then I don't know what it is." Hiding a laugh, Andrew bumped his shoulder against Randy's, Randy bumping right back. "You just… You need to admit you're scared. Do you think you can do that?"

"For him I can." Andrew had always been the type to hide his fear, but for Danny? He… He could admit that he was scared. If just to him, then Andrew could admit that he was afraid. "Right, then. What's with today's baking spree?"

"It's a nice way to distract you from your fears and stress." Well… That was true. "I also wanted to try and make a Christmas soufflé right for once."

"You really need to-" Wait. "Christmas?" It wasn't already Christmas, was it? He still had another week at least.

"Mhm. Happy Christmas Eve." Shit. "Soo, what'd you get me for Christmas, then?" Aha, right, Christmas presents. Andrew could so do something. Maybe.

"It's a surprise for a reason, Randall." Andrew stole a few more snacks, easily dodging Randy's swipes.

"You really are going to get fat if you keep this up!" Andrew only ducked back in to give Randy a quick, one-armed hug before fleeing with his treats. "I'm still upset with you!"

"I love you, too!" Right, right. Christmas presents. He could find Randy something in the library to give him, most likely, but Danny… Maybe for Danny he could finally explain why he had been avoiding him.

A Christmas spent talking with his mate sounded like the best Christmas he could think of, honestly. He just hoped he had the courage to start the conversation.

Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit. Danny had thought going into the Ghost Zone would buy him some time to at least give Skulker the run around, but the ghost hadn't even paused before following him in and now Danny was pushing himself to go as fast as he could because Jesus. He knew Skulker was powerful and all with that suit of his, but he had never- He had never really been afraid of Skulker.

He was- He was Skulker! He was like a step up from the Box Ghost, but Danny had never seen him this serious. The only time he had ever been scared of Skulker before this was the last time he had captured him for Vlad. It- Skulker was all about the hunt, yeah, but was he really this powerful when he was being serious about it?

Danny was already scratched up to hell and back from the blasts he had just barely been dodging - no doubt he'd need to find a new suit because no amount of sewing was going to fix this - and no matter how fast he went he could only just keep himself out of range of the more dangerous attacks.

Fuck- Fuck. He was going to be fucking skinned alive at this rate if he didn't manage to find somewhere to hide- "The hunt is over, whelp." For a moment it felt like he had been toppled over by something ramming into his back, and then Danny screamed as the pain in his back set in. It was like- Jesus, fuck, Jesus it was like his entire back was on fire.

He felt himself roughly land on something - rock? - before he was scrambling to his feet and bad- Bad idea, bad idea, that had been a very bad idea to move. Seeing Skulker come back into view, Danny tried to keep calm as he took a few steps back and okay. Breathe. It was Skulker. He could deal with Skulker.

"Get away from me, Skulker. We both know I would win no matter what you do." Even Danny could tell that was his weakest lie yet. Skulker seemed to know it, too.

"I always wondered what you'd be like backed into a corner. Shame I have to drag you to Plasmius, first." Aha, right, shame- Except no. Good. That meant Skulker would keep him alive- Jesus, what would an angry Vlad Masters do to him, though? This was so frustrating. He felt ready to just scream and charge and- Scream. He could-

"One last time, Skulker. Get back." Could he still do that attack? That Ghostly Wail? He had managed twice when running around time to stop everything, but he hadn't managed to pull it off since he got back. If there was ever a time to find out, then it was looking like now was it- Except that power took up all of his energy and Danny would be left defenseless if Skulker managed to survive it.

His best bet would be to push himself as fast as he could and find a place to hide until Vlad calmed down and called Skulker off, but that didn't give him any ideas as to what he could do right now. Fuck. At least he knew that his Christmases were still cursed, he guessed. Fuck, okay, focus- Just focus. Focus, focus, focus-

Dodging the attack that came for him, Danny scrambled to hide behind- A library? Since when was there a library in the Ghost Zone- Ah, no time to think, didn't care, hiding behind one of the pillars. "Get out here before I drag you out here, whelp! I'm sure Plasmius won't mind a bit of you missing here and there!"

"Yeah, no thanks!" Ducking down to avoid the next hit, Danny swore under his breath and okay, think. "C'mon, Fenton, focus." Library. He was hiding near a library- Could he get into the library and hide? He assumed a ghost lived here, but he didn't know any ghosts that would live in a library- Well, Poindexter, maybe, if he had the choice. "Welp. Guess it's the best I got."

Making a break for the door, Danny dodged a rocket rather impressively, if he did say so himself, but he didn't manage to dodge the fucking net. Hitting the ground and at least thankful it wasn't one of those damn ones that shocked him, Danny squirmed and- Bad. That was bad movement. Everything hurt.

"It looks like I've finally caught you, whelp." This… This couldn't be it. He couldn't have really lost to Skulker, right? That- That was insane. That- "I suggest you close those doors. This is none of your business." ...What?

Twisting himself as gently as he could, Danny caught a glimpse of two new ghosts standing in the doorway of the weird library and oh, great. More ghosts that probably didn't like him. One of them laughed- Ghosts had guns? Since when did ghosts besides Skulker have guns?

"Considering this is our territory, I think it is our business. I thought you didn't like to break the Warden's rules, Skulker." Dangerous. That one was definitely dangerous. Kind of reminded Danny of Wulf when he was overly upset over something. "Hunting down children now, Skulker?"

"Hey! I'll be sixteen soon!" As usual, he seemed to be completely ignored, the other ghost sighing and bending down with a knife and oh, great, he really was about to be skinned.

"Try not to move. I'm going to cut you free, now." The voice was stupidly deep, but something about the tone told Danny that he wasn't about to be hurt with the knife. Forcing himself to stay still, Danny looked back to where Skulker was arguing with the other ghost.

"I'm on a job for Plasmius. You know how that is, Mercenary." Whoa, wait, what? Ghosts could be mercenaries? That was so cool! "Get out of my way."

"Our laws are stronger than the word of some parasite." Oh, hell yeah. Danny didn't know what the hell any of that meant, but he was already starting to like these two.

"Just about have it," the ghost cutting him free said quietly, sounding frustrated. "Did he start using steel nets?"

"Yeah, some of them he uses to shock me." Danny was gratified to see this ghost looked horrified and, huh. Maybe these ghosts were sane. That was cool. He was pretty sure the only sane ghost he had meant before now was Clockwork. "How's that other one when it comes to fighting?"

"Mm, let's just say you don't have to worry about us holding our own." A few more ropes cut, and Danny was shooting out of the net at once, deciding to worry about the startled gasp from the ghost later.

"Hey, tin can! Can't you even leave me alone on Christmas!" Seeing Skulker bring out a new weapon, Danny growled. He was so sick of these goddamn weapons. "That's it." Dropping down to the stairs, Danny glanced to the ghosts that had come out to help him. "Stay behind me."

"And just what are you going to do on your own, whelp!" Sucking in a breath, Danny pulled on every scrap of power he had and screamed. It was like- Jesus, he never knew how to explain this power. Like being in the middle of a thunderstorm? It was like standing in the middle of a field with a crazy thunderstorm and knowing that none of the lightning would ever hit. It was knowing that he controlled the lightning.

He made it about ten seconds before he felt his change snap around him and force him to the ground, Danny gasping for breath and so, so thankful that the Ghost Zone had oxygen. Slowly looking up, Danny felt himself pale as he saw Skulker heading back towards him and looking pissed. His suit looked like it was barely being held together, but it seemed like there were enough weapons left to still make his life about to be over.

Scrambling back and instead just falling over, Danny tried to push himself up before he paused at seeing a white ghost shield form in front of him and easily deflect Skulker's attack. "Mercenary!"

Looking around, Danny almost jumped at seeing the ghost that had cut him free was kneeling beside him and looking at him with wide green eyes that looked as shocked as he felt.

Staring down at the teen in front of him, Andrew silently admitted to himself that he had no words to describe the situation he was now in. It was odd enough to hear Vidya warning him of ghosts fighting on her steps, but to come out and see Skulker and the infamous Danny Phantom curled up in a net and looking like he had taken one hit too many? That he hadn't quite expected.

It was true that today was officially the start of the truce and Andrew was content to send Randy after Skulker as a warning, but cutting the teen out of that god-awful steel net to see words written across his skin that matched his own? That…

And now here the teen was, looking utterly and completely human, and staring at him with frightened blue eyes and a frown that looked two seconds away from becoming a snarl. "I can take care of my own fights."

Oh, Danny. A precocious little thing with too much fight in him and bristling even when he had no power, was bleeding, and looked a few steps away from fainting. A quick glance down showed that he was wearing his coat, which, good. His skin was covered. No need to throw the teen into even more of a panic attack - which was what Andrew was quickly heading towards- Ah.

Skulker had been hurting his mate. His mate was Danny Phantom and was bleeding in front of him and looking more and more afraid as the seconds ticked by. Right.

"Look, just let me go, I'll get out of your hair, we can let bygones be bygones, and call this a day and-"

"It's alright," Andrew said quietly, slowly making telegraphed moves before helping the teen up and supporting him as he almost fell. "We're some of the saner ghosts, I'm afraid. No over the top fighting from us."

"Thank god." Danny slumped and lost near all tension in his body, Andrew easily keeping him propped up and staring at the words that coated his arms and peeked past his shirt. Words that asked the same question over and over and now… Now he could give Danny an answer, right? This was-

"Riters!" Ah, but first, they had some trash to take care of, it seemed. Feeling Danny flinch against his side as Randy's shield vanished, Andrew quickly tucked him closer.

"Oh, Randy." Andrew drawled, looking to Skulker and grinning as that suit of his floated back. "Refresh my memory. What day is today?"

"Well, last I checked it was Christmas Eve." Randy was by his side in a second, guns already in hand and wicked smile on his face. How nice to see White Fang still loved a good fight. "Interesting, isn't it?"

"Very. You see, I thought there was- Now, keep in mind, I could be wrong, but I thought there was a certain truce that all ghosts followed." Andrew noticed that Danny was watching them curiously, relaxed a bit more now that Randy was in front of him. He probably wasn't used to having people on his side. "Remind me of the truce, grand frère?"

"Of course, frérot. The Christmas Truce dictates that ghosts aren't allowed to fight with other ghosts from the first seconds of Christmas Eve to the last seconds of Christmas. I do believe that includes half-ghosts, as well."

"There's a truce?" Aw. Danny muttered under his breath when he was confused, it seemed. "Sure would have been great to know that last year."

"Randy, why don't you teach Skulker a lesson on why ghosts shouldn't fight during this time of year?" Andrew kept his tone light and pleasant as he turned to Danny to quickly check him over again. It didn't seem anything was broken, and it looked like he could walk. That was good. "Make it hurt."

"With pleasure." A flash of pure white and a scream from Skulker and the two were already half a mile away, Andrew rolling his eyes. Honestly, Randy was far too much of a showoff.

"Would you like to come in? I don't know much about half-ghosts, granted, but after that last attack it seems like you could use a bit of time to recover without worrying about what crazy ghost will show up next."

"So instead I walk into the home of a crazy ghost I don't know?" He knew Danny had fast responses, but Andrew had never seen his words when he was defensive and distrustful. It was fascinating.

"So better the enemy you know than the stranger you don't know, yes?" Andrew had to hold back a laugh when Danny scrunched up his nose. Hardly a few minutes with his mate and already Andrew was falling more in love with him. "You're tired, bleeding, and can't shift back. At least stay until you can fly home without dropping out of the air."

"I can change just fine!" Danny flashed a smug smile before it slowly dropped, and he cleared his throat. "Not, uh- Not that it's any of your business. Why do you even care, anyways? This isn't your problem."

"Mm, would it make you feel better that the offer is only there so you stop bleeding on my front steps?" Andrew watched the teen almost jump before looking down and around at the pristine marble before he was huffing and glaring at Andrew.

"I am not bleeding all over your steps, man." Right- Right. Okay. Just- Act calm and collected- This was his mate. And they were already getting along so well- Well… They were bantering? That counted in a way. "Look, it'll only take me ten or fifteen minutes to get home. I'll just wait out here for another five until I can change back. There you go. Problem solved."

"Danny, you're bleeding." The stubborn little teen didn't have anything to say about that-

"How do you know my name?" Ah. Okay. Right. Andrew was a storyteller. He could come up with a lie easily enough. Hopefully.

"You expect me to not know your name?" Andrew watched as Danny shifted, wincing as he jarred something. It took more effort than it should have to not reach out and help. "I believe everyone in our world knows of the half-ghost Danny Phantom."

"Yeah- Yep. That's me. Public Enemy Number One and all that. Walker start spreading my wanted poster around, then?"

"You're- No," Andrew laughed, shaking his head and this precious, precious teen. "You're the one who went through something horrible and still chose to be good. That's rarer than you might think."

"Oh." Danny didn't seem to be glaring anymore, but he was nervously looking over his shoulder now that it seemed Andrew wasn't considered a threat. "So, uh, right. Okay. That offer to stay here still open?"

"It really is no trouble." Besides, now he had an excuse to skip that awful party Randy had been trying to drag him to. "I can even help bandage some of the wounds you might have trouble reaching, if you want."

"I… Right." Danny gave him a look that could only be called calculating. "You know my name, but I don't know yours, you know. Seems kind of unfair." Oh- Oh! Right. Andrew had his skin mostly covered, so Danny didn't…

"I'm…" Andrew stared at this shaking and scared teenager that was his soulmate and finally gave a warm smile. "Ghostwriter. My name is Ghostwriter."

Chapter Text

"So. You guys were saying something about a Christmas Truce?" Danny looked around the ridiculously large library he was in and wasn't sure whether his Christmas was getting better or worse. On the one hand, he had been rescued from being torn to shreds by a pissed off robot. On the other hand, he was now trapped inside a crazy freaking library by ghosts. This… probably hadn't been his best idea, really, to hide in the Ghost Zone. And what the heck was a Christmas Truce, anyways?

"Oh- Oh, yes!" Then there was this Ghostwriter guy. First glance and he looked like a nerd and Danny was so much more comfortable taking on a nerd in a fight than an angry Skulker, but then Danny was remembering the other ghost that had Skulker near running scared and he was a bit more cautious about all of this. "The Truce is one of the older traditions of the Ghost Zone. It comes from back when Christmas was still considered Yule and the changing of the seasons. Sources vary, of course, but it used to be that the truce lasted for twelve days as the old celebration did. It seems to have changed and adapted alongside the human world - which makes sense, really."

Yeah, wow, okay. This one was a definite nerd. He wasn't shutting up at all and just kept yapping about some stupid Christmas history. Ugh. They weren't even walking, anymore. They were just in the middle of the stupid library with Ghostwriter talking- What kind of a name was Ghostwriter, anyways? That was weird even by Ghost Zone standards. Probably. "-chasing you?"

"What?" Ghostwriter looked like he was ready to burst into giggles at any moment, which, yeah, that wasn't creepy- Oh, chasing. Right. "Skulker was on the orders of Vlad Plasmius. I take it you know who that is?"

"Unfortunately." Ah, now the ghost was acting more normal. Nice to know some other ghosts hated Vlad, too. "I didn't take him for the type to go after teenagers with extreme force."

"I'm special." Then again, Danny had pissed him off more than usual, this time. How was he supposed to know those were business servers and not ghost servers! "Fruit loop will probably drop it after a few more days." Hopefully.

"Yes, well-" Ghostwriter suddenly paused before smirking more than smiling as he looked just past Danny's shoulder. "Have fun?"

"Mm. Technus will probably yell at me for destroying that suit, but it's nice to be able to rip it to pieces." Oh, jeez, that was harsh. Then again, Danny was sure Skulker was fine. Little roach could survive anything. "I don't think he'll be going after you anytime soon."

"I could have handled it." He didn't need some crazy ghosts swooping in at the last minute to save him- Randy. Ghostwriter had called this guy Randy earlier and… That was Andrew's brother's name- Ah! No daydreaming. He needed to focus. "Right. If it's safe then I can go home now, right?"

"Dunno. Can you even fly right now?" That… Hmph. At least Danny wasn't looking between the two with narrowed eyes like this guy was doing. Maybe he was worried about Ghostwriter and that insane, giddy grin he kept getting. "How bad are you hurt?"

"I'm fine. I dodged the worst of it before you guys stepped in." The look got worse and Danny tried to gather together just a scrap of power. "What."

"I didn't ask if you were hurt, I asked how bad you were hurt." Huh. Danny wasn't sure if he liked this dude or hated him. Ugh, reminded him of Jazz, though.

"We have first aid supplies that work well for wounds that come from a ghost fight." Looking to Ghostwriter, Danny crossed his arms and yeah, right. Like he was ever going to buy that one. "They're not poisonous."

"Although we can find some that are, if you'd like," Randy smirked, meeting Danny's glare without a flinch. "Am I supposed to be scared of a teenager?"

"Dude, I wrecked Skulker's shit even before you stepped in. He was barely together after my Wail."

"That 'wail' left you unable to fight. Take it from me, petit mec, if you're going to use some grand last resort power, then make sure it finishes the job."

"Yeah, well…" Danny looked the guy over again before giving a bit of a laugh. Jeez, these ghosts were sane. This Randy or whatever really did remind him of Jazz - or maybe a combination of Jazz and Sam. Ugh, terrifying. "First aid kit?"

"It'll look a bit weird compared to what you're used to, but I made it all to treat the aftereffects of ectoplasmic energy. It won't be dangerous to you. Plasmius has gotten after me to get some of it."

"You work with Vlad." What the hell? Just when Danny thought this one might have been cool!

"Correction, I sometimes work for him."

"Yeah?" Danny barked out a laugh. "What's the difference?"

"Working for him means I can betray him whenever I get sick of his shit - which is often, these days. Besides, I have to get to the human world somehow, and that ghost portal that your family has wasn't always there."

Hmph. Right. So cautious for now, but at least Danny wouldn't have to worry about either of these two stabbing him in the back. Looking to Ghostwriter, who seemed to be nervously shooting looks between the two of them, Danny shook his head. Less sane than Randy, then. "First aid?"

"What? Oh- Oh! Right, yes." Ghostwriter flapped his hands about for a moment before setting off down the hall, Danny shooting a confused look to Randy who rolled his eyes.

"I'll be in the kitchen." Ghosts had kitchens? Since when? "Don't worry, Phantom. He's not good around people, but he'll make sure that you're okay."

"Right." Danny lingered for a moment before quickly catching up to Ghostwriter, wincing as he shifted his shirt around and ah- Ah. Okay, then. He usually didn't have scars and open wounds transfer over when he changed between Fenton and Phantom. God, what had Skulker even used this time? "So, uh, this weird first aid kit of yours any good?"

"Randy's concoctions are made from flora that he finds around the Ghost Zone. Have you ever heard of blood blossoms?"

"Oh, um… Maybe? I think my parents mentioned it once or twice." Some weird flower that was supposed to hurt ghosts, maybe? "Why?"

"Because that flower is one of the most well-known and, like other ghostly flowers, grows around high concentrations of ectoplasmic energy." Oh, great. Ghostwriter was now ranting about ghost flowers just like he had been ranting about that Yule Truce or whatever it had been called.

At least the rambling wasn't bad. His voice definitely wasn't as annoying as some of the ghosts he had run into, and he looked to be genuinely happy rambling around the 'living structure of a plant that thrives off the deceased-' Wait, was he talking about graveyard flowers, now? Gross. Cool, though.

Alright, crash landing among a couple of ghosts and being unable to transform back wasn't the best start to Christmas Eve, really, but at least these ghosts didn't want a fight and were even helping him. Already better than the last fourteen Christmases. Shit, wait, was Ghostwriter still- Alright. Still talking. Made it easy to zone out, at least.

Shit, he should probably contact Jazz or his friends or something and let them know where he was, but… Jazz had been doing a massive study binge in her room and his friends were all with their families and he didn't want to ruin their Christmas.

Maybe he could just stick around and check out what was up with these two ghosts and their giant library. Besides, Ghostwriter, at least, didn't seem so bad. "-ah, we passed the room. Alright, that's no problem, just, uh- Mm. Alright, yes, this way."

Snorting, Danny followed Ghostwriter back the way they had come from, and, okay, the dude was weird, but he… He wasn't bad.

::

"Jesus Christ." Not even flinching at the startled shout, Andrew only kept a tight hold on Danny's wrist when he tried to jerk his arm away. "What the fuck is that?!"

"A rather potent concoction of healing herbs." Cutting off Danny's next words with another dose of it, Andrew allowed himself a small wince at Danny's pained expression. "Sorry. It's… Well, put simply it's meant to speed up the healing process by stimulating the growth-"

"Dude, English." Oh, honestly, Andrew had been explaining it simply! How this teen could act like such a teenager and still rant about astrophysics Andrew would never know.

"You know the itching feeling you get when a cut is healing?" Waiting for the teen to nod, Andrew smirked. "This speeds up the healing factor enough that the itching feeling isn't quite an itch anymore."

"Is that safe? That sounds really unsafe. Maybe we should stick with the antibiotic cream and a needle, dude. Seriously, I don't think this is the best- Ow."

"There we go. Your arm is all taken care of!" Andrew wrapped a clean set of bandages around the arm before tying it off. "Now, I believe you still have a rather nasty wound on your back."

"Oh, uh, not really, I mean, you've done enough, I'm sure that one will probably heal on its own-"

"It wasn't a question." Ah, the fear of a teenager caught in a lie. It really was a shame Andrew hadn't had a chance to teach. "Come on, then. Shirt off."

"I'd really, really, really rather not, if it's all the same." Dropping his hand and staring at the teen for a long few moments, Andrew finally darted out and phased the shirt off him, enjoying the indignant yelp a little too much. "What's your problem!"

"As stated before, I'd rather not have you bleed out over my lair. Now, would you like to turn around or will I have to force you to do that, as well?"

"Jeez, and you call yourself a sane ghost." Danny turned around on the couch they had tucked themselves away on, medical supplies currently scattered about because Randy had no idea of what organization meant. "It's probably not that bad."

"A wise lesson to know is when pushing yourself causes more harm than good." Ignoring the muttered complaints from the other, Andrew's eyes widened as he saw Danny's back. "Well, would you like the good news or bad news first?"

"Bad news. Definitely bad news." Resting his finger tips on some of the skin that didn't look like it was torn to shreds, Andrew frowned at Danny's flinch. "Well?"

"The bad news is that you were very much wrong about being 'fine.' It seems whatever he used to hit you is… Well, I would best describe it as skin being dragged across hot pavement for two or so blocks."

"That's… I mean, you could just take a picture and show me? Because that description probably makes it sound worse than it is, right?" Mm. If anything, that was Andrew being kind. "Okay. What's the good news, then?"

"I was right." Easily dodging the attempt to hit him, Andrew nudged Danny back into place and reached for some of the more potent of Randy's poultices. "This… This is going to hurt."

"Hurt? How badly hurt?" Well… "I don't like the way you just went quiet."

"Just… Try to stay still." Mentally apologizing already and making plans to spoil Danny as much as possible later, Andrew began spreading the poultice on. It barely touched the teen's skin before he went absolutely ridged, breath becoming ragged and loud.

Trying to keep his hand steady as he spread it across the torn and burned skin, Andrew started to speak softly about anything and everything he could. As much as he wanted to hug Danny close to him to soothe him, right now Danny saw him as nothing but a strange ghost he had just met. So, Andrew would soothe him in another away.

Danny had always loved the glimpses of his stories, so Andrew rambled and talked and slowly drew Danny out of his pained battle high - Lord knew that Andrew had enough practice with doing the same to Randy and with Randy doing the same to him.

It took longer than he would have liked, but Andrew was soon wrapping Danny's back in bandages, careful to not make them too tight or too loose. Even with Randy's excellent poultices, it would still take a while for this one to heal over. Poor thing.

"There we are. You should be back to rights in no time at all." Pushing everything back into the first aid kit, Andrew paused as he saw Danny was looking down at his arms with a scrunched-up expression. "Are you alright? Does it hurt elsewhere?"

"What? Oh, uh, no." Danny curled his fingers in, eyes darting to where written words were peeking out from under the bandages and oh- Oh! His sweet little mate. "It's nothing."

"Mm." Andrew looked away for a moment before looking back and smiling. "I'm certain you can explain to your soulmate later what happened if you miss any messages."

"That obvious?" Danny was blushing sweetly and hiding a smile, Andrew near overwhelmed with the affection he felt for his mate in that moment. "We just, uh… We haven't really met, yet, so we rely on the writing more than anything, you know?"

"I understand that rather well, I suppose," Andrew chuckled, feeling a touch of guilt that he hadn't written back to Danny sooner, but… He could make up for it now. He could easily make up for it now.

"Yeah, and he- I mean, he says he doesn't believe in technology!" Oh, dear, he was still sore about that, then. "Who doesn't believe in technology- I mean, you're a ghost and I bet you have a phone!"

"I- No?" At the horrified look, Andrew couldn't stop his laugh. "It's the Ghost Zone, mon cher." Danny wrinkled his nose at the French, but luckily it seemed he didn't know what it meant. Good. Andrew could have fun with that. "Cell phones don't work in here, something I believe Technus is working on fixing, but for the moment, I'm afraid we're rather without connection."

"That's why I never get any messages when I'm in the Ghost Zone! I thought my friends were just ignoring me." Oh, goodness. This teen was utterly precious. "Actually, that explains why Sam was so mad at me that one day I got lost in here for a few hours. Damn."

"A shame, but the Ghost Zone doesn't have cell towers," Andrew grinned, watching Danny huff and pout and get distracted by his bandages.

Andrew swallowed and… Danny was safe and smiling and tracing the words with his fingertips and this was- This was good, wasn't it? This was the best. Danny was- His Danny was Danny Phantom. The teen was half-ghost and…

He would understand everything. Andrew's age, the reason his words had shown up when he was so young, and why Andrew had been so afraid to try and connect with him. This… This was the best outcome Andrew could have asked for.

"D… Danny?" The teen looked over to him curiously, a frown tugging at his lips and curiosity almost drowning out the wariness in his eyes.

"What's up?" All he had to say was his real name and Andrew was certain that everything would click into place and Danny would know in an instant who he was- Or at least, it wouldn't take much more than his name and he would know. "You alright?"

"I…" This was the best he could have asked for and now, after so many years, his mate was in front of him and all he had to do was- "Would you like something to eat? Randy's a rather good cook."

"Oh, uh… Is it safe for humans to eat ghost food?" Danny gave a cautious smile, Andrew standing up with a quick nod.

"Of course. Much of what he makes comes from supplies he gets in the human world. I'll go see what he has made, so far."

"Alright?" Danny watched him with an odd little look before his smile became a bit more real. "Thanks. For… you know."

"Of course." This was the best he could have hoped for, so then why was Andrew still so scared?

::

"Are you really gonna be alright with me staying here for a few hours? I mean, don't you and that one guy have Christmas plans or something already?" Danny had finally managed to get his shirt back on and was now sitting on Ghostwriter's stupidly comfortable couch as the ghost flew back and forth in dizzying little circles. Jesus, this guy was more hyped up than he was on a bad day.

"My brother and I are fine, Danny." Brother, huh? Weird to think Ghostwriter had a brother named Randy, too, but Danny guessed that was a pretty common name. It was actually more weird to think ghosts had siblings. "Besides, you make a great excuse for me avoiding that horrid Christmas Truce party that the ghosts throw every year."

"Ghosts throw parties?" That… Actually, after meeting Kitty and Ember, Danny could kind of believe that easily enough. "Cool. So, it's fine, then?"

"Yes, Danny, it's fine." Ghostwriter paused before disappearing and reappearing a second later, Danny startling as a blanket was thrown over him. "There we are."

"Uh huh." Jesus. This guy was treating Danny like he was an abandoned puppy off the streets. "I guess staying here works pretty well for me, too. A place to hide out from Skulker is nice."

"Will any of your friends or family worry about your absence?" Ghostwriter had hardly finished the question before Danny was laughing.

"Are you kidding? No one's gonna notice I'm gone until the twenty-seventh at least. Christmas… isn't such a great time of the year for me."

"I suppose I understand how that feels." Really? Yeah, right, yeah, of course. A few too little presents were probably the worst thing to ever happen in the history of the world.

"Nothing that's happened to you on Christmas can be as bad as being peed on by a dog." Seeing the other open his mouth, Danny narrowed his eyes. "As a baby."

"Alright." Ghostwriter crossed his arms and smirked and oh, no. "I was once shot in my shoulder on Christmas."

"Like… Like with a paintball gun, or-"

"My brother had to dig the bullet out of my shoulder before we could wrap it." Jesus Christ, this dude wasn't messing around, was he?

"Okay. That's a pretty good one. But have you ever had mad scientist parents bring the Christmas turkey to life?" The odd, disbelieving look he was given had Danny convinced he was going to win.

"I'm afraid not." Ha! "Although I did spend one Christmas in an eight-hour church service. No food, no water, and no singing."

"Fuck, okay, you win, Jesus, it's not a competition, man." Maybe it was the whole scientists as parents thing that had made him shy away from religion, but the idea of spending eight hours in a church service like that? Ugh.

"Are you sure you wouldn't like to hear about some of my other Christmases?" Ghostwriter was grinning in obvious victory, Danny doing his best to not laugh.

"Yeah, yeah, no need to be a sore winner." Maybe having another ghost as a friend wouldn't be that bad. The two obviously were pretty okay if they jumped in to help out some random guy they didn't even know in a fight. "How's that cooking of your brother's coming along, then?"

Ghostwriter sighed, looking exhausted. "There are times where he'll scrap everything halfway through if he feels like he's not doing a good enough job. I should probably go to try prevent that now, honestly."

"Jeez, have fun with that." Waiting until Ghostwriter laughed, Danny wiggled around in the blanket that had been thrown on him before managing to grab the first aid kit left behind, quickly opening it before finding some disinfectant wipes.

Tearing a few open, Danny took the chance to properly wash off all of the ink on his skin - or at least, wipe it all off as well as he could. He still needed to apologize, but… It didn't seem like Andrew had written him back, yet. Not even a heart or frowny face or anything.

Jeez… Andrew was probably still angry at him for how hard Danny had pushed to try and find out his age. Maybe… Maybe it would be better to wait until Andrew wrote to him first? Let him set the terms and all that? After all, they had gone through fifteen years of silence before - Andrew even longer. Andrew would be okay ignoring Danny for a while.

Playing with the pen that had survived Skulker's attacks, Danny finally uncapped it and drew a cluster of stars on the inside of his wrist before putting a heart around each one. That… That was something, right?

Dropping his arm and just staring at nothing for a few moments, Danny finally nodded, and, right. "I'm going to die alone." Sighing, Danny capped his pen and drew the blanket over his head. "I'll die alone with my friends arguing at my deathbed."

"I believe the fact your friends will be there arguing will negate the possibility of you dying alone." Damn Danny's poor timing and his stupid habit of speaking out loud. "The actual food will be ready in another hour or so, but would you like some cookies?"

"Oh, uh, no thanks. I'm not that hungry, really." Letting the cover fall back to rest on his neck, Danny looked to see that Ghostwriter had set a tray of chocolate chip cookies on the small end table next to the couch. He was pretty sure he saw steam, which meant they were fresh. "Thanks, though."

"It really is no problem. Randy's taking over the kitchen with his baking and I'm afraid that leaves little room for my things in there," Ghostwriter laughed, finally sitting down on the couch. He still looked wound up and nervous, but he also seemed a little better. "How are you doing?"

"I mean, my back still kind of burns, but I figure that's better than whatever the other outcome would have been. Thanks for that, by the way." Because most people shied away at the sight of stuff like that and Ghostwriter hadn't even seemed to notice some of the scars Danny had. It… It had actually been pretty nice.

"The sooner you deal with the pain now, then the sooner you can forget about it later." Ghostwriter made an odd flicking motion, Danny's eyes widening as he saw a cookie float over to him. "That's a rather unique look on your face-"

"Dude, ghosts can levitate shit?" Danny looked between Ghostwriter and the tray and holy shit. "That's so cool!"

"You… You didn't know that?" Ghostwriter looked honestly surprised, Danny thinking about it and finally just shrugging.

"I mean- I've seen Box Ghost and his stupid boxes, but I figured that was because it was his power, you know? Moving boxes around?"

"I- In a way. Some ghosts find levitation rather easy and others rather difficult. I suppose it depends on the ghost, their power, and their obsession." Obsession?

"Why do you say obsession like it's a thing?" At the pained look, Danny snorted. "Hey, I didn't exactly get a ghost education to go along with the powers."

"Well… If you plan on staying here a few more hours, then I can answer some questions you have, if you'd like. I can give you a quick crash course in all things ghostly."

"R… Really?" He had been trying to discover all of this out on his own and it was that easy to get someone to finally tell him some of this stuff? Like, yeah, okay, Clockwork had that whole wise mentor thing going on, but he was more for world ending stuff, but this? Finding someone to teach him the little stuff? That was…

"I… Yeah. Sure. That- That's fine." Danny quickly grabbed a cookie to try and hide the grin that was taking over, taking a large bite before pausing and staring at the cookie with wide eyes and holy shit. Holy shit. "Dude. How do you even make cookies like this?"

As Ghostwriter laughed loud and bright, Danny looked up to him and… A friend, huh? Danny could see it. He could easily see it- Really. If the guy made cookies like these, rambled like Jazz, and was willing to teach Danny a few things about the Ghost Zone, then how bad could he be?

Looking back down, Danny paused at seeing a few quickly scribbled hearts next to his own and oh- Oh. That… Hiding his beaming grin with another cookie, Danny had a feeling that this Christmas was starting to look up.

::

"And that's why you should never ever go to the circus ever." Laughing at that, Andrew decided that this was easily his most delightful Christmas, yet. Not only was he able to avoid that stupid Christmas party, but he had his mate happy and safe in his lair and laughing as he told story after story to try and match the ones Andrew told him. "I mean, seriously, that staff of his controlled ghosts. Dude was crazy."

"At least you no longer have to worry about dealing with him," Andrew chuckled, levitating another cookie over and hiding a grin as Danny watched with wide eyes. Even after explaining how levitation was done, Danny was still utterly delighted and fascinated by the concept. It was, in his words, 'like something out of Harry Potter.'

"Yeah, no, dude's probably locked up tight in a padded cell somewhere." Danny grabbed another cookie himself, Andrew hiding a laugh when the teen near squirmed with how happy he now seemed. It was precious. "He better be, at least. I mean, dude was crazy."

"Most likely it was where no one ever believed him about the power he could use," Andrew mused. That would certainly make a great story idea. A man with power that no one believed in, but oh, he could make them believe- Dammit, of all the times he needed to write something down and he couldn't- Actually, perhaps he could.

"I mean I guess. Ghosts kind of don't really exist outside of Amity Park, I think. It has to do with the energy of the Ghost Zone and all of that." Absently nodding along to his mate, Andrew tried to remember exactly where Danny's bandages on his arm were placed as he pushed his sleeve up and quickly wrote down the idea before it vanished. "Uh, dude?"

"Hm?" Seeing Danny's unamused look, Andrew gave a weak smile. "Sorry. I have a bad memory and if I don't write things down when I can, I tend to forget them."

"Oh, uh, yeah, that's fine." That… Odd. It almost seemed like Danny had been jealous for a moment or two. "My soulmate's like that. He's always writing down these ideas for stories he has."

Finishing with a flourish, Andrew let his sleeve fall back into place as he capped his pen. Hopefully Danny hadn't seen enough of his handwriting to find it familiar. "You were telling me about this… Freakshow?"

"Ugh, yeah, just his name is bad," Danny grumbled, sticking his tongue out and causing Andrew to fight against a laugh. "I don't know. After the last couple of fights I've had he just… doesn't seem like much of a threat, anymore."

"I can understand that. Once we face the worse, then everything before it seems like child's play." While Andrew was thankful that Danny could still act like a teenager, he… His smile wasn't that of a fifteen-year-old's. At least, not a normal one. It was a smile full of battle and stories he would take to his final grave and oh, his sweet mate. His past was one that was all too familiar to Andrew. "At least some of the ghosts you've managed to reason with, it sounds like."

"Ugh." Danny groaned as he reached for a few more cookies and oh, dear, Randy would complain that he was spoiling Danny's appetite, but, well. He deserved a bit of spoiling. "I keep getting used for relationship advice when it comes to Johnny and Kitty and it's like dude! What do I know about relationships!"

Smiling as he listened to Danny's rambling, Andrew felt that smile slowly fall and he should… He should tell Danny who he was. It wasn't right that Andrew knew his soulmate was sitting right in front of him and Danny… Goodness. Danny probably felt that he would never get to meet his mate. It wasn't right that Andrew kept this secret to himself, but what if Danny didn't want a ghost as a mate?

The teen's life was already filled with ghosts day after day and he probably wanted nothing more than to have one aspect of his life be normal. Besides, they- They were getting along. They were becoming friends and that- That was good. Andrew could become Danny's friend first and they could start something without having to worry or rely on the fact that they were soulmates. That would make it all the better, wouldn't it?

Danny… Danny had kept his silence for fifteen years, so Andrew could keep his own silence for a while, couldn't he? Just until he could figure this out and find a sensible way to approach it-

"Alright, lunch or dinner or whatever you want to call it is almost done. Hey, Ghostwriter, can I see you for a second in the kitchen." It wasn't a question and the fact Randy had called him by that name meant that he was certainly going to get yelled at.

"Of course. Otherwise we might be here for another hour more." Standing up, Andrew gave Danny a smile. "Feel free to have the rest of the cookies if you can manage it. They are rather rich."

"Dude. You made that a challenge on purpose." Laughing as Danny dragged the plate closer to reach the cookies, Andrew smiled and this… This was how he always wanted to remember his soulmate. Happy and safe and wrapped in a blanket as he grinned at being allowed to have as many cookies as he wanted.

Sighing to himself and following Randy, Andrew had a very bad feeling over what Randy would want to talk about. In private, no less! No doubt it was- "So, baby brother." Ooh, it was bad. It was very bad and now Randy's hand was on the back of his neck and dragging him down and oh, he did not look pleased. "Let's talk, shall we?"

"Shouldn't we be focusing on 'lunch or dinner or whatever you want to call it?'" At the dark look, Andrew gave a weak grin. "You're my favorite?"

"Really?" Randy let him go and crossed his arms and shifted in just the right way to let Andrew know that if he tried to leave he would be chased down mercilessly. "Explain. Now."

Instead of explaining his perfectly sound reasoning and logic, Andrew stared at Randy and tried to figure out the best way to escape. "What would you like me to explain?"

"Why you seem to believe I'm an idiot who's both deaf and blind." Ah, well- Randy grabbed Andrew's wrist and flipped it around, so the scribbled hearts and stars were in plain view. "You haven't told him."

"And who says I'm not working up to it?" Which he was. Slowly. Very, very, very slowly, but he was working up to it! In a way. "This- I never expected this to happen." He had never even thought to give hope to the ridiculous idea that his mate - that Danny was half-ghost.

"You mean a miracle which you seem to be pretending isn't there? You already know, and he already seems to like you, so why haven't you told him?"

"I… I feel like maybe it would be better if I didn't. We can start by being friends. Wouldn't that be better?" Oh, dear, Randy did not look pleased with him. "I'm going to tell him, just not… quite yet-"

"Andrew. Your mate is sitting out there on that couch with no knowledge of who you are. You can't explain-"

"Mate?" Andrew saw Randy stiffen at the exact moment he did and oh, they had let themselves get far too emotional if they hadn't even noticed the sweet little thing lurking in the doorway with narrowed and distrustful eyes. "What are you talking about?"

"I-" Andrew quickly looked to Randy and read a million different things in his eyes before he sighed and looked back to Danny. "The name Ghostwriter isn't my real name."

"Uh, yeah, I figured. I mean, unless your parents really hated you, I doubt they'd give you a name like that." Oh, Danny. Always making jokes to help the tension. None of them laughed. "Why were you talking about mates." It wasn't a question.

"Well, it's because… My name isn't Ghostwriter." There was no other way around it. Andrew was terrified, but… His mate would know who he was. Wasn't that a good thing? "It's-"

"Andrew?" Oh, Danny.

"Hi."

Chapter Text

Ever since this soulmate business had all started, Danny had always thought about what he would say or do when he first met Andrew face-to-face. His realistic daydreams tended to vary between trying to play it cool and awkwardly rambling away while Andrew laughed quietly and sweetly and said it was nice to meet him. Those he liked.

On his more hopeful days he thought about the two running into each other on an average day and knowing with just a glance who the other was. Those tended to not last long because while Danny believed in soulmates, he didn't believe in the impossible. They were fun to think about, at least.

The more personal daydreams that he would never share with a living soul tended to end with Danny wrapped around Andrew and kissing him and, aha, yeah, never telling that to anyone so long as he lived or died. The point was that Danny had thought about what he would do when meeting Andrew a lot - a lot.

In none of those daydreams did he ever storm up to his soulmate, punch him on the shoulder as hard as possible, and then scream that he was a dick, but here they were! "I can't believe you're a fucking ghost!" Danny was gratified to see that Andrew was wincing and rubbing his shoulder and if that hadn't hurt then he had at least pretended it had and yes. Good mate. "Of all the things we talked about you never once thought to mention that the whole age thing was because you were a ghost?!"

"You, mon cher, don't have very much moral high ground upon which to stand. I'm not the one who covered every inch of my skin and ignored it for fifteen years-"

"Hey, that was because of my parents and you know that! They pretty much had me convinced I didn't have a soulmate the way they talked about things! And don't you turn this around on me- You're a ghost."

"It…" Andrew trailed off, clearing his throat and avoiding even looking at him. "It didn't seem all that relevant to mention-"

"Oh my god." Danny stared at his stupid soulmate who had to be the stupidest man to ever exist- Wait. "Wait, hang on- That's why we couldn't track down your address!" Ha- Aha! Danny knew they should have found something, but they hadn't, and this was why. "We were only looking for a living Andrew Riter!"

"Living- You were stalking me?" Okay, no one would blame Danny if he screamed in frustration here, but he didn't. He should get points for that, really.

"I was not stalking you. I was trying to- Wait- No, you don't get to- Why didn't you tell me?" Seeing Andrew - his Andrew - open his mouth, Danny stepped forward to throw another punch up at him, slightly surprised when his fist was easily caught.

"I believe whatever point you wish to make could be done without the use of physical altercations." Ugh, his soulmate was such a nerd. Sam and Tucker were never going to let him live this down.

"Why didn't you tell me that you're my mate?" Because Andrew knew. He had known that Danny was right there in front of him and he hadn't said anything. "You had to have known right away. My suit was ripped to shreds when I crashed here."

The words had been visible to Andrew, but Danny hadn't seen anything because of Andrew and his stupid kind of cool leather trench coat and- Jerking his fist back, Danny quickly caught Andrew's wrist and stared at where stars and hearts were drawn onto the skin. "You're my soulmate."

"It seems so." Andrew's voice was as quiet as his and Danny was talking to his soulmate. He was talking to his soulmate. "Danny-"

"You're dead." The words slipped out of him more than anything else, but the delighted laughter he was all too happy to let out. "You're dead. This is great!"

A snort of surprised laughter had him looking to Randy and oh- Yeah. Randy. Randy the brother. Not really a coincidence, then, was it? Wait. Why was he laughing? "I don't think that was the best choice of words, petit mec."

"What?" His words had been- Oh. Oh, jeez. "I mean- I didn't mean it's good that you died, just that it's good that you're here!" At least Andrew looked kind of amused? "Okay, so, uh, great was the wrong word to use there, but I mean- C'mon, Andy, this is so much better than you being sixty or something!"

"I am not that old!" Andrew sounded close to laughter even when he was offended and that- That's why Danny had gotten along with him so quick and found him so soothing and why he had been almost jealous at the idea of 'Ghostwriter' ignoring him to talk to his soulmate. It was because he was his soulmate. "If you must know, I'm twenty-two."

"Physically," Randy 'coughed,' and, yeah, okay. Danny could grow to like Randy. He wasn't all that bad for being an annoying big brother. Plus, it was fun to see that Andrew looked even more offended and oh, man. He was- He was laughing and talking with his soulmate! This was incredible! "Hey, better than fifteen and-"

"Yes, thank you, Randy." Andrew sighed, looking back to Danny and tugging his hand back and oh, jeez, right, hand. Danny quickly let go and took a step back and…

"You knew when you let me out of that net. That's why you gasped." He had thought he just took the ghost by surprise with how fast he had moved, but that… That wasn't it. "Andrew, why didn't you tell me?" Because he had known. Danny was right there, and Andrew hadn't- He hadn't said anything.

"I was going to." Andrew spoke quickly, as if to reassure him, but it just- It sounded like an excuse. Was he really going to tell him? Or did he see… Had he seen just how bad an idea they could be? "I didn't tell you because…" Andrew trailed off as if searching for some hidden meaning and oh. Oh. He wasn't just Danny. He was Danny Phantom. He was Danny Fenton.

"No- No, I get it." Both Andrew and Randy looked to him, Danny giving a laugh that sounded as hollow as it felt. "I don't make a very good soulmate, all things considered. I mean, you being a ghost is amazing for me, but I guess me being me isn't so great for you." Fenton. Ghost hunter. Phantom. Ghost hated. It'd- Maybe one day his parents would accept him being a half-ghost, but his soulmate being a ghost? Not to mention the other ghosts would use this against them both in a heartbeat. So… "I guess I'm kind of a disappointment, huh?"

"No- Danny, that's not it. It's not about who you are." No. Some part of it was always going to be about who they were. He was half-ghost and the son of ghost hunters and his soulmate was a ghost. What a fucking joke. "I didn't tell you because I was scared."

"Doesn't really matter now though, does it?" His soulmate was a ghost. That wasn't fair. It wasn't fair. "Something like this can't work." He had gone through every possibility and every solution he could come up with, but this? There- There wasn't really a solution to death.

"Hey, you can't just go saying that something won't work without giving it a try." Aw, jeez, now Randy was going to make him feel even worse. "This idiot has been researching and reading every book in this damn place about soulmates just to try and find a way to be with you."

"Yeah, without ever telling me who he was!" It wasn't just- It wasn't just that. That wasn't the only reason Danny was doing this, but Andrew had told him nothing. It- It hurt. "He kept everything from me!"

"You had your silence. Was I not allowed mine?" Flinching at the cold tone, Danny looked to where Andrew was staring at him with nothing but anger. He looked to where his soulmate was staring at him with anger. "There seem to have been plenty of secrets of your own that you've kept."

"Guess we're more suited to each other than we thought, huh?" Stupid. He had been so- He should have never written on his hand that day. Everything would have been better if he had just followed his parents' rules. "Fine. You want your silence?"

Danny focused on his heartbeat and found that ball of cold tucked away right underneath. He grabbed it with everything in him and forced himself to fall into it and it was almost relief when the change snapped around him. Taking only a moment to make sure he had his powers under control, Danny looked back to Andrew and it wasn't fair, but…

"You can have it back." With that, Danny shot towards the front doors, triggering his change back to human to phase through the doors before he was once again Phantom and flying through the air as quick as he could.

Danny should have stopped this a long time ago, but he had been so hopeful and now look where that had gotten him and no- No. It was fine, now- It was great! Now this could end, things would go back to normal, and he and Andrew would be just fine.

Danny and Andrew had spent their entire lives without soulmates. It would be fine if they went back to that again, right? It was fine. It… Heh.

His Christmases really were the worst.

::

Silence. For the first time since this whole soulmate business had begun, there was nothing but silence from Vidya and Randy. Perhaps that was for the best, seeing as there was no way that Andrew would be able to find a way out of this mess. He had been so careful to try and not ruin his budding relationship with Danny, and instead he had ended up destroying any chance there could have been.

How had it gone like this? Things had been going so well between them! Danny had been safe and warm and happy and had laughed at his jokes and teased him and was so sweet and then… It would have been too easy to blame Randy for pushing the conversation, but Danny was clever. Andrew didn't know his mate as well as he wanted, but he knew he was clever. Danny always would have found out eventually.

Andrew glanced down to his wrist and felt his heart near break at seeing the hearts and stars had been messily scrubbed off to make way for smeared ink. He… Danny wouldn't really stop all communication with him, would he? Yes, alright, Andrew had been in the wrong this time around, but- But…

"Well?" Startling at the first word spoken since Danny left, Andrew looked over to his brother, half surprised when he didn't speak again.

"As surprising as this might be, I'm afraid I don't yet have ability to read minds." The look he was given reminded him far too much of the old days when Andrew had become carried away and needed to be reigned back in. It was a look he was rather tired of seeing. "What."

"Well aren't you going to go after him?" Wh… What? Go after him? "I mean, we all know where that kid lives, yeah? He's the Fenton kid, for God's sake." Yes, that rather seemed to be the problem in all of this. "You can find him in a heartbeat and then everything will be okay, and you can be together and have your sappy ending and happily ever-"

"You don't get it, do you?" How could he? Randy didn't have a soulmate- Randy wouldn't ever have a soulmate. How could he understand this? It wasn't as simple as a fairy tale. "Danny doesn't want me."

"Really? Because you two seemed to be doing just fine when you were cuddled up on that couch and feeding him cookies." That- That was before Danny knew they were mates! And look how great it turned out when he discovered the truth!

"Yes, and then he discovered that I'm his mate and decided that I wasn't what he wanted." It had always been heading towards this, though, the second Andrew had discovered his mate was alive. But… He was half ghost. He understood. He would have understood. "Maybe he was right."

"The hell he was. You always do this! You always have to put yourself down and- Andy, look at me." Randy had him pinned by a hand on the back of his neck and was half glaring at him, Andrew wondering how fast he could get away. "You can't get away and you're a great person, Andy. You had better never repeat this or tell anyone I said it, but anyone would be lucky to have you as a mate."

"You're my brother. You have to say that when I get my heart broken." Ah, that was it, wasn't it? His heart felt like it had been shattered. Heartbroken didn't begin to describe the pain.

"When have you ever known me to say shit I didn't mean?" Well… "Besides when I'm trying to charm someone."

"You saw the way he looked when he left," Andrew whispered, voice near gone as he swallowed. Just remembering that look was horrible enough. "He wants nothing to do with me, Randy-"

"Bull fucking shit. You heard the kid. He was goddamn near stalking you to try and find you." Yes, there was that, he supposed. It was kind of cute, but that was when Danny thought him to be human!

"Then explain why he left. He was angry because I lied to him, yes, but that's not- That's not something you leave over, is it?"

"That's probably something you should ask him." Randy pressed harder against his neck for a moment before letting go. "So, what are you going to do?"

"Sitting in the dark and pondering where I went wrong in life seems like a rather good start to things." At the glare shot his way, Andrew gave a quiet sigh. "Randy… He doesn't want to see me. It's best if I wait until he writes and tells me that he wants something to do with me."

"Kid was wrong about one thing." Oh? "You're the one who's the disappointment." Startling, Andrew looked up to where Randy was walking away calmly, not a trace of guilt in his steps.

Andrew waited until he was gone to cross his arms and mutter to himself. "That's not going to work." It wasn't. He was far too old for something like guilt tripping to work on him anymore. This was a mess of their own design and it… It was for the best, this way. The two of them were both used to not having a soulmate. There was no need to worry.

Except… Andrew couldn't stop remembering all those little secrets scribbled onto his skin late at night. He couldn't help but to remember the stars scribbled across him and next to each idea that was loved and adored. It seemed each second that passed was another word on his skin that he remembered and fuck.

Leave it to Randy to knock some sense into him, he supposed, but he wasn't- He couldn't let it end this way. He would not let today be the last day he saw Danny's smile or heard his laugh. He wouldn't let it be. He wouldn't let this story end in tragedy. Not this one. Not this one.

This story of theirs had seen enough sadness and he was going to make sure there wasn't anymore.

"Randy! I'll be back later!" Andrew could feel the smug grin his brother had on, but he supposed he could excuse it just this once. He had earned it with how much he had dealt with from Andrew the last few months.

Right. Fenton. Danny Fenton. That meant the Fenton Portal would lead Andrew straight to him- God, to think that Danny had lived so close. They could have been spending time together all this time and- Focus. He was going to change things.

Andrew had never been much in the habit of making promises, but just… Just one last promise. He would make one last promise that he would fix this.

Silence wasn't good enough anymore.

::

"That… Oh, Danny." Jazz seemed to be utterly speechless, Danny not sure if that was a blessing or a curse as he struggled into one of his jackets and pulled the hood up. Andrew hadn't tried to write back to him yet, but Danny didn't want to wait around until he did. "So, your soulmate is…"

"Yeah." Pulling the sleeves down to the tips of his fingers, Danny collapsed on his bed with a heavy sigh. If he ever saw Andrew's words again then he would run back to him in a heartbeat. He knew himself that well. "Yeah, he is."

"That- That doesn't have to be a bad thing, right? I mean, let's think this through logically-" Making sure to cut Jazz off before she could use her evil pyscho powers, Danny threw a pillow at her. It was very effective until it was thrown back at him. "I'm trying to help-"

"I don't want help- I don't need help just like I don't need a soulmate." Which he didn't. Danny had gone years thinking he didn't have a soulmate, so it was easy to pretend again that he didn't have one. Lots of people didn't have soulmates or didn't like who they were destined for. He didn't need a soulmate. Andrew would be fine. This was for the best for both of them. "It's better this way."

"Oh, Danny…" Jazz's voice was soft and understanding and accepting and Danny hated it. It was better this way, but it still- It still… "You really are in love with him, aren't you?"

"He's a ghost, Jazz, and in case you didn't notice, our parents are ghost hunters. I'm also still half human. As far as we know I'll just- I'll keep growing and aging and getting older while he'll just be stuck in that age forever. I was stupid to think this could ever work."

"No, no, Danny, you weren't stupid for trying to make this work. Everyone wants a chance with their soulmates, even if it's difficult. And for the record? You are not a disappointment. I can't believe you actually think that!"

"I don't." Danny watched her get ready to ramp herself up into an argument to defend him only to realize what he had said. It was effort to not let out a laugh. "I don't think I'm a disappointment."

"Then why… You told me that's one of the things you said to those two before you left." Yeah. He had said that. "Danny. What did you do?"

"I didn't end things like that because I was a disappointment. I did it to keep him safe." At the pained look, Danny gave a bitter laugh and shifted on the bed, curling up more onto his side. "Yeah, yeah, I know. Hero complex."

"A big one." Jazz was hesitant and careful, but she finally rested a hand on his head, playing with his hair lightly. God, Danny really was bad off if Jazz was being so careful and sweet with him. "It could still work."

"Yeah. That's the terrifying part." Because it had been so easy to see them working together. Andrew hadn't wasted a moment to take Danny in and bandage him up. He had helped him calm down, kept him safe, taught him about the Ghost Zone, and had even give him those cookies. He had… They had acted like friends without even trying.

He hadn't realized it then, but he and Andrew had interacted like they had always known each other, laughing and joking and trying to one up each other's stories and it had been so good. Danny hadn't even realized how happy he was until he had followed the two to ask 'Ghostwriter' something and then overheard them and…

Would it have been better for Danny to never hear that conversation? A part of him felt that it was better this way. Stop it all before they got attached and it hurt even worse when the truth came spilling out. But… God, it could have been amazing. They… They could have been amazing.

"It's not too late to go back and talk things out with him, you know." Yes, it was. Andrew would probably never want to speak to him again, anyways, judging by how cold and angry he was when Danny left. "Everyone says things they don't mean when they're upset, Danny."

"He could get hurt." Shaking his head as Jazz stopped petting his hair, Danny sat up with a frustrated groan. "You don't- Neither of you get it."

"Then explain it to me." Jazz straightened her back and crossed her arms, looking ready to argue her point until she won. God, she probably was.

"He's a ghost and Mom and Dad are ghost hunters. What do you think is gonna happen when they notice I'm so damn happy? It'll only take one slip for them to realize I've met my soulmate. Don't you think they're gonna be pretty worried and confused when they're some of the ones who know writing started appearing on my arms when I was born? They're pretty bad at their job, but they're not incompetent. What do you think they'll do when they find out a ghost is their son's soulmate?"

"Change their opinions and be supportive of their obviously happy son?" Yeah, right. "They'd go ghost crazy."

"They'd go ghost crazy," Danny nodded, nervously tugging his sleeves down again before rubbing at his eyes as hard as he could. "It's not fair." It had been perfect. Andrew being a ghost had been perfect and explained it all and it had been the best outcome for what they had started with.

"Life often isn't," Jazz said softly, Danny opening his eyes and blinking away dark spots as he stared at where Jazz was brushing her fingers over completely blank arms. "That just makes everything a challenge, though, don't you think? And what are we Fentons good at?"

"Making fudge?" Hiding a grin at the 'glare' he was given, Danny sighed dramatically. "Fentons never back down from a challenge-"

"That's right we don't! Did our parents give up when they thought they had failed when building an experimental portal?"

"They probably should have, considering the results of said portal-"

"No, they didn't!" Oh, jeez, she was in one of her 'inspiring speech' modes. This was going to take a while. "And did I give up when Harvard said I was too young to apply?"

"In their defense, you were a sophomore. What college wouldn't be a little freaked out?"

"No! I did even better and made them jealous when I considered going to Yale! And you! Did you give up when you got ghost powers!"

"Oh my god, why are you so dramatic? You're the worst big sister ever." Danny was laughing through his words, but, really. It was hard not to when Jazz was making such dramatic, sweeping gestures and throwing her arms about.

"No! You did not!" She was definitely doing all of this to make Danny laugh. "You kept at it you go-getter, you!"

"Can I trade you in for a puppy or something? That'd be the best Christmas present. I'd even make sure to get a super smart puppy that gets into super smart puppy schools."

"The point, little brother, is that no matter what life throws at you, I know you can handle it, and not just because you're a Fenton." Jazz stood up and adjusted her clothing before pulling Danny into a tight hug. "It's because you're you."

Quiet and still for a few moments, Danny sighed as he hugged Jazz back just as tightly. At least life had given him pretty good friends and family. "Thanks, Jazz."

"And don't worry. Tomorrow we can go back to being hated enemies and rivals." Jazz laughed with him and managed to tighten the hug even more for a moment before letting him go. "I'll give you some space, but my door's open if you need to talk- Well, metaphorically it is. You know how loud they get."

With that, Jazz was smiling and leaving his room, quietly closing the door behind her. Danny stared at the door for a moment before collapsing backwards and staring up at his ceiling. This… It really had been for the best.

Even if Andrew was amazing and Danny wanted a chance with him so badly, they would be okay. It would be bad for the next few months, but the empty feeling he had would go away. He was sure of it. Besides, Andrew would be safe, now. That was the important, part.

It still didn't stop Danny from wishing that he could have some movie moment where Andrew stormed into his room and swept him off his feet and convinced him to give them a chance. Ugh. He needed to stop reading the books Sam recommended him.

It was over. This- This whatever was over and done with and Danny would never have to worry about it again. So why was he still hoping? He shouldn't be wishing more than anything for Andrew to follow him. That was the opposite of what he wanted, but…

It wasn't wrong, was it? For him to wish for things to be different between them. For him to wish that they had a different start - any start except this one. God, it could have been- It could have been great.

Meeting in a coffee shop like a thousand stories always talked about and exchanging jokes and witty one lines and noticing that the handwriting on the cup looked the same as the writing on the skin.

Bumping into each other in a library and reaching for the same book and starting an argument over who deserved it more only for one of them to push their sleeves up to try and prove a point and see words that were the same.

A transfer student in high school that didn't know anyone and was closed off and cold but opened up with just the right words and was always writing and a quick peek over to see that writing was familiar as could be.

Meeting while just out in public. Saving him from a ghost fight. Being saved while chased after by a hunter. Meeting while running away from something worse. Meeting while being run into in hopes of escape. Chasing each other because of a half-remembered memory from childhood. Anything. Just anything but this.

Jazz had been right. Life really wasn't fair to them.

::

It took a bit of focus, but Andrew managed to suppress his ghostly signature before he went invisible and flew through the open portal. He didn't go to the human world as often as Randy, so Andrew wasn't quite prepared for the feeling of static rolling across skin immediately followed by the sensation and pressure of water pressing and moving around him for a few seconds, but at least he stayed quiet through it.

Really, those ghost portals were far too strange, and that was coming from a ghost who had lived in the Zone for over twenty years- Right. Focus. Danny. He was here for Danny and… This must have been the laboratory basement Danny had once mentioned. He had said that his parents were scientists, but Andrew never would have connected that to ghost hunters. Although, he supposed a fair bit of science had gone into building the Fenton Portal.

"Rather quiet," Andrew mused to himself, flying up the stairs and poking his head into what was the kitchen. It seemed to be quiet and, judging by the time, no doubt everyone was in their rooms. It had been close to afternoon when Danny showed up and, well, a few hours may have passed while in the library.

Setting his feet on the floor, Andrew kept himself invisible as he walked through the house with a small smile. This was where his mate lived, then. This was the house of the son of ghost hunters who became half-ghost and immediately used his powers to save the town and do good.

What a beautiful story his mate was, and yet… What heartbreak he had been through. Looking to the stairs and steeling himself, Andrew carefully and quietly flew up them, and, right. There was no longer any room in this story for that heartbreak.

As he flew up the stairs, Andrew caught glimpses of the other rooms of the house, mentally recalling all the stories Danny had told him over the last few months. He had- He had been so blind. Danny had been sharing his life with him since the moment he wrote that shaking and scared 'hi' and now he was as alone and scared as Andrew had first been.

It was time to flip the script. It wouldn't be perfect - it would never be perfect, but they could make it into something good. Stopping in front of a simple wooden door with white paint peeling off and aged NASA posters just barely hanging on, Andrew raised his fist and gave a firm, but gentle knock as he became visible again.

"No more sibling bonding talk, Jazz! I know you're using me for some college entry thesis of acceptance of yours!" Oh, goodness, there was so much wrong with that sentence and Andrew didn't know where to begin- Well, no. He did know where to begin.

"It's not Jazz." It didn't even feel like a full second before the door was thrown up, Danny staring up at him with wide blue eyes that looked too watery to be coincidence and oh, his sweet mate.

"Andrew?" Danny was near breathless and the emotions in his eyes were too many for even Andrew to put words to. He saw hope, though. That was all he needed to see. "You're not- You weren't supposed to follow me-"

"I didn't follow you. I merely followed the path you took after you had left. Completely different thing." Andrew grinned while Danny looked to be fighting off tears. "You couldn't have believed that I would give up that easily."

"Andy, you can't- We can't- My parents are ghost hunters. I'm Danny Phantom. Every ghost and human in both worlds would be out for you, either because you're a ghost or because you're mine!"

"I rather like the thought of being yours." Oh, really. Danny looked far too sweet in that overly large jacket of his with the overly bright blush. "Tell me that you don't want me as your soulmate."

"I-" Danny swallowed, words cutting off with a dry click of his throat as he looked to the floor. "I can't." He looked like he was more angry than upset, which, really, that was far too endearing. "I keep trying to be upset that you're my soulmate, but I can't- I can't."

"Oh, Danny." Andrew gently took Danny's hand and pushed the sleeve up enough to see his own scribbled hearts peek back out at him. "Danny, you… I had given up hope on having a soulmate and then that stupid password followed by those two letters appeared and…"

"And you realized your soulmate had been hiding from you," Danny sighed, looking as if he was resigned to carry his guilt along with the world that weighed on his shoulders. Such a silly mate.

"And then I realized how much I wanted you. I realized how glad I was that it was your words on my skin." Andrew let Danny's hand slip out of his, the teen still looking lost and uncertain and alright. It looked like they would do this a different way, then.

Sticking out his hand, Andrew gave what he knew was a silly grin. "Hello. My name is Andrew Riter." Ah, good. Danny was already looking at him like he was crazy. "I'm physically and mentally twenty-two, I obsess over books and writing and reading them far more than I'm comfortable with sometimes, I love my brother's baking more than anything and will die all over again before admitting it, I'm a storyteller before anything else, and I've always been a bit of an idiot."

Danny was staring at him with wide eyes that were already spilling over with tears, Andrew not faltering for a moment because he knew- He knew that this was the right choice. Danny would always be the right choice. "I'm bad at caring about people and I'm even worse at showing it. There are also times where I get scared of losing all the good that could be possible in my life, but I'm working on it and getting better.

"I'm a ghost. I died when I was twenty-two and I'm still here. I think I'm here for a lot of reasons, but part of it was just that I was waiting for you." Andrew smiled wider. "It's nice to finally meet you."

Danny's bubbling laughter were more like hiccups, the teen moving and clutching onto Andrew's hand tightly enough to leave marks as he took a shaking breath. "I'm Danny. Danny Fenton. I'm a sophomore in high school and I'll be sixteen in a few months in April. I became half-ghost because of a pretty stupid accident and I followed the pattern of a comic book superhero and started protecting the town.

"I hate pineapples and toast more than anything, I have a lot of enemies that probably want to see me actually dead, I'm scared for what feels like every single second of my life, and I have a problem with trusting others with the truth when I'm trying to protect them. I'm a pretty bad boyfriend because I'll never remember the important stuff, but I'm kind of good at remembering little things and also at holding onto things and not letting them go and-"

Danny took a deep breath after having spoken near everything at once, Andrew doing his best not to laugh as Danny squeezed his hand again with a bright, beaming smile. "And I think we're going to be great friends."

"I couldn't agree more." Andrew squeezed back, knowing that there was going to be a lot of work before things would be alright between them. This was still a start, though. This was all they needed. It was going to be difficult, but… "As I said. It's nice to meet you, Danny."

The warm, bubbling laughter had him feeling like it would all work out. "It's nice to meet you, too, Andrew."