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The Fault In Our Skin

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First thing you should know about AmazingPhil- Phil Lester for those of you who never Internet- was that he is famous. The most famous YouTuber with millions of subscribers and a unique kind of fame. Filming from his bedroom and pushing LGBT+ rights.

"Hey guys," Phil grinned, his GoPro camera providing less-than-perfect quality, "You'll never guess what's happened."

"I got my soulmark!" Phil cried happily, rolling up his sleeve. On his arm there was a tattoo- almost like a galaxy.

"I've not found someone else who has this soulmark," Phil frowned for a second, "But I'm sure I will! Whoever they are, I'm sure they're lovely. And if you're watching this video, then hi there! Can't wait to meet you."

Dan paused the video and stared at the screen in shock. AmazingPhil. No, it can't be, thoughts flew through Dan's head, He'd never have a soulmate like you, so obviously your soulmark won't match. But Dan had gotten his soulmark that day. And it was a beautiful combination of blues, greens, purples, and silvers to the point where it looked like a Shane Dawson video.

Dan's soulmark matched.

Phil, Dan DM-ed him on Twitter, I think we're soulmates. Look. Dan sent him a picture of his soulmark. He wasn't expecting Phil to respond.

Where do you live? Generally, I'm not asking for a street address. Dan definitely wasn't freaking out. He definitely wasn't flailing around, desperately trying to wrap his head around the fact that Phil had noticed him, oh God.

Manchester, London.

When can we meet? Phil's message sent shivers down Dan's spine. Was he really going to meet Phil? It was a dream. It had to be a dream.

Tomorrow. I'll buy tickets to Reading. Dan typed.

Perfect! I'll be there. Noon? Phil replied. Dan could barely believe he was in a conversation with his idol, never mind the fact that he was going to meet him soon.

Sure! See you then. I'll be wearing a black t-shirt with an eclipse on it and black skinny jeans. Oh, btw, my name's Dan Howell. Dan turned his phone off and fell asleep right away, not even bothering to watch anybody else's videos that they had posted. That could wait until after he'd met Phil.


Dan tapped on things. All the time. And if you thought it was annoying normally- well, you'd absolutely hate Dan when Dan was anxious. Dan's leg bounced, Dan's opposite hand tapped on the arm rest, and pretty much every other passenger on the Underground was giving him a look.

"Sorry," Dan apologized, "'Bout to meet my soulmate." He grinned. Everyone seemed to forgive him a little bit, meeting your soulmate for the first time was stressful as hell, especially if said soulmate was well-known, even locally. The Underground stopped at Reading and Dan got off. He stepped off of the train and onto the platform, searching for the famous mane of black hair.

He found the black hair and the blue eyes that filled his dreams the night previous.

"Phil!" Dan said excitedly, racing forward into his soulmate's arms.

"Hey," Phil hugged Dan tightly, equally excited. Almost nobody recognized Phil when he was hugging Dan, and those who did respected his space.

"We should get to know each other," Dan smiled into Phil's shoulder.

"Back at my place," Phil said, returning the smile. Dan could've predicted the cup of tea at Phil's place. He could've predicted the Mario Kart. He couldn't have predicted the fans' reaction- explosively positive. He couldn't have predicted the millions of edits (somehow someone found a picture of their first hug- which Dan immediately commended. They'd reached peak creepiness.) or the songs- God, the songs were beautiful and both Dan and Phil sang them almost every day- or the fan videos or the demand for 'soulmate tags' and 'soulmate challenges' and 'the newly-soulmatched game'.

Dan could have predicted falling in love with Phil. That's what soulmates are supposed to do.

Dan could never have predicted that Phil fell in love with him. He just didn't think he would be someone people could fall in love with.

"I love you,"

It was said like a statement, a question, a remark, a comment, a reassurance, a truth.

And they meant it; they meant it more than anything they'd ever said before.

Chapter Text

"Howell, Daniel James," The grey walls left anybody who entered feeling depressed. Dan walked sadly to the front desk of the clinic. He hadn't ever had a soulmark, wasn't going to feel his soulmate's presence, wasn't going to live Happily Ever After.

"Have you experienced a sharp pain in any location on your body?" The physician asked Dan. Dan shook his head. There was such a thing as a 'Late Bloomer', but they were just as rare as snow in the summer. Dan never had the fateful words appear on his skin, not on his arm or his back or his leg. Honestly, at this point he'd cry from happiness if the words "HOLY FUCKING SHIT!" appeared on his forehead in rainbow colors.

"What I recommend for patients like you is just some simple therapy sessions," The doctor said, "Not having a soulmate can add emotional barriers to your life, but you can overcome them."

"Okay," Dan sighed. He wasn't unhappy, per say, just... empty. From being told that this was the only way to be happy. That he would grow up to find his soulmate and live happily-ever-fucking-after.

"It will get better," Dan didn't understand why the doctor was trying to drill this message into Dan's head. Well, he did, as most people without soulmates wound up committing suicide, but Dan obviously wouldn't just... become a statistic. That's what he was afraid of- not death, but of just being 'one of the nine in ten'.

"I know," Dan acknowledged the doctor's efforts. He tries, Dan figured, might as well make him feel good.

"Good," The doctor said, "Here's a card for Samantha, I really recommend her for people without soulmarks. Here are some pamphlets for popular websites for people without soulmarks, too."

"Thank you," Dan said, falsely cheery. He knew what really came with no soulmark. The angry Christians, ranting about how he was a 'sin' and going to Hell, how he was discriminated against because there was a certain expectation that people without soulmarks couldn't love, how he could never adopt a kid with his partner or sign up for tax benefits of being in a soulmate-relationship. Instead of LGBT+ positive YouTubers, there were Anti-Soulmark positive YouTubers who had found love and had gotten their first words of that love tattooed on their skin.

"Goodbye," The doctor said to Dan, letting him out. Dan's parents had been worried yet supportive, they'd been the ones to register Dan on the no-soulmate list, and the ones to get him to visit a doctor, mostly because if anybody hadn't received their soulmark by sixteen, it was probably for medical reasons.

"Dan!" Dan's mom said, wrapping him in a hug, "How's it going?"

"Just fine, mum," Dan said coolly, "I'd much rather be alone right now."

"Oh, dear, I understand," Dan's mom returned, moving on to the kitchen, probably to cook something (she was rather addicted to cooking- so much to the point where Dan's dad would have to tell her to get out of the kitchen).

Dan got on his laptop and Skyped with his best friend Phil. They'd been together for so many years Dan could barely even remember their first words.

"Hey," Dan said sadly.

"Don't look so down," Phil said, "What's wrong?"

"I haven't got my soulmark and they've suggested I go see a therapist and start going on dating websites for desperate twenty year olds." Dan sighed.

"It's okay," Phil said, "I haven't got my soulmark either."

"Oh," Dan said, "You haven't?" It was kind of a shock- Phil was so great Dan was really surprised when he didn't have someone programmed by fate to love him.

"Nope," Phil shook his head.

"Do you-" Dan had never asked anyone out before, "Want to go to dinner sometime?"

"How about tonight? I can come over to your place." Phil grinned. Dan smiled back- perhaps a little weakly considering the fact that he'd just received the worst news of his life- and pressed the 'end call' button.

"Hey mum, Phil's coming over!" Dan shouted.

"Okay," Dan's mom shouted back.


Something had changed between the two of them. Instead of being close friends, they were close... something other than friends. They were just as inseparable, in fact, they bordered on clingy. The dynamic had shifted so that they would hold hands in public, almost as if they were afraid to lose one another.

"God hates Nomarks!" A man on the street corner called. Dan and Phil glared at him.

"You got a problem with us?" Dan shouted.

"I don't, God does!" The man returned.

"Well then, let's give God a show," Dan smirked, bringing his face closer to Phil's. It felt nice to kiss him- not perfect, nothing would ever be perfect with them- but nice. Dan could do it for a long time.

"Dan, people are staring," Phil muttered.

"Let them stare," Dan sighed into the kiss. Most people actually didn't care, some wolf-whistled, a few mothers hid their children's eyes as if the sight of two Nomarks kissing could lessen the chances of their kids getting a mark.

"So I guess this makes us boyfriends?" Phil asked into the kiss.

"Of course, you bumbling idiot." Dan said, looping his arm around Phil's shoulder as the two walked away.


The tattoo didn't even hurt that much. Just a simple, "Yeah," Phil had given when Dan asked to be his lab partner in year five.

Phil's was a bit more complicated, but he didn't mind. The two shared a long kiss after to cement their decisions.

"I love you," Dan said. He'd forgotten what it had felt like to not have a soulmate- he had a Phil. And that was close enough.

"I love you too," Phil replied, deepening the kiss. The two had become inseparable in the way that soulmates were inseparable- it almost physically hurt to not be near each other. The two slept together, ate together, and did every dull task together because it made it not-boring.

They truly loved each other, even if they weren't soulmates.

And they lived Happily Ever After.

Chapter Text

Dan knew the system; when you fell in love with someone a tally mark would appear on your wrist. Red for unrequited, black for requited, blue for forgotten, and scarred when your love died.

It was a shit system.

Dan remembered back in school when he'd be teased. "Heartless Howell," a clever yet traumatizing nick-name, was bestowed upon the young boy. He'd never had a mark- his mother had told him that being in love was a waste. She'd only had one scarred mark her whole life.

So why was he supposed to room with someone who was absolutely covered in tally marks? Red, blue, and scarred marks covered Phil's body, almost to the point where Phil couldn't tell if he'd gotten a new one. But you always could- many people described receiving a new tally mark as if they were getting a tattoo of a single line. But Dan wouldn't know.

"Hey, mate," Phil smiled from the couch.

"Hello," Dan said politely. The two sat uncomfortably on the couch for a while, absolutely refusing to address the elephant in the room.

"Why don't you have any tally marks?" Phil asked. Dan shrugged.

"Never fallen in love," Dan said, "I find love to be a rather, well, heartbreaking. Why do you have so many?"

"I fall in love way too easily," Phil grinned, "I've fallen in love with nearly everyone I've met. You must live a lonely life to have never fallen in love with anybody. I've fallen in love with book characters and pets and even ideas."

Dan didn't know what to say to that.

"I haven't." Dan said, suddenly feeling downcast. Again. It seemed that Phil was going to be just like the kids Dan had faced before- ruthless and ironically heartless.

"I'm sorry," Phil said, "If it's a touchy subject."

"No," Dan sighed, burying his face in his hands.

Phil felt a line appear on his back. He winced a little and hoped Dan didn't notice.

"You okay?" Dan asked. Dammit.

"Uh, yeah," Phil stuttered, "Just... must've slept funny, got a crick in my neck."

"Okay," Dan said wearily. He just wanted to sleep.

"You seem tired." Phil frowned.

"I am," Dan yawned.

"Goodnight then," Phil said. Dan left the room for his own- and he didn't suspect a thing.


It was weeks later when Phil felt another sting on his back. This was one he'd only felt a few times- it felt less like a tattoo and more like a papercut. He looked in the mirror and saw the third black mark he'd ever gotten.

He knew who left it.


Dan was falling in love with Phil. He didn't want to- he couldn't help it.

So when he was awoken by a stinging sensation on his wrist, he felt like crying. Love didn't end happily.

The mark was black.

Dan lost it. He was crying into his knees, not caring if it drew Phil's attention. Phil burst into his room.

"What's wrong?" Phil gasped, hurrying to Dan's side.

"N-nothing," Dan said. He hid his face in his knees.

"It's something." Phil frowned. Dan rolled up his sleeve and revealed the mark.

"You'll leave me now, won't you?" Dan asked, voice barely a whisper.

"No!" Phil said, "Of course not. It's pretty obvious, but I love you."

"I know," Dan chuckled through his tears, and Phil's only thought was Dan just Han Solo'd me. Phil encased Dan in a warm hug, just sitting there. It was really comforting, and Dan could finally see why Phil fell in love- even if it wasn't requited.

Being in love felt like a thousand butterflies had been lit on fire in your stomach. It felt amazing. Dan stopped crying.

Phil started kissing Dan's head. His eyes, his ears, his nose, everywhere but his lips. Dan brought Phil's chin to his lips and the two sat there, kissing, for... they didn't know how long. It could have been seconds or days or millennia.

It felt right.

Dan was still terrified. Phil knew why- Dan was terrified that Phil would leave him. So Phil spent every second he possibly could with Dan, and Dan never saw that mark turn blue.

Chapter Text

Danielle's name wasn't Danielle. It was Daniel, thank you very much. Daniel James Howell. None of this Danielle Jane Howell shit. Yes, Dan was transgender. No, he was not pleased about it, nor were his parents. They were a bit too convinced it was "Just a phase."

It was not.

On Dan's eighth birthday (he'd received a Barbie doll from his parents- he'd quickly beheaded and defiled it- and a Thor action figure from his best friend Rebecca- which was his favorite present) at midnight, a name appeared on his wrist. Philip Michael Lester. This was problematic, and only made his parents believe more that he was just "going through a phase".

"Are you sure you wouldn't like to trade in the Thor doll for a dress? Or some high-heels? Or make-up?" Dan's mom asked.

"A., it's an action figure," Dan said, "And B., I love him. He could beat up Barbie any day." Dan grinned maliciously and popped off one of Barbie's arms.

"None of that!" Dan's father said, "Danielle, we gave you that doll for a reason, please respect it."

"Okay," Dan sighed, the light of mischief not gone from his eyes.


Dan Googled his soulmate for the thirtieth time. Phil had a recently gotten a Facebook and a Twitter, so Dan could look him up (stalk him).

Hey Phil, Dan DM-ed him, Its Danielle. Dan sighed at the use of his 'feminine' name. It had been seven years and Phil was just getting out there, and the fifteen-year-old had certainly not outgrown his "phase".

Who? Phil replied.

Can we just Skype? My Skype name; Danisnotonfire Dan asked, feeling dread build up in his stomach. What if Phil had someone else's name on his arm? Or if Danielle Jane Howell was who Dan really was?

Dan's IPad rang. He accepted the Skype call and Phil's face- Dan guessed- popped up.

"Hello," Phil said.

"Hi," Dan said back, "So, I- uh- your name's on my arm."

"Oh, really?" Phil asked. He was just about as old as Dan, with straight, jet-black hair which had probably seen a dye-job or two.

"Yeah," Dan sighed, "What name's on yours?"

"Daniel James Howell." Phil said. Dan couldn't believe it.

"R-really?" Dan cracked a smile. Phil nodded, grinning. Dan burst into tears.

"Are you okay?" Phil asked immediately.

"Y-yeah," Dan sobbed, "Can you meet me somewhere?"

"Of course," Phil said. Dan immediately told Phil to meet him at a specific Bubble Tea House and asked his mom to drive him.

"I've found my soulmate," Dan said, wiping his eyes, "He lives in Manchester. He agreed to meet me at a Bubble Tea House after we Skyped. Can you take me?"

"Why are you crying, Honey?" Dan's mom asked, hugging Dan tightly, "Is your soulmate mean?"

"No, no," Dan said, "Of course not. Just take me?"

"Sure, Danielle," Dan's mom said, "My precious girl's finally meeting her big, strong man!"

Dan's heart sank.

"You've got to wear your prettiest dress." Dan's mom squealed.

"Actually, I'd rather wear a button-down and some pants-"

"Nonsense!" Dan's father crowed, "Susan, you get Danielle all dressed up. I'll bring the camera."

Dan's heart was officially to the floor. Dan's mom dragged him through an extremely emasculating process of putting on the dress, tights, flats, doing make-up, and straightening hair- not to mention the underwire bra that hurt like hell.

"Perfect," Dan's mom squealed. Dan's father looked all too proud.

Dan felt like crying.

The three drove to the specified Bubble Tea House and Dan looked around for Phil, finding him.

"Hey Phil," Dan said nervously.

"Who're you?" Phil asked. Dan felt a tear drip down his cheek and all of a sudden it clicked in Phil's mind.

"Dan?" Phil asked. Dan nodded and the two embraced, Dan sniffling into Phil's shoulder. Phil comforted Dan and Dan's parents looked extremely confused.

"What's wrong Danielle?" Dan's mom asked. It clicked for Phil even more- he could almost see in his mind the fights about Dan's being trans, the fights over binders and make-up, and clearly Dan hadn't won this fight.

"It's okay," Phil said soothingly, rubbing small circles into Dan's back and ignoring the fact that they were in a public setting and that Phil had just met him.

"Can we leave?" Dan asked, voice barely a whisper.

"Of course," Phil said gently, "Anything you want, Bear."

"Now just wait a minute," Dan's father said, "How do I know you don't mean our daughter any harm?"

"Your son is perfectly safe with me, Howell," Phil said coldly.

"It's just a phase," Dan's father said defensively, "I think you need to step off our case and quit being involved with our daughter."

"I think you misgendering your son will have devastating effects," Phil narrowed his eyes, "Especially when my arm says otherwise." Phil rolled up his sleeve and showed Dan's father the words Daniel James Howell written on Phil's skin in Dan's exact handwriting.

"I think I've won here," Phil said to Dan's parents, who had shut up, "Let's go, Bear."

"Thank you," Dan said once the two had gotten to Phil's car.

"Any time," Phil said, "After all, that's what friends are for."

"Just friends?" Dan asked.

"We can be more if you want, but I assumed you'd want to take it slow," Phil said, backing out. Dan nodded, thinking.


Phil lent Dan some of his jeans and a t-shirt of his (it fit strangely well), and Dan got out some make-up cleaner and a binder he'd snuck in his purse. He cleaned everything off and got changed.

"You look handsome," Phil knew to be careful with his words. Even if he trusted Dan to not go off at the slightest incident, Phil didn't want to make him uncomfortable in any way.

"Thank you," Dan said, hugging Phil properly and not in the desperate, clingy way he had at the Bubble Tea House. Dan felt his phone buzz in his pocket.

If you're staying the night, don't bother coming back, Danielle Jane Howell. Dan's father texted. Dan gasped and his hand went straight to his mouth, tears forming in his eyes again.

"What's wrong?" Phil asked, peering over Dan's shoulder. Phil frowned.

"You can stay here," Phil murmured, pressing his lips gently to Dan's neck. Dan started to cry again, not happy tears like he had when he'd Skyped with Phil- honestly Dan couldn't believe it had been a few hours since he'd met his soulmate, it felt like he'd known Phil forever.

"I can't," Dan said sadly, tears dripping down his cheeks. Phil kissed his tears away though, in several slow, calming actions.

"You can," Phil said lovingly, "Daniel James Howell, I've not known you for a day, and yet I am in love with you. Stay with me, if only to keep yourself from falling into depression." It was true- being separated from your soulmate often led to depression, even if you had just met.

"Okay," Dan breathed, relaxing into the kisses.

There would be so many more 'okay's to come.

"Stay over another night, please," Okay.

"I'll be right here for you, no matter what," Okay.

"Please don't let go," Okay.

And then, so many years later:

"Will you marry me?"

"Okay,"

Chapter Text

Dan and his friends sat around Zoe's rug. It was very soft.

"Almost time!" Dan was grinning so wide it hurt. Tyler's eyes looked like they were going to bug out of his head, and Louise was... reading Harry Potter. Anytime is Harry Potter time.

"Lou, pay fucking attention!" Tyler snapped, grabbing the book away from the fourteen-year-old. Louise looked a bit downcast at having her book forcibly removed, but otherwise began to stare at Zoe, just like the other two.

It was Zoe's fifteenth birthday, and as the oldest, she was the first one to receive a soulmate. They counted down to 'one' and suddenly a bright blue text scrawled out on Zoe's forearm. It could have been three seconds or three years old.

Hello? Are you even there?

It almost looked downcast, as if Zoe's soulmate was older than her.

"Well, write back!" Dan urged. Zoe snapped out of her daze and grabbed a black Sharpie and wrote YES in response.

I've been writing to you for a year. The writing was a little messy, and Zoe could almost tell that it held a rather angry tone.

I've just turned fifteen, Zoe wrote back. Her soulmate only put a smiley face next to it, some of the writing beginning to smear as if the recipient were crying happily.

"Congratulations," Louise smiled, bringing her best friend in for a hug.

That was a fantastic night.


A few months later, it was Louise's birthday. She'd thrown a small gathering with Dan, Tyler, and Zoe- who'd been receiving wonderful poems and doodles from her soulmate. They were sitting around a table, Louise with Sharpie in hand. Of course, it was a pink, sparkly Sharpie, because what did you expect?

At exactly 3:32 AM, Louise turned fifteen.

There was no writing on her arm. She turned to Zoe, looking depressed.

"It's okay," Zoe wrapped her in a hug, "Maybe they're just younger than you." She didn't want to think of the other possibilities. Maybe they've given up on soulmates. Maybe you don't have one.


Fast forward five weeks and Tyler's birthday was right around the corner. Normally, the four would go to Vidcon, but Tyler thought it would ruin the mood of everything if he couldn't write back to his soulmate immediately and was completely distracted from both his soulmate and the Con. The friends counted down from ten again, and Tyler was grinning from ear to ear when writing started to appear on his wrist.

It was an infinity symbol. Tyler grabbed a Sharpie and drew a smiley face, to which his soulmate wrote Hello.

Hello.

I'm Connor, what's your name?

Tyler.

I'm not gay.

The words made Tyler's heart skip a beat. Was there something wrong with him? His soulmate? Were they just platonic? Was his soulmate closeted? Was this the start of a bad joke where his soulmate would write I'm bi or I'm ace?

"Ty, I'm sorry," Dan wrapped his arms around his friend, who nearly broke down. It was almost more painful to be turned down by your soulmate than to not have one at all.


Two months and it was Dan's birthday. The last of their little group to grow up. Dan was anxious. What if he didn't have a soulmate? What if his soulmate rejected him?

"You'll be just fine," Louise smiled reassuringly, holding hands with her boyfriend, Mark. He didn't have a soulmate, either, and they'd fallen in love. They'd both given up on drawing on themselves, too.

"Thanks," Dan smiled at her, looking down at his exposed arms.

He really needed to work out more.

At 6:45, Dan's arm became covered in gorgeous drawings. His soulmate was right-handed, and Dan could spot everything from flowers to what he thought was Chewbacca.

Hey Dan wrote on his right arm.

You're finally fifteen? He could almost hear his soulmate chuckling as he wrote on his left arm.

Yep. Dan smiled to himself.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a party to attend. We'll talk later. Dan drew a smiley face on the back of his hand before throwing the Sharpie at Louise. It hit her shoulder uncapped, and left a giant black mark on her shoulder.

"Okay, that's it you little fucktruck," Louise rarely sweared, but when she did it was serious. She jumped over the coffee table and drew cat whiskers on Dan's face.

"Stop! Stop!" Dan laughed as Louise drew devil horns on his forehead and a dick on his shoulder. He almost missed the Looks like you're having one hell of a party, there, his soulmate had written.

"Hey, uh, Lou?" Mark called out. Louise immediately stopped and turned around to find Mark inspecting his shoulder.

"Where's your mark?" He asked. Louise pointed at her shoulder, which, due to the shirt she was wearing, was uncovered.

"I've got one there too," He said, tears welling up in his eyes.

"Wait," Tyler said, "Stop the presses. Did you two just... forcibly become soulmates?"

"Yes." Louise and Mark answered in unison. They laughed and kissed, and in that moment everybody was happy. Zoe and Dan could barely keep their eyes off of their arms- Zoe's was writing her a poem and damn was he good at poetry.

Dan's was writing Fall Out Boy lyrics on his arm. He couldn't have been prouder.

Well, I say everybody was happy. Tyler was happy, too.

But not really.


In three years, Dan had found his soulmate in the wonderful Philip Michael Lester. Tyler's soulmate hadn't spoken to him since the first night, although Tyler drew him pictures and wrote song lyrics down every day.

"Even if he doesn't love me," Tyler explained to Zoe one day, "At least he'll have something beautiful to look at when he gets up in the morning."

Zoe wrapped him in a hug. Her and her soulmate- Alfie- had decided to get to know each other a little bit before they met in person. A wise decision, but they soon realized that they would fall in love given the chance to see each other. They traded numbers and Zoe drew a little drawing for Alfie every day, which he modified to his heart's content.

"You are officially too adorable," Zoe chuckled. Tyler chuckled too, if a bit sadly.

It wasn't until seven o'clock that night on the dot that Tyler knew something was up.

"He- he wrote me back!" Tyler squealed, practically screaming.

"Calm down, let me see," Zoe smiled, rolling up Tyler's sleeve to reveal a delicate penmanship, You're an amazing artist.

"It... It looks different," Zoe said. Tyler frowned.

"Here, we took a picture, remember?" Zoe said, bringing out her phone. She showed Tyler.

"You're right," Tyler said, furrowing his brow.

How old are you? Tyler asked.

Just turned fifteen. The handwriting said.

"He's different," Tyler's eyes sparkled with something that was a mixture of happiness and sadness.

What's your name? Tyler read from his arm.

Tyler Oakley. Tyler couldn't stand the anticipation. The wait for this soulmate to break contact with him forever.

Troye Mellet. Tyler felt tears pricking at his eyes as he read the name.

Hello, Troye Mellet. The name felt warm on Tyler's skin, and beat alongside his heart.

"Troye Mellet." Tyler said the name aloud, it sounding just as amazing as it was on his skin.

"I'm so happy for you," Zoe said, wrapping her arms around Tyler's body, "Let's go tell the others."


It was another two years when Tyler found more writing on his arm.

"Troye?" He called. The Australian poked his head out of the kitchen.

"Yeah?" Troye said.

"I didn't think we needed milk." Tyler frowned a bit.

"We don't." Troye said, "I thought you'd written that."

"I- no-" Tyler was a bit lost for words. Troye moved to the other man, comparing their wrists.

"Neither of us wrote that?" Troye asked. Tyler shook his head.

"Then who is it?" Troye wondered. Tyler thought back five years. To a party that had broken his heart.

"Someone I tried to forget," Tyler sighed. He took a pen and wrote; Hey. Sorry I stopped drawing.

Sorry I stopped looking.

Would you be my friend? Tyler wrote. He could hardly breathe- and, to be fair, neither could Troye.

I'm gay. The words made Tyler scoff.

Are you joking? Tyler wrote, incredulous. Troye burst into laughter.

Dead Sirius.

TOO SOON Troye wrote on his own arm.

Who're you? The mystery person said.

Troye.

So is this just the universe's way of setting us up for a threesome? Troye and Tyler just laughed.

Well, not unless you consent. Troye blushed at Tyler's writing- the innocent child.

Connor Franta. Followed by his number. Tyler hadn't realized he was crying.

"It'll be fine," Troye smiled, grabbing Tyler's hand, "We got ourselves a happy ending."

A happy ending. That's all someone can hope for.

Chapter Text

Pool Boy. That was the nickname Dan had given him.

The one who was ruining his life.

Dan went to the pool to get away from life- to swim, to read, to listen to music, without drama.

Well, it seems there's nowhere that's 100% drama-free. And that outlier that was the sole source of the drama at the pool was Pool Boy; a tall, thin, pale, blue eyed, and evil bastard set on making Dan's getaway place a living hell.

"Ooh- looks like I'm gonna have to teach you another lesson today, Flower Prince." Pool Boy smirked, pressing Dan against the wall, "Who're you texting?"

"No-nobody!" Dan stuttered, shoving his phone into his pocket.

"Reluctant to spill? Could it be a boyfriend?" Pool Boy snarled, reaching for Dan's back pocket and grabbing his phone. Dan wasn't texting anyone like that- honest- it was just Tyler. His friend. Plus, Tyler already had two soulmates (and while it took a while for them to wrap their heads around it, they were perfectly happy).

"Hm, Tyler?" Pool Boy smirked. Dan suddenly felt a warmth in his chest, like someone had lit a bonfire just above Dan's chest. He could smell old books and pine wood, and something that felt unique. Dan realized that it was Pool Boy who had set these actions in motion.

"What the hell?!" Dan shrieked, backing away from Pool Boy with a look of disgust on his face.

"What-" Pool Boy looked confused until he saw a blue glow from Dan's chest, and peered down to see a chocolate-y brown from his own.

"OH HELL NO!" They both yelled at the same time. They looked- and felt- very repulsed by each other, so how the fuck were they soulmates?

"I've- I- I have to leave- uh- now!" Dan said hurriedly, grabbing his cellphone from Pool Boy's hand and grabbed his clothes, not even bothering to change back.

"Yeah- yeah-" Pool Boy looked a bit... disappointed? But it was only for a second. His eyes returned to the steely grey-blue they were a second before and he jerkily shoved his stuff in his bag and changed.


"Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit," Dan said, still dripping from the water, as he stormed into Tyler's, Troye's, and Connor's apartment.

"Hey, Dan, wassup?" Troye asked playfully, busy burying his spoon in a jar of Nutella and scrolling through Tumblr on his phone.

"You know that guy, the one who keeps beating me up?" Dan asked, jerking open the fridge.

"I can tell this is stressful. Take the Nutella." Troye rolled his eyes, holding out the jar. Dan took it and shoved a spoonful in his mouth.

"He- he'f my foulmate." Dan swallowed the Nutella and turned to Troye.

"Oof. His eyes are a pretty shade of blue, if it's any consolation." Troye glanced at Dan's glowing chest. It was starting to fade, and would until Dan managed to contact Pool Boy again- not that he wanted to.

"So, when're you going back? To the pool, I mean." Troye dug around in the still-open fridge and found some cold pizza to munch on.

"Never. Never ever am I going back there. I can't- he can't be-" Dan stuffed another spoonful of Nutella in his mouth.

"Oh no." Tyler joked, "Troye's given you his Nutella. This is serious. What's up, my friend?"

"Pool Boy..." Dan groaned, shoving yet another heaping spoonful of chocolate and hazelnut into his mouth. It didn't take long for Tyler to put two and two together, with the stress-eating, the near-crying, and the blue glowing chest. It honestly didn't help that Tyler's chest was glowing the color of Troye's eyes, and Troye's chest the color of Tyler's.

"C'mere." Tyler sighed, taking the Nutella from Dan's hands and putting it up on the counter and wrapping him up in a hug. Dan accepted it, relaxing into the touch, and Tyler made little soothing noises and rubbed his back.

"He doesn't know?" Tyler asked. Dan shook his head- how Pool Boy had missed the scars he, himself, had caused remained a mystery, but Dan was sure Pool Boy had landed the final blow.

"I just... don't know what to do!" Dan said, frustrated.

"Just go, talk to him! A polite conversation, not bickering and bullying." Tyler suggested. Somehow, Dan's subconscious rationalized this idea- perhaps Pool Boy would be willing to talk!

"Okay. I'll go." Dan had made up his mind, "I'll go swimming at my usual time."

"Good. Now go get changed, you're dripping all over my hardwood floors." Connor had joined the conversation, and shooed Dan into the bathroom, where Dan changed and decided he could crash on the Oakleys' couch for another night. His own apartment was lonely.

Also he didn't trust himself much alone and in the dark.


The next day, just as he promised himself, Dan walked to the pool, yearning to see Pool Boy again.

"Aye, Lester!" A voice called, and then the slap of skin-on-skin could be heard.

"Stop!" Dan cried out before he could realize what he was doing. Someone- who was certainly bigger than Dan- let go of someone else's shirt. The second person- nearly unrecognizable- scurried away the second he had the chance.

"Just what do you think you're doing?!" Pool Boy- Lester?- gaped at Dan, who gaped right back. What was Dan going to do?

Well, right about now, running seemed like a good idea. Dan wasn't used to running, but he figured an adrenaline-fueled race against a possibly homicidal man with his bully-turned-soulmate was good practice.

"RUN!" Dan screamed at Pool Boy, who sprinted next to Dan. As it is when you're running for your life, most of your energy is placed into the how and not much towards the where, so it wasn't really a surprise when they ended up at the Oakleys'.

"This your apartment?" Pool Boy gasped, trying to catch his breath. Dan shook his head.

"Tyler's." He said.

"Oh- oh." Pool Boy's eyes widened.

"We're not like that-" Dan began to protest as the elevator slowed to a halt. Dan buzzed to get in to his friends' flat, and flopped down on the couch.

"Back so soon?" Tyler grinned from the kitchenette. He was in an apron and sweatpants, making breakfast for his soulmates because he was a self-proclaimed amazing boyfriend.

"Tyler, this is Pool Boy." Dan groaned, face down on the couch, gesturing vaguely to where Pool Boy had collapsed on a chair.

"Ah. I see." Tyler's grin turned malicious, "Ever hurt my friend again and I will not hesitate to string your intestines out on our clothesline. And I'm sure my lovely boyfriends would love to help."

"Woah, Flower Prince, your friend over there's pretty scary," Pool Boy grinned from the chair in the way that suggested he would've been terrified had he not have just been nearly skinned alive and running half a mile.

"That's just Tyler. Wait until you meet the others. They're pretty pissed at you, too." Dan said, face buried in the couch.

"So why does Pool Boy look so beat up?" Tyler said offhandedly, flipping a cat-shaped pancake.

"He was getting the shit beat out of him and I stopped it-"

"You literally made him more angry and screamed 'RUN'." Pool Boy rolled his eyes.

"Hey. Be grateful, I could've left your sorry ass there to die." Dan rolled his eyes. The blue light was back to glowing in his chest.

"Look, mate, I'm sorry." Pool Boy said from the couch. His hair was sweaty and he was only wearing swim trunks, "I'm sorry for everything that I ever put you through. I'm sorry for everything I did. I'm not sure you could ever forgive me- but... can we start over?"

"Oh, it's not me you'll have to convince. I'm a trusting sucker." Dan snorted, "It'll be Troye. He can be vicious when he wants to be."

"That little shrimp?" Tyler said from the kitchen, beginning to cook bacon. It smelled heavenly.

"You'd be surprised. I've seen him take on someone Pool Boy's size. And win." Dan said, rolling over and resting his head on his arms.

"Call me Phil. That's my name- Phil Lester." Pool Boy said, "Consider it our restart button."

"Dan Howell." Dan replied. The two were perfectly content with just sleeping there for the rest of the day; unfortunately, Connor Franta was an actual, functioning, human being.

"Who's this?" He questioned, waking both Dan and Phil.

"Pool Boy. Goodnight." Dan's voice held a finality to it as he rolled over and hugged one of their throw pillows closer to his body.

"Break his heart I'll break your face." Connor said sweetly, "Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a coffee shop to run." Connor gave Tyler a chaste kiss, a swift, "Troye's still asleep, it's adorable."

"See you tonight," Tyler said, closing the door behind him and getting himself a few pancakes and a couple slices of bacon, and a yogurt from the fridge.


Troye awoke not thirty minutes later, and made his way to the kitchenette, kissing Tyler and grabbing breakfast.

"Who's passed out with Dan?" Troye sighed. Dan wasn't unknown to bring back the odd person, houseplant, or animal, which explained their abnormal collection of plants, three cats, and occasional contact with Joey Graceffa and Frank Gioia.

"Pool Boy." Tyler said, voice clipped. Troye set down his food- that's how you know shit's got real. He stormed into the living room and grabbed Phil by the collar.

"Are you aware of the pain you've caused my friend?" Troye snarled in Pool Boy's face. Phil blinked, unsure of his surroundings, then put his hands up in surrender.

"I- I apologized. You can't know how sorry I am." Phil said quickly, cowering from Troye.

"Easy mate, we're all tired." Dan said to Troye.

"No! Y'know what, I think Pool Boy has a right to know what he did to you!" Troye snapped, "Dan. Come here."

Dan knew what was about to happen, and shuffled forward anyway, because damn, that boy could be scary when he wanted to be. Troye ripped up the sleeve of Dan's swim-shirt and revealed the years of pain Pool Boy had inflicted upon him.

"Dan- Dan I had no idea. I'm-" Phil began to cry. He let out one choked off sob after another, and brought Dan in for a hug. It was strange how Dan was the one who had hurt for all those years, and yet he was the one comforting Phil.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry." Phil kept repeating I'm sorry, like it would erase the scars that riddled Dan's forearms.

"I'm better now." Dan promised, "Just... don't tease me again. Okay?"

"I wouldn't. Ever. Never again." Phil pleaded, turning to Troye, "Forgive me?"

"I'm afraid that's not possible." Troye huffed, crossing his arms. Phil's eyes lowered and another tear fell down his cheek.

"I understand. I'll leave- I guess you don't want me around, blubbering on your furniture. Have a nice life." Phil said, turning to leave.

"Wait!" Dan called after him, "I don't have your number!"

"Maybe that's a good thing." Phil sighed, turning around to put his number into Dan's phone, "I'd love to meet again- not sure if you'd like to, though."

Although it was quite a change to have someone who you hated mere days ago, Dan couldn't picture his life without Pool Boy in it.

"I'll contact you, don't worry your pretty little head." Dan rolled his eyes.

"I'll worry about what I want to worry about!" Phil retorted, "And you think I'm pretty?"

"Well, yeah-" Dan was cut off by Phil pressing his lips on Dan's.

"That was nice." Dan smirked when Phil pulled away. His lips had tasted slightly salty- from tears- and a bit like chlorine, but it was nice.

"I concur." Phil smiled more fondly this time.

"Leave!" Troye urged. Phil sighed and walked away.

"He forgot his stuff," Tyler sighed, half-heartedly picking up the clothes and placing them on the armchair.

"That'll give him a reason to come back- won't it?" Troye grinned, and Dan remembered that Troye had a devious side.

Dan couldn't wait for that next visit.

Chapter Text

At first, Mark thought he and Dan were soulmates.


Actually, I think this deserves a more in-depth explanation.

Mark's eyes weren't the same color, like his mom's or his dad's. Of course, I could explain this, or I could use an anecdote involving Mark as a child. And I like the latter option better, so that's the one we're going with.


"What's wrong with my eyes?" Mark asked one evening, tugging on his mom's skirt. The older woman gazed down at the seven-year-old, who was clad in overalls and boots, and chuckled warmly. His teacher must've mentioned heterochromia offhandedly, and although Mark's parents never really told him outright, his mom wasn't about to deny him the information.

"Nothing's wrong with your eyes, Markimoo," She cooed, "See, one eye is yours, and the other's your soulmate's!"

"But how do I know which one is which?" Mark gasped, curiously gazing at his face in the reflection of the oven's door.

"You won't until you meet your soulmate," His mom grinned. She pulled out the chicken, then yelled, "Hank! Dinner!"


One of Mark's eyes was brown. It was a nice, warm color that felt like home. The other was crystal blue that was like the sky. He didn't believe he'd meet his soulmate--even if there were a shit-ton of twenty-one year olds without soulmates.

Then, he did. He met a boy with one brown eye and one blue eye. His name was Dan.

Mark gaped at him. He was certainly beautiful, slender and kinda feminine with round eyes and delicate features.

"Hi... I'm Mark," Mark laughed awkwardly, stuttering over his words. Smooth, he chided himself.

"I'm Dan," The other boy grinned, shaking Mark's hand. They frowned at each other when nothing happened. No big spark, no "finding out what your eye color really is", no nothing.

Oh well, Mark though, not everybody finds their soulmate.

"Would you like to go on a date, anyway?" Mark asked, shrugging. Dan shrugged back. "Why not? What could go wrong?"


Mark was in love. He was unabashedly in love with the maybe-brown-eyed, maybe-blue-eyed boy he'd met a year ago. Sure, nothing was perfect, but Mark was so happy.

Dan made him happy.

Mark was on top of the world.

It was such a shame everything was about to come crashing down around him.


"Hey, babe," Mark smiled, greeting a rather awestruck Dan one evening.

"What's up--Oh my God," Mark gaped at Dan's eyes. Two chocolate brown orbs stared back at his heterochromatic ones.

"I met him at the grocery store," Dan mumbled. "I'm still in love with you."


"What the fuck are we supposed to do?" Mark asked. Dan looked ready to tear out his hair, and that Phil guy he brought with him wasn't helping.

"Maybe me and Dan are supposed to be platonic?" Phil suggested.

"My parents were so disappointed in me when I told them I was in a relationship with someone other than my soulmate," Dan groaned, "How are they gonna react now?"

Silence fell over the room.

"Mark," Dan said after a long time, "You know I love you, right?"

Mark could barely believe what was happening.

"I think it'd be for the best..." Dan took a deep breath, "If we stopped seeing each other."

Mark refused to cry. And, to be honest, he wasn't sad. He was pissed.

"Wow, I'm so glad to see exactly how much I mean to you," Mark hissed. Before Dan could get another word out, Mark had his messenger bag on his shoulder and he was stalking out of their apartment.

He turned his phone on and pressed the call button. It was raining outside, which was just the cherry on top of Mark's shit-tastic cake of a day.

"Hey, Felix?" Mark spoke up, "Yeah. I don't feel like talkin' about it, I just need a ride. Yeah, I'm just outside mine and Dan's apartment."

Mark huffed, turning his phone off and feeling the rain slick his hair down. The grey clouds floated around him, and he found himself hating London even more than the first time he came to the city.

Soon enough, though, Felix arrived from Brighton. Mark climbed into the car, and Felix greeted him with a concerned look.

"Everything okay with you and Dan?" He asked.

"No. I need a place to crash--"

"Oh, me and Marzia have a spare bedroom you could borrow, don't worry about it," Felix grinned. Mark rolled his eyes. They were so happy together it disgusted him.

"What happened?" Felix asked, sometime along the ride.

"Dan found his soulmate," Mark grumbled, fiddling with a game on his phone. Felix gave him a pitying look.


"And--'n then he just... lef' me! Who does that?" Mark slurred, downing another tequila shot in Felix's kitchen.

"That's enough alcohol, buddy," Felix reprimanded, but Mark downed at least another three shots straight from the bottle before Felix could get it from him.

"Time for some water, I think," Marzia interjected, setting a glass down in front of Mark.

"I don' wan' that," Mark said, trying to push the water away. "I wan' Dan back."

"Mark Edwards Fischbach," Marzia commanded, "You will drink that whole glass of water and eat some bread, and then you will go to sleep."

"But--"

"No!"

Mark was a man--so, naturally, he downed the whole glass of water, had the sandwich Marzia placed in front of him, and went to bed. She even tucked him in.

"If you need anything tomorrow, tell me," Marizia said.

"I won't," Mark replied confidently (he was still incredibly drunk).

Marzia just chuckled, turning off his lights and closing the curtains.


Mark woke up with the worst hangover of his life. He got up and immediately stumbled to the Kjellbergs' guest bathroom, and the sandwich from the previous night made a gruesome reappearance. His head was throbbing and he--there was the rest of his dinner. His stomach was still protesting a lot when Marzia came in to check on him.

"Why'd you let me drink so much?" Mark complained, swallowing the IBuprofen along with another glass of water.

"You would've drank a lot more if I hadn't stopped you," Marzia pointed out.

"Yeah, you should be grateful," Felix nodded from the doorway, "You okay there, buddy?"

"Nope," Mark smiled grimly, "I feel like shit, emotionally and physically."

"You poor thing," Marzia simpered.

"Hey, nobody is allowed to receive sympathy from my wife except me," Felix joked.

"Move, you big baby, I'm gonna go make him some ginger tea," Marzia rolled her eyes at her husband. Mark retched some more into their toilet, but there was nothing for his body to reject anymore.

"Seriously, though, you shouldn't drink your problems away," Felix chided.

"I know, I just got carried away," Mark groaned, "And I've got a headache, so if you could kindly shut up, that'd be great."

Felix was respectfully quiet, eventually getting up to join Marzia.

"Here," Marzia said kindly, handing Mark a mug. He sipped on the tea, and his stomach slowly stopped crawling.

"Thank you," Mark grinned, "For all of this."

"Any time, my guy," Felix chuckled, "You've had a rough few days."

"Yeah," Mark said, frowning a bit. "I think my stomach's feelin' a bit better, though. Ah, shit--I didn't bring a change of clothes."

"Just relax," Felix insisted, "I've got it covered."

Mark did as he was told, not leaving the bathroom for fear of what little he had in him resurfacing with a vengeance.


Eventually, Mark heard a knock on the door.

"Here's your stuff," Felix grinned, "Or, at least, the stuff Dan told me was yours."

Mark's heart sank. He was half-grateful for Felix going so he didn't have to, but the other part of Mark really missed Dan.

"I--listen, Dan was an asshole--"

"No," Mark shook his head, "Dan met his soulmate. I just have really shitty luck." Mark's grin was twisted and sad. He was still nursing a glass of water from three hours earlier.

"Dan shouldn't have done that to you, though," Felix defended Mark, "He shouldn't have hurt you like that."

"He had a right to," Mark shrugged, "I can see it from his point of view. He found his happily ever after. It just wasn't me."

Felix couldn't believe the pain in Mark's voice. It rang hollow through the bathroom, and a few tears fought their way down Mark's cheek.

"You'll be just fine," Marzia soothed, crouching down by Mark and wrapping him in a hug. Mark returned it, grateful to have his friends to help him through everything.


It had been five years. Five years, and the twenty-six year old still wasn't over his ex. Not that he would admit it. Mark had done what he always did--he shoved his problems to the back of his mind and worked. He worked on a degree until he was blue in the face and then he was standing proudly on the stage, crossing it with a degree in biotechnical engineering and a promising job at another university.

"They grow up so fast," Felix commented humorously as the crimson-haired man approached his best friends.


"I still can't believe you're leaving," Felix frowned. Mark just laughed.

"I enjoy what I do," Mark laughed, his blue eye twinkling. "I've already met the ship's crew. A few marine biologists and a few manual laborors, the captain's pretty nice, too. Honestly, I'm ready to face my fear."

Sure, Mark would be heading out onto the ocean, but he'd also be heading out to the jungles of India, and the Nile, and then a trip to Ireland. Sure, it was a research trip, but to Mark, it was like heaven.

"Well, have fun, you crazy kids," Marzia grinned.

"I will," Mark smiled brightly. He hailed a cab to take him to the docks, where a short female with blonde hair greeted him.

"Hi, Amy," Mark said to the ship's captain. He walked on, and the rest of the crew was already there.

"Oh, I hope I didn't keep you waiting," Mark apologized.

"Nah, I just got here early as fuck," Ethan shrugged. He and Tyler were the manual laborers, and Matthew and Stephanie were the biologists.

"Fancy seeing you here," Matthew grinned to the other American.

"Ready to head out?" Amy asked, walking onto the ship, "'Cuz you aren't getting a choice. Anchor goes up in twenty."

And with that, Amy walked out to the cockpit.

Mark felt antsy, staring out at the ocean.

"You okay there, buddy?" Matthew asked, sat in a folding chair next to Stephanie.

"Yeah, just fine," Mark gulped.

"We'll be fine," Ethan reassured, "Amy knows what she's doing."

"How long have you known her?" Mark raised an eyebrow at the younger. Ethan looked sheepish and said, "Two hours."

"Want a drink?" Tyler offered Mark a Coors Lite, but Mark politely declined.

"I've got an alcohol intolerance." Mark supplied the answer to a question nobody had asked. Over-sharing was a bad habit of his. Tyler nodded, and the conversation stilled again. Matthew and Stephanie were holding hands--and now that Mark thought about it, he'd never really seen their eyes. Tyler and Ethan had monochromatic eyes, but Mark doubted that they were each other's soulmate.

"So, what made you want to join us?" Matthew asked from his chair, "Was the ocean always a passion of yours or--"

"Nah, the ocean terrifies me," Mark shrugged, "But I've always been interested in nature, and you've gotta take the good with the bad."

"So you're not looking for your soulmate?"

"Nah, I'm not really one for believing in love," Mark shrugged, "Last time I was in a relationship, it ended messily. Not good for me."

"Oh," Ethan said. Silence filled the space between them, until Ethan spoke up. "Me and Tyler are soulmates."

Mark hadn't even considered it, but Ethan and Tyler seemed to wait with baited breath, as if they were afraid that Mark or Matthew or Stephanie were homophobic.

"Nice," Matthew said.

"Yeah, you guys are cute together," Mark nodded, "Can you pass me a water from that cooler, Tyler?"

"'Course," Tyler grinned, tension leaving his shoulders. He tossed the bottle to Mark.

The sunset was gorgeous.

"It's what I love about these trips," Matthew sighed, "Steph, you look gorgeous in the sunlight."

"Thank you," Stephanie smiled, "You do too."

Matthew grinned back and pecked his--girlfriend? Wife? Soulmate?--on the lips, drawing her up.

"Ethan, turn on the tunes," Matthew laughed, "Let's get this party started!"

"Matthew, it's not 2007 any more," Steph said, "But I concur. Let's dance!"

Mark had a lot of fun that night, completely forgetting that he was on the deck of a boat that was destined to go out into the middle of nowhere.

"I love you." Was passed around a lot that night. While Tyler was carding his fingers through Ethan's hair, or Matthew was twirling Steph around the deck of the ship.

Mark refused to admit that he was bitter. He wanted something like that--he'd had something like that.


Mark's soulmate's eyes were blue. Mark used to think that they were beautiful--like the sky, or flying, or exhilaration.

Now, he'd come to realize they weren't so nice. They were cold, steely. If only he'd been born with Dan's eye instead of someone else's, then maybe he'd be lucky enough to have a Happily Ever After instead of being part of the 12% of people who never met their soulmates.

Mark was going on twenty-eight. Ethan's blue hair had long-since faced, Tyler had grown an impressive beard, and they'd been through more than most people had ever experienced. (Notably, the nights when they weathered a storm together and Mark sat in the corner the whole time, shaking like a self-proclaimed Bitch Baby.)

Now, though, they were going to the last stop of their expedition. Small town outside of Dublin Ireland, just to stop by and take some measurements. They were studying different plant life and how leaf-size correlated with region. Luckily, they'd managed to find a plant sub-species wide-spread enough for this.

Mark didn't expect to find Dan there--and yet, there he was. In all his curly-haired, dimpled glory. He was with three other people, one with curly olive hair, the other with shaggy brown hair, and Phil.

Mark prayed that Dan didn't notice him or the expedition at the restaurant (c'mon, my hair's really long and I've got a beard please don't notice me--).

"Hey, Mark!" Dan greeted, "Long time, no see, man!"

"Sorry, uh, you must have the wrong person," Mark scrambled for an explanation. Tyler appeared behind him.

"Is this that Dan guy?" He asked. Mark nodded.

"You want me to beat him up?" Tyler asked, still whispering.

"No!" Mark replied incredulously.

"Not even a little?" Tyler said, this time at a normal volume. He looked disappointed, and Dan looked concerned.

"No, Tyler, you cannot beat my ex up," Mark chided, "Not even a little."

When Tyler sighed melodramatically and slumped back to his seat by Ethan, Dan asked, "Who was that?" A bit too knowingly.

"We're not dating," Mark deadpanned, "Goodbye."

"Wait!" Dan called, but Mark was resolutely ignoring him. Amy clapped him on the back when he got to his seat.

"You sure I can't beat him up?" Tyler asked when Mark stared dejectedly at his pasta.

"No," Mark refused again.

Then, someone tripped and fell into Mark's lap.

The someone had one blue eye and one brown eye.

When he fell into Mark's lap, he started apologizing.

"I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to--" But then, the stranger stared at Mark's eyes. And Mark stared at the stranger's.

His eyes were steel blue. Cold, steel blue that had brought Mark nothing but misery.

Mark stood up and walked out of the restaurant without another word.


"Mark! Mark, wait up!" Someone called after him, and Mark broke into a sprint. He ran the whole half a mile back to their boat, panting and gasping when he got to his room. He felt the tears come, hot and thick, down his cheeks as sobs forced their way from his mouth.

Fifteen minutes later, he heard a soft, "Mark? Are you okay?"

It was Amy.

"Yes," Mark said, then, "No."

"Open up," Amy commanded.

"No."

"Either you let me in, or I'm disabling the lock on your door," Amy threatened, and Mark stood up and unlocked the door.

"Sorry."

"There's nothing to be sorry about," Amy insisted, "Mind if I come in?" Without waiting for an answer, she pushed her way past Mark.

"Give me a hug," Amy said, opening her arms. "Now."

Mark tentatively accepted the hug, resting his head on her shoulders.

"I brought your leftover food," Amy said, holding out the box of pasta, "Now, you're gonna get changed into your pajamas, and I'm gonna get changed into mine, and we're gonna meet back here and have a good ol' fashioned sleepover."

Mark nodded, and Amy left the takeaway box on Mark's nightstand. Mark tugged on some sweatpants and an old t-shirt that smelled like the ocean.

Mark hated the ocean just as much as he did before the expedition. It reminded him of his soulmate's eyes.

Amy plopped down in front of Mark with a can of frosting and a tub of ice-cream.

"Welcome to Mark's pity party," Amy announced, "Now start eating your fucking pasta and spill."

Mark wiped the tears away from his eyes and talked between mouthfuls.

"He... he was everything to me..." Amy passed Mark another water bottle, "But I guess I was nothing to him. After all, he left me the instant his soulmate came around, and I saw him there and he was so happy, and I guess I'm happy for him."

Mark took a swig of the water. "And I couldn't help but wonder whether or not it was my fault that I wasn't the perfect one for him--"

"You stop that right there," Amy interrupted, "You know damned well that you can't choose your soulmates, give me some of that ice-cream."

Mark passed Amy the ice-cream and kept talking. "And you know, my soulmate's brought me nothing but misery at this point, and I just--"

Mark felt tears pricking at the back of his eyes again. He let out a few sniffles.

"I'm a hot fuckin' mess, aren't I?'

"Hey, Mark," Amy said, "Look at my eyes."

Mark looked at Amy's eyes. "Yes?"

"What color are they?"

"Brown."

"The exact shade of brown. I don't have a soulmate." Amy blinked, and Mark stared into her chocolate eyes. They were the exact same shade, with the same dark brown rings around them. "If anybody knows anything about the universe being unfair, it's me."

"Oh." Was all Mark could say.

"I've moved on, and I suggest you do too." Amy insisted, "Now, I've had MatPat stay behind to get that guy's number, and I suggest you text him while we're still here."

Mark sighed. "Can I think about it?"

"No, because then you'll over-think it." There was the tell-tale patter of feet on the deck above them. "I think that's them, actually!"

Mark groaned, flopping back in his bed. "I just ate half a carton of ice-cream. Now is not the time."

"Too fuckin' bad!" Amy rolled her eyes. "I'm going to be right back."

When she returned, she held a little slip of paper.

7809-876-342
--Sean, although I prefer Jack

Mark sighed, dialing his number on the phone he'd been given for the expedition.

"Hello?"

"Hi. This is Mark, your... uh... soulmate," Mark gulped, "Sorry for... abandoning you, there. It was a dick move."

"It's fine," Sean waved it off, "I was th' one who fell on ya anyhow."

"Wanna get coffee sometime?" Mark asked. "Apology coffee. On me."

"You don't need to apologize--but sure, I'd be honored to get coffee with such a cute guy."

"Thank you! Uh, bye!" Mark ended the call.

"What'd he say?" Amy asked, too curiously.

"Your mom," Mark chuckled.

"Seriously," Amy shoved Mark to the side, "What'd he say?"

"Well, he said yes to the coffee date--"

Amy screamed. She actually screamed, and suddenly everybody was in Mark's room.

"What happened?"

"Was there a fire?"

"Is Mark okay?"

"Mark asked his soulmate out!" Amy squealed, and then Mark was being tackled in a hug by Ethan.

Mark laughed and hugged him back.


Mark's eyes were brown. Pools of warmth that he'd loved, then hated, then loved again. He'd grown to love things he'd once hated--namely, the color blue. Ice blue that belonged to the eyes of his soulmate. Even when they were covered in crow's feet and when they started to fade ("damn cataracts"), Mark loved Jack's eyes.

Mark loved the blue of the ocean. Once you're around something for a while, you start to understand it. And understanding is the downfall of all fear.

Mark loved the blue of the sky on a cloudy day, he loved the blue of the flowers Jack insisted on planting. He loved Jack.

It had taken much too long, but Mark learned how to get over his bitterness, learned how to love.

Honestly, he was proud of himself. It was nice.