Patterns repeated themselves. That is why they were called patterns. Two things derived from the same source tended to share similarities, though the method of derivation might be totally different. So it must be with shadows and Phantoms, one group cast, the other, copied.

Yes, technically speaking the lair, Refuge, which the shadows were part of belonged equally to all seven Phantoms, but Danny had existed the longest, had been awake the longest, had the most memories, not counting a certain someone who was ignoring the lair with an intensity that could likely make plants wilt.

(Danny, when he thought about Dan and Refuge in the same moment, thought about the fate of Harmony in that timeline. Had it survived, unknown to Dan, or–?)

The personalities of the other Phantoms were starting to come through, most obviously in the creation of Replica, who was more Ellie's shadow than Danny's, but, to an outside observer, those changes were small, and could easily be dismissed as Danny wanting to accommodate his siblings. Fractal was not an outside observer. He could cite exactly who was influencing what at any given time.

All that to say Fractal was definitely a creation of Danny's, a facet of his needs. He had been made, largely, to act as a non-threatening interface between the lair and any visitors.

All this to say that, despite the above facts, Fractal felt that he and Dmitri had a lot in common.

They were both somewhat more bookish than Danny presented himself, they were both shy, they were both in a position that required them to interact frequently with others, anyway, they both had eye issues, and they both were on the verge of developing an enmity with the current organizational system of Refuge's library.

Before the shadows were made, the lair had sorted books, and other objects, autonomously. That was not to say the sorting wasn't still autonomous. The shadows were part of Refuge, no matter how easy it was for outsiders to forget that. Sending a shadow to move things was, however, a different process than the one it had employed before.

It was easier, but, with shadows also being called to do other things so frequently, it also took longer. Thus, the library was arranged in the same way it had been since Danny first became aware of it. By color.

This was a terrible way to arrange anything except, perhaps, art supplies. Fractal, who had been assigned most of Refuge's sorting problems, hadn't gotten the chance to deal with it yet.

He had been watching Dmitri flit up and down the rows of bookshelves for about five seconds. He'd been aware of his frustration for much longer.

Steeling himself, Fractal stepped forward–

Right onto the hem of his pants–

Causing him to, once again, plant his face on the floor. It was even the same place! Was there something about this one particular aisle? This bookshelf? The act of stepping out into the open? Was he cursed or something? When would he have been cursed? How? Why? Who?

"Um," said Dmitri. "Are you alright?"

"Yes!" said Fractal. He sat up. "Yes. I am fine. Are you fine?"

"Yes?" squeaked Dmitri, floating far above Fractal.

"Do you need help finding anything?" pressed Fractal, tapping his fingers together. "Perhaps a book?"

Wisps had started to come down out of the leafy trees that grew from the tops of the bookshelves… Or, from another perspective, the trees whose trunks the bookshelves were carved from. They liked it here, but ever since the wisps as a group had gotten scolded for making Danny incredibly high, they were a little wary of getting close. Which was too bad, really, but in ghost form Dmitri was almost the same size as them, so it was maybe just a bit…

Fractal wouldn't call it funny, but he was quite sure most of the other Phantoms would. Either that or cute.

Dmitri glared at them, making them chime sadly, and dropped lower.

"I'm trying to find books about places," he mumbled. "About countries and cities and things."

"Ah," said Fractal. "We do have several like that."

"But I can't find them. I can't figure out what the order of this is!" He waved a tiny hand at the shelves.

"There really isn't one, I'm afraid," said Fractal, folding his hands in front of him. "They're arranged by color."

"Oh, no," groaned Dmitri. "By color?"

"I can help you find them, though. May I ask what this is for?"

"Don't you know?" asked Dmitri, tilting his head to one side.

"I can guess," said Fractal. "But Refuge as a whole is still somewhat more aligned with Danny, and we'll always be more in tune with subconscious needs than conscious desires."

Dmitri fidgeted. "Dad - Sojourn - said he wanted to take me on a trip once we're done regularizing relations with the US, and that I should pick out the places to go, but I don't know any places."

Fractal, already cataloging the atlases and travelogs held in the library, nodded. "You'll mostly want places in the Realms, then," he said. "At least until we start reaching out to the other countries on Earth."

"Yes," said Dmitri. "That would be good.

"Okay," said Fractal. "I think I've found a few books that will be useful to you." He started to walk away confidently, then remembered his earlier spill and changed his gait to something more cautious. The first book wasn't far away, and then the next one was… and so many atlases were blue of some variety…

"Does it ever bother you?" asked Dmitri.

"Does what bother me?" asked Fractal. He slid another book from the shelf, and passed it off to a wisp that was trying to make itself useful.

"That you can't leave. That you're stuck here."

"I can understand that it would bother you," said Fractal, pausing, "but why would it bother me?"

"Because you're not really just a shadow, are you?"

"What do you mean?"

"I picked some things up from Danny. You're based on us physically, too, which means you have a brain, so… Doesn't that make you a person, too?"

"Hm. Maybe. But even if I do have a brain, it's function is to be an extension of yours. And," he added, "I have no intention of pursuing any individuality I might possess. I am a portion of a pattern that is self-similar to the larger, more complete version. That is all."

"A fractal."

"I did name myself." Fractal started walking again. Atlases, atlases…

"You didn't answer my question."

"Oh, I guess I didn't. It doesn't bother me." He smiled. "After all, I get to travel with you. Let's find the rest of your books."