Chapter 1: I.
As a rule, not much weight was placed on finding your soulmark in adulthood. The name weighed on the bearers' mind, for certain, but finding them was not a priority in the late twentieth century as it had been even thirty years ago. Wars, illnesses and the rise of the freedom of dating and marriage gave leeway to exploration in love. There was no real guarantee of finding them, so it was generally seen as foolish to wait around. Soulmarks were anyone from an ideal romantic partner, to a close friend, to someone who could impact your life. And while growing up it would most definitely impact friendships, relationships and family, objectively the marks were not necessarily the be all and end all of all romantic interactions.
Having a mark fade however, could be.
For Lockwood it had happened during a simple break time cig behind the art block. Under the summer heat he had rolled up the sleeves of his well pressed shirt, the knit jumper having long been discarded into his bag. And then he had seen it. The simple and elegant letters reading Joanne Bowker - a somewhat local name - had faded to grey. And so, his soulmate was dead. Someone, perhaps his someone, had prematurely been taken from him. It was the not knowing that killed most people. At eighteen, James may had already lost his future wife, his next confidante, the woman who would cause great changes in his life. Three days later the name appeared alongside her parents in the newspaper, all having died in a car crash just outside of town. The boys didn't said anything, the majority not recognising the name. The only sign of anything happening was Akthar merely squeezing his shoulder as he passed Lockwood's desk in registration. whoever Joanne was, James had barely had two years of her name on his skin before it left. And fuck, that broke his heart just a little each day. Getting past the grief of someone he didn’t really know made dating impossible. Maybe she'd have helped him into his dream job, maybe they would have married and had a few kids. Maybe they would have been close friends, and she would have read his poetry without judging like the lads did, or she would have sang at open mics while he looked on with pride, maybe they would have got matching tattoos around their marks. The 'maybes' were the worst part of it. He didn’t even know if she could - did - sing.
He wasn't the only one without an existing mark. Timms had simply never gained one. At eighteen is was almost a given that he wouldn't get one, as no one developed a mark so late. Statistically, he would never gain one, unless something like a traumatic experience or a younger marks’ birth provided him with a soulmate. It meant that perhaps his mark hadn't been born, or that they were already paired to their true mark. Or simply, that he had no soulmark. It wasn't so unusual that it was a shock to him or others. And he'd been known to say it was a 'fucking relief really, I'm not second guessing every interaction with a bird just because their name isn't on my arm like the rest of the twats'.
And Timms wasn't wrong. The earlier the mark appeared, the more those who gained it were affected. Gaining your mark at thirteen, or fourteen, or even eleven could shift your whole way of thinking when it came to dating or friendships.
Especially if the name was familiar.
Don Scripps and David Posner had been friends from primary school. At fourteen, Don had started covering up his arms, even in Phys Ed. Even Dakin had said Don's mark hadn't come through, which meant it obviously hadn't as Dakin's word was essentially law. So friends and teachers worried that maybe, underneath the sleeves, was something more malicious. Only Don knew that in messy, loopy scrawl on his arm was a name he would never share, because he just knew that it was who he would fall in love with, and Don couldn't face the consequences. The only thing worse than knowing a mark didn't match, was knowing they would reject you. On his arm, in almost illegible writing read
David Isaac Posner
He wasn't risking it. Now, he had the ability of hindsight and he had never been more relieved to keep something a secret.
Especially when Crowther had ecstatically come in a month before and pulled Akthar aside, baring his arm where Adil Akthar was written, so precise and well form it looked as if it had been written by a typewriter than by hand. The boys had seen and whooped and shouted teasingly, demanding a kiss from them.
And then with a sad smile, Adil had slowly rolled up his sleeve and shown him the Lucille Crowne up his own arm. Poor Chris had caught a glimpse in the summer and thought it was his own name, and now his own heart had been crushed. He and Akthar were still as close as friends could be, but Adil was always aware that Chris was half in love with him. Perhaps it was why Adil had Lucy's name, almost like a self fulfilling prophecy. The lack of soul mark created cracks within a friendship, and the cracks being a reason - or one at least - as to why the mark didn't fully match. And really, if there was one thing worse than a blank or faded mark, it was one that didn't match.
The uncertainty was killing Scripps, but the only thing worse would be to kill the deepest friendship he'd had. He'd wait it out. After all, Dakin was doing that too. The one time the ringleader of the group was hit speechless was when the name on his wrist had been read out as the new history teacher. Scripps had never laughed so much as he had when he took in Dakin's ashen faced look of horror, which was only really rivalled by the one on Irwin's face when he learnt Dakin's full name. Maybe he'd been hoping Dakin had an older sibling, but Don would bet the double take he'd done on hearing Timms shout 'Stu, you cunt' wasn't to do with the swearing. Time would tell what would happen there. And maybe, just maybe he'd tell Posner. Or maybe Posner would tell him first.
Chapter 2: II.
Dakin and irwin, two parts of a whole. Or rather, they could have been. An exploration into their marks, and the navigation of expectations.
WARNING. angst, discussion of the motorcycle accident, and description of injuries
It was a normal inane Monday, until Felix introduced Mr Thomas Irwin to the class. It only takes Dakin approximately six hours to recover from the fact that his new teacher is his mark, to decide that his new teacher is his next attempt of seduction. Not that his tentative relationship with Fiona counted as an attempt. A handsy flirtation wasn't exactly packed with the same danger or intrigue. But Dakin isn't one to pass up a challenge, and he's just arrogant enough to think that no one would be able to impact his life enough unless they were a proper romantic partner, otherwise he'd have his own name like Rudge. Not many people mattered to him as much as himself.
It takes Irwin much longer to get over the fact he fell in love with his own student. Much less had the matching soulmark drawn across his skin.
(Stuart Dakin would argue he never did quite get over it, but instead navigated the world in a hazy romantic daze which stroked his ego that little bit more. Tom Dakin neé Irwin would then tell him to fuck off.)
Dakin flirted, prodded, and provoked his way into his teachers attentions until Irwin wanted to kick him out of class and simultaneously kiss the life out of the cocky shite.
A simply brushing of hands from Dakin, or the combination of his lazy smirk and unflinching state did the trick. So incredibly cliché, yet effective when it came to Irwin.
Essays drove him mad. Every handwritten side of A4 just reminded him of the matching handwriting spread across his forearm. Arms carefully hidden with linen shirts and tweed jackets even as the summer heat increased. Understanding of soulmarks only went so far. A teacher with a students name was bound to cause issues, especially with Felix and his 'old ways' of viewing them.
(personally, Irwin thought he was a homophobic old fuck.)
Then Dakin waltzed into his room after exams. Dakin, who'd searched for him in Oxford records because he was lonely. Dakin, who stated he'd looked for his handwriting and wanted to know if it matched. The implication of what it matched exactly hung heavily in the small space between them.
'How can you be? Hector's a joke. He's not the name on my arm is he, sir?'
The words rang through his ears. If it were a novel Irwin would have shown his own mark. But instead he defended Hector, bottled out of his own confession. Instead, he'd wittered on a lit Abbeys and accounts and sodding diaries. Perhaps Saturday, with a little liquid courage, he thought. A first date with a big reveal was romantic, spontaneous, reckless. Everything he needed to prove to Dakin.
Then the bike crashed, and Hector died. And Tom Irwin's carefully arranged world came falling down fast around him.
Dakin was an idiot. God, he'd really told him. He'd been so fucking sure that it was his name on Irwin's arm. And he'd stood there, offered himself in body and soul to his substitute teacher. Saturday was a start, at least. The culmination of nine months of effort in seduction. The dread was slowly creeping up on him that maybe, just maybe they were a mismatch.
Scripps had been no help. He'd been uncharacteristically open, told him of the conversation, to only get joking comments. He wasn't sure what he'd really expected.
'Just because you've got a scholarship doesn't mean you've got to give him unfettered access to your dick. Or your soul.'
He'd bristled at that. It wasn't just like that. It wasn't a favour, if was a fucking mark.
'So how would you say thank you?'
'Same as you, probably. On my knees.'
Dakin had grinned at that, the laughter not quite reaching all the way to his eyes as the joke stung that little bit.
After he watched Irwin climb onto Hector's motorcycle, he grabbed Lockwood and dragged him towards the direction of the nearest pub. The next three hours and thirty minutes of his life would be the worst.
He and Lockwood could see Hector, unmoving, helmet meters away. And next to the bike was a dazed, sluggish Irwin. Lockwood ran to the nearest house as he moved to hold Irwin. Somewhere behind him, he could hear Jimmy knocking on doors for help.
God, Irwin. The blood on his face was oozing down his cheeks, blood and tear tracks intermingled. The man began to shake in his arms, limp in his hold as tears streamed.
'Stuart. Stuart he's-' He never used Dakin's first name. Fuck.
Get him out of shock. Keep him awake till help comes. Suddenly all the first aid training from summer had left his mind.
'yeah, we know. Jimmy's getting someone to call an ambulance now. We'll get you sorted'
By now there was a crowed gathering, looking, moving to Hector. Dakin didn't need to get close to know what had happened to Hector. Irwin was still silently sobbing into his shirt.
What could he do? Irwin was in the middle of the road. He needed to be moved, if possible.
'does anything hurt, any pain?'
Mutely Irwin shook his head.
'Let's get you up then yeah?'
Dakin tried to grab under his arms, but the dead weight of Irwin was too much. The panicked look on his face grew and Irwin grabbed his arms. Beneath him, his legs hung limply.
'Stuart. I can't move my legs. Why can't I move my legs?'
Shit. Dakin suddenly became aware of the blood, the torn clothing, how Irwin's left leg was at an abnormal angle. How beneath the ripped white shirt and unbuttoned cuff, Irwin's mark was visible
Stuart John Dakin
He held Irwin a bit tighter as the ambulance siren became louder in the distance. Dakin made sure to memorise the feeling of Irwin's arms, the way he held on to him too, the colour of his eyes and hair, just in case this was the last time he saw his soulmate. Dakin wasn't Lockwood. He couldn't survive the fading of his mark.
He could see people moving around them, blocking the road, and suddenly he was aware that the ambulance sirens had stopped and then the paramedics were moving Irwin from his arms.
The paramedic stopped him coming into the ambulance, politely smiling and insisting he follow, until Dakin rolled up his sleeve, bore the cursive writing scrawled up his arm and said
'try and fucking stop me.'
Posner and Scripps enjoy a pint together. And maybe a little heart to heart.
David Posner always knew he was different. In Sheffield he was everything that stood out in the all boys school: jewish, undeveloped. queer.
The soul mark was only confirmation of this. How many boys held their best friends name on their arm? His parents had been understanding, welcoming, even if they didn't understand. After all, David's own brother had brought home Toby from university, the strange medical student who insisted on calling his parents 'the in-laws'. Don was probably a safe bet, in comparison. The revelation hadn't been dramatic, or heartfelt, like others. And he preferred it that way. It was just like him and Don, to be matter of fact, yet still tender. But oh, how cliché for it to happen in a bar. They're sat nursing their pints, and Scripps is the first to break the silence he'd been content to wallow in.
'I don't think mine would match at first. that would be my luck, I suppose.' The nature of what it is goes unspoken. Of course it's his mark. At their age, there's not many left unpaired or undiscovered. something tightens in his chest, fear that Don, his Don, has found someone else. Or perhaps, a little hope that he has found his someone in him. Maybe it's a vain hope, but Pos holds so much love in what Don calls his spaniel heart, that his optimism can't be held back.
its a rushed 'Dakin isn't mine, you know.' That breaks the tension. Posner wills himself to continue. 'That's what made him safe. he'd never have my name, and I could feel how I wanted.' A bitter smile curls ever so slightly up his face. 'No regrets.'
That level of confidence Scripps always wears dislodges ever so slightly - confidence, never arrogance, it's what drew him in and away from Dakin. 'Pos...' the name comes out as almost a whisper. 'Do you ... can I ask?'
Posner knows. He knows from that pause, that hesitation, that what he wants to be true, is.
'If you haven't worked it out by now Scrippsy, you're a fool.' there's a loose button on his cuff, opening ever so slightly as he moves his arm to the wobbly pub table, hinting at what he's all but confirmed. Don's fingers reach out, almost touching the open cuff before pulling away abruptly.
And then Scripps is rolling up the sleeve of his jumper, showing the mark to him before hiding it away in the half empty bar.
It takes Posner a moment to collect himself.
A genuine grin begins to form then, and the happiness in Posner's chest is unlike anything he's felt before. To think, that they've been sitting on this for months, years even. 'We're quite the pair aren't we?' It would be Posner, in all his quiet confidence, and Scripps, the all-but-leader of their group now Dakin has drifted away with Irwin, that would dance around each other for too long. 'Well, I suppose it's a good thing we match then.'
There's a safety in the looks they give each other, the comfortable silence as they sip their drinks surrounded by the inane chatter of other customers. Scripps and him were headed home together anyways, but perhaps now, they'll share a bed, a kiss or two, instead of Don condemning himself to the broken couch. above all, it just feels natural. as if a part of him he didn't know existed has been discovered, an extension of his body and soul is sat across from him deep in thought, as always.
It's Posner who breaks the quiet first. 'So, what so we think of Irwin then? its been a long time coming.'
Don snorts, shaking his head. 'He's an idiot. how hasn't he noticed Stu's acting up I don't know.'
He hums in agreement. It's true, Stuart Dakin has been incredibly out of sorts recently. Still, it'd do him some good to lose a little arrogance. 'I do wonder which of them will ask first. Two degrees between them yet not an ounce of observational skills'.
'Dear Lord, you sounded like Mrs Lintott there'.
'Fuck off.' The righteous indignation is undermined by the laughing lilt of his voice.
Scripps continues as if Pos hasn't said a word. 'Dakin, obviously. God knows he can't be upstaged, even by Irwin'.
The last dregs of his pint sits, almost flat, at the bottom of the glass he's mindlessly and lazily swirling around. 'Yes, I suppose. It must be nice, to be so settled - I mean, oh -' it's so like him, to jump to forever, to suddenly make things awkward isn't it.
Scripps just smiles at him, as if he knows exactly where his mind had gone. 'That'll be us, don't you worry.' The look on his soulmates face would have been hilarious, if not for the serious conversation. 'What, you didn't think I haven't thought about it had you?' Oh Pos and his delicate heart. Dakin hadn't been safe after all. He'd still left marks, however partially healed they were.
he's looking down at the grain of the table now, tracing lines in the wood that aren't really there. 'I just thought, maybe you.. I .. I thought you liked...' the implication is there. girls. anyone. not me. never me.
'And boys. but mostly you. Only you, really.'
David smiles, and whispers a little 'oh.'
Don smiles back, content in the moment.