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The Butterflies

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For as long as Octavia Blandina could remember, there had been two names on her wrist. One was her own, and the other was a curious name, one she did not recognize as any proper Roman name. Her brother, Bellamus Blandimus had told her years before that one name was that of her soulmate, appointed by Cupid, and the other would be her worst enemy. She wasn’t sure which name she wanted as her soulmate. Bellamus kept cloth rags tied around his wrists, and she never knew which names were on him. Perhaps it was for the better.

For years, she pushed the thought to the back of her head. It was easier to pretend the marks on her wrists didn’t exist. Then it became less confusing. She could focus on being the dutiful sister, maintaining the small home she occupied with her brother, staying out of the public eye due to the shame brought upon them by their mother. In fact, Octavia was almost certain the people of Rome had forgotten she existed. Bellamus was careful not to talk about her, for her own protection, lest other men took it upon themselves to steal her away. Left to her own devices, all Octavia could do was read the books her brother brought back for her.

When she slept, though, she couldn’t help it. Images would flash through her dreams of a Moorish man, always the same man. She would see him dressed in the same tunic she associated with her brother, but also curiously dressed in clothing she had never seen before in her life. She never remembered his face when she awoke, but sometimes she would wake with a hot blush upon her cheeks and a strange tingling to her lips. She couldn’t help but think that perhaps this Moor was the bearer of the strange name on her right wrist. She refused, however, to wonder whether he was her soulmate or her enemy.

One day, Bellamus returned home to their insula with a large smile on his face. Octavia set aside the scroll she had been reading and followed him across the small room to join him in prayer to the household god

“Sister, you will never believe it,” he said, after they were finished praying. Octavia passed him a piece of bread and he nibbled on it.

“Then you shall have to tell me, brother,” she replied. “How can I guess something I do not believe in?” She tilted her head innocently.

Bellamus kissed the top of her head. “I travel to Pompeii. The gladiator ring there is in need of guards,” he explained, the smile still on his face. “It is permanent. You can come with me. No one in Pompeii knows us.”

Octavia perked up, looking up at him. “You mean I could…” she trailed off, her eyes wide with wonder. Bellamus nodded.

“You would never have to hide at home again,” he confirmed. “But only if you wish it.”

Octavia didn’t give it a second though. She nodded her head eagerly, glancing towards the idol of their household god.

“I’ve been praying for years to leave this place,” she breathed. Bellamus nodded.

“I know, sister,” he replied, patting her shoulder.

Only a few weeks later, Octavia left the insula for the first time in years, a shawl draped over her head, and climbed into a cart where she hid under a blanket until they were well out of the city. When they finally reached Pompeii, she was struck with awe.

“It’s beautiful,” Octavia breathed, sitting up and clinging to Bellamus’ arm. He glanced at her, a lopsided smile on his face.

“I know,” he answered. “That mountain is…” he trailed off, staring at it. Octavia gazed at it with him, but they soon had to step aside as a group of slave fighters were brought in by the soldiers. Octavia demurred, looking away, but not before one fighter made eye contact with her, a Moor. Something about him brought butterflies to her stomach, but she ignored it.

The year was 79AD, and when the mountain exploded, Octavia could not escape the city. Knocked against a stone wall, her last thoughts were of the Moor she had never met, and the name she still did not know.

= = = = =

Octavia Blake was an enigma to the people of London. Some said it was impossible for the soldier Bellamy Blake to have a sister, as she had never been seen in public. Others said the Blake boy’s home was haunted by the ghost of a former inhabitant. It wasn’t until the house burned down and Octavia was rescued that her presence was finally made known, and even then, it came as no surprise, as their late mother had a reputation attributed to her.

The papers reported that a young woman, barely seventeen years old had been pulled out of the fire. Bellamy was out of town, and when it was discovered that the woman was still breathing, she was rushed to a hospital where she was cared for until Bellamy returned, frantic.

Octavia wasn’t thinking about being trapped in the hospital, though. She was thinking about the face in the smoke. The man who had pulled her out of the fire had disappeared almost as quickly as he had appeared, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that she had seen him before.

“Are you sure you’re alright?” Bellamy asked, brushing her hair back. Octavia let out a sigh.

“Yes, I’m fine,” she murmured, taking one of his gloved hands in hers, careful to angle her arm so she could not see the writing on her wrist. Bellamy had worn gloves for as long as she could remember, and thus she had never seen the names written there. She, on the other hand, simply avoided looking. Always in the back of her mind, she knew the names. Octavia Blake and Lincoln Woods. One was her soulmate; one was her worst enemy. She had long since forced herself to stop thinking about which was which.

“How did you get out?” Bellamy asked, pulling a chair and sitting next to her. Octavia shook her head faintly.

“I don’t know,” she lied. If her brother knew a black man had pulled her from the fire… she didn’t know what he would do. Thankfully, Bellamy seemed to think she needed rest, and withdrew from the room. Octavia let her eyes flutter shut, only for the dreams to begin.

Flashes of a face that seemed all too familiar to her. At once, he seemed dressed in a Roman toga, and then medieval chainmail, then antiquated clothing. Always out of place. Never close enough for her to make him out. This time was different, though. He drew closer in her dreams, pausing before her.

A muffled sound. She couldn’t make it out. Dream Octavia tried to speak, but couldn’t. Instead, she raised her wrist. He raised his. They touched.

Octavia awoke with a start, her cheeks hot. She knew the man who had pulled her from the fire. She sat up, listening to the radio babble on about the war. At the foot of her bed was a man. Butterflies rose in her stomach.

“You’re her, aren’t you?” he said, dark eyes searching hers. Octavia tried to catch her breath but found she couldn’t.

“What’s your name?” she replied, finally. He stood still for a long time, staring at her.

“Lincoln.”

Her heart felt like it was going to beat out of her chest. Octavia swallowed a lump in her throat, staring at him. It couldn’t be. She subconsciously glanced down at her wrists, then back at him. He was still watching her carefully.

A siren sounded. “Air raid,” she hissed, cringing back on the bed.

The last thing she remembered was a loud crash, and his face.

Lincoln.

= = = = =

For as long as Octavia Blake could remember, there had been two names on her wrist. One was her own, and the other was Lincoln Woods. One was supposed to be her soulmate, and the other was her worst enemy, and she knew exactly which was which.

She didn’t know how she knew, just that always in her dreams he was there. Every so often he would be wearing something strange, but he was always there. She had looked him up on social media a while back and had discovered he was a student at Polis University. It wasn’t too far from her hometown of Arcadia, but with a brother like hers, it was next to impossible to get away. Bellamy had been protective of her ever since she was a child, since their mother had passed away early in her life, but now that she was a high school senior, it was getting annoying.

Octavia kicked the ball to her teammate, cheering as Harper made a goal. Joining the soccer team had been the best decision she had ever made. It was a nice distraction, and best of all, if they won this game, they would get to travel to Polis for the championship tournament.

The ball came back to her and she travelled with it down the field, giving it a strong kick. The Eligius team was tough, but she knew Arcadia was better. The crowd watching went wild as she made the goal, and Octavia punched the air in triumph. They had done it! They were going to Polis!

She ran to her teammates, hugging them, and glanced out into the crowd, making eye contact with her brother. He was clapping, smiling fondly at her. Later, after the celebration was over, she finally made her way to him.

“That was incredible, O!” Bellamy exclaimed, hugging her. She barely noticed anymore that he only ever wore long sleeved shirts. Somehow, she had never managed to see which names were on his wrists. He kept it a closely guarded secret. She, on the other hand, didn’t purposely hide her names, but she didn’t broadcast them either. It was common knowledge that it wasn’t polite to look at other peoples’ wrists, thankfully.

“I can’t believe we did it! State champions, here we come!” she chirped, noting his demeanor change. “Oh, come on, Bell, I’m the team captain. I have to go,” she added, punching his shoulder lightly. For some reason, Bellamy didn’t like Polis. It was a rough town, according to him, and she knew she was in for a week of being warned over and over again to be careful.

Bellamy reluctantly agreed, and the pair returned to their modest apartment. Octavia knew Bellamy worked three jobs to pay for the rent, and that was on top of going to Arcadia University on a scholarship, and she couldn’t help but admire him for his willingness to look after her. Even if it got annoying, she always had a fondness in her heart for her big brother.

Eventually, the big day came. Bellamy drove Octavia to Polis, and she chatted eagerly, non-stop, until they arrived. Once at the field, Octavia left her brother in the concessions line to go find the rest of her team. As she wove through the crowd, suddenly she crashed into someone.

“I am so sorr—” she started, looking up. Her breath caught in her throat.

Lincoln Woods looked down at her, a note of concern in his dark eyes. “Watch where you’re going,” he said, crossing his arms in front of him. Octavia nodded, blinking.

“Right, I’m sorry. I was just looking for my team,” she said, glancing around. Clearly, he didn’t know her the way she knew him. He looked exactly the way he did in her dreams, and she felt heat rising to her cheeks.

“You’re from Arcadia, then?” he asked, his eyes still searching hers.

“Yeah,” she replied, “I’m Octavia.”

A flash of recognition finally crossed his face, and he opened his mouth to speak.

“Octavia!” she heard her name and turned, spying Harper and Monroe. They were waving eagerly at her.

“I’m sorry, I should…” she murmured, taking a half step back. Lincoln nodded and Octavia flinched at the disappointment etched into his expression.

“Right,” he replied, glancing over her shoulder at the two girls. “I don’t want to keep you from your friends.”

Octavia reluctantly dragged herself away, glancing back only once. He wasn’t there. He had disappeared into the crowd. Her heart sank. She had blown it.

Later that afternoon, after the game, Octavia had managed to avoid Bellamy and was walking down the sidewalk glumly. They had lost, and she didn’t feel like seeing him. She knew he would want to talk, but she wanted to be alone. To make matters worse, the skies (which had slowly been getting more grey as the afternoon bore on) finally opened and she was now drenched with rain.

“Of course,” she grumbled, crossing her arms in front of herself.

“Octavia?” a voice sounded from behind her. She turned, and there he was, standing there with an umbrella. Octavia swallowed, making eye contact with Lincoln once again.

“Lincoln,” she acknowledged, offering a small nod.

He pressed his lips together in a thin line before speaking. “You knew who I was, didn’t you?” he asked, holding the umbrella out so it covered them both. Octavia was thankful for it.

“I’ve known my entire life. I don’t know how, but I have,” she replied, rubbing her right wrist, the one with his name written on it. He held out his own wrist, and her breath caught at the sight of her own name written there.

“No one knows how it works,” he replied, shrugging. “I just know I’ve been dreaming about you for as long as I can remember. You look different, though.” He gently brushed some of her wet hair back behind her ear, and Octavia shivered. Something about this just felt so right. It was unlike anything she had ever felt before.

“So, this is it, then?” she asked, swallowing once again. “What do we do now?” She didn’t know anyone who had actually met their soulmate. At least, she was pretty sure she didn’t. Lincoln bit his lip.

“I suppose… I’d like to get to know you, if that’s alright? Maybe we could get coffee? I know a place, called the Dropship. It’s pretty nice,” he offered.

“I’d like that,” Octavia replied, smiling. Lincoln smiled back, extending a hand, and she shook it, trying to ignore the butterflies that rose in her stomach.

Bellamy pulled up alongside them in his car then, and she reluctantly left Lincoln, although they made sure to exchange phone numbers first. When she got home that evening, Octavia went immediately to her room. When she fell asleep, it was to the oh-so-familiar dreams of Lincoln smiling at her.

The next morning, Bellamy wouldn’t let her see the newspaper. When she finally grabbed it from him, her heart stopped. The cover story was about a shooting in Polis, and the photo was of Lincoln.

“It was a drive-by,” she distantly heard her brother tell her. A drive-by. She left the room before Bellamy could see her cry.

= = = = =

For as long as Octavia Blake could remember, she wore gloves. Just like her brother, she refused to look at the two names on her wrist. Life was cruel, she knew that. For all she knew, her soulmate would be dead before she even met the person. When she dreamed, Octavia saw snippets of a familiar face, but she always forgot it when she woke. It wasn’t worth it to know who her soulmate was. She knew that.

Instead, she had thrown herself into the world of casual dating, where she didn’t have to worry about soulmates and worst enemies. Instead, she would leave home, conveniently forgetting to tell her brother where she was going and spend her nights with anyone she could meet at the bar. Ilian had been her favourite for a while, and her experimentation with Niylah had left her breathless. She had long since learned to ignore the pit in her stomach every time she slept with someone new.

One night, she met Lincoln Woods, a med school student who seemed very interested in her. They clicked immediately, and soon enough, Octavia was leaving the bar with him, heading to his place in one of those new, fancy hovercraft taxis.

Something felt different that night.

She started seeing Lincoln regularly. While it started as just sex, eventually they started talking about their lives. One evening, he was bold enough to ask her why she refused to take off her gloves, and Octavia hesitated before telling him the truth.

“In all honesty, I think this soulmate thing is just crap,” she told him, lying next to him in the bed. Lincoln, who had been lazily drawing circles on her back, paused.

“You’ve never been curious?” he asked, pressing a kiss to her shoulder.

Octavia bit her lip. “No,” she replied after a long pause, rolling over and pressing a firm kiss to his lips. He kissed her back, and she moved to straddle his waist, hoping to distract him from asking more questions.

It worked.

The next morning, Octavia slipped out of the bed and found her clothes, starting to pull them on.

“There’s a showing at the art gallery tomorrow,” she heard him speak up behind her.

“Oh?” she asked, glancing over her shoulder at him. He was propped up on one elbow, watching her get dressed.

“I was wondering if you wanted to go.”

Octavia hesitated. She didn’t date. She just had casual sex with people. He seemed so sweet, though, and after a pause, she nodded. “Okay,” she heard herself say.

Lincoln smiled widely. “Meet you there at 6?” he asked. Octavia nodded again and left his apartment in a hurry.

The following evening, after a long and arduous conversation with her brother about what she should wear, she arrived at the gallery in jeans and a nice top. She didn’t have to wait long, as Lincoln appeared at her side.

“Hey,” he said, smiling easily. Octavia gave a small smile and repeated the greeting back to him. They walked into the gallery together. The first thing she noticed was that every painting was of Roman architecture.

“Bellamy would love this,” she commented offhand. Lincoln glanced at her with a grin.

“He likes Roman stuff?” he asked.

Octavia nodded. “Roman, Greek, anything ancient,” she explained, walking up to a painting and resting her fingers against it. The caption below it explained that it was an insula, or an ancient Roman apartment building, where poor people lived. She took in the details, swallowing a lump in her throat. The painting spoke to her, and she didn’t know why. Lincoln stood silently at her side, looking at it too.

“It’s interesting,” he finally said. Octavia nodded in agreement and moved on to the next one.

It was the first of many dates. After a couple of months, Octavia realized she had not been to the bar alone since meeting Lincoln. She had managed to avoid the soulmate conversation, though. Somehow.

Bellamy first noticed when a bouquet of flowers arrived for Octavia at their apartment. Blushing furiously, with butterflies in her stomach, Octavia scooped them up and took them to her room. That evening, when she arrived at Lincoln’s apartment, she immediately kissed him.

“The flowers were beautiful,” she murmured against his lips, grinning like an idiot. Lincoln laughed, his arms loosely looped around her waist.

“I’m glad you liked them,” he replied, pulling her into the apartment. Octavia had never been happier than she was in that moment.

Later, as they lay in bed together, Lincoln played with the cuff of her right glove and Octavia pulled away from him.

“Don’t!” she said, more sharply than she intended. He flinched, and she immediately felt bad.

“I’m sorry,” he said, letting out a breath. “I just… why don’t you want to know?”

Octavia reached over, lightly touching his shoulder. “I don’t want to know who my soulmate is, because I’m afraid it’s not you,” she admitted, looking him in the eyes. Lincoln’s expression softened and he cupped her cheek in his hand.

“Can I show you something?” he asked, turning his wrist upwards before she could respond. She glanced down, her breath catching as she read her own name on Lincoln’s wrist.

“I…” she breathed out, brushing her fingers against the word.

“I’ve known it forever,” he whispered, linking their fingers together. “Even before I ever saw you, I knew. I’ve dreamed about you.”

As he said that, Octavia nibbled on her lower lip. “Why didn’t you ever say anything?” she asked.

Lincoln shook his head. “You said you didn’t believe in soulmates,” he said simply.

Octavia hesitated. “I was afraid I would meet them too late, or not at all. It was easier to just not know,” she admitted, now not meeting his gaze. Lincoln leaned in, pressing his forehead against hers.

“I met you,” he whispered, cupping her cheek again. “And we got to be together.”

Octavia let out a shaky breath, feeling comforted by him being so close. She brushed her nose against his, then kissed him briefly.

“You look,” she said finally, closing her eyes. She heard Lincoln’s breathing and felt his fingers tugging at the glove on her right hand. Instinctively, she clenched her fist, and soon felt him kissing each of her fingers individually.

“It’s okay,” he whispered. Octavia relaxed her hand and shuddered as his fingers against the bare skin on her wrist. The butterflies were rising, and she tried to quell them.

“Turn your wrist up,” Lincoln whispered, and she did. She heard a sharp inhale and opened her eyes quickly to see him staring at her wrist, his eyes wide. Instantly, Octavia looked down.

Memories flashed through her mind, memories of the dreams she had been having since she was a child, of his face, Lincoln’s face, always in her dreams. She let out a small gasp, then raised her eyes to meet his.

Lincoln instantly pressed his lips to hers, and Octavia responded immediately.

“I can’t believe it,” she said breathlessly after pulling away, her hand on his chest.

He chuckled, kissing her forehead. “Who would have thought?”

Octavia swallowed. “It’s been you this whole time,” she breathed, turning her wrist so she could see it, make sure it wasn’t her imagination.

Lincoln pressed his forehead against hers once more, smiling fondly. “I love you,” he murmured.

The butterflies intensified and Octavia felt heat rising to her cheeks. “I love you, too,” she replied. Once upon a time she never would have thought she would be admitting that to anyone (except maybe for Bellamy). But now she was saying it with full honesty to her soulmate, the one person she had been hiding from her entire life.

When they woke the next morning, the holo-screen was blaring a warning that the nuclear reactors were failing. Octavia clung to Lincoln in fear, and he held her close.

“I’m not losing you,” he whispered, kissing her temple.

= = = = =

For as long as Captain Octavia Blake of the spaceship Blodreina could remember, there had been two names on her wrist. One was her own, and the other was Lincoln Woods. One was her soulmate, and the other was her worst enemy, and she knew exactly which was which. Because of that, she kept them hidden behind wristbands. Thanks to the dreamless sleep tonic invented by Niylah, the healer on her ship, she didn’t have to worry about the dreams anymore.

“Leaving hyperspace now,” her first mate reported. Octavia nodded, rising to her feet.

“Eligius won’t be expecting us,” she said, her voice low and dangerous. “Prepare the artillery. Fire as soon as we’re within range.”

Miller nodded and started barking orders while Octavia sat again.

“Captain?”

She turned, nodding at Niylah as she entered the bridge. “Yes?” she asked, raising her head. The medic absently rubbed the wristbands on her wrists. Everyone on the Blodreina wore them. No exceptions.

“The hostages are awake,” she replied, making eye contact with her.

Octavia pressed her lips together. “Miller, Indra? I trust you can handle this?” she asked, glancing at her two commanding officers. They both nodded and she rose to her feet again, sweeping down the bridge and passing Niylah. She instantly fell in stride behind her.

The pair left the bridge and made their way to where the hostages were being kept. Octavia kept her head high, knowing the Blodreina warpaint on her face gave her an imposing air. The hostages watched her warily, and she smirked.

“You are prisoners of Blodreina,” she announced, looking at each of them in turn. Her gaze lingered on the last of them, a man who was staring at her intently, no fear in his eyes. Strange. She turned to face him directly.

“What is your name?”

“Lincoln Woods,” he replied.

The butterflies rose, and Octavia fought to maintain a calm exterior as she stared him down. The name was familiar to her, and as the memories of her dreams flooded her mind, she swallowed.

“You will all be kept here until I find a use for you,” she said finally, turning on her heels and walking out of the room. Niylah followed her.

Later, after the battle with Eligius was won, Octavia waited in her private chamber. The door opened, and Niylah stepped in, followed by the hostage, Lincoln Woods.

“As you requested, Captain,” she murmured. Octavia nodded and Niylah left the room, leaving the two together.

“It really is you,” Lincoln breathed, taking a step towards her. Octavia watched him warily.

“I don’t know who you think I am,” she started, “but I’ll warn you. I don’t believe in that soulmate crap.”

Lincoln shook his head. “I don’t believe that,” he said, glancing at her wrists, “or you wouldn’t be wearing those.”

Octavia turned away from him. “You don’t know me.”

Somehow, he was right behind her. “Then let me get to know you.”

= = = = =

“Lincoln. My name is Lincoln.”

Octavia froze, staring at him. Memories came flooding back, of the dreams she had had since she was a child. Her wrists seemed to burn, and the butterflies rose in her stomach.

It was him.

She couldn’t let her friends torture him anymore.