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Time After Time

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Margo breathes in deeply and absentmindedly rubs the blue butterfly tattoo on her wrist, feeling it fly across her skin as it’s been enchanted to do until it goes back to it’s normal, non magical appearance. The paper in her hand feels almost like needles pricking her skin, maybe it’s the nerves, maybe it’s actual pain that comes from a place not even she can describe. 

She stares at the apartment door in front of her, something swirling in her belly. Butterflies , she thinks, half sadly. She brings her hand to her face, makes sure she’s not crying. She’s not, but it feels like there’s tears streaming down her cheeks. 

She’s been staring at the door for over ten minutes, trying to bring herself to knock. It’s not that she’s scared, it’s more of the fact that maybe this is too soon, but there will never be a time where it’s right, not really. 

Not with something like this. 

Slowly, she lifts her hand, blinks at the butterfly on her wrist, once, twice. 

And then, she knocks. 

Henry Fogg isn’t one to startle easily. But when his door slams open, and a clearly disgruntled and angry Margo Hanson marches towards his desk, he can’t help but jump ever so slightly. He opens his mouth to speak, but she beats him to it. 

She slams a file onto his desk, her perfectly manicured red nails standing out against the beige of the folder. “I know it’s a real fucking challenge for you, but I need you to tell me the fucking truth, and do it sober.” 

He looks at her fully, takes in details he hadn’t noticed before. Her makeup is perfect, but no amount of eyeshadow or concealer can hide the red in her eyes, or the way her bottom lip trembles ever so slightly when she speaks. He can’t figure out if it’s sadness or anger, but he imagines it’s both. He gestures for her to sit down, which she does. Glancing at her once more, he opens the folder. There’s nothing in it but two simple pictures, and it causes a sinking feeling in his stomach. “What is it that you need exactly, Miss Hanson?”

Margo’s frown grows, and her lips curl at the end, furious and ready to snap. “Fucking answers.” 

Margo and Julia stare at each other, neither of them saying anything as other students rush by them. Just ten minutes ago, it had been a pretty typical day for Margo, minus the fact that she had been chosen to be the welcome committee for one of the new first years. Wanting to get it over with, she had walked fast enough to get there quicker, but not so fast that she lost any of her grace. She had, luckily, only bumped into one person on the way, seeing nothing but a mess of dark brown curly hair and she hadn’t bothered to look back to see who she had collided with. 

When Margo finally got to the first year, she was already prepared to ditch her as fast as she could and get back to Eliot, who was busy with his own newbie. 

That quickly changed, however, when she walked up to the brunette, and, when going to look at the notecard that had her name it, noticed that on her left wrist, her counter had started. 

And so had Julia’s. 

After a few moments of silence, Margo finally breaks it and speaks. “Well, shit.”

Henry sighs and shakes his head. “I understand you’re grieving, Miss Hanson, but Miss Wicker-“ 

Margo immediately cuts him off, her voice raw and shaky. “Julia. Her name is,” She pauses, bottom lip trembling ever so slightly. “Was. Her name was Julia.” 

At first, though she’ll never admit it to anybody , Margo didn’t really want anything to do with Julia. Her first impression of the girl had been that she was boring, a typical cliche nerdy first year with stars in her eyes. And Margo had seen plenty of them, and despite the counter on her wrist, she didn’t really want to know Julia. That is, until, they were paired up for a project. It was the second years jobs to help the first years master a simple spell, levitation of small objects, and Margo knew it was going to be boring. Because she knew Julia was a goody two shoes. 

Until, of course, she wasn’t. 

“Do you want to ditch?” 

Margo moves her eyes away from the paper she wasn’t actually reading. “What?”

Julia grins at her and shrugs. “Do you want to ditch? Go get a coffee or something?”

The other girl raises a single eyebrow. “You do realize if you fail this, you’ll get expelled and have your memories erased, right?”

At that, the shorter girl smiles and with a single lift of her finger, the paper Margo was looking at, along with three pens, begin to hover in the air. “Somehow, I don’t think that will be a problem.”

If Margo was one to gawk, she would have done exactly that. “How-”

Standing, Julia cuts her off. “Knowledge student. My discipline is meta-composition. So, about that coffee?”

After that, Margo had quickly changed her mind. Julia Wicker was anything but boring, and for the first time in her life, Margo was glad she had been proven wrong. 

The rest, as they say, was history. 

And at the time, Margo’s counter didn’t bother her. But every minute that she got to know Julia, was a minute she wished she could multiply in the future.

Margo gives Julia her signature pout and her girlfriend smiles, shaking her head. “No. I have to study.”

She gives Julia an eye roll that she doesn’t really mean and grabs her hand, pulling her closer. “Please? You’ve studied enough and you’ve been cooped up in the attic for a week, Quentin is genuinely going to do a welfare check if you don’t leave this goddamn room.”

Julia laughs at that and reaches out to play with a strand of Margo’s hair, twirling it gently around her finger. “Oh please, we both know that Quentin is too busy getting dicked down by Eliot to even make the phone call.” 

At that, Margo snorts but doesn’t disagree. “Fine, but you really do need a break.” 

Julia gazes into her eyes for a moment before sighing and Margo knows she’s won. “I am going to get you so fucking drunk.” 

For that comment, Margo gets a pillow thrown at her. 

She wasn’t lying about getting Julia drunk, though, technically it’s Eliot who really does it. She smiles from her place on the couch as she watches Julia and Alice argue playfully about their upcoming test next week. If she didn’t know better, she’s be jealous, but every few minutes Julia looks over at her and beams, and Margo is filled with warmth. 

The warmth goes away when she glances at the counter on her wrist, the numbers counting down the two months Julia has left to live. When the couch dips, she looks over to see Eliot and gives him a fake smile. “Finally done sucking face with Quentin?”

Eliot grins at her and takes a sip of his bourbon. “Only because he had to pee.”

They sit in comfortable silence for a bit before Margo looks over at Eliot’s wrist where a counter doesn’t exist. He had been born without one, and had been shunned by his family for it. Quentin’s counter, however, shows that Eliot has sixty one years left on this earth. 

When Eliot notices her staring, he looks at her questioning glance, waiting for Margo to ask the question shining in her eyes. “Is it easier? Not knowing?”

Eliot moves his eyes to where Quentin is dancing with Julia and shakes his head. “No. I think it’s worse, in a way. I have no idea how much longer I have with him. Could be two days, could be thirty years.” Before Margo can reply, her girlfriend is dragging her off the couch and to the middle of the room, begging her to dance. 

Two weeks after the party, Eliot, Margo, Quentin and Julia are laying on the grass in a part of the Brakebills property that’s almost completely void of other students. Julia’s head is in Margo’s lap and Quentin and Eliot are flat on their backs, watching the clouds go by. It’s been silent the entire hour they’ve been out here, except for a certain comment here and there. 

Julia breaks that silence. Her eyes closed, she breathes in deeply. “..I want to leave something behind.” 

Margo stops running her fingers through her hair and both Eliot and Quentin sit up. “What?”

Julia opens her eyes and gazes into Margo’s. “When..after I’m gone,” She gives them a look when they go to interrupt her. “After I’m gone, I want there to be something, a piece of me that’s still here..something more than memories.” 

The other three exchange a secret glance and Quentin looks at her with sad, puppy dog eyes. “Like what, Jules?” 

There’s a five minute silence before Julia sits up and looks at them all. “A garden.” She looks down at the grass and rubs a piece between her fingers. “Right here.” 

When the counter on Margo’s wrist reaches thirty one days, nine hours, and thirty four seconds, she and Julia have their first real fight. It consists of words that neither of them mean, and ends with Margo openly sobbing into Julia’s sweater while the other girl rubs her back in an attempt to calm her. “I don’t understand Julia, I don’t. How can you just..accept this? How can you be okay with this?” 

Julia slowly scooches backwards so she can look at her soulmate properly. “I’m not okay with it Margo, I’m not. Don’t you think I hate it, too? I don’t want to leave all of this behind, it breaks my heart to think of all the things I’m never going to see. But..I’m also not going to sit here and lie to you and say that I’m afraid, because I’m not.”

Margo sighs and looks down at her hands. “How can you not be?”

Gently, Julia cups her cheeks and meets her eyes. “Because I have you. And Quentin, and Eliot. If I lived the rest of my life afraid, then I wouldn’t be living at all. I don’t want to focus on the future I don’t have. I want to focus on the life that I do.” 

There’s a million things that Margo admires about Julia, but her bravery is something that amazes her. 

Later that night, as they lay naked in Margo’s bed, she decides she can be brave too. “..Do you remember our first date?”

Julia lets out a small chuckle at that and nods. “Of course I do, how could I forget?” 

There’s silence for a few moments before Margo speaks again. “You asked me about my family, but I never answered you.” 

Julia doesn’t respond, understanding that her soulmate isn’t looking for a confirmation. “When I was eleven, my mom died. It was a drunk driver. He ran a red light and when she swerved to avoid him, her car slammed into a pole,” Julia sucks in a breath at that, but doesn’t interrupt, simply holding the other girl tighter. 

“After, my dad became an angry, bitter person. When I was seventeen, on the anniversary of her death, we got into a fight and he hit me so hard that my lip split open. He’d always been emotionally abusive, but never physical.” She reaches down to rub the counter on Julia’s wrist. Forty five years, eight months, six days, and twenty three seconds. “That was the last straw for me, I couldn’t take it anymore, so I packed as much as I could in a suitcase and went to live with my aunt until I went off to college. I haven’t spoken to him since. I don’t want to either. Everyday he would tell me that no one would ever love me, not even my soulmate.” 

Margo looks up at Julia with sad, watery eyes, yet with a smile on her face.“Thank you for proving him wrong..for proving me wrong, because for so long I believed him. But not anymore.” A tear slips down her cheek and the shorter girl wipes it away. “I can’t lose you, Jules, I can’t.” 

Even though they both know it’s a lie, Julia says it anyway. “You won’t lose me. Not ever.” 

Three days later when Margo is helping Julia bake cupcakes in celebration of Quentin finally finding out what his discipline is, Julia catches Margo humming a song. “What is that?”

Margo stops frosting the cupcakes and looks at her. “What?”

“That song you’re humming. I’ve never heard of it.” 

“Oh,” Margo blinks at her as if she hadn’t noticed she was doing it at all. “It’s an Indian lullaby, my mom used to sing it to me when I was little. She even made a music box that played it.” There’s a heavy silence as Julia watches Margo return to frosting the cupcakes. “My dad has it. He refuses to give it back. I asked for it back when I was nineteen. He told me it no longer belongs to me because I no longer live under his roof.” Margo flashes Julia an obvious fake smile, one that holds years of sadness. “I think these are done, give me the next ones.”

In that moment, Julia hatches a plan. One that she hopes Margo will forgive her for.

When Abbas Hanson opens his door to see a five foot one Julia Wicker standing on his doorstep, he immediately begins to shut the door. “I don’t want whatever you’re selling.” 

Julia sticks her foot in his door so he can’t close it. “I’m not selling anything. I’m here to get something for your daughter.” 

At that, he seethes at her. “Get off my property. Now. Before I call the police.”

Julia doesn’t back down at the threat. It, if anything, makes her angrier. “No. I’m going to speak, and you’re going to listen. My name is Julia, and your daughter is my soulmate. I bet that kills you, doesn’t it? To know your daughters soulmate is a girl.” 

Julia inwardly smiles as the man's eyes grow darker and his frown deepens. “Good. I hope it eats away at you for the rest of your life. You told Margo nobody would ever love her, you told her that every fucking day for six years. But you were wrong. I love her, your daughter, more than words can describe.”

She takes a step further into the house and she almost shocks herself with her own ferocity. “You don’t deserve her, you never did. You’re a horrible father and I’m sure you’re an even worse person. But you know what? That’s fine, that’s okay. Because she doesn’t need you. She never did. I feel sorry for you, Mr. Hanson. Your daughter has grown into an incredible woman that you will never get to know.”

Abbas glares at her and takes a step closer to her. “Is that what you came here for? To berate me at my own house?”

Julia, with no expression, shakes her head. “No. I’m here to get back something that rightfully belongs to your daughter. And you can give it to me,” Julia lifts one of her hands palm side up, a flame appearing in her hand. “Or, I can take it.  Your choice.” 

Mr. Hanson looks both shocked and not shocked at all, and he takes three steps back. “So you’ve got the devil in you too.”

Julia doesn’t respond to the comment, simply rolling her eyes and walking up the stairs. Fucking muggles . The upstairs hallway is long, but it doesn’t take long for Julia to figure out which room is Margo’s. 

She hesitates before turning the doorknob. Unsure if Margo would be okay with her walking into her room like this. But, then again, it hasn’t been her room in a long time. Not really. So, she twists it and pushes the door open, wincing when it makes an unpleasant creaking sound. 

If the circumstances were different, Julia imagines she would be smiling at the sight of her soulmates room. There’s an arrangement of stuffed animals on her maroon bed, all lined up from smallest to largest. Looking around the room, it doesn’t take her long to spot the music box. It’s a beautiful, simple silver box with flowers and vines enveloping it. There’s a thick layer of dust on it which confirms Julia’s suspicion that her father hadn't been in this room since Margo left. 

Gently, she brushes off the dust and opens it to make sure it still works. She smiles as the melody starts to play and a small figurine of a ballerina on the back of a horse begins to spin in a circle. Reaching out to swipe the dust off of the figurine, she feels a familiar tingle in her fingers and nods to herself. Magic, of course. Margo’s mother must have been a magician. Or a hedgewitch. Or, perhaps she had simply put so much love into this creation for her daughter that it had made its own magic. 

Carefully, she picks it up and puts it in her satchel. Right as she’s about to turn around to leave, she hears a creaking behind her. “I loved her. I did.” 

Julia swallows thickly but doesn’t turn around to face him. “You sure didn’t act like it.” And with that, she marches past him out of the room and begins her descent down the stairs. 

“Wait!” She feels a tight grip on her elbow and immediately there’s electricity between her fingers, prepared to defend herself if she has to. When his grip loosens, she lowers her hand. For a moment, they do nothing but stare at each other. And then. “...How is she?”

Julia could be petty. She could be cruel, and venomous. But that’s not her. “She’s happy. She’s found her family.” And with those words, she walks down the rest of the stairs and out the front door, using her magic to close it behind her. 

She hates Abbas Hanson. She does. But she also can’t help the pity she feels for him, because when he had grabbed her elbow, she had seen his counter. 

Zero years, zero months, zero days, zero minutes, zero seconds. 

And Julia suspects his counter had been that way for a very, very long time. 

Julia chews nervously on her lip as Quentin inspects the back of the music where a piece had chipped off. “Can you fix it?” 

Quentin gives her a smile and wiggles his fingers, nodding. “Minor mendings, remember?” 

With a few twists of his hands, the box is in perfect condition once again and Julia sighs in relief. “Thanks, Q.” 

He shrugs his shoulders as if to say it’s no big deal. “Did you seriously use magic in front of her dad? Can’t you get expelled for that?” 

Julia sets the music box on the table and tucks her legs underneath her. “I doubt it, I don’t think he’ll tell anyone. Besides, do you really think they’ll expel someone who has what, fourteen days left to live?” 

It’s meant to be a joke, but Julia is immediately filled with guilt when Quentin’s eyes fill with tears. “Q..”

“Jules, I-“ He lifts his arm to wipe his eyes with the sleeve of his sweater. “It feels like we’ve been together all our lives. I can’t..I can’t picture you not being here.” 

Julia can feel her eyes sting with tears but she forces them away, refusing to cry. “Quentin, you’ll be okay.” 

He shakes his head and lets his tears flow freely now. “No. Julia’ve always been the one constant in my life. Do you remember when we used to pretend we were in Fillory? You always played the knight, always wanting to protect me. Fuck, J, you’ve been protecting me since the first day of kindergarten when Jared Matthews took my lunch.” Julia can’t help but snort at that and he gives her a sad smile as he continues. “It’s always been you and I against the world, Julia. I don’t know how I’m gonna do it alone.” 

“Quentin, you’ll never be alone,” She reaches out to hold his hand and he squeezes hers like it’s a lifeline. “You have Eliot, and Margo now. And Q, you also have yourself. You’re stronger than you think you are. I know you’ll be okay.” She leans forward to hug him and he hugs her back just as tightly. “I love you, Quentin.” 

He takes in a deep, shaky breath before responding. “I love you too, Julia. Always.” 

Two days later, it’s Julia’s birthday, and Margo wakes her up with breakfast in bed. After, of course, they have sex until noon. When Julia pulls her too big sweater over her head, she looks at Margo with a glint in her eye that the other girl immediately recognizes. “What?” 

Smiling, Julia reaches under her bed to grab a small, neatly wrapped box. “I was going to give this to you yesterday but I know you were busy working on Welters.” 

Margo takes the box but frowns slightly. “Jules, it’s your birthday, and you’re giving me a present?”

The shorter girl snorts and sits back down on her bed. “Trust me, I see the irony. But open it? Please?” 

Margo rolls her but does as Julia asked. “If it’s some kind of gag gif-“ She goes silent as soon as the wrapping is completely off. “I..what..Julia..” She takes the music box into her hands and holds it so delicately that Julia thinks she’s afraid it’s not real. Margo moves her eyes to Julia’s. “How?” Her voice cracks but Julia knows it’s not from sadness. 

Julia smiles at her and shakes her head. “Just a little magic.” She leans in to kiss her soulmate and Margo immediately reciprocates, pulling the shorter girl closer. 

When they pull away, Margo opens the music box and smiles tearfully as the melody plays. “I love you.”

It’s not the first time she’s said it, but it does feel like the most important time. Julia reaches out to touch Margo’s hand. “I love you too. So much.” 

After a few minutes, Margo lets out a small snort. “Well, now your birthday present looks like shit compared to this.” 

Julia beams at her and moves so she’s laying on her stomach, chin in Margo’s lap, legs swinging back and forth behind her. “Give it to me anyway.” 

“Can I take off the blindfold yet?” 

“No! Just a few more seconds.” 

Julia feels Margo move her around some sort of object, and she can hear the sound of chains rattling and a door being opened. “Why do I feel like you’re taking me to a dungeon?”

Margo makes a humming noise. “Kinky, but no.” 

Margo’s grip on Julia’s arms goes away momentarily before coming back and she feels her hand untie the blindfold and remove it. “Okay, open your eyes.” 

When Julia does just that, she sucks in a breath and once again, has to force herself not to cry. “Oh my gods.” 

It doesn’t take long for Julia to realize they’re standing in a greenhouse, filled with flowers that have clearly been made with magic. There are roses colored like rainbows, tulips that emit sparkles, and so many other overwhelmingly beautiful pieces of nature. Quentin and Eliot are there as well, along with Josh Hoberman, who she knows must have been a big help in creating this. 

“Happy birthday Julia.” Quentin gives her a long, tight hug before pulling away. “Do you like it?” 

She doesn’t think she can describe how happy she is in that moment, and all she can do is nod. Margo gently takes her by the arm and guides her over to a section of the greenhouse that for some reason feels colder than the rest of it, and she quickly finds out why. There’s a large pot of lily flowers, all made out of ice. “It’s my own personal touch,” Margo shrugs and smiles. “Cryomancy definitely comes in handy.” 

Julia lets out a shocked laugh when a butterfly lands on her nose and she beams when she notices how many there are. “Butterflies?” 

Margo nods as they walk back to the others. “Quentin told me how much you love them.” 

After spending about an hour there, Julia hugs each of them and wipes her eyes. “Thank you, all of you. This perfect.” 

Margo watches as Julia beams, her happiness radiating off her and making her glow, and Margo wishes that the happiness could last forever. 

But of course, it can’t. Because that would be too easy. 

Three days after her birthday, Julia’s resolve finally breaks, and she has a breakdown. 

Margo turns over in Julia’s bed, reaching out to wrap an arm around the smaller girl, but the area next to her is empty. Blinking, she checks her phone for the time, wincing at the bright light. When she sees it’s almost three in the morning, she stands and pulls on an oversized shirt that she had stolen from Eliot. She curses under her breath when she stubs her toe, not fully awake and somewhat klutzy in the area she hasn’t yet memorized, unlike the physical kids cottage. 

She pauses in the doorway of Julia’s room when she hears sniffling. Her girlfriend is sitting on a ledge under the small window of the attic, her knees drawn up to her chest. “Julia?”

Said girl whips her head around to look at Margo, and Margo is immediately walking towards. “Jules, baby,” Julia hadn’t tried to hide the fact that she was crying, in fact, it seemed, the closer Margo got, the more she cried. “Come here.” She gently pushes Julia forward so she can sit behind her and Julia can lean back against her. 

Julia intertwines their fingers and attempts to quiet her sobs. It’s silent, for a while. Margo doesn’t know how long they sit there before Julia turns to face her and says something Margo will remember for the rest of her life. “I don’t want to die.” She practically chokes on the last word, her body wracking with sobs once again. 

If she’s being honest, Margo sort of expected this. Julia has been strong for so long, has carried this weight for so long, that it was bound to break the walls she had up eventually. But she didn’t expect it to hurt this much when it did. She wants to tell Julia it’s okay, but Margo can’t lie to her. She can’t. 

She can’t lie to Julia, or to Eliot. But she can lie to herself, so while Margo reassures herself, she comforts Julia. “I know, Jules, I know.” She rocks her gently back and forth until her crying subsides and helps her walk back to her room. 

She didn’t say it, didn’t know if she wanted to, but as they both laid down and Margo pulled Julia closer, there was only thought in her head. 

I don’t want you to die, either. 

Two days later, they fight the Beast, and it goes south very fast. Quentin, being so distracted with casting a spell, doesn’t see the Beast lift his hand. But Julia does. 

Julia does something, in that second, that none of them expected her to do, though they should have. If Margo could go back in time, she’d try to pinpoint the exact second that her soulmate had decided to move in front of Quentin. She would have stopped her, but then again, she probably wouldn’t have been able too. It happens fast, but it also feels like Margo is underwater and everything is moving slowly. 

And she can’t run underwater. 

Julia rushes towards Quentin, and she shoves him out of the way, the spell meant for him hitting her right on her chest. And while Julia collapses, Eliot and Quentin take their chance, while the beast is distracted. He’s dead in two heartbeats. 

And so is Julia. 

When it’s over, Margo falls on her knees next to Julia and places her hand on her cheek. Margo can hear Quentin sobbing behind her, but she’s too focused on her girlfriend, and besides, he’s got Eliot to lean on. “Julia, no. Wake up, baby, open your eyes, show me your eyes, Jules!” 

The counter on Margo’s wrist is down to all zeros. But then, it begins to rapidly count upwards, stopping when it gets to fifty two years, five months, nine days, and seven seconds. And for a second, Margo feels a flicker of hope. 

But Julia doesn’t open her eyes, and her heart doesn’t restart. 

Margo has two harsh, unfair realizations at the exact same time. One, Julia Wicker is dead. And two, Julia Wicker is not her soulmate. 

Julia doesn’t get a funeral. Not a real one, anyway. 

They have no choice but to leave her body behind, and all Margo can think about is how unfair it is. 

Instead, Eliot, Quentin, and Margo bury a box that has objects full of things that remind them of her. 

Quentin and Eliot give her a moment alone, and she can hear Quentin sobs even when they get farther away. 

Margo stares at the pile of dirt covering the box that contains the pieces of the girl she had loved, and suddenly everything comes bubbling out of her, and she wails. She screams, she screams so loudly that her magic becomes a shockwave, the trees around her shaking and the ground quaking beneath her. 

The temperature plummets as well, the greenery and dirt becoming frosty as her cryomancy struggles to contain itself in a body that wishes for nothing in that moment but to give up. 

She screams until there’s no voice left in her. Because it’s not fair, it’s not fair, it’s not fair, she should be here. 

She sleeps on the ground that night, and dreams that Julia is with her. 

Margo doesn’t try to hide her tears as Fogg talks to her, there’s no fucking point. “So, Julia and I weren’t soulmates?”

Henry shakes his head. “No. You were her soulmate, but she wasn’t yours.” 

Margo glares at him through glassy eyes. “So I don’t have a soulmate, then? That’s a shitty fucking deal.” 

Henry sighs and leans back in his chair. “You do have a soulmate, Miss Hanson, a matching one,” He winces slightly. “It’s extremely rare, but there are people who are born with a soulmate that doesn’t match. Miss Wicker,” He clears his throat and as much as Margo hates him, she pities the pain she sees in his eyes. It’s no secret Julia was Fogg’s favorite student. “Julia, was unfortunately one of those rare exceptions.”

Margo can’t quite compute what he’s saying. “But my timer went down to zero when she died. How the fuck do you explain that?”

Henry flattens his palms against his desk. “A very unfortunate coincidence. Your soulmate..died temporarily, but she was revived, hence the timer on your wrist resetting.” 

At that, Margo sharpens her glare. “You know who she is.”

Henry nods. “I do. So do you. You most likely met her just seconds before you met Julia, which is why your timer began to count down. You more than likely didn’t notice until you saw Julia’s begin to countdown when you met her, and, completely understandably, you naturally assumed Julia was your soulmate.” 

It takes Margo a few minutes to respond, her mind trying to catch up. “I want her name.” 

“Miss Hanson-“

Margo slams her hand down on the desk and takes the photo of Julia back. “I want her goddamn name! I think you at least owe me that.”

Ten minutes later, Margo leaves his office with not only a name, but an address as well. 

Margo stares down at the small piece of paper in her hands. It’s such a small thing, the paper, but the ink might as well weigh a thousand pounds. There’s a guilt swirling in Margo that she can’t push down, and she’s not sure she wants to. 

When the stairs creak, Margo whips her head around only to see the alarmed face of Alice Quinn. “Oh! I’m sorry, I didn’t think anyone was awake.” Margo doesn’t reply, simply staring at her. Or more, staring through her. “..This is a really shit time but um,” She walks further down the stairs, pulling the sleeves of her sweater over her hands. “I’ sorry about Julia.”

You’re right, Margo thinks, this is a shit time. But she doesn’t say it out loud. “Yeah, me too.” 

Alice chews on her lip before stepping down the last two steps and walks over to where Margo is sitting. “I can’t imagine what you’re going through, losing your soulmate-“

Margo cuts her off quickly, harshly. “She wasn’t my soulmate.” A piece of her hates herself for letting her bottom lip tremble. “I was hers, but she wasn’t mine.” 

It’s the first time she’s told someone, and it makes her breath leave her body for a few seconds. 

For a minute, Alice merely blinks at her, and then, “Oh. I’ve..I’ve heard of that, of non matching soulmates, or, more like I read it. But-“

She doesn't know what compels her to ask what she asks next. Maybe it was the grief, or the confusion, the fear. Maybe it was all of it together. Maybe it was because Alice wasn’t someone she was particularly close with. “Did our love even count?”

Alice’s eyes widen slightly behind her glasses. “Wha-Margo, of course it did. Just because she wasn’t your soulmate doesn’t make the love you two had together any less valid.” She thinks about sitting next to her until she decides to. “You loved her. She loved you.That’s really all the matters.” 

Margo brings her knees up to her chest and breathes in deeply. “I entire life I’ve been told that soulmate love is the only valid love.” 

She almost wants to knock the look of pity off of the blondes face, but she doesn’t. “Margo..what you’ve been told doesn’t matter, it’s what you felt that does.” After a moment of silence, Alice sighs. “I don’t have a soulmate.” 

That gets Margo’s full attention. “ and-“ 

Alice rolls up the sleeve of her sweater to reveal the absence of a counter, and in it’s place is a series of long scars, and Margo counts five of them. “Your friend, Eliot, doesn’t have a counter, but he has a soulmate. I have neither. For so long..I hated myself for it.” She runs her finger over the scars. “I felt like I needed to punish myself for it, because I was raised to believe the same as you. I was terrified. I thought no soulmate equaled no love.” She gives Margo a small smile. “Holy fuck am I so glad I was wrong.” That earns her a dry, half fake chuckle. 

For a minute, there’s silence, and then Margo meets her eyes. “..He has a counter.” 

Alice nods and rolls down her sleeve. “Yes, Penny has a counter. Meaning he has a soulmate, and it’s not me. And that’s okay.” 

“You’re not worried he’ll ditch you if he meets his soulmate?”

For a millisecond, Alice glares at her, but it quickly disappears because she knows Margo’s words come from a place of grief. “No, I’m not worried. Do you know why?”

Not getting a response, Alice takes that as her cue to continue. “Because I love him, and he loves me,” She reaches out to cover Margo’s hand with her own. “Our love is strong. So was yours.” 

Margo picks up the piece of paper and hands it to Alice. “This is the name and address of my actual soulmate. I don’t..I don’t want Julia to think I’m replacing her if I go to meet her.” 

Alice squeezes her hand. “Do you really think she’d believe that?” 

“No, not in a million years. But I wish she was here to tell me that it’s okay.” 

“What do you think she would say?” 

For the first time during their conversation, Margo gives a small smile. “Something along the lines of ‘do it dummy.’” 

Alice gives her a reassuring smile. “Maybe you should listen to her, then.”

Margo makes the decision to go to the address, to meet her actual soulmate. But first, she gets the tattoo. 

The door opens and Margo immediately recognizes the girl as the one she had bumped into on her way to meet Julia. “Kady?” 

The other girls frowns at her, a million walls ready to go up. “Who’s asking?” 

Margo wants to smile. She almost does. “I’m Margo.” She glances down to Kady’s right wrist, where her timer is counting down. 

Forty five years, six months, eleven days, and fifteen seconds. 

When Kady notices her staring, she pulls down her sleeve and crosses her arms. Meeting Margo’s eyes, she swallows and moves so Margo can come into her apartment. “I’m guessing you’re her, then.”

Kady doesn’t need to elaborate. Margo nods. “Yeah, I’m her.” 

When Margo steps into her apartment, it’s almost like she’s leaving something behind in the hallway. 

But she’s also gaining something she hasn’t felt in years, not since she was ten years old and danced around in a pink princess dress, picking flowers and chasing fireflies. 

She feels hope.