AU where your soulmate’s first words to you are written on your skin (bc every fandom should have one and this is my favourite fic trope ever)
Jack gets his words when he’s five years old. At first, he’s kind of confused.
“Maman,” he says, tugging at his mother’s shirt where she sits at the dining room table. He holds his arm up for her to see. “Je ne comprends pas!”
Alicia Zimmermann starts when she sees the words now permanently inked on her son’s forearm. They’re written in a loopy, pretty script down the middle of his arm, stark against his pale skin. She smiles when she reads the words – English, which he hasn’t yet learnt to read – and pulls him up into her lap. She holds his arm gently in her hands, and he pokes at the words suspiciously.
“Qu-est ce que c’est, Maman?”
“It’s your words,” she explains. “They’re the words that will tell you who your soulmate is.”
“Jack,” he looks away from his arm to meet her gaze, his confusion evident. Alicia pulls her jumper to expose her collarbone and the words written there. The handwriting is one Jack knows, recognizes pretty quickly as his father’s, but he’d never really considered the fact that the messy scrawl on his mother’s skin was actually written by his papa. “Everyone gets them at some point or other. Most people get them when their soulmate is born, but not always. Sometimes it’s a little later, or a little earlier, but the point is, there’s someone out there waiting for you.” She lets her jumper sit back in place and runs a gentle hand through her son’s messy black hair. “One day you’ll meet someone who says those words to you. You’ll know they’re your soulmate because it’ll be the first thing they say. Somewhere on their body will be the first words you’ll say to them.” Jack looks thoughtful.
“What do my words say, Maman?”
“Are you sure you can’t work it out?” Jack looks at his arm again, brow furrowed in concentration. His English reading ability is poorer than his French, and the handwriting is a bit too cursive for someone as young as him, but he’s always been determined. Alicia waits patiently as Jack mouths the words slowly, working them out in his head, trying to sound the letters into something he understands.
It’s five minutes before he smiles again, clearly pleased with himself. Whatever he’s worked out is evidently a sentence he understands from the way he bounces excitedly.
“Maman, I know what they’re saying!”
“You know what your soulmate is saying?”
“Oui. I know what they will say.” He takes a deep breath as he looks back down at his arm, running a small finger underneath the words as he reads them carefully out loud. His mother praises his reading, and after a few more minutes of questions about soulmarks the day returns to normal.
It’s only later, when he’s curled up in bed with his stuffed whale toy tucked against his body that he remembers the words again. He pulls back the sleeve of his pajamas to see the words still stark and clear on his skin, even in the low glow from his night light. He whispers them into the air wondrously. For all his excitement now, over the coming years his faith that the words will be spoken with good intention fade and fade as he learns more about the world.
By the time he’s fifteen he covers the words in a long arm sleeve specially designed to hide soulmarks. He only takes it off to shower, and never lets Kent see what’s beneath it. His mother tries to broach the topic once, suggests carefully that soulmarks are rarely ever said in the way one thinks, but his anger makes her sigh and leave it alone. She does encourage him to see a new therapist though, increasingly aware of his unimpeded anxiety over soulmarks and everything else. He feels guilty at his reaction to her concern so he reluctantly agrees to talk to someone about it. They’re better than the last one, and though they specialize in soulmate-related anxiety they quickly latch on to the fact that there are a lot more pressing things endangering Jack’s mental health. His visits are upped to thrice a week, and his prescription is swapped for something less intensive. It doesn’t rid him of anxiety, but it does help. He ends up making some changes to his life that help to lift some of the weight off his shoulders, and everything begins to feel more manageable.
When he’s drafted first pick to the Providence Falconers he’s in a tentatively good place. He’s happy about his team, pleased for Kent as he heads to Las Vegas with the Aces, and feels surprisingly positive despite the pressure the draft had put on him. The future looks brighter, clearer, and as he settles in during his first night in his new Providence apartment, he feels the urge to look at his words for the first time in years.
They still sting when he sees them, an old wound reopened, but he takes deep breaths. The writing is prettier than he remembers, and he almost chuckles at the thought that there’s someone out there with his god-awful handwriting on their body. He sobers up almost instantly, though, running a finger across the words like he did so many years ago. He knows what they mean: that his soulmate doesn’t want him, that he’s a disappointment, that he’s never going to have a relationship like his mother and father do with his soulmate. As he stares at the words he thinks that at least now he can probably deal with it. He’s got a great team and a promising future; a best friend; a much less strained relationship with his father. He knows, now, that he’s not a disappointment to his parents, even if he is to himself or his soulmate. He lives in a nice apartment in a nice area. He thinks he might get a dog.
Despite the hurt they cause, Jack finds himself pressing a soft kiss to the skin of his words, closing his eyes for a brief moment, desperately trying and failing to imagine a way someone could say these words and still want him.
Oh no, he recites in his head, those words that have been impossible to forget, it can’t be you.