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Nenikikamen

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Steve Trevor was born without a soulmark.

This was hardly unusual; half of the world’s population was born in such a state, after all. Steve was raised to never let it trouble him, to believe that his soulmate would come along eventually and all would be well. His mother had promised him that, her smile warm and voice certain, when he was small enough to fit in her lap, where he could trace curious fingers over the sunflower that bloomed on her collarbone, the one that was mirrored on his father’s ankle.

She’d repeated the promise when he came home after his very first day of school, distressed because all of his classmates had their marks while his skin remained stubbornly bare. She’d repeated it again when his best friend, Paul, had met a girl with a geometric dragonfly design that matched his at the high school dance. She’d repeated it, a little more desperately, when he told her that he was joining the military, before the war to end all wars had even broken out.

Steve wasn’t entirely sure when he’d stopped believing her. Perhaps it was around the same time she stopped believing herself.

The knowledge of his lonely destiny hurt, of course it did, but Steve had become quite adept at convincing himself that it didn’t. There were other forms of companionship, and he wasn’t the only person in the world without a soulmate, although they were rare. It was a form of freedom, he told himself, a blessing in disguise.

It also felt like a responsibility. One’s life was supposed to be shaped by their soulmate, but Steve found that his had been guided just as absolutely by the absence of one. He joined the military, took it upon himself to request the most dangerous jobs, the ones with no guarantees and little hope. Because every time he risked his life was a time someone else didn’t have to, someone who might have been the center of another’s world, who might have had the capacity to destroy a life just by not being in it.

It was one such job that sent him plummeting into the crystalline blue waters off the shores of Themyscira, that brought him face to face with an angel. And if it took not having a soulmate to meet her, well, maybe it was worth it after all.

*****

When Steve found himself standing bare-ass nude in front of that angel several hours later, he couldn’t help feeling like it was more than just his body being exposed. He’d always hated stripping in front of anyone, no matter the context. It hadn’t been quite so bad as a schoolboy, when his was never the only skin that was smooth and blank, but as he’d grown, so had his discomfort. The military had been a particular challenge, for the men couldn’t seem to help looking at him just a little differently once they’d seen all of him, couldn’t help the pity that crept into the uncomfortable glances that they shot at him whenever the talk turned to sweethearts back home.

Diana, though…her gaze was simply curious, almost clinical as she took in his bare skin. She didn’t do that shuffling side-eye, trying to see the back of him because surely there had to be something there. She just assessed him and moved on, to a question about - oh, please no, surely he wasn’t about to have to explain - his watch, she was asking about his watch, oh thank God.

It occurred to Steve a little later that Diana probably didn’t have a soulmate either. After all, the garb of the Amazons was a bit less, er, conservative than what he was used to, and none of the perfect skin that it revealed was marked. And it made sense, on this isolated island paradise with no men, that lacking a soulmate wouldn’t be as rare an occurrence. She must not have found anything unusual in him.

Steve felt a little selfish for being comforted by the thought.

*****

Navigating Diana through the streets of London was as great a challenge as any of the espionage missions that Steve had undertaken, but it also managed to be as enjoyable as it was likely to give him an ulcer. Through her wondering eyes, he saw the city anew, ‘hideous’ though it may have been. Her fascination with her surroundings, her delight in the ordinary things like babies and newspapers, was captivating, infectious. Steve caught himself thinking about the places he wanted to take her when the war was over, things he wanted to show her.

Huh. He wondered when he’d started believing that he actually had a chance of surviving this war.

Before he had much time to reflect on that little revelation, he spotted Etta, and he forced himself to focus. It felt a little strange, introducing the two women. Some small part of him, the part that couldn’t quite believe that Diana and the rest of the Amazons hadn’t been some kind of fevered hallucination, half expected his secretary to give him a concerned look, to ask him what the hell he was on about; there was no one else there. But instead, Etta greeted Diana with a cheerful smile, an extended hand, and one comment about slavery later, Steve was starting to realize that he was in rather deep trouble.

He was reluctant to leave the two of them to their shopping, but his concern wasn’t for either of them, but rather what he would return to. He wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised to find Diana leading half of London in a mutiny against women’s fashion.

It turned out that the issue was delayed though. Steve had thought it best to help Etta escort Diana to a dressing room before he left them to their privacy, in case there were any more babies or other potential distractions along the way. That privacy was of little concern to Diana though, and she began to shed her layers before he’d even made it halfway to the door.

He would have tried to simply beat a faster retreat, but then Diana froze, staring down at her right arm. Something about her expression made him pause, draw closer to her again.

“Diana?” It was a good thing her name felt so natural on his lips, because he certainly found himself saying it a lot, and he didn’t foresee that changing anytime soon. “Something wrong?”

She didn’t look up from her wrist, rubbing at something on it like it was the world’s most baffling smear of dirt. Steve came around beside her so that he could see what was bothering her so much.

“Oh,” he said, because she made him intelligent like that. “You, uh…you do have a soulmate.”

He had no right to feel crushing disappointment. He’d never had any sort of claim to Diana in the short time he’d known her, never had so much as a chance with her. If his heart raced whenever he looked at her, if something inside of him was drawn to her in an inexorable pull, then that was his problem. One that he was certain to share with legions of other men, and more than a few women, as she continued to move among them.

But he’d thought they had something in common, at least, in their lack of soulmates. They came from different worlds, different beliefs, different sexes, but they’d shared that. Or so he’d let himself believe. Evidence to the contrary was right there though, peeking out from beneath the greave on her right wrist, stark and impossible to ignore.

The mark was a starburst, black outlining gold, its shape like that on the headpiece that Diana’s aunt had worn into her final battle. The star was framed by a set of wings, nothing particularly ornate, but elegant in their simplicity as they fanned up over the edge of the silver cuff to brush the base of Diana’s palm. In short, the mark was as beautiful as its bearer.

Steve supposed, halfheartedly, that there was a possibility that the mark was just a tattoo, nothing binding or supernatural. He couldn’t make himself believe it, though. Soulmarks had a quality to them, something subtle and indescribable and impossible to replicate with ink.

Steve was happy for her. He was. Unless…God, what if her soulmate was one of the Amazons, what if Diana had left her behind to follow him on this insane quest? He’d heard her mother forbid her to return, and if she’d made that kind of sacrifice because of him, because he hadn’t been able to convince her that this Ares she was after was little more than a fairy tale…how could he forgive himself for that?

But then-

“Soulmate?” Diana repeated, giving him one of those bewildered looks, the kind that somehow managed to make her even more beautiful and endearing and - keep it together, Steve, she’s spoken for. “What do you mean? Do you know what this mark is?”

“Uh…” Steve was sure he looked just as bewildered as she did, but he doubted the effect was half as charming. “Don’t you?”

“Well obviously not,” Etta told him, exasperation rolling off of her in waves. Steve had almost forgotten she was there, but she shouldered her way between them and took Diana’s arm in a gentle grip. “Have you not had this long, then?” she asked, her tone markedly different from the one she’d just used to address her boss. Mutiny; it was already starting.

Diana shook her head.

“I’ve never seen it before,” she said, and something about her tone, her expression, said that she was deeply unsettled by the mark and trying hard not to show it. Steve supposed he would be too, if a random symbol had appeared on his body and he had no idea why.

“Well, that’s all right,” Etta said. “It’s a bit late, sure, but there’s plenty other people who get them later.”

“It’s called a soulmark,” Steve said, because as much as it was wont to leave him off-balance and possibly more confused than she was, explaining things to Diana was a task he’d already come to treasure. “Most people have them, at some point in their lives. Each one is unique, and shared only by two - well, I guess it’s sometimes more than two, but that’s a whole other…anyway soulmates have the same mark.”

“But what is a soulmate?” Diana asked, testing the word out.

“Uh…” One day, Steve would become more coherent around this woman. He was determined. “Well, I mean, it’s the person you’re destined to be with, the one who suits you perfectly-”

“Which isn’t to say that there are never any problems,” Etta added. “Lord knows, my husband drives me up the wall some days, always leaving his socks-”

“Right, yeah,” Steve interrupted before things could get hopelessly off track. “But in the end, your soulmate is the one who belongs with you, who makes you better, more…more complete.” Unless you didn’t have one, in which case, tough shit. “They bring you joy, and companionship, and peace…” He trailed off before too much bitterness or longing could seep into his voice. He didn’t want to ruin this for her. “It’s a blessing, Diana.”

She looked…well, skeptical might have been putting it a little too mildly.

“And people have no say in the matter?” she asked, frowning.

“Well, not in who their soulmate is, but I mean, no one’s there forcing you to be with this person. The mark just helps you identify them, but once you’ve done that, it’s up to you what you do about it. It’s just that most people choose to stay with their soulmate, in some capacity. It doesn’t have to be romantic, even. I know these two sisters who are soulmates, and they’ve both got families of their own and everything, they just also have this special bond between them.” Steve paused, studying Diana. “Is this really not something your people have ever heard of?”

Diana shook her head.

“It sounds like the work of Aphrodite, living on after her,” she said. “Zeus’ protection must spare us on Themyscira.”

Naturally.

“Well, no one really understands how it works,” Steve allowed. “So I suppose, uh, Aphrodite is as good a guess as any.”

Diana returned her gaze to the new soulmark. She didn’t look quite as alarmed as she had before, but she didn’t exactly look thrilled either.

“Who is it?” she asked. “Who thinks they have this…this claim to me?”

Was it physically impossible for her to ask easy questions? Just one; he would take just one.

“Well, there’s no way to know until you meet them, and you see that their mark matches yours,” Steve said. “It takes some people their entire lives, and some never manage it at all.”

“Have you met yours?”

Christ.

“Don’t have one,” he said, not meaning for his voice to come out as clipped as it did. “It happens, sometimes. It’s not a big deal.”

He looked at Etta, who had suddenly become quite interested in the wallpaper.

“I should go,” he said. “Make sure she has everything she needs.”

He left before Diana could finish picking him apart at the seams.