At five years old, Andrew Joseph Doe can trace the soul mark on his right wrist with his eyes closed. He hears the kids at school trade fantasies about what their soulmates must be like based on their marks. Andrew quietly scoffs every time he hears about the grand ideas of his classmates because his soulmate is an actual knight in shining armor. He softly traces the edges of the intricate shield etched into his skin and thinks smugly, My soulmate will fight off my worst enemy. Because what else could a knight fight off than the knife etched into his left wrist?
At seven years old, Andrew obsessively traces the shield in the dark of his bedroom thinking if he wished hard enough, his knight would appear to save him. He knows by now through movies and books and stories that that is not how soulmates work. But as he spends another night begging, please, please, please, he thinks he might will his knight into existence.
It never works.
At ten years old and nine foster homes, Andrew has stopped wishing. He has researched enough to know that his soulmate is no knight, but a martyr. He also now knows enough to hate libraries.
Instead, Andrew now traces the plain knife on his left wrist wondering at how none of the previous homes held his worst enemy. As another ‘home’ proves to be as bad as the last with the beatings and the starving and the yelling and the night visits, he wonders what his worst enemy is like to be worse than this.
At thirteen years old, AJ
Spear Doe does not trace either of his marks. Instead, he runs a razor in parallel lines distorting the marks like an image half erased. His rage grows as each cut heals only to have both soul marks remain intact. They now bulge with scar tissue but remain entirely legible.
Drake likes to trace over the shield during his nightly visits, spewing things about shields and the marines.
Andrew tries a serrated knife instead of the razors to erase the marks.
It never works.
At seventeen years old, Andrew Joseph Minyard wears armbands to cover his arms from elbow to wrist. This makes him a pariah among his high school peers, not that he cares. Rumors circulate as classmates whisper behind their hands about what kind of soulmate the monster has and how bad they must be for the marks to be hidden.
Andrew would feel a bit of amusement as the theories get more and more outrageous, from a severed head to no mark at all, if he didn’t feel complete indifference toward his marks. His ‘brother’ and ‘cousin’ don’t bother to ask.
At eighteen years old, drugs force Andrew to laugh in the face of his new captain when asked what he’s hiding beneath the armbands. The knife he slides out and brandishes for all to see keep all other questions at bay though Renee—the only mildly acceptable one of the ‘Foxes’—assures him that several bets have been made regarding his marks.
Andrew only laughs. He hasn’t thought about his marks or the people attached to them in years.
At nineteen years old, Andrew is fairly certain he’s met the wielder of the knife on his left wrist. After hearing about the horrors of the Nest from a broken Kevin Day and thwarting the prick’s attempts to bring Kevin back to that hellhole, Andrew sets his sights on Riko Moriyama. Armed with a manic grin and wielding a knife of his own, he denies Riko again after the surprising interference from one scared little rabbit.
At a fairly new twenty years old, Andrew looks at a broken little rabbit and thinks, martyr. His body still aches from the ‘healing’ attention of Proust. His chest is a hollow shell. But here a black and blue rabbit stands, more bandage than human, and looks at him like he’s worth something.
“If it means losing you, then no.”
A spark in the vastness of his chest.
His right wrist throbs.
He throws the keys in his hand over the edge of the roof with more force than necessary.
Andrew is still twenty when the rabbit sheds his long sleeved shirt for the first time. Andrew takes in the truths he was promised first. This man before him does not look like a rabbit. The bullet wound on one shoulder, the iron brand on the other, the slashes across his abdomen, the ravaged skin along one side; no, this was an urban fox. An animal of a man that runs when in danger but fights fang and claw if backed into a corner.
Andrew is reaching out without thinking before his eyes fall on the wrists of the man before him. An axe decorates the inside of his left wrist. On the inside of his right—
A plain knife.
One Andrew could trace with his eyes closed even if he hadn’t studied it in ten years.
Thoughts swirl around his head in rapid succession—is Riko Neil’s soulmate? Is it not Riko? Will there be someone worse than a man that would throw Proust, DRAKE into his path? Had he gotten his enemy wrong?
That last thought stops him short. He expects a medicated laugh to bubble from his throat at the absurdity and is almost thrown off balance when he only hears his own heartbeat pounding in his ears. The hand still hanging frozen between him and Neil starts to shake as his left wrist throbs where an identical knife lays under his armband.
A mark Neil had seen.
And said nothing.
“Andrew?” Clear blue eyes gazed at him clearly. He saw a hand twitch towards him before the movement was stifled.
Andrew drew his own hand back and clenched his fist. He turns sharply and leaves the room at a pace he refuses to call fleeing. Once sharp wind cuts across his face on the roof, he inhales sharply and claws his armbands off to reveal his wrists to the cold air.
A knife and a shield.
A sacrifice and a martyr.
He feels that laugh he had been expecting bubble in the back of his throat as a trite saying Bee often used flits through his thoughts.
We are often our worst enemy.
At thirty years old—older than he ever thought he’d see—Andrew Joseph Minyard-Josten is leaning against an arm of his couch as he reads the newest novel Renee recommended. Early morning light streams through the windows of the quiet apartment as the furballs snooze in the sunbeams splayed across the carpet.
He hears the door unlock and does not tense as a rabbit that is not a rabbit comes back from his run. He does not acknowledge the newcomer until he is showered and making his way towards Andrew’s couch. Without looking up from his mildly interesting book, Andrew lifts an arm and a warm weight nestles into the crook of his body.
Without looking, he laces his fingers with that of another hand. Wrists pressed firmly together, he lifts the hand tangled with his to press a kiss to scarred knuckles.
A sigh and the weight pressing more firmly into his side interrupts his peaceful silence.
“Good morning, Andrew.”