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The day the first scar blossomed visibly across her small hip, Lucy’s mother thrust a towel into her hands and sharply ordered, “Cover up.”

“But I want to go in the water,” Lucy protests. It had taken hours to drive out to the beach.

“I’m sorry, Lucy. But you just can’t be walking around looking like that.” 

She was seven years old at the time.

Her soulmate, Lucy was to discover, had a remarkable talent for scarring the shared canvas of their body at the worst possible moments. At fourteen, two weeks before her first dance, Carol had walked in on Lucy studying her bare body before the mirror, silent tears running down her face. Her mother took one look at the brutal lattice of lash scars beginning to rise from her back, sighed deeply, and folded up the glimmering dress, backless and emerald, that they had picked out together months before. At the time its beauty had seemed like hope.

“Stop crying, now,” Carol had said with awful gentleness, rubbing her back. “Whoever these scars really belong to, they have it much worse than you do.”

“Don’t they belong to me?” Lucy said dully. She was too tired to feign compliance. “They’re on my body.”

“But you didn’t feel them, thank god.” A long-suffering sigh. “Besides, whoever this person is, they’re certainly a soldier, probably in some awful, faraway place.” Carol takes Lucy’s wrists in her hands, examining the long, ragged scars encircling them entirely. “Oh, Lucy,” she sighed in disappointment, “are these new?”

“From handcuffs, my doctor said.” She’d hidden them successfully for a month now, but her mother always found them in the end. “They’re…not mine.”

“Good,” Carol said shortly, patted her knees, and rose from the bed. Lucy was used to her mother’s dismissals, but not enough for it not to sting. “Lucy, one day you’ll understand how it’s a blessing that you’ll never have to meet this poor soul.” Carol shook her head, having apparently appointed thirty seconds’ sympathy to Lucy’s mysterious soul mate, before returning to tidying Lucy’s room. “Now, you can focus on more important things.“

“Is that why you made me hide them?” Lucy stared into the mirror. It was the first time in months that she had seen herself without the protection of makeup or clothing. “The scars? Because my soul mate is a soldier?” Lucy took a dark pleasure in the way Carol ruffled at soul mate, as if trying to shake off the words like water. “That wouldn’t line up with what you’ve got planned for me, would it.”

“We’re not talking about this, Lucy.”

“I wish that happened more often,” Lucy mumbled. 

Some days it seemed as though the scars mattered less than other people’s opinions on them. Trips to the grocery store found Lucy the target of pitying looks and quiet tutting from aging cashiers. The observations of her classmates had made Lucy more than aware of every mark upon her skin. And never mind dating, unless she applied, from the eyebrows down, a foundation thick enough to function as greasepaint. The green prom dress sat, unworn, in the back of Lucy’s closet for years.

At eighteen, after Michael Garrison had laughed at the idea of taking her to prom, Lucy had prayed furiously for her soulmate’s death. It wouldn’t have removed the scars she already had, but it would have prevented her from receiving any more. 

Lucy discovered the remnants of the green dress when she was clearing out her room for college; the color and sparkle had faded entirely, and her childhood stunk of mildew and dust. 

Hope proved less easy to throw away. At twenty-five, Lucy found someone to whom she believed she could show herself. This man, the first person since her mother to see her bare entirety, had visibly recoiled at the sight of her. It’s like seeing someone else all over you, Lucy. It’s gross. 

It’s not my fault, she wanted to scream, but the words were locked inside her.

For one desperate moment, she had thought Wyatt might be her soul mate. Lucy didn’t meet many soldiers at Stanford, and admittedly he was younger than she would have expected–shot in the hip at seven years old?–but for one bright second it seemed possible.

The sight of him barechested in 1865 Washington, D.C., however, had dashed her fragile hopes. Lucy is an expert in how quickly her particular scars fade, and clearly Wyatt had never received them.

(That he had his own scars was cold comfort.)

She hadn’t loved Wyatt–at least not then–but since she was young, Lucy has kept the thought of meeting her soulmate clenched between her teeth like a blade. She can deflect the questioning stares of strangers with the knowledge that there is somewhere out there to whom she will never have to explain herself.

Although he wasn’t her soul mate, Lucy had thought for a moment she had found that person in Noah. One night she’d been struck by an impulsive instinct, and had lowered the neckline of her turtleneck to reveal the thin white line across her throat. Perhaps if she’d loved this man as he claimed, she would have shown him all of her.

But in a world without Amy, how could she have borne up better than she had?

One look at Noah’s face told her everything. Fortunately Lucy was well used to disappointment. She crumbled invisibly, as she had so many times before.

“You’ve never shown me this,” Noah murmured, tracing the scar with a curious finger. “Is it new?”

No. “Mmm…I think so. Would this have killed them, you think?” Lucy tried to keep her voice idle, but her fiancé still lifted one dark eyebrow. “My…soul mate?”

“No, probably not.” For a moment, Noah seemed distracted from her unusual state by clinical fascination. “Medically speaking, what you really share is scar tissue. If it scarred over to this extent…nah. This means it’s healed.” Noah leans back, releasing her neck. Lucy feels nothing. “You know that we call them ‘skin mates’ in med school? Or scar mates, sometimes.”

“So this person–they’re alive,” Lucy insisted, momentarily forgetting to feign indifference.

Noah coughed out a laugh. “I thought you didn’t like talking about this?”

In the end, Lucy learned to stop expecting things.

Just as well, really. Hope, like the man himself, arrives full unexpectedly.

She should have suspected as soon as the Hindenburg. Because her body reflects scars and not wounds, however, Lucy didn’t have a clue until weeks later, when a ridged, half-stitched scar began to rise where her shoulder met throat. She was smart enough to know what this meant, but Lucy didn’t say a word to the others. There was always a hope that she could be wrong.

Furthermore, Flynn himself never mentioned it once, even after he joined them in the bunker. Considering how he’d brought up their being quite the teamevery other minute, Lucy simply supposed he’d have said something if he had known. If the journal hadn’t mentioned it, either, maybe her future self hadn’t known about her soul mate either. Besides, Flynn was a murderer. He was a terrorist. Lucy wasn’t sure she even wanted to know.

And Flynn escaped injury for the first couple months, so the thought was easily drowned in denial.

Then he took a bullet in Chinatown, and Lucy quietly disposed of the last of her tank tops. A gunshot scar, the same mottled shape as the one on her hip, had begun to blossom on her shoulder.

Lucy never had time to bring it up, however, because on their next mission she was distracted enough to lose Flynn for a second, and that was all the time it took for Rittenhouse to snatch him away. 

Wyatt and Rufus are talking about Flynn in the hallway outside her room. 

“They’ve had him for a week now. I almost feel sorry for the guy.”

Wyatt huffs audibly. “Bastards. I don’t even wanna think about what they might be doing to him.”

“You’re not worried that he’s gonna break? Like, under torture?”

“That’s exactly what I’m worried about. I’ve seen guys break who you’d never expect. Everyone’s got a weak point.”

“I’m not so sure about Flynn,” Rufus says doubtfully.

“You kidding? The guy’s practically a flashing sign that says crazy–”

That’s more than Lucy can take. “Flynn hasn’t broken.” She storms from the room.

Wyatt and Rufus’s expressions suggest they’ve been caught out.

“No offense, Lucy, but…” Wyatt rubs a hand over the back of his neck. “How can you be sure?”

Lucy opens her hands to reveal the constellation of cigarette burns littering her palms. Wyatt and Rufus step back, and it hurts, just a bit. “Because when he breaks, they’ll stop hurting him.”

She had hoped in her youth that her soul mate was receiving their scars honorably; now she knows it for a fact, but the fact is no comfort to her, not when she receives more scars in the following weeks than the rest of her life combined.

Some are perfunctory: the scars on her back, for example, begin to increase and rearrange.

Others are worse. Lucy awakens one morning to discover a set of tally marks growing on her inner arm. Each set of four is crossed with a fifth gash that mars and rips the rest. The tallies crawl down her inner arms to her wrists, and when Rittenhouse runs out of space there, they start on her inner thighs.

She cries for Flynn; and also, selfishly, for herself. Surrender, Flynn, she prays; just make it end. It seems awfully right, somehow, that Rittenhouse has chosen to torment the man whose skin she shares. Every denial of the truth of her, of them both, is a silencing of the question these scars have written on her skin: who will love you now?

It’s hard to admit how she’s held out hope that the one person who could love her would be her soulmate. But Lucy knows that her Rittenhouse blood ensures that Flynn will never love her the way she wants.

Lucy has always understood, intellectually, the pain that her soul mate must have gone through. But as her mother said, she hasn’t really felt said pain, not until they find Flynn.

He’s got a wrist chained to each wall of his little cell, strung out along the taut, naked length of his body. Lucy’s throat tightens as she takes in the familiar tally marks lining his arms, his rips. Flynn’s dark, wet eyes remain fixed on the ground, and he doesn’t answer when they speak to him. There are visible tear tracks through the filth on his cheeks.

All the same, he stands unsteadily when they loose his broken body, and silently allows himself to be led back to the Lifeboat, where he sinks into a sleep like the dead while Wyatt is buckling him in. 

Besides some perfunctory first aid, the team eases him into bed and leaves him when they return to the present day. Lucy senses uncomfortably that it could be because none of the others want to deal with him. None of them are ready for Flynn to be so vulnerable.

Hours later, long into the night, Lucy finds him swaying alone in the communal bathroom. Flynn is shirtless, but that’s not what makes Lucy stop in her tracks; she recognizes that brutal scar pattern from her own back, but it’s different seeing it on someone else. And covered in blood. 

Flynn is trying to wipe his bloody body with shaking hands, but he can’t quite reach his scars without opening them again.

Lucy can, however. And her hands are soft.

Flynn’s bruised eyes fly to her, feral and fearful. Lucy’s seen those eyes on herself, too.

She makes Flynn lean over the back of a folding chair while she cleans him with a damp rag, and he obeys without complaint. Lucy knows it must hurt when the rag catches on the ripped skin tags at the edges of his wounds, but Flynn remains perfectly silent, besides panting wetly. His knuckles are white against the metal folding chair.

When his back is clean and bandaged, Flynn breathes a little easier. Lucy says softly, “What about the rest?”

Flynn doesn’t look at her. Lucy circles around to kneel in front of him. He hasn’t bothered to wipe the dried blood from his face.

She rinses out the rag and trails her hand along Flynn’s jawline, coaxing his head up. Flynn’s trembling as he obeys, and his gaze remains fixed on the ground. 

As Lucy cleans the blood from his broken lips, however, Flynn’s pale eyes trail up her body. They reach her face just as she finishes, naked with uncertain trust.

Lucy would like to pretend she doesn’t know about the scars on his legs. Flynn has lost enough dignity as is. But if she was in his place, she’d want someone to care for her.

“The rest,” Lucy asks, gentle but firm, and lays a hand on his blood-soaked pant leg.

The warm wounds pulse under the fabric. Flynn doesn’t ask how she knows. He also doesn’t flinch, exactly, but his trembling jaw tightens, and the light goes out from behind his eyes. Lucy can see him hiding from her, from the pain.

She kneels in front of him, ready to rub comforting circles onto his palm as she has before, on the rare occasions Flynn’s past gets the better of him. Lucy’s stopped short, however, when she turns over his hand to find tens of cigarette burns covering his palms. It’s the same collection she’s acquired over the past week.

Lucy has known all along, but the realization has never hit her as hard as it has in this moment. He’s like her.

She’s reeling from the thought, the awful similarity of it. Like me, like me, like me. 

So much that she hardly notices that Flynn’s hand has tightened around hers, to the point of pain. Lucy only surfaces out of her fragile euphoria when Flynn’s voice rises. “No, no, no…”

As he turns her hand over, Flynn hardly seems to know he’s speaking. “Lucy, what did they…” He runs trembling thumbs over the burn scars littering her palms, feather-light. As though he might hurt her. His fingers pause at the edge of a tally mark sticking out from under her sleeve, and he inhales sharply. One gentle thumb pushes her sleeve up a little farther.

At this point, he should have seen enough to know, but panic seems to have overtaken reason as Flynn takes her hand and hurriedly pushes her sleeve up as far as it will go. At the sight of the brutal tally marks tracing their way up the inside of her arm, his eyes widen in horror. “…what did I…”

Lucy sits stiffly through the whole process. Normally excuses would rise easily to her lips–I’m sorry, I know they’re ugly, I know it’s… But Flynn is holding his bare inner arm up beside hers, comparing the thousands of cuts to the inner skin there. Lucy knows without a second glance what she’s always suspected, but the sight is momentarily entrancing. They’re perfectly, horribly similar. There’s an awful kind of beauty to their symmetry. And Lucy does not hate their shared scars on him, so she cannot hate them on herself.

“Flynn, they’re just scars.” 

His bloodshot eyes fly to her, wracked.

Lucy tries to bat his hands away, but Flynn’s eyes widen with panicked, singleminded focus. He stands so quickly that his chair crashes to the ground. 

Lucy’s heart skips, and not in a good way. She doesn’t like looking up at those furious eyes, terrible above her. “They’re just–” But Flynn is rubbing at her eyebrow with his thumb, smearing away the concealer to reveal the white scar there. “Flynn.” His hands fly to her throat, and Lucy tries not to flinch away as Flynn drags down the collar of her turtleneck, finding the white line across her throat. “They don’t hurt, Flynn, they’re–” He drags it down further, exposing the jagged, stitched scar where shoulder meets throat. A trembling hand brushes the half-faded scar at the joint of neck and shoulder, where Wyatt had shot him all those months ago. Flynn audibly chokes.

Lucy’s eyes drift shut as Flynn’s frantic hands trace over her. She takes a deep breath. “Flynn.”

His mouth tightens, gaze flashing to her, before he returns to tracing the scars along her shoulders. “Flynn.

She gets to her feet. Doing so pulls her out from under his hands, which trail helplessly down her body. 

Flynn jerks away as if burned. “You didn’t tell me.” It’s not a question.

“I didn’t feel them; they didn’t hurt me. They’re just scars, Flynn, they’re not even mine, they don’t matter–” Lucy’s about to cry, and the reason isn’t clear. Flynn takes a stumbling step away from her, and she claws at honestly. “Because I knew that knowing would hurt you.”

Flynn’s mouth tightens. Lucy can see the gears working behind his eyes. The silence is murder, so she repeats the slogans she had hated so much in her mother’s mouth, but which are supposed to keep her safe. To make her okay, to keep her body from hurting everyone around her. “They don’t matter. They don’t hurt, Flynn.” The words sound hollow, even to her, but while this is not the first time Lucy’s scars have horrified someone, it is the first time she’s really cared about stopping it.

And she can’t, because this man doesn’t just know, he cares; she can see it in his eyes, and it’s terrible and wonderful and Flynn roars, “Dammit, Lucy, look at you!” 

His voice is too broken to yell. The next words comes out as a strangled cry. “Of course it matters, it–” He takes one storming step towards her, then stops himself, hands curling into fists at his sides. “If I had known, Lucy, I would never have–” Flynn scrubs a hand over his mouth. His muttered curse is foreign to her, but the torment in it is palatable. 

Lucy doesn’t know what to do. Her eyes are streaming; her heart is singing. She’s running her hands over her body, self-consciously trying to cover her scars, a second before she realizes they’re his scars, too. Flynn visibly winces.

“What was it like?” His voice is dry. “Growing up with me marking you?”

Lucy wants to say you didn’t mark me, but it would be a lie. And Flynn does not tolerate lies.

He’s rubbing the bridge of his nose, which means he doesn’t see when Lucy pulls her shirt over her head and off entirely. 

“Look at me, Flynn.”

This time there’s a stubborn streak to his obedience. Flynn refuses to lift his eyes above her knees.

“Look at me,” Lucy orders, louder, and he flinches. She regrets that, but Flynn doesn’t step away when she steps closer. “Look at this.

High on Lucy’s right hip sits the first mottled scar, a bullet bull’s-eye she’d found at seven years old. Lucy isn’t gesturing to it. There are more recent scars.

Like the thin, faded stripe low on her right side, mirrored perfectly on Flynn’s right side. Both shirtless, they form distorted images of each other; a human diptych waiting to close.

Lucy traces over that faded stripe, then gestures to its equal on Flynn. “I had my appendix out at at fourteen,” she says, and Flynn’s stubborn eyes fly up. “I’ve marked you too. Do you hate me, for this?”

Flynn’s answer is a hot exhale. His brow is furrowed; his lip is trembling. Lucy knows that look; it says, why must you win every argument?

“I was nine when I fell out of a tree Amy had talked me into climbing.” Lucy breathes out a laugh. Then she tosses her hair back, holds up her elbow, and waits for Flynn to do the same.

There’s a long, curved white cut along both their left forearms. “Broke my arm,” Lucy says, by way of explanation. “Compound fracture.”

“I never knew,” Flynn whispers. There’s a wonder there that is new to her, strange and beautiful. His hand lifts, almost of its own accord, and Lucy thinks he might touch her face. She might lean into it if he does, she knows.

Then Flynn steps back. Grimaces. Lowers his head until his face can no longer be seen. His dark hair has come out of its coif, long and matted with blood, sweat, and filth, and hangs down over his eyes. 

“Flynn, I…” Lucy brushes Flynn’s bangs away, ducking to look into his face. His eyes are dark in the bathroom’s half-light, and shining wet. “I…” She tries to laugh it off, but her voice betrays the tears threatening to spill. “I didn’t think it looked that bad…”

Flynn ducks away from her hand, shaking his head, croaking in anguish. “You will never be free of me.”

“Listen to me.” The thought of losing him tears the last of her composure away, and Lucy takes his face in her trembling hands. Flynn’s stubble digs into her palms. “I don’t want to be free of you. I–I wouldn’t trade you for the world, for anyone else, Flynn, I–” A shuddering breath. “I wouldn’t get rid of these scars, if it meant I had to get rid of you.”

“I have taken everything from you.”

So dramatic. Lucy wants to laugh and cry. She tries not to shake his face. “Fate did what it did to us. Fate made us–made us soul mates.” She almost laughs on the word. It’s like releasing a breath. “But you chose to care for me, Flynn. And that means everything.”

Flynn is silent for a long moment. His dexterous fingers dance over her skin. “You look like me,” he says slowly.

“Yes. Yes.”

“This is how I will look. When I’m healed.”

“I…” Lucy can’t stop smiling. She spares a hand to wipe the tears from her cheeks. “I guess so.”

Flynn lowers his head to kiss the handcuff scars encircling her wrist. “I will be…glad to look like you, Lucy.”

“Me too!” Lucy’s crying and smiling and nodding frantically. Flynn squeezes her shoulder, and she leans her forehead against his. Flynn is warm. Flynn is chosen.

And Flynn chooses her, too–as his arms finally come to rest around her, as his nose buries in her temple, as his breathing finally eases. Lucy does the same.

Making them, finally, a matched set.