Luka’s eyes flicked down when he felt the familiar tickling on his palm. He tightened his grip on his guitar, sliding his hand along the frets to distract himself from the tingling. He wasn’t going to look. He wasn’t.
He had started wearing fingerless gloves specifically so he wouldn’t look, but the fabric of the gloves always caught on his strings and gummed up his playing. He’d stopped wearing them during gigs and practice, but usually his hands were too busy at those times to tempt him to look. Usually.
His eyes slid from the guitar to the crowd, searching. Marinette sat on a crate towards the back, huddled with Alya over their hands. They were smiling and giggling. His eyes followed her not-so-subtle gaze to the blond model sitting across the room. Adrien and Nino were in a similar position, also hunched over their hands and shooting equally unsubtle looks back at the girls. He caught his sister’s disapproving stare as his focus returned to the show, looking back at his guitar as Rose finished the second chorus and he broke into his solo.
Life kind of sucked when you were stupid in love with someone who wasn’t your soulmate. Especially when they were in love with someone else.
The tickling continued, so he played harder. Juleka would give him hell for it later, but that would be later. He’d deal with the fallout then.
He had been five the first time the tattoos had appeared. He remembered scratching at his palm absently all day until, finally, he had looked down and seen doodles scrawling over his skin. He had been coloring with Juleka at the time, and the marker in his hand had been red, not black. Plus, he definitely hadn’t been drawing hearts and flowers (he’d been drawing a kraken). His ma had just laughed when he’d shown her his hand.
“Ach, good, lad,” she’d chuckled, ruffling his hair affectionately. “Ye’ve got yerself a creative one.”
Soulmates were weird, anyway. You spend your whole life trading secret little messages with someone who becomes your best friend, who you know you’ll love forever because you already have, until one day they write that they’ve found you and think you have the prettiest green eyes. It’s even worse when they tell you that message wasn’t meant for you (no shit) but hastily scribbled for their best friend.
…but they still think they’ve found you. And they love your green eyes.
There were a lot of things fifteen-year-old Luka wasn’t sure of. He was very sure, however, that his eyes – even in the worst light – couldn’t be mistaken for green.
He started wearing the gloves not long after that. Stopped writing back. The radio silence on his end didn’t mean they stopped writing, though. Even if their messages were less frequent and had stopped entirely for a few months after.
“Thank you, everyone! You’ve been a great crowd!” Rose screamed into the mic when the song was done. “We are Kitty Section – good night!”
…Marinette always cheered the loudest after every show. It wasn’t even uncommon to see her jump up on her stool or the table to get above the crowd to make sure he saw her, waving her arms and bouncing as she screamed her head off. Usually, he sought her out. Usually, he found her in the crowd after, flying on the high he got from the show and her smile. He didn’t today, though. He placed his guitar in her stand and was the first off the stage, slipping backstage while Rose continued to shout out her thanks.
The space they were playing in wasn’t really that large. It was an old, abandoned warehouse that had been renovated into a bar. Kitty Section had played there a few times now, once the others had turned eighteen, as it was a local hotspot popular with the rock crowd. Part of Paris’s grungier, undercover scene. The stage was set up towards the back of the room, and a large curtain was the only thing separating the backstage area from the dancefloor. He could still hear the crowd cheering as the rest of the band filed in behind him. The warehouse was always loud, especially on a good night. And by most accounts, it had been a good night.
He snatched a water bottle from the ice bucket on the table against the wall, wishing the excess water running over his hand from the bucket would wash away the marks on his palm. He knew it didn’t work like that, though. The messages were only supposed to disappear once you’d looked at them, but Luka had learned long ago that if you never looked at them they’d eventually fade. It always took longer than he was comfortable with, though. He sighed and screwed off the top of the bottle, tipping his head back and chugging as fast as he dared.
He choked on the drink when a tiny body slammed into his back, strong arms wrapping around his middle as a face pressed into his sweaty shirt.
“Hey, Mari,” he coughed, reaching up to wipe the spilled water off his face. He looked over his shoulder to find her beaming up at him, and for the tiniest moment he forgot how to breathe. He wondered if she’d ever stop having that effect on him. “Glad you made it.”
“Like I’d ever miss seeing my favorite band perform,” she teased, propping her chin against his back so she could look up at him. Part of him wished she would step away, for his own sanity and because he was always gross after a show (at the very least he knew he couldn’t smell all that great). The more twisted part of him prayed she never would. “You did great tonight, by the way.”
“You seemed pretty distracted,” he said with a roll of his eyes, trying to distract himself from the feel of her against him. Her face fell, but only briefly. She squeezed him tighter and pressed her cheek to his back.
“I’m always distracted when you play,” she said. He wished she wouldn’t say things like that. He knew she was only being the supportive friend and would say that to any of his bandmates – any of her friends – but that didn’t stop his heart from fluttering in his chest at her words.
When he was fifteen, he had learned his soulmate was in love with someone else. When he was seventeen, Marinette Dupain-Cheng had stumbled into his bedroom like a stuttering whirlwind and had left him completely devastated. At the time, he had supposed he couldn’t fault his soulmate too much in the end, as he quickly found himself falling for his sister’s beautiful disaster of a friend himself. Except that same day (before he could slip off his gloves and see if maybe a message would get through) he had also met Adrien Agreste and had seen the way they looked at each other. Adrien’s father, fashion mogul Gabriel Agreste, had kept his son gloved pretty much his entire life. It’s not good, as the face of the company, if your fans think you are unattainable, Gabriel had told Adrien.
Because that was the thing about soulmates. Their messages were black, no matter what color ink they wrote them in, until you touched them. Once you found them and actually touched their palm? He’d seen it happen. He had been with Juleka the first time Rose had caught her without her lacy gloves, had seen the way the little doodle had come to life in a wash of vibrant blue. Just like Rose’s eyes. They’d pressed their palms together, fingers linked, and spent the rest of the afternoon smiling at each other like lovesick idiots.
…he hadn’t been jealous. He hadn’t written his soulmate in over a year by that point, anyway. He had accepted that he was probably never going to meet his soulmate and die alone when he’d met Marinette. For a brief moment, he had let himself hope again – and then within minutes he’d met Adrien. That hadn’t stopped him from falling deeper in love with the girl that had started hanging around the boat more, though. Even when he knew he shouldn’t. She may have started as his sister’s friend, but by now – when he was twenty and still stupid in love with her – she was his friend, too.
“Hey!” Marinette gasped, dragging him back from his darkening thoughts. He looked back over his shoulder, the water bottle once again raised to his lips, to find her staring at him with wide, excited eyes. He raised an eyebrow, and then she lunged.
The entire world seemed to slow, like some sick, twisted movie effect. She darted around him and grabbed at his hand – his bare hand. The water bottle dropped to the floor, spilling over their feet and soaking into his shoes. She didn’t seem to notice it spilling over her sandaled feet, though. She was too preoccupied by his hand.
It was tingling for an entirely different reason now.
…it was tingling.
The message from his soulmate would still be on his palm.
The palm Marinette was cradling in her own, brushing tentative – reverent? – thumbs against. A shiver raced through him at her touch, and if she noticed he hoped she would blame the cold water on their feet.
“You’re not wearing your gloves,” she breathed, a slow smile curling her lips. She glanced up at him quickly, and he was struck dumb by the look on her face. Some traitorous part of his heart that knew she was Adrien Agreste’s soulmate fell in love with her all over again, the masochistic idiot. She was still stroking his skin, though, and he couldn’t deny it felt…nice. Really nice. Like he could die right then and have absolutely no regrets.
“I…I usually don’t when I play,” he said, swallowing around the lump in his throat that was threatening to choke him. She hummed, her eyes dropping back to his hand.
“I know, but you always have them back on by the time I see you,” she said. “I’ve never seen you without your gloves. Luka, your soulmate is naughty.”
“S-sorry?” he coughed. She giggled, poking his palm with her thumb.
“Does she always send you notes during your shows? Must be terribly distracting,” she teased. She grinned up at him. “Doesn’t she know you’re busy?”
“Ah, no,” he said, forcing himself to look away. His face felt warm. He prayed he wasn’t blushing, or if he was that it was too dark in the old warehouse for her to notice. “I…I haven’t met them yet.”
“Oh?” she asked. She didn’t sound surprised – not exactly – but there was a definite something about her voice that made him look back at her. Something he didn’t want to name that was bringing up feelings he was tired of fighting against. “I would have sworn you had, but then again you always keep your hands covered, so…why is that, anyway? I get why Adrien does it, but why you, huh? It’s weird, Luka.”
“Lay off,” he sighed. It wasn’t the first time Marinette had pestered him about the gloves, and he was sure it wouldn’t be the last. It was just the first time he’d been dumb enough to let her catch him without them. He tried to tug his hand back, but she held firm. She hummed and shook her head. She was still wearing that stupid smile – one he’d seen on other people plenty of times but never on her – and his heart was not taking it well. “Marinette.”
“Luka,” she mimicked, glancing back up at him. He pursed his lips, and her smile slipped. “…why do you wear the gloves, Luka?”
“My soulmate’s in love with someone else,” he said, probably a bit too abruptly. He couldn’t hold her gaze, and with a heavy sigh he turned his head. He reached up and shoved his free hand through his hair. “Ok? I haven’t written them in years.”
“Your soulmate’s not naughty, then,” she said firmly. “You’re just an ass.”
“…hey,” he chided, snapping his head back to her. “That’s –”
“Really rude of you, I know,” she humphed. She brushed her thumb against his palm again. “Poor girl. I bet you broke her heart when you stopped writing. That must be awful, to go so long getting notes and then nothing. I’m surprised she still writes you at all. Must be horrible, not knowing if you’re looking or not. Being ignored like that.”
“It’s none of your business, Marinette,” he huffed. He tried to pull his hand away again, but she still held on. He didn’t need the guilt trip from her – she’d found her soulmate already. She held up her own palm, the other hand holding his tighter to keep him from moving. Her hand was blank, but that didn’t surprise him. Adrien wasn’t allowed to take his gloves off, after all, and Adrien never dared disobey his father. Of course she wouldn’t have any messages.
“Blank hands hurt, Luka Couffaine,” she said tersely. He tried to curl his fingers, to close them over his palm in a fist, but she grabbed him again before he could hide the message away. “Don’t you dare. It’s beautiful.”
…and, again: what?
“And I’m burning your gloves,” she added. He blinked at her again. “If you ever wear them again I will never forgive you.”
“What the hell are you…?” he started, finally pulling his hand away and turning his palm towards his face. His heart damn near stopped when he saw it.
The lines were blue.
A beautiful, vibrant, ocean blue he had only ever seen one place before.
It was a blue that was looking up at him from under thick lashes, a teasing glint dancing through their depths.
A swirl of flowers, one he had seen time and again over the past three years, encased a simple message in the center of his hand: Someday you’ll notice me again.
He knew those flowers. He knew that handwriting. He knew that blue.
When he looked at her again, she was holding out a marker for him. His hands were shaking so bad he almost dropped it when he took it from her. He held his hand up and glanced at his blank palm. The blue message on the other was already fading, now that it had been seen. That hadn’t broken his heart in a long time. He swallowed thickly and looked back at her. She was watching him expectantly, waiting for him to prove her right.
…you? he wrote in shaky, hesitant strokes. Her eyes closed, a blissful smile curling her lips as she squeezed her hand tight. When she opened it and looked down, beautiful blue lines – the same blue as his eyes – were rising on her skin.
“Me,” she sighed, brushing a finger along the message. “I’ve missed that. And I repeat: you, Luka Couffaine, are an ass.”
“You said you loved my green eyes, Marinette,” he bit out. Why did he feel so angry all of a sudden? Why did he feel like he could fly?
…why did he feel like he wanted to shove her against the wall and kiss the ever-living daylights out of her?
“What was I supposed to think?” he asked. None of it mattered, anyway. She was still dating Adrien Agreste.
“That your soulmate was a silly teenage girl allowed to crush on a boy that’s not her soulmate,” she said. She sounded so calm for the chaos raging through his mind. “I apologized. And then you stopped writing me, and I kept trying…hoping…”
“Hoping what?” he choked. The lump was back.
“Back then, Adrien had just transferred into my class,” she sighed. “And…I was so stupid for him. And I hoped, when you stopped writing, that he saw my note and got scared because no one was supposed to see his hands. Because of Gabriel. But…you know. Teenagers. His marks are brown, anyway.”
“B-brown?” he asked. She was grinning again, but he didn’t understand why. She was dating Adrien, wasn’t she? She’d always been quiet about their relationship, but he had just assumed that was because of his dad. And even if he was her friend, it wasn’t like he was Alya. She didn’t owe him details about her love life when he wasn’t even…
“And I apologized again, but I guess you never saw that,” she said with a shrug. “By the time I actually met you…you’d already been wearing the gloves a while, huh? I never thought…it just seemed like a Couffaine thing. Juleka wears gloves, the Captain wears gloves, you wear gloves…I never thought…and I was scared to hope for the longest time, after the Adrien debacle.”
…debacle. Debacle? Adrien’s soulmate marks were brown.
…Adrien wasn’t her soulmate. He was. She wasn’t dating Adrien?
“But I wanted it to be you,” she continued, completely unaware of the dizzying laps his mind was running. “I so wanted it to be you. I was pretty sure it was you. But you never let me see…”
“Juleka likes the aesthetic,” he said. He was glad his voice was starting to sound mostly normal. “Ma…kind of hates her soulmate. So it’s easier to not look at the marks.”
“The Captain hates being tied to any one thing,” she said with a roll of her eyes and a fond smile. “The Captain’s soulmate is the horizon, and you know it.”
“Marinette, I am so sorry,” he said. He dropped the marker and reached for her hand, pressing his palm to hers and linking their fingers. His face hurt from the smile. That same stupid smile he’d seen on Juleka and Rose’s faces all those years ago. The smile he’d seen on so many faces over the years – on Marinette’s not five minutes ago – but never on his own. “I am so, so sorry.”
“You’re an idiot,” she said, squeezing his hand, “and we’re burning the gloves. If I ever see you with gloves ever again I will never forgive you. Even if it’s snowing.
“…Mari,” he laughed, shaking his head. She grinned, lifting a shoulder in a half-shrug.
“Ok, maybe if it’s snowing,” she teased. She squeezed his hand again and stepped closer to him, her chest a breath away from his own. She’d been closer to him before – they were both pretty physical people around the other – but there was something different now. Something weighted. She grinned up at him from under her lashes and squeezed his hand again. “I’m still pretty mad at you, you dummy, but I might be inclined to forgive you if you kiss me.”
“Just a kiss? I think I’m getting off light,” he said, and when had his voice dropped into a growl? He snaked an arm around her waist and tugged her flush against him, bending down to brush his nose against her own. “Five years, Mari. Five stupid years. I think I owe you a lot more than one kiss.”
“One to start,” she sighed. Her arm came up to wrap around his neck, her fingers brushing into his hair. Their joined hands were pressed between them. “And maybe a drink. You have a lot of time to make up for, Couffaine.”
He chuckled and nodded, nosing her again. He had one final moment of hesitation before he leaned in.
“…and Adrien?” he asked, hating the uncertain waver in his voice. She rolled her eyes and pulled gently on his hair. Not hard enough to hurt, but sharp enough to let him know he was an idiot.
“He’s not my soulmate. You are,” she said firmly. She rolled her eyes again. “He was just a crush. And a very good friend. You’re the one I’m getting annoyed with for not kissing me yet.”
He laughed and swooped in, eagerly closing the scant distance between them to press his lips firmly against hers. One kiss turned to two, and then three, and then he was stumbling into Ivan’s drum cases as she jumped up and wrapped herself around him. He was lost, only dimly aware of the hoots and hollers (and booed “Gross!”) coming from his bandmates – were they even still there? He was lost, so soon after being found, but he thought it might not be so bad.
If they could be lost together.