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She is born with only one mark.

It is not uncommon, but sad nonetheless. Most babes are born with a couple to half-a-dozen parental marks. People who would come to love her, protect her, and nurture her. 

Her parents love her all the same, even when their hearts break a little bit because she doesn't share a mark with them. As soon as they laid their eyes on the small dark smudge, they knew it wasn't theirs. 

"A honeycomb," Annette says, looking at her daughter's neck. 

"A bunch of lines," laughs her husband, slightly poking at them.

The babe is loved, even when fate doesn't think so.

It is a honeycomb.

The mark takes a few weeks to settle fully, but it is undoubtedly a  honeycomb. With only the one mark, her parents aren't sure if the honeycomb reflects her or the parent. Danny's children marks tended to showcase the sea or water, while Annette's parent marks were all related to books. 'Books raised me,' she'd joke. 

Taylor is a big fan of honey; once, she tries to get some from an actual honeycomb. She regrets the decision after the first sting and learns a harsh lesson that day. 

Her father laughs at her but tends to her wounds. He smiles as he regals her with stories of being stang himself. She stops crying, laughter slowly replacing her sobs. 

"Maybe," he says, warmth in his voice, "your other parent will be a bee farmer."


"No? How do you know that, little owl?"

"You can't be a bee farmer! Mommy says the correct word is 'beekeeper.'"

"Oh, yes, I see. A very important difference."

When Annette gets home, tired from a long day of lectures and an even longer day of advising, she sighs when she sees her daughter covered in cream and bandaids. 

On her next free day, she takes Taylor to the library and sets her free in the small apiculture section. After a short essay, a few drawings, and a long presentation, Annette learns that bees are cool but dangerous and that honey tastes terrific, but Winnie Pooh is not a role model to imitate. Taylor was so proud of that presentation that she made sure to repeat it to anyone who would bother to listen. 

Annette took a few of the anti-Winnie-Pooh pamphlets and hung them in her office, next to her family's photos, letters of thanks by her students, and graduation pictures of her soul-children. They were a big hit with her students.

Emma spends a lot of time at the Hebert household. She loves playing with Taylor until they can't anymore; she loves it when Mr. Danny takes them to see the ships, and they guess where they are going, but she loves it the most when Auntie Annette sits with them to tell them stories. Auntie Annette is an incredible storyteller; she makes even her petty office politics seem like odes and literary masterpieces. 

Auntie Annette is the one that teaches her how to read between the lines. She teaches her how to do research and how to communicate, so people listen. Auntie Annette smiles, and the world shines. She explains, and Emma learns. 

Auntie Annette has more child marks than Emma can count. She tried. They fill her arms, all small spots of lighter pigmentation on her skin. Emma finds hers, a close match to her parental mark. She loves it. She uses it as a reason why she is sisters with Taylor.

Years later, she would use it as a way to taunt Taylor. Evidence that her mother didn't love her, as she had her daughter's friend's mark but not her own daughter's. 

Her second mark comes in bits and bobs. At first, Taylor thinks it is just a few new moles, but soon they become darker and sharper. Her parents worry; they force suncream on her every time she leaves their house and wonder if they should take her to a doctor. 

Then, the lines start to come, and they all breathe out in relief. Taylor is ten and confused as to why she has a parental soulmark appearing now. How is someone ten years younger than her going to be a parent to her. Her father is confused. He shrugs and smiles; he still makes sure to keep an eye on his daughter's shoulder blade. Her mother has no real answer, but a lot of theories. 

"What do you think?" she asks her daughter and sets her free in the library once again. 

Taylor returns with stories about amnesia patients, about finding soulparents late in life, about time-travel and freezing your body to unfreeze it in the future. Her mother laughs but encourages her to find more.

The mark would grow and change for months and then would take even more to settle properly. In the end, it would look a little bit like a cobweb and a lot like random points attached by lines. 

A year later, Taylor's third and final mark would come. This time, instead of the darker spots building a design, decoloration would create the image: a child mark.

It stings a bit, a sharp sort of sensation that borders on being painful without being so. It appears in less than an hour and just takes some days to settle—the complete opposite to her second mark.

It is a goose. A Canadian goose, Taylor learns after a short trip to the library.

Taylor's fingers ghost over the mark on her wrist, and she smiles. A goose might not seem like the best type of animal, but at least it's not honeycombs and cobwebs. 

The rest is similar. Her mother dies, her best friend is traumatized, her father is depressed. She isolates, and no one reaches for her. The locker happens, and she starts to understand her first two soulmarks. She makes friends; she makes enemies. Her city drowns.

Despite meeting her one and two first, it is the third one that she first connects to a person.

She has a gaggle of orphans that look up to her for safety, but they are not hers. Charlotte's marks adorn their skin, but Taylor helps.

"I thought I was going to be a teacher," Charlotte says, one afternoon when the kids are napping, and she can confide in Taylor. "I just assumed, you know? I'd appear in their life and mentor them for a few years, and then they'd grow and leave."

"It didn't work that way," says Taylor, looking at the children Charlotte would not give up for years.

"No, it didn't."

Aiden is small. And he is different. He sits close to her and shows her the pictures on his arm. His arm is littered with parental marks. And there, dark and settled, is what Taylor can immediately say is a goose's feather. 

She ruffles his hair and shows hers in return. She doesn't spend much time with him; her attention is pulled in so many directions and by so many people, but when she can, she sits with him. He shows her his drawings and reads her from some of the books they've managed to salvage. 

Things happen as they are supposed to do. Dragon and Defiant find her, she hands herself to the PRT, Alexandra threatens her, she goes to prison. But among the communication she is allowed, she gets to talk to Aiden. It is his right as a soulchild, and mostly uses it to gossip, complain, and make her help him with his homework. 

It is Taylor who is Aiden's soulparent, but it is Weaver who finds hers. Defiant sees his mark once when she had her hair up and acknowledges it as his.

"Why honeycombs?" she asks. She understands the insect connection but has never found a good use for honeycombs. 

Defiant stands there and takes his time to answer.  "A hexagon is an efficient shape for storage."

Taylor nods. "Any idea about this one?" She asks, showing him her shoulder blade. In contrast with her other marks, her cobweb has changed in the years since it has appeared. New points appear; old ones disappear. Connection change, shift, and break. It is weird, but it is hers.

"A neural network," he says after a quick examination. "Dragon says that it's hers."

"Oh," Taylor says, "that's nice."

"She says that she is happy to hear that. And that she has a spider."


They don't talk about the soulbond again. Defiant, however, makes sure to check on her more often. 

Dragon does. She is warm where Defiant is detached, and she makes sure that Taylor feels wanted. She sends her books and writes her letters. Taylor is a bit confused but very much touched by a note that says, "you remind me that I do have a soul." It is sweet, but a bit extreme in her opinion. 

The day of the reckoning comes and goes. 

She starts the day as a broken woman and ends up with two bullets in the head.

She lives.

Meeting another Annette is weird. She looks too much like her mother, but some details set them apart. On the back of her hands, she has two marks where her mother had none. She stares at them and the ghost sitting in front of her smiles.

"My children's," she says. "Can I see mine? I mean, other me, mine?"

Taylor opens her mouth. She closes it again. She looks down and where her arm should be, and the fake's face falls.

"Oh, I am so sorry." They don't talk about it again.

Healing takes time.  Not just physically. Everything needs to heal: her mind, her soul, her body. She is tired.

Her father stays with her. He is patient, but she can see the sorrow in his eyes. She can also see it in her reflection. 

A few months later, he leaves for hours. She should worry, but she knows that he will come back as long as he is capable.

He says nothing when he comes back, but he is careful with his left arm. She raises an eyebrow but doesn't mention it. He sends her a playful smile and mutters, "surprise," in a tone she hadn't heard for years.

She nods and lets it be. 

A week later, she sees it. It's a tattoo, not a mark. Too big, too raw. It's an owl, bursting in colors and mid-flight. It is beautiful. 

"You said we could never go back to what it was," he says, "but that we can try. Again and again."

She smiles. "Why an owl?"

"I thought you were tired of the insect motif," he says, "And I quite like your goose. You have your gooseling, and I have my little owl."

"Thanks," she whispers, "it means a lot to me."

"I'm here for you, kiddo. No matter what you do now, I'll be here."

She is born with only one mark, but that doesn't mean that she has to die that way.