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I Could Never Let You Go

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Bellamy doesn't figure out he's found his soulmate until just after ten in the morning on the first day of his loop, which, if he'd thought about it, would have felt about right.

When he wakes up, he thinks it's Wednesday, which means he's on his usual weekday schedule. His alarm goes off at seven and he groans and rolls out of bed to make coffee. He checks his personal email on his phone and finds nothing but spam from charities he's donated to, which he deletes without noticing it's the same spam he got yesterday. He has a few sips of coffee before he showers, and he pays very little attention to his clothes as he gets dressed. His morning routine has been pretty much the same for the last five years, ever since he started his job at Ark Enterprises, and it doesn't involve significant interaction with another human being until nine at the earliest. That's usually the first sign, a repeated conversation, and Bellamy doesn't get to any of those for a while.

He gets to the train station at the usual time, catches a train and pays no attention to the people around him. He picks up his game of Slay the Spire on his iPad, and he could have noticed then, because of course it's the run he was doing yesterday, but roguelike games are basically time loops anyway. He figures he just forgot where he left off.

At work, he checks his email and replies to a question he swore he replied to yesterday, but he still hasn't finished his giant thermos of coffee, so that's not really a red flag. Even if it was, per my previous email is a meme for a reason. Never attribute to a time loop what could simply be user error.

Miller stops by at 9:55. "Aren't you coming to the meeting?"

"What meeting?"

"Tuesday all-staff meeting."

He frowns. "I thought it was Wednesday."

"Nope, Tuesday."

It does nag at him, but he follows Miller anyway. He went to an all-staff meeting yesterday, didn't he? He swears he did.

He figures it out when he sees the meeting agenda and knows every bullet point and remembers Jaha going through every one. He paid as little attention as possible, but he still knows he's done this before.

"Fuck," he mutters, dropping his head onto his hands, thankful the auditorium is too dark for most people to see him.

"It's not that boring," says Miller. "You'll live."

"I did this meeting yesterday," he hisses, and Miller's eyes widen.

"Shit, seriously?" He looks around, like somehow he'll be able to spot Bellamy's soulmate. "Did you meet anyone new?"

"No one I got introduced to."

"Shit."

For Miller, finding his soulmate had been fairly straightforward. He'd been in college and the loop had started on the second day of classes his junior year. All he'd had to do was ask his comp sci class if anyone else was in a soulmate loop too, and Monty raised his hand. It had taken them a few more weeks of repetitions to fall in love, but it was about the best-case scenario for a stranger being your soulmate.

Bellamy's not going to be so lucky. Absolutely nothing noteworthy happened to him yesterday that he knew of, and the whole day has already blended together into unremarkable sameness. He saw his soulmate somewhere, but he has no idea where.

"You might as well just get up and ask now," Miller says. "The whole company is here. It could be someone new in another department or something."

His first thought is that Jaha will be pissed if he interrupts, but it passes quickly. For one thing, Jaha will probably be delighted by the prospect of Bellamy finding his soulmate in this meeting, but more importantly even if he's not, he'll never even know it happened. Miller talks like Miller, acts like Miller, but he's a static copy. Once Bellamy is out of this, no one but his soulmate will remember anything that happened, and even within the loop, everyone else will forget this day at the end of it.

"I guess I might as well," he says, and raises his hand even though he could just stand up and start yelling and there would be no real consequences. There's no reason not to be polite.

Jaha squints. "Do we have a question?"

"Yeah, uh--I'm stuck in my soulmate loop," he says, feeling like an idiot. It's a statement he knows people make all the time, but he's never actually witnessed it in real life. If he has seen this before, it was just some copy of him in someone else's love story.

He always knew the whole soulmate time loop was surreal, but he also knew he wouldn't really get how weird it was until he was living it. After less than a day, he already really, really gets it.

"Congratulations! Mr. Blake, isn't it?"

"Bellamy Blake, yeah. I just wanted to see if anyone else was too."

"Well, everyone? Do we have a love connection here at Ark?"

There's a lot of murmuring and people turning to look at him, but if anyone here is his soulmate, they don't want to admit it in front of everyone.

"No luck, Mr. Blake."

"That's cool. If anyone hears about someone in a time loop, I'm in accounting. Feel free to send them my way."

And then, the meeting just moves on, which is honestly the most surreal thing. Bellamy thinks it must be a part of whatever magic controls the whole soulmate thing. If he--the real him, the one with his own thoughts and feelings and memories--found out he was stuck in someone else's time loop with no consequences, he wouldn't stay in the weekly all-staff meeting. He'd leave work and go do something fun.

In his own time loop, it's a little more complicated.

"I'm going to go try to figure out what I did yesterday," he mutters to Miller. "If I have to sit through this meeting every day for three years, I'm going to murder someone."

"If you want to murder someone, now's the time to do it," Miller points out.

Bellamy gapes at him. "Holy shit, did you murder someone in your soulmate loop?"

"No, because I didn't want to. Good luck finding them," he adds. "Keep me posted."

"Yeah," Bellamy agrees with a sigh. "I'm planning to have this conversation with you a lot."

*

Everyone knows how soulmate loops work, broadly speaking. The first day you see your soulmate after your twentieth birthday, both of you get stuck in a time loop that lasts until one of three things happens. The first and most common outcome is also the best: you fall in love. There's no way of verifying how long people really spend in the loops, but the general wisdom is that it's usually at least a few months for soulmates who haven't met each other before the loop starts. Some people, like his sister, get lucky: she and Lincoln already knew each other, and she was hoping they'd be soulmates. She was just waiting to turn twenty, and they were in the loop for only two days before they got out. But Bellamy doesn't know anyone who recently turned twenty, and he'd honestly feel creepy if his soulmate was newly twenty. He's been expecting a stranger for a while now.

The second outcome is what happened to his mother, where the soulmate thing just doesn't work out. No one knows exactly what the loop defines as "falling in love," but if after three years, it hasn't happened yet, then the loop ends, and both participants lose all memory of each other. The clock doesn't start ticking until after you've managed to find your soulmate, and Bellamy isn't sure if he finds that comforting or not. It's only his first day, but he really has no idea where to start looking for his soulmate. If he's lucky, they were on the train with him, and he'll be able to find them just by asking the crowd. But if it's someone he walked by on the street, he has no idea how long it might take them to find each other. Aurora spent a year finding her soulmate and three failing to fall in love with him, and even though she said that once she got out of it, it didn't feel like it had really been that long, it still sounds terrible to Bellamy. Whatever memories he comes out of this with, he still has to live it first. The idea of being here for three years looking for his soulmate and another three realizing he doesn't love them is agonizing.

The final outcome is the rarest, but it does happen: some people die. It's not directly related to the soulmate loop, as far as anyone knows, but no one really knows much at all. Unless their soulmate witnesses the death, there's no way of knowing what actually happened. No matter how someone dies in the loop, it's always the same death in the real world: a heart attack in their sleep. So no one really knows how many people might get killed by their soulmates or someone else in the time loop, how many people might step in front of a car on purpose because they couldn't stand living the same day over and over again.

But most people just find their soulmates and fall in love. So at least there's that.

*

Bellamy's commute is the big variable he has to deal with in his loop, because he doesn't know exactly which trains he caught on the actual original Tuesday. He's not sure if he took the same one this morning as he did yesterday because they come about every three minutes and unless he's really early or really late, he doesn't notice the exact time he boards. And going home is even worse, because he leaves around five, but usually not exactly at five, and he gets whatever train he gets. His commute feels the same every day because it basically is, but now he can't stop obsessing over slight variations and what they might mean. Did he leave earlier today? Did he catch the train he sometimes misses? What time should he be aiming for in future loops?

He starts writing up a timeline for reference, only to remember that he won't be able to keep the paper either. Any notes he writes, anything physical he makes, all of it will disappear at midnight when the loop resets.

"Fuck," he mutters, putting his head down on his desk. It's not a surprise, exactly, but he never fully grasped how logistically annoying the whole thing would be.

In a way, the worst part is that it doesn't matter. He has all the time in the world to find his soulmate. He can take a day and do nothing but ride the train, but it's hard to find that comforting. Mostly, it feels as if he's got an infinite number of Tuesdays to try to find a needle in a haystack, and the fact that he'll find it sooner or later is only so encouraging.

On the bright side, he doesn't have to stay at work. He should still take the train home at about five, but unless his soulmate works at Ark but wasn't in the all-staff meeting, he didn't see them here. There's no reason for him to stick around.

Another bright side is that it's a nice day, late April and sunny, his favorite kind of spring weather. Boston Common is only a few blocks away from his office building, so he walks over to lie in the grass, letting himself melt into the Earth.

He's thought about meeting his soulmate before, inevitably. Like a lot of people, he was in college when he was twenty, and he thought that would be the easiest time to do his loop. None of the people he actually knew well seemed like soulmate material to him, but in the weeks leading up to his birthday, he found himself scrutinizing his classmates more, wondering if any of them might be potential matches. And then, of course, even after he turned twenty, he was on campus with plenty of other people turning twenty, so it felt like he was constantly on alert, ready for his soulmate to show up at any time.

Ten years later, it's not as if he had given up, but it's hard to maintain that kind of vigilance. There was some part of him that was aware he might encounter his soulmate at any time, but he figured there would be something to tip him off. Whenever he went on a date or hooked up with someone, even someone he didn't particularly like, he was always prepared to repeat the next day. He'd thought he might have to relive Octavia's wedding for years on end, because that seemed sort of karmically fitting, but he made it through without incident.

Every time he's started a new job or met a new coworker, he's had this flicker of maybe, but it never happened, and he was sort of idling, waiting for the next big life event. But what was that thing half his senior class had in their yearbook quotes? Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans.

When the breeze turns chilly, he gets up and wanders over to Copley. He comes to the library fairly often to pick things up on his way home, but he rarely has the chance to linger, which is a shame. Libraries always make him feel calm. He raids the soulmates section of nonfiction and settles in for the afternoon.

Keep your routine as close as possible to the original day is the first and most obvious advice everyone gives, but there's some less intuitive stuff that's actually helpful, things like wearing different clothing every day and making sure to act slightly differently. In theory, his soulmate should be looking for him as much as he's looking for them, and anything he can do to make them notice him is a good thing.

Simply announcing that you're looking for your soulmate can be risky, one book warns, because what Bellamy needs in his life is more reasons to be paranoid. While friends and family can generally be counted on to be supportive, there's no reason for strangers to assist in the soulmate-finding process, and some may have their own biases or bitterness that will cause them to attempt to harm you from the protection of the time loop.

"Jesus," he mutters, rubbing his face. It had never occurred to him that people might deliberately hurt someone they knew was in their soulmate loop, but now it's all he can think about. The equally horrible flipside to Miller's thing about this being the time Bellamy himself could get away with murder.

Suddenly, going on the train and announcing he's looking for his soulmate seems a lot less appealing. Even if everyone will forget tomorrow, he has to get through his whole commute home, and the last thing he wants to do is start a conversation on the train. Even if no one wants to take the chance to hurt or murder him, he's had enough conversations with drunk white guys on the train to last him a lifetime already.

But, as the book reminds him, his soulmate is going to be looking for him too. Everyone he encounters except for his soulmate will do the same thing every day, so even stuff as minor as changing clothes or seats will start being noticeable, assuming he's somewhere his soulmate will see him.

He can wait a little while longer. The library has plenty of other books he wants to read, after all. There are worse things to have than a break.

*

After a week, Bellamy has something of a routine figured out, enough so that he's getting tired of it. He still has to go to work, because his soulmate could be somewhere on his morning commute, so he rolls out of bed and puts on whatever weird shit he can throw together. He doesn't own a lot of eccentric outfits at this point in his life, but he has some armor and other ren faire purchases and some embarrassing t-shirts his sister has bought him, so he puts on some combination of those and takes the train into his usual stop, making sure to move around erratically and generally make everyone want to avoid him. He walks all the way to work with his arms over his head or skipping or whatever, goes into the lobby, and then leaves again. Mostly, he goes to the library and reads books he wants to catch up on, and then he'll call Miller and they'll go out for a really expensive lunch because money isn't actually real to Bellamy right now. Then he'll kill some more time, commute home, and have the evening to buy himself more expensive meals and watch movies and wonder how, exactly, to find his soulmate. Because this isn't working, so far.

"It's only been a week," Miller points out.

"But they should be looking for me too, right? I feel like I must be in the wrong place, but I don't know where else to go. I'm thinking about just riding the train all day tomorrow."

"I don't know if that would help, but sure, knock yourself out." Miller regards him thoughtfully. "I was serious. A week really isn't that long."

"You say that, but you found your soulmate on day one."

"Don't you have other friends you can ask about this?"

He sighs. "I know it took Murphy and Emori a while but they were actively trying to game the system. They were both trying to see how long they could spend in the loop and how much petty crime they could commit in the meantime. Gina hasn't met hers yet, Echo's was a mess, and I don't want to start calling random people from college to ask about their soulmate experiences out of nowhere, even if I know they won't remember. My mom and my sister are both…" He sighs. "My mom can't help and the longer I go without calling my sister, the more of a dick I feel like. Which is fucking irrational and stupid, you don't have to tell me."

"I'm used to you being irrational and stupid, yeah. Why don't you want to call your sister, exactly? I know she can't relate to your soulmate loop, but walk me through the rest of it."

"I just feel like I'm going to have to tell her I hadn't called her yet, and then she'll be mad that she wasn't my first call even though she wouldn't have remembered if she was. I know I could lie to her, but I feel shitty about that too."

Miller rolls his eyes. "Okay, yeah, just fucking call her as soon as we're done. Tell her it's been a week, apologize if you have to, but you don't need whatever is going on there living in your head rent free."

Bellamy's mouth twists. "Thanks."

"You know I'm right."

"You are." He sighs. "She had it so fucking easy, I'm mad at her."

"But not at me?"

"A little at you. I'm mad at everyone."

"Jesus, I really hope you find them soon. I should have known you'd hate the loop."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"You always want to fix everything and you're like the most impatient person I know. And I'm not saying I wouldn't be impatient too," he adds. "I got really lucky, your sister did too. But maybe take a couple cycles to just do some fun shit and not treat finding your soulmate like a homework assignment you're failing. You can do whatever you want, so take a break. And call your sister."

"I know." He sighs, watching as Miller finishes off his surf and turf. Bellamy's been getting different entrees every time they come, but Miller always orders the exact same thing, and it makes Bellamy twinge. No matter how good Miller's advice is or how much he helps, the truth is undeniable: this Miller isn't a real person with free will, and Bellamy is. "I just know that however long it takes me to find my soulmate, I've still got so many more cycles left. I still have to fall for them. I'm saving a lot of my fun stuff for that."

"I guess that makes sense. But it's not like you can't go to the MFA alone and then again with your soulmate."

"Yeah. I just want to know," he admits. "Who they are. They feel so close."

"They are," Miller says, and it sounds like a promise. "You'll find them."

*

"Are you dying?" Octavia asks, instead of saying hello like a normal person.

"Imagine how bad you'd feel if I was and that was how you said hi to me," Bellamy shoots back. He took four days to hang out in his apartment playing video games he'd stalled out on and eating really expensive sushi, and as much as he hates to admit it, it did help. Tomorrow, he's going to commute back into work, but as soon as he's done with that, he's hitting up his favorite museums and paying extra to eat in their overpriced cafes.

It felt like the right time to finally call his sister.

"Yeah, but you're not, right?"

"No more than usual." He lets out a long breath. "I've been in my soulmate loop for a week and a half."

"Holy shit! I--" she starts, and he grins.

"You were going to say you couldn't believe I didn't tell you."

"I was. It's weird. A week and a half? Have you found your soulmate yet?"

"Not yet. And I have no leads. It's just a totally normal Tuesday. I think I must have just seen them in passing during my commute and I haven't managed to find them again."

"That sucks. Have you tried any of those soulmate finding services?"

He frowns. "The what now?"

"Come on, you know, there are, like, websites that say they'll help you find your soulmate or whatever? You've never seen ads for them on the train?"

"I don't pay much attention. How would that even work?"

"I don't know, but they're totally a thing."

"Sounds like a scam."

"How would it be a scam? You literally can't be scammed right now. You're unscammable."

"Yeah, but…" he starts, and realizes almost immediately that she has him.

"You've got nothing," says Octavia, realizing the same thing. "You might as well check them out, I've always been really curious what they do. And how! Like, maybe they spend a ton of money on sky writers or something because they know they never have to pay it back."

They also won't ever get paid for their efforts, so it seems like an unsustainable business model to Bellamy, but Octavia makes a good point. There's no real risk to him.

He gets his laptop and googles soulmate finding services boston. All the top results are the related to the same place--something called Goal Mates--and Bellamy clicks through in fascination to their testimonials, all of which have been left by people who reached out during their time loops and got help which the agency has no way to prove they provided.

"This is definitely a scam, I just haven't figured out how yet," he says. Clarke doesn't remember it, but she was really helpful when I was stuck in my loop! raves yelp user mylessmiles, and Bellamy shakes his head. "Like, seriously, what?"

"Then you can call and your other time loop project can be figuring out the scam!"

"Sounds like a blast."

"You'll love it." She sighs. "I was going to tell you to keep me posted, but I guess that would be a huge pain, huh?"

"I promise you'll get a full update when I can give you one," he says. "But yeah, I'm not promising to call you again tomorrow and fill you in on a suggestion you don't know you made."

"Whatever, you could explain. I'm sorry I'm not there," she adds. She and Lincoln moved to the west coast a few years back, and Bellamy's mostly used to it by now, but he does miss having her in driving distance. "I feel like I should be helping."

"Like I helped you with Lincoln?"

"I think you said, oh fuck, it's Lincoln, isn't it, fuck my life."

"That sounds right, yeah." He flops back onto the couch. He had an impulse to email the Goal Mates place tonight, but there's no point; their inbox will just reset in the morning. He might as well wait and call in the morning. "I'll keep you as posted as I can," he promises.

"That's all I ask."

*

"Your soulmate's name is Clarke Griffin," says the person who picks up the phone at Goal Mates the next morning.

"Uh," says Bellamy. "Does that really work on people? It's one hell of a called shot. Do you just do a different name every day?"

"This is my twelfth Tuesday, April 26 in a row," the person continues. "And no one has called at 9:46 on any of the other Tuesdays. So you must be my soulmate."

He's glad they're in an audio-only medium because all he can do for a long moment is gape like a fish. "Who else is calling?" he finally asks. "If it's our time loop, why would anyone else be asking about soulmates?"

"We get at least five prank calls a day. It's why we charge anyone who actually wants us to find their soulmate, it scares off the people who just want to do this as a prank."

"Yeah, but you won't get any money from the people who are actually looking for their soulmates," he points out. "I've spent so much money in the last eleven days."

Clarke laughs. "Yeah? On what?"

"Food, mostly. I've gotten way too much overpriced takeout."

"I always eat too much takeout, but I get your point."

He clears his throat. "So, if this is your job, why am I the one calling you?"

"We were working on it!"

"How does that work?" he asks, smiling. Clarke Griffin sounds cute when she's defensive. "Like, you can't actually practice, right?"

"No, but we do get feedback about what worked from people who got in touch with us during their loops."

He rubs his temples. "This is making my brain hurt, I have no idea how it's your actual job."

"Apparently I'm good at it, too."

"But you didn't find me."

"I didn't find you yet. It's only been eleven days."

"So, what's the process when someone calls you and they're not your soulmate?"

"Well, we start with the basics. Name, age, where you're from."

He's expecting her to go on; when she doesn't he says, "Makes sense. What then?"

"You need to give me those first."

He laughs. "Fuck, I didn't even tell you my name, huh?"

"Nope."

"Bellamy Blake. I'm thirty-two and I live in JP."

"Cool. Clarke Griffin, twenty-eight, Somerville."

He taps his jaw. "Do you take the train to work?"

"No, but I was on the red line around five on that first Tuesday."

"Fuck, I bet we passed each other at Downtown Crossing or something. I was being so weird on my commutes."

"Yeah?"

"I read this book that got me paranoid someone would try to murder me, so I wanted to be obvious to you and eccentric to everyone else. What were you doing?"

There's a longer pause than he anticipated. "Would you rather do this in person?"

It's not actually a trick question, but Bellamy's heart still stutters to a stop. He likes her, so far, just in a limited way. She's easy to talk to, but theoretical. Just a voice, intangible and unreal.

But as of now, he has three years to fall in love with her or lose her forever. He might as well get started figuring out which one he'd prefer.

"Yeah," he says. "In person sounds nice."

*

They agree to meet downtown and Bellamy fidgets the whole train ride downtown. At least he could dress normally for this, letting himself actually put his best foot forward. He knows he's an attractive guy, but it still feels different from anything else, trying to dress to impress Clarke. In theory, he always knew he could meet his soulmate any day at any time, and he's vain enough that looking good is usually high on his list of priorities anyway, but there's only so much he can do. He can make sure his hair isn't sticking up too much and put in his contacts and choose flattering jeans and a nice shirt, but he can't change the fundamentals, and he has no idea what Clarke likes.

Of course, she should like him. That's how soulmates work. But he knows it isn't always that easy.

He arrives first and texts to let her know that he's in the Common, resists the urge to add anything else like a description or some self-deprecating joke. His whole body feels like an exposed nerve ending and the temptation to do something to break the tension is almost overwhelming, but there's nothing to actually be done. Nothing will help except meeting her.

So, of course, she texts back that her train is standing by at Kendall and she doesn't know how long it's going to take. It must have happened on that train every cycle, but neither of them had been on it, so it's brand new information. At least they'll know for next time.

Bellamy settles on a bench with his iPad, trying to think of absolutely nothing and not look up whenever anyone passes. It's still a nice day, and this is good news. Things are going really, really well: it's only been twelve days, and he's meeting Clarke.

Fuck, he's meeting Clarke.

He doesn't let himself look up right away when she sits next to him. He finishes his turn in Slay the Spire and then asks, "I'm that obvious?"

"You have really strong I'm trying not to look around energy. It's hard to miss."

"Thanks." He turns off his iPad and puts it away before finally letting himself look at her. She's smiling a little, as if maybe she thinks his anxiety is an endearing quality, and if she's his soulmate, she probably should.

She is pretty: blonde-haired and blue-eyed, dressed in a worn hoodie and jeans. She looks like a college student, but in a calculated way, like she maybe put a lot of thought into projecting a casual vibe even though she's not actually casual.

She doesn't look at all familiar. Whenever he saw her that first day, he didn't notice her at all.

"Hi," he says. "I'm Bellamy."

"Clarke."

"So, what have you been up to for the last eleven days?"

"Our usual stuff. Which is weird to say, because I've never actually done it before? People say we've helped them and we believe them because it seems like a weird thing to lie about, but it's always just been theoretical for me. We came up with ideas we never actually got to try out."

"Who's we here?"

"Me and my roommate, Raven. It was her idea to start the business and she was the one who realized we could do it basically for free."

"Because that's the dream, doing work and not getting paid."

Clarke shrugs. "There's no good way to get paid for it. I can't even really argue I should get paid for it, I don't do anything I can remember. I have an actual, full-time job that I work most of the time."

"What do you do?"

"Graphic design. What about you?"

"Accounting. It's not particularly interesting, but it pays me pretty well. I've been thinking about trying to find something else, though."

"Something like what?"

"Something I don't feel defensive about," he says, with a wry smile. "I don't know. A lot of the stuff I like, I don't think I could make a living off of. I just read a lot of nonfiction and get into arguments about history on the internet."

"Nothing wrong with having a day job."

"No, I guess not." He nudges her. "Tell me more about the soulmate search."

"I'm basically the contact person. If you call Goal Mates, you get me. Usually it's just pranks, like I said. Kids pretending they're in their loops who want us to crank call classmates or something. But sometimes we get people asking what we'd do if they were in their loops, I guess so they can decide in advance if they're going to call us? And that's all Raven. She's an actual genius, loves tech, and she realized if she wanted to put her hacking skills to the test, the perfect time to do it would be in a loop."

"Sounds ethical."

"Hey, no one ever has to know. Are you on any social media?"

"I have a Facebook account, but I haven't been on in years. I'm not much of a social media guy."

Clarke nods. "That's part of why we couldn't find you. One thing Raven does is force if you or anyone you know is in their soulmate loop, call this number ads onto Twitter and Facebook based on where people say they went over the course of the day. So if you're on social media, it can help, but it only works if you're on social media. And she does it the other way too, finding if anyone is posting about looking for their soulmate so we can follow up. Not everyone is great at that kind of searching."

"Makes sense."

"She also does some pretty illegal stuff with, like, hacking security cameras? I assume part of your problem was you were never sure you were actually at the same places at the same time as the first day."

"Yeah, that's the problem with having free will and memory. I overthought what train I caught so many times."

Clarke nods. "Raven was looking at security footage from Downtown Crossing for me, seeing if anyone was acting weird."

He pulls a face. "Would you believe I was only acting weird above ground?"

"Really?"

"I sort of forget the train station is part of my commute. I always just want to get out as soon as possible."

"That one's also tougher for her because she's not in the loop, so she can't compare day to day, just on her own."

"And she's never actually done it before."

"That too. We know we've helped people because they told us, but someone had to be like, yeah you found them on the security camera at their work. For all I know, we've helped people who never told us about it. We'll never know exactly what we do."

"So once that happens, what next?"

"Raven tells me where she saw the suspicious activity and describes the possible soulmate. If the client is close, they can just go there, otherwise they have to wait until the next day and hope they go back there."

"It still doesn't sound like great odds of finding someone. No offense."

"None taken. I think part of it is just having a couple more sets of eyes. You can only be one place at a time on any given cycle, so having other people looking around can help. Sometimes we'll actually go to places if the clients want us to, but that's rarer. The last thing we want is to get mistaken for someone's soulmate."

"Which wasn't an issue here."

"No."

"So the first day you just woke up, realized you were your loop, and told Raven everywhere you went?"

She bites her lip. "I actually thought I knew who it was."

It's about the last thing he was expecting. "Seriously?"

"Not in a bad way."

He has to smile. "I don't even know what that means."

"I had a blind date on Tuesday night. This guy my mom wanted me to meet. I spent weeks putting it off and finally agreed so she'd stop bugging me, and then I woke up in the loop the morning after. I was so pissed."

Relief is instantaneous. "So you didn't like him?"

"He was fine. He's the son of some guy my mom knows. We really don't have the same taste in people. If he'd actually been my soulmate, she never would have let me live it down."

"I can see why you thought that, though."

"Yeah, he was the only new person I met. And I work from home, so going on the date was really the only time I left the house. We must have passed each other when you were going home and I was on my way to dinner."

"I can't believe that's enough to trigger the loop. But it seems like it should have been pretty easy for your friend."

"You would think. But I went shopping before the date, to a couple different places. So once I finally figured out the blind date guy wasn't it--"

Bellamy holds up his hand. "Finally?"

"He lied about it."

"What?"

"I know! It was so stupid. I called him on the first day of the loop to ask and he was like, oh yeah, I'm in the loop, I'm your soulmate. And we had a boring day together where I reminded him of stuff I figured he hadn't paid attention to on the date. But then when I called him the next day, he had no idea."

"Jesus, what's the endgame there?"

"Right? I asked him, but he acted like he had no idea because it was him from the loop yesterday. Like he wasn't the same person he'd been when he lied."

"What an asshole." He shakes his head. "Okay, so, that took up a day and a half?"

"Pretty much. Then I called Raven and we came up with a list of things to try. She did announcements on some trains, but we hadn't gotten to the orange line yet. Then she hacked the PAs in the stores. She did Downtown Crossing yesterday," she adds, slightly accusatory.

"I decided to stay home and play video games yesterday. I was stressing myself out looking for you."

"Sorry."

"Not your fault. We were both doing our best. I'm just impatient, I needed to take a break before I did something stupid."

She leans forward, resting her forearms on her legs. "So, what now?"

"We get to know each other, I guess. See if we're really soulmates. Starting today, we've got three years."

"Are you worried about that?" she asks, sounding curious. "That we're not?"

"No offense, but I just met you." So far, he likes her, but he doesn't think he's ready to commit to spending the rest of her life with her. "You're sure I'm your soulmate?"

"You are," she shoots back. "Even if we don't come out of this in love, we're in the loop. You're the only soulmate I get."

His stomach twists. "Yeah. It's not, uh--I don't want to come out of this not in love with you," he offers. "I just know it happens. That's what happened to my mom."

"Ouch. It's worked out for everyone I know."

"I might just be paranoid. In general." He wets his lips. "I was going to go to the MFA today," he offers. "I'm trying to have fun as long as I'm in my loop. Do you like museums?"

"I do like museums. I'm an MFA member, actually."

"Cool. Let's start there."

*

Me: Not coming to work today, in my soulmate loop

Miller: holy shit, seriously?
how many times have we had this conversation?

Me: Thirteen
The first time it was in person but now I mostly just text

Miller: sounds right
did you find your soulmate yet?

Me: Yeah, yesterday

Miller: and????
dude come on
I need more than just that

Me: So far so good
She seems cool
We went to the MFA

Miller: so you're freaking out

Me: Basically
The soulmate time loop sucks and I hate it

Miller: yeah but once you're out of it you'll have a girl you're in love with
hopefully

Me: I thought I'd feel better once I met her
But I just feel a new kind of bad
I want to call her but I'm not sure she's awake yet
I should have just asked but I didn't want to make it weird
And now I think it was weirder not to ask
Also the only number I have for her is the soulmate finding service she works for
Because you can't save cellphone numbers in the time loop
So fuck everything I guess

Miller: wow
so you really like her

Me: Shut up

*

"We should probably just come up with a place to meet every morning," Clarke says with a rueful smile. They're downtown for brunch, and it's more nice than weird, at least. "It's easier than you calling the Goal Mates line."

"When does your alarm go off?"

"Eight-thirty. Yours?"

"Seven."

"That sucks."

"I've started just going back to sleep after I email my boss. Like calling in sick, but I have to do it every day for the foreseeable future."

"When you put it like that, yeah, it sounds fun," she teases, and he laughs.

"Okay, yeah. It's not the best, but it could be worse. Imagine if the day you got stuck in your time loop, your building's fire alarm went off at like three a.m. or something."

"Waking up with a one-night stand who isn't your soulmate," she shoots back. "Or the day a family member dies and you meet your soulmate at the hospital."

"Jesus Christ, yeah, that's the worst one. We can stop trying."

Clarke grins, like she's won a great victory. "Anyway, I figure we can come up with a standing date? We don't always have to go to the same place once we meet up, but we can meet at the common at ten or whatever and go from there. I assume I'll memorize your cell phone sooner or later, but in the meantime…"

"Yeah." He clears his throat. "This is weird, right? We're both agreed this is weird."

"Yeah, but not weirder than I expected."

"Really? I knew it would be weird, but there's all this stuff that I didn't really think about until now. Like the way I'll never be able to save your cell phone number until we get out."

"Okay, yeah, I guess I didn't think of that specific thing."

"It's not like I don't like you," he says. "But I've been thinking about it all morning and I don't know what we're supposed to do for the next however many cycles. It's not actually like having a relationship."

"Have you had a lot of those?" she asks, curious. It varies from person-to-person; some people think that there's no point in dating anyone who isn't their soulmate, while others think it will help, like they'll be good practice for the real thing.

Bellamy never had a hard and fast rule, himself. He never minds having fun with people he likes. "Not a ton, but a few. High school, a couple girlfriends. A boyfriend in college. First dates that fizzled when we weren't soulmates and a couple more where we kept going anyway. Not a lot, but enough that this feels different. What about you?"

"About the same, just switch the order for girlfriends and boyfriends. It's weird that, like--I told Raven about you, and it was brand new information that I was even in my loop. It's hard to remember that no matter how much we talk about this, it's news to her every time."

"Yeah. I'm really close to my sister. If I was getting serious with someone, I'd want to introduce them to her and see what she thought of them. That would be my first step, and I can't even do it."

"Where does she live?"

"California."

"Yeah, that would be tough. Not that we couldn't spring for an expensive morning flight or something, but still."

"Yeah. The part of a soulmate that's exciting is how they fit into my life," he admits. "And this isn't my life."

"Okay, that makes sense." She nods, mostly to herself. "Look, I really don't know how this is going to go. But the fastest way out is falling in love with each other. I don't really want to spend three years with you just to forget you exist. So far, I like knowing you exist."

He has to smile. "Me too."

"So let's say every day, we meet up at nine-thirty, and we plan to spend most of the day together. I had fun at the museum yesterday. That was a pretty good first date. So what do we want to do for our second date?"

They come up with a list of ideas of places to go over lunch. Clarke has a car, which opens up a lot more possibilities, and Bellamy finally starts feeling excited. They have similar taste, which makes sense, and Clarke is practical and likes planning, so she's on top of timelines and logistics, while Bellamy figures out details like where they might want to eat and what other cool stuff is near their primary destinations.

"It really does suck we can't actually keep the list," says Clarke with a sigh.

"Unexpected annoyances, like I said."

"I'm good with not doing stuff too, by the way. Every day doesn't have to be a big trip. Sometimes I like just hanging around in pajamas watching Netflix or whatever."

He smiles. "Me too."

She looks down at her paper. "Is it bad if I want to start there? I know you just had a couple days of video games in your pajamas, but I've been running around looking for you."

"Your place or mine?" is all he asks, and he's rewarded with her dazzling smile.

Falling in love with her could work for him. It doesn't seem impossible at all.

*

It's a little bit like being on vacation, if being on vacation was also surreal and a little stressful. Every morning, Bellamy wakes up, emails work, texts Miller, and goes back to bed until 8:30, at which point he gets up, showers, and makes coffee for himself and Clarke. She shows up anywhere from nine to nine-thirty, depending on the traffic, and they have breakfast and talk about what they want to do with the rest of their day. About half the time, they decide to go to one of the places they've talked about--a day at the aquarium, a picnic in Mount Auburn Cemetery, a visit to Salem, even a trip down to Providence--and the other half, they decide to just hang out on Bellamy's couch, watching TV or playing video games and getting to know each other. Sometimes, they barely even talk; Clarke doesn't mind reading with her feet in his lap while he plays a game or vice versa, and those are often Bellamy's favorite days, the ones where he and Clarke just comfortably coexist. It's the closest they get to normal.

He calls Octavia after about a month and fills her in, and she tells him everything sounds like it's going well. Which isn't wrong, but still makes his teeth itch.

"You might just be bad at being happy, Bell," she says, and he doesn't have a counterargument.

Three days later, Clarke greets him with, "Raven wants to meet you."

"Even though she won't remember me?"

"Yeah. She wanted to know if she'd met you yet and I said no, so she said it needed to happen so she can give me her opinions on you. I thought we could maybe get lunch with her and your friend Miller? Maybe play some Mario Kart after? I know they won't remember, but…" She shrugs, a little helplessly. "It would be nice to do normal friend stuff, you know? Pretend we aren't the only two real people in the loop for an afternoon."

"That does sound kind of nice," he admits. "Miller can just leave work for the afternoon, it's not like it matters."

"That's what Raven said." She unpacks the bag she brought with bagels. "Do you think you'd do that?"

"Do what?"

"I was just thinking, I don't know how I act when other people are in their loops. It's weird that people just believe it, I guess. Like maybe you're fucking with Miller and he'd get in trouble."

"Well, for one thing, you can only do that once, and it destroys the friendship." But he's thinking about it now. "I guess it depends on the person. The only time loop I know how I acted in is my sister's, and I was just annoyed the whole time."

"Really? Why?"

"Because her loop lasted two days and it was her twentieth birthday party. She already knew her soulmate, and he was twenty-seven. He's a nice guy, I like him, they're great together. But I wish he was like four years younger than he is."

"How old is she now?"

"Twenty-six. He's a year older than I am. It's still a little weird sometimes."

"I was in my ex-girlfriend's loop. We were dating at the time."

"Jesus. And you didn't come up with that as one of the worst loops?"

"I didn't actually have to live through it. And apparently it was awkward, but not terrible. We were in college. She knew it wasn't me right away because we were both twenty-one, so it had to be someone else. She woke up with me in her bed every morning, which was awkward for her, but the conversation went pretty fast. I was understanding about it. And then when she got out of the loop, I still understood. It's a risk you take, dating anyone who isn't your soulmate."

"Still. It's probably good you don't actually have to remember that."

"I'm good just remembering my soulmate loop, yeah." She bites her lip. "Can I do something?"

"Depends on what."

She huffs. "Raven asked if we'd had sex yet and I'm not upset that we haven't, but we haven't even kissed, and I really, really want to kiss you."

Bellamy's breath catches. It's not a surprise, not exactly, but they have been staying pretty platonic. The pacing just seemed off, the soulmates thing vying with the fact that they've just met but also that they've spent every day of the last month together. It feels too soon and too late and jumbled up, too strange for Bellamy to say anything. The last thing he wanted to do was scare her off.

"Oh," he manages, and laughs. "Awesome."

And he kisses her.

Kissing is one of Bellamy's favorite things, and he never feels like he's gotten to do it enough. The nature of soulmates is such that people don't tend to date for long, and when he hooks up with people, there's always a good chance that kissing isn't really something they're looking for.

Clarke really does want to kiss him, though. As soon as he leans in, her arms are around his neck, pulling him closer, and she's kissing him back eagerly, smiling into his mouth, and if Clarke wants kissing to be one of the things they add to their time loop routine, Bellamy's all for it.

"I didn't want to make things weird," he admits, resting his forehead on hers.

"We're soulmates. Kissing isn't weird."

"I don't know if you've noticed, but I kind of overthink things."

"Oh wow, really?"

He kisses her again. "Sorry, I'll try to do better. You're pretty great," he adds. "I like you a lot."

Clarke's smile is as bright as a sunrise. "I've actually started checking the date when I wake up," she admits. "I don't really know what's supposed to trigger the end of the loop, but it feels like it might be winding up soon."

"After a month?" he asks, trying not to sound too shocked.

"It just feels kind of inevitable, I guess."

Bellamy's used to thinking of inevitability as a bad thing, something awful but unavoidable, like a car crash in slow motion, but it doesn't sound like that when Clarke says it. From Clarke, inevitability sounds nice. Ideal, even. If finding his soulmate is filling every one of these Tuesdays with Clarke and then suddenly waking up one morning to find it's Wednesday, that won't be the worst thing.

Right now, it sounds like the best thing ever.

"Yeah, I figured out the first day I wasn't going to have any trouble falling in love with you," he admits. "And that was before you went on like five different art history rants at the MFA."

She grins. "I was hoping that was a positive for you."

"Definitely." He checks his phone; it's not even ten yet. "How about I text Miller and you text Raven and we make out until we have to go meet them?"

Clarke laughs, delighted and relieved, and he needs to get out of his head and tell his soulmate that he likes her more often.

"Yeah," she says. "That sounds perfect."

*

"Huh," says Raven, looking him up and down as he returns the favor. She's hot and looks like she could kick his ass even with the brace on her leg and the cane in her hand, so he likes her on sight. "Yeah, you're not bad."

"Thanks?"

"It's been a month?"

"A little more than that, yeah."

She glances around, making sure Clarke is still in the bathroom, he assumes. "You like her, right? If you don't like her--"

"I like her. We talked about it. I'm a dumbass sometimes. I didn't want to move too fast just because I wanted to move too fast, you know?"

"Nope," says Raven, with a decisive pop of her p. "That was incoherent, dude. Try again."

"I didn't want her to feel like I was rushing through things, but I really want to get out of this stupid loop and just get to date her in the real world. Which I told her the day we found each other, so I thought if I was too into her, she'd just think I was trying to get out."

"Like those people who just think saying I love you as soon as they meet will work?"

"Something like that." He runs his hand through his hair. "I'm going to fall in love with her. I'm most of the way there already."

"And you told her that, right? Because I'm going to forget by tomorrow."

"Like I said, we talked about it. And I figured out I should say it more. You haven't done your loop yet, right?"

"Nope."

"It's a mindfuck."

"Yeah, I bet. It's weird enough for me that there's been a month of days I don't remember, and I know I'm not even really me. But Clarke promised she'd tell me first thing tomorrow morning so I can spend the day hacking stuff for fun."

"Even if you won't remember?"

"I don't have to remember it for it to be fun."

"I guess not." He spots Miller and waves, and Clarke emerges from the bathroom, and it is fun, even with the nagging voice in his head reminding him that they're going to have to do it again, that Raven hasn't really met him and Miller hasn't really met Clarke.

But like she said, they don't have to remember it to enjoy it. He just has a sneak peak that indicates things will go well, when they really do meet. They'll get along.

"Have you met anyone else yet? Did he make you call his sister?" Miller asks.

"Not yet," says Clarke. "I think he's waiting for that one to count."

"I'm right here," Bellamy grumbles, without any heat. "And yeah, I figure O can wait until we're out of the loop. If she was around we'd probably get dinner at least once, but it's not like FaceTiming her in California is really pressing."

Miller is watching him with interest; Bellamy doesn't meet his eye. But of course he doesn't forget, doesn't let it go when they fall into step as they're walking back to the train. Raven and Clarke are far enough ahead of them that he can say, "Not calling Octavia?" in low tones without either of them hearing.

"Not yet. I'll tell her when we're out."

"You don't need her approval?"

"What would I do if I didn't get it?" he asks, watching Clarke's bright hair as she talks to Raven. "Try to throw the whole soulmate thing out the window? If Octavia doesn't like her, she can tell me after the loop, when I don't have to spend three years refusing to fall in love."

"Uh huh. How many times have we had this conversation?"

"I've told you about her a few times, but this is your first time meeting her. Or asking me about O."

Miller nods. "You just seem pretty into her. I guess I figured you'd want your sister's opinion on that."

"I thought so too. Like I said, if she was here, we'd probably get dinner, but…" He sighs. "Honestly, I thought about it, and it doesn't matter. If O hates her, we'll have a fight about it. But I'm going to fall for her. There's nothing Octavia could say that could stop it."

"Kind of sounds like you already fell for her," Miller points out.

"Yeah." He shrugs, helpless. "I guess I'll find out."

*

For the first time that night, Clarke stays the night, as much as she's able. She doesn't drive home after dinner, and they don't actually have sex, but they kiss a lot and both of them get off, and he falls asleep with her in her arms. He's never been in love before, but this feels like it.

He wakes up alone, but that doesn't mean anything. That first Tuesday was the real one, as distant as it feels now. Whenever they get out of their loop, they'll wake up in their own separate beds, all of the days they spent together in the loop will feel like a dream, and tjey'll be expected to just move on with their lives.

Bellamy's planning to take a personal day, when it happens. He's going to have a lot of people to check in with, Clarke first and foremost. Everyone will understand.

But his phone says it's Tuesday again, and Bellamy flops on his back with a sigh. "I do love her," he tells the room, as if his ceiling is the one making these decisions. "I really do." And he could, for all he knows. She might be the one holding him up, the one who isn't sure yet. But it could happen any day now, and there's something nice about that.

When Clarke rings the doorbell, he buzzes her up, and when he opens the door, he leans down to kiss her, and he doesn't want to do this particular thing for long.

"I thought it was going to be today," he admits, accepting a pastry from her with a rueful smile.

"Me too."

"Maybe I need to actually fuck you first."

She laughs, delighted. "Well, it's worth a try."

*

The end of Bellamy's loop is as unremarkable as the start. It takes another week to get there, just long enough he's starting to worry he doesn't know what love even is, but not long enough he's mentioned that to Clarke yet. Like she said, there's an inevitability to the end of the loop; he'd like it to end sooner, but he knows that some day, the switch will be flipped, and they'll be in love enough to go out.

It's the kind of last day he'd choose to go out on, if it was his choice. Clarke comes around 9:15 and they have breakfast, then spend the morning on a duck tour because Bellamy admitted he'd never actually done one. They get lunch downtown and go back to his place for the afternoon. Clarke is taking advantage of the time loop to get better at Mario Kart, so she plays while he reads. After an expensive dinner, they go back to his place, watch a movie, and fool around a little before bed.

"You don't mind that we always stay here?" he asks, more curious than really concerned.

"I love Raven, but staying at our place would take way too much explaining every day," says Clarke. She kisses his collarbone. "I like your place, Bellamy. You have a really nice bed."

"Good. But I'm still looking forward to checking yours out."

"Yeah," she says, already half-asleep. "I'm looking forward to that too."

The transition from one day of the loop to another is always murky. It happens around midnight, but not always exactly then. Early on, Bellamy stayed up, waiting to see when he'd suddenly wake up in his bed, tracking the different times it happened, mostly out of idle curiosity. These days, he finds it less disorienting to just be asleep when the change comes. It's not like it matters.

His alarm goes off at seven, as always, and he groans, fumbles to grab his glasses and then his phone, turning off the alarm and checking the date automatically.

"Holy fuck," he breathes, because it's Wednesday.

He rolls out of bed and staggers to his laptop, checking there too, as if maybe his phone is lying for its own unknown, personal reasons. But his computer confirms, and every single place he can think to check, it's the same thing: Wednesday, April 27.

"Holy fuck," he says again, and emails his boss that he's taking a personal day.

There's too much adrenaline running through his veins for him to go back to sleep, so he makes himself coffee and texts Miller: Not coming into work today, just finished my soulmate loop.

He calls fifteen minutes later. "Seriously?"

"Seriously."

"How long did it take?"

"Not that long, honestly. It felt like forever while we were in it, but it's already starting to feel like a dream. About a month and a half, I guess? Twelve days to meet her, a month and change to fall in love."

"Pretty fast."

Bellamy shrugs. "She's pretty great."

"Did I meet her?"

"Once. I think you liked her."

"Octavia?"

"Not yet. I wasn't going to fly to California when she wouldn't even remember. I'll call her once she wakes up."

"It's weird just hearing this part," Miller finally says. "You're all calm and happy, I missed all the freaking out. I bet you hated the loop."

"I did, and you heard all about it in there. But now I'm out. I found her, and we love each other."

"Did you think you were going to get killed?"

Bellamy laughs. "No more than usual. Someone could decide to murder me any time. But, yeah, anything I could worry about I was worried about."

"And then you met a cute girl and fell in love with her."

"Yeah."

"I'm happy for you. And looking forward to meeting her. Have you talked to her yet?"

"Not yet. Her alarm isn't going to go off until 8:30, I'll call then."

"Cool. Enjoy the day off. I'll see you tomorrow?"

Going back to work isn't exciting, but tomorrow is. His soulmate loop is over, and he's back in the real world. Now he can start spending the rest of his life with her. "Yeah, see you tomorrow."

Clarke's work phone goes off do not disturb at nine, so he waits until then to call her. It rings once before she picks up, her voice not a surprise but no less a relief because of it. "Goal Mates, this is Clarke," she says.

"Hi, this is Bellamy Blake, I'm looking for my soulmate."

She laughs. "You found her," she says, and he grins.

"Cool. That was easy."