Vanessa Carlysle was nineteen when her soul mate died.
He had always been with her. He wasn't the fairytale of a soul mate: handsome and strong and smart. He was plain and pudgy and slow to act ... but he was kind. His smile ... when she closed her eyes she could still see his smile, soft and sweet and just for her. He would rather walk beside her than sit on her shoulder. He tried to open doors for her even though he was too small to move anything so large.
When Vanessa was fifteen, her world turned upside down. Her skin turned blue, her eyes red, her hair as white as clouds. Vanessa was a mutant and there was no way to hide it ... at least no way that she had known then, when she had really needed to know it. Her parents threw her out.
Her soul mate helped her pack. He found her favorite book on the shelf (it wasn't hers to take) and struggled to carry her best jeans to her suitcase. He ran with her in the night, flying ahead of her for the first time, a light leading the way. He knocked on the door for her when she made it to her Gran's, because Vanessa was too afraid of what Gran would say about Vanessa's blue skin to knock herself.
He had courage when she had none, he had strength when she was powerless ... he was a gentleman in every way that mattered.
Then he died.
He was flung against something so hard that it broke him, leaving him as limp as a discarded doll. Vanessa begged for him to move, wailing and crying until her Gran came and held her through the storm of grief ... for he had faded as she watched.
Vanessa went to the library every day to check every newspaper they had until she found his face. Alex Janson, age 24, who died in a car accident when he wrapped his car around a tree while swerving to avoid a child who had run suddenly into the street. Her sweet, perfect gentleman ... a gentleman until the very end ... was dead.
Gran followed him soon after. Gran had been hard, but she let Vanessa stay, had held her when her grief was freshest. She valued blood over what blood had changed Vanessa into.
Then Vanessa was alone.
She found work and if it was nothing to be proud of, at least it was work. She learned to lie, not just with her words, but also with her body. Alex would have forgiven her for selling himself, she knows he would. He would have forgiven her for using his memory to protect herself.
Vanessa was older and more pragmatic when she met Wade Wilson. The fairytale dreams of her childhood were gone. She doesn't have a soul mate to look for. She only wanted someone who wouldn't care how she made her money or what color her skin really was.
Meeting Wade was like looking into a mirror. She had told a thousand lies about Alex since the day he died ... and Wade had told just as many. Liars know liars when they see them. Wade was the only person Vanessa has ever known who has never had a soul mate. There was a hollowness in him, an empty space where a soul mate should be.
Wade's kind, in his own way. A gentleman, in his own way. If Vanessa was to have anyone who wasn't Alex, she could do much worse. Wade had one redeeming quality that put him above all others: There would be no one in his heart more important than her.
She took comfort in that.
Vanessa had let herself forget that there was more than one way to lose someone.
His mother's last words weren't for him. They're for someone she's never met, the person she loved more than Wade and Wade's dad. Holding her hand as her body cools, waiting for the doctors to come, was the moment that Wade realized the truth. Without a soul mate, he would never be first in anyone's heart. Second place was the best he could hope for.
When his father descended into a bottle, mourning the wife who would never come home again and tattooing the grief into Wade's skin with bruises ... Wade realized the second truth. Without a soul mate, the only one he could depend on was himself. There was no avatar to remind his father that Wade wasn't alone in the world.
Being alone was hard and it only got harder in high school, when he was still the only person he knew without a soul mate. To fit in, Wade started to lie. A simple lie would be best, something easy to remember that even he couldn't mess up. Wade picked Snow White to be his made up soul mate, because in the stories she was simple and she was kind and she slept for years and years before her soul mate found her. Wade wished he could sleep until he had a soul mate.
He told himself that there was nothing wrong with him, they just weren't here yet ... surely tomorrow or the next day or the next they would be born, and then he would finally have an avatar too.
Later, in the army, Wade would think the real reason he didn't have a soul mate was because he was soulless.
The army was finished with Wade even if Wade wasn't finished with the army. He had thought he shouldn't have a place among civilians when he's only ever been good at killing.
Wade no longer hoped for a soul mate. He had stopped waiting for them. He wasn't old, but he wasn't exactly young anymore. If they were ever born, he'd be old enough to be their father, nothing more than a chain to hang around a child's neck. He didn't want that for anyone.
For the sake of fitting in, Wade had taken up the old, worn lie once more. No one had seen through it ... but why should they?
No one could see someone else's soul mate, only the impact they made on the world. It was like standing in a room not just with other people, but also with their personal pet poltergeists. Objects would lift and move of their own accord. Everyone was used to other people listening to things that didn't seem to be there. Avatars didn't show up in mirrors, the couldn't be filmed or photographed. Everyone had the hand sized replica of their soul mate ... if they could only pass them on the street, they would know them ... if only there weren't billions of people, scattered across the world. A public figure could find their soul mate, but a nobody like Wade would have to rely on luck.
Only Vanessa -- beautiful, clever 'Nessa -- saw through his lie ... because she was lying too.
Wade would always be second to Alex and Alex was dead ... but at least he was dead. It was only memory that Wade had to compete with instead of a living spirit that would always have her time and attention, someone who she could meet at any time, someone who would eventually take Vanessa from him. He was grateful that Vanessa saw something in him worth keeping, that she accepted him even when she knew Wade wasn't good enough to have a soul mate.
They agreed to pretend that they were each other's soul mate and sealed their vow in gold, dropping the lies they had worn like shields for a new set of lies.
Wade didn't need a soul mate when he had Vanessa ... so the birth of his soul mate was a shock.
There wasn't any warning. He was just suddenly there. A baby curled in the hollow of Wade's throat, tiny and new in the world. A mutant, like Vanessa, if the unnatural glow in one eye was any indication. Wade wished he wasn't. The world was already hard enough. Wade didn't want him to have to struggle, the way Vanessa had struggled, having to run and hide and pretend to be what he wasn't. To fit in wasn't just safer, it was also happier. He didn't want him to be like Wade and Vanessa, who had never fit in anywhere except with each other.
Wade was already more than old enough to be his soul mate's father. By the time his little one was grown enough to find them, there wouldn't be much point ... even if Wade could have brought himself to leave Vanessa. Wade thought that he and Vanessa could be like favorite aunts or uncles. They could watch him graduate and send him presents for Christmas and birthdays ... but never more than that. If they ever met at all. His little one might be smart enough to realize just how pointless the search would be. There was nothing here worth finding anyway.
He didn't tell Vanessa about his soul mate. He wasn't even sure what he would say.
Vanessa -- clever, impossible 'Nessa -- found out anyway.
Vanessa refused to be second.
No matter how Wade promised that she would always, always, always be first because putting the little one first was just madness. The little one was a child, and would be a child for years and years. Wade and Vanessa would be old and gray before the little one would even be old enough to have a chance at breaking them apart.
She left him anyway. He couldn't even blame her. Wade had spent too long being second to begrudge her desire to be first, no matter how much it hurt him.
Misfortune always comes in threes.
It was only after Vanessa was gone that Wade found out about the cancer.
At least Vanessa was gone. Wade knew Vanessa would never have left him over illness. Just because she wouldn't tolerate being second, didn't mean she wasn't loyal. There was comfort in knowing she was being spared this. She didn't have to see Wade fade before her eyes, watching him become a shadow of his former self.
It all seemed so very pointless after that.
All the worry and strife over a soul mate who wouldn't even remember Wade when he was grown, because Wade would be dead.
Misfortune always comes in threes.
If Wade had thought cancer was the third misfortune, he was wrong.
Between one night and the next, Wade's soul mate vanished as abruptly as he had appeared. Wade could only assume it must have been sudden infant death syndrome, the thief of newborn lives. He had no cause to imagine anything else. His avatar had been healthy, small and sweet and smiling ... and then he was gone.
Wade was the one with cancer. Wade was the one who was dying. Wade was the one who had a life. His sparklet .... his little one .... the only light Wade had left ... gone.
He wouldn't even have remembered Wade when he was grown. Yet it still hurt Wade like a dagger through his heart that his life had been cut short, ended before he even had a chance. It was more than he could bear.
There was no reason to be here anymore.
So when Weapon X offered him an option that Wade knew wasn't really an option at all, Wade said yes.
Maybe they could even fix him ... and then he could find Vanessa and reclaim a portion of what he had lost.
For Wade, misfortune comes in fours.
For as long as he could remember, Nathan Dayspring's soul mate had always been grown.
He was tall and strong and always smiling. His favorite perch was Nathan's shoulder, where he chattered like a magpie, happily oblivious to the fact that the words of avatars were indiscernible to human ears. For all his liquid talk, he sat quietly when Nathan had his lessons with the elders, holding the scrolls open when Nathan was tasked with reading them.
Nathan was raised for purpose. As the Askani'son, there was a mission that only he could undertake, a destiny that only Nathan could fulfill. He believed that this destiny belonged to them both. They were two halves of the same whole and Nathan wouldn't accept that the task was for him alone when his soul mate was already in the world, fighting for the cause.
His soul mate was a soldier, like all the clan kin were soldiers, just older and more experienced than himself. Nathan knew he must understand duty, even when he pulled Nathan outside to hunt and play when Nathan's lessons ran long, more giddy than Nathan to be freed from the confines of the meditation tent.
He was better than Nathan at hunting, patient as stone and silent as death when they were stalking, swift to flush out game for Nathan to take down. With all the expectations placed upon him, it as a relief to Nathan that his soul mate was someone he could lean on, someone who wouldn't need to be protected, who was strong in their own right and already settled in the world.
Nathan wasn't displeased that his soul mate was handsome, something he had only come to appreciate when his voice was cracking and he was waking up to a mess in his bed roll. He would love to meet his soul mate right now instead of maybe never. He would like him to be first and only and at his side where he belonged. His soul mate should find him soon, now that he was old enough. Nathan was the Askani'son, known by all their allies as well as their enemies. Even if Nathan couldn't find his soul mate, his soul mate should be able to find him. They had a mission and Nathan didn't plan to do it alone.
Then his soul mate was captured.
Nathan spent the months of his soul mate's captivity in a broken daze. He cradled the shattered avatar, unable to do anything except watch, afraid that if he closed his eyes even for a moment, his soul mate would be gone, killed when Nathan wasn't looking.
His soul mate's captors destroyed him. They carved up his avatar and gouged him to pieces. Nathan's beautiful, lively companion was torn asunder. Burned, broken, cut, electrocuted, tied down and tortured without mercy. They healed him only to take him apart again, shattered and reassembled until there was nothing left of what he once was. This relentless cruelty, this utter destruction, this rebuilding only to tear back down again ... this could only be the work of Apocalypse, the enemy who haunted the steps of his clan.
Then it was over.
His soul mate escaped ... or was rescued. In either case, the torture abruptly ended ... but what remained of his soul mate ...
Nathan's soul mate was broken.
His soul mate's chatter was now unending, a frantic buzz of incessant noise that blurred in Nathan's ears. He could no longer simply sit with Nathan and be. Always in motion, he fluttered from object to object without focus, as mindless as a will'o'wisp. He still tried to aid Nathan, but he was only half as useful as he once was: peering through the scope of Nathan's rifle instead of flushing their quarry; bringing Nathan the canteen after he had carried it upside down with the cap open; throwing the fire pit around to dig up the coals instead of helping to stamp it out.
His only use now was in battle, where he was vicious, attacking everything that moved. Nathan's soul mate was a blur of rage that no longer understood tactics or strategy or mercy. The mercy had been stripped from his spirit. This was a rabid dog instead of a soldier, biting everything that came at Nathan.
He was no longer handsome. The scarring was permanent, twisting and warping his skin. His hair was gone and didn't return. His eyes lost color, clouded with a permanent white film that frosted once blue eyes. He couldn't bear to be seen, not even by Nathan, who had already seen everything. He hid, wrapping himself in red and black, covering his face and enclosing his eyes. This was the last straw, laid upon so many other straws, that cut Nathan's broken heart to the quick.
Maybe it would have been better if he had died. At least then Nathan would be free.
If Nathan had known his soul mate as only this, a candle charring at both ends, both bright and terrible ... then maybe .... maybe it wouldn't hurt so much, maybe the bitterness of grief and loss wouldn't close the back of his throat ... but Nathan knew what he once was. He knew what both of them have lost.
Nathan still had his mission, but now it was one he would have to undertake alone. His soul mate no longer had the wit to find him.
There was a certain pleasure in knowing that his destiny dovetailed so nicely with his desire for vengeance.
Apocalypse had done this to Nathan. He was already going to kill him. Now Nathan would burn him to ashes. He would destroy everything he had built, leaving no stone atop another.
No matter what it took.
No matter what he had to do.
No matter where he had to go.
... or when.
The Wade that walked out of Weapon X was alone, but not for long.
In one moment to the next, he got a new soul mate. He didn't even think there was such a thing as having two different soul mates. Maybe fate thought Deadpool was a new person instead of an old one broken into a new shape.
His new soul mate was old, older than Wade if the white hair was any clue. He was fierce and intense and damaged, with a burning mechanical eye and a prosthetic metal arm ... but he was still a hundred times more handsome than Wade and a thousand times better than him. Like his old soul mate, his new soul mate has gotten the worst of the bargain.
He wasn't like Wade's first soul mate, so young he stayed curled up in Wade's pocket, right next to his heart, so new to the world that it was he who needed protecting (and Wade was powerless to protect him). The new one's favored perch was the top of Wade's head, where tiny hands gripped his mask tightly. He would glare at everything that dared to approach. He also talked, in his tiny solemn voice that made no sense at all, trying to remind Wade when Wade forgot something. Wade forgot a lot of things now.
He was always watching, even when Wade was sleeping. Wade was used to defending himself, but now it felt like eyes were always on him, that faceless enemies were just waiting for him to close his eyes so they could take him back to small cold cells and tables where they cut and cut and cut and never stopped. His tiny guardian alerted at the smallest threatening noise and would strike even the pizza boy for daring to move too quickly. Wade could barely admit, even to himself, how grateful he was to have him there to watch his back. Wade had surely stolen him from someone more deserving ... but he couldn't bear to give him back.
Wade's soul mate didn't seem to understand what pizza was, though. Had he lived in the Canadian wilderness his whole life like Wolverine? In a desert? On a mountain top like a monk? That wasn't important because Wade would show him the awesomeness of pizza (and tacos and pancakes and Korean barbecue and pho and lasagna and grilled cheese sandwiches and root beer) if they ever met. Wade was making a list of all the things that puzzled his avatar, so he wouldn't forget to show him all the things he was missing.
Now that he had taken his vengeance ... and what glorious vengeance it had been to leave the place of his torment on fire! To find all their hellish rat holes and burn them to ashes. To hunt down every last participant of their nasty little program and destroy them. Afterward, his name was whispered like a warning. A reputation that would keep him safe ... and Wade excelled at living down to expectations.
He was only ever good at one thing and now he had a gift (if he could call never dying and being this ugly a gift) that gave him an edge. He would use it to keep himself in safe houses and guns and tacos.
If Wade was taking up old habits ... he could find Vanessa.
She probably wouldn't want him anymore ... who would want him now? He's ugly and he's crazy and his memory is shit. If his soul mate liked him, it was only because he had to. Vanessa used to like him. Maybe she still would.
Tolliver no longer employed Vanessa ... but he did want to employ Wade.
Nathan kept expecting his avatar to disappear now that he was in the past. He wondered if he would feel it, the moment that time erased his soul mate. Perhaps, so separated from the original, the avatar was just a time remnant, a fragment of itself that would eventually fade when that distant original stopped transmitting ... in the same way light faded long after a star died.
In the library of their headquarters, Nathan had no reason to suspect an attack. His avatar, alerted by senses beyond his own, abruptly lunged. If there was anything Nathan could rely on his soul mate for, it was his instinct for danger. Nathan whirled, metal fist already lifted to block a blow, when the red and black attacker emerging from the stacks froze with the same surprise that froze Nathan.
His attacker was the spitting image of Nathan's avatar.
Nathan had never seen anyone else's avatar until this moment and that avatar was himself, a perfect little copy that hurtled through the air toward Nathan as if pulled by a string, drawn forward as swiftly as his soul mate's copy was drawn away.
Their avatars crossed paths in the air, winding around each other in a looping spiral that trailed blue and red fire, nothing more than twin streaks of flaming light. The streak of light and fire that was the avatar of himself passed through Nathan's chest like an arrow, returned to the heart that had birthed it. The avatar that had once been Nathan's plunged through his soul mate's heart in the same moment, a flaming blade sheathed.
Nathan and his soul mate clutched their chests, gasping as something neither knew was empty was suddenly full once more ... too full, much too full, spilling over with fire and life and love and words.
Nathan Wade Nate Beloved I love you I'm proud of you I lost you I grieved you I missed you I love you
Wade opened his mouth -- after all these years, Nathan could tell when he was about to speak -- but Nathan wasn't interested in talking. Nathan closed the distance between them in an instant, pinning his smaller soul mate to the bookcase as he yanked the mask up just far enough to kiss him, pouring thirty years of grief and longing into devouring him.
Nathan's team crashed into the library thinking Nathan was being attacked ... and afterward they complained that their eyes could not unsee.
Nathan had no reason to think (even if it should have been obvious after the fact) that his soul mate was in the present. An avatar was a spirit, a part of a greater whole, a piece of a heart taken from the soul at birth and sent as a gift to their soul mate ... and Nathan was born here, in the past, instead of the future he had left.
As long as Nathan had stayed there, he would never have found Wade and Wade would never have found him. To Wade, he had gone when he was just a baby and when he had come home again ... he was changed, so very very changed that Wade didn't recognize him as the same soul mate he had before.
Nathan was now only the second person he knew who had found their soul mate. He found that the reality of having the person, of having Wade, was different from only having a piece of his spirit.
Wade was smaller than Nathan expected him to be, having always imagined him as the taller of them. Of course, Nathan's height and build was a surprise to everyone who knew him as a child, so he probably shouldn't be so surprised ... but he was. He could tuck Wade under his chin if he wanted to when he hugged him. Wade was narrower than him in the shoulders and chest and waist, he was more flexible and agile. Wade's healing had made him inhumanly swift and strong, capable of lifting a car ... a feat beyond Nathan's physical grasp, who was only inhumanly strong where the techno virus had replaced muscle with metal. Despite that, Nathan's telekinesis and telepathy have made him the power house of the two of them, even with the techno virus as a restraint.
Some things couldn't be mended. The ravages of cancer and healing were as deep in Wade as the techno virus was in Nathan. Their removal wasn't really an option. Torture had marked them both, but the damage it had done to Wade could never be repaired, only managed.
Wade didn't sleep unless it was with Nathan, never truly relaxed unless Nathan was with him. He would forget minor things unless Nathan reminded him ... but he never forgot food. He was the one who reminded Nathan to eat (Nathan was reminded of long ago escapes from the lessons of the elders). Nathan couldn't read his mind, but he didn't need to.
Wade talked, oh bright mother, did he talk ... but his tiny avatar could never have captured the lovely smoke sound of his voice or the terrible (wonderful!) lack of filter. Or the way Wade could cut to the heart of a matter in the same breath he told a joke that would make a soldier blush. Nathan would never have thought anyone could have a sense of timing so delightfully out of tune as Wade. He was the master of a joke cracked at just the wrong time, of that observation that was just gently askew, of speaking the thought that Nathan was thinking but would never actually have said. Nathan would never, ever have imagined that Wade could make him laugh with the utterly ridiculous things he would say. Never, in all his most fanciful dreams had Nathan thought he would laugh this much with his soul mate.
(Nathan could admit it: the dreams of his youth might not have included laughter, but they did include a lot of sex, which Wade had proved more than capable of fulfilling. If Wade had no focus for stamina, then healing had blessed him with a shockingly short refractory period that Nathan was only just beginning to take full advantage of.)
Wade's avatar might not have trusted Nathan because it didn't trust people, but the real thing ... the real Wade trusted Nathan to see him, to touch him. He trusted Nathan more than Nathan trusted himself ... more than he felt he deserved to be trusted.
They were better suited in battle than Nathan would have thought. The real Wade was reckless because he couldn't die, but he followed Nathan's lead as though he had always been fighting by Nathan's side (and in spirit, he had been), relentless in the way of someone who never tired. In battle, Wade was his aid, the pillar that Nathan could rely on.
Wade was also Nathan's guide to his often strange homeland, a place where Nathan was born, but never lived. (Even if Wade often delighted in being contrary and objectionable and confusing, Nathan found he enjoyed the challenge.) Some expectations haven't changed even if they've swapped who the elder was between them. Wade had made a list of things Nathan needs to try, details he picked out from watching a soul mate he thought he would never meet ... and Nathan planned to try them all.
This was nothing like Nathan imagined meeting his soul mate would be like, but it was good, better than he could have hoped for since the moment Wade went to Weapon X, better than some of his younger self's naive fantasies about destiny.
If Nathan could be so wrong about what he thought his soul mate would be like, then maybe he was wrong about fate. The destiny he thought they had was not actually the destiny they were supposed to have.
Maybe there was more for them to accomplish than the destruction of Apocalypse.
Maybe they could change the world.