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Of Ticking Timers

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Daring wished that it had been easier. Sometimes, he thought that the Fates had something personal against him. Why else would his timer go off at the exact same time as eleven other people?

Over ten years ago, when Daring Charming walked into his elementary classroom for the first day of school, twelve timers on twelve different wrist had stopped and vanished from their skin. Apple White, Raven Queen, Duchess Swan, Sparrow Hood, Hunter Huntsman, Briar Beauty, Ashlynn Ella, Faybelle Thorn, Cerise Hood, and all three of the Charming children had watched in shock as their timers had finished counting down and faded into their skin.

Hunter and Ashlynn were the obvious couple. They were the two who knew that they were going to be together forever by second grade. Sparrow and Duchess were still both in denial. Even though they were nearly inseparable by fifth grade, they both denied feeling any form of attraction to each other. Briar and Faybelle came as a shock to almost everyone. Apple had discovered them making out at one of Briar's parties freshman year. In retrospect it made perfect sense. After all, the two of them were constantly arguing over something. Hindsight is always twenty twenty.

By their Junior year there were only six of them left. Apple. Cerise. Daring. Darling. Dexter. Raven. To be honest, Daring was a bit afraid. He didn't really want to know who his soulmate was. There'd be so much pressure. Instead, Daring remained friends with the three girls, but kept his distance. He dated other girls, but nothing ever felt right. He knew that nothing would feel right until he figured out who his soulmate was.

Daring let out a sigh and stared out over the football field. From his perch on the bleachers, he could see everything. He could make out the track team practicing, and the cheerleaders who had taken over the field itself. His eyes focused on one lean figure that was running around the track.

Briar had had a party a week ago. Everyone at school who was somebody had been there. There had been beer, and there had been hormones. The two didn't really mix well, and they ended up playing a game of spin the bottle. Almost as if the bottle were magic, it had landed on each of the soulmate groups. Then, when Daring had spinned it, it had landed on Cerise.

The kiss had been...Daring didn't know how to explain it. It was more than a spark. It was a beginning of something. It was time standing still for a minute just so it could start anew. It was magic, that was the only way that Daring could explain it.

"So," he glanced up as Briar took a seat next to him, "have you finally decided to accept it?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Daring said. His parents strongly believed that it was Apple, and Daring had found himself agreeing with them. Apple and he seemed like a matched set. But then there was the spark. Daring didn't want the spark, not with Cerise.

"Let's see," Briar said, "Dexter and Raven both love music, and get flustered around each other. I give it a month before they start dating. It is entirely possible that Darling and Cerise are soulmates, but they've been best friends for the past three years and still havn't done anything about it. My money's on Darling and Apple, though it's going to be years before Apple admits that to herself."

"That doesn't mean that Cerise is my soulmate."

"You're really thick sometimes," Briar said, "You are the star quarterback. She is the star of the track team. I'm not stupid. I know that you felt something at my party last week."

"That was spin the bottle," Daring protested, "It means nothing."

"Keep telling yourself that." Briar's eyes met Faybelle's from across the field, and she nodded.

"What are you doing?" Daring asked.

Briar grinned. "Nothing. I just think that you should ask her out. Maybe take her under the bleachers and make out a little."

"I don't think-"

"Daring, take this from someone who spent years arguing with her soulmate, when you know, you know. You've found your soulmate, not take some time to get to know her." With that said, Briar left Daring, joining Faybelle at the edge of the field.

Get to know his soulmate. Briar was right, he didn't really know Cerise. He didn't know what her favorite ice cream was, or what she did in her free time. He barely even talked to her. She had always seemed quiet to him, like she really didn't have an opinion on anything. Maybe he'd been wrong. What was Cerise really like?

"Hey, Daring." Daring was pulled out of his thoughts to find Cerise Hood standing only a few bleachers away from him, her hair falling out of her ponytail. "I was...well...I was wondering if maybe you'd want to go get coffee sometime."

Daring nodded. "Sure."

A grin spread across Cerise's face. "Good. When do you want to-"

"Now would be good," Daring interrupted.

"Now?"

"Yeah. Now."

"Okay," Cerise said, "Just give me a second to change."

"I'll be here," Daring said. He watched as Cerise ran down the bleachers. She waved at him before disappearing into the locker room. Daring felt his stomach knot as she waved.

Perhaps Briar was right after all.