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After The Storm (Comes The Rainbow)

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Jo couldn't remember any more what her soulmark had looked like when she was a child. Any photographs that might have shown its shape had gone up with the Kingfisher County tornado in '69, and neither her mother nor Aunt Meg had remembered what it looked like, either. Something with wings, Meg had suggested, the last time she'd mentioned it. She always had spent a lot of time looking up at the sky.

It wasn't a particularly unusual thing to have happen — a soulmark shifting shape during someone's formative years. They called it the 'age of reason' for, well, a reason; before a child's personality was really fixed, and they began solidifying their notions of right and wrong and building a lasting framework for interacting with the world around them, any significant experience could easily alter the course of their entire future in a way that was much more rare for adults. Half the kids in her grade school had gone through three or four distinct soulmarks between kindergarten and fifth grade; the unusual part was that Jo's had never changed again, after that long-ago storm.

She looked down at the twisting shape of the funnel on her wrist, peeking out from behind the band of her watch, and ran an absent thumb over the pigmented skin. She'd always thought, before the day a crazy man had rolled up in front of her video camera and chucked a bottle of Jack Daniels into a wall of wind, that her mark was one of the nonromantic ones; there were all sorts of theories about what soulmarks meant, but studies had shown that the correlation between really driven professionals and symbols of their passions showing up on their skin was pretty high. But after meeting Bill — well.

The twister really had been a good symbol for them, both literally and metaphorically. She probably shouldn't have been surprised when their relationship had ripped off its foundations after several years of chasing each other through Tornado Alley; and after it had, she should have followed the metaphor through to its logical conclusion. Like Aunt Meg's house, like the farmhouse she'd lived in as a child: after the destruction, came the rebuilding.

The new truck bumped over a rut in the road, and Bill threw her a sidewise glance. A half-abashed, half-smug smile curved his mouth when he realized what she was doing, and he shifted his grip on the wheel to hold his own wrist out in her direction.

"I guess I was wrong," he said, wryly. "It was never you; it was me the whole time."

Jo arched her eyebrows at him, a bright burst of amusement prompting a matching grin. She almost didn't want to see what had prompted that statement; the mere fact of its existence was wonder enough. "Wait, you're admitting you're wrong about something? This really is a banner month, isn't it?"

"No, I'm serious," Bill insisted, eyes dancing as he glanced her way again, waving his arm in front of her. "Go on. Look."

"All right, all right, I'm looking," Jo replied, smile fading a little as she curled one hand around his and used the fingers of the other to push back his sleeve.

Back when things had started to get really rough with them, when the arguments had begun shifting from passionate differences of opinion toward furious disagreements — from making-up-in-bed resolutions toward not sleeping in the same bed at all — he'd pushed his arm in her face in just the same way, as proof that maybe they'd never been right for each other. Their marks had never been one hundred percent identical, but they'd been near mirror images back then: reciprocally curving whirlwinds sketched across their pulse points. But that day, the day that marked what she'd thought of as the beginning of their end, the edges of his mark had been visibly indistinct, more like a fuzzy cloud than any definable shape in particular. That did happen occasionally to adults, after a really traumatic event or life change, but for it to have happened to only him when they'd been paralleling the same course for so long had felt like a brutal slap across the face.

Bill had blamed her for it, of course; that she was married to her work, not him, pushing him further and further away from her. She'd screamed back that he was the one who didn't know what commitment meant, talking about wanting to take a better paying job ... but secretly, she'd been afraid he was right. That she'd gone against her own fate the day she'd looked at a three-quarters-naked storm chaser — a pair of tighty whities in no way counted as fully naked, though she wouldn't spoil his and Dusty's well-polished routine at this point to bring it up — and let herself believe the Finger of God had brought something good into her life to balance the tragedy.

Jo had thought, when she'd first heard about Melissa, that his soulmark must have settled into something new, not that she'd ever expected to be forced to confirm that suspicion. But he and Melissa had broken up ... and right there in front of her, right where it used to be, the same curving funnel cloud spread across his skin once more.

Or ... did it? Jo blinked, then looked up at Bill, letting go of his arm in surprise. "Holy shit."

"You see? Right back where it used to be. Guess I was having, I don't know, an early midlife crisis or something," he replied, shrugging carelessly as he put his hand back on the wheel.

"No, no, Bill ... look," she urged him, taking off her watch and holding out her mark.

He glanced down at it with a furrowed brow ... then held his own wrist up again and abruptly slammed on the brakes, jerking the wheel toward the side of the road. "Wait. Wait," he blurted, glancing between the marks again.

The CB fuzzed in concert with the sudden stop, activating in Rabbit's voice: "Uh, Boss? We're still miles away from that new pattern ... is something wrong?"

Bill swallowed, then reached for the radio with his free hand and snapped off a quick reply, still holding his soulmark next to hers. "No, no, just ... go on ahead guys, we'll catch up in a minute."

"You sure?"

Jo snagged the handset impatiently. "We're sure, Rabbit. Just go."

"All right, whatever," came the reply; then a rush of air brushed against the truck, the wake of the other vehicles in the lab caravan passing by. Like a faint echo of a larger windstorm that had, once again, changed her life.

"Is that...." Bill began, cautiously. "I mean, I thought, but is it really...."

"They match," Jo murmured, struck by a sense of awe. It felt surprisingly like vertigo; like looking at the sky again while the world whirled around her. "They match."

The marks weren't reciprocal any more: they were the exact same shape. But she'd been wrong too; hers wasn't the same after all. Still very similar, but not the F5 that carved its way through her childhood — it had a little less curve now, a little more width, almost hidden by the way the skin folded at the base of her hand.

"Finger of God," Bill replied, in a low, reverent voice. Then he turned suddenly in his seat, reaching for her. "Jo."

His mouth moved hard and hot against hers; more a statement, an affirmation than anything really romantic. Like, Jo thought with sudden, irrelevant amusement, the end of the end of the beginning—

"What? What?" he objected, as she broke away, laughing into the space between them.

"Nothing," she replied, waving a hand in the air as joy shook through her. "Just. I hope you don't think this means I'm going to start spending any more time at home, or anything. Because, I mean. Destiny's one thing, but...."

"Oh, God," he groaned, leaning back and casting his eyes up at the roof of the cabin. "You just had to step all over the moment, didn't you. I don't know why I ever expected anything else."

"You know, I don't know why you did, either," she grinned, then reached out to pull him back in for another kiss.

Weather might wait on no man. But — she was willing now, after everything, to learn to make enough time for this.