Raven Reyes thinks soulmates are bullshit.
Her father was her mother’s soulmate, apparently. Didn’t stop him from leaving before Raven was even born. And her mother must have believed in the whole stupid racket, because she preferred to drown herself in booze and pills, ignoring her daughter in favor of mourning the guy who left.
So Raven doesn’t have the best example to work with.
If she never got a soulmate, she’d be thrilled. She’s got enough to worry about.
She’s eight when she first sees the writing on the inside of her wrist. It’s tiny, almost hesitant, like the person on the other end is embarrassed.
She hides the word under long sleeves, and she glares at her wrist throughout the day, and finally when it’s dark out, she huddles under the covers with a flashlight and a red pen and writes what’s your name? on the soft skin of her inner arm.
She doesn’t really care who they are. Eight years old, and she has already decided that she will not be her mother. But it’s at least sort of cool to be able to talk to someone who could be miles away.
John, her soulmate writes. Im 6.
Six years old is practically a baby. Raven wrinkles her nose.
I’m 8, she writes. I’m too old for you.
thats okay, John writes back. But she doesn’t reply, and he doesn’t write back either.
Raven meets Finn three weeks later. He moves in next door with his parents, who are absent and disinterested, just like her mother. It’s the kind of thing that seems perfect to kids before they’re old enough to realize it sucks, because they can do whatever they want as long as they’re quiet enough to avoid annoying anyone.
They spend the entire first year of their friendship playing in their two backyards, playing Star Wars or Lord of the Rings or cowboys or robot apocalypse. Finn always lets her save him, always lets her be the hero, and he plays the fainting damsel because it makes both of them laugh.
On her birthday the next year, he kisses her in the shed behind her house. They’re in the middle of a Star Wars game, and Raven is Han Solo and Finn is Princess Leia, and he kisses her, square on the lips.
“For luck,” he says, and it kind of sounds like something that Princess Leia would say, and Raven blushes and stammers her way through a fitting finale to their game.
After, he holds her hand when they walk back to his house.
“Does this mean I’m your girlfriend?” she asks, laughing, willing to pretend that she’s kidding if he says no.
“Do you want to be my girlfriend?” he asks. He’s nervous, too.
“I don’t not want to be your girlfriend,” she admits, and he smiles.
I have a boyfriend, she almost writes, but she decides not to. John writes sometimes, usually just to say hi, or to tell her things like I moved to a new school or something. Telling him that she has a boyfriend would mean telling him that she doesn’t want a soulmate, and as much as she wants to sometimes, she feels too bad. Maybe he’ll get a girlfriend or a boyfriend of his own and she won’t have to worry about it anymore.
Finn’s best quality, Raven thinks as a child, is that he’s loyal. He always takes her side in fights at school. He always sits next to her at lunch. He always tells people that they’re best friends. Sometimes they decide they’re boyfriend and girlfriend, but sometimes they decide they’re just friends, and either way they trade kisses behind the shed if they want to.
She’s not sure how she would survive without Finn, because Finn doesn’t question it when she needs to be away from home, and he doesn’t say anything when he sees bruises on her arms. He just asks his parents if she can sleep over, and then he takes her up to his room and lets her cry.
Loving Finn is especially easy because he doesn’t even have a soulmate. She can’t pretend that she doesn’t have John, because she can’t imagine ever lying to Finn about anything, but he doesn’t care.
“Soulmates are bullshit,” he says. “If they were right, I would be yours. You know it’s true.”
They’re fourteen when he says this, lying on the carpet in his living room, his parents both out working late. They’ve been actual boyfriend and girlfriend for almost three months now, and everything feels perfect.
“Exactly!” she crows, punching him on the shoulder. “Like, who cares about John? John’s just a kid. Maybe we can be friends, but I’m not going to fall in love with someone just because they can write words on my skin. It’s like falling in love with a pen pal just because your teacher assigned them to you. It’s dumb.”
“It’s so dumb,” Finn agrees, triumphant, and he kisses her.
When Raven is sixteen, and John is fourteen, he stops writing.
Before he stops, he writes, my dad died.
Raven stares at it, still written in that cramped writing on her wrist. His penmanship really hasn’t improved that much since he was a baby. If she knew him better, she would probably tease him. That’s how she talks to her friends: gentle mocking. But she doesn’t feel like she knows John well enough for that.
I’m sorry, she writes back, but it feels inadequate. She continues, I never had a dad.
mine was good, John says. I think it’s my fault he’s dead.
How could it be your fault?
I got sick and he got it from me. He died of numonia.
Raven can’t help but grin at the last word, but she knows correcting it would be in bad taste.
I’m really sorry, John, but it wasn’t your fault.
how come you never tell me your name?
She’s never told him that she thinks soulmates are bullshit. It seemed cruel when he never pressed her for information, never tried to make her uncomfortable. And it’s not like she feels good about telling this kid that his soulmate doesn’t want him on the day his dad died, but she doesn’t want to lie to him, either.
I guess I don’t really believe in soulmates, she writes. But I like talking to you. My name is Raven.
He doesn’t write back.
Even when she tries to ask him how he’s doing, he doesn’t write back.
Except once, when she’s eighteen, and he’s sixteen.
Are you okay, John? she writes, on a whim.
fuck off, he replies. So she does.
Raven is nineteen when she meets Clarke Griffin.
Raven’s kissing Finn at the door to his apartment, giddy with the fact that she pulled off this surprise visit. Going to college a few hours away has been tough this year, but it makes reunions like this all the sweeter. Finn having off-campus housing for his freshman year is even better, because now they can live together when she transfers here at the end of the semester, and she just knows how excited he’s going to be about that. He was so adamant that she shouldn’t leave.
Except when she pulls away from the kiss, she sees that Finn looks horrified, and she sees that there’s a cute blonde standing in the middle of Finn’s living room, looking utterly devastated, and confused, and a little furious.
Raven’s a certified genius, but she wouldn’t need to be to work out what just happened.
She fucks a stranger for the first time that night. His name is Bellamy, and he’s hot but he’s kind of a dick, and that’s exactly what she needs. He’s got curly black hair and beautiful dark eyes, and she meets him at a bar after she’s driven about an hour back towards her old school. She only stops because she realizes that she can’t go back there. She already moved out of her dorm. And she can’t go back home, because her mom is there. And she has nowhere else, because she only has Finn, and he doesn’t want her anymore.
She tells Bellamy that her name is Angel, because she doesn’t want to be Raven right now, and she tells him that she needs him to fuck her so good she won’t remember her ex-boyfriend’s name.
He makes good on the promise in a seedy motel just across from the bar, and she’s gone in the morning, back towards her new school.
She has the whole summer to figure it out, but she can’t retreat. She’s not letting Finn run her off.
She manages to track down the blonde from Finn’s apartment three days later in an art gallery where she works between classes. Clarke’s apologetic and humiliated and angry at herself for not realizing something was up, and Raven has to fight to calm her down. She knows better than anyone how charming Finn is. It would be impossible to blame Clarke for something she fell for, herself.
“He told me that soulmates were bullshit, and that was exactly what I needed to hear,” Clarke admits, and it hurts, a little, that Finn would use the same lines. Like he couldn’t even bother to put some effort into two different seductions.
The truth is that Raven doesn’t really know what to do with herself. She’s already transferred, and her scholarship here is so much better than the one at her old school, so it’s not like she’s going to back out now. But she doesn’t know anyone but Finn here, and she’s just so fucking angry. She figures Clarke will probably be angry too, and maybe there’s an avenue to friendship.
She’s right, and Clarke is awesome, and Finn is replaced as Raven’s best friend.
A lifetime of friendship is a lot for Clarke to live up to, but she somehow manages.
She adds Raven to her friend group with the kind of enviable ease of someone who’s never been truly lonely. There’s the boundlessly energetic Jasper and Monty. There’s the childhood best friend Wells, who seems to be Clarke’s version of Finn except without the romance. There’s Clarke’s two ex-girlfriends, Lexa and Niylah, one a terrifying personal trainer and the other a sweetly earnest vegan. Clarke’s only eighteen, but she’s already a sophomore in college because she’s the kind of person who took summer classes and an insane amount of AP credits, and she’s more ahead of the curve than anyone Raven has ever met.
She has a shitty relationship with her mom, too, which makes Raven feel less guilty when Clarke invites her home for weekends or along on shopping trips with her mother’s credit card.
“She can afford it, and she knows what she did,” she says when Raven tries to protest. She says it like she says almost everything: steadily, coldly, with one eyebrow arched in challenge, and so Raven accepts.
Raven happens to meet Clarke in the single six month period in Clarke’s entire life in which she hates the very idea of soulmates, so she’s lulled into a false sense of security. Clarke’s indignant about them, saying that the universe doesn’t know everything. She talks about how her father wasn’t her mother’s soulmate, how Abby had an affair with her real soulmate in the year before Clarke’s father died, and how a perfectly happy marriage was destroyed because Abby was convinced that the universe had to be right. She never mentions her own soulmate, and Raven kind of assumes that she either doesn’t have one or doesn’t talk to them, like she and John. It’s another thing that ties them together.
She’s been part of the friend group for maybe six weeks when a message shows up on Clarke’s arm when they’re out together at dinner: brunette, tall, gorgeous. name’s Roma. She doesn’t give a fuck about my soulmate either.
“I didn’t realize you had a soulmate,” Raven says, and Clarke glances down at the message, frowning at it.
“Unfortunately,” she says, and she pulls her sleeve down to hide her arm.
When she gets up to use the bathroom, Wells leans in, talking quietly under the loud chatter that is the baseline for any table that contains Jasper and Monty.
“No one’s told you about her soulmate yet?” he asks. Raven shakes her head. “They were really close up until a few months ago. Like, they talked all the time when we were kids. They were planning to meet up in a few years, after Clarke’s done with school. She doesn’t talk about it, but the fight must have been brutal, because now he just writes to update her on his hookups. I think she implied that his last girlfriend was just a placeholder for her? Like he’s just waiting around for her to finish up school before she’s ready to meet him.”
“Jesus,” Raven says.
“She apologized, felt like an asshole. I don’t think she meant it the way he took it but, I don’t know, that’s the kind of thing that translates better in person, and he didn’t take it well. Clarke hasn’t written him back in months, but the guy gets laid a lot, and he always tells her about it.”
“What a fucking dick,” Raven says. But there’s a little bit of triumph, too. She feels guilty for it, but the guilt doesn’t stop it from flaring happily in her chest.
Soulmates are still bullshit. Clarke’s story helps confirm it. She doesn’t have to feel bad about what happened with John.
Clarke and Raven move in together at the start of the school year, into a spacious apartment that Clarke pays most of the rent for, because she’s still mad at her mother and Abby’s still offering. Clarke’s not ostentatious about her wealth, but she’s stubborn about treating Raven, about making sure she’s happy, and it takes Raven some getting used to. She doesn’t like accepting something that feels so close to charity, but at the same time it makes her feel like a little kid again. It makes her feel like she felt when she’d run over to Finn’s with a bruise on her face and he’d tuck her into his bed and make her hot chocolate and let her pick the movie to watch.
It’s just nice when people care about her, is all. And Clarke has a way of making her feel better about it, because she makes it sound like it’s obvious. Like of course Raven deserves nice things.
It’s about a month in when Clarke lets out a screech of frustration, startling in the otherwise silent living room.
“Fuck off, Bellamy!” she yells, yanking her sleeve down to cover her hand, her voice filled with tears, and Raven knows it could be a coincidence that the stranger she fucked in her post-Finn spiral was named Bellamy, but she’s guessing it’s not.
Her stomach sinks, and she keeps it to herself, and she feels guiltier each time Clarke does something nice for her.
It’s near the middle of the semester when Clarke wakes up to whole paragraphs on her arms and legs, words that are apparently too private for Raven to read. Clarke is upset, and panicked, and she writes let me help you on the back of her hand in black marker, rewriting each word three times, every letter saturating into her skin, like it’s desperate.
Raven catches glimpses of Bellamy’s thoughts throughout the day. Wobbly, drunken scrawls across her best friend’s skin.
I’m a monster.
How could you be my soulmate? How could anyone deserve this?
My mother raised me to be good.
It’s not even like it hurt, but it’s not the pain that fucking kills me.
Finally, Raven catches Clarke sitting at the kitchen table that afternoon, absently reading her thigh as she trails her fingers along the sloppy words. Clarke doesn’t move when Raven starts reading over her shoulder, so it must be okay.
She finally hit me just like her father and I don’t know what to do. I’ve done everything for her and she doesn’t even want me. If mom was still alive she’d know, but O’s father doesn’t give a shit. He just wants me gone and if I don’t leave it’ll just get worse. O doesn’t want me either anymore, and if it was just her, maybe I’d figure it out, but it’s not just her, and he’s poisoning her against me. He never hurts her, he loves her, it’s me he doesn’t want. What if staying is just going to make him turn against her too? But what if I leave and he doesn’t have his punching bag anymore and he turns on her instead?
“It’s not fair,” Clarke says. “He’s so good. He’s such a good person, and he was doing fine raising Octavia before her father came back into the picture, but now…” She breaks off, and Raven hugs her, and Clarke continues. “And he won’t tell me where he is. He won’t let me help. He just thinks…”
She doesn’t finish, but Raven can read his reply on the back of Clarke’s hand. You can’t. I’ll only drag you down too.
Soulmates are still bullshit, but Clarke’s clearly hurting. She won’t relax until she knows he’s all right.
“I might know where we can start,” Raven admits.
She drives Clarke to the bar and tells her everything on the way.
“Angel,” Clarke recites, her mouth twisted up in a wry smile. “Way too hot for me. She wants to forget her ex. Maybe that’s my new brand.” She sighs. “A glowing review, for him.”
“You sure you want to do this?” Raven asks. “He was hot, and I know you guys have been writing for a while, but…” Her own objections about soulmates are so varied and so many that she has to think about which to say first. “Look, my mom and dad were soulmates, but he walked out on her, and it ruined her life. And if Bellamy’s this much of a wreck…”
“He’s not. He’s just…” Clarke sighs, and she leans her head back against the seat. “I know soulmates aren’t always perfect, but I’ve always felt that that’s because people want to control their own destinies. Soulmates go wrong when people think they know better. Your dad was an asshole for walking out, but he probably did it because he didn’t want to believe in fate. My parents…I’m glad they said fuck the universe, obviously. But I can’t ignore how my mom is so much happier with Marcus than she ever was with my dad. And Bellamy…” She sighs again, and Raven realizes for the first time that Clarke loves Bellamy. She’s not against soulmates at all. She’s in love with hers, and she’s never even met him, and Raven feels this sinking, sickening feeling. She thought that Clarke was on her side. “Bellamy believes in them too. He’s just afraid. He’s never been good at feeling like he deserves good things. And I said some things that were shitty, but it was a convenient excuse for him.”
“What do you mean?” Raven asks.
“It was easier for him to push me away because he was terrified of how much he didn’t want to,” Clarke says. It sounds like bullshit to Raven. It sounds like Clarke is making excuses for her asshole of a soulmate. But she just nods, because this isn’t about her.
Bellamy isn’t at the bar, but Clarke strides up to the bartender with the kind of confidence that only rich white girls have.
“Do you know a guy named Bellamy?” she asks. The bartender is a tall and beautiful brunette, and she rolls her eyes.
“Listen, I’m not his babysitter,” she says. “If he didn’t call you back, that’s on him. This is what he does.” Thoughtfully, she looks around. “I should hang a sign back here or something. Don’t fuck Bellamy and come crying to me when he...”
“I’m his soulmate,” Clarke says.
“Nice try. What’s your name?”
This takes the bartender by surprise, and she blinks down at Clarke.
“No shit. You wouldn’t believe how many people have tried to pull that on me.” She laughs, spreading her arms a little when Clarke doesn’t seem to understand. “Clarke, it’s me. Echo.”
“Echo!” Clarke gasps. She turns to Raven and explains, “his ex!” like this is the coolest thing that’s ever happened to her. “We used to talk through Bellamy all the time.”
“That’s really weird, FYI,” Raven replies, and Clarke and Echo both laugh like she’s the weird one.
“I have a soulmate too,” Echo supplies. “But she lives on the other side of the world, so we’re not ready to meet up just yet. And Clarke’s a few years younger than Bellamy, so he always knew he was going to wait, too. So, you know. We both knew exactly what we were getting into.” She turns a little smile on Clarke. “And these two were so close. It was impossible to get one without the other.”
Raven looks at Clarke, who’s smiling back at Echo with unselfconscious delight. Raven wonders what it’s like to have been involved in your soulmate’s life for so long. To wear their words proudly enough that their friends know who you are.
“So where is he?” she forces herself to ask. She suddenly feels self-conscious about the lack of words on her skin.
“I really need to find him,” Clarke remembers, sobering. Her hand twitches at her side for a second before she decides and pulls back one sleeve. “We haven’t been talking.”
“Yeah, I know. He’s been insufferable,” Echo says. “But it’s been like that for months. Why now?”
Clarke raises her arm so Echo can see the scrawling script that covers nearly every inch of it.
“He’s running out of room on my limbs. Something happened, and I need to help him.”
“You know what he’s like about people helping him,” Echo says, and Clarke nods. Echo sighs and writes an address on a napkin, sliding it across the bar. “Good luck, Clarke. If anyone can convince him to get the fuck out of there, it’s you.”
Clarke parks the car in front of Bellamy’s house, and she tells Raven to stay in the passenger seat, and she strides up to the door, on the warpath.
On her hand, just before leaving, she had written: I’m outside your house. I’m knocking on the door whether you want me here or not. When she was done, she shoved the pen into the cup holder.
When she’s gone, Raven picks it up, uncaps it.
She stares at it for a while before pulling back her sleeve, just to her wrist.
Still kicking, John? she writes.
She isn’t expecting an immediate response, but she’s glad when the words appear almost instantly.
Thought I told you to fuck off, he writes.
Is that any way to talk to your soulmate?
Telling your soulmate you don’t want them is no way to talk to your soulmate either. Didn’t stop you.
I was being an asshole.
He doesn’t respond after that, and Raven sighs and almost puts the pen back in the cup holder.
On a whim, she scribbles I’m sorry on the back of her hand.
He doesn’t reply, but she feels better, after that.
When Clarke comes back out the front door, Bellamy is with her.
He’s bleary-eyed and clearly wasted, and he’s looking at Clarke like she’s some kind of mirage that’s going to fade once he sobers up. He trips on the curb, and Clarke steadies him, and Raven has never seen an expression like the one that’s on his face when her hand touches his arm.
He doesn’t say anything on the way back to the apartment. He sleeps in the back seat, his body curled towards the window. He’s got an enormous black eye, a still-bleeding cut on his cheek, and a swelling bruise on his jaw. Clarke’s twitchy and agitated, and Raven spends the whole ride back wondering if she should ask.
They work together to get him up the stairs to their place, and they carry him down the hall to Clarke’s bed. He’s still not sober, but he’s awake enough to grab Clarke’s hand when she tries to leave.
“I’m getting you some water,” she tells him, and Raven hovers in the doorway because she wants to make sure that Clarke’s all right.
“You shouldn’t have done that,” he says.
“I couldn’t leave you there. Not after all this.”
“I’ll have to go back. I can’t just leave her there.”
Clarke sighs, and she sits on the bed beside him, and she takes her hand away from his so that she can smooth his hair back, pushing the sweat-lank curls away from his face. Bellamy still looks at her like she’s everything, and Raven thinks of John’s writing on her wrist, and she thinks of the way Finn used to look at her.
“You don’t have to go back,” Clarke says. “Let me help you. Please, Bellamy.”
He’s tearing up, shaking his head, and he says something low and despairing that Raven can’t quite make out. Clarke leans closer, and she presses her forehead to his, and she replies in a tone that’s just as low, and then she kisses him. Their own private love story, finally coming together. Raven’s not bitter, but she can’t say it doesn’t hurt.
She heads back into the kitchen, and she looks at the back of her hand.
I’m sorry too, John has written.
From that moment on, Clarke and Bellamy are insufferable.
Inseparable, annoying, completely disgusting. They slide into love with an efficiency that’s partially unsurprising, given how efficient Clarke is about everything else. But Raven was expecting more of a fight from Bellamy. The severity of Echo’s warning and the self-loathing tone of the writing on Clarke’s skin hadn’t been encouraging.
Whatever it was that Clarke said to him that first night, when he was telling her that he had to go back, it worked. Bellamy doesn’t go back.
He gets a job with a landscaping company, and he picks up a few nights a week at a bar. He gets his own place two blocks away, even though he spends almost every night at their apartment. He enrolls in community college. He builds his life back up after his mother’s death had torn it apart, and Clarke is there beside him for everything.
By extension, so is Raven.
It’s not that she doesn’t like Bellamy. The issue is that she does like Bellamy, and she especially likes Bellamy for Clarke. They have the kind of connection that soulmates are supposed to have. They seem freakishly in tune with each other, always anticipating the other’s needs, and it makes Raven think about John in a way she hasn’t in a while. It makes soulmates are bullshit a little weaker in her mind, with all this positive proof in front of her.
It seems like it should be more difficult, but Clarke is unsurprised that it’s easy, and she tells Raven as much when Raven finally breaks and tells her that she doesn’t get her relationship with Bellamy.
“He’s been my friend for years,” she says. “Once he finally realized that I’m not going anywhere, it got easier for him to accept the rest of it. It’s like I said before. The problems happen when people try to fight it.” She shrugs, happy. “Me and Bellamy aren’t fighting it anymore.”
Raven never really does learn the full story of what caused Bellamy’s breakdown, but she pays close attention to the tension in Clarke’s shoulders when Bellamy’s sister comes to visit. She pays attention to the way that Clarke’s eyes follow Octavia’s movements. Bellamy seems unconcerned and happy to see his sister, but Raven remembers the lines of text that she was allowed to read, and she knows that Clarke is worried for a reason.
But whatever issues Bellamy and Octavia had before he moved out seem to have been smoothed over by distance. By the time Octavia has headed back home, Clarke is relaxed and easy. She winds herself around Bellamy on the couch, and they talk privately, with Clarke running her fingers through his hair and Bellamy scratching his blunt nails along the skin of Clarke’s arm, like the idea of going too long without touching each other is anxiety-inducing.
Raven feels shut out. Left out. Not on purpose, but just because the enormity of their connection is too much for anyone else to fit between them.
You’re doing okay, right? she asks John, later that night.
My best friend met her soulmate. He’s sort of a mess, but she’s helping him. Made me wonder if there’s anything I can do for you.
I’m fine. Why? Are you okay?
Better than I’ve ever been, probably.
Maybe we could talk more?
That would be cool.
She meets Murphy at the beach about a year after Bellamy comes into their lives.
A week-long stay at Clarke’s mother’s beach house is one of those things that she would have refused on the basis of not wanting to accept charity before she knew Clarke. But now she knows that pissing off Abby is basically Clarke’s favorite hobby, so she accepts as soon as it’s offered.
Bellamy always hesitates, always puts up a token resistance, but Clarke kisses him on the tip of the nose when he frowns down at her, and he melts into complacence before he remembers he has anything to be hesitant about.
Bellamy and Clarke drive separately, their cars packed with their individual friends. Bellamy brings Murphy and Echo and Miller and Jackson, and Clarke brings Jasper and Monty and Raven and Wells. Lexa and Niylah arrange to show up during the week along with their friends Luna and Nyko, and they bring an actual RV filled with food and booze with them. People show up at various points of the week at random, and everyone’s always low-level drunk, and it’s the kind of week that people are supposed to have for Spring Break, which is nice. Raven’s never had the normal teenager experience, so it’s cool to be getting it at all, even if it’s a little late.
Bellamy’s the one who introduces her to Murphy on that first day, standing in the living room of the massive beach house, pointing everyone out.
“Everyone, this is Murphy, and Miller with the beard, and his boyfriend Jackson, who’s too good for him. Echo, who’s probably too good for her German soulmate. Guys, this is Clarke…”
“Everyone knows Clarke, dude,” Murphy drawls.
“Oh good, is he super gross about her, too?” Raven asks, shit-eating grin spreading across her face. “Because if I receive another fucking snap of Bellamy with some dumb, adorable filter…”
“Right?!” Murphy asks, and Miller laughs loudly, earning a punch on the shoulder from Bellamy.
“Should’ve figured this would happen,” Clarke points out, and Bellamy grumbles as he gives up and goes to join her on the couch, slumping into her.
“Whatever. Raven, Jasper, Monty, Wells. Figure out who’s who. Fuck all of you.”
Murphy locks eyes with her, looking her up and down.
“Obviously, I’m Jasper,” she says, sticking out her hand, and Murphy smiles at her like her whole existence is a delight. It’s a nice smile. His hand squeezes hers when he takes it to shake.
“Raven, huh? Awesome name.”
“I know,” she says, turning away. “You want a drink or something? Clarke’s mom is loaded. Wait til you see the booze.”
“Lead the way,” Murphy says.
It’s not like they become instant best friends or anything, but they have the same sense of humor. In a group as big as theirs, it’s impossible to get much one-on-one time unless you’re looking for it, but there’s enough weird chemistry there that she notices it’s different from the way she talks to any of her other new friends. She knows Murphy wants to fuck her, because she can recognize the look on his face, but he doesn’t make a move, and it’s not like she’s upset about it. She hooks up with Echo a few times, because it’s an option and because Echo is hot, but she didn’t come to the beach house looking for that, so she doesn’t push anything.
It’s just that Murphy’s cute, and she likes his haircut, and they’re both really good at beer pong and also really good at snark, so they team up.
Maybe it’s a friend crush, she decides, mostly drunk. That’s a thing, right?
They haze Clarke and Bellamy mercilessly, and they tease Wells when he gets a crush on a girl who works at one of the local restaurants, and they fuck with Miller and Jackson when they get sappy when they’re drunk. It’s a pretty promising start to a friendship, and they exchange numbers, and Raven’s feeling pleased with herself for making a friend like a normal fucking person for once.
And, honestly, it’s not even like the accident is his fault. It’s an accident. And it’s a weird confluence of circumstances that leads to the accident anyway. She thinks about them, later, almost obsessively. Listing them.
- Octavia, Bellamy’s sister, shows up at the beach house on their last night. She was apparently invited by Bellamy without Clarke’s okay, and Clarke is moody about it. She doesn’t say anything to Bellamy, because she’s happy Bellamy and Octavia are doing better, but she angsts, so Raven gets her drunker than usual. Which is really Raven’s mistake, because Drunk Clarke is kind of a bitch. When Octavia says that she’s moving in with a friend and her mother, and Bellamy trash talks Octavia’s father, Octavia gets mildly defensive and snappish, which makes Drunk Clarke get very defensive and snappish, and it devolves from there.
- Octavia doesn’t actually hit anybody, but Bellamy flinches when she turns around too quickly to yell at him for defending Clarke, and they’re both drunk enough to start crying about it. No amount of Murphy and Raven’s combined attempt at lightening the mood can help. Clarke storms off to help Wells flirt with the local girl. Bellamy and Octavia drink a lot on the front steps. Jasper and Monty basically blow out the speakers on Clarke’s mother’s very expensive sound system because they seem to think that if they play some kind of EDM at the right decibel, it’ll make everyone forget what happened.
- Octavia’s friend Gaia comes to pick her up and take her home, but not before Octavia and Clarke have an extremely painful conversation that leads to Bellamy drinking even more until Clarke finally gets him to sleep.
- Bellamy is murderously hungover the next morning. Clarke is superhuman and only needs a greasy breakfast sandwich to make it better, but Bellamy won’t be driving anytime soon.
- Murphy offers to drive Bellamy’s car.
- Raven, not wanting to be in the car with Bellamy and Clarke as they probably talk about the Octavia shit, decides to take shotgun with Murphy.
- Some dickhead in a tractor trailer isn’t paying attention and swerves into their lane.
- Murphy panics and swerves right. He hits a pickup truck. He hits it on the passenger side, where Raven’s only barely awake, coming out of a doze because Miller and Jackson and Echo are screaming.
- The car flips, but Raven was apparently already hurt by the time that happens. She remembers Jackson leaning forward in his seat, yelling at Murphy to look out, telling Raven to hold on. She remembers feeling blood on her face.
- A totally different car hits them, sending them down into a small ravine on the side of the highway.
- Raven’s back gets fucked up, and she loses all feeling in one of her legs.
Raven doesn’t blame him for swerving. She doesn’t blame anyone for anything, except maybe that tractor trailer driver, who can definitely go fuck himself.
It’s just that it turns out that Murphy’s even more of a self-loathing shithead than Bellamy. Bellamy, of course, blames himself for being too hungover to drive. Clarke blames herself for getting drunk and yelling at Octavia and making Bellamy drink more. Bellamy counter-self-blames himself for inviting Octavia without talking to Clarke first. Jackson blames himself because he’s apparently a doctor and feels like he could have done more, even though everyone says he probably saved her life. Even Echo blames herself for not fighting Raven harder for shotgun, which is the most ridiculous one of all.
But Murphy blames himself the most.
She knows he visited the first few days she was in the hospital, because she remembers him. Eyes red, hair fucked up like he was running his hands through it. She remembers him apologizing, holding her hand. She remembers trying to make him laugh, but her words came out kind of slurry and off-centered, and Murphy didn’t even smile.
But once she’s more awake, and once she’s had her surgery, and once she’s allowed to go home, it’s like Murphy’s a fucking ghost.
The group hangs out together even more now, like the accident bonded them together, but Murphy never goes if Raven’s going. She doesn’t think anything of it until she sees Bellamy’s texts over his shoulder one day when he’s sitting on their couch. Bellamy’s inviting him to the apartment for a party, and Murphy asks “is Raven going?” and Bellamy texts back, “it’s her apartment”.
Murphy says “pass”.
It’s not a misunderstanding thing, like she thinks Murphy doesn’t like her. He doesn’t want to hang out with her because he blames himself for her injury, and he’s a dick. Fine. Whatever. It’s annoying and she wants to yell at him for it, so she deletes his number from her phone so that she won’t get tempted to text him once she’s drunk and even more pissed off.
She wears her nicest dress to the party and doesn’t care that it shows off the leg brace. Finn helps her around the apartment with jovial good cheer, glad to be friends again, while he avoids Bellamy’s glare and Clarke’s discomfort.
She drinks a reasonable amount, but not too much, and she fends off Jackson’s attempted apologies again.
When she’s feeling pleasantly buzzed, she pulls out a red pen and writes, sup, soulmate?
John doesn’t answer for hours. Or maybe she doesn’t notice. It’s only when she’s in bed, Jasper and Monty squeezed in beside her, that she sees that he wrote back.
you doing ok? he asks.
Pretty okay. Better. Did I tell you about my leg?
It’s ok. It was no one’s fault.
Seems like that’s probably impossible. Like someone had to be at fault. Like the driver.
Nah. Just the trucker.
She writes an abbreviated version of the list of events, to prove that it was a freak accident. John takes too long to answer, and she falls asleep.
In the morning, she sees that he has written: sounds like your driver shouldn’t have swerved.
She writes back, then we all would be dead of tractor trailer, idiot, but John doesn’t reply.
Clarke spots the writing on her wrist that morning at breakfast, but she doesn’t mention it. Just arches her eyebrows pointedly and sips her coffee pointedly and even somehow kisses Bellamy on the cheek pointedly before she has to get to class. Bellamy sits around looking all rumpled and forlorn until Raven starts flicking pieces of napkin at him and reminds him that he’s not allowed to feel bad about her leg injury because it makes her feel like shit. But she does accept his ride to class, because if he’s going to be guilty and stupid about it, she might as well benefit.
She talks to John more after the accident, mostly because he’s the only friend she has who doesn’t talk about it all the fucking time. She writes to him about Finn, and about how that’s why she didn’t want a soulmate when she was younger. He writes about his high school girlfriend Emori and how she made him wish that Raven didn’t exist.
It’s weird, talking to him. She’s used to thinking of him as a kid, but now she realizes that he’s not even all that much younger than her. Two years seemed like a lot when she was eight and he was six, but it doesn’t feel like a lot anymore. He’s out of high school. He could be in college. He’s Monty and Jasper’s age, technically.
I guess I never really thought of you as a real person, she writes to him once.
Thanks, he replies. She laughs a little. She can practically hear the sarcasm.
Not in a bad way. Just like…you were so young when you first wrote. I always think of you as young.
Does that mean you’re an old lady? A cradle robber?
A cougar, yeah, she writes back. John draws a terrible attempt at a crying laughing emoji, which makes her laugh so hard she takes a picture of it.
My soulmate’s an artist, she writes. I’m so lucky.
He doesn’t respond to that one.
He has this habit of pulling back when things get too close, and it makes her feel guilty. Like, she’s pretty sure she caused this obvious complex, what with telling him she wasn’t interested in him on the day his fucking dad died. She also doesn’t really know how to make it right. But he comes out of his shell a little at a time. He asks her questions sometimes, unprompted. Stupid things, like her favorite food or her favorite band. They both like a weird assortment of action movies and a half-decent smattering of romantic ones. They both loved Romancing the Stone and Jewel of the Nile as kids and are too afraid to watch them again because they know they probably don’t hold up. Raven wants to suggest that they watch them together, but that would be pushing him, and she’s trying not to do that. But it sits heavy in her, the knowledge that they would probably have a lot of fun if they decided to go on a date.
Why do you even talk to me? he asks once.
We’re friends, aren’t we? Do you not like talking to me?
No, I do. It just feels weird sometimes.
Do you feel like you got cheated out of a real soulmate?
I’m sorry. I wish I was someone better. It’s the lamest, most self-depreciating thing she’s ever written, but it’s not untrue.
Pretty sure that’s not possible. But that just makes it worse.
A few months after the accident, Raven changes her mind last minute about going to a party at Miller’s new place, and Murphy spots her when she walks in. Raven can see from the look on his face that he’s going to find a way to leave as soon as possible, so she puts on her sunniest fucking smile and greets him along with everyone else. She doesn’t single him out. She doesn’t glare at him and call him a weak piece of shit, even though she wants to. She doesn’t ignore him, either. She just smiles and joins in the conversation and only looks at him the same amount she looks at everyone else.
Somehow, that works, and Murphy stays. Wary, quiet, his eyes always tracking her, but he stays.
They end up playing beer pong together that night, and he’s much more subdued than he was at the beach house, but at least he’s talking to her. They kick ass, of course, and she makes Clarke make them celebratory drinks, and she pretends not to notice that Murphy drags over a chair so she can sit and watch the next game.
Like, so he noticed that she was tired. Whatever. He’s still a dick for avoiding her for so long.
Later, she’s sprawled on the couch with her head in Clarke’s lap as the rest of the idiots search Netflix for a movie they can all agree on. Murphy comes in late from the kitchen and she moves her legs so that he can sit beside her. She’s feeling charitable because of his lack of hesitation, but it fades when she realizes that she could just put her legs back up in his lap, so she does.
She spends the entire movie trying to ignore the fact that he keeps touching her leg brace. Idly, like he’s trying to figure it out. Gently enough that she can tell that he’s either trying to get away with something or that he’s doing it unthinkingly.
At the end of the night, she lets Clarke and Bellamy get a little ahead of her when they’re on their way down the stairs, and she turns to look at Murphy, shoving her hands into her jacket pockets.
“You need help?” he asks. She shrugs.
“Not really, but I’ll take an arm,” she says. “Mostly that’s because I’m drunk, though. It’s not that hard on the stairs.”
Murphy nods, awkward, but steps up and gives her an arm to lean on anyway.
“I’m sorry,” he says, and she rolls her eyes.
“Shut up,” she says.
“I’m sorry for avoiding you,” he explains, and she grins over at him, pleased.
“That’s more like it,” she says.
They don’t say anything else as he helps her to Bellamy’s waiting car. But it’s enough.
She finds out that she and John live in the same city. And it makes sense, because unlike Echo she’s not the kind of person who’s going to hop on a plane to Germany anytime soon. If she’s got a soulmate, of course he’d be close to home. But once she knows that, it becomes impossible not to take a hard look at every John she meets. She starts doodling on her hand more often, just so she can spot him if she sees him.
Soulmates are still bullshit, she texts to Finn one day. But maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing to meet him.
I think you should, Finn replies, and it feels like a real friendship again.
I’m at this bookstore, Sinclair’s, she writes. I’m here almost every day. Just FYI.
It’s her secret place, something she hasn’t mentioned to any of her friends. It’s quiet here, and she really likes the owner, who used to be a mechanic too. She likes to come here and study or work on her papers, because it feels less douchey than sitting in Starbucks and feels more private than the school library, and there’s something to be said about packing up your shit and moving to a specific place to work on a specific thing. It feels productive and adult.
So does letting John know where she is.
Why are you telling me this? John asks.
Just in case you ever want to meet up.
What times? he asks, and a little private thrill cuts through her.
On and off thru the day but I’m always here from like 3 to 5 except on weekends.
Ok. Good to know.
He doesn’t stop by, and she tries not to be upset about it.
When he doesn’t show up after a week, she pretends not to be upset about it.
He seems to make an effort to talk more, though, so she can’t be too angry. They trade stories and jokes and she tries to pry personal information out of him but never seems to be able to. John admits he finally rewatched Romancing the Stone and that it definitely does not hold up but he still loves it. She digs out her old DVD, and she puts it in the entertainment center in the living room just in case she decides to watch it.
She’s glad to realize that she likes her soulmate. Maybe she doesn’t love him, maybe it’s not a perfect resolution to everything she’s been missing the way it seemed to be with Bellamy and Clarke. But it’s something.
Maybe it’s not enough, but it’s better than she had before. And it’s not like she has any other romantic prospects.
Then, Murphy almost kisses her.
He’s been coming to group hangouts more often now, and they always slide into their easy banter almost as soon as he’s through the door. He’ll settle in by her side and they’ll make fun of whoever needs to be mocked the most. He’s thoughtlessly thoughtful about her leg brace, always letting her take the outside of the booth so she can stretch her leg out, or making room where she needs it, or moving shit out of the way when she’s drunk and trying to get to the bathroom. Shit she didn’t ask him to do, and wouldn’t ask him to do, and with anyone else she tends to get annoyed about it, but for some reason she doesn’t when it’s him. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t feel like pity, coming from him. It feels like penance. It’s not like she thinks he even needs it, but if it’s what he thinks he needs, at least he’s not beating himself up for swerving out of the way of a fucking tractor trailer anymore.
But this one night, they’re throwing this big party at Monty and Jasper’s place. Raven’s already drunk by the time she gets there, because she and Bellamy spent a lot of time trying to make this great mango drink Clarke found on Pinterest, and Raven designated herself their official taste tester. She trips almost as soon as she’s in the door, and Murphy’s laughing at her, helping Bellamy with the cooler he’s carrying. When they’ve got the cooler on the back deck, he comes back to find her.
“Reyes, you’re a lightweight,” he says.
“I’ll drink whatever you got right now and not get drunk,” she slurs, and Clarke sighs as she pulls Raven towards the kitchen.
“No you won’t,” she says. “Time for some water.”
“I got her, Griffin,” Murphy says. He sounds soft, and Clarke looks about as surprised by the tone as Raven is, but when she looks at Raven to confirm, Raven nods.
Murphy gets her a glass of water and scrounges some cookies from the cabinet. Then he just keeps handing them to her. She eats them dutifully, talking with her mouth full about something to do with her last class of the year, and Murphy’s just watching her fondly, chuckling at her overblown theatrics and the way she talks with her hands when she’s drunk.
And the thing is, like, Raven knows she’s good looking. She likes her own face, and she knows that other people do too. But the way Murphy’s looking at her now doesn’t feel like that, like the idle appraisal she was expecting. It’s something more, something based in friendship even though they barely know each other, and it’s so huge for a second that she loses her train of thought. Murphy hands her another cookie, and she eats it to keep herself from saying anything.
He finds her, later, waiting in the hall outside the bathroom, and he leans against the wall beside her. They’re both tipsy now, but she feels more balanced than before, and she smiles at him.
“I’m glad you stopped being a douche about the accident,” she says before she can stop herself. She’s half expecting him to cloud over, but he just smiles a little and leans his shoulder up against hers.
“Yeah?” he asks.
“Yeah. I missed you. You’re the only one here who’s as mean as me and gets away with it by being funny. We make a good team.”
He laughs a little.
“I’ll give you that,” he says. “Is there another bathroom in this place?”
Raven doesn’t answer, distracted by how nice Murphy looks in this low light. He catches her looking and looks a little breathless himself.
She’s not sure who leans in first, but she thinks it might be her. It might also be an accident, but Murphy goes with it. He hesitates when he’s close. So close. She looks at his eyes, challenging him. Just a little bit more.
“Raven,” he says, his voice hoarse and wrecked with want, and it sends something skittering through her. She exhales, and his smile grows. Less smarmy than usual. Actually kind of gentle, and she thinks I could kiss him right now. He presses his forehead against hers, and his breath is shaky and his voice hoarse when he says, “what did you do? Wake up this morning and think today, I’m going to ruin a man’s life?”
As far as compliments go, it’s the kind Raven likes best. The implication that she’s enough to destroy a man is always good. She’s definitely going to kiss him.
And then the bathroom door opens, and Murphy’s already turning away, back to the party with a rueful smile.
In the morning, she swallows back the remembrance of that hazy, delicious moment, and she curses Harper for choosing that exact second to finish up in the bathroom.
She doesn’t text Murphy about it. That’s not the kind of thing that this is. But she looks forward to the next group get-together. If she knows anything about Murphy, it’s that he’s going to keep escalating. Whatever it was that happened outside the bathroom door, it isn’t over.
So John doesn’t want to meet her, but maybe at least Murphy will show her the time of fucking day.
Except, okay. Apparently she’s the clueless one.
“What did you do? Wake up this morning and say “today, I’m going to ruin a man’s life”?”
Raven frowns, pulling one earbud out and turning around from her stool at the kitchen island, where she’s been studying. She’d normally go to Sinclair’s to avoid crashing Clarke and Bellamy’s movie night, but they’re barely even paying attention to the movie, too busy bent over the coffee table with some weird 3D puzzle like a couple of nerds, and she was feeling lazy, so she stayed.
But she registers the line over the music in her ears, and it sparks the memory of Murphy’s smile and the almost-kiss she can’t stop thinking about.
And the movie, when she turns around, is fucking Romancing the Stone. The case is open and sitting on top of the Blu-Ray player.
“Wait,” she says. She gets up from her chair and hurries over, grabbing the remote from the arm of the couch and rewinding.
She plays the line again.
She turns to Clarke and Bellamy, who are staring up at her, waiting for an explanation.
Her next words probably don’t help.
“What’s Murphy’s first name?” she asks. Bellamy blinks in surprise but tentatively offers it up: John.
Fucking of course it’s John.
“Fuck!” she yells, and she stalks for the door.
She’s only been to Murphy’s apartment once, but she remembers the way, and she makes it up to his floor without issue.
“Open up, dickhead,” she shouts through the door.
He opens it, looking sleepy and confused, like he’s just been napping. His hair is sticking up on one side of his head, and his cheek is red with pillow lines.
Of course it’s John, she thinks, and a warm kind of fondness settles into her stomach.
“Raven?” he asks.
“How old are you?” she shoots back. He blinks, no less confused.
“Nineteen,” he says, and Raven’s twenty-one.
“I fucking thought so,” she seethes. “I’m gonna kiss you now. That okay with you?”
“Yeah,” Murphy replies, still dumbfounded, and so she surges forward and kisses him.
Raven has kissed plenty of people. She likes kissing fine. And it’s not like she expected her first kiss with her soulmate to be anything special or different from the rest of her kisses. But it somehow kind of is, mostly because she’s just so glad it’s him.
“I can’t believe you quoted Romancing the Stone to my fucking face,” she says when she pulls back, and Murphy – John Murphy – laughs a little, ducking his head.
“It was, uh, sort of a bold move, I know. I can’t believe it took you this long to realize.”
“I could’ve gone another ten years without realizing if my roommate hadn’t put it on in the background earlier,” she says. He’s still standing close and hasn’t pulled away or anything, so it’s not like she thinks he’s not interested, but still she feels a little self-conscious when she asks, “why didn’t you ever tell me?”
“Uh, I don’t know.” Now it looks like Murphy’s gone a little awkward, and he rubs the back of his neck. “At first, I thought it was kind of funny that you didn’t know my name was John? I mean, everyone calls me Murphy, so I thought…I don’t know. I’d fuck with you. I figured I’d tell you after a couple of weeks or whatever. But after the accident, I just…I mean, you’re so…look at you. And you’re a fucking genius. And you didn’t even want a soulmate at all, so I just…I don’t know. Meeting you made it worse, because I liked you so much.”
“And you were too busy beating yourself up to realize that I like you too?”
Murphy grins, crooked and endearing, and she can tell he’s relieved to hear her say the words so boldly.
“Something like that. And lately, I guess I wanted to see if there was a shot of you actually liking me. Not John, your soulmate, but just…Murphy. This asshole.”
“I do, for the record,” Raven says. “This is about as much feelings as I can take talking about, but I do. Murphy, John, whatever. I like both of you. It was gonna get real awkward in a couple of weeks if I had to choose.”
“I wasn’t going to make you wait weeks,” Murphy admits quietly. “I had this whole plan to show up at Sinclair’s. I was gonna see how long it took you to realize why I was there. Maybe order a coffee at the counter and give my name as John. I hadn’t really worked out the funniest way to tell you yet.”
“You’re an asshole,” Raven says, and his grin widens as he hears the delighted wonder in her tone.
“I figured it would be the kind of thing you were into, as far as confessions go,” he says. She kisses him again, because she can, and because she wants to.
“It is. I would have thought it was hilarious. This was pretty good too, though. I couldn’t fucking believe it when I realized I didn’t even know your first name.”
“I was banking on you being too much of a standoffish jackass to ask anyone.”
“You know me so well,” Raven coos sarcastically, and Murphy grins.
“Yeah, well. Soulmates,” he points out, and she snorts in agreement.
“So I guess they’re not completely bullshit,” she concedes, letting him kiss her again.
“Yeah. I mean, the whole concept is still stupid.”
“Oh, of course.”
“And the universe is still full of shit.”
“But this is okay. They probably got this one right.”
“Yeah,” Murphy says, and Raven’s heart flips at the certainty in his tone, in his expression. “I think the universe nailed this one.”