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Binary Stars

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He was getting ready for bed when he noticed the change in his soul mark. Tossing his shirt aside, Mike settled on the edge of his bed and held his left arm closer to the lamp, inspecting the inside of his forearm.

The change was slight, and he probably wouldn’t have caught it if he hadn’t been looking at his arm as he undressed. The twin stars that had been present for as long as he could remember had shifted, going from four points to five, their previously faint outline darkening and becoming more defined.

Mike sat back and rubbed his face, suddenly feeling exhausted. He had barely been in Brokenwood twenty-four hours and he had already encountered his soulmate. Normally that was a good thing, but he was in the middle of a case and had encountered a lot of people, any of which could bear matching twin stars on their arm.

Deciding to leave any further contemplation until the morning, he resumed getting ready for bed, wondering if his soulmate was more well-informed that he was.

- - -

As the case progressed and the suspect pool for the murder narrowed, Mike was at least able to cross Gary McLeod and Meredith Wilmott off of his list of potential soulmates – Gary was a long-time acquantince , and had been married to Wilmott. Taina was also not a candidate, since her soulmate’s murder had been the reason they had met.

As he drove to the city to check on Gary after he had gone into a coma, Mike reviewed those left on his soulmate list. Thanks to the way soul marks worked, only those who were soulmates could see the matching mark on their soulmate’s body. As such, he had managed to eliminate anyone who didn’t have two five-pointed stars on their inner left forearm, which had cut out a lot of people.

Breen had been near the top of his list until they had met in the men’s room, at which point Breen had rolled up his sleeves to wash his hands and revealed no mark on his arm. A few innocent questions later, and Mike knew that most of the police force had found their soulmates already, as had most people in Brokenwood. Which wasn’t uncommon for small towns, according to research.

Kristin was still on his list, as was Jared. Mike mulled over the idea of either being his soulmate, and realized that while he found it a bit odd, he wasn’t opposed to the idea. Age differences were pretty common in soulmates, and it was generally accepted as normal nowadays. He settled back in his seat, smiling slightly as an old favourite song came on, and decided to try and get an answer out of one of them as soon as the case was over.

- - -

Eliminating Jared was as simple as asking him. “Nah mate, haven’t found them yet,” Jared replied with a grin. “Don’t really mind, to be honest. Some of the ladies object if they find out you know your soulmates, you know?”

Mike took a sip of his wine before replying. “I guess so. Wouldn’t it be awkward to find your soulmate if you’re just looking for a good time?”

“Eh, maybe, maybe not. If we really are meant for each other, we’ll find each other eventually. And if that happens when we’re busy, then I guess it’s fate, right?” Jared grinned and settled back in his seat, a knowing look in his eye. “I take it the murder case isn’t the only thing keeping you busy?”

Mike smiled back and shook his head. “No. I have reason to believe my soulmate is somewhere in Brokenwood. I just haven’t quiet figured out who, yet.”

“Someone in Brokenwood, huh?” Jared took a drink of his wine and thought for a moment. “Most people seem to have found theirs, at least if the rumour mill is anything to go by. Mind you, not all of them are together, but they know each other. You thought I might be yours?”

“Yeah. I know we didn’t talk the day I arrived here, but I know of times when proximity had caused marks to change without the soulmates haven’t actually met face to face.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard about that. My grandparents on my Mum’s side had that happen to them, and it caused a bit of a scandal until everything got sorted out.” Jared gave him a sly smile. “You only have a few people left to ask, yeah?”

Mike took a sip of his wine and nodded. “Something like that. And no, I’m not giving you any hints!” he added quickly as his new neighbour opened his mouth. “Instead, how about a deal? Give me some advance warning before you drop by, and I’ll tell you who it is.”

Jared didn’t even need to think about it. “Deal!” he exclaimed, then reached for the bottle to refill their glasses.

- - -

A few days later, he had the rest of his potential soulmates crossed off his mental list except for one name . The next case was a minor one, but involved lots of paperwork, so he and Kristin ended up staying late. He was on his way back from getting a glass of water when he noticed that Kristin was staring at the file in front of her, clearly not seeing a word on it.

Mike sat down across from her, and she still didn’t move. He took a drink of water, decided he had stalled long enough , set the glass down and spoke. “Kristin?”

She jerked, head snapping towards him as she blinked rapidly. “Everything okay?” he asked before she had a chance to say anything.

Kristin looked away, fiddling with her pen for a moment. “Sorry, just got lost in thought.”

“So I see. Penny for your thoughts?” he asked with a smile.

“The penny hasn’t been used in years,” she said in return, focusing harder on her pen.

“Since 1990, actually. I remember when it was eliminated.”

“Did it happen in the middle of a divorce?” she asked sarcastically, but he just chuckled.

“Nope.” Seeing that she was still not looking at him, he slipped his hands out of view and unbuttoned the cuff of his left shirtsleeve. “I was just wondering if I could ask you something, that’s all.”

She froze for a fraction of a second, then set her pen down and asked, “Ask me what?”

Rolling up his sleeve, he paused a moment to take a breath, knowing how important his next sentence was. He then held his arm out, asking, “Can you see anything on my arm?”

Her suddenly going pale was all the answer he needed. Mike swallowed hard, forcing himself to breathe normally and wait for a reply.

Kristin’s voice was barely above a whisper when she finally spoke. “We’re—You’re—”

“Yeah.” We’re soulmates hung in the air between them, but he knew better than to say it.

Her hand moved to grip her left arm, and he knew that her thumb was digging into the spot between the two stars . She tore her gaze away from his arm, spinning her cha i r to stare across the room instead. He listened to her shaky breaths as he thought about how to proceed, wishing he knew Kristin better so he could not ruin the whole thing with one wrong word.

“We...we don’t have to do anything,” he said gently, carefully leaning back in his chair. Or tell anyone.

“I know.” she murmured, shifting slightly to cross her arms in a pose he he grown familiar to seeing. “How—how long?”

“I noticed the change my first night here,” he said slowly, seeing her jaw clench. “But,” he paused for emphasis, “I met a lot of people that day and had no idea who it was. All I knew that it wasn’t Gary or Meredith Wilmott.”

Kristin gave a tight nod, then said stiffly, “Gary met his before he was assigned to Brokenwood. Said they were nice, but both of them had different career paths, so it didn’t work out.”

“That happens these days.” Mike studied her for a moment, relieved to see that while still pale, she wasn’t breathing as hard anymore. “Hey,” he murmured, catching her attention. “Like I said, nothing has to happen. We can both go home and pretend this never happened.”

Kristin turned her chair back towards him, but kept her gaze averted. “Do you want that, Mike?”

The use of his name was either a positive sign, or a very, very bad one. He chose to take it as a positive sign and said, “No, but it’s up to you. I’m not upset or ashamed that you’re my soulmate, Kristin .”

“And you think I’m ashamed?” he winced at her cold tone, and quickly shook his head.

“No, not at all! Mad as hell, maybe, but not ashamed.” Her lips twitched, and he breathed a smile of relief.

She looked at h is arm again, still resting on the table, then pushed up the sleeve of her blouse and extended her own arm. Two five-pointed stars rested halfway between her wrist and elbow, the black lines standing out in light from the desk lamp.

“I only realized they had changed a few days ago,” she said, turning her arm and resting her hand on the abandoned paperwork.

“Not surprising, given everything that happened.” He knew how hard Gary being under suspicion of murder had hit her, never mind the news that he had terminal cancer.

He made to unroll his sleeve, but stopped when she said, “Wait.” He gave her a puzzled look, surprised to see her meeting his eyes. “I want to make it official.”

Mike surprised deepened at that. “You sure? That’s just an old tradition.” A tradition which he had assumed she would scoff at, but apparently not.

“I want to do it,” she said again, and he could tell by the steel in her voice that whatever her doubts, she had accepted that they were soulmates.

“Alright,” he agreed, leaving his shirt sleeve alone as she moved her chair around the edge of the desk and held out her arm.

Mike reached out slowly, feeling her tense as his fingers brushed her wrist. Holding her wrist with his left hand, he slid his right up her arm until he reached her elbow, then gently pulled her arm towards him. He met her eyes and gave her a reassuring smile before leaning down, wetting his lips slightly before pressing them to the two stars on her skin.

A pulse of heat came from his own mark as she gasped, her arm going limp for a moment. He closed his eyes and risked a second kiss, longer than the first but just as gentle. Straightening up and opening his eyes, he saw her flushed face and quickly hid a smile.

He gave her a moment to recover by having a drink of water and eyeing the file she had been ignoring before he had sat down. A hand on his wrist got his attention, and he looked down to see Kristin doing the same motions he had just performed. He tried to relax as she leaned down, anticipation curling in his stomach, but nothing could have prepared him for the jolt of pure pleasure that went through him when she kissed his soul mark.

He breathed deeply as she kissed him again, suddenly understanding why such a simple tradition had lasted for so long. Mike knew that his face was just as red as hers had been, and so gave her a smile as she straightened up. “That was nice,” he murmured, aware that her fingers were still supporting his wrist.

“That was very nice,” she agreed, returning his smile.

“Think the first kiss will be even better?” he teased, unable to resist.

“Don’t get too ahead of yourself, now,” she scolded back, but the look in her eyes told him that she wasn’t mad.

“We good, then?” he asked, pleased and relieved had how the conversation had went.

Kristin squeezed his wrist before rising and moving her chair back to its former spot. “Yeah, we’re good.”