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how do souls touch?

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It happens on a Wednesday. When you look back on this day, that’s always going to be the part that bothers you. This kind of shit just doesn’t happen on Wednesdays. Wednesdays are boring and routine and nothing special. Life changing events are supposed to occur on Saturdays or personal holidays. Not a regular old work day in the middle of the week.

It starts as a normal enough day.

You wake up to the insistent sound of your alarm, blearily switching it off as you curse under your breath. The next ten minutes are spent lying in bed, contemplating the futility of existence and wondering just how much you really need your job. Your second alarm starts blaring then, and with another string of curses you turn it off and drag yourself into the shower. The water wakes you up enough to shuffle through your routine until you’re dressed in your work clothes and clutching a cup of coffee as you head for the subway.

New York in the morning is always a nightmare, you think. Between the gridlock of traffic and your fellow workers shuffling like zombies through the streets, it’s far from a peaceful journey. You’ve adjusted to it after a year living in the city, but occasionally you find yourself stumbling through the crowd and wondering just how it is you got here.

The answer is simple, of course; you graduated uni and promptly hightailed it across the pond, eager to leave your life behind and start anew somewhere where you would just be one person amongst millions. New York seemed the place to do that, but living in New York was expensive and so you’d had to get a job that paid rather than something that catered to your interests.

There were certainly worse jobs in the world than working reception at a private clinic; the benefits were good, your insurance was plan was something you assumed was pretty decent — but honestly, the whole insurance thing still baffles you after growing up in the UK so you’re never certain if it is as good as it seems — and the salary was enough for you to pay your rent on time.

You arrive at work ten minutes early, as always, and it’s with minimal fuss that you settle in for another monotonous day of smiling at people while checking them in to see their doctor. You have no reason to expect anything exciting to happen. It’s a Wednesday like any other, in your mind; Mrs Smith drags her grandson in with some new complaint or other, Dr Cullen’s been sniffing around the counter in search of some sugary confection that his wife has strictly forbidden him from consuming, and Paul from records has already swung by for his customary 10am gossip about the Tuesday night happy hour the rest of the staff had attended last night. It’s a perfectly ordinary day, really.

It’s just approaching your lunch break, and your stomach is growling so loud it’s a wonder nobody else has glanced your way. All you can think about is the pizza place across the street and the gallon of coffee you plan on consuming. The clinic is quiet, the doctors finishing up with their last patients before the lunch hour, so you’re scrolling idly through your Instagram feed. Your phone chimes with a text from Katie, your roommate, asking if you want to get Thai food for dinner tonight.

The first explosion hits before you can reply.

Your ears ring loudly, drowning out any other sounds, and you push yourself up from the floor while wondering how you got there. Your mind feels fuzzy, everything seeming slow and distant and strange. You stumble to your feet, bracing yourself on the desk, and as you straighten out you find yourself looking out across the street, eyes catching on the pizza place. That’s not right, you think. There’s no windows looking that way.

It takes a long few moments for you to realise the entire front of the clinic has disappeared into rubble, leaving the chaotic street free for you to see. Pain flares in your temple and you raise your hand to touch your head, surprised to pull it away to find it covered in red.

“That’s not good,” you mumble, words slurring together, and sound comes rushing back in.

You wince at the noise of screams and sirens, sending sharp stabbing sensations through your head, and try to shake off the fuzziness that’s consuming you. You come out from behind your desk, tripping over your own feet as you reach the gaping hole where the front of the building used to be. You cling to the rough edge of the debris, blinking uncomprehendingly at the people rushing in panic through the streets.

The second explosion rocks the building, sending you sprawling again, and you land facing the desk. Or, rather, where your desk used to be; now it’s just a pile of rubble and sparking wires. You wonder distantly if your phone is still over there, and then consider if your phone’s insurance covers unexpected explosions.

“—you alright? Ma’am?”

The voice startles you, head snapping around to squint up at the blonde man crouching beside you. His blue eyes are bright with concern, and you get the feeling that he’s been trying to get your attention for a while. When he sees he has your attention, he prompts you gently for your name. You wonder if he’s asking to see if you can remember it.

Obligingly, you croak out your name, coughing as soon as you speak. Your throat feels strangely raw and dry, and your mouth tastes like copper. The world spins. The man says something else but it doesn’t make sense, a jumble of noise you can’t piece together. Your skin feels itchy and stretched thin over your bones, something simmering just beneath.

You see the third explosion coming, some kind of missile coming almost directly at where you are. The blonde man notices, too, swearing as he crouches over you, but you don’t know what he expects that to do. Instinctively you fling your hand out, hoping with every fibre of your being for some sort of protection, some sort of shelter. You squeeze your eyes shut and brace yourself for the impact.

Nothing ever comes.

“Holy shit.”

You startle, eyes opening to blink at the man crouching over you. He’s the one who swore, staring in amazement around you, and it only takes you a moment to realise why. A dome covers the both of you, shimmering a deep gold. You notice it pulses in time with your racing heart, and your eyes widen. Debris slides down around you, but you don’t feel anything. You can’t hear anything outside of this little bubble either, you realise, and the thought makes your throat go dry.

You’re already starting to feel more like yourself as you push yourself to your knees, the blonde man crouching beside you. His blue eyes are fixed on you, now, searching for something and the intensity makes you swallow nervously. Your fingers flex anxiously and the dome responds, flaring out a little wider around you.

“Oh, fuck me,” you wheeze out. “Am I doing that?”

He snorts, a wry smile flitting across his face briefly before disappearing. “It’s certainly not me.”

“Fuck,” you repeat. “I’ve never done this before. What the fuck.”

He looks curiously at you, eyes darting between the gold shield and your outstretched hand. “I guess that means you don’t know how to control it?” he asks, sounding resigned.

“Absolutely not,” you say blandly. You blink at your own hand, the appendage seeming foreign to you now. Your brows furrow as you clench it slowly into a fist, and the shield creeps in closer. When you spread your fingers it widens out again, pushing against the debris surrounding you. “Holy fuck. This is so weird.”

Your companion gets to his feet and you follow, scrambling as you steady yourself. The fuzziness of your brain is melting away rapidly, the aches that had settled in your body fading. You note it as strange, but you can think about that later. Right now you’re more concerned with the fact you're projecting a fucking golden half-sphere around you.

You take hesitant steps forward and the shield follows, keeping you at the centre. The man with you follows your footsteps closely, and you glance up at the sharp line of his jaw. Without the haze of confusion and pain you realise he’s familiar, and after that it takes you only a moment to place him.

“You’re Steve Rogers!” Your eyes widen as he glances down at you, smirking wryly again for a split second. “Oh, Christ, this means I’ve just been swearing in front of the actual Captain America. Shit— oh, for fuck’s sake— I’m just gonna shut up, now.” You feel the blood rush into your face as you resist the urge to smack your forehead.

Steve snorts, smothering a laugh as he shakes his head. “You’ve a mouth on you huh, kid?”

“Apparently near death experiences brings it out in me, yeah.”

He eyes you strangely. “You’re handling this oddly well.”

You consider this; you’ve experienced three explosions, produced some kind of force-field, and met Captain America in the span of probably ten minutes. You’re pretty sure you should be a blubbering mess right now. Or unconscious. Possibly dead. Not whatever this weird mood is.

“I think it’s not unreasonable to say I’m in major shock right now,” you offer eventually, shrugging. “I’ll probably have a meltdown when I start to like. Actually process.”

He doesn't look too impressed with your answer, but you get the impression that he's more focused on figuring this all out than breaking down your psyche. You're wildly appreciative of that.

“Fair enough.” Steve nods, glancing out at the street. “Things seem like they’re settling now. Think you can give getting rid of that shield a try?”

You shrug, peering out. It does look like the explosions have stopped, though you can see now there’s definitely been more than the three in your vicinity. The street looks half decimated, and you can see that the surrounding streets look much the same. People run around, chaotic and panicked as they seek safety or loved ones. You swallow, heart aching at the sight of such pointless destruction.

“Who would do something like this?”

Steve sighs, staring ahead grimly. “I don’t know. But I’m gonna find out.”

You flick a glance his way, reading the tense set of his shoulders and the determined glint of his eyes, and decide not to question him. You focus on your shield, instead, inspecting the pulsing gold more closely. It looks like thousands and thousands of intertwined lines, like a net wove so closely together that nothing can get through. Golden energy sparks around it all.

You think of the desperation for shelter you felt earlier, let the feeling suffuse you and watch as the shield seems to thicken, making it difficult to see anything outside of it. Your brows furrow again. You guess that your desire for safety was what called the shield up, so you think maybe feeling safe will cause it to disperse. It’s worth a shot, at least.

You glance uncertainly at Steve, who’s looking at you with that intense gaze again, and let yourself properly acknowledge that this is Captain America. For all that you’re not American, the superhero is still well-known to you. He’s fought a lot of battles and won all of them. If you’re safe with anyone, it’s going to be him. And you feel steadier in yourself, now, though you still think that’s down to shock. I’m safe, you tell yourself, and you keep repeating it until you believe it and the shield shimmers out of existence.

As soon as it’s gone you sway in place, energy draining out of you rapidly. Your knees buckle and Steve’s there to catch you, arm wrapping around your waist as you release a surprised rush of breath. Apparently maintaining a shield strong enough to withstand the kind of explosions that have destroyed the streets takes it out of you. Who would have guessed?

You only have a moment to lament the fact that passing out in the arms of the superhero is probably the most cliche thing you could do before darkness rushes up and swallows you whole.

You jerk upright as you vault into awareness, heart racing as your eyes dart around unseeingly. The dregs of your nightmare are slipping away rapidly, so quickly you can’t even remember what it was about. You come back to yourself slowly, panting as if you’ve just run a marathon, and raise a trembling hand to press against your thundering heart in your chest.

You don’t recognise the room you’re in, but the sterile walls and soft beeping are familiar enough that you suspect some kind of hospital or infirmary. You push yourself into a more comfortable sitting position, blinking down at the soft blue pyjamas you’re wearing. You wonder what happened to your work clothes, before realising they were probably covered in dust and dirt and god knows what else from the explosions.

The memories of the late morning rush in, then, sending your heart rate into overdrive. You scramble out of bed, panic and anxiety bleeding together as you remember the destruction, the shield you’d made and Steve catching you when you dispelled it. You have to know if Dr Cullen is okay, if Mrs Smith and her grandson made it out safe, if Paul from records lived to gossip about the tale.

You don’t make it very far from the bed before the door to the room you’re in slides open with a soft whoosh. You whirl around in place, relaxing a little when you see that it’s Steve, broad shoulders filling the doorway with ease before he steps into the room. You eye his companion nervously, taking in the messy shock of hair and carefully maintained stubble, and it only takes you a moment to place him. Tony Stark.

Your eyes flicker around the room again, zeroing in on the various Avengers logos intermixed with Stark Industries logos scattered around. You have a sneaking suspicion you’re in the Avenger’s Tower, and the thought is strange enough to startle you out of the panic that’s been creeping in.

“You’re awake,” Steve says, smiling carefully at you. “You’ve been out almost all afternoon. We were staring to wonder if you were ever gonna wake up.”

You grunt noncommittally. “I’ve been having a really long, really fucking weird day.” Your tone is half-amused for all that the words are a little harsh, and Tony smirks at you. You try to ignore how attractive the expression is on him, turning your focus to Steve instead. “Where am I?”

“Avenger's Tower,” he says, almost apologetically. “I didn’t know where else to take you — you weren’t exactly injured so I didn’t want to take you to hospital and, well, after that shield thing…” His trail into silence is punctuated by a helpless wave of his hands.

You blink. “Wait, what? I know for a fact I hit my head.” Your hand flies up to touch your temple, where the blood had been earlier, but the skin is smooth and the touch is painless. You blink again. “Oh, what the fuck? I was definitely bleeding earlier.”

Tony and Steve share a long look, and then Tony steps forward, hands spread out in front of him. “Yeah, whatever bumps and scratches you picked up? They’re gone. They were gone by the time you got here.” He squints at you. “Bruce and I ran some tests while you were out and, well. Congrats, kid. You’re a mutant.”

There’s a long silence at his announcement, broken only by Steve gently chiding Tony’s lack of tact as you try to process this.

“What the fuck,” you say again, for lack of any other way to articulate your level of confusion. “It’s fucking Wednesday. This type of shit isn’t supposed to happen on Wednesdays. Oh, my god. This is probably the weirdest day of my life to date and it’s all happening on a Wednesday. That is just perfect.”

Tony snorts at your floundering, ignoring the exasperated huff Steve sends his way. “Oh, you’re funny. You can stay.” He offers you a hand with a charming smirk and twinkling eyes. “Let me formally introduce myself. Tony Stark, at your service.”

You offer your own name on autopilot, reaching out to accept his hand. As soon as you make contact, warmth blooms on the right of your chest up to your collarbone, and a gasp slips from your lips. You yank your hand away from Tony’s, pressing against the burning skin through your shirt, and watch as Tony mirrors the movement.

Without really thinking about it you fumble with your top three buttons, ignoring Steve’s stuttering, and yank the material to the side enough to stare down. Sure enough, the expanse of skin that had been taken up by the deep black of a blank soulmark has transformed, an intricate design of a tree — you suspect a wisteria or lavender from the purple flowers — taking its place.

You turn to Tony, who’s pulled down the collar of his ACDC shirt, revealing an absolutely identical tattoo. It’s impossible, beyond ridiculous, one thing too many to happen in a single day — but the proof is right before your eyes. His tattoo is exactly the same as yours, in the exact same place as yours is, and it clearly took form the moment your hands touched. It can all only add up to mean one thing.

Tony Stark — a superhero, Iron Man, a fucking Avenger — is your soulmate.

For the third time in ten minutes, you can only think of one thing to say.

“What the fuck.“