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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.“

Chapter Text

You find yourself sat opposite Tony in short order, clutching a glass of whiskey and staring intently at your feet. Steve had hustled the two of you into what you suspect is some kind of therapy room off from the infirmary, pressing two glasses into your hand and a bottle of whiskey into Tony’s. He’d looked frantic and vaguely terrified, which hadn’t done a lot for your confidence levels, but it was nothing on the sheer blankness of Tony’s expression.

It’s strange. You don’t know him, of course, but you’ve seen Tony on TV plenty of times over the years. He’s always seemed so full of life, brimming with energy and ideas and confidence. This complete lack of movement, of words, of anything — it throws you.

You take a long gulp of your drink, wincing at the burn, before setting the glass down on the coffee table between you. You risk glancing up and find him staring at you, eyes dark and lips pursed. You drum your finger against your thigh nervously. You don’t know what to make of that look, don’t know what to say or do.

You’ve never really thought much about meeting your soulmate. It’s always seemed something that you’d deal with in the distant, nebulous future. You haven’t even thought much on what they’d be like, who they would be. Not everyone is born with a soulmark, and those who are can go their entire life without meeting their soulmate. You know some people with soulmarks spend their entire lives searching for their supposed other half, refusing any other relationships, but you’ve never seen the point in that.

Your soulmark has never stopped you from doing things, from dating or falling in love. It has been a problem, sometimes; your last boyfriend had broken up with you because he couldn’t handle the possibility of you one day meeting your soulmate and leaving him behind. He’d never listened to you when you promised you never would, and in the end his insecurity over it had been too big a hurdle to overcome.

The thing is — you haven’t been waiting around hoping to bump into your soulmate. You’ve not thought much about it beyond the occasional wondering if they were okay, wherever they were. It’s always been something far away to you, and finding yourself face-to-face with the guy who’s supposed to be the other half of your soul or whatever is… weird.

The fact that the other half of your soul is Tony fucking Stark is even weirder. He’s a fair bit older than you, not so much so that it bothers you but enough that you know it’ll raise eyebrows. He’s attractive, of course, there’s no arguing around that. You won’t deny that his messy dark hair and carefully trimmed stubble are doing it for you. You’ve always admired him in that distant way it’s easy to admire the people out there saving the world without really thinking about him as a person.

There are probably way worse people out there that could be your soulmate, you think. But you’re getting the distinct impression that Tony’s not happy about this. You can’t say you are either, exactly; it’s surreal and weird and another thing to add to the list of things that are happening today. It hasn’t been this world-stopping moment for you, but there’s something deep inside of you that’s quietly pleased about finding the person meant for you.

You just don’t think Tony’s experiencing that, himself.

“Well, this is awkward,” you say, just to break the silence.

Tony snorts into his glass, lips twisting wryly. “You can say that again.” He sighs, knocking back his drink before pouring another. After a moment hesitating, he tops up your glass too before leaning back into his seat. “Not really what I was expecting when I woke up this morning.”

It’s your turn to snort, now. “No shit,” you mutter, shaking your head a little. “This is absolutely the weirdest day of my entire life.” You start listing off events, ticking them off on your fingers. “Experienced multiple explosions that could have potentially killed me. Produced some force-field that saved my ass. Met Captain America. Met Iron Man. Found out I was a fucking mutant. Found out my soulmate is the aforementioned Iron Man.” You sigh despairingly. “And all on a fucking Wednesday.”

Tony chuckles, seemingly despite himself. “The fact this is a Wednesday is really bugging you, huh?”

“Beyond all reason,” you confirm, sipping at your drink before fixing him with a curious look. “So. Soulmates.”

“Soulmates.” His echo is decidedly frustrated, his good humour draining away as he scowls at the bottle of whiskey.

You try to ignore the way it wounds your pride — you don’t think you’re that awful that being your soulmate should garner this kind of reaction. But you’ve never been very good at holding your tongue, and at this point you’re too drained to bother trying.

“No, please, sound less pleased.”

Tony frowns at you, brow creasing, and you kind of hate how adorable it is. It’d be a lot easier to stay annoyed at him if he didn’t look a little like a kicked puppy right now. You get the distinct feeling that you are absolutely screwed here; you’ve already given up on not being attracted to him, because that’s frankly impossible, but something about him is already drawing you in. You suppose it’s to be expected — the guy is your soulmate, after all — but it’s frustrating because it doesn’t seem to be going both ways at all.

“C’mon, kid, I didn’t mean it like that,” he says, vaguely apologetically. “You, you’re a good looking woman, and I’m sure you’re pretty good personality-wise too. I mean you’d have to be to be my soulmate.” There’s a brief flash of that cocky smirk that’s rapidly becoming one of your favourite expressions of Tony’s before he settles back into something like exhaustion. “But, I mean, I guess I’d given up on finding my soulmate by now. I’ve been with Pepper for — a long time, now, and I don’t wanna give her up. Not for anything.” Not even for you, is unsaid, but you hear it loud and clear. “Which makes this all very complicated and I do not like complications.”

You sigh heavily, dragging your hand across your face. You can’t blame him for not wanting to give up on his relationship, not when you’ve always felt the same, but it — hurts. It’s silly and petty and ridiculous considering you’ve only known the guy for, what, half an hour? But there’s a selfish part of you deep down inside that aches because this is the person that’s supposed to be yours and he doesn’t want to be yours at all.

“Look, I get that,” you say eventually, tugging a hand through your hair. “It’s — I’m not expecting you to throw away a good relationship just because the universe or fate or whatever decided we’re supposed to be, you know…” You trail off, waving your hands wildly in the air in an effort to illustrate what you mean. Tony snorts, lips twitching into a smile, and you grin halfheartedly back at him. “But, I mean, platonic soulmates are a thing, right? So maybe, maybe we’re just destined to be really great friends. Could we maybe give that a try? Being friends?”

Tony looks at you contemplatively, eyes dark and intense, and you fight the urge to fidget. You do really mean it; you want to give being friends with him a go. You figure if the fates have decided that you two are meant to be then being friends should be pretty easy.

But deep down you know it’s not really going to be that simple, because there’s already a part of you that’s wondering what it would be like to reach over and run your fingers through his hair, what his mouth would taste like right now if you kissed him, what he looks like in the morning when he’s soft and hazy with sleep.

“I guess friends is as good a place as any,” Tony decides eventually, nodding decisively as he gestures to you with his glass. You pick yours up and clink it against his. “To being friends,” he toasts, a wry little smile on his mouth that makes you wonder what he’s really thinking.

“To being friends,” you echo, and as you knock back the last of your whiskey you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you’re absolutely fucked because you don’t think being ‘just friendswith Tony Stark is gonna end that well for you at all.


 


Tony ends up giving you a tour of the Tower after your little toast, pointing out places that are of particular interest to him as he chatters about anything and everything. You banter back with him easily, and you’d be surprised at how natural everything feels if not for the fact that you are, after all, soulmates. It’s a little surreal to be walking around Avenger’s Tower, trailing after Tony fucking Stark like a lost puppy, but you suppose it’s something you’ll have to get used to since the aforementioned Tony fucking Stark is your soulmate.

He’s nattering on about how he customised each of the personal floors for each Avenger’s particular tastes, and it’s then with a guilty jolt you remember your roommate, Katie.

“—Of course, doing Bucky’s floor was entirely pointless since after only a week him and Cap were all shacked up—.”

“—Do you have a phone I can borrow?” you interrupt, blinking as you digest the little titbit he’s just divulged. You’ll have to come back to that one later. “I need to call my roommate.”

Tony frowns at you, head tilting to the side even as he digs into his pocket and hands you what appears to be a thin rectangle of glass. “Do you not have a phone? You’re telling me you’re a woman in her twenties in the year 2019 and you don’t have a phone.” His voice is incredulous, eyebrows raising to his hairline.

You roll your eyes. “Course I have a phone, I’m not from the fucking Dark Ages.” Tony snorts, smirking at you again. You really wish he’d stop doing that. It’s making the whole friend thing very difficult for you, because you’re pretty sure you’re not meant to be this attracted to your friends.

“Or well, I had a phone. I think it got smashed when the clinic exploded, not that I went back to check,” you explain, squinting down at the glass in your hand. Tapping it makes it light up, but the interface is completely foreign to you. “Yeah, I have no idea how to work this. This some kind of Star Trek shit?”

It’s Tony’s turn to roll his eyes as he takes it back from you. “It’s the latest from Stark Industries, actually. I’ll get you one,” he says absently, flicking through the phone with ease until he brings up the phone’s dial screen.

You take it back from him, frowning as you hesitantly type in what you think is Katie’s number. Since it’s been saved in your phone since you moved into the apartment, you think you’ve only had to actually dial it three times, so you’re a little unsure if it’s the right number.

It’s only as you’re about to hit the call button that you realise what Tony has just said. “Wait. You don’t have to get me a phone. I had insurance on mine. I’ll just get a replacement.”

Tony scoffs, waving his hand in the air dismissively. “These phones are better than whatever you were using, trust me.”

You frown at him. “That’s not the point. I don’t — you don’t have to just. Give me shit because we’re, you know. I know you’re crazy rich and all, but I’m not some — freeloader, or something.”

Tony looks at you, his expression going soft at your words. His eyes shine with some emotion you can’t identify, and his lips tilt into the most sincere smile you’ve seen from him yet. It makes you shift uncomfortably, because it’s a look of genuine appreciation, and you don’t understand why he’s looking at you like that. And, also, because Tony Stark looking so soft and honest makes you feel warm inside in a way that you know it shouldn’t.

Fuck, but being this guy’s friend is going to be hard.

“Just consider it a thank you, alright? For being so understanding earlier,” he says, reaching out a little hesitantly to give your shoulder a squeeze. His hand is warm, even through your pyjama shirt, and your fingers flex around the phone.

“Most people just say thank you, you know,” you point out, because you’ve never missed the opportunity to be a little difficult.

Tony groans theatrically, withdrawing his hand to point at you as his expression melts into something more teasing. “Just take the damn offer, kid.”

Your lips quirk into a smile, and you bob a quick nod before turning your attention back to the phone in your hand as you hit the call button. You bring it to your ear, biting on your lip nervously as you wait for the call to connect.

“Hello?” Katie’s voice comes through eventually, and you heave a sigh of relief.

“Katie, thank fuck for that. It’s me,” you say down the line, darting a quick smile at Tony in your relief before turning away for him for a little privacy.

“Oh, thank god! What the hell happened? I tried calling you but it just kept going straight to voicemail,” she babbles, a little breathless.

“My phone got broken in the explosions,” you explain. “I was — out of it, for a little while, so it only now occurred to me call you. I’m fine, though. Are you alright?”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. I was at the other end of the city when it all hit. I’m so glad you’re alright.” There’s a pause, the kind that makes you think some bad news is coming, and you dart a glance over your shoulder. Tony’s not paying any attention to you, since in the distraction of your conversation Steve’s arrived and the two are conversing in low tones.

“I, um, have you tried going back to the building yet?” she asks as you turn forward again, the nerves in her voice making your heart sink.

“No, no, I haven’t. I got somewhere safe, after, and I haven’t left yet. Why, what’s wrong?” You have a growing suspicion about what she’s going to say, and your stomach starts knotting with unease.

“It’s, uh, well.” Katie’s silent for a long moment. “The building is pretty much a wreck, to be honest. I went straight there when I heard the news and. Well. The first two floors were just about standing. Everything else was just — gone.”

Your apartment was on the fifth floor. Your ears ring as you process this knowledge, your hand coming up to pinch the bridge of your nose as you struggle not to let loose a stream of curses. As much as you like Katie, you’re not really friends beyond being roommates, and she’s never really adjusted to your tendency to start turning the air blue when your emotions get away with you.

“So our apartment? Our things?” you ask after a few steadying breaths. “It’s all gone?”

“Y-yeah,” she sighs, and her voice trembles with what you think might be tears.

“Well, fuck,” you say with feeling, rubbing at your face furiously as you try to blink back tears of your own. It’s just another shitty thing to top off a shitty day, but you think if you start crying now it’s going to be extremely difficult to stop. Better to leave that for when you’re not using Tony’s phone while said man is chatting to Captain America only inches away.

“You can say that again.” Katie hiccups out a watery laugh. “The landlord said he’d let us out of the contract, of course, because it’s not like it’s our fault that somebody blew up the building.”

“How magnanimous of him,” you reply drolly.

With the experience of having lived for you for year, Katie ignores you. “And, um. I’m really sorry, because I don’t want to leave you out alone or anything, but I’m — I’m going back to Ohio. New York is just, it’s too dangerous for me. Nothing like this ever happens back home. And my parents want me close after this, I think. It’s shaken them. It’s shaken me.”

You can’t blame her. You want to, a little, but you can’t. If either of you had been home today then you’d be dead by now. And it’s not like it’s the first time something like this has happened in New York. It probably won’t be the last. If you had any sense you’d do the same. Truthfully, if this day had gone any other way than it had you would be hightailing it back to the UK. But too much has happened, now; you’ve just found out you’re a Mutant, and not only that, you’ve just found your soulmate.

You flick a glance over at Tony and Steve, both of whom are watching the tight line of your shoulders with concern. Even if your soulmate doesn’t want you in the way you’re thinking you’re going to end up wanting him, you don’t want to leave when you’ve just found him.

You sigh down the line, scrubbing your hand across your face again. God, this day is never ending. Katie’s still babbling apologies and explanations, and you cut across her tiredly.

“Hey, no, it’s alright. I get it. Just… stay safe, alright?”

“You too! And stay in touch, okay?”

The two of you exchange goodbyes and promises to stay in touch, and when the call ends you stare down at the glass screen in your hand. Your lips press together as your fingers tighten around the phone, and you resist the urge to scream. You could really do without this today. It’s like everything that could possibly go wrong is going wrong, and you just want to curl up in your bed and sleep the day away. Only you can’t, because your bed is a pile of a rubble somewhere.

Steve’s call of your name startles you out of the dark turn your thoughts are taking, and you turn around to see he and Tony watching you with worried eyes. You say nothing, simply handing your soulmate his phone back with a taught smile. You’re worried if you say something that you’ll end up letting loose the scream that’s building in your throat.

“Everything okay?” Steve asks cautiously, shooting a brief glance at Tony that you pretend not to see.

“Yeah, yeah. Or, well, it will be.” You sigh again, shaking your head. “My apartment got destroyed in the explosions, and my roommate’s heading back to Ohio because she’s tired of living in a city where shit like that happens all the time. Guess it’s gonna be hotel living for me until I can figure something out.”

Tony and Steve trade another look, one you’re too tired to bother trying to decipher. It’s like they’re silently arguing about something, eyebrows raising and furrowing as their mouths twist. If it was any other time, you’d probably find it funny, but right now you just want to sleep for a week.

Eventually Tony seems to triumph, and he turns back to you with his brown eyes sparkling. “You can stay here,” he offers, and you’re pretty sure your heart stops beating for a second. “There’s plenty of space — like I said earlier, Bucky never really used his floor.” Steve flushes pink, and you can’t help but grin at his embarrassed but pleased expression. Tony ignores him. “Why waste your money on a hotel room, huh? Just until you get back on your feet,” he adds, presumably seeing the way your expression is twisting.

You don’t want to take charity, especially not from the guy who rejected you as his romantic soulmate barely an hour ago. But you’re exhausted, and you can’t really say you have the money to spare on a hotel when you’re going to need to replace everything you’d kept in that shitty little apartment you’d called home. The thought makes your chest ache sharply, but you force the feeling down.

“Yeah, okay. Thank you,” you accept after a long moment, shoulders slumping. “That’d be great. Just while I look for a new apartment.”

“Great,” Tony echoes, beaming widely as he bounces a little on the balls of his feet. His eyes sparkle with his happiness, and it makes your stomach twist because you’re the one who put that expression on his face. “C’mon, I’ll show you where you’ll be staying.”

He picks up a stream of chatter again, telling you all about the amenities you’ll have access to while staying at the Tower, and you’re grateful for the fact that he doesn’t seem to expect you to contribute to the conversation as you trail after him to the elevator. Steve comes with the two of you, interjecting comments here and there, and you let your attention drift a little. Your mind is so busy, too many things to process and do and deal with, and despite the hours you’ve slept this afternoon you’re ready to sleep again.

But there’s one pressing thought, despite everything that’s probably technically more important, that has your breath catching as Tony tosses his head back and laughs at something Steve’s said. He’s beautiful in that moment you think, unguarded and joyful as he teases his teammate.

Yeah, there’s no doubt about it. Being just friends with your soulmate is going to end in fucking disaster.

Chapter Text

You wake slowly, snuggling deeper into the comfiest bed you’ve ever slept in. Sunlight filters in gently through the windows, and the warmth of it on your face throws you for a moment before you remember where you are. Your room at your old apartment had faced away from the sunrise, so you’ve never woken to natural light before. You find you like the experience.

You rub at your eyes as you sit up in bed, yawning widely. You squint around the room you hadn’t paid much noticed to last night; Tony and Steve had led you to the suite and left you to it, perhaps sensing you were only moments away from losing the last shred of your composure. As soon as they’d left, you had stumbled into the bedroom, thrown yourself onto the bed and screamed into the pillow. That had trailed off into a bout of crying that left you feeling exhausted, and you’d slipped into sleep shortly after the sobs had trailed off.

The bedroom you’re in is scarcely decorated, but you figure that makes sense since it hasn’t been really used since Bucky arrived at the Tower. The colour scheme is all soft blues and pale greys, from the walls to the bedding. The bed is easily the most impressive piece of furniture in the room; you guess it’s at least a King, if not bigger. The rest of the furniture consists of a dresser, bedside cabinet and a cosy-looking armchair nestled right by the window. Almost immediately you can imagine curling up there, watching the world go by. There are three doors; one to the en-suite, one to what you just know has to be a walk-in wardrobe, and one to the rest of the floor.

You drag yourself out of the irritatingly comfortable bed and into the bathroom, blinking at the large bathtub and spacious shower that take up the bulk of the room. The sight of them reminds you of the fact that you’ve been in a series of explosions in the last 24 hours, and though you were obviously cleaned up when Steve brought you in you still feel a little gross.

It takes hardly anytime at all for you to strip off and get in the shower. The hot water feels amazing on your back, and all the tension you’ve been carrying melts away. You spend maybe a little too long contemplating just never getting out of the relaxing flow of water, but you eventually step out and dry off, wrapping the towel around yourself after wrinkling your nose at the pyjamas you’d spent too long in yesterday.

You amble out into the bedroom and then straight into the wardrobe, hoping to find something you’ll be able to fit into. You’ve never met Bucky Barnes, but from the pictures you’ve seen you’re pretty sure he’s not exactly your size in jeans.

The walk-in is honestly a ridiculous size, you think, but that may be just because it’s almost entirely barren. No items of clothing remain, which has you huffing in frustration, and there’s a full-length mirror taking centre stage of the room. The unexpected flash of colour in the reflection makes you freeze as you turn to leave, and you spend a long moment staring before collecting yourself and moving closer.

You’ve gotten so used to the black mark that had taken up most of the right side of your collarbone that the pale lilac flowers of the tree twining across your skin take you by surprise. Your thumb swipes across the blooming flowers interspersed with green leaves, down the swell of your breast where the trunk of the tree rises from beneath the white of your towel.

It’s jarring. A surreal reminder that yesterday you met your fucking soulmate. You feel yourself smiling without really wanting to just at the thought. Sure, it might not have been the immediate love at first sight thing most people would expect, and sure he may not want to actually date you. But you’ve still found him, the one person in all the world that’s the perfect complement to you, and you think that’s still pretty fucking cool.

“Miss, Mr Stark is waiting for you in your living room,” a voice startles you out of your mindless gazing, your entire body jerking with the shock.

“Fuck me,” you wheeze, heart racing as you clutch your towel. Tony had mentioned the Tower’s AI, FRIDAY, yesterday when he was showing you around. You hadn’t expected it to sound so human, though. Or so Irish.

“Apologies if I startled you, Miss,” FRIDAY says, and you think it — she? — sounds unfairly amused.

“N-no problem, uh, FRIDAY,” you return, running a hand over your wet hair as your heart rate slows to something resembling normal. “Did Tony say why he’s here?”

There’s a moment of silence as you squint up at the ceiling, not entirely sure where you’re supposed to look when you’re talking to the AI that’s in the entire building. You wonder if she’s asking Tony, or if she’s just trying to formulate a response. Talking to someone who isn’t really there is eerie, you decide.

“Mr Stark realised that you probably wouldn’t have anything to wear,” FRIDAY says after a minute. “He’s brought you some clothes.”

“Oh.” You blink at the ceiling, and then at your reflection. “Okay. Um, could you tell him I’ll be right there, please?”

“Of course, Miss.”

You linger in the walk-in a little longer, frowning at your reflection. You don’t really want to go talk to Tony in a towel, but you also really don’t want to get back into your discarded pyjamas if you’re about to put on some clean clothes. Your eyes dart around the room in the hope you’ll find something you can shrug into just until you can get dressed for real, but it’s still as empty as it was when you first walked in.

Sighing heavily, you decide to just bite the bullet and go in your towel. It’s long enough, you think, the soft fabric hitting just above your knees; you’ve worn shorts and dresses that are shorter than this in the height of summer. You shrug once at your reflection before heading through the doors leading to the bedroom and then to the living room.

Tony stands facing out of the window, hands tucked into the pockets of his jeans. You can see his profile from your angle, the slope of his nose and curve of his jaw thrown into sharp relief thanks to the sun shining through the room. In the moment before he realises you’re there, his expression is open, and you think he looks almost nervous. His foot taps as he stands there, gazing out at the NYC skyline, and his mouth is curled in an almost non-existent smile.

He looks unfairly beautiful, and the thought throws you enough that you stumble over the rug on the floor, a muttered curse slipping from your mouth before you even register it. You regain your balance, pushing your damp hair from your face, and smile sheepishly as Tony spins to look at you.

His eyes sweep over your form once, twice, three times before fixating at your chest. For a moment you think he’s staring at your breasts and you tug unsurely at your towel, shifting in place. It’s only when he speaks that you realise it’s the tattoo now inked on your skin that he’s transfixed by.

“It’s, uh, a wisteria. The mark. I was — looking at mine, last night, and I asked FRIDAY and she says wisteria and considering she’s connected to, like, everything I’m pretty sure she knows what she’s talking about,” he says, the words coming out in a nervous rush as he runs a hand through his hair, eyes finally raising to meet your own. There’s a soft quality to his voice as he talks about your shared marks, something almost like awe, and you don’t know how to deal with that, so you unconsciously press your hand over your collarbone and watch as Tony’s eyes drop to it again.

You feel yourself flush at the intensity in his gaze, at his simple acknowledgement of the fact that he shares your mark, that he’s your soulmate, at the thought of him tracing his fingers over the skin on his chest as you’ve done to yourself only minutes ago.

“Oh. Cool.” You bite your lip, shifting uncertainty again as you try to derail your train of thought. It’s too early to be thinking about Tony touching his mark, and definitely too early to be thinking about him touching yours. “FRIDAY said, uh, you have clothes?” Your voice is higher than normal, and your flush deepens as you clear your throat.

You’re starting to think that maybe wearing a towel that clearly displays your soulmark was not your brightest idea ever, even if the way Tony’s eyes keep drifting over you is beyond flattering. You think his cheeks turn a little pink when he meets your eyes again, and you offer a weak smile. Whatever ease had been there yesterday seems to have faded in the light of day. Or maybe it’s just because you’re standing in front of him mostly naked.

“Yeah, yeah, clothes. Right.” He clears his throat, gesturing to the pile of bags on the coffee table and couch. You squint suspiciously at them as he talks. “You said your apartment was wrecked so I figured you probably wouldn’t have anything, and clothes are pretty important to being able to walk around with people gaping at you like fish or whatever so I. Uh. Got you some things.”

Your suspicions squint turns to Tony, who’s looking faintly like he wants the ground to open up and swallow him whole. “You… bought me clothes,” you say slowly. Tony nods once and your eyes narrow further. He starts to take on the edge of looking a little terrified, shifting towards the door. “You bought me clothes. You… spent your money. On clothes. For me.”

“That is generally how buying someone clothes works, yes,” Tony affirms, brow furrowing as he frowns at you. His eyes go a little wide, the same kicked puppy expression as he wore yesterday when you were talking about the whole being soulmates thing. You decide you definitely hate how adorable it is.

“Tony,” you huff in exasperation, pressing your fingers to your temple. “I don’t — thank you, for one, for. Thinking of me. That’s very sweet.” Tony opens his mouth, probably to drop a witty comment in an effort to derail you, but your hand drops and your frustrated expression stops him in his tracks. “But I told you yesterday that you don’t have to buy me stuff.”

“Why not?” he asks, frown deepening as he crosses his arms over his chest. If it was coming from anyone else's mouth, you'd call it whining. 

“People don’t normally just. Buy people shit. Well, not like this,” you struggle to explain. You figure to someone like Tony who’s never exactly been short of money that you’re probably not making much sense. “You’ve offered me a very high tech, very expensive phone. You’re letting me stay here without charging me any rent or anything. And now you’ve bought me — all this.” You gesture wildly at the bags. There’s enough there that you think it would go a long way to filling the walk-in wardrobe. You’re pretty sure there’s a fucking Gucci bag in there. “It’s — it’s very generous and I really appreciate it, I do. But it’s too much. I can’t accept this! I’ll — I won’t be able to pay you back for, like, a really long time, considering my place of work’s all blown up too, and it’s just. Too much.”

Tony blinks at you, head tilted to the side. He’s looking at you a little like he’s never seen anything like you before, which you frankly think is ridiculous considering his playboy reputation — he’s probably seen plenty of women in towels. You notice distantly that his eyes look almost golden in the sunlight filtering through the room, and immediately are annoyed by the fact that you noticed that while you’re trying to be annoyed.

“I don’t want you to pay me back,” he says eventually, looking a little confused at the very thought.

You groan, shaking your head as you plant your hands on your hips. “That is beyond not the point. If anything, that makes it worse. You can’t just — gift me all this stuff. It’s a lot of stuff. And it’s expensive stuff. And we don’t know each other, not really.”

“Don’t we?” he asks, eyebrow ticking up as he smirks. You know immediately that he means the fact that, being soulmates, you probably do know each other in a cosmic kind of sense. He carries on before you can even attempt to respond to that, though. “Listen, kid, I’m not trying to make you uncomfortable or — buy you over, or whatever. But you need this stuff. You need clothes and you need somewhere to stay and I can help you with that, so I’m helping you with it. Us being— you being—. It doesn’t matter. You need help and I can help, so I’m helping.”

His jaw sets stubbornly and you stare at him, feeling the fight rush out of you. You think it says a lot about who Tony is, that he really does mean it. It doesn’t matter that you’re his soulmate, not in this; you’re just someone who needs help and he’s someone capable of helping, so he’s helping you out. For him, this is probably one of the easiest, most stress free ways he can help; it’s certainly nothing on fighting aliens or HYDRA agents.

The fact that he looks confused at the thought of you paying him back, of not wanting something from him because of the money, makes your chest ache. He’s so generous, and he’s clearly not used to that generosity being refused. You wonder how many people have taken advantage of the fact he has such a giving heart, how many people have taken things from him and cursed him in the same breath.

You let out a rush of breath, shaking your head a little. Your skin prickles with cold as you become hyper-aware of the fact that you’re still standing there, damp from your shower and in nothing but a towel. You don’t want to give in, because you don’t want to become one of those people who just takes from Tony, but you also really don’t want have to hang around in this towel for the foreseeable future.

“Boss, there’s someone here asking to see you and our guest,” FRIDAY intones, breaking the strangely tense silence that had fell on the room.

Tony huffs, even as he looks a little relieved at the interruption. “Who is it?”

“It’s Professor Xavier from Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. With one of his teachers, a James Howlett.”

Tony’s eyebrows shoot up as you struggle to place the names. You’ve heard of Xavier and his school, both the official spiel and the rumours that the school is a front for the reality of it being a safe haven for mutants, but you can’t remember ever hearing the name James Howlett linked to the school.

“Why would they want to speak with me?” you ask in confusion. Tony shoots you an exasperated look and it takes you a moment, but when the realisation sets in you blush again and offer him a sheepish smile. “Right. Me. I’m a mutant. Sorry, that’s — that’s going to take some getting used to.” You're still trying to adjust to having your soulmate in front of you all the time. You're not convinced you have the energy or brain power to simultaneously deal with the whole mutant thing, too.

Your soulmate chuckles, shaking his head at you fondly. “Looks like you better get dressed, huh kid?” he teases with a smug smirk. “FRIDAY, let them up to this floor. No other stops.”

“Got it, boss,” FRIDAY responds.

You glare playfully at Tony, pointing a finger at him. “This isn’t over, Stark. But, since we apparently have guests coming up, I am, for now, going to accept the clothes.” So saying, you scoop up as many of the bags as you can hold, hauling them into the bedroom.

Tony laughs, grabbing the rest and following you. He sets his haul on the bed as you bustle into the wardrobe, hands again tucking into his pockets. “Probably for the best, all things considered,” he hums, tilting his head at you. There’s a teasing glint as he watches you unpack a bag, contemplating the pair of shoes in your hands. “While there are definitely worse ways to go, I think you’d give old Xavier a heart attack in your current outfit.”

You throw one of the shoes at his head as he bolts from the room, laughing all the while.