“The soulmate tattoo is a big part of one’s life. It’s a representation of the relationship one will have with the person they are destined to be with, thus, over the span of their lifetime, the tattoo will evolve and change to suit their dynamic.”
Lance was four when his sister’s tattoo first appeared. It was the type of memory that would stay with him forever, even when everything else faded away down the river of time. At that moment, Lance knew that the joy on her face would be imprinted into his mind forever.
He was eight by the time her tattoo had developed into something resembling a flower. It was still just a bud, but the thick green leaves and stalk wrapped around her arm like a protective coating. The sight of it made him glance to his arm, willing for something to appear. When the frustration finally kicked in, his parents assured him he was just a late-bloomer, like how he was shorter than most of the kids in his year. “The tattoo will come soon,” they said, “and so will your height!” He believed them.
By fourteen, his growth spurt had put him above half of his year. His tattoo hadn’t come with it. “Wait a few more months,” his parents said. He continued to believe.
He was sixteen when his parents finally took him to a soulmark doctor. On the way there, the air inside the car was thick and heavy, far too hot for a winter’s day. His father stared at the road ahead while his mother gave Lance reassuring smiles, and squeezed his hand.
Lance Mcclain was sixteen when he learnt he would never get a soulmark. “Having a mark can be a blessing,” the doctor said with a kind smile. “But it’s also a curse. Please remember that just because you don’t have a mark doesn’t mean you don’t have a soulmate. There will always be someone out there for you, mark or not. Trust your gut feeling.”
That night, he laid restless in his bed. He finally got up to get a drink of water around midnight but paused in the hallway when the creep of light from the open kitchen door washed the blue carpet in front of him.
“- how do you think Lance feels? He doesn’t have a mark!”
“All I’m saying is that maybe it’s time -”
“You know what my answer will be.”
“I - I know, but -”
“I’ve always loved you. Don’t let a stupid mark cloud your judgment.”
Lance stumbled back, hitting the wall. The resulting smack caused the voices in the kitchen to die down.
“It’s getting late, let’s discuss this another time.”
A sigh. “Okay.”
Lance ducked into the shadows of the bathroom as his parents shuffled past. Confusion swept over him like a cloud. What had he just witnessed?
Thoughts of his non-existent soulmark didn’t come back to him until his final year of high school when one of his classmates met his soulmate. Lance and his friends crowded in the boy’s changing rooms, congratulating him as he showed off his changed soulmark. It stood proud on his shoulder, a large bright blue dragon spitting a ball of fire.
However, as all things seemed to do, the topic switched to other soulmarks, and they went round in a circle, some flashing already on display tattoos while others pulled back sleeves or shorts to reveal ones kept hidden away. As they moved around the circle, Lance felt the drum of his heartbeat in his ears. The room became too hot and too cold all at once. He wished the floor would swallow him up, but… maybe he should just tell them. What if they judged him? What if they didn’t believe him?
The circle finally got around to Lance. He could sense everyone’s eyes boring into him and took in a deep breath. “It’s… in an inappropriate place,” he said, and the awkwardness of the confession made them see through the lie. They clapped him on the back and told him his significant other would love it. He felt sick throughout the walk home.
When he got home, he went into his room and pulled himself into his blanket. A few minutes later, his older sister came to the door.
"I couldn't tell my friends I don't have a soulmark," Lance said. She came to sit down on the edge of his bed.
“There’s a guy in my physics class who doesn’t have one either.” She said. “Neither does my friend Casey. You’re not alone.”
“That’s a nice way of putting: ‘congratulations, you’re going to be lonely forever’.”
His sister sighed. Lance turned to look at her. She had a frown pinching her brow, and her lips were pursed into a fine line. He knew he wasn’t the only thing that was worrying her if the late nights were anything to go by.
“Aunt Kaylee and Uncle Brian don’t have matching tattoos,” She said.
“At least they have tattoos.”
She sighed again. “Just because you don’t have a tattoo doesn’t mean you’re unlovable if that’s what you’re wondering.”
Lance knew he wasn’t asexual. Or aromantic, for that matter. He knew the crush he had on that cute girl when he was twelve had been real. He knew his feelings for Lotor in their relationship last year had been real, even though it had ended quickly once Lotor had found out about his lack of a tattoo (although he had the decency to keep it a secret). He knew there were certain people whom he regarded as ‘attractive’ and those who he thought were ‘nice enough to be cute’.
But what he also knew, was that he had no stable love life ahead of him - not having a tattoo guaranteed it. At least if you had a tattoo, then you knew there was at least one person who was right for you.
“...Remember that just because you don’t have a mark doesn’t mean you don’t have a soulmate. There will always be someone out there for you, mark or not.”
The following year, Lance moved out of home for college. In the week before he left, his younger siblings showed off their new tattoos, badgering him for advice. He smiled and told them to wait it out.
He didn’t stop smiling until he was in the next state over and headed for the Galaxy Garrison. Then he let his face drop, and the tears came pouring out. Why did everyone have a tattoo but him? “You’re not alone,” his sister had said. But she would never understand.
He began his college years like a normal person - he moved into the dorms, got a job at a small coffee shop called Altea, and made friends. The Galaxy Garrison had a huge campus, which meant there were enough people to find someone he clicked with. His workmates also took kindly to him, although the nervousness never dissipated.
“Just smile and be cheerful.” His boss, Coran said - whilst stroking his moustache. “Convince them its worth coming back!”
“Alright,” Lance said, immediately swinging towards the register. “Hello, miss, your dress is really nice,” he said with a wink. “What can I getcha?”
The girl giggled and recited her order.
“You’re a natural,” Coran smiled as Lance hung up his apron.
“Well, I am irresistible,” Lance smirked, striking a playful pose.
There came a stifled chuckle from behind him. “Oh, clearly,”
Lance whipped around to face a small girl who was coughing a grin into her hand.
“Ah, number five, right on time,” Coran said. “This is our new recruit, Lance.”
“Lance, huh?” ‘number five’ said. “Pleasure to meet you, call me Pidge.”
Lance squinted at her. She had short hair to match her height, as well as large circular glasses that glinted as she looked up at him. “You look like a five-year-old.”
“HEY!” Pidge aimed a kick at his knee. “I’m sixteen, thank you very much.”
“Shouldn’t you be in school right now?”
“As a matter of fact, I don’t have a class right now.” Pidge glowered.
“Lance, meet the university’s very own prodigy, Pidge Gunderson.”
Pidge coughed. “I’m just here to help out my brother since he can’t cope on his own.”
“Well, nice meeting you,” Pidge said, stepping around Lance and disappearing into the staff room.
Lance stared after her, tilting his head. “...brother?”
“Matt Holt - he’s an older university student,” Coran explained. “Pidge has to come to the university once a week to check on him. The last time she left him alone, he was living off two-minute noodles and cheese.”
“...okay then.” Lance straightened up. “Well, I’ll be off, now. Thanks for showing me the ropes!”
Coran waved as he exited the coffee shop.
On his way back to the campus dorms, watched the stream of students coming out of the lecture halls. Some of them moved into the direction he was headed, although he didn’t recognise any.
As he crossed the campus towards the dorms, there came a rumble from the parking lot. Lance paused to watch as a boy fitted a helmet over his head and leaned forward on his motorbike. He revved once before driving off.