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The first time Lexa finds out about soulmate drawings she’s six. It doesn’t hurt, but it tingles on her arm in a way that’s uncomfortable enough for her to run to her mother in worry. She finds herself mesmerised by the forest appearing on her arm – it’s rough, and shaky, and it’s nothing like the paintings lacing the walls of her house. She still thinks it could be the best drawing she’s ever seen.

Her parents tell her it’s a link between her and her love. Her fated love. They write on their skin and it appears on her, just as hers would theirs. She’s not quite sure how she feels about having such a large part of her life already decided for her, but her parents smile like it’s something beautiful, and she spends every lone moment tracing the trees lining her skin because, at six, it’s a lot to take in but she thinks it could be beautiful too.


 

Clarke spends far too much time waiting for her soulmate to send her a message, or a signal, or something - anything really. At eleven years old, having watched all of her friends receive some sort of drawing she was a little disheartened. She was a little afraid of what it meant - what if she didn’t have a soulmate? What if she was destined to be alone? What if...

She’s in the middle of a pop quiz when she feels the incessant need to scratch her skin. The back of her right hand begs for her attention and she almost yells out loud when she finds letters scrawled across her hand. Elation gives way to confusion a moment later when she stares at the cryptic scrawl PQP4 - 14:30.

She doesn’t know what it means but she stares at it for hours regardless. She stares and stares and stares until she watches it abruptly fade on her skin that night as she goes to sleep.


 

By the age of twelve Lexa stops being surprised when her skin is constantly topped up with new ink, new drawings, new ideas. Watching doodles appear on her skin wasn’t a shock for her before that but it wasn’t so consistent.

Nine years old, the first day of January, she found fireworks littering her forearm. She was struck at how real it’d looked. She was shocked at how much each stroke was simply an echo of her heart. Nine years old, she was terrified and refused to write on her own skin but it never stopped her admiring the marks on her own.

Eleven years old she forgot the promise she’d made to herself and hastily scribbled a reminder on her arm. Her need to be prepared for her test outweighing the constant voice in her head that screamed about fate and destiny and love. The moment her pen touched her skin she knew there was no going back. The moment the pen touched her skin she marked herself forever or, at least, she wordlessly gave her soulmate permission to create never-ending masterpieces on her body.

She’s not completely sure what compels her to write an actual comprehensive sentence on her palm but the words it’s my birthday tomorrow stare up at her regardless, and she knows she’ll lose her nerve and wash it off in a panic later, but for now she lets it fester.

When she wakes up to an arm coated in colourful balloons and presents and a replica of the first forest that had ever appeared on her skin she realises she knew exactly what compelled her.


 

She uses pictures instead of words. She likes to think of them as clues, little insights into her brain that will eventually build a big enough idea of her for her soulmate.

Clarke is sixteen when she builds up the courage to use her words. Except, it isn’t courage that spurs her hand along - it’s weakness. It’s the burn in her chest as she listens to the beep of her dad’s heart on a monitor and the halt of her own when his rhythm doesn’t match the soft, steady beat that used to lull her to sleep. It’s the quiet sobs from her mother’s mouth as she begs for her husband to just open his eyes that has Clarke reaching for a pen.

Tell me a joke. She’s not sure she really expects a reply. Going off what she’s been given from her soulmate in the past she’s almost entirely sure she’ll receive nothing but silence. When letters start appearing she feels the pain in her chest alleviate enough for her to breathe and she thinks that maybe this person knew, maybe they had felt Clarke’s pain just as surely as they saw her words painting their unmarked skin.

I’m really not very funny.

Anything. Any joke. She just needed something.

Titus’ teaching is a joke but that probably means nothing to you so... Why didn’t the vampire attack Taylor Swift? Because she had Bad Blood. Clarke couldn’t help the snort that escaped her lips. They were adorable, whoever they were, she was sure that they were insanely adorable.

You were right. She quips in swirls and dots.

What?

You’re really not that funny.

Shut up (or whatever the written equivalent to that is). She forgets for a moment where she is. She forgets what this could all mean in the scheme of things for her life. She forgets the stuttering snores of her mother as she cradles her father’s hand. For a moment she actually believes everything could be ok because, if they could build the courage to write on their skin, then destiny had to be stronger than it seemed and her parents were destined to be happy. Together.

Thank you. She writes and watches a singular heart form beside it.

She doesn’t actively wash it from her arm for a week. Neither does her soulmate. Even as the words fade, Clarke finds herself tracing back over the heart in sharpie. The next time it almost disappears she finds she doesn’t have to - it already stares back at her as clear as the day it was drawn.


 

They don’t trade facts. Lexa doesn’t know her soulmate’s age, or where they live, or their name. She doesn’t even know what gender they are (though she’s fairly sure it’s a girl after the uncomfortable situation with Nyko the other week).

The point is, Lexa can count the things she knows about the supposed love of her life on one hand - they were probably a girl, her birthday was the twenty-fourth of October and she could draw like Lexa had never seen anyone draw before.

Lexa was curious. She’d always been a curious child, why was her first and favourite word, she did not like rules that did not have a completely explicable reason; she liked to find the truth – probably the reason she had decided to go into criminal law. So Lexa was curious, more specifically, Lexa was turning eighteen and the thing she wanted more than anything was to know something (literally anything) about her soulmate. It should be known that Lexa blames her innate need to know for her momentary lapse in judgement and break of the unspoken ‘don’t share’ rule.

Happy Birthday. Stares up at her in handwriting that makes her palms sweat because, despite the fact that they’ve been writing back and forth for two years, she still remembers the first time those swirls printed so small on her skin.

I have a birthday wish. She writes and can picture a smirk on the unknown face, because she’s had enough joking innuendos etched into her skin to know that her soulmate has her mind in the gutter and her hands in the cookie jar.

Is it for me to not reply to that message sexily because otherwise you’ll mum will see it? Lexa will never forget the blush on her mother’s cheeks as her eyes caught sight of something Lexa almost wished she hadn’t even seen herself. She also still remembers the heat pooling in her stomach when she imagined the nameless faceless girl doing... that (and the high five her dad gave her when her mother nervously shuffled away).

I want to know about you. It’s a risk. She knows it’s a risk. She’s doing it anyway because she’s held her tongue (or hand) for two years and she should be focusing on getting into college and the rest of her life. She should be thinking about the future. All she thinks about is someone she’s supposed to love but knows nothing about.

I suppose it’s the best present I could give you since I’m not there to-

STOP WRITING! She can practically hear her laugh, except she can’t - all she can hear is her own laugh echoing in her head. She wished she knew what they sounded like.

What did you want to know?

I don’t know. Something. Anything.

Clarke. Is my name. (Yes, a female Clarke). She doesn’t know a Clarke. She really wishes she knew a Clarke. Preferably one who could draw and liked sexual innuendos and could be by her side within the next five minutes because she was really, truly, starting to understand the allure of a soulmate bond.

I like it.

My favourite colour is green, I dream about a blushing faceless face and I’m a bisexual.

Good because my name’s Lexa (yes, a female Lexa).

I like it. Clarke copies the line. Clarke. Her name is Clarke.

“Clarke.” She mutters aloud before her parents crash into her room, before her friends drag her out to do something stupid in the name of celebration, before the world wakes up and she can no longer hear the reverence in her tone. She whispers the name into the morning and finds the sun winking at her through her curtains like it knows every lie she’ll tell about why she’s smiling uncontrollably.

Lexa can count the things she knows about Clarke on two hands.

It’s the best birthday she’s ever had.


 

On Clarke’s first day of college she has a flutter in her stomach that her dad keeps calling nerves but knows that it’s not. Well, actually, she doesn’t know per se. It’s more like a feeling. A feeling that tells her that her soulmate - Lexa - is closer than usual.

She wants to ask. 

She really wants to ask but they don’t ask. Lexa asked once and it was nice. Scratch that, it was actually really awesome to know that this girl knew something about her. It was even nicer to finally reduce the pool of possible suitors that could have been hers. She likes Lexa, and not because she thinks that she should, or because it’s fated, but because she knows the worst jokes and she blushes with words and she compliments the little nuances of Clarke’s art instead of just the whole piece.

Clarke wants to ask where Lexa went to college.

Clarke wants to know what she looks like.

Clarke wants Lexa.

What’s your number? She writes when her parents disappear to bring in more boxes.

You already have the world’s most efficient way to contact me.

I wanna know what you sound like.

When I moan? Clarke chokes, suddenly incredibly thankful that she waited until she was alone to start talking to Lexa.

Did you, Lexa (I don’t know your last name), just make a sexual comment to me

Guess you’re rubbing off on me. She smirks.

I could be if you’d like. The reply doesn’t come in words but her heart stutters nonetheless when seven digits mark her forearm in perfect script.


 

“Will you stop pacing?” Lexa likes Raven. She’s a good roommate and she calls her out on her shit, like how she’s been stomping back and forth in her room for at least twenty minutes because she gave Clarke her number. She gave Clarke her number and Clarke hadn’t called yet and she was freaking out.

“Sorry, I just-“

“Gave the probable love of your life your number and are now internally and externally freaking out because she hasn’t yet used said number?” She nods rapidly.

“Yeah, that.”

“When we first met I thought you were going to be all badass and commanding and shit. I wasn’t expecting this whole freaking out like a middle schooler thing. It’s cute.” Lexa rolls her eyes.

“I’m not cute.” She argues but undermines herself as she jumps at the sound of her phone ringing. “I don’t know. What do I do?” She panics out loud because she’s beginning to lose her mind, and she can’t focus on having a calm and collected persona when the unknown number flashing on her phone could lead to Clarke’s voice. Clarke. Clarke.

“I’m going to leave and you’re going to pick up the damn phone.” Lexa nods because despite Raven’s teasing there’s a look in her eyes that tells her it’s going to be okay. A look that says she can do this if she just stops being a completely uncharacteristic wimp for a grand total of three seconds.

Words rush out the device the moment she presses accept and she’s never been more charmed by an abrupt assault of words than the “Thank God, I was almost sure you weren’t going to pick up” that slips from her phone as she carefully lifts it to her ear. Lexa wonders if it’s the bond that tells her she loves Clarke in this moment. She wonders if it’s the bond, or the sound of ordinarily banal words skipping from Clarke’s tongue, in the kind of throaty husk Lexa thought only existed on movie screens.

“I almost didn’t.” She admits as she allows herself to collapse onto her bed.

“Did I make you uncomfortable? I shouldn’t have asked should I? I’m sorry, I’ll hang up and we can just go back to writing or drawing or whatever.” Lexa can’t help but smile at the nervous phonetic fumbling. She tries to imagine the grimace on Clarke’s lips as she questions every single one of her actions and motives. She tries to imagine a faceless face pacing their room just like she had only moments before.

“No! I mean, don’t hang up, this is nice. Your voice is nice.”

“OK, great because I was thinking now that our hands are free-“

“Stop it.” She chokes out because this was Clarke and her fragile gay heart was in no way prepared to actually hear those things slipping out with such husky deliverance. Lexa had gotten good at remaining unaffected as innuendos littered their shared canvas but actually hearing it - she’d surely have heart palpitations.

“You don’t even know what I was going to say.” Clarke defends.

“My old AP bio teacher could guess what you were going to say, Clarke.” She sighs, remembering a particularly gruelling lab experiment when she’d removed her jacket and her partner Anya had immediately started laughing at the ludicrous words somehow steadily printed on her tricep. “You’ve always had a knack for picking the most obscure and yet insanely obvious areas to write... things.”

“You didn’t like them?” She quips in a tone far too innocent to be drenched with such filthy connotations.

“My mother certainly didn’t and anyway, it’s kind of difficult to enjoy them when I don’t even know what you look like.”

“What do you think I look like?” She asks and it strikes you that you always thought of a faceless face and yet you’d never actually tried to fill in the blanks.

“I don’t suppose I’ve ever really thought about it, but I’ve heard it said that you unconsciously prefer things that remind your soul of its other half even if you don’t know it yet.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means I think you probably look like the sun. I think you probably have this glow about you, one that you would never see, but that everyone else would constantly point out. I think you’d look unattainable. Completely out of my league. And maybe blue eyes because I’ve always liked the sky, and the sea, and blue M&M’s.” Clarke chuckles and it makes Lexa’s heart crawl into her throat. It makes her ribs crush her lungs. It makes her brain pound for release from the confines of her skull.

“Do you have green eyes?” Is the response she receives after a few tick of the clock and skips in her chest.

“Yeah?”

“Good, I always imagined flashes of green staring up at me from between my legs.” Clarke was going to kill her.

“You’re such an idiot.”

“Oh please, you love it.”

“Sure I d-“ Her response is cut short as Raven parades back into their room with her hand firmly covering her eyes, attempting to blindly navigate her way to her bed.

“Please tell me you’re not finger blasting yourself?”

“Raven.” She chides because, as if she wasn’t going to be mortified enough, her roommates words evoke a deep laugh from Clarke over the phone telling her that she definitely heard that entrance. The sound of her name has the other woman quickly removing her hand with a happy sigh before she’s throwing herself on Lexa’s bed with a dramatic bounce.

“Sorry to cut you lovebirds short but I totally forgot we’re supposed to be at Polis in like fifteen minutes so you better move your lovesick ass out of this room.” She nods along before pointedly aiming her eyes at her phone, and waiting for Raven to get the hint to wait somewhere further away.

She doesn’t.

Of course she doesn’t.

“Sorry, Clarke. I really have to go.”

“It’s fine. I totally get it. Maybe I could call you later?” She questions in a shaky tone that seems both timid and erratic.

“Definitely. Goodbye, Clarke.”


 

She knows Polis. Clarke knows Polis. She knows that it’s a café on campus, specifically her campus, at her university. Clarke’s dorm is a grand total of five minutes away from Polis and Lexa will be there. She’s grabbing the first jacket she can find and running from her room before she can even question the issues with the whole thing like maybe Lexa doesn’t want to meet her, maybe Polis is more common of a name then she thinks, maybe it’s a terrible idea.

She doesn’t care.

Clarke doesn’t care as her feet pound against the concrete. She doesn’t care as she shoves the café door open far harder than she should. She doesn’t care about anything other than brunette waves crashing down a rigid spine because she knows. She knows that it’s Lexa even before she hears her voice ordering some pretentious herbal tea.

She just knows.

Tell me a joke. She writes on her wrist and chuckles to herself as she watches Lexa fumble in her pockets before huffing grumpily and reaching over to steal a sharpie from the baristas pocket (she successfully shuts his protests down with a glare).

I’m really not that funny. Appears and just like that Clarke’s transported back to the first conversation they ever had. She’s transported back to the hardest and yet best time of her life.

Anything. Any joke.

This barista’s knowledge of tea is a joke but that probably means nothing to you so... Why did the picture go to jail? Because it was framed. She laughs at the look on Lexa’s face, like she’s confused as to how she’d even thought of such a joke, let alone actually wrote it on her skin in permanent marker. It’s the patient smile that follows the confusion that has Clarke walking towards her. It's Clarke’s sweaty palms that make her stand behind the other girl, suddenly afraid to look her in the eye straight away.

“You were right.” She quips in letters and stuttered breaths. She watches Lexa tense without turning the moment the words are out there.

“What?” She receives in reply but she still doesn’t turn.

“You’re really not that funny.” Clarke manages before green meets blue and she feels like her whole world has fallen apart and has finally been built simultaneously.

“Shut up.” Lexa grins and then Clarke kisses her because she’s been drawing on her skin for twelve years, and they’ve been something more for two, and because she’s beautiful. She’s beautiful and Clarke can’t think of anything else to do but slip her hand around her neck and slot their lips together.

At the age of eighteen Clarke finally, entirely, understands the meaning of a soulmate.


 

 Lexa’s twenty-four when a familiar line of trees appear on her skin – it’s precise, and it’s intricate, and it’s everything like the paintings that lace the walls of her house, those that are painted by the same hand. She stares at them like they’re something beautiful but it’s nothing in comparison to the original drawing parading itself down the aisle towards her.

It’s nothing in comparison to Clarke.