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Start From Scratch

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Pick hadn’t been born with a soulmark, but his mark had appeared when he was too young to remember. Sometimes a mark doesn’t appear until your soulmate is born, so once they had figured out what it was, everyone assumed that must be the case for Pick.

At first, however, his parents were frightened. One day they suddenly saw what looked to be the slash of cat claws across the forearm of their young son. It had been something of a shock.

Pick had told them he hadn’t been playing with any cats, so they had examined the marks further.

At that point, his parents had laughed.

People who don’t know him well enough to have seen the scratches there for ages, to know they aren’t going away, will assume that he’s been recently clawed and, with his choice in career, it’s an easy thing to let them think. It means he doesn’t have to field questions about what it’s like to have a soulmate and what he thinks that person will be like and whether he’s looking for them and all the other stupid questions people like to ask about soulmarks.

In all honesty, Pick has never been scratched by a cat, even through to his fourth year of university.

The Fellow Being Club’s members are at a shelter when Pick hears an, “Are you okay?!”

Pick has gotten that a number of times and glances around at the shout, but they’re not talking to him and he fears someone may actually be hurt. He heads in the direction of the clamor.

There are two people hunched over Rome, staring at him, and Pick’s heart seizes and he pushes the others out of the way to get a look. “Hurt already, Ai’Shorty?” coming out of his mouth already.

He grabs Rome’s arm to examine it and Rome is shaking his head. “It’s okay, phi. I’m not hurt or anything. The marks have always been there.”

Pick stares at Rome’s arm. It’s the opposite arm, but…

But the marks are the same.

Cat scratches.

He shivers.

There’s a smile teasing at the corner of Rome’s lips. “What is it, P’Pick? I wouldn’t think a vet student could be squeamish.”

Pick shoves Rome away, although not as roughly as his expression might imply. “The hell? I’m not squeamish.”

“Of course not,” Rome allows, but he’s smirking.

Pick pretends to be normal for the rest of the day and Porsche tells him he’s being weird, but Pick brushes Porsche off.

Pick is a fourth-year student. Rome is a first-year student. He can guess approximately three years age difference. Pick doesn’t know exactly when his marks appeared, but it had been before he’d started school properly…

“Shit,” Pick says.

It all lines up, the marks, their ages, the way Pick feels—

Except Pick doesn’t feel any sort of special way about Rome. At all.

He’s just… He… Pick just has an urge to be mean to Rome all the time. That means he doesn’t like Rome, because Pick doesn’t like guys.

Especially boys who are way too cute and smile at him a lot and put up with his teasing and share the same mark and whom Pick would readily fight for if anyone were to threaten them.

That’s it. Pick is avoiding Rome from now on. He’s just getting confused and maybe the marks weren’t the same after all. Maybe he’s just being paranoid because he’s— Because Ai’Porsche put that idea in his head.

Pick rolls up his sleeve and looks at his mark and tries to remember what Rome’s looked like, tries to convince himself that Rome’s mark wasn’t identical to the scratches he sees now.

He manages to get through a weekend before Porsche comes running up to him excitedly, not-so-surreptitiously glancing at Pick’s arm before focusing on Pick’s face, trying to school his features. Unfortunately, an excited Porsche is like an excited puppy and it’s almost impossible for him to hide his glee.

Pick scowls at him. “What the hell is going on with you?”

Porsche is twitchy with how much he’s trying to play it cool. “Not much…”

Pick can guess, but he won’t say it. If he doesn’t say it, it isn’t real. Stupid Porsche, however… “If it’s nothing, calm it down.” Porsche opens his mouth and Pick purposely turns. “I have to go.”

Porsche dashes in front of him. “Bro!”

“What?” Pick huffs, hoping his attitude puts Porsche off.

“Have you seen Nong Rome?” Porsche asks.

“Have I seen him?” Pick raises his eyebrows, says matter-of-factly, “Yes.” He tries to walk away again, but Porsche runs after him, grabbing his shoulder.

Porsche splutters, tries to rephrase. “Have you— Have you seen him— his, his arm?”

“I’ve seen N’Rome’s arms,” Pick replies again, purposely obtuse.

Pick,” Porsche says, and he tugs at Pick’s arm, trying to pull up Pick’s sleeve.

Pick tries to yank his arm back but Porsche hasn’t let go. “Dude! Seriously!”

“Pick! I am serious! For real, dude. Have you seen?” Porsche lets go of Pick’s arm and pulls up his own sleeves, draws three fingers over his forearm for emphasis. “His mark is the same as yours!” Porsche puts his hands on his hips, looks to the sky and talks to himself even though he’s still here in front of Pick, “I knew there was something between those two.”

Pick glares at Porsche, mouth hanging open and eyes narrowing at the absolute audacity. “I know.”

Porsche stops daydreaming, now wide-eyed at Pick. “What?”

“I know about his mark already. I saw it.”

Porsche is completely baffled. “If you saw it, why didn’t you…”

“Why didn’t I what?” Pick spits. “Profess my undying love? Tell you?”

Porsche blinks, mouth forming a moue. “You could’ve at least told Nong Rome.”

Pick scoffs. “Why?”

“Because he’s your—”

Pick slams his hands over his ears so he can’t hear Porsche say it.

Porsche exhales harshly, nostrils flaring, clearly frustrated. Good. Pick is frustrated, too, and he’d rather not suffer alone.

“I have to go,” Pick says again.


“Is it any of your business?” Pick asks.

Porsche hesitates, thinking it over, decides, “Yes.”

“What the fuck?” Pick isn’t sure how to respond to that one.

“Soulmate!” Porsche shouts, out of nowhere. “Nong Rome is your soulmate!”

Pick has been tricked. “What the fuck?” he repeats.

Porsche tries for serious again, but a grin is pulling at his lips. “Nong Rome is your soulmate,” coming to terms with this more fully. “But...really. Why don’t you tell him?”

“Why do I have to?” Pick asks, ignoring how petulant he sounds even to his own ears.

Porsche takes a different tack. “Don’t you want to?”

Oh no. That’s a good point. Pick didn’t think Porsche would come at him with such a good point. Pick is frozen in place, frowning.

Porsche’s expression breaks into a full grin at that. “You do! You want to tell him!” He loops his arm through Pick’s. “Let’s go.”

Pick slithers his arm out of Porsche’s grasp once more. “Maybe I do. But...give me a day, okay?” Under his breath, he mutters, “Rome said he can wait.”

“What was that?” Porsche asks, overdramatic, cupping a hand round his ear to listen better.

Pick pushes him.

When they have lunch with Emma and Rome later, Porsche won’t stop glancing at Pick significantly, suspiciously.

Pick has to kick him under the table.

It takes another two days for Pick to summon up the courage to think about telling Rome. Like, maybe he’ll do it today. Maybe.

He goes to meet Rome at his faculty, as he is wont— Because. Because they’re friends.

Let Pick have this, alright? He’s so close to saying it, but he needs just one more minute. Or hour. Day?

Rome is evident, even from a distance, and Pick’s steps speed up, but talking to someone? Another guy? Another guy who is taller than him and leaning into Rome’s space and putting his hand on Rome’s shoulder?!

That is unacceptable!

Pick rushes over, his feet working faster than his brain. “Hoi!” He puts an arm in front of Rome, breaks the contact between them.

“P’Pick!” Rome shouts, startled, pulling at Pick like Pick’s the one in the wrong.

It only serves to make Pick more annoyed, but he ignores Rome in favor of staring this other guy down, jutting out his chin in challenge. “Back off,” he warns.

The other guy lifts an eyebrow, tilts his head at Rome. “This guy your boyfriend or something?”

Rome hesitates, starts to shake his head.

Pick speaks up. “I’m his soulmate, asshole.”

The guy is taken aback, although he still says a cordial goodbye to a confused Rome.

Pick watches the guy leave, muttering curses about how he better walk away. He feels a tap to his shoulder.

“P’Pick?” Rome inquires.

Pick turns to him, frustrated and now flustered. “Uh?”

“Did you mean what you just said? About us?” Rome asks softly.

“About us?” Pick returns with an automatic scoff, then realizes he’d already said it. “Mh.” He shoves his sleeve up his arm to show Rome the claw marks.

Rome ducks his head, smiling, as he shows his mark to Pick, puts his arm against Pick’s. “Just the same,” he murmurs.

Pick squints, something about Rome’s tone making him think. “Did you know?”

Rome gives a little shrug. “Well, I thought maybe…”

So Rome had suspected and he hadn’t said anything either? Alright. Does this mean they’re both guilty of keeping it from the other?

Pick very determinedly ignores the part of his mind that knows exactly why Rome hadn’t been willing to mention it.

“Okay,” Pick allows. “So we both know.”

“But…” Rome starts.

“But what?” Pick presses.

“But P’Pick said it,” Rome says quietly, shuffling his feet a little.

Pick feels his own cheeks heat. “What? You wanted me to lie or something?”

Rome looks up at him through those long, beautiful lashes, those soft lips smiling at him, Rome’s whole sweet face focused on Pick. “P’Pick is Rome’s soulmate.” He sounds so happy and Pick feels his heart pounding in his chest.

“Isn’t that what I said?” He’s still attempting a tough front, but the facade is quickly cracking. “Uh,” he adds. “We’re soulmates.”

Rome grabs his hand and threads their fingers together. “Does that mean…?”

Uh. I love you,” Pick manages, making Rome’s smile burn even brighter and his own heart beat even faster.

“I love P’Pick, too,” Rome replies, squeezing Pick’s hand as he speaks. He swings their hands back and forth.

Pick makes a face. This is far too lovey-dovey for what he’s used to, but, in a way he’ll have to admit soon enough, he likes it. In fact, he loves hearing Rome say he feels the same way that Pick does. Soulmates or not, it’s hard to say those words and put yourself out there first.

Rome scoots in closer, their arms brushing together, the soulmarks almost aligned.

Pick shifts just enough to see the claw marks travel almost seamlessly from his arm to Rome’s. “It’s pretty cool, isn’t it?” he says.

Rome nods eagerly. “Very cool, phi.”

“Hoi…” Pick trails off before he can even think of a proper complaint. He could surely think of something if he tried, but currently the problem that seems most pressing is the fact that he’s not kissing Rome. His soulmate. His very cute soulmate.

There’s no way he’s going to kiss Rome here, in front of Rome’s faculty and whoever might choose to come by, so it’s a problem without a solution.

Rome is staring at Pick expectantly.

Pick scratches his head with his free hand and glances around. It’s embarrassing enough they’re standing there confessing their feelings and holding hands.

“P’Pick, let’s go,” Rome says, looking curious.

Oh. Right. Pick came here to meet up with Rome and leave with him, not to awkwardly confess out of jealousy. “Uh. What took you so long?”

Rome doesn’t say anything about Pick’s response, instead giving Pick’s hand a tug so Pick can lead the way to his car.

As soon as they’re in the relative safety of the car, Pick leans over and, with butterflies in his stomach, kisses Rome.

They just sit there for a minute afterward, shifting in their seats, neither certain what the other is thinking.

Finally, Rome asks, “Were you going to take me home, P’Pick?”

Pick is an idiot. “Right.” He starts the car, but as he starts the drive, about to turn towards Rome’s, Rome stops him. Pick looks at him.

“Take me home,” Rome says. “With you.”

Pick processes the words and his uncertainty transforms into a smirk. “Are you sure?”

Rome nods. “I’d like to spend some quality time with my soulmate.”

“Oh?” Pick asks, pressing his luck. “Who could that be?”

Rome doesn’t take the bait. Instead, he takes advantage of the fact that Pick is still stopped, kissing Pick again. “No idea,” he deadpans.

“Oi!” Pick whines, but he laughs, the tension easing.

Pick takes his soulmate home.