gladdecease: (reading is gr9)
gladdecease ([personal profile] gladdecease) wrote2013-10-09 04:22 am

thing the twenty-seventh [soulmates au meta&almost fics for [community profile] trope_bingo]

Imagine a world where pairs of people are literally perfect for each other.

I don't mean they have no conflict, or that they're identical in every way; nor do I mean that they argue constantly, or that they're different in complementary ways. The most important relationship in a person's life can't be generalized that easily. I just mean that for whatever reason, they are vital and necessary to each other's life. It need not be sexual, or romantic - it is simply an essential connection, without which their lives are somehow, indescribably, less.

If you're a romantic person, you might be thinking, "Okay, but how is that any different from our world?"

The difference, you'll find, is that they have physical proof: a marking, a band around the base of the fourth finger of your dominant hand. It's called different things in different cultures, but the most common name for it is a True Ring, and it develops spontaneously the first time your soulmate looks you in the eye.

True Rings look different for everyone - on one it might resemble a bruise, another a burn, a ring of connected freckles, a scar, but generally it looks natural, like your body could have formed it without outside aid/influence, and yours always looks the same as your soulmate's. (Sometimes people try to fake True Rings, but they're not usually all that convincing. Some conceal the presence/absence of a Ring with tattoos and the like, and that usually does work.)

People disagree on just how it feels to develop your Ring - some say it tingles, some an itch, some a burning sensation - but they agree that there is a physical sensation to go along with the change. It's not something you'll miss happening unless you're in shock, or in a lot of pain.

The Ring only stays strong when you're in the presence of your soulmate - it almost acts like a soulmate detector that way. If one of you leaves, or dies, it will fade away; if you cross paths again years later, the tingling/whatever will strike up again just from being nearby, and the Ring will return to full color/texture/whatever. You don't need to make eye contact again; somehow, for some reason, your bodies remember each other.

(I've been thinking about this AU a lot lately, but I haven't been able to actually pull a fic together, I was so focused on the worldbuilding!)

So many different historical notes keep distracting my thoughts - like, did ancient cultures believe that the handedness of the Ring indicated something? It's the left hand's fourth finger that the Greeks associated with love, because of the vena amoris, so did they think left-handed soulmates were special? Was theirs a love ranked higher than right-handed soulmates, or was it considered a different type of love? How, if at all, does that relate to the Roman idea of left being kinda evil? What about soulmates with opposing handedness?

Or - with the Ring appearing on what is in our world traditionally the ring finger, are wedding rings worn the same way there as they are here? I've actually given this one some thought, and I say it varies by culture/period.

The way I figure it, Europeans for most of the last thousand years thought having a True Ring was a point of pride, and rather than hide them the physical ring would be worn on a nearby finger to draw attention to the True Ring. Not having a Ring wasn't shameful or an embarrassment or anything... but having one when your husband didn't was sometimes the reason a woman wore her wedding ring on her fourth finger. (One royal couple - I don't know who, or when - had giant gaudy rings made for both of them, to hide their mismatched Rings, and which started a trend of male wedding rings among the classes that could afford to do so. The trend didn't last long, though, and didn't really pick up again until 1940s/50s America, when advertisers put the idea into middle class women's heads.)

Cultures that don't really use wedding rings wouldn't have this concern - but perhaps they would involve the Rings in such ceremonies? Maybe Mehndi is drawn on the bride's hands in patterns inspired by the shape of her Ring, if she has one?

Or - how long has it been known/accepted that having a Ring doesn't mean your relationship is sexual/romantic?

I think that's an understanding that ebbs and flows in the way acceptance of GSM has ebbed and flowed in our world. Ancient cultures being misogynistic as they often were, a pair of men with Rings was probably seen as a good thing. (A pair of women... not so much?) They would still be expected to get married, of course, but that was for the sake of propagating their families, not love or companionship. That they could get from their Ringmate. (? I'm still trying to find a good altword for soulmate.) I imagine some other cultures venerated same gender pairs the same way different gender pairs were venerated, while some cultures were probably cruel to such pairs.

And not just same gender pairs - pairs with a great age differences (depending on who was older), parent-children pairs (I have a mental image of the mother accusing her daughter of being a witch/demon/changeling, come to steal away her husband), sibling pairs - that Japanese myth about lovers who commit suicide being reborn as twins was probably helped along by this phenomenon.

I also think conservative societies rewrote their own past - that same gender pairs who had been sexually/romantically involved were reframed as platonic pairs, that such interpretations of same gender pairs became popular particularly in England and were spread world-wide, enforced on the cultures they colonized, erasing more complex or accepting views of the native people. (I don't think different gender pairs were given the same treatment; it was understood that if you had a Ring with someone you a) weren't the same gender as, and b) weren't related to, marriage was going to happen. Depending on how directly you were related, b) might even be optional!)

I think Freud developed some kind of disturbing (and later discovered to be inaccurate) theories about Ring pairs, and the symbolism of rings (as related to phallic imagery? not sure). I think Kinsey studied Ring pairs along with sexuality in general, and discovered that nonsexual Ring pairs are a lot more common than common knowledge indicated. I think there have been dozens of studies done to figure out what biologically causes a Ring to develop - both the biochemical process and the initial stimulus - but no one's been successful.

There are very rare Ring trios out there. There are people who have multiple Rings, some sequentially and some simultaneously. There are people out there who don't have a Ring, will never have a Ring, and could never have a Ring, despite their mother's old-fashioned belief that "Everybody's got their matching ring out there somewhere - they just might be too far away right now!" (I don't like this as an altword, but it's decent for ~romantic imagery~.)

There are people who don't believe a Ring pair can be platonic, though. They'll look at a married couple, one with a Ring and one without, and scoff, or pity the one being cheated on, not bothering to learn that the one with a Ring meets up with their sister for coffee and bonding every second Tuesday, which keeps their Ring strong. They'll look at a father and daughter with Rings and holler for the police, demand that he be arrested. They'll look down their nose at a couple with mismatched Rings, not caring why or how.

Honestly? These are probably people who don't have Rings for their own.

So, yeah, that's us. Our world. What, then, about these fandom-related thoughts you were promised?

By the time the Federation was formed, humans were pretty confident they knew what Rings were about. Ringers (ugh, that's some awful altword slang) aren't necessarily romantic - but they're important enough in your life that separation due to space travel is taken into consideration. If you've got a Ring, you aren't going on a deep space mission unless your matching Ring is going along with you. People will ask, jokingly, "How's the [whatever good altword I come up with]?" and even if you don't live together, it's expected that you'll know.

It's not really a big deal anymore. The chemical cause has been discovered - it's not something modern medicine can synthesize or imitate, it's that complex, but it's a known quantity.

And then a human developed a Ring for a Vulcan. Not with - Vulcans don't have Rings. (Most alien species don't, unless you can trace their origins to Earth or they're really good mimics.) No, Amanda Grayson was the only member of her Ring pair to have a Ring. And suddenly, Rings contained an unknown again.

There were even more eyes on Spock growing up, here. Would he, a successful mix of two alien species, develop a Ring? Surely not, not when he acted so Vulcan! And certainly he seemed not to, though one could argue that he'd developed a Ring-like relationship with his captain while aboard the Enterprise. That was a bit of a disappointment to curious humans, and a boon to Vulcans - it appeared their blood had proved superior. (After Spock died and was reborn, though, it was rumored a Ring had developed - but that makes no sense, and as such history ignored it.)

For years Javert did not know who wore the band to match his own, only that it first burned him at Toulon and that sometime before he left it faded. He looked down at many convicts in those days, often wore gloves, and paid little attention to his hands, and as such had no way of knowing which group his might be from, or which day his died-- or escaped-- or was paroled. His only certainty was that it was a convict, and not a guard, as would have been preferable, if only marginally.

He had not given it much thought in the years since, and would not have but for the band starting to burn him again as he entered M-sur-M for the first time. Later - months, years later, after his suspicions were measured and reconsidered, submitted as fact and refuted, then finally proven right - when he realized the burning of his own hand would be as reliable a tracker as a dog's nose, he said nothing to his superiors. Let Jean Valjean hide! It mattered not; he would be found eventually. For what other purpose could they have been bound to each other, than to assure Javert that the law would be victorious in the end?

(Valjean, for his part, could not fathom why God in his heavenly wisdom would bind him for all his days to such a man - not until he found his life bound for a second time, to a little girl walking through the woods carrying a bucket of water larger than her head. The first, he decided, was a reminder of the sins he'd committed; the second, a sign that forgiveness was possible, that he was free now for a reason.)

In a world where eye contact tells you if you've met your soulmate, there are two kinds of people who don't meet people's eyes.

One kind has no interest in soulmates, and is sick of people staring unblinkingly at them in hopes of a delayed reaction kicking in.

The other kind has one specific person in mind, but is terrified that they're wrong and doesn't want to meet their eyes before they've prepared emotionally for that possibility.

Guess which one Uchiha Sasuke is.

(Guess which one Hyuuga Hinata is.)

If you lose your hand, you lose your Ring. That's just common sense.

Winry's seen a lot of amputees in her time, and she always feels the worst for the ones who've lost their hand. As a hobby, she sometimes carves a little design on the outer casing for the fourth metacarpal. She feels a little weird doing that for Ed, but she remembers, distantly, two little Rings. One bruise-purple, that she shared, and one like a reverse tan line, golden and curiously patterned, that was an Elric trait alone.

She'd also had a second one, pale and raised like a scar, that she shared with Al, but that's gone too.

Two months after that weird fainting spell everyone had, a week or so after Ed's last telegram, Winry's scratching idly at her hand, as she has for the last twenty minutes, when she follows Den outside.

She's just realized what the itching means when she catches sight of them standing in the yard, Rings strong and smiles wide.

So I didn't notice for a while.

A while being, like... a couple years, in comic time. Which is like twice as long in the real world.

Yeah yeah, go ahead and laugh. But be honest, if you had my body, which depending on the artist can be covered in throbbing cysts or shifting lesions or just a few stripes of bad spray tan, would you notice a new kinda itchy mark?

Yeah, didn't think so.

Oh, what, you're gonna bring up "If Looks Could Kill"? Don't even bother, that thing made everybody uniformly pink. If a freckle couldn't make it through, you really think Rings did? Cable's from a post-Apocalyptic future, he doesn't care about that stuff.

Which is unfortunate, because if he had cared, he mighta brought it up before he died. Or before he died that other time.

As it is, I didn't hear about it until... oh, when was it, 2010? No, wait, it's a retcon, so - oh, whatever, it was the "Two Mutants and a Baby" issue, you know the one. There I am all ready to go kill dystopian future people with one hand and change a diaper with the other, and Nate's getting all serious and grateful in a "thanks but no thanks" way, and he says, "I have to do this alone. I understand, thanks to you, why people put so much value on these relationships."

And of course I got no idea what he's talkin about, so he sighs and pulls off a glove to reveal - hey! he's got Rings! One's the same irritated-looking red that's on the baby's finger - and, seeing as I'd figured that for diaper rash earlier, it's probably smart of Nate not to take me with - and the other's a thick ring of pale scar tissue.

Who's that one with? I ask him, because I'm curious and if this is the last time I'm gonna see the guy I'm gonna get a few answers out of him first, and he just looks at me.

And yeah, it takes me a minute. Can you blame me? You expect to get a little more warning about these kinds of things. But the penny drops, I tear off my glove and squint and holy shit, there it is. Holy $#*!, I say.

"You... didn't know."

No $&@*#($ kidding, I didn't know! Then the second penny drops, and I want to stab something. Wait - you did? Or shoot something. And didn't - Preferably a Nate-shaped something. You waited until after they cancelled our team-up book to tell me this? We coulda - And that's when I kiss him.

Why? Well... I mean, it's kinda the done thing.

Oh, you mean why with the mask on. Honestly, I just forget it's there sometimes. Anyway, the intent was there, and he definitely got the message. I'm pretty sure he woulda sent an RSVP ASAP, if you know what I mean, but: baby messiah comes first.

So I found out I'd been Buddy Comedy-ing around with my soulmate for fifty issues right before he went back to the future. After that, I did what anybody woulda done - I came home and shot a Nate-shaped hole in my wall.

Hey, Sherlock did it - sorta - that makes it In. And Cool. And Not an Arrestable Offense, so I really don't know why that officer put me in here.

What about you, how'd you end up here?