I wrote this fic almost two years ago! I thought I had lost the ending, and didn't have the heart to rewrite it. Apparently, it was hiding in my notes app this whole time! So here it is, my second soulmate AU. In this one, you are physically unable to lie to your soulmate.
Henry had seen Elizabeth around campus before. He wouldn't exactly call her a friend, but his friend group seemed to overlap with hers, and they frequently found themselves at the same parties. They were only a couple of months into the semester, and he hadn't talked to her much, but he knew her name, her major, and that she was a sophomore.
At any rate, he knew her well enough to know that something was off when he saw her on his way to the library one day. Her shoulders were slumped forward, her head was down, and she looked like she'd been crying recently. He considered whether she would welcome an attempt to comfort her. Deciding there was no harm in trying, he sped his pace until he caught up to her.
"Elizabeth, hey." She stopped abruptly and looked up at him, her eyes puffy and showing a mixture of surprise and embarrassment. He shifted uncomfortably. "Are you okay?" He asked.
"No, I'm not," she said bitterly, eyes on the ground.
"I'm sorry to hear that," he said softly. "Can I ask what's wrong?" He didn't want to pry of course, but she hadn't brushed him off yet, so maybe there was something she wanted to talk about.
She shook her head slightly, forced half a smile, and he was expecting a deflection until he heard the next words out of her mouth: "My parents are dead." Her eyes widened, glistening in the fading sunlight as she realized what she had just said. Horrified, she turned sharply and began to walk away.
Henry quickly followed. "Elizabeth," he called.
"I should go."
"Is that what you want?"
She slowly came to a stop a few feet ahead, in front of a small park bench, and Henry caught back up to her. "You want to talk about it?" he asked.
"I don't know."
Henry didn't know where to go from here, so he took a seat on the bench. She looked at him for a moment, and then plopped down next to him, her eyes fixed on a tree across the street. "They died in a car accident four years ago...today."
Henry closed his eyes, wishing for all the world that he could take away her pain. "I'm so sorry," he said. There wasn't much else to say.
"My brother usually calls," she said. "He calls every year and we talk for a while, share memories, you know. But today, uh-" she shrugged. "He hasn't. He won't answer my calls either."
"Maybe he just needs some time?" Henry suggested.
"I don't know. Maybe."
"There's nothing I can say to make this better," said Henry. "But I'm really, incredibly sorry. If there's anything I can do…?" he trailed off.
"No, I'm-, well, I will be fine," said Elizabeth, wiping her eyes. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to dump all this on you. It just kind of...tumbled out before I could stop myself. I guess maybe I really did need to talk to somebody."
"I'm glad I was here," said Henry. "No need to apologize."
"Well, I should go," Elizabeth said. She looked intently at him. "Thank you, Henry," she said, hoping she could convey the full depth of her gratitude with those three words.
Henry nodded knowingly. "Any time."
They saw each other more often after that. When they crossed paths on campus, they were now much more likely to greet one another, or stop and talk, whereas weeks earlier they would have simply passed with a smile and a wave. They were in the same class on Middle Eastern History, and they ended up studying together more than once. It slowly turned into a regular thing; once, sometimes twice a week, they would meet in the same study room at the back of the library, which gave them enough privacy that they could hold quiet conversations without bothering anyone. Sometimes they would work together on something, but more often than not, they would simply sit quietly on either side of the table and enjoy one another's company while they each did their own thing.
This continued for a couple of weeks, and one day Henry walked into the library and found Elizabeth already at their regular table, intently studying The Middle East: A Brief History. She didn't seem to notice him as he sat down and laid his books on the table. "Hey, did you get your grade yet?" he asked her. They had turned in their papers a week earlier, and he knew he had made an A.
She looked up at that, and he knew immediately that she hadn't done as well as she'd hoped. "I made a 76."
Henry's face fell. "What? I'm sorry," he said. "Do you know why?"
Elizabeth rolled her eyes. "Dr. Rice thinks my position is unfounded. It's the lowest grade I've ever made on a paper." She fidgeted with a pencil. "I thought I would do better," she admitted. "What about you?"
Henry froze. He couldn't tell her how well he'd done when she was this disappointed in herself. He needed to tell her something else. His mind raced with possible outs- he didn't have his grade yet, the professor had lost his paper, he had made a B on the paper, he had asked for an extension- but he said nothing. He opened his mouth, but no words came out. His mouth went dry as he struggled to form any sentence that wasn't the truth.
Elizabeth stared at him. "Henry? You okay?"
"Yeah," he said. "I was just-" trying to remember my grade. He shook his head; that wasn't true. "I got-" a B. "I made a 93," he finally admitted.
To his surprise, Elizabeth smiled at him. It didn't look forced, although there was a twinge of sadness to it. "That's wonderful," she said. "Really. You told me you really needed a good grade."
"Yeah, but I hate that you worked so hard and made a C. Is there anything you could do to raise your grade? Have you talked to Dr. Rice?"
Elizabeth shook her head. "No. I'm not looking for handouts."
"I'm not talking about handouts. I'm talking about an opportunity to get the grade you deserve, the one you know you have the capacity to earn."
I'll think about it," she conceded. "But right now I need to study for our test next week."
Henry nodded. "Yeah, I should get to work too." He flipped open a book and his eyes moved over the page, but none of the information was going in. Why did I do that? He asked himself. Elizabeth had been clearly upset about her grade, and he had to go and brag about his own? Why couldn't he have just told a white lie?
Henry suppressed a gasp as it gradually fell into place. Despite his best efforts, he had been completely unable to lie to Elizabeth, and he was sure that it had nothing to do with guilt.
Elizabeth was oblivious as he looked up at her with new eyes. He had been trying for weeks now to ignore his growing crush on her, but maybe his efforts were completely in vain. A wide smile spread over his face as he realized how lucky he had gotten. Elizabeth seemed to sense his gaze, and she glanced up at his. "What's up?"
Henry shook himself from his thoughts. He didn't want to freak her out, but, of course, he couldn't lie to her. "I'm just...really glad I met you."
Henry and Elizabeth were leaving class on Monday when he caught up to her, calling her name. She stopped and looked back at him expectantly.
"Are you busy?" he asked.
She smiled in amusement. "Like, right now?"
He shrugged. "Yeah."
"I'm supposed to go shopping with my roommate, Becky, in 2 hours. Other than that, I'm free."
"Great! Do you want to grab coffee?"
Her smile widened. "I'd love to."
Over coffee, they talked about everything from Elizabeth's love of horses to Henry's distrust of his father. Henry explained his decision to join the Marines, and listened earnestly as Elizabeth told him her passion for helping people, whatever way she could. The conversation flowed almost effortlessly, and they were both disappointed when it was time for Elizabeth to go.
"Sorry to cut this short," she said, tossing her coffee cup in the trash. "I'll see you soon," she said hopefully; it was almost a question.
"I'll be at the library on Thursday," he confirmed. She left the coffee shop with a wave, and he watched her go, unable to wipe the grin from his face. The smartest, kindest, most beautiful woman he had ever met was his soulmate.
He was at the library on Thursday as promised, and he couldn't sit still. He was determined to ask Elizabeth out on a real date today, but his nervousness only grew when Elizabeth appeared from behind the shelves. She was effortlessly beautiful in her jeans and UVA sweatshirt. "Sorry I'm late," she said.
"Don't be," he said. "I was just having a great time with Confessions of St. Augustine."
She laughed, even though she knew he wasn't joking. "Maybe I should leave you two alone."
"Maybe you should." Henry had decided to wait for the end of their study session before asking her, and within a few minutes, they were each in their own world. Henry's world, however, involved quite a lot of thinking about Elizabeth.
Checking his watch, Henry knew he needed to leave soon. He closed his book and took a deep breath. "Hey, I gotta go soon, but I wanted to ask you something."
Elizaeth cocked her head. "Okay, what is it?"
"Would you like to have dinner with me on Saturday?"
Elizabeth smiled, but then closed her eyes and let out a sigh. "I would love to," she said. "But I can't on Saturday. Becky roped me into helping her with this Pride and Prejudice-themed ball. I wish I could get out of it."
"Oh yeah, I heard about that. I guess I should have known you would pick Darcy over McCord," he joked, trying to brush away his disappointment with humor.
Elizabeth laughed. "I assure you, that is not the case. But I promised Becky. Another time, though?"
At that, Henry grew a bit more hopeful. "Definitely," he said. A plan was already forming.
"Hey, St. Henry!"
Henry rolled his eyes and looked up from his lunch to see one of his best friends' girlfriend running toward him from across the cafeteria, shouting for him with the nickname she thought was just hilarious. "Hey, Lauren."
"Tom said you were looking for me?"
"I wanted to know if you were still working in the theatre department."
"Yeah, who's asking?"
"I am. Have you heard of the Pride and Prejudice ball happening this weekend?"
Lauren sighed. "Well, seeing as you're about the fifteenth person to ask me that, I'm gonna say yes. You looking for a costume?"
Henry smiled sheepishly. "Normally I wouldn't ask you like this, but it's kind of last minute, and I didn't know I was going until yesterday."
"Why are you going? Not really your scene, is it?" She peered intently at him. "Is there a girl involved?"
Henry blushed. "There will be, if my plan works."
Lauren smiled brightly. "Aww, have you found your little Elizabeth Bennet?"
Adams, actually, he thought, but kept that to himself. "I asked someone to go to dinner with me Saturday, but she said no because she's going to the ball, so I'm going to surprise her."
Lauren frowned for a second. "Are you sure she'll appreciate that? I mean, sometimes girls make excuses."
"I thought about that," he admitted. "But she did tell me she would if she could, and...let's just say I don't think this particular girl would lie to me."
Lauren gasped when she realized the implications of what he was saying. "Oh my god, congrats!" she said, a little too loud. Then she got quiet, and her eyes narrowed. "I'll do it," she said seriously. "For love."
Henry rolled his eyes, but thanked her nonetheless. His plan was coming along nicely.
On Saturday, Henry started getting ready an hour before the ball. He put on the outfit Lauren had loaned him, styled his hair, and put on the top hat. This was all done fairly quickly, and he was left to sit around for a while before he needed to leave.
"Would you stop fidgeting?" asked Tom.
Henry looked up from the textbook he had been trying to read without much success. "Sorry," he said, "guess I drank too much coffee today."
"Yeah, that's the reason you're shaking like a chihuahua over there."
"Maybe I'm a little excited."
"Look, you're one of the most likeable guys on campus. You're going to a Pride and Prejudice-themed ball when there's about half a dozen parties you could be at right now. And to top it all off, you're dressed like an 1800's single man in possession of a good fortune, so you know, you got that going for you."
Henry laughed at that, but he still seemed a little tense.
"Relax," Tom insisted. "You're gonna have a great time."
Henry was still a little uncertain as he walked into the dining hall, which he couldn't help but notice was beautifully-decorated. There were tables spread around the edges of the room covered with gold tablecloths, floral centerpieces, and candles. Glazing around at all the decorations, he wondered how much Becky had spent on all of this.
He didn't see Elizabeth in any of the elaborate ball gowns in the room, but he wasn't too worried. There was a pretty small crowd, so he figured many people had yet to arrive.
After 45 minutes, however, he was starting to get antsy. He'd spent most of his time on the fringes of the crowd, mostly keeping to himself and watching the entrance for Elizabeth's arrival. He finally decided to get a plate of food and sit down, opting for a spot near the door so that he could see everyone coming in.
It was with a heavy heart that he made the trek back to his dorm, when the party ended and the last few guests trickled out, his favorite blond not among them. She'd told him where she was going to be, and she wasn't there.
Elizabeth had lied to him.
Over the next few days, Henry didn't really know how to act around Elizabeth. Sure, she had lied about wanting to go out with him, but he had no real reason to believe she didn't like being his friend. The problem lay in that Henry didn't know if he could handle that. He valued Elizabeth more than his own life, but he just didn't know if he could continue to be a good friend to her with all of these confused emotions. He was already falling hard for her, and the thought of dancing around it, sitting back and watching as she met her own soulmate, fell in love...he thought it might break him. She was the one for him, but he wasn't for her.
Still, he thought losing her completely would be worse, and he tried his best to continue as usual. But he knew Elizabeth could tell something was up. She kept asking him how he was, and how his weekend was, trying to determine why he was being so curt and standoffish around her. He kept her questions at bay with empty excuses- "I've had a lot to think about;" "a lot happened over the weekend;" "I'm really tired;" -never lying to her, of course, but never telling her the whole truth either.
When Wednesday rolled around, he didn't feel like going through another confrontation with Elizabeth, so he called Dr. Rice's office and left a message saying he had a family emergency and couldn't make it to class that day. His only other class on Wednesdays was an 11am lecture, after which he went for a quick jog and resolved to spend the rest of the day moping in his dorm.
He watched the clock tick past 1:15, which was usually when he would leave for class. 1:20, he'd take his seat, look over his notes, maybe chat with Elizabeth. He wondered if she noticed his absence. He certainly felt hers like a hole in his heart, but he knew her heart was someone else's. 1:30. The class would be starting now.
He decided to close his eyes for a bit, and the next thing he knew was a sharp knock on his door. He sat up abruptly and looked at his alarm clock. 2:48.
Running a hand through his messy hair, he walked over and opened the door to reveal Elizabeth with her fist in the air, poised for another knock. "Finally," she said. "What the hell took you so long?"
"I was asleep. What...what are you doing here?" Henry moved aside as she stormed past him into his room.
"I could ask you the same thing," she countered. "You told Dr. Rice you had a family emergency."
Henry opened his mouth to respond, but Elizabeth rounded on him, and he was left to gape at her as she let out all her pent-up frustration. "What is going on with you? Less than a week ago you were all heart-eyed in the library and asking me out, and now you've flipped a total 180. You've barely spoken a word to me all week and then you call out of the one class we happen to share-what happened, Henry?"
It broke his heart to see the hurt and confusion in her eyes, but it didn't erase the pain of her dishonesty. And more importantly, what it meant that she could be dishonest at all. His eyes hardened. "I went to your Pride and Prejudice ball," he said. "That's what happened."
Elizabeth squinted at him. "What?"
"You said you had to go to Becky's Pride and Prejudice ball, but you weren't there."
Elizabeth realized how that must have looked, but she still felt like there was a piece missing. "You're mad at me...because I didn't go to a ball? I don't...no, that doesn't explain it. Something else is going on here. What's the truth?"
"That is the truth, dammit-"
"Don't lie to me, Henry."
"I can't lie to you!" The words were out of his mouth before he could stop himself. Elizabeth froze unblinking, her eyes locked on his. "I can't lie to you," he repeated softly, "but you lied to me about the ball. That's what's been bothering me all week."
Elizabeth stared at him a moment more, mouth agape as she processed the gravity of what he was saying. Then it seemed to all click for her, and she took in a breath like she was coming back to life. "I had to write a paper."
"I was going to the ball, or I thought I was when you talked to me, but then on Saturday I realized I had forgotten to write down the due date for a paper for my English Lit class."
His eyes lit up with hope even as he warned himself not to be naive. He wanted to be naive. "So you didn't lie to me?"
She shook her head. "I didn't. But, Henry…" she twisted her hands together as her brain worked a mile a minute. "Remember when it was the anniversary of my parents' death and you asked me what was wrong? And I just told you. I was so ready to make something up or tell you I was fine but I-I couldn't. I didn't even realize it then, but it makes so much sense now." She looked nervously up and found him beaming down at her. She couldn't help but smile shyly back.
All of a sudden, Henry had stopped forward and pulled her in. His arms wrapped tightly around her and she quickly mirrored his actions. "I knew you were mine weeks ago," he said, "but then I thought I wasn't yours. I thought that some strange twist of fate…"
Elizabeth pulled back just far enough to look him in the eye. "Nope, no strange twists," she said. "You're my soulmate."
"And you're mine." With one arm still on her lower back, he slid the other up toward her neck. He leaned forward, slow enough to let her be the one to close the gap between them. She wasted no time in doing so, and their lips met in the tenderest of kisses. He felt more than heard her gasp and his fingers tangled in her hair, wanting her as close as possible. When they finally pulled back, it felt all too soon.
"So when are you taking me to dinner?" asked Elizabeth.
Henry smiled. "That depends. What does your schedule look like right now?"
She laughed. "I'm totally available. But I'm not dressed for a fancy dinner."
"Then forget the fancy dinner. What about bowling? They've got some killer burgers at Valley Lanes."
"Sounds wonderful. Anything sounds wonderful, as long as it involves me and you and doesn't involve Jane Austen."
Henry groaned. "God, no. No more Jane Austen."
"Let's go," she said, pulling him toward the door. He stole one last glance at her gorgeous smile as they walked out the door, his heart lighter than it had been all week, or maybe ever. He was going on a date with Elizabeth Adams, his soulmate. It could only get better from here.