She was told of the marking in a passing remark from her mother about how once she turned eighteen she'd start seeing the scars, scrapes, and bruises of the person she was meant to be with for the rest of her days. If their bond was particularly strong, she would feel their pain. Alice regarded the marking with suspicion as she grew older; her tumultuous household showed her earlier that love was not the beautiful sweeping courtship so often shown in books and art. Love hurt. Her mother's love for her father kept her with a drunken bully who didn't care about leaving marks on his wife's skin, or the skin of his children.
After she turned twelve, after the night when Alice finally had enough of her father's abuse, when her mother's apathy at her children's suffering had pushed her eldest daughter over the edge; Alice ran away from the only home she knew, she was all too glad that the marking didn't happen until after her eighteenth birthday. It would have been too cruel to force her childhood on someone she didn't even know.
Not that Alice believed she'd ever get someone. She turned eighteen and while her body bore scars, they were her own. She believed in science, she believed in the marking, science couldn't explain the phenomenon, but Alice put her faith in what she could see. No new marks appeared and a very small part of her grew heavy with disappointment. She didn't believe she'd get a soulmate, but she'd hoped she was wrong.
When the war began, she couldn't escape it in the latter half of her schooling as more and more of her classmates left, some never returning. Her hands started to develop calluses that weren't pathology related. She woke some days to bruised knuckles and scrapes on her forearms. It seemed fate chose someone for her after all.
Whomever it was, they stayed safe. From the bruises and scrapes, Alice hazard a guess that her soulmate was a soldier, serving in the war. Thankfully, their time at the front never harmed them harshly. Her soldier was incredibly lucky, aside from the bruises and odd bullet graze (those always stung sharply when she received those marks), Alice almost forgot that she had a soulmate.
The war ended and Alice moved on from her schooling to take up pathology full time. She found more comfort in the dead than she did the living. The living were… complicated, the dead were dead. Her soulmate picked a relatively quiet life after the war (Alice couldn't help - and didn't want to talk about - the increase in her heartbeat, thudding hard against her ribcage when the marks continued after the end of the war, they were alive), their marks coming every so often in the form of bruised and bloodied knuckles, abrasions, and the occasional sharp slice of a knife.
Life went on. Alice buried herself in her work, never actively seeking out her soulmate. It wasn't that she ignored them, no, on her more stressful nights she'd trail her fingers over the calluses and older scars, grounding her in a way she couldn't do on her own. She never actively sought them because something inside her told her they'd find each other. It was a feeling she couldn't explain. It was something she didn't exactly like, her life built on science and hard facts, but it helped her focus on crawling her way up through a male-dominated field.
Jobs in pathology for a woman doctor were scarce and so Alice found herself traveling often, never in one place for very long. She considered going back into research, maybe go back and see how her old mentor was doing in Melbourne, when notice came of an opening in Ballarat. That feeling that she couldn't explain, the one that helped her focus and comforted her on harder days, flared to life in her chest after lying dormant for years. It settled in between her ribs and pulled, calling her to the sleepy gold-rush town. Before her mind caught up to what her heart told her to do, Alice filled out an application for the pathologist opening and sent it to the hospital. Who knew what adventure lie in wait for her.
Always a quiet boy, Matthew listened to the Father's explanation of the marking with rapt attention. He looked forward to turning eighteen, relished that he'd have someone there for him, even if not physically. He'd had friends come and go, more of them leaving than staying (a stray thought in the back of his mind wondered if Lucien would ever remember him), and with McAvoy belting him every chance he got, Matthew definitely looked forward to having someone on his side. He waited, the thought of his future marking and soulmate beating a regular tattoo around his head through the scuffles with McAvoy, the pervading disappointment his father held for him every time he came home with another black eye or bruised abdomen and didn't stick up for himself, and the slowly disappearing funds his father used on gambling and drinking.
He took care of his younger sister, Vera, and looked after his worn down mother as his father stayed out later and later, and McAvoy's fists hit harder and harder. In the back of his mind, Matthew was glad the marking didn't happen before eighteen, he didn't wish any of his past on another person, let alone his soulmate. His eighteenth birthday passed and he waited as patiently as he could for the marking. It would take a couple of years, but eventually Matthew woke up to strange calluses he never remembered acquiring and sometimes he felt the tiny pinpricks of pain that usually accompanied the sharp nails of cats.
He'd had a laugh at that; his soulmate owned a cat, and a fiesty one at that. Accompanying the scratch marks and calluses, he often could feel the tight, bruising pain of someone's hands wrapping around his biceps or forearms. The dark blue-green and purple bruises in the shape of fingers troubled him, his own memories of bullies resurfacing unintentionally. On those days, Matthew tended to snap more, his heart aching at the thought of someone manhandling the other person on the end of the thin string of fate tying the two of them together. Sometimes - later more and more - bruises formed on his knuckles after the bruises on his arms and a burst of pride warmed his chest. Whomever they were, they were a fighter.
War broke out and Matthew's police training momentarily derailed as he signed up to fight the Germans. Basic training left him with more scrapes, bruises, and sore muscles than he'd ever experienced up until this point in his life. He relished in the ache in his muscles, glad he could do something in the war effort. He knew his soulmate could feel it too and so Matthew made an effort to take care of himself more than he probably would have normally.
His soulmate was careful and cautious, never really injuring themselves. Sometimes Matthew forgot he had a soulmate, but they'd sneak back into his thoughts with the tiny pricks of pain on his fingertips - a sewing needle - and the claws of their cat kneading on his shoulders or stomach. When he finally was sent abroad for the war, he took comfort in these brief insights into his soulmate, relieved when they were never seriously injured. They were safe.
Matthew survived the war relatively unscathed, unlike some of his brothers in arms, and gladly returned to Australia to try to pick up the pieces of his former life. He resumed his police training, keeping his head down as he worked his way up through the ranks in the years after the war. His soulmate's calluses, thin and oddly placed on his fingertips, toughened, the hand marks on their arms sometimes returned, but not as often as they had been before the war.
Matthew returned his fair share of marks, particularly in his days as a constable in Melbourne and later his hometown of Ballarat. Stubborn suspects often gave him a hard time, assuming his quiet nature for weakness. He set them right, usually coming out with bruised knuckles in the end. As he rose in the ranks, the bruised and bleeding knuckles happened less as the paperwork increased.
His work as Chief Superintendent had him behind a desk more than he liked, but Matthew took the limitation in stride. The marks he shared with his soulmate were more papercuts than bruises and by the amount of stinging small cuts they gave him, Matthew assumed they shared his pain in the neverending paperwork. On the worst days, or the days he felt would never end, Matthew had half a mind to pack up everything and go find his soulmate. He knew time would bring them together eventually, but another part of him pushed to follow that pull in his chest towards them. Matthew tamped down on that part, he was a patient man and time would tell who his soulmate was meant to be. All he had to do was wait.
1958 arrived and with it an old childhood friend, Lucien Blake, now a doctor and his usual jovial outlook on life shadowed by the war and his mysterious life in the decades since they'd last seen each other. After his father's death, Lucien took over the medical practice and police surgeon role Thomas Blake had left vacant; the younger, more scandalous Blake quickly becoming a permanent fixture in Matthew's police station.
Lucien left for China unexpectedly and left those closest to him to pick up the pieces. Life quieted in the months of his absence and then settled into a routine. Parks got called to Melbourne, Charlie Davis sent in his stead to keep an eye on things in Ballarat, Mattie dove into social work, and Jean kept the Blake household running until Lucien returned. She stopped by the police station often, making sure Matthew ate and took a well needed break. He was glad for her company, happy that she and Lucien had finally found each other (and now those rebuffs to his date offers years before made sense, she was waiting for her soldier, for Lucien), and so took her home cooking without complaint and listened to the gossip she provided him on his lunch breaks.
Nearly three months passed and Lucien arrived back in Ballarat just in time for the newly re-elected mayor to be murdered and his old friend cooking up conspiracy theories around Tyneman's involvement.
"Glad I'm back?" Lucien's cheeky grin managed to rise a slight smile out of Matthew.
"I'll let you know."
Lucien settled back into their strangely knit group with the ease of a cat on a windowsill in the sun. He certainly made Matthew's job a little harder, but he welcomed the challenge after so many months of monotony. Word got to him of a new pathologist by way of Mattie, who stopped by to drop off a thermos of tea from Jean one night, and Matthew conveniently forgot to tell his old friend about Doctor Harvey.
"You knew about her?"
"I hear she takes some getting used to."