Twin Soul

Twin Soul

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Character Portrait: Noah Birch

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Noah Birch
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Noah loved dancing. The feeling of weightlessness as he jumped, the heavy pressure of air as he spun. Ballet had always been his favourite. The body of a dancer was their temple, something to keep perfect. Noah's however, was covered in scars. Along his arms and chest were small scars, some older than others, familiar to those who knew how they were placed there. Except in Noah's case, the scars weren't his own. In the world that Noah lived in most people had soulmates. Usually, two though sometimes one or even none at all, soulmates were people who were perfect for you. The lover soulmate who you shared your mind and heart with, the first words you heard from them on your body, anything drawn on yourself appearing on them as well. Then there was your platonic soulmate, usually a different person though sometimes on occasion both. Your platonic soulmate was someone you could share your body with. Your pain became theirs, your scars their scars.

It was this reason why Noah had scars, this reason why he was looked down on as a dancer. Not that anyone knew it wasn't his scars that stood so boldly on his skin. No, his soulmate had done them, and he wore them as evidence that wherever his soulmate was, they were hurting. Noah supposed maybe he had another soulmate, he wondered how they would feel. Like him not possessing a mark of first words, the drawings would come later but Noah didn't bare the words of his soulmate. He'd never hear his soulmates voice, well he never heard anything anyway. Noah didn't hear the sound of the music that he danced to or the sound of his feet hitting the floor after he'd leapt.

Noah ignored all of that going through his mind as he continued his routine. It was a day his dance class welcomed the 'fresh meat'. A performance from the more senior members was supposed to give them an idea of what to expect. Each senior was given a genre to cover. Noah had been given ballet. He finished with set with penché a move where he stands with his right leg en pointe (on his tiptoes) and his second leg well above 90 degrees behind him before quickly dropping his leg and spinning until abruptly stopping and falling to his knees. His breathing heavy and body covered with sweat he focuses on his classmates and tries to hide the disappointment. They aren't clapping, they never clap. He tried so hard, and they never clap. With a small bow, Noah left the area stepping off to the side to grab his water bottle ignoring the feeling of inadequacy at the lack of feedback.

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Leo Young
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"You're gonna be late if you don't leave- nevermind, you're already late." "Yeah, I know, shut up! Jesus." xx
Leo sees Keaton's middle finger through his brother's open door and returns the gesture. He knows he's late. The only reason Keaton's not late is because he chose afternoon classes on account of him working nights and wanting to sleep in. Lucky bastard. Leo grabs his stuff and shoves his feet into the first pair of shoes he sees, shouting out a half-assed "later" to his brother before heading out the door, barely pausing to lock up. xx
Leo isn't normally late to class. But, of course, the one time he forgets to set an alarm just so happens to be the first day of the new semester and therefore, the first day of Modern Performing Arts and Dance, the only class he's actually somewhat excited for. And why wouldn't he be? It's dance. He gets to learn about dance, maybe show off a bit bc hey, he's pretty fit. And all the dance majors he's met are lovely, gorgeous, graceful people. If watching beautiful people dance and getting credits for doing so isn't the best thing ever, what is? xx
Unfortunately, he'd been out late last night and passed the fuck out as soon as he got home. He hadn't even drank, but he'd still been tired enough to forget to set an alarm. And now he's late. On the first day of class. xx
He walks into the dance studio with the air of someone who believes in being "fashionably late" and luckily for him, no one seems to care, aside from the professor who still only glances his way. Everyone's gathered against a far wall to watch what he assumes are the senior student's example performances, and he sneaks his way over to the horde, settling in to observe. Wow, these guys are pretty damn good. Leo seems to have arrived toward the end of one performance, and he claps with everyone else while the dancers swap. xx
Next up is a tall, muscular boy with long hair tucked (mostly) up into a bun, and even from a short distance away, Leo's eyes are instantly drawn to a spattering of scars across his arms and chest. He's stunning. The music starts, and he moves with the beats, starting slouched on the floor and sliding into jumps like his body weighs nothing at all. His movements are smooth but move into dramatic leaps, telling a story of pain even without the song pumping through speakers around him. Leo is mesmerized, and very, very, very impressed. xx
The dance ends with the boy on his knees, and Leo instantly claps as the music fades. He's the only person who does. "The fuck?" He blurts out, several sets of eyes snapping to him. "Why's no one else clapping? He was absolutely amazing." The students standing closest to him shift nervously. "Well, what's the point in clapping? He can't hear us anyway." "What?" "That guy? That's Noah Birch. He's completely deaf." xx
Leo gives the girl speaking a disgusted look, and she takes a few steps back. He can't help the reaction. He majors in Interpretation for ASL, has known deaf and mute and HOH people his whole life, and he can't help being sick of this kind of bullshit. "Are you serious? He's deaf, not blind, idiot. He knows what clapping means and probably feels singled out when you people clap for everyone else but him." The students around him are taken aback but, one by one, they start to clap, if a bit half-assedly. He grins. "Thank you." xx

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Noah Birch
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Noah takes a long gulp of water and shifts his shoulders to work out some tension between his blades. Making a mental note to focus on them during stretches he turns to move to the back of the class when out of the corner of his eye he notices the movement. Clapping. People were clapping, for him. He can't help but smile to himself for once being appreciated for what he did when his eyes fully focus on the crowd. Tense body language, eyes shifting from the floor to a figure at the back. Woah, Noah's eyes settle on a guy who seems to be pure muscle. He can appreciate a fine specimen when he sees it. But he has other things to do. It was tradition after they danced to bow directly to the teacher and take on feedback. His teacher whilst strict still appreciated the tradition in dance and eager to comply Noah headed over to the teacher.

He bowed before the woman and stood up straight a smile on his face before it soon faded. She had completely ignored him. A glance yes but no returning head nod like she did with the rest and no note of what he could improve on. He hadn't perfected the art of lip-reading but he considered himself able to understand someone speaking to him. 'Oh,' He thought. Maybe she wanted to write it down? Usually hearing people just assumed he'd offer a way of communication and since this was his first day with a new teacher maybe she didn't want to assume. Used to this Noah rushed over to his bag and took out his communication pad. He approached her again bowing before he typed out a question to present to the teacher he wanted to know if she would consider that performance for the showcase the following week..... Only for her to narrow her eyes at him. "Get that out of my face. You waste my time. I waste my time even saying such. Deaf dancer, hah!"

Noah was mostly glad that he didn't get all that she was saying but he got the gist of it all. His shoulders slumped as he pulled the pad to his chest as if burnt. He just put on a big smile and bowed at her again before turning to leave and do his stretches. His sign name wasn't Smile for nothing! He supposed.

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Leo Young
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Leo wants to laugh at how awkward the clapping is, but he settles for a smirk. Honestly though, refusing to clap just because the guy can't hear? So stupid! Not being able to hear doesn't automatically make you immune to social cues. Then again, most of society isn't raised in a mindset of working with people who are different, so he really shouldn't be that surprised. Leo catches Noah looking back, watching the dancers clap with their awkward poses and intimidated expressions. He smiles, and yeah, the intimidation was worth it. Leo would kill to see that smile again, God, he's fucking beautiful! xxx
Leo smiles when Noah's gaze lands on him, if only briefly, and he watches Noah even when he turns away. Leo's momentary euphoria watching Noah is pretty much instantly shattered as he observes the interaction between Noah and the professor. The lady barely even looks at him when he first walks up, and because the next performance hasn't started yet, there's no music to drown out her blatant discrimination. Leo's blood boils, and he's halfway across the room by the time Noah sits down again. Noah's smiling a different smile. xx
Leo stops by Noah, tapping him on the shoulder to grab his attention, and smiling bright as can be before turning to the professor and schooling his expression into something far more menacing. He walks over to the desk and towers over the professor in her chair, though he stands angled so Noah can see his hands, and as he speaks, he signs the words with fluid motions. "Excuse me, ma'am." The woman looks up at him and smiles sweetly. "Yes, young man?" Fucking two-faced liars. "I'd like to remind you that it's your job as a teacher to accommodate your students and help them learn the best way they can. Your blatant mocking and disrespect of Noah Birch is uncalled for. I can and will report you for discrimination." xxx
The professor looks shocked, and Leo continues before she can speak against him. "You're a dancer, I assume? You value the culture of it? Well, I'm here to remind you that some of the best dancers in history have been either deaf or hard of hearing. Simone Botha Welgemoed, Nyle DiMarco, Chris Fonseca, Bailey Anne Vincent, Michele Wiles. Hearing the music is only part of what dance is, and clearly it isn't the important part, because plenty of dancers are excelling without it. I may not have seen any of the other performances today, but Noah? He was amazing, and you didn't even watch." xx
"His movements are beautifully smooth and controlled, his jumps are powerful and his transitions are seamless. The amount of strength it takes to move like that is incredible, and you can see a story in the dance without the music even being necessary. He's going off the beats alone. If you can't see when one of your own students is excelling at what you're supposed to be teaching then frankly, you shouldn't be a teacher at all." Leo swears some of the other students gasp, but he refuses to pull punches. xx
"So, Madame Bon-Bon, I would suggest you treat all your students equally. Think you can do that?" xx

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Noah Birch
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Noah was focusing on trying to hide his disappointment and by the time he feels a tap on his shoulder, he doesn't even notice who it was. Looking up and seeing such an honest smile he suddenly feels miles better. He wasn't sure who this person was but wow he had an amazing smile. Then, the angel that stood before him started to sign, not just sign but sign and he's unable to look away. He steps closer for a better view and a better view he gets. Watching the teachers face go from confused to angry to curious to angry again in the space of a few seconds and Noah swears he's going to disappear. Did this stranger really say those things about him, for him?! The look on the students around me says he did. The burning Noah feels is his face turning a shade of deep red as he just stares at Leo mouth open. He's so focused he misses what the teacher says unable to follow the words.

"Whilst your backchat is a sin in my studio I understand what you are trying to say. However, young man, in this class I expect my students to be dancing whilst I give instructions. My teaching plan is unsuited for those who cannot understand when I say an order. Not to mention Mr Birch here as a long history of being unable to dance with a partner, communication being one and unable to stay in rhythm without the music being too loud. Whilst I have to try to accommodate all students I cannot allow one special case to bring down the grade of my other dancers. Do you understand me? Mr Birch has refused interpretation services as I have been told and whilst he is a good dancer partnered dance, the ones I focus on here is past his skills. Do I make myself clear?"

Noah just blinks at her lips having been lost for most of that but still able to understand. He was grateful for Leo's attempt but the woman was right. Signing softly
Thanks but she's right. I can't afford an interpreter and no one will dance with me. He signed a small symbol that was basically ASL slang for lost cause before turning and heading over to the corner starting to stretch before he cooled down fully.

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Leo Young
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Leo frowns as he listens to the professor's response, frowns deeper when Noah himself calls it a lost cause. Lost cause?! No way in hell is Leo settling on this shit. xx
"I understand, but I'm not backing down, because you have a perfect solution right here in front of you. I'm fluent in sign, I can interpret. I'll talk to him and see if he's willing to partner up with me. And I can get my brother in here to help him understand the tempo of the music if there are times when both of us will be dancing at the same time. Solved." xx
The professor doesn't seem particularly pleased, but she doesn't argue with him, so Leo smiles a venomous smile and bows to her, 100% sarcastically, before finding Noah again. The rest of the class goes about their business with hushed whispers while Leo crouches in front of Noah, grabbing his attention to sign. I offered to be your interpreter for this class, if that's alright with you. I'm L-e-o Y-o-u-n-g, Cat. And if you'd be willing to have me on a trial basis, I would love the chance to be your dance partner for the semester. xx

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Noah Birch
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Noah stays stretching his legs as Leo comes over and glances up at the signing keeping an eye on what he was saying but still stretching. He stands on his left leg pulling his right back and over his head not needing anything to balance. He easily lets go of his leg keeping it in place to reply making the flexibility seem almost effortless. Revealing just how skilled of a dancer he really is. You are welcome to try. I can't afford to pay you and I don't make a good partner. He changed legs and stretched that one before bending backwards into a crab to stretch his shoulders. Unable to sign for a moment or two.

When he was done he sat cross-legged in front of Leo and smiled this time more genuine. Thanks. For what you did. I'm N-O-A-H B-I-R-C-H, smile. So how much dancing have you done before?

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Leo Young
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You are welcome to try. I can't afford to pay you and I don't make a good partner. Leo shakes his head. It works out, because I don't want you to pay me. This is to make your life a little easier. And maybe to get back at that teacher for being terrible. Besides, you seem like a wonderful person, I'd like to get to know you. And I may or not like watching you dance. xx
Leo watches Noah stretch and holy shit, this guy is fit. How does he make stretching like that look so easy?! Their conversation lulls for a bit while Leo admires Noah and then Noah is back, sitting and smiling that oh so beautiful smile, and Leo's pretty sure he'd like to ask him out on a date. Thanks. For what you did. I'm N-O-A-H B-I-R-C-H, smile. So how much dancing have you done before? Don't apologize, no one deserves that treatment. Especially you. Leo should have guessed that Noah's sign name is Smile- it fits him perfectly. I've never actually done dance outside of the fun kinds you do in kindergarten. I wanted to try something new and dance seemed interesting enough. I figure I'm fit enough to be... decent. xxx
They don't have much time to chat, much to Leo's disappointment, but class begins and Leo has the time of his life anyways. Bitch or not, the professor knows what she's talking about, and Leo gets to watch Noah the whole time while he translates her directions. He ignores the eyes on him- this isn't their business. This is for Noah. Leo's smitten, and Noah keeps smiling at him- Leo wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world. xxx

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Noah Birch
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Noah grinned at Leo as he signed and couldn't help but blush slightly and the words the guy was saying. He'd never had anyone stand up for him before and it was refreshing to be actually able to understand what was going on. Not have to strain to see what the teacher was saying and he found he could actually focus more on what he was doing. His form, he noted, could use a little work but otherwise, he thought he was covered when it came to the ballet portion of the class. Leo, he noted, Leo could use a bit of guidance. When the teacher asked for a pile he noted that the guy did have potential. He stepped over and stood behind Leo to help. His chest was pressed against the guys back as he tapped on the guy's arm and gestured for him to bring it up over his head. Almost. Arm up point the toe. Don't worry we don't just do ballet it's just a good warm-up.

He stepped back and eyed Leo's form before giving a thumbs up to his cute partner. His smile the brightest he'd been in a while and was about to return to what he was supposed to be doing when a familiar burning pain-racked itself across his arm. His face gave off the pain as to the naked eye his arm started to bleed a cut on his arm appearing out of nowhere. The others in the class all stopping and staring at him as he moved and cupped his arm to his chest trying to stop the bleeding. Couldn't his soulmate pick a better time?

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Leo Young
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Leo's still in daydream-Nirvana from having Noah up against his back when gasps around the room catch his attention. He turns to see what all the fuss is about and finds Noah bleeding. How or why Leo has no idea, but he wastes no time pulling off his shirt and gently taking Noah's arm in his hands, wrapping the cloth tight around the wound on his wrist- a long cut straight across the vein. What on Earth? Does he self-harm? Why?! Leo doesn't ask, just focuses on wrapping the wound. xx
Once he's satisfied, he takes a step back so his hands are fully visible. You should go to the infirmary. That's a lot of blood to lose, and you'll need it to be wrapped up better than that. I can go with you. xxx
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Keaton Young
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Keaton watches the streaks of blood run over his skin, drowns out all other thoughts to fixate on the stinging pain, the warmth of the blood, the way his fingers are trembling. There are drops on the tiled bathroom floor but Keaton doesn't really register the mess, just stares at the cut until the pain isn't as intense and the blood has started to dry. Only then goes he get up to clean the wound. The water brings back the pain, but it fades quickly, leaving him feeling hazy and out of it. The pain, the blood loss, the choices he's making in his life- the haze could be from any one of those, and Keaton really doesn't care either way. It's not like it matters. xxx
Unsurprisingly, self-harm isn't all that common in the world Keaton lives in. After all, so many people have another person attached to their pain that the idea of hurting themselves (and therefore, their soulmate) on purpose is... too much to bear, apparently. Keaton's never had that problem. He's never had any soulmates. xx
Most people are born with words on their arm: the first words your soulmate ever says to you. Of course, not all people are that fortunate- some are born without those special words, and are generally viewed as great tragedies because of it. Keaton is one of those people. His parents have soulmates, his twin brother Leo has a soulmate. But he does not. And that's fine. Keaton's actually grown quite sick of having the glory of soulmates, romantic and platonic, shoved down his throat at every turn like it's the only happiness he'll find. xx
Keaton scowls at his mental process, fishing a roll of white bandages out of the cupboard and wrapping his arm with practiced ease. Soulmates aren't the only way to find happiness in life. At least Leo believes that. Keaton's at the point where he's not actually sure happiness exists, period. The world seems a bit too fucked up- the idea that you'll meet the person meant for you and live happily ever after is just an escape from it all. xx

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Noah Birch
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Noah stares down at his arm with a sad look in his eyes. Somewhere, somehow his soulmate was hurting himself. Hurting enough to do this action and whilst he wished he could have chosen a better time still his thoughts fall to the person he wants to protect. He blinks and a shirt is being wrapped around his wrist. He blinks and looks up seeing Leo, his face a mixture of shock and pain before nodding thanks. You should go to the infirmary. That's a lot of blood to lose, and you'll need it to be wrapped up better than that. I can go with you .

Noah just shakes his head at the comment and turns to has bag grabbing it he storms out of the glass and without hesitation crosses the hall and heads straight for the bathroom. He didn't want to go to the nurse. Going to the nurse would offer questions he wasn't comfortable answering. Not to mention his parents, he shudders at the thought of his father, trying to explain that to him. Immediately at his heels is his best friend, his guide dog, Jack.

Noah jumps up to sit on the counter side Jack sitting in front of him looking up with sad puppy eyes. His bag is packed with a first-aid kit and Jack almost seems to nudge it closer to Noah to remind him. Noah smiles slightly and strokes the dogs head before going back to his work. It wasn't the first time it happened during class and it wouldn't be the last. He pulled off the shirt and with practised ease started to clean the wound. Okay, it wouldn't need stitches good. He dressed his arm and paused looking down at it. Sadness filled him and he tried to ignore the blurring in his vision from the tears. Oh, his poor soulmate. He wanted to hate them for what they were doing, for scaring his body but he knew why. His soulmate wouldn't have those words. I'm sorry, I can't talk to you, you have no words but I'm here. Please know I'm here. His silent prayer is never answered. He seems almost lost in his thoughts until a familiar weight rests on his leg. Jack resting his head on Noah looking up with his kind eyes knocks Noah out of his slump and he looks up just realising Leo is there.

You must be wondering what that was. He pauses for a second before gesturing to the other scars on his body. I only have one soulmate. They are both platonic and romantic. I can't talk, I can't hear. So he doesn't have words. I don't think he knows I'm real. He cuts, I bleed too. These are all his, not mine. Noah rested a hand on Jacks head, scratching behind the ears as he realised he'd used a pronoun. That wasn't really socially correct. But he knew deep down. He was gay there was no way his soulmate was a girl. Though regardless he wished they were happier.

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Leo Young
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Leo doesn't follow Noah right away. He's in shock, a bit, and he also wants to give Noah a few moments of privacy. It doesn't take long for curiosity and concern to overwhelm Leo, though, and he leaves the crowd of not very subtle whispering students and heads for the toilet. If Noah refuses to go to the nurse, well, what other place is there for him to go where he can treat a wound? xx
There are tears in Noah's eyes when Leo walks in, and his heart sinks. You must be wondering what that was. Yeah, Leo is hella curious. But... You don't have to tell me about if you don't want to. I just want to make sure you're alright. Noah smiles sadly and rubs his dog's ears - yeah, only now does Leo notice the dog sitting between them, perfectly behaved - before looking back at Leo and gesturing to the multitude of scars across his front. I only have one soulmate. They are both platonic and romantic. I can't talk, I can't hear. So he doesn't have words. I don't think he knows I'm real. He cuts, I bleed too. These are all his, not mine. Leo's sadness shows on his face for a short moment, and then he schools his expression. xx
He waits until Noah is looking at him again before he signs. This will probably feel out of place, but my brother was born without any soulmates. Not romantic, not platonic, none. People always looked at him like he was some big tragedy or something. But being different isn't tragic. Soulmates are weird, love itself is weird. Not everyone has soulmates and even some people who do still don't believe in it. And nothing is guaranteed. Leo scratches his head, feeling like he's getting nowhere with his pep talk. xx
I'm really bad at this. But what I'm trying to get across is that it's not weird at all, having a different connection with your soulmate than other people. If you meet him someday, I'm sure things will change. But if you don't, I think you should stop beating yourself up for this. Being deaf is a part of who you are and even if it affects your soulmate in a bad way, you still shouldn't be ashamed of it. xsx
Besides, people glorify soulmates way too much. Meeting your soulmate isn't the only thing that can make you happy, no matter what society has to say about it. Leo prays his words are actually helping. xx
He wonders what it's been like for Noah all this time, believing he's the cause of all his soulmate's pain. What if there are other things at play? You know, there's no proof they're self harming because of you. My brother couldn't care less about not having a soulmate- maybe your soulmate's the same, and something else in his life is leading him to self harm. After all, some of those scars look like they had to have been done by someone else. Leo gestures toward a few of Noah's more awkwardly placed scars. xx
As he gestures, his hands come mighty close to brushing Noah's skin, and Leo realizes how little space there is between them. He pulls his hand back, forcing down the embarrassment. Is it alright if I hug you? xx

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