Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: Saved by the Bell
Character/Pairing: Slater/Jessi, Zack/Jessi, hinted Zack/Kelly
Challenge/Prompt: 1_million_words June Bingo Challenge: Free Space: Soul Mates and whatif_au 3: Soul Mates
Word Count: 1,546
Date Written: 27 June 2017
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Peter Engel, not the author, and are used without permission.
She's aware of their stares as she gets dressed. She makes eye contact with none of them. She won't give them power over her, and she knows they're just waiting for an opportunity. It's a sad world, she thinks, where people blessed with higher intellects are also cursed to be targets for those with lesser smarts. She's proud of her intelligence, though, and she won't back down. She won't give them power over her or allow them to change her in any way. Instead, one day, she's going to change them and this whole country.
She only slows her ritual of getting dressed and keeping her head down when she's pulling on her socks. Her fingertips brush the birthmark on her ankle, and for a moment, Jessi finds herself staring at the tiny initials that look as though they have been embroidered with ink onto her flesh. She stares at the three, tiny letters and traces them with her fingertips.
She's known girls who have waited their entire childhoods in breathless eagerness to see the initials of their soul mates show up on their skin. Little girls are more eager to receive their birthmarks than they are to have their breasts grow -- or the truly important thing, in Jessi's mind, their brains. And once they have their initials, too many of them will stop at nothing to find the man they're supposedly destined to marry and please him. None of them think about making them please them or about at least becoming their equal.
She will never be one of them, Jessi vows yet again, covering up her birthmark. Just because some idiot's initials are on her foot does not mean she has to marry him, wait on him hand and foot, or in any way, shape, or form allow her life to bend around his. She does not have to adhere to what is expected of her. She is her own woman, and she will make her own way in this world.
Finishing lacing on her shoes, Jessi turns and sees several of the other girls staring at her. She holds her head up higher, her chin jutting out defiantly, and dares to meet their gaze. They look quickly away. They know whose initial is on her ankle, and many of them would give everything they possess to have her initials instead of their own. They're fools, Jessi knows, all fools, because having his initials on her skin is not an honor. If she allowed them to be, they could be a curse instead, but she won't let her birthmark have any control over her life. She won't let him have any control over her!
Her head held high and proud, she walks out of the girl's locker room and just barely feels something whizzing toward her head. "JESSI!" her best friend shouts her name. Jessi turns, grabs the ball, and throws it back at the meathead who's chasing it. Slater catches it and stares at her in surprise.
"Next time," she snaps at him, "be more careful!" Ripping her eyes away from his handsome, startled face, she keeps walking.
"Hey," he calls after her, "I wasn't the one who threw it!"
"Maybe not, but you're one of the meatheads playing with it!"
"Why do you hate sports?!"
"Why do you love them?! Oh, I forgot!" she snaps, still not looking back at him. "They're one of the few fields left open for people with your kind of intellect!"
She hears his team mates laugh. She almost feels sorrow for him. Something does pain her heart, but she pushes the feeling angrily away. She is not his woman nor will she ever be his! If she ever chooses to take a serious boyfriend, he may not have the muscles Slater has or the good looks, but he will be far more intelligent! She'll be able to hold an actual conversation with him, and if she's genuinely lucky, he'll make her think in ways nobody else ever has. Regardless, that person is not and will never be A.C. Slater -- even if it is ACS that is marked upon her foot!
She slams through the gymnasium's doors and strides out into the hallway. She only stops moving when she reaches her locker and then, with a sigh, she leans her forehead against the cool, smooth metal.
"Hey. You okay?" The unexpected voice makes her jump, and she blushes to see it's only her best friend, peering at her in concern. She'd forgotten he had called to her when the ball had been zooming toward her head.
"Yeah." Her head moves from side to side as she shakes herself. She sighs again. "I'm fine."
Zack's hand on her shoulder is so soft, comforting -- more soft and comforting than any man's hand should be. Jessi shrugs him off. He doesn't say a word, only watches as she pulls out of her locker what she needs. She shuts it again with another sigh, and finally she whispers the thought that plagues her every day of her life, "Why do I have to have his initials?"
She's still not looking at Zack, but she can practically feel him shrug. "Because, like it or not, he's your soul mate."
"Easy for you to say," she snaps. "Kelly Kapowski has yours."
"Yeah, I know."
She can hear his beaming smile in his tone of voice and rolls her eyes. "Shut up," she growls at him, but a playful smile tugs at her lips.
"Walk you home?" he asks softly, reaching for her books.
She lets him take them and falls into step beside him. "But, seriously, why Slater? Why, out of all the men God has put on this Earth, did it have to be him?"
"Have you ever thought that maybe it's some other ACS?"
"Only every day of my life since Slater moved here," Jessi answers truthfully, "but you already know that! But still . . . " She sighs again. "Why him? And why are the initials on our ankles? Why not on our hips? Or your hips? Why even be on the women only?"
Zack grins. "Maybe you can answer all those questions for us when you run this country."
"You really think I'm going to make it?"
"Jessi, I know you. You've been my best friend since Kindergarten! If you want to be President, you're going to be President! Whatever you want, you're going to make it happen! And that's why I know you're not going to let somebody's initials being on your foot change anything! You're only ever marry or even date this ACS guy if you choose to."
Jessi sighs. "You're right, of course," she admits, beginning to smile, but then a thought whispers, unbidden, through her mind. It doesn't help that he's so handsome. She stops walking as she remembers the way he looked at her, his dark eyes alight, his strong hands grabbing that ball as though he was angry at the object instead of the idiot who'd thrown it for coming so close to hurting her.
"What?" Zack asks softly. He looks around them, but he doesn't see anything. Then he realizes that it has to be something remarkable she's thinking, and he stops walking entirely and stares at her. "What is it, Jess?"
She shakes her head and blinks rapidly, determined to focus on the present and anything other than AC Slater. "N-Nothing."
"You're lying," he states simply.
"Fine! Okay! So he is kinda cute!" Zack's blue eyes widen. "But he's dumb as an ox!" Jessi quickly adds. "No way! That guy is not my future!"
"No," Zack agrees, holding her books a little closer to his chest. "You've always said your future is what you make of it and it's going to be beautiful. You're going to turn this whole country on its ear."
"It is going to be beautiful, and I'm going to be the most important woman in history since Susan B. Anthony!"
"More important," Zack urges, "than whoever that is!"
Jessi smiles. She'll tell him Susan B. Anthony's story again later, not now. Now, she just needs to get Slater's handsome, goofy, stupid face out of her head! "I'm going to rule this country," she declares, "and I'm going to save the women and the animals!"
"Yes! Yes," Zack agrees, grinning widely, "you are, and I'm going to be right behind you the whole way!" And the whole time, too, he knows, even if he never says anything aloud, he'll wonder why she had to have ACS show up on her ankle, instead of ZM. He knows in the end, though, it doesn't really matter. Kelly will never have his heart, even if she has his mark, and Slater will have no Jessi. She's too smart to take any man ever beside her. Unfortunately, that includes him, but he'll be right behind her their whole lives, hoping to help wherever she'll allow him and hoping, praying, that some day, by some miracle, she'll finally realize he loves her and, by an even greater miracle if he's that lucky, she'll come to realize she loves him too, even if only a little bit. For such a remarkable woman as Jessi, even a little bit will be enough to last Zack his whole life.