For a trope prompt request, [personal profile] skygiants asked me for a soulmate AU with George Orwell. Normally, I don't much care for soulmate AUs, because for me more often than not they take half the fun out of the ostensible ship. But in this case, Eileen O'Shaughnessy was an incredible woman in her own right, who died tragically during a hysterectomy, and it's not too much of a stretch to rewrite their first meeting as soulmate RPF -- of the kind where your soulmate's life flashes before your eyes the first time you touch.

if that is granted, all else follows

It's an otherwise dull party in an overcrowded Parliament Hill flat. She'd only been invited to make up the numbers, one of a gaggle of UCL students crammed into every nook and corner of this nondescript slice of Hampstead. But then she shakes a young man's hand -- and it isn't an ordinary party any longer.

For all that the stories about soulmates talk about that first touch, that moment where the other person's entire life flashes before your eyes so quickly that it takes your breath away like a punch to the gut...no description that relies on words is an adequate representation of what Eileen feels when the seedy-looking young man takes her hand in his. Because what they don't tell you is that you see their entire life -- even the bits that you weren't part of, the bits that you could not have and will never see -- spun out before you, flashing through your mind faster than a film reel run at a hundred thousand times the normal speed.

A desperately lonely little boy with a raw, dripping nose, scraping the last bit of cold and lumpy porridge from a cheap boarding school's cracked bowl. The dusty road of a colonial outpost, like a scar on the otherwise lush green of a Far East jungle. A filthy transient camp, men and women huddled around braziers for warmth among piles of hops. Bedbugs crushed between grimy fingernails. A bandage blooming red and black with blood, wrapped around his throat. Speckled hen's eggs, almost steaming with residual heat, cradled in his hands. The steel glint of a microphone in an empty broadcasting room. The scratch of pen on paper, punctuated with the echo of a thick, wet cough. And the flat beachhead of a windswept northern island -- and that desperate loneliness once again, stronger now with that sense of a bond broken, a soulmate lost.

He'll outlive her, she knows. But not by much.

(Is that meant to be a comfort? Or is it yet another cruelty that the two of them will have to brace against, in the time that they'll have together?)

The shell-shocked look in his eyes, when they both resurface from the initial bond, must be a mirror of her own. She's the first to recover enough to speak.

'Eileen O'Shaughnessy,' she says, a little breathlessly. Some part of her mind tells her that it's silly to do so. He knows her, after all; the name's a mere formality. 'It's nice to meet you at last, Eric.'

The smile he gives her is by no means beautiful, but it's all for her, always for her, and the press of his hand in hers is strong and determined in a way that fills every part of her soul with delight.

'Call me George,' he says, and the world opens up before them.


Notes

Orwell dearly loved Eileen and was completely devastated by her death. He died only five years after she did. Listing all of the references I've incorporated here would make the notes longer than the fic, so here are some sources for further reading if you're curious about the events hinted at by Eileen:

- 'Such, Such Were the Joys' (1952)
- Down and Out in Paris and London (1933)
- Homage to Catalonia (1938)
- The Orwell Diaries (1938–1942)
- Collected Essays, Letters and Journalism of George Orwell (1968–1970)

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