"What are the odds, really," Erik mutters, but Jason's standing right behind him, so he can't back out now. He loads up the site and blinks at it; the background is black with glowing red hearts, and the text is white... and pink.
"I can barely even read this," Erik says, glancing over his shoulder at Jason. "If he's even alive, there's no reason he'd be doing this..."
"Just try it," Jason urges. "There's been lots of them over the years..."
"How about one that looks a little less like it was designed in--" He checks the blinking text at the top of the screen. "God. 'Online since 1996'? That explains a lot. It probably hasn't been touched since then, either."
"I looked around for others," Jason admits. "Most of them are empty, just spam sites. LostSeeker looked really good, but the last time I checked LostSeeker.com, it'd been squatted out from under them, so much for that. This one's been around the longest, people still check it all the time..."
"If they can find it under all the spam," Erik scoffs. "Look at this. 'Great deals on psychitrex psialis brand name boosters...'"
"'Meet hot soulmates now'?"
"I swear it didn't look like this back when--" Jason shuts his mouth. "Anyway. Maybe the admins just haven't been around to clean out the spam lately, that doesn't mean that nobody's checking the thing. The date boards have a better signal-to-noise ratio, they must clean those up more often."
Erik sighs, rubs at his eyes. "This website is giving me a migraine," he complains. "All right, fine. Fine. I'll just... be quick about it."
He goes through the "Find Your Lost Soulmate" pages until he finds the one for April 22, 2000. There are three posts on it already, and even that slight chance makes his gut clench and his heart jump straight into his throat, but the posts come from one domme, two subs, not him. Erik shakes his head. "What the hell's the use--"
"Just paste in the form and fill it out. Maybe nothing ever comes of it, but..."
Gender/gender expression: Male
Location at time of loss: Park View, Nebraska, United States
Time of loss: Between 12:00pm and 5:00pm, Central Time (-06:00)
Other details: I am a mutant, and have reason to believe my dominant might have been as well.
"That's it?" Jason asks, gently nudging Erik's shoulder. "You can add more if you want. A note or something. Tell him it wasn't your fault..."
"What's the point?" Erik shakes his head. "It's even more of a shot in the dark than everything else. And if he's really dead--"
"Don't think about it that way," Jason says. "Just close your browser and come on, I'll buy you a drink."
"Nothing too strong." Erik looks up at Jason, who raises an eyebrow. "I was thinking we could scene tonight. If you're up for that."
"Sure. So. Coffee?"
Erik's not counting off the strikes in his head-- getting worked over with a belt is always too fast for that, always takes too long for that-- but he knows it's different this time, and he knows it early on. Jason's belt is decorated with metal studs, thin flat ones, nothing too evil, but it's still covered in metal, and Jason still knows exactly how to use it. Erik can feel the sting of the studs, the zippy little rush of them as they fly through the air on the way to his ass and thighs, and it's better than usual, better than ever, maybe.
The weight of all those blows sinks in, heating his skin, making him want more and more and more, and Erik really should call a time out, worked up is not even close to how good he's feeling, fuck--
His hands clutch hard at the bedcovers, and he jerks forward, strangled groans working their way out of his throat, too late to stop now. He comes while he's trying not to, eyes shut tight, gasping, and Jason backs off immediately, belt dropping to the floor.
Erik barely manages a groan, collapsing to his forearms; his whole body's shaking, his legs feel weak. "Sorry," he pants, "sorry, didn't mean to--"
Jason's breathing pretty hard, too, but he doesn't move. "Don't do that, don't apologize, please don't apologize," he says. He sounds a little strangled himself. He goes over to Erik's nightstand, grabs out a hand towel, and sets it next to Erik on the bed. Erik cleans up some of the mess on the covers and then turns around, taking a very careful seat on a spot at the edge of the bed.
It would be way the hell past cowardly not to look at how Jason's doing after all that, so Erik doesn't shy away from looking. Jason's flushed, tense, hands jammed hard into his back pockets, which means the outline of his erection is that much more obvious under his jeans.
"Are you all right--" Jason starts, and Erik growls with a little frustration and reaches out for him, grabbing him by the belt loops and pulling him over. Jason's eyes go wide, and he stumbles, jerking his hands out from his pockets and grabbing Erik by the shoulders.
"Want me to back off?"
"That is literally the exact opposite of what I want," Jason says, low and breathless. "Erik--"
"Okay, then." Erik pops the button on Jason's fly, undoes the zipper. Jason groans, head tilted forward to watch, and when Erik gets his hand around Jason's cock, Jason bites down hard on his lower lip and tries to stifle a whimper.
He's seen this; he's watched Jason scening with people dozens of times. Touching him is practically as familiar as touching himself, except that it's not-- it's really, really not. He can't figure out where to look-- the rapid hot pace of his hand working Jason's cock, the flush on Jason's cheeks, the way his teeth have his lower lip caught and held tight... he wants everything at once, and this could be so good, this could be amazing, he could ask Jason for this, could beg Jason to let him push him over--
Oh, God, though, bad idea, such a bad idea, it's probably playing with enough fire just getting Jason off right now. Bringing power exchange in would be like playing with a supernova.
Jason's hands tighten on Erik's shoulders, and he sucks in a rough breath. "I'm close," he says, "you better be ready to dodge."
"I'm good here," Erik says, and Jason laughs, smile spreading all over his face, dimples showing in both cheeks-- God, that's a real smile, the kind of smile half of Jason's play partners never even see.
Erik's got a free hand; he's seen people take Jason apart with this move, and he wants it, wants to get him there. He reaches up and curves his hand around the back of Jason's neck, slips his fingers up and rubs at Jason's joining spot--
--and Jason scrambles for his hand, pulling it off the back of his head. "Leave it," he pants, "you were doing fine, go a little faster--"
It's not actually the order it sounds like, Erik reminds himself, but he drops his other hand and picks up the pace with the one wrapped around Jason's cock, face tilted up now so he can watch the arousal and need and pleasure all over Jason's face. Jason's groaning with the strokes now, mouth wide open, lips wet and shining. It would be so easy to just come up on his feet, get an arm around Jason's shoulders and kiss him. And oh, fuck, he has to be smarter about this, what the hell happened to platonic...
Jason comes with one of those fantastic groans of his, hands on Erik's shoulders again, nails digging in. It's so hot Erik could almost, almost go for another round, could probably get hard again if Jason felt like shoving him flat on his back and kissing him, maybe if he were biting Erik's neck, pinching welts into his inner thighs.
And maybe it's just as well that Jason backs off as soon as his eyelashes stop fluttering, because who knows what the fuck would happen then.
Jason glances down between them, at the mess he managed to leave all over Erik, and he rubs a hand over his face, covering his mouth while he inhales and exhales slowly and gets his breathing steady.
"I think we could both use a shower after that," Jason says. "How about you?"
"I think I get to go first," Erik says, light, casual, like this doesn't change a thing.
After a pair of quick showers, after they're both dressed again, after they've ordered pizza, Erik brings two beers over to the couch, handing one over to Jason and settling down with his own. Jason knocks the cap off his bottle on the edge of the coffee table; Erik flicks at his with his thumb. Six and a half years without his powers and that's still his first instinct when he's holding something with a metal bottlecap; when all he gets is a scrape on his thumb for his troubles, he grunts with irritation and bends down to use the edge of the coffee table on his, too.
"So," Jason says. "Um. Should we talk about that...?"
"My fault," Erik says, taking a long swallow of his beer. "I haven't-- ah. Taken care of that in a while. And that belt felt really good..."
"You haven't--" Jason's eyes widen. "How long has it been since-- wait, God, don't answer that. You don't have to answer that."
"I've been busy," Erik defends. "I don't know. A week?"
"So maybe you should take care of that before we scene." He's gentle about it, nudges Erik with his shoulder. Erik nods. "I don't mind or anything, I promise. It's just not what we said we were doing."
"We can still be platonic," Erik says, picking at the label on his beer bottle. "It doesn't have to change anything. Call it a one-time fluke, I just didn't realize how close I was getting."
Jason raises an eyebrow at him. "You didn't?"
Erik taps his fingernail against his bottle. "I thought I could hold back," he admits quietly. "Guess I need to work on orgasm control if I'm going to be getting that into it."
"We're supposed to let each other know if we're that into it," Jason points out, still cautious. "Is it like that for you a lot?"
"It's good, or I wouldn't still be asking for it," Erik shoots back. "It isn't always like that." He pauses and raises an eyebrow at Jason. "Is it like that for you a lot?"
"It's always good for me, too," Jason says. "But no, it's not always like that. What can I say, I'm a sadist, I know you know that. Watching you get that into being hurt? Being hurt by me? Watching you come just from taking a belt, my belt? I'd have to be dead not to get worked up by that."
"I'm glad you're not dead," Erik blurts out.
Jason just laughs. "I'm glad I'm not dead, too."
Erik scoots a little closer to him on the couch. "Sorry, that was a little morbid..."
"It's fine." Jason wraps an arm around Erik's shoulders, and Erik leans in. "I know what you mean."
There's a small hint of movement, Jason's other hand coming up behind his neck, and Erik tilts his head away, trying to see what's going on. Jason drops his other hand, away from his joining spot, and gives Erik a slightly embarrassed look. "Sorry."
I'm glad you're not dead... I know what you mean. Jason's abrupt rejection of Erik's hand there, probing at it himself... it all finally hits Erik full-on. He reaches out, putting a hand on Jason's knee. "You're feeling em again," he says softly. "Aren't you?"
Jason blinks a few times, shaking it off, settling his hand over Erik's and squeezing lightly before moving Erik's hand away. "Maybe. Kind of." He sighs. "Yeah, all right? Yeah, I can feel her."
Her. Erik smiles, and it barely costs him anything to do it. "I'm happy for you."
"I'm not." Jason reaches up, rubs at his joining spot again, harder this time; Erik edges away, gives him a little room. "Four years and nothing out of the bond, and then suddenly out of the blue, I can feel emotions, things that aren't coming from me... it's giving me the creeps."
The smile crashes right off Erik's face. All the times the Stones told him things could be going wrong, all the things they were afraid of-- and now Jason's saying his soulmate's emotions are making him uncomfortable.
"You need to find her," Erik says. "And sooner. Instead of later."
"I'm not ready." Jason leans forward, laces his fingers together behind his joining spot. "Four years and now this, I don't even know how to deal with this yet. I'm sure as fuck not ready to find the person I'm supposed to spend the rest of my life attached to. I have so much going on right now-- I've got fifteen auditions, you realize that? Next week? Fifteen."
Erik stares at him; he knew Jason was flying out to Los Angeles for a couple of weeks, but not how busy he was going to be once he got there. One of these days he's not going to be able to get away with keeping his home in Pittsburgh; he's going to need to move to LA or New York, one or the other, for the sake of his career. New York, Erik thinks, please, let it be New York, but it isn't up to him.
"My agent's spectacular, I'm glad to have my foot in that door, but I'm not going to get a single fucking one of those jobs. One way or the other I'm too fucking 'exotic' for any role I might actually want."
"You'll get something," Erik insists. "You did great on 'The U Word', you were a fan favorite there, you've done a movie--"
"One tiny role in a movie, and yeah, I'm doing a lot better than a lot of people, it's not all bad, but this isn't even about the auditions. It's about networking and making connections, grinding my way through all this shit, getting my face in front of casting directors so they'll think about me later, when they've got an Asian role to cast or a mutant role to cast. And I might get three or four small parts next year, TV, movies, cable, indie, whatever, but the more small parts you do, the more you have to uproot, fly somewhere else to shoot, forget about having a home or a family. It's going to be years before I have time to date, let alone acknowledge, recognize, spend the time getting to know someone. Maybe I should block her for a change."
"Jason..." Erik reaches out, gets an arm around Jason's shoulders. "Do you really want that?"
Jason tips over, rests his head against Erik's shoulder. "No," he whispers. "I just got so used to feeling nothing. I thought it was gone. Whether she was dead or just decided it was over before it got started, I was never going to meet her."
"Can you feel where she is now?"
Jason makes a vague gesture off to the west. "She went thataway."
"Anything more specific?"
Sighing, Jason sits up and flicks his hands out, splaying his fingers wide. The coffee table splits in half and folds over, everything on it sticking to the surface as if glued there-- and Erik knows the magazines and books and half-empty beer bottles aren't actually flipping over and getting stored in God-knows-what, but it's a neat trick anyway, worthy of a James Bond movie. Once the surface is clear, a topographical map of the United States shows up, mountains and valleys shifting into place, rivers flowing, state borders superimposed and visible.
"Here's us," Jason says, and Pittsburgh lights up, a bright spark a few inches below the illusionary Lake Erie, a couple handspans from the eastern seaboard. "And here's where I feel her."
The whole left side of the map glows bright green, everything from Ohio and Kentucky and Tennessee over, nothing further north than Pittsburgh. Everything else goes red. "I've been out to LA for work since I started feeling her again," and that makes Erik look over at him, he's been feeling her for a while, "and she's east of that, not too far north or south from there either." The map darkens in the triangle-shaped overlapping area, still a huge wide swath: most of Arizona and New Mexico, the northern half of Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, parts of Arkansas and Illinois and Indiana.
Erik nods at the map. "So which routes could you take...?"
"Maybe one of the 40 routes." Jason snaps his fingers, and the interstates start lighting up; I-40 crosses nearly the entire length of Jason's potential seeking area. "Or I could start in Texas, see if there's something on the 35-20." I-35 and I-20 in the Texas area glow for a moment, then fade into the same yellow as the rest of the highways. "I could plane-hop. Just take planes across, Atlanta, Memphis, Dallas-Fort Worth, Albuquerque, Phoenix." A little airplane goes rushing from one dot to the next on the map; it does cover a fair amount of the territory. "Or I could forget it," he wipes everything out with a quick, angry gesture, and the coffee table goes back to normal. "It's not like I've been hard to find-- Pittsburgh, LA, Vancouver for a while. I've been in one place. Where the hell is she, why isn't she seeking me?"
"Maybe she can't." Erik rubs at his arms. The map, the green and red highlighting... something about it seems familiar enough to give him a sense of déjà vu. He's never seen anything like it, not that he can remember, and somehow the placement was wrong-- it should have been a highlight east of the Mississippi, green, fading into red, something that even at the time (was there a time? has he seen this before?) he didn't understand...
But it's slipping away already, and he just looks at Jason, shaking his head. "Maybe she was sick. Maybe now she's in one place because she isn't well enough to go anywhere else. At least you could find out. If you can feel her, at least there's that."
"And then what?" Jason shakes his head. "If she's sick, then what choices do I get-- spend the rest of my life taking care of her? Finding her a good rest home, where she'll have around-the-clock care from a staff that actually gives a damn? Maybe I could buy a house, hire nurses to look after her."
"You might feel differently about it once you actually meet her," Erik tries.
"Maybe. Maybe not. All I know is, I'm not giving up the rest of my life just because biology and neurochemistry say I should hook up with some stranger."
"If I ever find mine..." Erik waves a hand at the kitchen counter, at his laptop. "If that stupid website comes through for me... I wouldn't care what condition he's in. I'd do anything to have him back."
Jason sits up, pushing gingerly away. "I know, man, but it's different for you. You had five years and then he was stolen. Five good fucking years. You were closer to him in that five years than most people are even after they meet in person."
Erik's read about what the bond's really like, but no one's ever told him that to his face before; no one else has ever really known what the bond was like for him. It's probably just as well that he never managed to get that across to the Stones, to Sebastian; maybe he wouldn't have been able to hold them off for as long as he did.
"You really think so?"
"My parents are nuts about each other and they have a strong bond," Jason points out. "They don't have what you did."
"Sets the bar a little high, though. If I never find him." Erik wraps his arms around his chest, hugs himself. "If he's really gone."
"Even if I do find mine, it's not going to be like that. Maybe we'll meet and go our separate ways. People do that." Jason sighs. "Maybe she got married, blocked to keep the bond from interfering with it. People can fall in love outside the bond, you know."
"Four years, though. Blocked temporarily, and now it's back?"
"People can fall out of love, too," Jason says. "Not so sure how that works, but there you go."
Erik just looks at him for a while, quiet. Jason sighs, glances over, looks down at the coffee table again.
"I'd go with you," Erik says. "If you wanted to try."
Jason almost bolts off the couch. He jumps, anyway, turning to look at Erik, incredulous. "Are you kidding me? You can barely hit up the bars on the other side of town without getting itchy, what makes you think you could go on a seeker trip?"
"I don't know." Erik frowns, reaches up to scratch his fingernails lightly against his own joining spot. Jason watches him, eyes narrowed. "I don't know, it just feels... better, lately. Like I could go west if I wanted to."
"Oh, great, now you can go. When it's about a seeker trip."
Erik frowns. "What's that supposed to mean...?"
"Nothing. Nothing. It doesn't mean anything." Jason sighs. "I don't know, Erik. I'll think about it."
Erik sees Jason off at the airport a few days later; Jason hugs him and holds on a little more tightly than usual. Erik doesn't call him on it; he might be holding on a little more tightly than usual himself.
"Take care of yourself," Jason says, pulling back to look Erik in the eyes. "I'll be back soon."
"Not too soon, I hope," Erik teases. "I hope your auditions go well."
"I hope so, too." Jason sighs and checks his watch. "I need to run. Fucking security lines."
"It'll be fine. You've got plenty of time."
"You'd think." Jason steps back, picks up his garment bag and slings it over his shoulder. "It never seems to work out that way. See you."
Erik waves, and once Jason's out of sight, he heads back to the garage, where he's got Jason's car parked. He's not going to complain about borrowing it for the next couple of weeks; Jason's classic GTO reminds him a little of the cars his mother used to drive. At least with that much steel under him he feels like he's riding in something substantial; he loathes modern cars, aerodynamics of all those plastic body panels aside.
Back at his apartment, he turns on his computer, meaning to send Jason an email he'll be able to get on his phone when he lands.
There's a message from an unfamiliar address, no name, subject line "Found you on MissingOtherHalf.com". Erik's heart jumps straight into his throat. Coincidence. It's a coincidence, it's nothing, it's one of those fucking spammers, it can't be him...
He opens it anyway.
On April 22, 2000, you didn't lose your soulmate. You found him.
I'm still here. I'm waiting. I miss you. I love you. Come back.
His laptop was a birthday present from Jason; he's never had a computer before, but this one had an aluminum casing, and it caught Erik's eye when Jason was in the store getting his own laptop repaired. Jason just laughed at him, unsurprised, and Erik shook his head, grinning, fingertips lingering on the chassis for a few moments before they left.
Now it's halfway across the room, twisted and crushed, and Erik's hands are shaking. He might have thrown it, could probably have thrown it hard enough to dent it. He doesn't think so. At least there's that.
It takes a trip to the library to email the website owners, ask them to delete his message. He doesn't send anything back to Sebastian, and by the time Jason's back, Erik's replaced the laptop; he hopes Jason won't notice the difference. He doesn't look into any of the other lost-soulmate websites. It'll just be more of the same.