"sometimes desire is air; sometimes desire is liquid. and every now and then, when everything else is air and liquid, desire solidifies, and the body is the magnet that draws its weight."
-david levithan, the lover's dictionary
the frat party should be burned in his memory for so many other reasons, but lewis still mostly marks it as the day he really noticed jo.
he didn't mean for the whirlwind to happen. when he looks back on that night, he just remembers thinking that he needed to stop the drunk men from killing him but feeling like he had nothing left to give. he looked up, hoping to find something he could fight with, and instead he found jo's eyes. he already knew her, obviously. after the debacle that was their lab partnership, he had spent two years pretending she didn't exist. but that night, her face was all he saw. that night, he felt something fall into place.
the wind all but tore out of him and stopped the fight. he'd been told it was chaos after that, but all he remembers is her.
once the wardens arrived on the scene, everything fell apart. the windstorm left him with nothing, and he was almost grateful when the wardens took charge. they immediately began dragging him away and corralling the rest of the students so they could get some kind of consensus on a story. jo's voice calling for him was the last thing he heard before the wardens shut him in the back of their van. the sound of her voice and the look in her eyes got him through the weeks and months he spent locked away.
there were days when trying to plan some kind of escape from the warden's compound was too overwhelming, so lewis would give himself a break and think about something less urgent instead. sometimes he used that time to explore his newly discovered powers, but he usually found himself spending those days thinking about jo. mostly about how he hadn't given her credit for how much she actually cared, instead writing her off as some confused kid. but he also wondered where she was and how she was faring with the wardens. if she was moving up in the ranks, if she was being treated well. if she was being watched. he was starting to understand about power, and just how much they both had.
following that train of thought led to him discovering the key to his escape. he was wishing he could check on her, just to make sure she was alright. the irony wasn't lost on him, but he didn't need much of an excuse to find something to pour his energy into besides escape plans and self-pity.
he thought he remembered what she felt like on the aetheric, so he started there. it took nearly four days of work, but eventually he found her. sorting through the wardens in this way wasn't hard once you got the hang of it, but the learning curve was steep. there she was though, burning as brightly as ever, safely ensconced on the east coast.
that was the last piece of the puzzle that helped him finally break free. it wasn't much of a leap from finding people on the aetheric to learning how to hide his own aetheric signature so no one else could find him. from there, all he had to do was steal the djinn and make a run for it.
he hadn't been planning on going to jo when he escaped, not really. but the chase was going on longer than he had thought it would, and he felt himself being pulled in her direction. he walked the last six miles to her apartment in the rain. if he had been in any state to be rational, he probably would have been musing that he hadn't been this exhausted since the last time he saw her. if he had been in any state to be rational, he never would have shown up on her doorstep.
he wasn't though, and so he did. she took him inside and dried him off and took care of him, all without asking for anything from him, not even information. when he mumbled something about how she had grown up while he was away, she checked him for a fever and planted him on her sofa with a cup of soup. she kept dosing him until he stopped giggling about it- joanne baldwin! a responsible adult!- and then sat by his side while he slept.
when he woke the next morning, he was nearly back at 100%. a solid night's sleep somewhere he felt safe and some warm food could work wonders, apparently. after his shower, he gave himself five minutes to pretend this could be his life. he drank jo's coffee and wore her robe and made himself at home in her kitchen. for just five minutes, he could imagine that he wasn't wanted and on the run and a danger to everyone he touched, that he could have a life. when his time was up, he went back to the living room with a spare cup of coffee. he watched jo sleep for a moment- softly inhaling and exhaling, still guarding the space where he'd slept- before nudging her awake.
he and jo didn't say much that morning- now that the fever didn't have a chokehold on the rational side of his brain and his five minutes were up, he was realizing what a mistake this had been. the wardens would never let her go if they thought she could lead them to lewis, and he would never stop until he got her back. it was a situation that couldn't end happily, so he left her with an address in case of an emergency, his thanks, and a kiss, before slipping out of her life as quietly as he had slipped back in.
it sounded grand to break away from the wardens and live how and where he wanted, but the truth was that sometimes lewis was lonely. he was old enough- really, practical enough- to not be fooled by the romance of it all, so he set himself to his work and chose not to dwell on it. some days though, when he was away from las vegas and the ma'at, when he left all of his connections behind and had been living alone with the mother for a while, he found himself thinking about jo and the life he couldn't have.
he kept track of her, of course. he kept track of all of the wardens who could make trouble- for him or the planet. but she was the only one who stayed on his radar all the time, a constant niggling in the back of his mind.
days spent thinking about jo and the normal life he couldn't talk himself out of wanting would lead to nights spent tracking her more closely on the aetheric and imagining a seemingly impossible future where he didn't have to live in hiding. it was a bit like worrying a wound- he was sure that if he left it alone it would scab over and disappear, but the small sharp pain brought the world into clearer focus. besides, he didn't know if he was ready for it to go away just yet.
on those nights, he would set up camp and sleep facing east. he didn't do it on purpose; he wasn't nearly enough of a romantic to think of jo as his mecca. his body was just drawn in that direction, his mind pulled towards her brightness. he didn't even realize it- chose not to realize it, according to rahel- until the djinn mocked him for it, her voice filled with scorn.
his awareness of jo was how he knew she was looking for him after the fires at yellowstone. he wasn't surprised, really, about either the fires or jo's needing him. he sent up a flare so she could find him, then went to work healing the earth while he waited.
six hours later, his body was all but humming with her approach. watching her in the aetheric all these years hadn't prepared him for how powerful she'd become, not really. their bodies had always reacted to each other, pulling together and throwing up sparks, but this was already more than that and he couldn't even see her yet. he used his ma'at training to tamp down on it, but still didn't trust his control.
he wanted this to be a reunion. he wanted to be strong enough, safe enough, ready enough to come back into her world, but he knew he wasn't there yet. he might never be there, and one of the ma'at's philosophies was to live in the now instead of some imagined future. he was getting better at it, but keeping his distance from jo made it easier.
still, he thought about being impulsive and just telling her all of this instead of letting all of the possible outcomes hold him back. he knew it was what she would do, but jo always seemed to land on her feet anyway. so he would make a plan, he decided. he didn't know how long it would be before they were drawn together again- it could be months or it could be years- but he was decided. the next time he saw jo, he would be ready. the next time he saw jo, he would tell her he loved her.
the only woman he would be seducing today would be the mother, but there was always next time. there were few certainties in his world, but lewis thought jo would always be one of them.