When you're matched to your soulmate, you get pulled from your body. No matter what you're doing or where you are, if the universe decides it's time, your Soul will leave your body.
When you wake up again, you're some sort of ghost following your supposed soulmate around. The goal is to fall in love with this person by seeing them at their most vulnerable.
You fall in love with the best and worst versions of them. You fall in love with their little habits. The things they do when they think no one is watching.
But it doesn't always work. Pepper Potts, for instance, couldn't fall in love with the narcissistic Tony Stark that clearly had a death wish. When her body finally met her Soul in Tony Starks tower, she turned around and left without a word to her supposed soulmate.
Tony thought that was the end for him. He had never heard of anyone being matched to a soulmate twice. So he lived the rest of his life alone, never having to worry about being pulled from his body at the worst possible time.
Until he was. In the middle of a joyride, his car climbing up to 130mph, his soul was jerked from his body and placed in a rundown 7-11 where the only person was a sixteen year old boy.
I'm not sure what happened to my body when my Soul was jerked from it. I'd like to think it some how got saved from driving off a cliff. I'd never heard of anyone's body being seriously damaged when their Soul left it, and some of them had been doing much more dangerous things than a fast drive down a deserted road.
But that was the least of my worries. The biggest concern pressing at my mind was the sixteen year old I was being forced to watch work. At first I thought there was someone older, someone closer to my age, in the crappy 7-11. But, after close inspection, I had to accept that this kid was the only one there.
I was worried about being paired with this kid, of course. This had to be against the rules, right? Pedophila? The universe shouldn't allow that.
But I was more worried about what the kid was doing. He was left alone in a rundown 7-11 in New York at three in the morning. I knew that even a grown man shouldn't be alone in this part of the city, let alone a sixteen year old.
But I couldn't do anything about it. I didn't have a body. I mean, I could sit down, but I couldn't grab anything and I ran into walls instead of going through them. When I tried to touch the kids arm, he didn't even flinch. So if anything happened, if someone tried to hurt the kid, I wouldn't be able to do anything. All I could do was watch.
So I did. I watched him flinch every time the bell rang, indicating a new customer. I watched him nervously count and recount the money everytime that customer left. I watched him chew anxiously on his lip while he watched people pass by the store windows.
He was scared of this place, as he should be. At any moment someone could come through that door with no intention of buying something and this kid would be toast.
I watched him hug his backpack close to his stomach instead of slinging it over his shoulder while he walked home, knowing how easy it would be for someone to steal stuff from it if he didn't keep a close eye on it. I watched him enter a crappy apartment where he was alone again.
The first thing the kid did was take a shower and I let out a silent sigh of relief when I was able to leave the bathroom, not being forced to watch that. I took that opportunity to wander around the small two bedroom apartment, frowning. It was clear no one else lived here. Someone else used to, that much was clear. A mom, probably. But she was long gone, leaving nothing but a few articles of clothing and pictures in an otherwise empty bedroom.
While I was snooping around the almost empty bedroom, I was tugged by an invisible force into another room, where the kid was now fully dressed and bent over a desk covered in loose papers and a few textbooks. I leaned over him, not knowing whether to smile or frown.
On one hand, I now knew his name. Peter Parker. On the other, he was up at four in the morning doing homework. He should have been sleeping, since he clearly had school in the morning. Why wasn't he sleeping?
And then, of course, it all hit me. This kid, Peter, lived alone. Completely alone. He had to work at night to get money to feed himself and pay rent, and the only time he had to do his homework was when his shift ended. Then he had to go to school, running on no sleep and an empty stomach, only to repeat the whole process as soon as the final bell rang.
So, that was one questioned answered. One of many many questions.
Why did he live alone? Why was no one doing anything about it? Who did he used to live with and why weren't they there anymore? Did anyone know about his situation? How long had he been living like this?
And the biggest question of all, why was I, Tony Stark of all people, matched with him to be his soulmate? Me, a 47 year old, matched with a sixteen year old?
I quickly learned that as long as Peter was awake, I had to be awake as well. Of course, I didn't feel tired. I wasn't in a body, so I didn't need to sleep or eat. But I wanted to. Watching this kid do homework was so excruciatingly boring.
But, eventually, he got up and started getting ready for school. I was able to catch a glance into his backpack while he was shoving his books into it and the sight was upsetting, to say the least.
Stuffed at the bottom of the bag was a red work uniform, which was clearly not the same one he wore earlier in the night, as that one was blue.
Did Peter have not one, but two jobs? I could hardly wrap my head around that. I knew what it was like to work day and night and never sleep, but I did most of that voluntarily. I could easily make people do my work for me. But this kid... it was a completely different story for him.
I couldn't help but feel a pang of guilt watching him go about his day. I threw money around like it was useless, and there were kids like Peter working two jobs to survive.
In that moment, I had never felt like such a bad person.