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Matters of the Heart

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No one was really sure when the first instance of soulmates occurred, several thousand people waking up one day with dozens of different indicators that they were somehow “different”. Red Strings of Fate wound around pinkies, bruises and cuts appearing at random (when they were absolutely certain they themselves hadn’t done anything to cause such injuries), people lacking certain colors in their vision that they’d once had before, some lacking all color entirely, tattoos appearing on bodies with names and initials and symbols, some in normal fonts and others clearly in a form of handwriting, drawings appearing on skin at random for the ones paired with the more artistically inclined, some people even getting “stuck” with combinations of indicators. As time went on, more and more people were born with soulmate indicators of all different types, new ones appearing every once in a while.

 

With the surge of soulmates came those with rising resentment for such ideas. People who refused to believe that the universe was capable of deciding who is the “one” for them. People who believed that the world didn’t get to decide who they should fall in love with. Not all of these people were born believing such things, many were steadfast in their hopes of finding their soulmates but ultimately were poisoned by the cruelties of reality.

 

Both Luke and Tyler fell into such a category.

 

At first, Tyler was hopeful - excited, even - at the prospect of finding his perfect partner. Tyler was the child who was really excited about his soulmate indicators as soon as they manifested. He woke up one day as a child to see the initials LP etched onto his inner left wrist, scrambling out of bed to show his mother. He tilted his head as soon as he saw her, forgetting for a moment about the tattoo as he asked her what happened to her hair. It took a few moments for her to realize that her son could no longer see the color brown and happily explained the indicator to him, to which he finally remembered the ink on his wrist. He bounded around the house with an energy she hadn’t seen in him before that moment. He showed it off to all his friends as soon as he got the chance: "You see that tree? It's grey for me". He would point with his left arm, making sure they could see the markings on his arm, smirking at the awed looks on his friends' faces. Then in high school and as a young adult, he saw people lose themselves to the ideal; desperate for love or clinging to people they thought could be their soulmates. Wishing for celebrates to the point where the person they used to be withered away, crumbling under society and the soulmate ideal. Talking about how their whole lives would change if they just found the one . And Tyler slowly grows to resent, partially, whoever LP is. This person has effectively stolen what he's been told is “brown” from him. It's illogical, but Tyler's upset. How could he not be? He doesn't want to be one of those people, desperately pining for a complete stranger. “Why would I drop my life and just run off with some girl I just met? All because she’s supposed to be my soulmate? Yeah, right, shit doesn’t work like that.” He’d say. And he's not lonely, he isn't . He doesn't see Scott and Marcel and have his mouth taste bitter-sweet with warm affection and some sort of strange, desperate longing. He doesn't wonder some nights, after he's been angry and rude and he's alone and everyone's mad at him, if there might be a person who'd be willing to still stay in the dark room with him, who'd talk him down or stand his ground, even when Tyler was at his worst. He doesn’t.

 

He doesn't care .

 

Luke gave up on the idea of love a long time ago. As a kid, he was neutral on the idea of soulmates, never truly excited about lacking the ability to see the color of the summer sky. He could cover up the TW scrawled on his chest over his heart as easily as putting on a shirt. The only time he ever felt guilty for not being able to see blue was the day his best friend and little brother came sprinting up to him with a brand new hoodie, but all he could see was a muted gray. The crestfallen expression on Jon’s face breaking his heart. That day, a scraggly 14 year old tried his best to explain to his 18 year old best friend what the color blue looked like. Luke had touched the soulless fabric, smiled sadly and shook his head. He went home and locked himself in his room and played video games until he passed out on his couch and drove Jon's new favorite color out of his mind. It was then that Luke decided he didn’t need a soulmate. To him, the universe was just scamming people into love, scamming single folk into feeling less lonely with the idea that their other half is out there, somewhere. In the years since, Luke has seen far too many “soulmate” relationships crumble and fall apart, seen people die because they hold too tightly to the notion that their partner is “the one”. Seen people trapped in the most toxic couplings because their indicators were too vague. Initials, handwriting, first words, things that are far too easy to manipulate if one person gets saddled with something common permanently marked into their skin. He has seen successful soulmate relationships, some of his good friends in his adult life happened to find their soulmates through their gaming lives and have been exceedingly happy since then, but he firmly believes that they are the exception, not the rule.

 

Tyler knows that he shouldn’t blame whoever LP is for his sorrow, his bitterness, his rage , but he can’t help it . He pretends like everything everyone else claims is brown is meant to be gray because he refuses to cling to hope, refuses to become a husk of himself all for someone who may not be around anymore . Doesn’t care to acknowledge that his tattoo would have changed colors if they had died, or weren’t alive yet to begin with. He doesn’t want to see it. His friends and family don’t question it anymore when he spends a fortune on concealer and buys colored contacts just to spite the universe for its decision. It becomes so ingrained in his everyday conversations to dodge the color brown that whenever someone mentions something he knows is meant to be that cursed color, he simply responds with “I’m not sure brown fits with that.” He doesn’t know, doesn’t care if brown really matters, but people still consider his words and nod thoughtfully. He takes a moment to breathe when it happens; he doesn’t need a soulmate. He has brilliant green eyes to everyone he meets, and people compliment him. Tell him his soulmate’s life will change when they get to see such a beautiful color. He smiles, and when they turn away, he winces and pretends like he doesn’t feel the sharp stabs of guilt.

 

Luke stopped caring a long time ago. He doesn't hide his marks or inability to see blue. It's out there for the world to see, if they look. But it doesn't matter to him. He's convinced he's never actually going to meet his soulmate- if, if it was feasible at this point. And he likes gray, he does . It's neutral. It goes with almost everything.  Luke's an adult now, and happily single. He likes it that way. It's frustrating, and degrading, the pitying looks people give him. The encouragement of, “you'll find them someday”. He doesn't need a soulmate, doesn't need blue to be happy or successful or to live a full fucking life. Fuck TW, for making people think less of him, pitying him, telling him he's incomplete. He doesn't want a relationship. Doesn't need that disaster of pain and ruin and abuse.

 

He tries to embrace the bubbly feeling he gets whenever he ends up in a discord call with Wildcat, but this gnawing feeling of guilt eroded away at his attempts. Luke would excuse himself every once in a while, snarling to himself after his icon changed to 'muted', angry at the way his feelings betrayed the way he thought. He was content without his soulmate, dammit! And yet, the guilt stemming from his growing attraction for his fellow gamer burrowed into the old wounds left behind by those pitying stares of the people around him. He ignored the knowing texts from Jon, didn't want to deal with spilling his guts. Not while he was sober , at least. He cringed at the thought. He was never one for alcohol, had never touched a drop of the stuff in all of his years.

 

In the end, he breaks, and one night he drinks, for the first time in his life. He goes too far, especially for being alone, and the guilt and frustration turns to self hatred with a few shots of liquor and he feels pained and honest and loose-tongued and he's face down in his pillows. It hurts, hurts how much he likes spending time with Tyler. How much Tyler's rage makes him snort, or how Tyler’s laugh makes him smile. How much Tyler makes him feel, for a tiny little moment, strangely large. Strangely complete. 

 

Except his is complete, already. He is . At some point, Luke starts crying. Drunk and curled up beneath the covers, he feels almost heartbroken . Like he's been betrayed, by himself, by someone. Even though he's doing the betraying, to his soulmate. Except he can't betray anyone he's never had. Maybe he's drunk too much, he realizes with a jolt, thoughts racing, jumping from one train to the next, and there's still tears rolling down his cheeks.

 

He still ignores the buzzing of his phone, and doesn't see any of the texts from Jon or Anthony or Tyler .

 

He doesn't realize just how much his sudden silence scared his friends until he felt hands flipping him onto his back, looking up into the panicked gray eyes of his best friend and general nuisance. Jon's words are as scrambled as he looks, inky black hair a mess and gray shirt on backwards. He remembers being told that some things are gray on purpose. Jon sees the tears streaking down Luke's face, hears the hiccups, and he stops talking. He lifts Luke up, tilting the older mans head onto an open shoulder, one hand gripping an arm to keep him steady. He murmurs quiet reassurances, tries his best to ignore the scent of alcohol on Luke's breath. He doesn't know what sent the normally alcohol-averse man onto a sudden bender, and part of him is terrified at the thought of finding out. Jon hears a few words slip from Luke, words he didn't expect to hear after his resolution several years ago. "I'm a dick of a soulmate. 'M sorry."

 

Jon didn't know what to say. He fought off the urge to give Anthony a call, knowing he'd already found and confirmed his own soulmate. The younger would be able to offer some solid life advice, and his partner is just as close to Luke as he himself is.

 

Instead, Jon just sits there for a while, at a loss for words. In his silence, he holds Luke gently, petting his hair as Luke cries himself out on his shoulder. Jon catches other little snippets, some mumblings of soulmates and blue and Tyler and another "I'm sorry". Jon's not sure exactly what the issue is, but he can guess. He's seen the way Luke acted around Tyler. In fact, a part of Jon had been kind of hoping something would come of it. God knows both men needed someone.. badly . But maybe he'd been wrong, he thinks as he looks down at his brother to see him in the worst shape he's ever seen. Maybe Luke's not ready for that. And for all his preaching of "Soulmates mean nothing amd aren't necessary and aren't needed-", Jon realizes that maybe Luke doesn't actually believe that, deep down, in his very subconscious core.

 

It's that realization that spurs his decision. After Luke passes out, and Jon has taken precautions just in case he wakes up sick, he leaves the bedroom and pulls out his phone. He doesn't hesitate to call Anthony, pacing around the living room as he waited for the other to pick up. A worried "hello?" sounded in his ear and caused the floodgates to open. Anthony took the information in stride, Jon only pausing his words at the sound of Ryan in the background. "Okay, let me get this straight. Luke got drunk, for the first time in his life, and he was rambling about soulmates, Tyler, and being sorry?" Jon confirmed Anthony's words, Ryan's gasp telling him that he was on speaker. "Shit, shit, okay. We need to sort this all out. We can meet you tomorrow at that one little café we all like. Bring Luke, hungover or not."

 

Jon agrees, and when he finally ends the call, he feels strangely exhausted. He casts another glance towards the bedroom door, and on a whim, pulls up his most recent messages to Tyler. 'you're really, like really really fucking sure you don't have a soulmate?' He sends almost desperately, before sliding the phone into his pocket and raking a hand down his face, sighing deeply. Then he turns back towards the bedroom to pass out beside Luke, so he can stay at his brother's side and get them to the cafe in the morning. Luke would look almost deceptively peaceful in slumber if not for the dark bags under his eyes and the mess of his hair. But his face is smoothed out, and Jon hugs him tightly when he slips under the covers, trying to project all the warmth and comfort he can into the other man. "It'll be okay," he whispers faintly, even though Luke won't hear him. "We're gonna...gonna figure this out." He falls asleep in a strange reverse of his entire childhood; holding Luke, keeping him safe, instead of the other way around.

 

He wakes up to his phone vibrating in his pocket, Luke no longer in bed. Jon listens hard, sighing in relief at the sounds of the coffee maker downstairs. Luke was a menace in the mornings if he didn't have coffee first thing. He could only imagine how much worse he'd be with the first hangover of his life on top of whatever emotional turmoil he had been keeping to himself for who knows how long. He pulls his phone from his pocket, noticing a text from Ryan telling him what time they plan on meeting at the café. He checks the time, noting that they had about an hour before he had to get Luke out of the house. Easier said than done, he thinks. Running a hand through his hair, he remembers the text he had sent to Tyler that night, dread pooling in his gut. He had no idea how Tyler would react, what he'd have to say, if anything at all . He reopened his message app, fingers shaking with sudden anxiety as he checked for a response. 'What the FUCK do you think you're doing, asking me that?' sat in a gray text bubble, fingers twitching over the screen as he debated giving a less-than-dignified response. He decided not to, unsure if his "revelations" are right, or if it’s just his own hope-drowned delusions that Luke would finally find the part of him that he's been missing. He knows Luke firmly believes that he doesn't need a soulmate, but there was a loophole there that he hadn't bothered with before. ‘ Need’ echoed around in his head. ‘ NEED, he'd said. Not HAVE, like every other denier in the world.’

 

He forgets about Tyler nearly completely when he goes down the stairs and sees Luke. The older man is leaning against the kitchen counter, arms crossed and head ducked, looking the epitome of a miserable, sleep deprived, hungover college student with a death row essay due. It's not a look Jon ever expected to see on Luke. Luke glances up slightly when Jon nears, but then looks down again, and Jon realizes he's avoiding the light, and reaches instinctively to dim it.  "It's not fun, is it," he says before he can help himself, sounding disapproving. He can't help it, Luke's drinking was reckless, and dangerous , and Jon's not going to pretend for a moment that he's okay with it, or approves of his rash behavior. Luke could've hurt himself, could've gotten alcohol poisoning- might have drunk too much and fallen asleep and never woken up, and shit, Jon really shouldn't have let his thoughts drift there, but it was too late now. "That was so fucking stupid, Luke!" The words come out slightly high, and more than a little scared.

 

Even through the hangover pains and sensitivity, Luke could hear the terror in Jon's voice. He keeps his head down, forcing away another onslaught of tears as he realizes just how dangerous his choice was. "I'm sorry, Jon." He whispers, unable to manage a louder voice without losing control of the tears. Jon shakes his head, though Luke doesn’t see it. "Stop apologizing, man. Just down the rest of your, uh, bean juice, and get cleaned up. Gonna meet Panda and Ohm at Café Brewlee in like 45 minutes." Luke sighed, the tone of Jon's voice giving him no space to argue. Not that he would even if he wanted to. He knew his friends were too worried about him now to let his breakdown be swept under the rug.

 

Jon digs around Luke's refrigerator as the older sits silently at the counter, drinking his coffee probably earlier then he should, swallowing quickly to save his mouth from burning. Jon tosses him a yogurt and tells him to eat something, to which Luke reluctantly complies. Luke's not hungry, but Jon's glaring fiercely and Luke hasn't eaten in a while, and he probably shouldn't piss off the one person who drove all the way to his house just because of a little bit of radio silence. Twenty-four minutes later they're in the car, Jon behind the wheel and Luke riding passenger, sunglasses securely on. He's miserable, head practically being run through with daggers over and over , but Luke feels like he deserves the pain, for scaring Jon and for drinking so absurdly in the first place. He frowns and crosses his arms, burying further down into his seat as they zoom through the city.

 

Jon nibbles on his lip as they get stuck at a notoriously long red light, trying to piece together the words he wants to say in his head before saying them. He didn't want to bring up something as important as soulmates if he knew he was just going to get tongue-tied. Jon breathes out a sigh as he waits for the light to change, finally getting the words together and hoping that they come out the way he wants them to. "You were talking, last night, when I came in. Crying, too. Do you remember?" He doesn't spare a glance at the flinch Luke makes at the question. He knows it isn't from the volume of his voice and he needs to focus on the road as the light turns green. "Yeah, I do. What'd'ya want me to say?" He grumbles, cheek pressed tightly to the closed window, the cool glass ebbing some of the pains in his head as he prepares for Jon's interrogation. "I want you to tell me why you were calling out for Tyler. Why you were apologizing to the soulmate you don't want to know you have if you genuinely believe that you don't want or need them. Why you were begging a god you don't believe in for Tyler to be your person ." His grip tightened on the steering wheel during his last question, turning the leather to the right as he pulled into the parking lot behind the café. "I'm not expecting you to answer me. But Ryan might." Jon stepped out of the car, forcing himself not to slam the door for Luke's sake. He may be annoyed at Luke's behavior, but he doesn't want to cause the already suffering man any more pain. He waits for Luke to climb out after him, noting the sluggish movements and clenched jaw. The sunglasses on Luke's face keeping the tears from showing. He was sick of crying, but he couldn't find his usual strength to keep them at bay for more than a few minutes. Especially when Jon was digging into the raw wounds.

 

It takes all of the willpower Luke has to follow Jon into that building, where he knows Ohm and Anthony are waiting. He crosses his arms over his chest, hiding the trembling of hands under his arms, and for one split second he wishes he'd been better at hiding all of this, that he hasn't been as obvious- he swallows thickly. God, this wasn't him. Luke Patterson was not the type to self destruct, to go down a path of depressed ruin. So he takes a sharp, harsh inhale that causes Jon's head to snap towards him worriedly, swallows again, and sweeps his sunglasses off, sliding them into his pocket. He can do this. These are his friends . They're not... well, maybe they won't judge him- Luke falters for a single step before his pace matches Jon's again. He can do this. This isn't the end of the world.  

 

It feels that way, especially when he thinks of all the texts in his phone he hasn't read yet; from Ohm and Anthony and Evan and Tyler. His heart flutters, traitorous, touched that Tyler cared enough to reach out, and Luke's has to clamp a hand over his mouth suddenly to restrain a quick, involuntary sob. Jon's definitely worried now, and Luke flinches away when he feels Jon's fingers brush his arm. Jon's hand hovers in the air for a moment before dropping back to his side. He tried not to show the hurt on his face. Luke rarely ever backed away from physical contact when Jon was involved, and when he did, it never meant something good. "Come on, they're waiting for us." He murmurs. Jon knows better than to ask him if he's ready, Luke doesn't have a choice and he knows it. He knows that Anthony won't be as patient if Luke refuses to answer. Knows that he can't lie to Ryan. Jon grits his teeth as an idea pops into his head, shaking it off for now so he can bring up at the table. The table where Luke can't run away without upsetting more of his closest friends. 

 

Ryan and Anthony are sitting at a small table at the back of the room; considerately secluded, and Jon actually has a lot of respect for Luke bloom when the older raises his head resolutely and follows Jon over to them, stiff, but stubbornly unfaltering. The couple glances up as they grew near, and Jon watches Anthony's mouth drop and Ohm's eyes fly up, before both of their expressions school carefully to neutral. Ryan's gaze was piercing; watching Luke with that inhumanly perceptive gleam he sometimes got. Anthony leans back in his seat, arms crossing over his chest as he scans the oldest up and down. He leans forward again, placing his elbows on the table and narrowing his eyes. “You look like shit.” Luke forces out a laugh despite the pounding in his skull. “Yeah, feel like shit, too.” Anthony nods before waving over the barista. They all order their drinks, and some snacks, with smiles, though Luke’s is considerably more forced than the rest. Ryan sighs as he notices how tense Luke is, not used to him being so standoffish in their presence. Jon taps his fingers lightly on the table, doing whatever he can to keep himself focused without causing an outburst as his mind wanders. He thinks about how to force the situation, is confident in his belief that Tyler and Luke are soulmates, but some details aren’t suite adding up.

 

He doesn’t realize that he’s been talking out loud until Anthony pulls out his phone and a dial-tone sounds in the stagnant air of their table. Jon looks down at the device, seeing Tyler’s name on the screen with a red “end call” button underneath the keypad. “When he answers, grill his ass. Ry and I have been thinking the same thing, but if you’re the one saying it, the rest of us aren’t gonna question it. You’ve known Luke the longest.” Jon nods as he waits for Tyler to pick up the phone. Eventually, he does, with a tired “hello” . Anthony sets the phone down on the table and slides it closer to the unusually tense man that is Jonathan. “Listen to me and listen good, Wildcat, because I don’t plan on repeating myself. This is about Luke, who is sitting next to me. Don’t even think of hanging up, this is as serious as I’m ever going to be about something.” Tyler sighs on the other end of the line before letting out a resigned “okay” . “Alright, good. I have two questions for you that I expect to be answered with complete honesty. Answer them, and I promise you that I will never again mention anything soulmate related to you so long as we live, deal?” Tyler agrees, albeit with some hesitance. He mentions a concern for the information Jon wants from him, to which Ryan tries to soothe his worries. “Luke isn’t doing so great and we’re just trying to figure out if you have the means to really help him. I know it’s strange and the things Delirious is going to ask are going to be rough, but we aren’t using the information against you.” Ryan spares a glance at Luke, noting his tense jaw and reddened eyes. “Okay, fine. If it helps Luke, I’ll tell you whatever the hell you want to know.”

 

“Question one: What are the initials on your body?”

 

“LP.”

 

“Question two: What color are your eyes, Tyler?” His question is met with a tense silence. “I’m asking because there’s this interesting little thing that happens with colored contacts. If you look close enough, you can tell that they’re fake! Wanna know how? Because the color is usually too sharp to be natural, and the pupil never changes size . So, Tyler, what color are your eyes ?”

 

Tyler hesitates for another moment before sighing deeply, breath notably shakier than when the call began. “Blue. My eyes are blue.”

 

Luke sits up straight, eyes going wide as his heart hammers heavily in his chest. He places a hand over his heart, right where his tattoo resides. He licks his lips, building the courage to ask Tyler a question of his own. With a shaky voice, little more than a whisper, he asks: “Tyler, wh-what is your last name?” His hands are clenched tightly to the table and his shirt, respectively, tears threatening to spill from his eyes as he waits for the answer.

 

“Shit, Luke, you don’t sound too good.” Luke shakes his head, sucking in a breath to stay calm. “Answer me, Tyler, please. ” The man stutters for a moment, voice catching as he tries to keep from worrying about the man so close to shattering. “Wine. I’m Tyler Wine. What’s going on, Luke?” The man in question breaks, collapses at the table in a fit of violent sobs. Ryan shifts around the table to hold his good friend as he cries tears of relief. Jon smiles sadly at his best friend and responds to Tyler’s increasing panic. “His name is Luther Patterson and his eyes are brown. Is that a good enough answer for you?” The line goes dead shortly after. Anthony takes back his phone as a barrage of texts goes through. Tyler, along with several of their other friends, came to town for the convention taking place in the next week, and the Tennessee dweller was sending chunked texts, all a mess of typo’s, asking where the four of them were. Anthony looked up at his fiance and still-sobbing friend, mentioning the texts from a clearly panicked Tyler. Luke’s cries slowed into hiccups as he nodded. The barista brought them their orders with a knowing smile. “Sorry for the wait, didn’t want to interrupt something so important. Can I get you lot anything else?” Ryan nodded. “In a bit, we’re going to see the first face-to-face meeting of soulmates who have been internet friends for years and didn’t believe that their other half was around, or really worth finding.” The woman nods, a sense of understanding in her eyes as she returns to the counter. Jon takes Luke from Ryan’s arms, ushering the older man out of his chair and towards the bathrooms. “Come on, let’s get you cleaned up, again. Don’t want you looking a mess when your man gets here.” Luke snorts, flinching as the motion thumps around inside his head. “Yeah, I’ll ask Anthony for some headache stuff when we get back there. I think you’ve learned your lesson.”

 

Tyler had never raced to get dressed faster than he had the moment Anthony sent him the address to the groups favorite local café. He only paused once he entered the bathroom to comb through his hair, glancing down at his contacts case and half-empty tube of concealer. Guilt coiled in his gut and made him nauseous, his hands shaking as he set his comb down on the counter. He placed both palms down on the cool marble, looking deeply at himself in the mirror. His bright blue eyes stared back at him, his tattoo peeking through the sleeve of his shirt as it rode up his arm. Tyler felt his dull nails scrape against the counter as he fought the urge to hide his indicators as he had every day for nearly 15 years. It was a hard habit to break, but he was determined to break it. For once, he wanted to show his eyes, his tattoo. No, he had to. For Luke. For the man who he genuinely hoped was his soulmate, even after all the years of denying that he had one, denying the desires he’s always held that he’d find them one day, desires he’d kept hidden deep in the recesses of his heart and mind. He sighed deeply, steeling his resolve as he left the bathroom, shutting off the lights and turning his back on his indicator concealers. Grabbing his phone from where he’d dropped it on his bed, he forced out as many of the anxious thoughts from his mind as he could. He knew Luke was okay, for the most part, and that needed to be enough to tide him over until he made it to the café. He grabbed his keys off of the kitchen counter, tucking them into the pocket of his jeans as he put on his shoes. Scotty walked into the kitchen as Tyler stood to open the door.

 

“Hey, where are you heading off to?” Tyler froze, turning to face his friend. “I, uh, I’m going to meet Anthony and them at that one café. Apparently, I might be meeting my soulmate today.” Scotty stares at him with a mix of shock and wonder. “Wait, you what? Soulmate?” Tyler nodded, shifting his weight back and forth on his feet as he fought his impatience. “Yeah, so I gotta get going.” Scotty nodded, shooing him off with a big smile and a gleam in his eyes.

 

Tyler felt his nerves building up faster than he could shut them down, pulling his keys back out and fiddling with them as he walked to his car in order to stay focused on something other than his feelings. Once he was seated in the driver’s seat, he set up his GPS for the address Anthony had given him. While it was the group’s consensus that it was the best café around, he didn’t visit often enough to remember how to get there on his own. He gripped the steering wheel so hard his knuckles went white as he drove through town. His heart hammered away in his chest as he got closer to his destination. Pulling into the café parking lot, he parked his car, hands still shaking as he pulled the key from the ignition. He rested his forehead against the steering wheel for a moment as he tried to gather his bearings before ultimately heading inside for what could be the most intense moment of his life.

 

Tyler first noticed the usual barista behind the counter waving him over, catching sight of his friends at a table in the far corner, Luke with his head on the table flipping off Jon as the latter laughed. He walked up to the counter where the woman had been urging him towards her. “You must be the person they mentioned. Wasn’t really expecting it to be you, Tyler, but life is like that sometimes. Take a minute to look over the menu if you need to, but I must recommend ordering and collecting said order before heading to the table. I don’t want to interrupt whatever is going to happen.” Tyler laughs lightly at the sheepish look on her face. He orders his drink, leaning against the counter as he looks back over at the table and catches Ryan’s eye. Ryan smiles at him, but doesn’t make any other movements towards him. The barista catches his attention, smiling as she handed him his drink and nodded towards the table. Tyler takes his beverage and slowly makes his way towards his friends. Jon looks over as Anthony waves at him, blue eyes narrowing at the newcomer. Jon’s smile was almost predatory as he welcomed Tyler to the table, Luke still laying his head on the table, eyes closed but still awake as he prepared himself for what was to come.

 

Luke sucks in a deep breath, eyes snapping open with his resolve. He catches Jon’s attention, the older glaring at the younger for his hostile expression. He knows that Jon just wants to keep him safe, protect him from the things that could go horribly wrong during this meeting, but he doesn’t feel as though Tyler deserves the hostility. Jon sighs at the glare his older brother gave him, leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms as he gives up. Luke sits up straight, locking eyes with Anthony who gives him a small nod, Ryan offering a soft smile of encouragement. Luke nods back, standing from his seat as Tyler watches on in confusion and anxiousness. Luke squares his shoulders and Tyler tightens his grip on his cup, teeth clenching in fear he refuses to show otherwise. Luke turns around, eyes lowered to the ground as his hands tighten into fists at his side. He looks up faster than Tyler can prepare for, tears filling Tyler’s eyes as he notices something change. He lets out a shaky breath as the tears begin to fall.

 

“Is that what brown is meant to be?” He whispers as he knees buckle, Luke lurching forward to help steady him and bring him towards the table, tears pooling in his own eyes as he nods. “Hey, Jon?” The man in question hums his acknowledgement. “You really need to work on your description of colors, man.” Jon breaks out into giggles as he realizes what Luke was referring to, grin nearly manic with his surge of joy. “Hey, hey, I was 14! What do you expect?” Anthony and Ryan give each other knowing looks as they relax in their seats, pulling their drinks to their lips as the relief cools in their veins. The string on their pinkies appearing to them with a faint glow as they quietly celebrate for their friends. Luke holds on to Tyler with a death grip as he processes what just happened. His free hand absentmindedly rubs at the spot on his chest where he now knows Tyler’s initials reside, gaze distant as he mentally scolds himself for all of the years he could have had his soulmate but never managed to find out until now. He had a chance to meet Tyler at PAX 2014, where the rest of the guys met for the first time in real life, but he got incredibly sick at the last minute and couldn’t make it. He wonders, now, if that was the universe’s way of flipping him off for being so vehemently against the idea of soulmates from a young age. Cursing him to be unable to truly meet his soulmate yet being in constant contact with him for years and never knowing what he was meant to mean to him.

 

Until now, that is.


Tyler sobbed into Luke’s neck, one hand rubbing at the markings on his wrist as all of his bottled up emotions came flooding out in the arms of his destined lover. He thought he was content without his “other half”, he really did. But the moment he locked eyes with the man pressed against him, the moment he could see the beautiful chocolate brown of his eyes, he wondered how he could have ever been happy being so wholly incomplete. Jon’s giggles slowed to a stop as the weight of the day crushed down on him. His smile stayed, but was far smaller than usual as he contemplated the events leading up to this. A part of him was proud at being able to figure out the “puzzle” that was Luke and Tyler, but a part of him was also guilty at taking so long to do so. Unbeknownst to him, both Anthony and Ryan felt the same. The couple held hands as they watched Tyler break in front of them. They all knew this moment of extreme weakness from him would never be allowed to be spoken of to the rest of their friends, but it was a moment they will all cherish for their own reasons. Luke and Tyler for finding their soulmate after so many years of bitterness for the idea. Jon for seeing his best friend and brother find the person who could really complete him, and really, after the hot mess that was Luke and Jon’s sister’s relationship all those years ago, he knew that Luke needed Tyler more than he’d ever be willing to admit. Anthony saw one of his best friends be human beyond showing his rage during gaming sessions. And finally Ryan, for seeing two unknowingly broken men find their missing pieces and could now heal and move forward from the darkness they lived in for so long.