There's a trope floating around the storytelling world that we usually refer to as "soulmates" or maybe "one true love." The basic premise is that even if two people don't fall in love at first sight, they can't help it. They're destined for each other, and whether or not they agree to it, they will fall in love and they will like it.
This trope can be really badly done, but it's also really fun, and I wanted to play with it, so here we go.
It came up now and again. Usually after a couple drinks. Usually after one or two of the guys had been shot down, or after a couple of the girls had warded off unwanted advances.
They would talk about how their parents met, or how their cousins had found theirs, or how a friend had just found his last week. They showed off the tattoos or engraved keychains or necklaces - the words they knew their True Love would say to them when they first met.
It was something everyone knew. It was something they all had in common. Except him.
James stared down into his beer, listening as Huck laughed his way through a story about how his brother had found his True Love at a concert, and had to ask his future bride to repeat herself three separate times before he was sure he heard her right. Everyone else was laughing, but when one of the girls - Trisha - nudged James and asked him about what his True Love would say, Huck grinned.
"Don't bother, Trish. Jimmy boy there is mum on his True Love. Always has been. He thinks it's like a birthday wish - if you tell people about it, it won't come true!" Everyone laughed again, and Huck lifted his half-empty stein with a grin and called for a toast to love in all its crazy forms.
James drank, mostly because it would be very conspicuous if he didn't. His friends - indeed, everyone he'd ever known - knew what their True Love would say. He'd seen everything from "hey gorgeous" to "touch me again and I'll kill you" but he'd never met another person like him. One who had no idea what his True Love would say.
Or even, when he dared to admit it to himself, whether he had a True Love out there at all.
As soon as it was polite to do so, he paid his tab and left, shoving his hands deep into his coat pockets to keep his fingers warm on the long walk home. Maybe it would have been smarter to get a cab. It was December after all, and the forecast had called for snow, but he wasn't in the mood to listen to a cabby's rambling. They always did. About the traffic, about politics, about racism. It was always the same.
He might have missed the figure in the shadows if a hand hadn't reached weakly out as he passed and grabbed his pant leg. Not hard. Not enough to stop him. He did slow, though, and looked back. A pair of eyes looked back at him, brown and clear and... yes, he knew that look. Pleading.
Those eyes struck him somewhere deep inside, and the man knew all in a moment that if he didn't take this one home with him and take care of them, he would regret it for the rest of his life.
"Come on. This is no place for you," he murmured, and helped the transient upright. It was just a glimpse, really, before the ragged scarf fell back into place. A livid red scar, starting just under the left ear and stretching down to the hollow of the throat. A burn, maybe, or scarring from acid? Either way, the thought popped into his head unbidden.
Mute. Can't speak.
And suddenly, a whole world of opportunity opened to him like a flower to the sun. Because if his True Love couldn't speak, then obviously, there would be no words.
"Once you're feeling better, we'll figure things out," he promised, though he had a feeling both of them already knew. Even if "talking" never happened, even if the question "why were you homeless" was never answered... they were together now, and nothing would change that.