Mike Wheeler did not really plan on attending an art showcase after classes on a Thursday afternoon. He was pretty busy as it was with his writing and engineering double major, his job at the local tech store and more assignments than he could barely ever manage to get on time. But this was a very special showcase; Mike's friend Will had his pieces up on display there. And Mike, along with the rest of the Party, being the very-supportive friends that they were, had promised to be there to support their Will's work.
It wasn't like they hadn't seen the paintings before. The four boys of the Party shared an apartment and more often than not, Will was painting in the living room or had the door to his room open so the boys and Max, when she was over, had a front row seat to Will's creative process. But it was the Principle of the matter that was important. It wasn't every day the student's art got displayed so publicly and Will's was one of the main pieces on display too. So, Mike wandered the halls of the gallery, looking for Will, all the while admiring the impressive pieces by the students from the Art Department on display.
Seeing the different pieces, Mike couldn't help but a twinge in his chest. He was unsure if it was regret or anger or sadness. Art had been his love once in his life too, a passion he had discovered after drawing so many maps for their DnD campaigns, but unfortunately things had taken a bad turn. Ted Wheeler was never pleased by his son's lack of athletic abilities and his inclination towards paints and colors. Lonnie Byers had left before he could impact Will's passions negatively, but Mike had had to come home one day to find the majority of his artworks, that he'd so painstakingly created and was proud of, burnt to ashes.
"I will have no son of mine pursue such an irrational career in life." Ted had said.
Karen had stopped him and had managed to salvage a quarter of the pieces but the damage was done. Most of Mike's childhood creations were gone. In all honesty, Mike wasn't sure why he hadn't ended up chucking the ones that survived in the fire too. He had been so angry and miserable in those moments. What good did having the last remaining few pieces do? But his mother had looked at him with tears and apology in her eyes. She had always been proud of her son's skill with colors and paint and she could see the pain in her eyes, knowing that her baby boy was hurting having seen most of his best work go up in flames. So, Mike had gently taken the few works that had survived, put them in a box and had never looked at them or his remaining art supplies again. If there were a few tears smudging the paint on the drawings, no one was able to see them locked away. When he was moving for college, he had brought the box along but only so his mother and Holly couldn't get at it. It was still hidden away in the boys' apartment, unopened and forgotten
After that day, Mike Wheeler gave up painting and coloring entirely. He no longer felt like he could freely pick up a paintbrush and the idea of looking at a blank art sheet or canvas left a sour taste in his mouth. He instead turned to writing. He had always been good at making the maps of DnD campaigns but Mike was also quite proud of how well he could play with words to create the actual campaigns too. He wasn't the official dungeon master of his party for nothing. A diary is easier to hide than an easel, so Mike turned his frustrations to a different kind of paper and luckily Ted knew nothing of it.
By the time Mike had moved away for college, Ted was completely disinterested in what Mike was doing. He had decided on doing engineering and writing as a double major in Chicago, managing to score a few scholarships as well, while his friends joined him. Will studied art at the same campus as Mike. Dustin was studying particle physics and Lucas had a basketball scholarship and was studying engineering as well. Max was studying Computer Science surprisingly, going to the same university as the rest of the boys.
For the most part, Mike was happy. He lived with his three friends and life was good. They goofed off and spent time together and it was just like their childhoods except they were older and unfortunately had to split rent and responsibilities occasionally. It wasn't always easy but it was definitely fun and Mike had little to complain about, unfortunate past mishaps aside.
Mike was snapped out of his thoughts as he finally found Will. He was talking to a girl with brown hair that Mike didn't recognize. Relieved at having found his friend, Mike quickly made his way over.
"Hey Mike!" his oldest friend's smile brightened upon seeing him. Will hadn't been sure when each of his friends were coming. He was surprised to see one of them so soon.
Mike grinned as he responded to the greeting. The girl standing next to Will turned around upon hearing his voice and Mike couldn't help how his eyes widened. The girl was gorgeous. Her brown hair was held back in a ponytail and fell in waves down her back. Her eyes were bright and her smile was gentle and kind.
"Oh, Mike, this is El. She's in my perspectives class. El, this is Mike, one of my best friends and roommate." Will introduced the two. "I've been meaning to introduce El to you guys forever actually, but somehow our schedules never matched." He added.
"Hi," Mike greeted, feeling slightly awkward. While his social skills had improved since middle school, his aptitude for talking to pretty girls was more or less the same. The girl, El, beamed back though as she held her hand out for Mike to shake. Her touch was soft but confident, Mike couldn't help but notice.
"Will, I've seen your paintings," Mike told his friend. "I can't stay long so I already looked around most of the gallery. Congrats on making the front hall."
"Oh! Have you seen El's painting? Hers is in the front hall too." Will asked. Mike shook his head apologetically, turning towards the brain haired girl.
"No. I wasn't really paying attention to the names and um… I sort of stopped paying attention once I had seen Will's." Mike looked embarrassed. The girl only giggled.
"It's alright," El replied. "I'm sure you can see it later. It's no big deal."
Mike grinned, relieved she hadn't taken offense.
He didn't stay much longer. He had to get to work, much to his chagrin. But he had a nice time talking to El. Will had been pulled aside by one of his other classmates and had left Mike and El to wander the galleries together. They had observed each of the paintings, at first trying to have an intellectual conversation but eventually that turned into a game of who could come up with the wildest interpretations that left them in fits of giggles. Mike had never felt so much at home with someone so quickly before and a part of him couldn't help but wish El would finally be the person he'd been looking for. His Soulmate.
Lucas had found his in the eighth grade when Max had moved to Hawkins. The boy had been staying late after school to practice basketball in the gym. He wanted to make the team when they got into high school the next year. It had been a few weeks since Max had been in school and she was having trouble making friends. Her rough and guarded personality hadn't really done anything to keep from people observing her like she was some sort of weird specimen under a microscope. The boys in the party had taken an interest in Max automatically, especially Dustin and Lucas. Dustin wanted to know if she was MadMax at the local arcade and Lucas just found her cool. It was on that day that Lucas had been practicing shooting hoops in the gym that Max had wandered in. Her stepbrother, Billy, had gotten detention again and she was stuck until he got out. She had gone into the gym, hoping there was some sports gear left from gym class she could mess around with. Seeing Lucas play though, she had felt the soulmate tingle.
It was said that each pair of soulmates share one talent to help you recognize them by. When one sees that talent manifest, they can recognize it as by their soulmate and can recognize their soulmate with it. Max had felt it for Lucas that day, playing basketball. She had joined him and soon after, he felt it too. They had started out as friends first, only starting to date in ninth grade once they had learned enough about each other. Max had fit in with the party well too. They had been going strong since then and Max was officially a party member as well. Mike felt envious sometimes when looking at them. Sure, Will and Dustin hadn't found their soulmates either and Mike wasn't in a rush himself either. But seeing Lucas and Max share something special and flaunt their soul-bond, Mike couldn't help but wish for one too. El was the first girl he met that he felt any real pull towards and wanted to share a soul bond with. So, he felt guilty when, not half an hour later, it seemed that wasn't true.
He was leaving through the front hall and stopped short in front of a large canvas near the middle of the hall. A girl was standing in front of a painting, obscuring the details of the artist at the bottom. She seemed to be inspecting the painting so closely though, eventually taking out a tissue and wiping away at something in the middle which led Mike to believe the paining was hers. It was when looking at that painting, he felt that tingling sensation that Lucas had described to him all those years ago. It felt like a chill that left him with goosebumps–the excited kind. It was not at all unpleasant and somehow in that moment, his heart just knew that this painting belonged to his soulmate. So, plucking up all his courage, Mike introduced himself to the tall, brown-haired girl standing in front of the painting.
"Hi, I'm Mike," he said, hoping he wasn't being too forward and making this girl uncomfortable. "I was wondering if you'd like to go get coffee sometime?"
The girl looked at him confused, at first. She seemed to consider him for a moment, which was fair since he was a stranger just randomly asking her on a date.
"I'm Jennifer Hayes," the girl finally said with a small smile. "And sure, we can get coffee."
Jennifer was nice. She was a lovely girl and she got along with Mike just fine. After their first coffee date, they had gone on a few others but Mike wasn't at all satisfied. Hanging out with Jennifer was nice, fun even. But it felt no different than hanging out with the rest of the party. He still didn't feel whole in the way he thought he was supposed to when finding his soulmate. Jennifer, so far, had brought up nothing regarding soulmates. Which was fair, Mike told himself. It's not like he had shared the fact he had only asked her out because he thought she was his soulmate either. But their dates couldn't help but feel lackluster and even after a few weeks of nice dates Mike found himself unable to properly ask Jen to be his girlfriend.
It didn't help that El had begun hanging out with the party either. They had all met her at the gallery it seemed, even though the others who had arrived much later than him. She came over to the boys' apartment with Max or joined them for lunch. Mike knew for a fact Max was even considering being roommates with El in the next semester and Max rarely warmed up to new people that easily. Will and her already got along due to their shared classes and Dustin and Lucas thought she was a fun addition too. It seemed like El was also bound to become a party member sooner or later. Which was precisely why Mike felt guilty every time he found his heart wishing El was his soulmate instead of Jennifer.
Mike tried to ignore it at first. The missing connection he felt with El but not with Jennifer was something he desperately tried to hide, even from himself. But the more El hung out with them, the harder it became to ignore especially because it seemed like she felt it too. So, Mike told her he was dating Jennifer, in hopes it would alleviate his guilt. He pretended the shock and hurt in El's eyes didn't affect him or that the slightly crooked smile she gave him didn't hurt either.
"Jenny Hayes?" El asked. "She's in my material arts class. She's one of the absolute sweetest girls I've ever met. Her artwork was displayed in the front hall next to mine at the gallery too. She told me she thought someone had messed with my painting so she fixed it for me. She's kind like that."
El looked thoughtful. Mike nodded quickly.
"That's where I met her. I was leaving and she was standing in front of her painting. And I thought I felt something so I just…asked her." Mike explained.
El looked surprised. She knew what Mike was referring to when he said he 'felt something' and she couldn't help the fresh wave of hurt and disappointment.
"Oh. I'm happy you found her, Mike." El smiled. If it didn't quite reach her eyes, she knew she couldn't fix it. Mike was the first guy she'd felt so comfortable with ever. She hadn't gotten a chance to show him her painting when he'd visited the gallery. He had to rush to work and one of her professors had held her up so he'd left already. El had hoped Mike would see her art piece, feel something, and come back. But it seemed she'd met his soulmate already and it wasn't her.
Mike smiled back but his smile didn't quite reach his eyes either. "Y-yeah. I'm happy too."
After that interaction things fluctuated between awkward and normal for Mike and El. There was this unspoken longing yet they were good friends. If anyone in the rest of the party noticed they didn't comment on it. None of them had met Jennifer yet and Mike hadn't told them he thought she was his soulmate either.
It was around a month after he started dating Jennifer when El called him to meet him on the campus park. It was mid-morning so it wasn't at all crowded. El didn't have a class till the afternoon and Mike had gotten out of his. They'd spent their time, around an hour, sitting on the bench and joking about the few students that passed by occasionally. What started out as making up pretend lives for each passers-by ended up with Mike and El acting out ridiculous scenarios until they were both leaning on each other from laughing so hard. It was reminiscent of their first meeting at the gallery, where they had laughed so hard, pretending to be art critics and coming up with ridiculous meanings behind the paintings in the gallery.
Neither noticed how close they had gotten to each other until the laughter turned into giggles and finally their snickering came to a close. El felt her breath catch in her throat. Their faces close together, El felt like she could count each freckle that dotted Mike's cheeks like constellations. His beautiful dark eyes were wide as he stared into hers and El noticed when his tender gaze dropped for a second to longingly glance at her lips.
El wasn't sure who moved first. The kiss was barely a peck; hardly a brush of their lips. Less than a second. But as soon as it happened, both jumped away from each other, feeling very guilty despite the yearning in their eyes giving away that they both would have continued if it weren't for Mike's… soulmate.
El felt guilty for wanting to ask Mike to give up his soulmate for her. It was wrong and selfish and El knew she had one out there too. Maybe it's a mistake? She wanted to ask him. But she held her tongue. El was not the kind of person to destroy relationships. Unknown to her, Mike felt the same way. He wondered if he'd made a mistake, wished it, rather. But he knew the painting he saw was Jennifer's. There was no other reason for her to be messing with someone else's painting and on showcase day, no less
"El… I can't" Mike whispered at the same time El burst out an "I'm sorry!"
The two looked at each other silently for a few moments before Mike sighed. "I'm… I think I should go…talk to Jennifer," he mumbled, regretting having to leave. El nodded.
"Please tell her I'm sorry too," El asked. She was going to apologize herself, of course, but she wanted Mike to tell Jennifer too. And El was sorry. Mike and Jen were both some of the nicest people she had gotten the privilege to know and she felt guilty for being the person coming in between them.
She was so lost in thought she barely noticed her phone ringing in her pocket. Without looking at the caller ID, she picked up the phone.
"El!" Will's relieved voice rung out from the speaker. "Listen! I hate to ask you this. I know it's short notice. I left my process sketches back at the apartment and my next class is in 15 minutes. I don't have time to go and get them and they count as half of our final grade for the next class after this one so will you please please please be my guardian angel and go get them? I'd ask the others but they aren't picking up and I think most of them might be in class."
El sighed. She could use a distraction. And helping Will was no problem; the boys' apartment was only a fifteen-minute walk from campus.
"Sure Will," El said, trying to keep how somber she was feeling out of her tone. "I'll get those sketches to you before your class ends."
"Thank you!" Will cheered. "They should be in a box on the dining table. I forgot them there while gathering my things. I owe you one, Ellie."
With that he cut off the call.
El made her way across campus, trying to make good time so she could get Will's work to him in time. All the while to the apartment she tried her best to push thoughts of Mike out of her mind. The only solution she could come up with to put an end to her desires and her accidental messing with Mike's relationship was to distance herself from him entirely. That thought hurt too much. Romantic feelings aside, El got along with Mile better than anyone else in the party. He understood her like no one else ever had and to distance herself would be losing her best friend. So, El tried to ignore such thoughts for now, choosing instead, to focus on finding Will's work.
She did not expect to find a trashed apartment, with Dustin in the middle of the mess though.
"Dustin?" El asked confused. "What on Earth are you doing? Why does it look like moving day in here?"
Dustin looked sheepish as he grinned up at her.
"Hey El!" He said. "I can't find my hat and I have a date with Suzie tonight and she loves my hats so I-uh… I'm looking for it."
El grinned. She couldn't help her amusement.
"How are you going to find anything in this mess Dusty-bun?" She teased. Everyone in the party had taken to calling Dusty-bun ever since they overheard one of his voicemails from Suzie. Dustin's grin dropped at the tease.
"Et tu Brute?" Dustin whined.
"Sorry Dusty," El grinned. "It's just too much fun."
Dustin sighed as he muttered something about mean friends who betrayed him. Then he halted as he realized El still hadn't told him what she was there for.
"What brings you here, though?" Dustin asked her. "Don't you have class in like… an hour?"
El nodded. "Yeah I do but Will said he left some of his work behind and I was the only one who was available to get it. I'd help you look for your hat if I wasn't in a hurry Dustin but I'll be surprised if I manage to find Will's papers on time with this mess."
Her smile told Dustin she was only teasing.
"They're somewhere on the table," he grinned back, gesturing vaguely to the table heaped up with random Knick-knacks and boxes. "I'm gonna go search for my hat in my room once more." He told her and then disappeared.
El chuckled and shook her head fondly as she moved to make sense of the mess on the table. Aside from the remainder of what looked to be this morning's breakfast, there seemed to be a few different boxes open on the table. Will had texted her that his papers should be in the only box but clearly, he hadn't known what Dustin had been up to since he left.
The first box contained a bunch of old wires and what looked like spare parts. El knew that the boys had been part of the AV club in their school years and considering Mike and Lucas were studying Engineering it wasn't that unusual to come across. A second box contained various sheets of paper with what looked to be scribbles on them. It was at the third box when El was finally relieved.
It was smaller than the rest and covered by a piece of cloth, probably to protect the contents from dust. El sighed relieved when she opened the box and it contained various paintings and sketches. What she didn't expect was to feel a tingle travel up her spine and a soft chill to course through her, giving her goosebumps. She knew what that meant. This was her soulmate's work. She had found him. She had found… Will?
El was more confused than happy at this revelation. Will was her soulmate? How was this remotely possible? She had seen Will's art work before, helped him with his projects even. And he had seen hers. Neither of them had ever felt anything before.
El curiously went through the contents of the box as if looking for an answer to this strange phenomenon. The number of pages was surprisingly less than she expected. Will tended to make 10 to 20 different concept pieces before settling on one and then figuring out cohesive connections and elaborations to his ideas. All in all, his process work habitually took up at least 40 to 50 different pages.
El had a similar assignment so she knew that Will was required to submit all his project sketches for evaluation. This box contained barely 20 pages and none of them were cohesive. Some looked like fantasy maps, others were just abstract colors. A few even seemed to be scenery or half made sketches. The art style was nothing like Will's either. It reminded her of her own yet it was still distinct.
El was so lost in thought that she barely noticed Dustin come back out into the room. She was snapped out of her reverie when the boy swore loudly.
"SHIT!" Dustin's eyes were focused on the papers in El's hands. "Oh no no no! I wasn't supposed to open that box! Mike is gonna kill me!"
El looked confused at Dustin's horrified expression.
"Why would Mike be mad at you, Dustin? Aren't these Will's papers for his art final?"
"No! These are Mike's! He hasn't painted in years and he's going to kill me if he finds I went anywhere near that box. He hasn't let anyone open it in years."
But El had stopped listening after Dustin had said "These are Mike's".
"This is… Mike's artwork?" El whispered. Hope and elation slid through her veins before she could stop it. She looked back at the paintings in her hands and suddenly it made so much sense why his art seemed to match hers. This wasn't Will's work. It was Mike's. Mike was her soulmate! A beaming smile threatened to split El's face as her heart sped up.
Dustin was oblivious to El's change in emotions; his mind racing a mile a minute trying to figure out a way to put Mike's possessions back before he found out and murdered Dustin for touching something that clearly had so many bad memories. Now looking at the box, Dustin was even more horrified as he realized Mike's name was emblazoned across it in big black marker. There was no way he could get away with pretending he didn't know (which he didn't, at least… not in his hurry).
"El! Listen, I'm gonna put Mike's box back in the corner and you CAN NOT tell him I found it ok? No one else is here. Maybe he won't even realize since he never opens it and- Hey!"
But El had already taken off, pages in hand, not even noticing as a panicked Dustin called out after her.
"SHIT!" Dustin exclaimed. He was a dead man for sure.
Mike was having the surrealist experience in his life. After his kiss-not kiss with El, he had immediately made his way to the art block, feeling sick to his stomach. Mike was not a cheater. His mother had raised him better than that. And true, it had been a month and Mike and Jen weren't exactly 'official', they had gone on enough dates to warrant the label of boyfriend and girlfriend.
So Mike was confused and conflicted. He had felt something when his lips had brushed El's. It was for the smallest of seconds but the same tingle he'd felt in the art showcase came back. He had never felt it with Jen, not even when they kissed or held hands. And Mike was guilty. Guilty because he liked Jen, but not as a girlfriend. The universe had made them soulmates but he saw her more as a sister. He saw her the way he saw Max. Nice and cool to hang out with, but not someone he wanted to spend his life with. Which royally sucked, because well… he knew who he wanted to spend his life with.
Deciding the only way out was to talk to Jen, he called her as soon as he came out in front of the art building. He knew she would be getting out of class and figured the sooner he told her what happened with El, the sooner the swirling pit of disgust and guilt at his actions would stop giving him indigestion and make him threaten to throw up with nerves.
He had been waiting by the art block for ten minutes when Will came through, holding his board with his final project for one of his classes. It was an abstract piece. Will had gone all out. Journaling, mosaic making, painting, photography. Inspiration had hit and the young artist had made a masterpiece.
"Hey Mike," Will called as he made his way up the stairs. "What are you doing here? Weren't you with El?"
Hearing her name made Mike's heart flutter in his chest but the pit in his stomach deepen. He gave Will a weak smile.
"Um, yeah. I was with El but I'm waiting for Jen. She's about to get out of class."
As if summoned, Jennifer walked out of the art building, residue clay on her arms indicating she'd been in pottery class. Seeing Mike, she beamed as she made her way over to him which made Mike only feel guiltier. He was about to say goodbye to Will and ask to talk to Jen alone when she stopped in her tracks, her eyes frozen on Will's project and mouth agape.
"You made this?" she asked him after a few seconds, a nervous edge to her voice. Will was startled. He'd seen Jennifer around the building before but had never got a chance to speak to her.
"Y-yeah," the blonde-haired boy gave a smile. Talking to pretty girls wasn't exactly his forte either even though he'd become decently social since entering college. He was used to people admitting his artwork though so he took Jennifer's reaction in a stride. "It's for Krasinski's final. She said to let loose and well… I guess I used every 2D medium I could manage."
"It's amazing," Jennifer said honestly, still in awe. She looked at Will as if she'd never seen someone like him before and that left both him and Mike a little confused. Will was good but no one had ever looked that impressed before, especially not a fellow student.
"I had her last semester for Liberal Arts but I chose to take Damon's class on mixed mediums this semester instead." Jennifer explained. "I'm still working on my project though. I've been making sketches whenever I have time." She lifted her arms slightly where she was holding a few art books.
"Cool!" Will grinned. "I'd love to see it sometime. Or I'd love to see your sketches too. I'm sure they're amazing."
As if that was the cue she had been waiting for, Jennifer handed Will her sketchpad. He opened it, fully ready to admire the work but then froze. He looked at the sketch inside, then Jennifer, then the sketch inside again. He repeated this motion a few times until Mike was really confused.
"Um… what's going on?" He finally interjected.
"Jen's my soulmate!" Will breathed; still in shock himself.
Whatever Mike had been expecting, that had certainly not been it. Mike was silent for a few seconds then, "…What?"
Jennifer turned to Mike, her eyes bright but apologetic. "I'm sorry Mike. It seems like our relationship wasn't going to work out after all. I saw Will's project and got the feeling. I had to show him my sketchbook to be sure."
Mike gaped like a fish before reiterating, "Will's your soulmate? How?"
Will grinned but shrugged. "Sorry about that, Mike. I've never met Jen before today. We hadn't really gotten a chance to see each other's works before." Suddenly concerned the boy continued, "I'm sorry about this though. Are you ok? I know you really liked Jen."
Mike looked between Will and Jennifer who both looked guilty as if they'd hurt his feelings.
"No…no. It's ok," He mumbled, more confused by this turn of events than hurt. Then, he turned to Jen. "That painting at the art gallery I saw you in front of? That wasn't yours?"
Jennifer looked puzzled for a moment before she recalled.
"Oh! No. That wasn't my painting. I just thought someone had tried to mess with it so I was trying to see if it was alright. People can be… rude when it comes to our hard work. No appreciation whatsoever."
Mike looked even more bewildered if it was possible.
"I'm sorry, Mike." Jen said in a small voice. "I really like you but if I'm honest, we fit better as friends. I never really felt the spark on our dates."
Mike shook his head. "No, no. I-uh… I actually came to say the same thing. I was with El and um… something happened. I was actually going to tell you that we kissed and I'm sorry since we're sort of going out and everything…"
Jen only seemed to brighten at hearing El's name.
"You two would make a great couple!" she said honestly. "I'm not mad Mike. I wouldn't have been even if I hadn't met Will today. We're good friends and it's nice to know you but… I don't think we ever worked as a couple."
Mike blinked. "Are you breaking up with me?" He asked dryly, amused.
Jen laughed. "It's mutual."
Mike smiled at that and got up from his perch on the low marble wall he was sitting on.
"I'm happy for you guys," Mike said to Will and Jen who both were still staring at each other, now a little shy but obviously excited. "I won't tell the others," Mike assured Will before the other boy could say so. And with that, he made his way back to the apartment, still reeling from the whiplash of these back-to-back events.
Will and Jennifer Hayes… who would have thought?
Mike was so lost in his own thoughts that it was even more of a shock when, as he reached the hallway of his apartment, El to burst out and bumped right into him. She was about to slip and fall before Mike caught her, wrapping his arms around her waist to steady her. She gaped up at him and Mike stared back bewildered.
"Mike…" El breathed. She stared at him in awe and shock. Her mouth opened as if to form words she couldn't find. That's when he noticed what was in her hand.
"Where did you get those?" Mike whispered. The familiar sketches dredging up old memories, old hurt, he'd buried deep down long ago. There was a reason he never opened the box of the artwork his mother had managed to save for him. How did El get those when they were packed away in the corner of one of the drawers in the apartment?
"Dustin… T-They were on the table in the apartment." El explained hurriedly. "Mike… I'm your soulmate."
Mike gaped at her sudden outburst. His processor had almost completely shut down by information overload at this point. 404 Mike's Brain Not Found. Mike was still in shock about Will and Jen and the fact that, thankfully, Jennifer felt the same way about him–they were better off as friends. He hadn't even had a chance to consider that if Jennifer wasn't his soulmate, then who the original painter of the work he had seen was. Seeing El holding his paintings now, it all made sense.
"You're my soulmate?" Mike asked lowly.
El nodded. "I saw your work. I felt it. I can show you mine too, Mike. I'm your soulmate. I think… I think you saw my work instead of Jennifer's at the showcase that day."
El looked nervous as she saw Mike take it all in. Her eyes searched his, desperately hoping he wouldn't reject her and understand.
"You're my soulmate." Mike finally allowed a smile to slip on to his face. The statement solidified the truth in his mind and he felt his heart burst with elation. El smiled up at him too.
"I'm your soulmate." El giggled.
"Thank God!" Mike whispered as he leaned and pulled her closer, ready to kiss El for real this time.
It was everything he hoped for and more. The tingling he had gotten the previous two times was back and comforting as it zipped up his spine instead of the steady crawl it had been before. El was his soulmate, just as he had longed for her to be and it seemed she had longed for the same too. Mike couldn't be happier. They broke apart and Mike leaned his forehead against El's as a goofy smile was still on his face.
"Hi, soulmate!" El whispered with a smile as Mike gently rubbed his nose against hers. He was about to lean in and kiss her again before Dustin burst out of the apartment door having finally found his hat and ready to head out. He was clearly oblivious to the situation that had been occurring and backed up horrified as he saw Mike and El and the papers still in El's hands.
"Goddammit El! Now I'm really dead!"
I ship Jenny Hayes with Will from time to time. I think it's a ship that I can freely explore since Will's sexuality isn't discussed on the show. She cried at his funeral so I've always wanted to mess around with her character even though we don't have much to go by. I credit the idea of this AU to my friend MilevenFer on Twitter. She's the mastermind behind most of this and really wanted a soulmate AU fic so this is for you, Fer!
I'm on Ao3 as OceanSpray5 and post there more frequently so come read my fics from there! Please do leave a review as those make my day!