Love was the most mysterious thing in the universe, and everyone knew that. That fuzzy and comfortable feeling, and that curious need of feeling your special someone’s arms around you, enjoying the silence and their warm embrace. When it made you want to stare into each other's eyes for hours. Really, everything about love was strange. But the strangest thing about it was how two people, regardless of their gender, were automatically connected to each other as soon as they were born, and that they were bound to meet and spend the rest of their lives by each other's side one day. Those people were called Soulmates.
How could two strangers be connected at birth, you may ask? With a simple sentence written on their arms. Two Soulmates have the first thing they will ever hear from the other written on them. No matter the language, context, time or place. It was there, and it would always fall into place when it would happen. Scientists have tried understanding the cause of all this, but they never did. They couldn't even figure out what the sentences were written with. It definitely wasn't ink, as it couldn't be removed with a laser. It was like it was the skin's natural color...
Jeff knew about all this, obviously. He'd been longing for that moment since he was a child, dreaming of the moment he would hear his Soulmate speak those words written on him, like this was a line from the script of a play he'd been waiting to be in for ages.
But he hated how vague his sentence was.
It was "I'll have two sticky buns and a cup of coffee please". For someone who'd worked at a diner since he was 19, this was the most common thing to hear! Each time someone would walk in, Jeff would look down at his arm and wait until they would give him their order. Although he knew nothing about his future Soulmate, Jeff was positive that they were going be a man: he came to terms with his homosexuality when he was 15. But now that he thought about it, his Soulmate could just turn out to be a girl so perfect she would make him doubt his orientation again.
By now, he'd learned that special order by heart, and nothing was more awkward than getting all flustered in front of a customer who was hungry for waffles, only for them to reveal that they weren't the right person. This had happened so many times already. Jeff wished his Soulmate had ordered something less basic for their first meeting.
He was now more discreet about it now. He was getting tired of all these embarrassing moments he had to go through. He even slowly lost interest in finding his Soulmate and chose to wait for them to show up on their own. In the meantime, he decided to listen to other people's Soulmate stories. All of them were adorable.
He remembered when his best friend, Fred Kleiser, met his Soulmate. In fact, he was with him when it all happened. His sentence said "I think you dropped this". Fred was just as excited as Jeff used to be: he admitted that he would sometimes purposely drop things in hope that it would make him meet his Soulmate faster. Of course, that didn't work. You can't just mess with fate like that.
One day, when Jeff and Fred were looking for new warm clothes to buy, Fred lost his hat and searched for it in panic. He froze on the spot when he heard a woman's voice behind him say those exact words. He turned around and his cheeks flushed red when he saw the beautiful face of Debbie Johnson. Jeff would never forget how much Fred stuttered when he asked her what her sentence was. Debbie blushed hard, "Exactly what you just told me...".
And that's how Fred met his Soulmate, and later on, married her. They had the best wedding ever, and it was an honor for Jeff to be Fred's best man.
Though Jack, Jeff's father, still had the best story of how he'd met his mom. Nothing could top it.
"You see, my sentence is also the lyric of a popular song. So of course when I first heard it, I was frustrated! I couldn't tell if I was going to hear it in a normal conversation or if my Soulmate would just be singing it, you know? Or worse, what if my Soulmate was the singer? I grew to really hate that song because it was everywhere and I felt bad because, what if it was my Soulmate's favourite? That'd be awkward!"
"So what happened when you met?"
"I was at the store looking for something to buy, when I bumped into this really cute girl. Before we could say anything, that song came on in the speakers. In my head I was like "Not again!" and I suddenly heard the girl mock that exact sentence and tell me how much she hated that song. I obviously agreed with her."
"Her sentence was "Me too"."
6:40 AM. Jeff was very tired. The weather outside was freezing, even inside of the diner he could feel his legs start to hurt from the cold. Today was Groundhog Day, but it was obvious that Punxsutawney Phil wouldn't predict an early spring this year either. It was still snowy outside. He missed the sun.
His father suddenly walked in, along with his deputy, Wilbur, a guy shorter than him with a megaphone in his hand. Jeff had never talked to Wilbur, but he knew that he was often by his father’s side.
Jeff smiled at the two: since he had work early in the morning, he couldn't be there for Phil's prediction, so his father would always pay him a visit at the diner to let him know what the magical beaver's prognostication was.
Jeff giggled at his father, who was covered in snow, "Let me guess, early spring?" He asked sarcastically.
"Nope, Phil saw his shadow."
"Aw shucks. Maybe next year?"
Jack shrugged and looked at the deputy, "While we're at it, Wilbur, d'you wanna eat anything?"
Wilbur nodded and walked towards the counter. Jeff knew he wasn't a very expressive man, he had never seen him smile or show any kind of emotion except... seriousness maybe. And anger once. He was kind of intimidating, but Jeff couldn't deny he was good looking.
"I'll have two sticky buns and a cup of coffee please." Wilbur said.
Jeff internally laughed. Oh, that order again. Whatever. He was about to reply, but was cut off by his dad.
"They even had to close down the highways."
Jeff raised an eyebrow, "All of them? I hope nobody's hurt."
"Nobody's hurt but there's a huge blizzard" Wilbur chimed in, looking at Jeff.
Wilbur's eyes widened and he looked at Jeff in shock. Jeff's eyes met his and Wilbur swiftly looked away, visibly uncomfortable-Well, not uncomfortable, but out of it. Like he was lost in thoughts or something. Jeff couldn't figure out how to describe it.
"Are you alright?" He asked, now mildly concerned for the deputy. Wilbur frantically nodded and opened his mouth as if to say something, but immediately closed it. He walked towards an empty table and sat down. Jack followed and sat in front of him.
Jeff walked to their table to ask about his father's order. On his way there, he couldn't help but notice that Wilbur's eyes were on him. Was something the matter? Attempting to ignore him, Jeff looked at his dad with a forced smile. He could feel Wilbur staring at him.
"So pop, what can I get ya?" He asked as his hands fidgeted with the hem of his apron.
"I think I'm gonna have some bacon and an egg!" His father enthusiastically replied with his usual grin. Jeff's nervous smile turned into something genuine; people always said Jack's smile was contagious, and his own son couldn't agree more.
"Sure thing!" Jeff basically rushed behind his counter and into the backroom. He couldn't handle Wilbur's stare any longer. On his way, Jeff had caught a glimpse of the other's blue eyes and was unable to tell what he saw in them. It felt like Wilbur was both fascinated and scared, like-like he saw a ghost! It only made Jeff more confused.
He came back with the two orders and placed them on the table. Jack smiled and gave him a friendly pat on the shoulder. Jeff then turned to Wilbur, who flushed red and mumbled "T-Thanks" before quickly starting to eat. Jeff nervously smiled at him and walked back behind the counter. Soon enough, Fred and Debbie walked in and ordered their food as well. From the other side of the room, his father asked "Are you going to the gala tonight?"
"I don't know. It gets kinda boring when you're all alone" Jeff laughed. His father nodded, "I know, Jeff, but you'll get to see everyone! Ned Ryerson hasn't seen you in a while, maybe you could chat with him?"
"You HAVE to come!" Debbie suddenly screamed. "We'd love hanging out with you! And you know Fred can't carry me on his own when I'm drunk!"
Fred snorted and nodded in approval. With a smile, Jeff rolled his eyes, "Fine, I'll go."
"Who knows, maybe you'll find your Soulmate there!"
"I doubt it, but I'll be there anyway!"
Fred and Debbie looked at each other with a grin and went back to eating breakfast. Grabbing the batch of dirty dishes from earlier customers (The Cleveland were always standing by the door when the diner opened, and that weird priest liked drinking a cup of dark coffee by himself every morning), he began washing them. He would usually do that later in the day, but he didn’t have anything else to do. All the customers had their breakfast ready, and Doris was already taking care of Buster and Ms.Lancaster’s order.
At midday, Dorris let him have a quick lunch break. He went into the backroom and grabbed the small lunch bag next to his coat and his hat. His father would never let him make his own lunches though. He was somehow attached to the idea of doing that for his son. Back when he was young enough to actually have his lunch made by his parents, it was his mom who took care of doing that. Deep down, he always thought that was why Jack wouldn’t let go of that habit. He opened the small bag and pulled out a box of sandwiches clearly bought from the local grocery store. If only Jack actually knew how to cook.
The door swung open, revealing a woman with curly brown hair and wearing a red outfit with a hat that resembled a groundhog’s face.
“Hey Jeff!” She cheered.
“Oh hi Taylor!” Jeff smiled at her. “What are you doing here?”
He knew Doris wasn’t against people chatting with him during his lunch breaks, but his childhood friend Taylor wasn’t the type to visit. She would usually wait for his shift to be done. Or hers, sometimes, but her job as a dog walker here wasn’t as busy as you’d think, especially with that weather. The poor pups had to stay indoors.
“Okay, so you know how the gala’s tonight right?” Taylor continued.
“Are you going?”
“I mean, Fred and Debbie would kill me if I didn’t.”
“If you do, do you think we can dance together just once? Like the good ol’ time?”
“The good ol’ time” as Taylor would call it, was back when both were forced to dance in front of Taylor’s family because everyone wanted to see her “cute little new friend”. They were toddlers at the time, and for some reason Taylor would always bring that up every year before the Groundhog gala.
Jeff softly chuckled, “If you want to. I highly doubt I’ll be as good as when we could barely stand on our legs though.”
Taylor rolled her eyes and elbowed the waiter with a laugh, “You’re an idiot, Garvey. Anyway, I gotta go, I’m gonna be late for my only walk of the day.”
“Who would let their dog out with such a terrible weather?”
“Why am I not surprised?”
Taylor giggled and pecked Jeff’s cheek before walking out of the backroom. Jeff ate his sandwiches and took a sip of his water bottle, and went back to work.
The day ended quite quickly, nothing special had really happened: in the morning, he got to meet Phil Connors, that cute weatherman Fred and Debbie kept talking about, and he helped him pick up a plate he had dropped when Debbie accidentally slapped it off Jeff's hands. Although Phil was nice, Jeff had to admit he wasn’t as much of a fan as his two friends. It was still a good day overall.
In the evening, it was time for Jeff to go to the gala and see everyone. He didn't want to dress up too much, so he just picked a button-up shirt with a red bow tie. He went there with his father, who hadn't even bothered dressing up. At the gala, Wilbur was there too. He was also wearing his uniform, and he looked even more nervous than earlier. Jeff would sometimes glance at him and when he did, Wilbur would look away and start fidgeting with his ushanka. Jeff stopped paying attention, suddenly more focused on drinking a little to see if he could enjoy himself after all.
He didn't hate the gala itself, it just felt lonely without someone to hang out with. Taylor did ask for a dance, but he couldn’t find her anywhere. She was probably trying to woo that new girl who moved there 2 weeks ago. The day Taylor met her, Jeff would never forget: “Screw my sentence! Screw fate!” were her exact words.
He could stay by his father’s side like he did every year, but he wanted to do more tonight. Actually have fun instead of watching everyone else have the time of their life.
After a good hour of singing and dancing, Buster walked on stage and announced the beginning of the bachelor auction. In all honesty, it never really interested Jeff, but when he noticed that Phil was this year's "sale", he decided to give it a try. If he wanted to have a good night, he needed to be more daring. Take risks. He'd have a chance to dance with someone, at least. Soulmate or not.
Even if it meant coming out to his father. Jeff could always brush it off as a joke if it turned out Jack was homophobic anyway. And if he wasn't, then Jeff wouldn't have to openly come out. It was a win-win.
"Twenty dollars!" He suddenly shouted, raising his hand. A few girls -including Debbie- began bidding higher than him. He bid back a few times, but he gave up quite quickly. After all, it was stupid to spend so much money on someone who probably wasn't going to be interested anyway. Phil Connors was out of his league. Wow, when did this turn so depressing? Oh well. Jeff walked back to the table and watched as everyone started dancing. Phil ended up dancing with his producer, a woman with a purple coat and fluffy white boots. What was her name again, Rita? Rita something. He only talked to her once.
A hand suddenly lightly poked his shoulder, making him jump a bit. He turned around; it was Wilbur, his hands in his pockets and looking nervous.
"Oh hi Wilbur" Jeff said with a light smile, although a little confused. It was the first time Wilbur was trying to strike a conversation with him. After a second of silence, Wilbur took a deep breath and timidly showed him his hand. Did he-
Did he want to dance?
Jeff blushed, "You... really? With me?" His voice was quiet and hesitant. He really couldn't believe someone would actually ask him to dance. Wilbur nodded, "Yeah, you... you seem nice."
Smiling wide, Jeff gladly took Wilbur's hand and brought him closer to the dance floor. His two hands went on Wilbur's shoulders, who put his own on Jeff's hips. Jeff would normally feel uncomfortable, but somehow this felt... right. He couldn't really put a finger on why it felt this way, but it did. He felt warm, he felt safe, he felt... really weird. That part was probably the few glasses of martini he'd just drunk. Probably. There was something awkward between them.
Wilbur broke the silence a moment later. He cleared his throat, and said "Hey uh, I know it's a weird question, but... what's your sentence?"
"The sentence for my Soulmate?"
"Yeah, I'm... curious, or something..." Wilbur laughed nervously. That "or something" showed how socially awkward he really was, as Jeff had thought. He rolled up his left sleeve, where his sentence was written, and showed it to Wilbur. His whole face turned red and his eyes widened, "That's exactly what I told you..."
"A lot of people like sticky buns, it doesn't mean anything" Jeff giggled.
Wilbur shook his head a little, "Jeff, what I'm trying to say is-Hold on-" He then stopped to take another deep breath. His moved his hand up to his sleeve: it was shaking, like he was now panicking. He then pulled up the dark sleeve of his jacket.
So... Wait, really? Was this really happening? Jeff felt his cheeks start to burn, and his smile turned into a full on grin. He put a hand on his mouth and couldn't stop himself from giggling, both in surprise and in happiness. His Soulmate had been there the whole time, right in front of him, and they had never talked to each other. He suddenly took notice of Wilbur's eyes, and couldn't get himself to look somewhere else. Normally, eye contact was difficult for him, especially with people he didn't know that well. But at the moment, getting lost in Wilbur's eyes felt so right.
Wilbur laughed as well, and Jeff saw his smile for the first time. He couldn't tell if he was biased now that he knew Wilbur was his Soulmate, but he absolutely loved it: it was a genuine smile, so beautiful and perfect. Wilbur slowly moved his hands back on Jeff's hips, "Can we keep dancing? I mean, if that's okay with you..."
With a nod, Jeff put his hands back on Wilbur's shoulders and they continued dancing to the slow and comforting music.
Jeff had never seen Wilbur under this light. His bright smile, his beautiful eyes. Everything about him made it look like he was glowing. He didn’t want this day to end.
He suddenly felt himself grow wings. At this exact moment, he, Jeff Garvey, could do anything. He wasn’t scared anymore, he was dancing with his newfound Soulmate, the most beautiful person in the universe, the person with the most wonderful smile. Nothing could go wrong, and if it did, it wouldn’t hurt him.
Seeing that Jeff was completely relaxed, Wilbur decided to gently wrap his arms around Jeff’s hips to pull him closer. Jeff turned red, and suddenly grabbed Wilbur’s cheeks: although his hands grabbed the other’s face a little too roughly, he made sure that the kiss he pressed on his lips would be the sweetest he had ever received. He felt Wilbur literally melt in his arms as he kissed him back, eyes gently closing. Everything about this was right.
A few seconds into the kiss, Wilbur regained the strength -or consciousness- to break the kiss, and pulled Jeff into a tight hug. Jeff knew he wasn’t really comfortable with physical contact, remembering how awkward Wilbur was around people, he knew he’d probably feel better with a hug for now.
“I’m sorry if that came out of nowhere” Jeff whispered near the deputy’s ear.
“No no, don’t be” Wilbur whispered back, “It was sweet. I loved it.”
Jeff hugged Wilbur back, rubbing his back up and down, suddenly convinced this was but a wonderful dream. He had to admit, he had pretty much given up on ever finding a Soulmate. Although he had heard beautiful stories, he had also heard a few sad ones as well, or read theories about “Broken Soulmates” whose sentence didn’t match with anyone’s. But there he was now.
He felt his heart jump at the sudden voice that came from behind him, but he only slowly tilted his head. It was Taylor, wearing a really cute dress. Before she could say anything else, she giggled.
“Awww, look at you two!”
While Jeff replied with a small laugh, Wilbur timidly hid his face in his partner’s neck. You would never think he would be the shy type considering how much he tried to look scary when he would be on the job.
“Don’t worry, I didn’t forget that dance I promised you” Jeff said, before looking at the deputy, “Wilbur, is it okay if I dance with my friend? I promised I’d do this for her.”
Wilbur pouted, obviously a little sad, but nodded, “Of course.”
“I’ll come back once we’re done, promise.” Jeff kissed the top of Wilbur’s head, “I can’t wait to dance more with you~”
Wilbur’s cheeks turned red, and he gave Jeff’s back a gentle squeeze before letting go, “Can we walk home together once the gala’s over?”
“I’d love to.”
Wilbur smiled again, “I’ll be waiting for you with your dad, okay?”
Jeff kissed Wilbur’s cheek and walked away with Taylor. Wilbur then turned around and went looking for the sheriff. He was talking with Ned Ryerson, as both were alone for the gala. The deputy didn’t know much about Jack’s private life. Although they were friends and coworkers, Wilbur didn’t want to overstep his boundaries and ask something too personal.
Jack gave his deputy a huge grin, a plastic cup of beer in his hands. Scratching the back of his neck, Wilbur mumbled “H-Hey sheriff.”
Without missing a beat, Jack said “Looks like somebody found his Soulmate tonight~”
“Y-Yeah” Wilbur replied, blushing. “Your son, he’s… he’s amazing…”
“You’ve only really known him for 10 minutes and you’re already so fond of him?”
Jack noticed Wilbur blushing harder and getting ready to apologize, but before the deputy could say anything, he chuckled, “I’m kidding, Wilbur. Don’t worry, I felt the same way when I saw him for the first time.”
The two continued talking about Jeff and how happy Wilbur was to have finally found his Soulmate. He admitted that he had tried countless times to get his sentence removed surgically, or learn to forget what it was, because the idea of never finding his Soulmate was torture to him. He talked about how he had trouble sleeping at night wondering if he would ever meet that person or if he would die alone. He kept thinking that even if he’d meet his Soulmate, they would find him weird or awkward because of how nervous he was in public and how bad he was at hiding it. Jack listened to him and assured him that Jeff was one of the most caring people he knew, and that Wilbur had nothing to worry about. This brought tears to the deputy’s eyes.
Once the two were done talking, Wilbur went to get a drink and spent some time chatting with Jack, talking about Groundhog Day and how Phil’s prediction was really not a surprise. Jack laughed and mentioned how “the poor boy was doing his best” and that people were still happy to see him anyway. In a way, the weather didn’t really matter: seeing Punxsutawney Phil was the true blessing of the day to him.
Jeff and Taylor soon walked to them, both clearly exhausted from dancing. The sight made Jack chuckle.
“Did either of you fall?” He teased the two with a smile.
“Daaaad” Jeff fake whined before laughing, “No but we bumped into Fred and Debbie a couple times.”
“Your son doesn’t handle alcohol very well, Jack” Taylor chimed in.
“Oh, just like on his 21st birthday!” Jack added, laughing harder. Jeff pouted and grabbed Wilbur’s hand, “Let’s go. Don’t let pops tell ya about my birthday.”
“I’ll always remember when he-”
“Goodbye!” Jeff suddenly cut him off as he pulled Wilbur out of his chair and rushed towards the door. Wilbur giggled, not really minding being dragged off like that. Well, as long as it was his Soulmate.
Once Jeff closed the door, all they could hear was the muffled sound of the music behind them and the noise their feet made as they walked on the thick layer of snow. Both looked up at the starry sky in silence, Jeff still holding Wilbur’s hand. He gave it a gentle squeeze. He really thought today would be another Groundhog Day where he would have to dance alone and listen to his father’s stories about his very first times celebrating the holiday, before eating the same spaghetti they serve every year. But instead, he realized that the love of his life was right in front of him. Was it stupid to fall in love that quickly? After all, Jeff still knew nothing about Wilbur, and yet he felt like anything he would discover would make him fall in love a little more. Maybe that’s what being Soulmates meant.
They began walking, on their way to Jeff’s house, fingers intertwined and talking about themselves.
“So you used to go to an art school?” Jeff asked, surprised.
“Yeah. I still draw sometimes, it’s just that college was too difficult for me,” the deputy admitted, “then I met your dad at the bar and he said he needed someone to work with him. I took a training to become a deputy, and here I am.”
Jeff suddenly wrapped his arms around himself and shivered, “It’s getting really cold. And I forgot my coat at the gala. Is it okay if we go back to get it?”
Wilbur thought for a bit, before taking off his jacket and placing it on the other’s shoulders, “It’s a little small for you, but it should be good.”
Blood rushed to the waiter’s cheeks, “Thank you…”
They kept going, until they arrived at Jeff’s house. They stopped in front of the door, and he took his keys out of the pocket of his jeans. “So uh, here we are.”
He fidgeted with his keys for a moment, not really knowing what to say. Wilbur didn’t say a word either.
“I’ll uh, see you tomorrow at work?” He ended up asking, now messing with his tie.
Jeff smiled, “I’ll pay for whatever you want for breakfast.”
“Y-You don’t have to.”
“I don’t care” the waiter whispered before pecking Wilbur’s lips. “Goodnight, Wilbur”
Jeff then opened the door to his house and walked in, waving at his Soulmate before closing the door. Wilbur turned around and walked away, trying to pinch himself to see if he wasn’t dreaming.
He wasn’t going to be alone anymore. He didn’t know a lot about Jeff, yet something told him he was going to love everything about him. His qualities, he flaws, everything. He already couldn’t get his perfect smile out of his mind. That clumsy adorable waiter showed him what love truly felt like.
He suddenly shivered and rubbed the sides of his arms. The air suddenly felt colder than earlier. Was the weather acting up or something? He suddenly remembered why he felt so cold.
Jeff forgot to give him back his jacket.