He's shifting around anxiously, fidgeting every five seconds like he accidentally plopped his ass down on a hornet's nest and then decided to let them sting him for science. You swallow your mouthful of delicious sandwich and kick him, hard, under the table.
John yelps and glares at you, bending to rub his shin. You point your sandwich at him menacingly, and a glob of mayo goes splat on the table. "Dude. Calm the heck down - you've still got, like, five minutes."
"Five minutes!" John hisses, and twists his wrist. His counter is ticking steadily down towards zero, like it's been doing his whole life. You're a dirty dirty liar apparently - John only has three minutes and twenty seven seconds before his soul mate walks into his life.
"Dude, ok, but like what if..."
You roll your eyes and tune him out. John's been babbling about his soulmate meeting for the last week and, as the absolute best friend on planet earth, you've dutifully listened to each one of his "what ifs".
"What if they don't like me?"
"What if my counter hits zero and there's no one there!?"
And your personal favorite -
"No, ok, Dave but what if, like, it hits zero and I bump into a mailbox or something!? I can't marry a mailbox!"
That one resulted in you photoshopping a picture together of Egbert and his mailbox bride, and the two of you stayed up until like four am laughing about it and making up names for his upcoming fleet of human-box children. You'd been this close to making a family of mailbox monsters in the Sims when John had passed out in your bed, drooling on your pillow.
You smile to yourself - that was an awesome night.
John is still talking - "... and I'm standing there all covered in coffee without a shoe! What do I do then!?"
You blink - haven't heard that one before. "I think you're overthinking this one, bro."
John looks unnaturally nervous - in all your years of knowing the kid, you've never seen him with this sick sort of vomit-ish look on his face. He looks pale. You nudge him with the toe of your worn-out sneaker, and he gives you a tight smile.
"Come on, John." You try for comforting - you're pretty sure you nail it, but you're a sarcastic asshole at heart so who knows. Luckily, John knows you better than you know you, so he gets when you're trying to be serious. Like right now. You reach across the table and pat the back of his hand. "It's gonna be fine. In," you twist his hand in yours, "thirty-two seconds you're gonna walk right into the sunshine to your storm cloud, the peanut to your butter, the Lonely to your Island, the wiener to your bun, if you catch my drift." You waggle your eyebrows and John snorts. "And you're gonna be happy as fuck, man. I promise that."
A breeze stirs the little cafe and John smiles at you, a quirk of lips and you realize your hands are still touching, stretched across the table top.
You suck in a breath and pull your hand back. John is scanning the cafe, trying not to look eager.
"I'm really glad you're here, Dave." John says, quietly, and it's such a juxtaposition from his normal goofy self that you blink, wasting precious seconds as you try to decipher his meaning.
"You're a really good friend." John continues, and you dry swallow. Damn straight you are - the best fucking friend in the whole goddamn world.
"John--" You croak, but in the space of your breath and your vocal cords vibrating out his name, the bell on the cafe door has jingled merrily. You don't look - you're not sure if you can - but you see her anyway when she trips on the toe of her shoe and stumbles against John's chair, the moment the numbers on his wrist flash a blinding red and stop counting.
"Whoa!" She grins, and she's beautiful - blonde and bright-eyed - and John is struck dumb. "Hi there! You're waaaay cuter than I thought you’d be!"
John turns a splotchy shade of pink and sticks out his hand. The line of zeroes is burned into his wrist and you can't look away. "I'm John."
The girl snaps her gum. "Roxy." She takes his hand in hers and you throw some money on the table and stand. Neither notice you leave the cafe. You're not sure John remembers you were even there.
It's not until you're two full blocks away from the cafe that you let out the angry choked noise that's been threatening to bust forth all day. You rear back and punch the wall next to you, then dance around and swear loudly for the next couple of seconds because holy fuck that hurt. Your knuckles are throbbing and you turn your hand to examine them.
Your wrist twinges and you scowl at it, at the little line of zeroes stark against the paleness of your skin. They blur as, despite your desperate attempt to stop them, tears prick at your eyes and your throat closes.
Fuck. It's not like you're not used to it - your wrist has been zero for a long time.
How like Egbert, to be fucking late for something as important as this.
You huff out a laugh that's totally not bitter in the slightest and pull up your hood, shoving your throbbing fingers into your hoodie pockets, heading off down the sidewalk, back to your empty apartment. Maybe you'll find something decent on TV for a change.
You're so fucking nervous, holy shit, it's almost time - your wrist is itching like crazy and your heart is either gonna shoot out your throat or fall out your ass, one of the two. Five seconds and it could be anyone, anyone at all could walk around the corner or come up the stairs into the park or --
"Heads up!" The ball hits you square in the side of the head and knocks your shades off. You yelp and spin around, scanning for your sunglasses, when that voice speaks again, clear and high and amused --
"Shit, dude, I'm sorry!" He's perfect - all fly-away hair and bright smiles and God, you love guys just that much shorter than you that you can wrap them up in the tightest hug...
You swallow, hard, past the lump in your throat. "That's ok." You croak, and the guy chuckles.
"I'm John." He says, sticking his hand out to shake. His hand, which is attached to his wrist. Which is-- counting. Counting down. He's got two years on his clock.
Your entire world shudders but you force a smile that feels too tight, too fake, shaking your sleeve down over your wrist. "Dave." You mumble, and put your hand in your soul mate’s. "Nice to meet you."
"You too!" John is grinning and you look into his face and tip over the edge and just fall.
You've been falling for exactly two years, six months, and twenty-seven days -- you guess you had to hit the ground at some point.
Too bad no one warned you how much it was gonna hurt.