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Delta Force of Fate (Charloe Squad)

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Okay, Cupids-in-training. As you know, the higher ups have decided to form a special squad. The Delta Force of fate, if you will. Before you begin your actual training, they thought it would be best for you to understand why this new squad is needed. As you also know, up to this point we've avoided meddling to this degree. The short version is that the Council saw something huge the last time they looked into The Inevitable. I don't know exactly what they saw, so don't ask, but it's big enough that they think we might need to intervene for the first time in a few thousand years. Given none of you have undergone Matchmaker training, I'll have to bring you up to speed and then we'll continue this observation class together so you can understand why they're finally changing things.

We didn't mean for the whole soulmate thing to be complicated. Really, what could be simpler? Upon first physical contact with your match, you both get a mark and a... feeling. Nobody's ever come up with a good name for the feeling, even us. That was actually an unanticipated side effect. It's like being at your favorite place after a year away, finally understanding that math problem that's been driving you nuts all month, and getting that satisfied feeling from when a complicated and risky plan goes entirely right. We really should have thought of a good name for the feeling, but since humans somehow manage to vocalize the italics when talking about the feeling, it's not the hugest issue.

So, right, shouldn't be complicated, but humans overthink everything. "What if I never meet him/her because he/she is too far away?" They really think we wouldn't plan for that? Our matches are always geographically compatible... At some point. "What if it's my best friend's girl/guy?" Either the best friend will understand straight off or else they'll be on rocky terms at least until he or she finds his or her own soulmate and can finally get it. "What if my soulmate is a germaphobe and never so much as shakes my hand and we never figure it out?" People trip over their own feet all the time. It's not usually that hard for us to make sure that one of them literally runs into/trips over/falls on top of the other. We did briefly consider having the marks visible before the first meeting, but sometimes plans change (people do die off schedule sometimes, and this whole nanotech thing threw a wrench into everything and invalidated over two-thirds of the unmet matches) and it would be cruel to give someone a mark and then take it away or replace it with something else. There's also the occasional person who remains unmatched for an unacceptable amount of time, which is another reason we didn't make the marks visible from the beginning; who would want to know that the person meant for them doesn't exist yet? And, of course, there's the eight percent of the population that we'll never be able to match. It used to be only three percent, but that stupid fucking nanotech... I digress.

As it is, we carefully consider the many paths a person's life can take and designate a soulmate based on that. It's usually pretty simple. Destiny isn't a thing, but most humans live life in a fairly predictable way. Or, at least, it's fairly easy for us to predict by the time a human goes through puberty and the hormones quiet down. Sometimes we're thrown for a loop because someone makes such a drastic decision or changes in such a huge way that we never actually thought that was a viable option. For instance, a couple of people might (at different points in their lives) go from disliking killing and only using it as a last resort to "yes, I could have just knocked him out, but slitting his throat was much more efficient." 

That's where I come in. I deal with the curveballs. And I love my job. Mostly. It's never boring and it's frequently like solving a really complicated mathematical equation. I love math. Plus, with the blackout, I've been getting tons of overtime and can finally afford my dream house. Well, it's a dream star, really, but I'm getting off topic. 

One of the reasons that soulmates became complicated is because humans seem to think that it's all about romantic love. No, it's not. Yeah, you're probably going to love your soulmate. That's damn near inevitable. We don't choose that. We don't know who you're going to love. We choose your soulmate from a pool of people with whom you're already likely to interact. We choose the person you will need and who will need you. If there isn't at least the potential for some kind of love there, you'll never know who your soulmate is because you'll never experience the feeling. You might never be in love, but you will love your soulmate. It would be foolish for us to choose someone we know you'd always hate, or even just be indifferent towards, because then they wouldn't be around to do their job (and you wouldn't be around them to do yours). Your soulmate is the person who completes you, as cheesy as that is. They might complement you (fill in the blanks, so to speak), they might change you for the better, they might help you survive, they might be the only person who fully understands you, they might be one (or more) of any number of things to you. But the one thing they will always be is the last piece to your puzzle.

As much as humans complicate soulmates, they accept them. Usually. Sometimes there's a couple who just won't go along with it. Like these two dimwits, who happen to be the reason we're all here. Charlotte Matheson and Sebastian Monroe, also known as Charlie and just plain Monroe. I don't know how much overtime the fatebirds had been clocking on those two alone. It took them over six months from the time of the match (which I didn't make until Charlie left her little estate on the prairie) to get them to touch. Which they did by setting things up so that Sebastian would punch Charlotte in the gut. And they're giving me grief about the whole thing.

So, anyway, these two have been irritatingly stubborn and refuse to acknowledge their soulmate status. After Monroe hit Charlie, she spent a good portion of time on the ground gasping. Not just from the punch, though that was a doozy, but from the feeling. And then also from blasting denial with every synapse of her brain. Monroe, the utter idiot, had to deal with the feeling while he was running. I might have felt bad for him, but they are too fucking stubborn for me to have any sympathy left. Traditionally, soulmates remain connected, or at least immobile, for a bit after first contact because the feeling is so overwhelming. Separating and moving while not only experiencing the feeling but also having your mark appear? That's a bitch. Okay, yes, the marking process is usually painless, but I asked the numbflies to hold off this time. Like I said, I was annoyed. Without the numbflies, getting a mark feels an awful lot like getting branded from the inside out. Or so I've heard.

Charlie, once she recovered enough to stand up, didn't even spare a minute to look for her mark. I mean, it's not that hard, Charlie! It's on your fucking stomach where your asshole soulmate hit you! Monroe at least examined his. Probably because it was on his fist and he couldn't really avoid it. I think the tatfae did an awesome job designing their mark, honestly. It's this sweet crossbow/sword hybrid thing that is pretty much indescribable but looks amazing. Hopefully you'll get to see it later.

Once they managed the getting-the-idiots-to-touch thing, the fatebirds took off. There's usually no need for them to be involved after that first contact. The mark has been made and the feeling has been felt. It's only felt the first time. Unless the soulmates are two incredibly obstinate people who make denial an art form. Then, apparently (I've never actually heard of this happening before), the feeling keeps happening (though not as intensely) until they give the fuck in.

Luckily, Monroe already had a vested interest in being around Charlie so that she could take him to her uncle. Otherwise, he probably would've set about on the same path of avoidance that Charlie did. Well, maybe. He didn't seem particularly pleased about the match, but I've noticed that he occasionally goes out of the way to touch her. Deliberately shoving her shoulder with his in an incredibly juvenile way while walking past her counts as going out of his way. They both got a dose of the feeling for that one.

You know what? I'm sick of the italics. I'm not nearly as good as humans are at vocalizing them. For the sake of telling this story without annoying myself further, I'm going to call the feeling the Charloes. In fact, I think I'm going to name your Delta Force of fate squad the Charloe Squad. Take that, stubborn asshats.

They both got a dose of the Charloes.

Since she was unconscious, they didn't get a dose when he was carrying her away from a hell bar in Pottsboro. But every time they handed each other something and accidentally brushed hands or grabbed for the same knife at the same time or bumped against each other in the wagon when the road was extra rocky, they got another dose of the Charloes. Mostly they threw stuff at each other when an item was requested and stayed as far to the opposite sides of the wagon as they could.

I don't think I've ever been gladder for violence.

Since they had to avoid checkpoints and were trying to avoid conflicts that would bring attention to them, they had to take a roundabout way to Willoughby. Which, ironically, caused them to encounter a few very violent situations. Charlie learned to trust him, at least with her life, and he learned... probably nothing from that, actually. He already knew that she wasn't the damsel-in-distress type and that she was smart enough not to abandon him to fight alone when she would need his help down the line. After the second week on the road (like I said, they had to take a roundabout way; the trip was about three times longer than it would've been otherwise) they finally started talking as they rode, though they still avoided touching unless absolutely necessary (which was usually when they were trying to avoid dying and therefore got the Charloes at an inconvenient time). It seemed that they were warming up to each other a bit, even if they were still denying that they were goddamn soulmates. Monroe told Charlie about a lot of stuff he probably never meant to (Shelly and the baby and Emma's and his kid, for starters... yes, I realize that means nothing to you trainees. No, I won't explain it now), a few things he just thought would amuse her ("I bet Miles would never tell you about Ann Arbor even if you asked, but here's what happened... and a few things just to piss her off (pro tip, everyone, no matter how deep in denial you are, don't tell your frickin' soulmate about the time you banged her mom). Charlie told him some of what she'd been up to since she'd left Willoughby, but mostly she'd just start a conversation when she was bored. Or she asked uncomfortable questions ("so, is Miles my biological father? "... another pro tip, everyone, if you're going to lie to a kid about who her father is, make sure blood types and Punnett squares aren't included in her education).

By the time they finally got to Willoughby, I was ready to smack them upside the head. Scratch that. I was ready to forcibly glue their heads together. And then Charlie had to be all "I would never let him touch me" and I growled. Literally. Starhunters near this very same celestial observation post nearly shot me.

Here's the thing: I don't have a whole lot of sway over humans beyond the whole deciding-their-soulmates thing. None of us actually have that much sway. Fatebirds can sort of nudge people in the right direction, and of course the numbflies and the tatfae can impact humans physically in a small way, but we matchmakers get pretty much nothing. I can't conveniently trap them in a room or, you know, glue their heads together. I know, you're probably thinking "why bother watching if your part is done and you can't do anything more?" Because, my dears, I have never failed in making a match. I hadn't ever even made a questionable match. My boss thought I was a bit too full of myself and it would do me good to see what happens when a match fails. In other words: I had no choice. I get to watch this damn thing play out until either they prove me right or one of them dies before they accept that they are meant for each other. You lot are here because my boss finally realized why I made this match, which means he realized that the policy of non-interference after matching is occasionally stupid and we might need a ground force to help move things along. If the Council had just looked into The Inevitable sooner, my boss might have seen that I am a fucking genius and you guys would already be trained and on the ground working on these two.

Right, where was I?... Willoughby, wouldn't let him touch me, yada yada. After that, there were a few shared conversations-via-eye-contact (I do so very much love those), and at some point Charlie managed to convince her mother (whose name shall not be spoken in my presence. Ever. Seriously, if you speak her name to me I will send you into a sun without so much as SPF 15) to not kill Monroe when he was sentenced to death. Charlie even voluntarily touched him to help get him into a bed after the mother dug him out of his grave. Granted, he was unconscious at the time and therefore no Charloes were felt, but there was contact. Progress.

That pretty much brings you up to speed. You've only got a couple days to watch them before you'll have to get to work, so be observant. If you'll turn your attention back to the idiots, I think Monroe is going to wake up soon, and you'll be able to see them interact for yourselves.