Conner let loose a low whistle as Dominic walked into the station house kitchen.
"Damn, you look like shit Dom, why don't you go crash out back for a bit? I'll come get you if we get called out."
"Thanks little brother, so feeling the love right now." Dominic threw back sarcastically as he made a beeline to the coffee machine to caffeine up.
Conner sat back taking a sip from his own caffeine fix and frowned as he took in the sight of his older brother. Dominic wasn't standing tall and proud like he normally did, he appeared to be inches shorter than his actual six foot six height as he dragged his feet over the floor. His short black hair, normally clean and neat, looked greasy like it was at least a few days overdue for a wash and his face had, Conner would guess, three days worth of growth on it. They had always been close and could read each other so well that often they could communicate without using words. A very handy skill when they were out fighting fires. It also meant it hadn't slipped Conner's notice over the last few days that Dominic was getting worse, looking more wrecked each day. He was worried about his big bro, both on a personal level and a professional one. With summer and the bushfire season just around the corner, none of them could afford to be off their game. Conner set his can of Coke down on the table as Dominic sat across from him and took a long drag of his coffee.
"I'm serious Dom, something's up. Has been for couple of days. You gonna spill? Or do I have to sic Dad onto you?"
"Yeah right, like to see you try pulling that one off." Dominic said on a chuckle.
Conner watched as the humor left his brother's face--finally, they were making some progress.
"They're just dreams, Conner. I'm fine." Dominic ground out.
"Bullshit you're fine. What dreams?" Conner shot back.
"My mate turned twenty-one about six weeks ago." Dominic said as he looked straight into Conner's eyes.
"Wow, you're dreaming of your mate already? You've only just turned twenty-one this year. But hang on, why has it got you so stressed out? I thought once you started dreaming of your mate, life is all sunshine and lollipops or some shit? Did you meet her and stuff it up or something?"
Conner remembered their father had explained to them once how when a male shifter's mate turns twenty-one he would start to see her face in his dreams. As time goes by the visions reveal what she looks like from head to toe and also exposes places, people and things that she holds dear. If he hasn't met his woman by that point, he would then have enough information about her he could go looking for her. Generally speaking, fate put them in each other's path long before they needed to go searching. Dominic's deep voice pulled Conner back to the present.
"It was in the beginning. Six weeks ago it was amazing. After the first dream I felt so alive; you know how it feels after you go for a good solid run? Like that, but 24/7. And at night, every night, she's all I see. She's so damn beautiful..." By the glazed look in Dominic's eyes, Conner guessed he'd lost him to memories of his nocturnal visions. Time to pull him back, or they would be getting nowhere fast.
"Yeah, yeah, don't need my nose rubbed in it...so what changed?" He said with a smirk before taking another mouthful of his Coke.
"I'm not sure, it's like--damn it--I think she's in trouble or in pain, but I don't know how to find her. I've never seen her outside my dreams and it's still too early for me to see anything other than her. I just don't know where to start or what to do." Dominic scrubbed his hands over his face on a sigh.
"Have you spoken to Dad about it? I'm pretty sure he'd have an answer for you. He did tell us to inform him when our mate-dreams started."
"Nah I haven't. He has his hands full at the moment. You know that. Fire season around the corner, he's flat out getting everything ready, and with the Search; I mean, hell, they've only found three pairs globally. That means there are still four couples out there, including one in Australia. Would have been one hell of a surprise on their fifteenth birthdays in 2001 when they suddenly shifted to snow leopards at nightfall don't you think? It's important we find them before they lose their minds. Six years not knowing what is going on is a long time. That's more important than my mate issues."
"Bullshit bro--you're scared that's all. You know as well as I do Dad is never too busy for family. Hell, he's never too busy to help anyone who needs it, and he manages to multi-task just fine. He'll be pissed if you don't go to him for help when he finds out you needed it."
Shaking his head in resignation, Conner got up and using every ounce of his supernatural strength, he hauled his brother’s butt out of his chair. Before Dominic could come to his senses and stop him, he had him half way out the door. Pulling his arm free Dominic growled at him.
"What the hell Conner?"
"You need to go ask Dad for advice, and I want to know about how this whole mating thing works, so I'm coming along."