Chapter One - Matched HQ
"That was so embarrassing," Elliot grumbled as he got into the car with Damien his face red as a tomato.
They had just finished clearing Elliot's things to take back to Damien's mansion. It had taken a few trips back and forth over the last week or so but finally he was out. Damien had said he could organise a van, but Elliot liked the excuse to come with him to London.
But this time, Damien had decided it would be appropriate for Elliot to wear a butt plug again for the trip, to which Elliot's protests had failed to counter.
He had been in the middle of talking to his ex-housemate Dean when Damien had chosen to show Elliot that it was in fact a vibrating plug. It had been a very low setting but it was enough for Elliot to gasp and grip the chair by which he stood. His friend Dean had looked at him rather confused, and Elliot had managed to flounder an excuse and quickly leave the room.
Damien laughed, a real laugh, his eyes shining with amusement.
"Oh come on, lighten up it was just a joke!" He said, instructing the driver where to drive, the car pulling away into the London traffic.
Elliot glared at him but his lips lifted a millimetre at the corner of his mouth. He couldn't believe how happy Damien was. Over the last few weeks the distant man he had met had changed, now he had started pranking him? He couldn't help feel the warm flutters in his chest when he remembered that was because of him.
And although it still felt a little alien, he couldn't deny he was happy too. It was only about a month and a half since he had matched with Damien on the dating app that promised 100% success. He had been so shocked to be with a man, and at first had felt lost and frightened. Damien hadn't helped matters by being cold and distant. It took time for Elliot to get used to his new future. Meanwhile, he slowly was working his way through Damien's shield, and they slowly became closer and closer, each unable to fight the overwhelming force that pulled them together like magnets.
The trust that grew day by day had also affected their sex. Elliot had never felt anything like it, and now he was horny all the time. Like an addict, craving the next time they would be alone and he could feel him on him, over him, in him. His mind often drifted to the hot sweaty nights at Damien's home and felt his breath catch as he remembered every electric sensation of his skin against Damiens. But for now, he was still annoyed and was not letting him off.
He crossed his arms, "You should have told me! And definitely waited until we were alone! Not mid conversation with Dean. He'll think I've gone mental."
"It wasn't as bad as you think," Damien reassured him.
"Still should have waited," he grumbled.
"What about now?" He said silkily, and Elliot felt the vibrations return in his ass, much stronger than they were before, the pleasure and surprise caused Elliot's whole body to tense, only making the vibrations even more intense. He gripped the door handle of the car and his seat with his hands and moaned.
"Fuck Damien!" He growled.
"Yes please," he replied.
"We're not alone!" He hissed looking at Hector the driver in front who was respectfully averting his gaze.
Damien chuckled softly, and the vibrations stopped.
"So coy today," he smirked.
Elliot shot daggers at him from his eyes ignoring his growing desires to jump on him, nevermind Hector. But he said nothing, and Damien ignored him. He sighed and looked instead out the window at the bustling London streets.
"I'm assuming you're not letting me take this out until tonight are you?" He mumbled.
"Correct," Damien grinned.
Elliot sighed, but resigned himself to the decision. He still battled with himself regularly about the control of his life and how much he had agreed to hand over. But when he saw that smile, his concerns always seemed to melt away. Damien lifted his hand to Elliot's face, moving a lock of hair from his forehead, his fingers lingering at his cheeks affectionately.
"So I have a meeting with some of the Execs at Matched now," Damien sighed. "I don't think you'll be allowed into the meeting but they have a nice cafe on site if you don't mind waiting? Won't be more than an hour, hour and a half max."
"Yeah no problem," Elliot said. Damien had driven him here and helped him get all his things, the least he could do was keep himself entertained.
"I'm sorry I should have said, you could have stayed with Dean longer," Damien apologised.
"Nah it's alright, cafe sounds good, I'm hungry."
When they pulled up at Matched HQ, Elliot was surprised. He had never even realised the company was based in London, let alone so centrally. He couldn't help wonder what the rent price would be. They walked up the neat stone steps to a set of glass doors, emblazoned with the 'Matched' logo.
When they stepped inside, both Elliot and Damien stopped in surprise. Matched HQ was busy, but you could tell immediately that it wasn't in a good way. There was a nervous energy in the place, and it made Elliot uneasy.
"Mr Parker!" A chubby man in a suit and a pink blotchy face came up to them his eyes full of alarm. "What are you doing here?"
"Our meeting? I was informed 1:30pm upstairs? We're a little early but... Frank are you alright?"
Frank did not look alright. He was sweating and breathing heavily, his face was all panic and Elliot thought he looked like he would faint.
"Do you need to sit down dude?" Elliot said and Franks eyes spun to him.
"Who are you?" He asked.
"This is Elliot Green, he is my Match. We met a month or so ago, hence why you haven't seen him before."
"Hey," Elliot said trying to shoot the man a friendly smile, but he got nothing but a look of horror in return. He wondered if he had done something wrong.
"A month or so..." he seemed to squeak under his breath.
"Frank, what has happened?" Damien said his face turning hard and stern.
"Umm.." Frank finally looked from Elliot to Damien, he seemed to blanche under Damien's glare, Frank almost an entire foot shorter than him. "I think you might as well come upstairs."
Damien and Elliot exchanged glances. "I'll see you later, if it drags on and you want to go somewhere else just send me a text, I'll find you."
He gave him a quick kiss and then followed Frank who waddled like a walrus up the stairs at the back of the foyer.
Elliot looked around awkwardly and saw the sign for "Cafe". He followed it and found a large seated area with sofas and neat table sets, he approached the counter and placed his order. Returning with it to a sofa near the window so he could people watch.
He ate quietly, wondering what was going on upstairs that had caused Frank to be so nervous. He had definitely been looking at him in an odd way. But why?
"Well well well," a female voice said behind him.
Elliot's eyes narrowed, well fuck.
"Stephanie," he said bluntly. The last time he had seen her she had been drunk and rude at a party, she had asked if he was a virgin, wondered why Damien and he were matched, and generally been a pain in the-
"Looks like both our hubbies are in an important meeting," she giggled. "Girls lunch!"
Elliot winced, "yeah, no. If you're staying, I'm off."
"Please stay," she pouted, "just for a little bit, I promise I'll play nice."
Elliot eyed her with doubt but decided he had nothing better to do anyway.
"Fine, how are you Stephanie?" He asked, the attempt at small talk barely got away without sounding sarcastic.
"Oh well, I'm in shock of course! You must be too!" she said, her face alight with new gossip.
"About what?" He asked.
Her mouth fell open like a cartoon character. Elliot didn't know people did that in real life.
"You don't know?! Matched has been hacked!"
"What?" He leaned forward suddenly very interested in Stephanie's words. Hacking Matched was a huge deal, a global company with millions of users, all that data...
"How? In what way?"
"Well," Stephanie said in an excited tone "I don't know it all yet, but Harvey said that over the last two months there have been at least fifty three incorrect matches, and the number is growing. They thought it was a technical glitch but it apparently has been discovered that a load of accounts were hacked and put together with non matches!"
Elliot frowned, "But who would do that?!"
Stephanie shrugged, "they're talking about it now. We got a call an hour ago to come straight in. I'm surprised Damien got called, they normally wouldn't want him to know about something like this straight away. Him being the financial end of it all."
"They didn't call, we came in and it was all panic."
"Oooh," Stephanie said, delighted by more gossip. "He is not going to be happy.." she gasped "wait! You were matched last month! What if.."
"No, were fine," Elliot said, but he felt uneasy. What if? He couldn't even bare to think it.
Shortly Stephanie's gossip turned onto celebrities and famous people that Elliot didn't care about. After about twenty minutes he had had enough. He texted Damien to say he was leaving and then decided to go for a walk along the Southbank, one of his favourite walks. He had always enjoyed the bustle of it, the happy tourists, the breeze on the river. It meant he could turn off his worried mind.
Chapter Two - Hacked
Damien squared his shoulders in anticipation as he walked towards the meeting room. Frank was clearly extremely distressed and that meant only bad news. He wondered what might have happened, had he lost all the millions he had poured into this company? Years of work and then over? Oh his father would be so smug. His chest tightened at the thought of his words, his cold eyes looking at him in disappointment as they always had since he could remember.
It had happened to his father once. Millions of pounds invested and then, gone. He had seen it happen, seen his own father red in the face, clutching his whiskey as he took his anger out on Damien. The screaming, the yelling, hitting his mother, or he would hit him, anything that gave him some semblance of control.
He forced his brain away from those memories. It wasn't useful to dwell on his haunted and miserable childhood. The present was what mattered, and right now the present was in danger of collapse.
Frank pushed the wide doors to the meeting room open and the voices inside stopped, looking up at Damien. He saw Janette, the CEO and her partner Harvey, the one who had convinced him to invest in the company. His friend, who usually had a cheerful boyish face, looked pale at the sight of him.
"Damien, what are you-"
"He's here for the scheduled monthly meeting," Frank reminded him and Harvey sighed.
"Oh, then you don't know?"
"No, I do not know. Frank would tell me nothing. What has happened?" Damien asked, his voice getting frustrated now. He sat in the empty seat at the table opposite Harvey and Janette.
They glanced at each other and then back at him.
"Well," Harvey sighed "we've been hacked."
"Hacked?" Damien's eyebrows rose.
"Yes, we're not sure how many profiles have been affected but we have discovered at least sixty false matches so far."
Damien's stomach dropped. Matched's whole identity was infallible matches, 100% success. The opportunity to meet your true love, and know that they were the best person for you. If there had been false matches that put their entire business model in jeopardy.
"Who hacked them? And why?"
"We are still working that out but it seems an LGBT online activist group have boasted about it on their social media," Janette explained.
Damien frowned, "why would they hack Matched?"
"They say," Harvey said in an exasperated tone "that we don't have enough homosexual pairings. So they matched many earmarked 'Straight' males with 'gay' or 'bi' males to prove a point."
"How long has this been going on?" Damien asked, his mind running at double speed. A trickle of dread had begun to slip into the back of his mind but he pushed it away, refusing to even consider that Elliot wasn't...
"The furthest back hacking we have discovered so far was two months ago, since then they have popped up randomly," a young man Damien didn't know chipped in, most likely from tech. He looked down at an iPad with large dark glasses that made his eyes look huge in his small elfish face. "We are now manually searching the profiles that matched over the last two months to look for any signs of manipulation."
They spoke for a while about how this may impact the company, the media hit. But Damien stayed resolutely firm that he would not be pulling away as an investor which seemed to put the colour back into Harvey's face a little.
"Damien, can I speak to you in my office a moment privately?" Harvey asked and Damien agreed, leaving the meeting room in full swing.
Harvey led him into his office, their footsteps echoing through the empty hall. It looked the exact same as when Damien had last been there, modern but with pictures and trophies dotted around. A framed photo of he and Stephanie in Paris was on the desk. He had never known what his friend saw in that woman, but he was not the type to ask.
"Sit down," Harvey said, Damien sat.
"So? What is it you want to tell me?" He asked and Harvey sighed.
"Damien, they don't know yet in there. But you're my friend, I know you were matched with a Elliot within the window. So I checked myself, and..."
"And?" Damien said, his voice turning icy, his hand clenching the chair.
"I'm sorry. You may want to look for yourself."
Harvey handed him a small tablet. On it was Matched HQ's data programme. He had seen it before, so was familiar with its format. On the screen was Elliot, at the sight of him his guts seemed to constrict, his heart sped up. It was a photo with Dean and a boy he didn't know, Elliot was front and centre. He was laughing at some long forgotten joke, his eyes bright, the same way they were when they looked up at him. Those eyes that were the perfect shade of blue, like the cleanest most enticing ocean water. His hair that beautiful honey brown, falling ever so slightly into his eyes. God, he was perfect as the day he had fainted through his doorway.
He pulled his eyes away from the image and read the data, most of it he didn't understand, but at the bottom of the page was two links. The live link was to Damien's profile, he recognised the image he had used. This was how they had matched. But beside it was another link, it had been tampered with.
"What's the other link?"
"That is his real match that had been assigned to him before the hacking," Harvey said, his face pained as if giving his friend this information was physically hurting him.
He came around the desk and fiddled with the coding on the iPad, then handed it back to him. Damien had never been interested in women but he could see this girl was beautiful. Auburn hair glittering like copper, bright light eyes, a freckled face and a big smile as she held up a little fluffy dog to the camera.
"Her name is Ella," Harvey said.
"So Elliot is not my match," Damien said, his chest felt numb, cold as ice. As if he would never feel happiness again. He was good at making himself feel numb, to block out pain, it was the one thing he could thank his father for inadvertently teaching him.
"No," Harvey said. "I think you should go somewhere, we don't need you to sit through this, you've done more than-"
"I'm fine," Damien said, handing back the iPad with the strongest calm he could muster. He felt like an angry churning sea was stirring beneath the a sheet of ice, and it was getting thinner by the second. He tried to throw all of his willpower into the icy sheet. To hold back his emotions. But his time with Elliot, slowly opening up to him, softening, allowing to see the good things around him again had made him forget how.
"Give me a couple of minutes, and I'll be right behind you. You might as well use the time to add our names to the list. Please make sure no one asks me about it when I return."
"Of course," Harvey said, backing out of the room and leaving Damien alone.
His shoulders sagged, he couldn't keep up the facade of strength. But he wouldn't cry, that much he could control. He ran his hands through his hair and took some deep breaths, looking out of the window out into the city. He waited until he was sure he had crammed every modicum of pain back under the icy layer in his head, and then stood and walked back to the meeting room.
The meeting dragged, eventually all the couples who were effected were drafted into a list. Seventy three. One hundred and fourty six users. Each one would have to be told the uncomfortable and terrible truth.
A break came and Damien took the opportunity for some fresh air, walking up onto the buildings balcony. He was alone bar two smokers chatting casually. He kept his distance and got out his phone. A text from Elliot read he had gone for a walk on the Southbank. Damien imagined him walking down the busy street and wished he was there with him. Perhaps holding his hand, showing the world that Elliot was his.
But he wasn't his. He was Ella's. He needed to be the one to tell Elliot, not some Matched employee. He thought about how Elliot would feel, he had nowhere to go. Perhaps in a desire to delay the all important call he first organised a hotel. Somewhere for Elliot to go. He wanted him to stay in his spare room in the Camden flat, but that would be too painful for them both. A hotel, close, where he could keep an eye on him, it'd do, at least for now. He made sure the booking was open ended and all inclusive.
Once that was done there was nothing to do but call him. He steeled himself over, he would not let himself succumb to sadness or jealousy or grief. He could be strong. He evoked all the calm assurance he had managed to accumulate over the years, his defensive walls, and dialled.
"Hello?" his voice was enough to shake his resolve right there. He thought of all the times he had heard that voice whisper 'fuck me sir', and swallowed. He would never hear that beautiful sound ever again.
"It's me. I'm sorry Elliot but I'm going to be here a while. I've booked you a hotel, the reservation confirmation should be with you any moment. Card is on file so get anything you need."
"Okay," Elliot said, his voice sounded confused and apprehensive. "What's going on over there?"
Damien paused, how could he tell him?
"Tell me what's wrong," Elliot insisted and Damien sighed.
"There's been a hacking of the app. Seventy three false matches have now been discovered. The media are picking it up now and it's going to be all over the tv tonight so we're trying to get the story straight as possible. It seems to be an LGBT activist group who believes Matched is being too hetero in its matches, so the hackers decided to take matters into their own hands and made their own matches," he tried to keep his voice steady but perhaps Elliot picked up the tone because there was silence on the other end.
"We're not a match, are we," He said. It wasn't a question, but a statement. Clever boy, Elliot had worked it out much quicker than Damien had. Or perhaps it was because he already knew? Maybe he had always known that Damien wasn't what he wanted. The ice sheet inside him began to crackle, the ocean threatening to take over.
"It seems that way, yes" he said shortly.
"That's fucking bullshit!" Elliot cried and Damien felt a rush of anger, he didn't like it when Elliot raised his voice at him, he wanted to scold him, but he withheld it. Clenching his fist on the railings, he breathed out slowly. But Elliot was only getting started.
"No fucking way are you telling me this wasn't real. How can you explain the things I feel about you? I feel like I'm hypnotised when I'm with you, like I'm drunk! That's what they said your match is meant to feel like. They're wrong!"