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The Perfect Match

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Finn adjusted his tie for what was probably the fifteenth time since he’d sat down.

 

He looked across the coffee table at Leia Organa, Advisor to the King of D’Qar, who was scrolling through her daily to-do list on her tablet.  Still, Finn didn’t miss her grin as he reached for the tie yet again.  His hand stilled.  He started jiggling his leg.

 

Without looking up, she said, “You’ll be fine.”

 

Finn’s leg stopped.

 

She said, “His bark is a lot worse than his bite.”

 

That doesn’t fill me with a lot of confidence, Finn thought.  He looked around the room, noting that the clock on the mantle said it was now 9:43am.  The Prince was late.

 

Leia followed Finn’s line of sight.  “He is a bit…resistant to this, but,” she pressed her lips together, “he’ll be here.”

 

Finn nodded.  His leg resumed jiggling as he pretended to study the tapestry across the room.

 

Two minutes later, a door banged open and a man Finn instantly recognized as the Prince came barreling in.  Finn stood.

 

The Prince didn’t even look at him.  Instead, he marched right up to the Advisor, spitting mad.  “A matchmaker?  Really, Leia?  That’s what it’s come to?  A kriffing matchmaker?”

 

Leia didn’t flinch, nor did she look at him.  Very slowly, she closed out the window on her tablet and put it on the table next to her.  Then, she stood.  She crossed her arms and eyed the Prince up and down before saying, in the most disappointed voice Finn had ever heard, “Cassian Xavier Poe Dameron.”  The Prince bristled at his full name.  “What would your parents think?”  She gestured to Finn.  “May I present John Charles Finnick.” 

 

“Your highness,” Finn murmured, bowing.

 

The Prince spun, a mixture of anger and embarrassment on his face.  He gave Finn a curt nod.  “I take it you’re the matchmaker she hired?”

 

Finn tried to smile.  “Yes, sir.”  He held out his hand.  “Most people call me Finn.”

 

The Prince ignored Finn’s outstretched hand.  “And did she tell you why she hired you?”

 

“Uh, only that you were looking for a—”

 

“No, not me.”  The Prince spun back around to Leia.  “Her,” he said, jabbing his finger towards the older woman.  “This is all her.”

 

“Poe, you’re in your thirties.  We need to see you settled already.”

 

“We?” 

 

She raised an eyebrow.

 

“Why?”

 

Leia rolled her eyes.  “Really?  We’re going to have this argument again?  Fine!  Because it’s expected.  Because you need to secure an heir for the throne.”  The Prince opened his mouth to interrupt and she added, “And yes, we’re all well aware that you’re gay, but for you to adopt, it will be easier and things will go more smoothly with the parliament, if you have a partner.  They may be willing to accept a gay king, but they want him married.”

 

The Prince let out a growl and stomped back out of the room.  “Screw the parliament,” he called out over his shoulder.

 

As the door slammed shut, Leia pinched the bridge of her nose, muttering, “I’d love to screw the parliament, Poe, but…”  She looked over to Finn, gesturing towards the door.  “So, that was the Prince,” she said.

 

“And you’re sure his bark is worse than his bite,” Finn asked.

 

She laughed, walking over and taking Finn’s arm.  “Yes,” she said.  “Give him a few days and he’ll calm down.  This is more about him being pissed at the parliament than anything else.”  Finn frowned and she added, “And that’s not your concern.  He’ll come around.  I promise.”  She squeezed his arm and started forward.  “For now, let’s have some tea and talk about your plans.”

 

# # # #

 

The Prince marched straight to the stables and started saddling Bee, his favorite horse.  As he worked, he tried not to dwell on how abominably he’d just acted in front of the poor matchmaker.  He leaned his head against Bee.  What am I?  Eight years old?  He sighed.  “And he was cute, too,” he said to the horse.

 

“Who was cute,” came a voice from across the way.

 

The Prince looked over and spotted Jess Pava, who ran the stables.  “No one,” he said.

 

“Poe,” she started—they were never on formal terms unless they were in public.

 

“No,” he said, pulling himself up into the saddle.  “I’m not telling you a thing.”

 

“I love how you think that’s going to stop me,” Jess said.  She cocked her head to the side.  “How’s the matchmaking going?”

 

He groaned.  “You know about that?”

 

“Everyone in the palace knows.  We’re supposed to give your matchmaker all the help he requires.”  She batted her eyes playfully.  “Help him find you the perfect match.”

 

Poe groaned yet again. 

 

“Seriously, Poe, I don’t see why you’re fighting it.  I’d love it if there was someone whose job it was to find me a girlfriend.  What if he finds you someone wonderful?”

 

“Yeah, right.  That’s exactly how this is going to work.  John Finnick is going to find me the man of my dreams.”  He laughed.  “No,” he said, urging Bee over towards the track.  “More likely, he’s going to find some boring, upper class guy who looks good on paper and has the personality of a dead fish.”

 

“Ewww,” Jess said.

 

“Exactly.”  Poe kicked in his heels and Bee took off.

 

# # # #

 

Finn managed to sneak back to his room for a few minutes before his next meeting.  He fell back against the door with a sigh, tugging at his tie.  He fought the urge to call his sister, Rey, who was back in New York.  Finn looked at the clock on the wall across the way.  Probably just waking up, he thought.  Probably isn’t having to deal with a devastatingly handsome Prince who thinks she’s the devil

 

Finn pushed himself off the door with a grumble and walked to the far side of the room.  He poked around in his duffle bag until he found what he was looking for—a canister full of his father’s homemade cookies.  His dad and Rey had insisted he take them.  “For when you get homesick,” Papa Luke had said.  At this rate, they’ll be gone before I finish my first week.

 

Finn fell back onto his bed, groaning in delight as he bit into the shortbread.  “Kriff,” he mumbled around the crumbs.  His father owned Skywalker Bakery in Brooklyn, and in Finn’s humble opinion, it was the best bakery in the best city in the whole world.

 

Why in the hell did I leave, then?

 

He grabbed another cookie.  Because this is the opportunity of a lifetime, he reminded himself for the fourth time since he’d woken up.

 

Finn had always had a knack for setting people up, and he had a head for business, so when he got his MBA at 21 (yeah, I’m smart, Finn thought ruefully at every potential parent who hadn’t adopted him before Luke Skywalker had come into his life), his dad had suggested going into business doing something he loved.  It was unconventional, but it worked. 

 

And now, two years later, he had a thriving matchmaking business with an actual staff and clients all over the U.S.  Plus, two months ago, Buzzfeed had done an article on him and suddenly he was the toast of New York.  He’d been booked solid less than three hours after the story broke.

 

That’s when Leia Organa had shown up.  She’d swept into his offices and offered him ten times his going rate if he would personally fly to the tiny European nation of D’Qar and help find its Prince—and future King—a partner.

 

Finn had been reluctant, but Leia had pleaded with him and he’d eventually given in. 

 

That was two weeks ago.

 

Now, here he was, on his first day in the palace.  And things are going swimmingly, he thought, reaching for a third cookie.

 

It doesn’t help that the Prince doesn’t want me here.

 

Or that he’s the single sexiest man I’ve ever seen in real life.

 

Finn flopped back onto his bed with a groan.  Do not be attracted to the client, Finn.  That’s rule number one.

 

He took a deep breath, sat up, put the uneaten cookie back in the container, and stood up.  “I can do this,” he said. 

 

He straightened his tie and marched to the door.  “I just have to charm him and get him to see why this is a good thing.”

 

Finn nodded to himself as he started out to his next meeting.

 

# # # #

 

This is a good thing, Finn repeated to himself for the twentieth time that afternoon.

 

A good thing.

 

It had been a long day.  Finn had met with at least twenty members of the palace staff, and while they were all nice people, meeting after meeting with strangers took its toll.

 

He collapsed into a chair and tugged at his tie.  And I’m not even finished with the interviews yet.  Finn groaned.  The King was away on a goodwill tour and wouldn’t be back for a few days, and Finn still hadn’t had a moment to sit down with the Prince’s personal staff yet.  I’m sure that will be fun.

 

Still, Finn was starting to form an idea of the Prince.

 

And the idea he was forming didn’t quite match his initial impressions of the man.

 

To a one, the palace staff talked about how affable and charming the Prince was, how he was down-to-earth, unassuming, simply the nicest person you could meet.

 

Yeah, unless you’re trying to set him up, Finn thought, chewing on his pen as he looked over some notes he’d scribbled in his journal.  He glanced at his phone: 6:29pm. 

 

Wonder if he’ll show.

 

He hated that the Prince was scheduled so late in the day, but it couldn’t be helped, and given the Prince’s outburst that morning, Finn wasn’t even certain the man would appear.  He bit the pen even harder, forcing himself not look at the phone.  I’ll figure this out, he thought.

 

I’ll figure it out.

 

I can do this.

 

The door to the small office Leia had given him opened and the Prince stalked in.  Finn rose at once.  “Your highness.”

 

The Prince fell into a chair across from Finn’s desk.  “Let’s get this over with, shall we?”

 

Finn tried not to let it ruffle him.  “Uh, sure,” he said, grabbing his journal.  He walked around the desk and leaned against it.  “And I want to thank you again for making the time to—”

 

I didn’t make the time,” the Prince snapped.  “Leia did.  This is her thing,” the Prince said, gesturing around.  “Not mine.”

 

“Uh, yeah, I get that, but—”

 

“And honestly,” the Prince said, getting fired up.  “I don’t even see why you really need me.  I mean, it’s clear I don’t want this, so why do you even need me here?”

 

“Well,” Finn started.  “It’s customary for the—”

 

“I mean, you’re what?  Going to look up who the eligible gay men are in the immediate vicinity and that’ll be that.  Am I really necessary?”

 

Finn dropped his journal on the desk.  “Do you ever let a being get a word in edgewise?”

 

The Prince looked up, startled.  “What?”

 

“I asked if you ever let anyone else talk, or do you just steamroll them?”

 

The Prince opened his mouth and then closed it, clearly shocked. 

 

At this point, Finn was fired up himself.  “Look, I get that you don’t want to be a part of this process, but I’ve got to tell you, your highness, that right now, I’m not sure I want to set you up.  You’re kind of an ass.”

 

The Prince stood.  “I’m what?”

 

“You heard me.”

 

The Prince blinked and cocked his head.  “You do realize that I’m—”

 

“The Prince,” Finn said, crossing his arms.  “Yeah, I realize.”

 

“And what gives you the right—”

 

“What gives you the right, huh?  I’m doing a job here, your highness!  I’m not the one forcing this on you.  I’m the one trying to make the process as painless as possible.”

 

The Prince paused.  “Huh,” he said, studying Finn. 

 

It was clear he wasn’t used to being talked to like that, but it was also clear that he was no longer angry—at least not entirely—and it was at this point that Finn realized exactly what he was saying and to whom.  Dread pooled in his stomach and he broke out in a sweat.  “Well, ummmmmmm….”

 

The Prince licked his lips and said, “So, what you’re saying is—”

 

The door to the office opened and Leia Organa walked in.  “Finn,” she said.  She stopped abruptly as she took in the situation.  Finn was standing nose to nose with the Prince.  His arms were crossed.  The Prince wore an enigmatic look on his face.

 

“Poe,” she said, warning clear in her voice. 

 

For a moment, neither man moved.  They both just stared at each other.  Then, Poe blinked and slowly turned and said in the sweetest tone possible, “Yes, Leia?”

 

“I seem to remember telling you to be nice to Mr. Finnick.”

 

Poe gave Finn a strange look and then backed up.  “Yes, you did.”

 

“And,” Leia asked, seeming to sense the temperature of the room.

 

“And,” Poe said, his eyes still on Finn.  They narrowed slightly before he turned, suddenly all smiles.  “And I was just asking Mr. Finnick if it would be possible to re-schedule for tomorrow morning.”  He let out a theatrical yawn.  “I’m wiped out.”  He turned back to Finn.  “Say nine o’clock?”

 

“Nine o’clock?”  Finn blinked before catching on.  “Sure,” he finally said.  “That will be fine.”

 

“Great,” the Prince said.  He started out, still all smiles.  “So, we’ll see each other in the morning.  Mr. Finnick.  Leia.”  He left in a hurry.

 

Leia lifted an eyebrow.  “Mr. Finnick?”

 

“Yes, ma’am?”

 

“You okay?”

 

He nodded.  “Sure.”

 

She gave him an understanding smile and then left.

 

As soon as the door closed, Finn sank back onto the desk.  What in the hell was that?

 

It had been the single most confusing encounter he’d ever had with anyone.  He closed his eyes, scrubbing a hand over his face.  And I don’t know if I want to kiss him or kick his ass. 

 

Finn sighed.  Focus.

 

He shook his head, images of Prince Dameron licking his lips playing in his head. 

 

And breathe.

 

# # # #

 

What in the hell was that, Poe asked himself as he retreated to his room.

 

He closed his eyes, rubbing his temples, as images of John Finnick—angry and not backing down—swirled in his head. 

 

And the images were definitely not making Poe mad.

 

The Prince rushed to the bathroom and quickly splashed some cold water on his face.  He looked into the mirror.  He was a bit breathless and flushed.

 

Kriff.

 

“I do not have a crush on my matchmaker,” he said into the mirror.  “I do not have a crush on John Finnick,” he yelled into his room.

 

# # # #

 

The next morning, Finn waited in a small sitting room tucked behind a library on the third floor.  A pot of tea sat steaming in front of him and Finn’s leg jiggled up and down as he stared out the window.  He’d figured a change of scenery might be nice, and the room was homey.  It felt far removed from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the palace.

 

I think he’ll like it, Finn thought to himself.

 

If he shows.

 

He refused to look at his phone or his tablet, either of which would tell him that the Prince was late. 

 

Finn’s hand drifted over a plate of scones, hovering for what felt like hours, before he put it back down on the table. 

 

Great.

 

This is just kriffing fantastic.

 

He sighed and looked back out the window.

 

Why in the hell did I think this was gonna—

 

Suddenly, he heard a commotion in the hall just outside the room.  He stood, about to walk to the door, when it flew open and the Prince stumbled inside, followed by a tall, burly man with a beard.  “Sorry about that,” the man said, smiling.  “Seems the Prince lost track of time.”  He shot the Prince a deadly look and then held out his hand to Finn.  “I’m Snap, by the way.  The Prince’s valet.”

 

“Hi.  Finn,” Finn said, shaking his hand.

 

“Good to meet you, Finn.”  He turned to the Prince.  “I’m going to leave now, but you play nice.”  He offered Finn a quick wink as he shut the door.

 

“Um, thank you for coming?”  Finn gestured to the table.  “There’s tea and scones,” he said.  “Or,” he gestured to a couch in front of the fireplace.

 

“Tea,” the Prince said, quickly crossing over and pouring them both a cup.

 

As the Prince picked up his cup, Finn said, “So is it me in particular or the fact that I’m a matchmaker or—”

 

“It’s not you,” the Prince said, refusing to meet Finn’s eyes.

 

“So, you hate all matchmakers, then?”

 

The Prince couldn’t help his smile.  “Something like that.”

 

Finn took a deep breath and leaned forward.  “Look, I know you don’t know me and you sure as hell don’t trust me, but Ms. Organa seems like a nice person and I think her heart is in the right place.”  The Prince made a noise at that.  Finn shrugged.  “But why don’t you tell me what’s up, so that maybe I can help?”

 

The Prince shot Finn a sharp look.  “Help?”

 

“Yeah,” Finn said.  “Help.”

 

The Prince closed his eyes.  He took a long drink of his tea and then sighed.  “I’m sorry, Mr. Finnick.  I’ve been acting like an…an…”

 

“An ass?”

 

The Prince smiled and nodded.  “Yeah.  A royal ass.”  He met Finn’s eyes.  “I’m truly sorry.  It’s not you.”  He put his cup down.  “But…”  He shook his head, looking out the window.  “I’m just radical enough to believe that if and when I get married, it should be for love, not because the damn parliament thought it would look better for them.”

 

As much as the guy had been getting on Finn’s nerves, he could sympathize.  “It can’t be easy.”

 

The Prince shook his head.  “No.  They weren’t exactly thrilled to learn that the only child of the King and Queen was gay, but my father has some very strong opinions on the subject and has let it be known that he won’t stand for any sort of prejudice…towards me or anyone else.” The Prince smiled.  “And, he’s popular, so…”  The Prince took a drink of his tea.  “It’s just now that he’s announced that he’d like to step down…”  He sighed, looking over at Finn.  “The parliament is worried about how it will look.”  He shrugged.  “We’re a small nation and…”

 

Finn nodded.  “They’re progressive, but not that progressive.”

 

“Yeah,” the Prince said.

 

Finn thought it over for a moment.  He picked up a scone and bit into it, closing his eyes and humming a bit.

 

The Prince laughed.  “Are they really that good?”

 

“Mmmmm,” Finn mumbled with his mouth full.  He chewed and swallowed.  “Nearly as good as my dad’s.”

 

“Your dad?”

 

“He’s a baker in Brooklyn.  Skywalker Bakery.”

 

“Is it any good?”

 

Finn looked offended.  “Yeah.  It’s the best.”

 

The Prince smiled.  “Noted.  How about you?  Can you bake?”

 

“I’m okay.  I make a mean apple pie.”

 

The Prince laughed, picking up a scone and biting into it.  “Mmmmmm, that is good,” he said with his mouth full.

 

Finn laughed.  It was nice to see the Prince loosening up a bit.

 

“So, how in the hell does the son of a baker become a matchmaker?”

 

“I don’t know.  After I got my MBA—”

 

“MBA?  Wait, how old are you?”

 

“Twenty-three,” Finn said.

 

“Kriff,” the Prince said. 

 

Finn was used to it.  “Yeah, I know.”  He took a sip of his tea.  “Anyway, after I got my MBA, my dad suggested doing something I loved and,” he shrugged, “I’m good at this.  I like talking to people and finding out about them and then trying to find them a match.”

 

“A true romantic.”

 

“Absolutely,” Finn said.

 

“Then, you have to see why I’m not on board with this thing,” the Prince said.

 

Finn pressed his lips together and then leaned forward.  “Look, I get why you’re resistant to the idea, but why not let me get to know you, do some research, and set up some dates?  Maybe it will all come to nothing, but maybe it won’t.  Maybe you’ll meet the guy of your dreams.”

 

The Prince snorted.

 

“Hey, either way, you can tell the parliament that you tried.”

 

The Prince considered that.

 

Finn smiled.  “Can’t hurt just to see, can it?”

 

The Prince stared at the young man sitting across from him.  After a moment, he said, “Okay.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Really,” the Prince said.

 

Finn’s smile grew.  “You aren’t going to regret it, your highness.”

 

“Poe,” the Prince said.  “As long as we aren’t in public, call me Poe.”

 

“You aren’t going to regret this, Poe.”

 

Poe laughed.  “So, what’s first?”

 

“Well, first, you and I are going to get to know each other better.  I’m going to ask you some questions and then, I’ll start figuring out who would be a good fit.”

 

Poe leaned back in his chair.  “Well, ask away,” he said.  “I’m an open book.”

 

# # # #

 

Later that day, Poe sat in his office at his computer.  He bit his lip as he clicked on a link that Snap had given him.  “Okay, Mr. Finnick, let’s see what you’re all about.”  He stared at a sleek website.  “Rebel Love,” Poe read.  “Catchy,” he muttered.  He scrolled through Rebel Love’s homepage and started clicking on links: testimonials, a getting started section, dating advice.  “Our staff,” Poe murmured.  He opened the page and focused on a picture of John Finnick, smiling at the camera.  Looks like a kriffing model.  Poe shook his head and clicked the link under the photo.  Besides the standard biography, Finn had written out a welcome to prospective clients:

 

I get it.  Dating is hard, yet we’re all supposed to know automatically how to do it.  The truth is, most of us don’t, and that’s where Rebel Love comes in. 

 

When I was a kid, my father used to call me his “little rebel” because I liked to blaze my own trails, go my own way, and today, I’m still doing that.  Most people don’t expect a guy to be a matchmaker; they don’t expect someone with an MBA to want to spend his time helping people find love, but I like defying expectations.

 

And I hope you’ll give Rebel Love a chance to defy some of your expectations about what a matchmaker can do for you.

 

My staff and I have been setting up people for years, and you can go to our “Success Stories” page and read all about the matches we’ve made, but you should also know that all of us do this because we love the work and we’re good at it. 

 

So, fill out one of our introductory surveys and set up a meeting with one of our matchmakers.  Let’s see if Rebel Love can find you your perfect match…

 

Poe re-read it, smiling at the thought of Finn as a little boy.  “Little rebel,” he murmured, staring at the picture of Finn on the screen.

 

He sighed, leaning back in his chair and shaking his head.  “I do not have a crush on John Finnick.”

 

# # # #

 

Later that night, Poe stopped by Finn’s bedroom with a chocolate cupcake.  “A peace offering,” Poe said, smiling.  “To make up for before.”

 

Finn smiled, taking the cupcake and shaking his head.  “I’m going to gain ten pounds before this job is over.”

 

“They do feed us well here,” Poe said, patting his stomach and following Finn into the room.

 

“I bet,” Finn said, chuckling.  He put the cupcake down on a small table.  “Want to split it with me?”

 

Poe’s eyes lit up.  “Sure.”

 

Finn looked around for some sort of utensil and then muttered, “To hell with it,” and tore the cupcake in two.  He had frosting on his hands.  “Kriff.”

 

Poe jogged over, taking one of the halves, smiling as Finn licked the frosting off.  Poe tried not to be too distracted by that, but it wasn’t easy, so he shoved the cupcake in his mouth, immediately realizing his mistake.

 

“Hungry?”

 

“Mmmmmm,” Poe mumbled around the cupcake lodged in his mouth.

 

Finn chuckled and took a bite of his half.  “Mmmmmm, that is good.”  He shook his head.  “Almost as good as home.”

 

Poe finally finished chewing and swallowed.  “You keep talking about how good your father is, I’m going to have to try it the next time I’m in New York.”

 

“You go to New York often,” Finn asked.

 

Poe nodded.  “At least once a year.  One of the nice things about being a prince is the travel.”  He then sobered a bit.  “Of course, that will change once I’m king.”

 

Finn frowned.  “You don’t want to be king?”

 

“Nah, buddy, it’s not that…it’s just…”  Poe moved away, walking over to the mantle where Finn had a series of framed photographs set up.  “It’s a lot to live up to,” Poe said.  He studied one of Finn and Rey.  “She’s cute.”

 

“That’s my sister, Rey.”

 

Poe nodded and then pointed to one of his father.  “The famous baker himself?”

 

Finn walked over.  “Yeah, that’s Papa Luke.”

 

“He looks nice.”

 

“He’s the best.”

 

There was another picture of Finn and Rey when they were both kids.  “Little rebel,” he whispered.  He smiled and picked it up.  “How old were you here?”

 

Finn leaned over to get a better look, trying to ignore how close he was to the Prince.  “Uh, I would’ve been about ten there.  Rey was six, going on seven.”

 

Poe looked up from the photo and his breath caught.  Up close, it was impossible to ignore just how handsome Finn was.  For a moment, he just stared into the other man’s eyes.  Then, he remembered himself.  “Oh yeah, so ummm,” he stumbled backward.  “I should probably,” he pointed to the door.  “Let you…”  He pointed to the bed.

 

“Yeah,” Finn said, suddenly awkward.  “Long day tomorrow.”

 

“Yeah,” Poe said.  He started for the door, realized he still had the picture in his hand, quickly returned it to the mantle with an embarrassed chuckle and then walked to the door.  “But I’ll see you for the school thing in the afternoon?”

 

“Of course,” Finn said.  “I wouldn’t miss it.”

 

“Great,” Poe said.  He gave Finn a quick bow and left.

 

“Great,” Finn repeated, and then as soon as the Prince was gone, he closed his eyes with a groan.  Just kriffing great.

 

# # # #

 

Finn stood in the back of a classroom next to Snap while Poe stood at the front of the room, holding a black rat loosely in his hands.  The students were crowded around Poe as he explained, “I know a lot of people think that rats are scary, but the moment I saw Black One here, I fell in love, and it turns out that she was more scared of me than I was of her.”

 

“Is she mean,” one of the kids asked.

 

“No,” Poe said, crouching down to be closer to their eye level.  “She’s really sweet.”  He chuckled, stroking her.  “She’s a bit nervous right now.  There’s lots of people looking at her, but no, she’s a really nice rat.”

 

“Why did you pick a rat for a pet,” another student asked.

 

“Well,” Poe said, “that’s quite a story…”

 

Snap leaned over to Finn.  “The kids always love the rat.”

 

“He does this a lot?”

 

“He visits all of the first grade classrooms in the capital city every year.  He used to bring in Bee—that’s his horse.  That was a bit of a logistical nightmare.  Now he brings Black One, and yeah,” Snap said, “before you say anything, it’s a terrible name, but once Poe settled on it…”  He shrugged.

 

“How long as he been coming to the classrooms?”

 

“Oh man, forever.  He loves kids.  He does these visits, and there are two or three community centers he visits pretty regularly.  Honestly, we’re at a school or someplace like it at least once or twice a month.”

 

Wow, Finn thought, as if he couldn’t get any better.  Poe looked up at Finn and gave him a quick wink before turning back to the kids.  I am so kriffed.

 

# # # #

 

As they were leaving the school, a group of reporters swarmed the royal entourage and started badgering the Prince with questions.  Snap pulled Finn to the side.  “He can handle this.”  He chuckled.  “He’s actually quite good at it.”

 

Finn watched, and Snap was right.  Poe was smooth and spoke with a sort of quiet authority that made him seem all the more regal.  Finn actually heard himself sigh as he watched Poe joking with a reporter, and he hoped that Snap had missed it.  Come on!  Cool it with the heart-eyes.  He took a deep breath and refocused on the reporters.

 

Snap groaned, “Great.”

 

“What?”

 

Snap nodded towards a pair of tall men, a red head and one with black hair and eyes.  “Hux and Ren.”

 

“Hux and Ren?”

 

“Hux is the administrative assistant to Snoke, one of the…ah, less progressive members of parliament?  Ren is the reporter Snoke has in his pocket.”

 

“Oh,” Finn said.  “Should we be worried?”

 

“I hope not?”

 

“Uhhhh?”  Finn turned from Snap to the scene and back to Snap.

 

“Poe’s usually calm around them; he has to be, but if they start needling him…”

 

Finn worried his lip as Ren interrupted another reporter, asking, “Your highness, there are reports that the palace has hired some sort of service to buy you a partner.  Any response?”

 

Poe gave Ren an incredulous look.  “What?”

 

“There are reports that the palace is effectively buying the parliament’s support of your coronation by finding you a mail-order bride.  Care to comment?”

 

Poe blinked.  “Ummmm, Kylo—can I call you Kylo?  Uh, I can’t even begin to…”  He smiled and shook his head.  “It’s amazing.  Every word of what you just said is wrong.”

 

Ren got angry.  “You’re denying reports that—”

 

“Hey, hey, hey,” Poe said, putting his hands up.  “I’m not denying anything.  I’m saying you got your facts wrong.”

 

Ren was spitting mad.  “So, the palace didn’t hire—”

 

Poe gave a theatrical sigh.  “Uh, you might want to rethink your technique, okay, Kylo?  Not to mention perhaps rethinking your sources.”  He looked pointedly at Hux before turning to the reporter Kylo had originally interrupted.  “Now, I believe you had a question—”

 

Kylo surged forward.  “I wasn’t finished!”

 

Finn was there in an instant, standing in between Kylo and the Prince.  “I believe the Prince told you to rethink your technique.”  He stared down the taller man.  “Now, please let the other reporters have their turns.”

 

Hux grabbed at Kylo’s shoulder, hissing, “Ren!”  He pulled the seething man away from Finn and drug him away, berating Kylo under his breath.

 

Snap chuckled as he walked up next to Finn.  “I think we’re going to have to cut this one short.”

 

The other reporters groaned, but Poe threw them all a charming smile, shaking hands with individual reporters and promising interviews at a later time, as Snap ushered him and Finn to a waiting car.

 

As they settled in, Poe grabbed Finn’s arm, squeezing.  “You rescued me, buddy!”

 

Finn blushed.  “It was…”  He shook his head.  “That guy was being a jerk.”

 

“One of the biggest jerks around,” Snap called from the front seat.

 

Poe squeezed Finn’s arm again before letting go.  “Still.”  He ducked his head and then looked up at Finn.  “Thanks.”

 

“Sure,” Finn squeaked out.  I am so kriffing kriffed.

 

# # # #

 

Two days later, Finn sat, frowning at his laptop.  Rose, one of the many young interns on staff at the palace, came in with a cup of tea and shook her head.  “Is it really that bad?”

 

“Huh,” Finn looked up and then shut the laptop with a groan.  “Hey, Rose.”  He took the tea and sipped it.  “I’ve been looking through files on dozens of eligible guys from all over the world and,” he shook his head, “none of them seem like the right fit.”  He would never admit that one of the reasons why he was having such a hard time was that he didn’t think anyone was good enough for Poe. 

 

After a few days together, Finn was pretty sure that Prince Dameron was just about the best guy he’d ever met, and all of the men he had found so far simply didn’t measure up.  “I have to find him someone perfect.”

 

Rose couldn’t help her smile as she looked over the various print-outs, post-its, photos, and notes sprawled across Finn’s desk.  “What you need, Finn, is a break.”

 

“Yeah,” Finn laughed.  “That’s exactly what I don’t need.  I’m on a timeline here.”

 

Rose huffed, grabbing Finn’s arm and pulling him up.

 

“Hey!  Hot tea there!”  He quickly put the cup down. 

 

“Come on,” Rose said, not letting go.  “Just a tiny break.”

 

Finn wanted to say no, but Rose had a surprisingly good grip.

 

Ten minutes later, Finn found himself in the stables, staring open-mouthed at dozens of beautiful horses. 

 

Rose still hadn’t let go of his arm yet, and she only did when another young woman came into view.  “Jess,” Rose called out.

 

“Hey!”  The woman came over.  “Hi, Jess Pava.  Everyone calls me Testor.”  She held out a hand to Finn.

 

“Hi.  Finn.”

 

She smiled.  “Oh, I know.  I’ve heard about you.”

 

Rose shared a strange look with Jess.  “So, is he…”

 

Jess nodded.  “Just got here.  He’s in the stall with Bee.”  She put a hand on Finn’s back.  “You should go say hi.”  She shoved him, hard.

 

Finn stumbled forward and nearly crashed into the stall of a beautiful chestnut Arabian.  The horse whinnied, and the Prince’s head popped up from beside her.  “Finn,” he said with a smile.

 

“Your highness,” Finn said.

 

“Poe,” the Prince said, walking around his horse.  “And this is Bee.”

 

“Bee?

 

“Bella Beezley the eighth, or BB-8.  We call her Bee.”

 

“Hello, Bee,” Finn said.  “She’s gorgeous.”

 

Poe laughed.  “Well, I think so, but I’m prejudiced.  In my humble opinion, Bee is just about the best horse in the whole world.  Aren’t you, sweetheart?”  He patted the horse’s muzzle and hummed.  “So what brings you out to the stable today?”

 

“Uh, Rose and…”  Finn turned around and discovered that both women were gone.  He cocked his head to the side and then said, “I think Rose and Jess wanted to get me out of my office?”

 

Poe laughed.  “Can’t say as I blame them.  You’ve spent just about every waking hour in there for the past two days.”  Not that Poe had noticed.  Not that he had walked past the office five or six or seventeen times in the last two days.

 

“Well, finding someone’s perfect match is hard!”

 

“Perfect match?”  Poe laughed.  “I thought you were just going to find me a date!  I didn’t realize this was going to be the love of my life.”

 

“If I do my job right,” Finn said with a wink.

 

Poe shook his head.  “Well, I know that matchmaking takes time, but how would you feel about playing hooky and taking a ride with me?”

 

Finn desperately wanted to.  He turned and looked back towards the castle.  But I’ve got so much work. 

 

Poe seemed to sense Finn’s reluctance.  “Leia won’t mind if you take a few hours off.  Besides,” he said, “you can always claim you’re doing more research, right?”

 

Finn smiled.  “I guess that’s true.”  He then frowned. 

 

“What, buddy?”

 

“I don’t know how to ride.”

 

Poe laughed.  “Oh, then I have the perfect horse for you.”  Poe moved to the door of the stall.  “Jess!  Jess, I know you’re lurking out there somewhere!”

 

“Yes, Poe?”

 

“Can you get Threepio saddled please?  Finn and I are going for a ride.”

 

# # # #

 

Finn was trying his darndest not to look like he was terrified, but as the two horses trotted along the lane, he was pretty sure he was going to die.  Poe kept sneaking glances over at him and smiling, eyes crinkling adorably.  Eventually, he took pity on Finn.

 

They’d made it to a small stream that ran through the estate.  “What say we get off for a while and walk?”

 

“Yes,” Finn said, trying hard not to sound too relieved.

 

Poe laughed, easily dismounting.  He then tied Bee to a tree and helped Finn off his prim buckskinned-colored horse.  Poe gave the horse a pat.  “Thanks for being so good, Threepio.”  Bee whinnied at that.  “You too, Bee.”  Poe tied off the second horse and then pointed to the stream.

 

Finn started walking alongside it.  He looked around.  “So, how big is the estate?”

 

“About 50,000 acres.”

 

Finn whistled.

 

Poe pointed to a wooded area to their left.  “About a fifth of the estate is covered in trees, and it’s the habitat for several vulnerable species, so it’s protected.  In fact, we have a group of rangers whose job it is to make sure that the space remains safe for the animals that call it home.”

 

“Wow,” Finn said.  He just keeps getting better.

 

“Yeah, my mom set that up,” Poe said, a wistful look crossing over his eyes.

 

“You don’t talk about her a lot,” Finn said.

 

Poe nodded to a little garden up ahead and they turned towards it.  “She died when I was eight.”

 

“Oh,” Finn said.  “I’m sorry.”

 

“She’s the one who taught me to ride.  She loved animals.  Horses especially.  And she was always outside.”  They came to the edge of the garden.  It was a riot of colors.  “This was her garden and I’ve kept it up ever since…”  Poe took a breath.  “We have a public garden at the southern end of the estate.  It’s open year-round and we host school children and community groups and the like there.  But this, this is just for family and friends.”

 

There were all sorts of little paths in the space, with benches and alcoves.  “It looks like a fairy tale,” Finn said.  He immediately blushed.  Idiot!

 

Poe gave him a soft smile.  “I always thought so.”  He pointed to a large bench on their left and they sat.  “When I was younger I used to come here to hide from my teachers.  Poor Leia,” he chuckled.  “She was forever traipsing out here to find me.”

 

“So, you were a troublemaker even back then?”

 

Poe playfully shoved Finn.  “I’m a lot better now.”

 

Finn raised an eyebrow at that.  “Then, you must’ve really been terrible.”

 

“Yeah, and what were you like, Mr. Matchmaker?”

 

“Quiet,” Finn said.  “Reserved.”

 

“Really?”

 

Finn nodded.  “My parents were killed by a drunk driver when I was three, and I bounced around the foster care system until I was eight.  That’s when Luke adopted me.”

 

“Wow,” Poe said.  “I had no idea.”

 

Finn shrugged.  “It worked out for me, but…”  He looked out into the garden, loving how sweet it smelled.  “It could’ve been a lot different.  That’s why I make sure to give back as much as possible.  My sister, Rey, she works at a non-profit that helps place kids like us in good jobs.  I try to help them as much as possible.  I also help kids in the system with their college apps.  That sort of thing.”

 

Poe shook his head.

 

“What,” Finn asked.

 

“Just feeling completely inadequate.”  Finn chuckled and Poe said, “I’m serious.  You’re kriffing amazing, do you know that?”

 

Finn smiled and looked at the Prince.  “Well, I tried to tell you that the first time we met, but…”

 

“But I was being too much of an ass?”  They both dissolved into a fit of laughter.

 

# # # #

 

Leia was driving a golf cart carrying the King, her assistant, Kaydel, and the King’s chief-of-staff, Han, toward the stream.  “Jess said they were headed out towards the garden.”

 

“So, is this matchmaker making any headway,” Kes asked.

 

“It was a bumpy start,” Leia said, “but I think he’s managed to get Poe to see the logic in what we’re suggesting.”

 

The King sighed.  “I really wish it didn’t have to be like this.”

 

“I know,” Leia said.  “But the parliament is looking for any excuse it can, and—”

 

“Stupid, small-minded bureaucrats,” the King spat out.  “My boy should be allowed to marry for love or not marry at all, if that’s what he wants.  They’re just looking for an excuse to skip over him because he’s gay.”  He grit his teeth together.

 

“Which is why we aren’t giving them the opportunity,” Leia said.  “I have every faith in Mr. Finnick.  He comes highly recommended and he’s not letting Poe intimidate him, so hopefully, this will work.  Poe will find someone he loves and—”  She stopped short, spotting Finn and Poe sitting next to each other in the garden.  She stopped the golf cart.

 

Finn and Poe were sitting next to each other, smiling and laughing quietly—their eyes locked on each other.

 

The King leaned over to her and whispered, “Is that Mr. Finnick?”

 

“Yes,” Leia said.

 

“Hmmmmmmm,” the King hummed.  Poe and Finn made quite a sight, and it felt like they were intruding on an intimate moment.  The King turned to Han and whispered, “Um, why don’t you go be loud and let them know that we’re here?”

 

Han chuckled.  “Yes, your majesty.”  He got out of the cart and started up the path, making as much noise as possible.  “Poe?  You here?”

 

“Uncle Han?”  Poe stood up, searching and then burst into a huge smile.  “Han!”

 

Han walked over, pulling Poe into a hug.  “Hey, kiddo!  How are you?”

 

“When did you get back?”

 

“Just a few hours ago.”  Han reached out his hand to Finn.  “Han Solo.  I’m married to Leia and I’m the King’s chief of staff.”

 

“Nice to meet you, sir.  I’m John Finnick.  Everyone calls me Finn.”

 

“So is Dad back up at the palace or—”

 

“I’m right here,” the King said, coming into the garden.

 

Poe laughed and jogged over, giving his father a big hug.  “I missed you.”

 

The older man laughed and as he pulled out of the hug, he said, “I hear you’ve been causing trouble.”

 

“Oh,” Poe said, ducking his head and running a quick hand through his hair.  “About that…”  The King pushed his son aside and walked up to Finn.  “You must be Mr. Finnick.”

 

Finn bowed as deeply as he could.  “Hello, your majesty.  Yes, I’m John Finnick.  Finn.”

 

“It’s good to meet you, Finn.”  He held out his hand, and for a minute, Finn wondered if he was supposed to kiss it.  He finally held out his and the King shook is soundly.  “Call me Kes.  At least in private.  As you might have guessed, we don’t stand on a lot of ceremony here.”  He looked around.  “Showing you Shara’s garden, was he?”

 

“Yes, sir,” Finn said.

 

Kes nodded, wrapping an arm around Finn’s shoulders and taking him down the path.  He started pointing out his favorite plants.  Han and Leia fell in behind them, leaving Poe, a bit speechless, with Kaydel.  He shook his head, a little bit in disbelief at how chummy his father was with the other man. 

 

Kaydel said, “So, telling him about your favorite flowers?”

 

“Uh, yeah,” Poe said.  He gestured at the gardens.  “He wants to know about me, for the matchmaking, you know, and, well,” he made a strange noise, “ummmm, yeah, flowers.”

 

Kaydel couldn’t hide her smile.  “Yeah, flowers.”  She waggled her eyebrows at Poe.

 

“I do not have a crush on John Finnick,” Poe hissed.

 

“Yeah, right.”

 

Poe groaned, sitting back down on the bench.  “Am I that obvious?”

 

Kaydel sat down next to him.  “Well, I’ve known you all my life, so…”

 

Poe shook his head.  “He’s just so kriffing perfect, Kaydel.  He’s smart, and he’s kind, and he stands up for himself—”

 

“Yeah, I heard about that.  Rumor is that he told that jerk of a Prince off.”

 

“Leia overheard?”

 

“Of course, she did!”

 

Poe groaned.  “Well, I deserved it.  And for what it’s worth, later, I apologized.”

 

“Good.”

 

“Did Snap tell you about him getting into Ren’s face?”

 

Kaydel grinned.  “Yep.”

 

Poe sighed as he looked over at the group; they were now at the far end of the garden.  “He’s amazing.”

 

“Oh boy,” Kaydel chuckled, “you do have it bad.”

 

“Yeah,” Poe said.  “And he’s so kriffing hot, too,” he whispered.

 

“Yes,” Kaydel said.  Poe gave her a shocked look.  “What?  You aren’t the only one with eyes, your highness.”

 

Poe sighed.  “Yeah, but,” he buried his face in his hands, “how ironic is it that I’m falling for my matchmaker?”

 

“You mean the matchmaker you didn’t want, the one you actively tried to scare away?  I’d say that is the perfect amount of irony.”

 

“You’re a terrible friend.”

 

“So, is there any reason you aren’t telling this terrific guy that you like him?”  Poe shot her a look.  “What?”

 

“Really, Kaydel?  I’m pretty sure he’s straight.  Right?”  Poe squinted, studying Finn.  “Plus, his job is to find me a match.”

 

Kaydel rolled her eyes.  “So, if I told you to tell him, you would—”

 

“—ignore you?  Yeah.”

 

“I figured.”  She looked over.  “They’re headed back.”

 

Poe stood and plastered a smile on his face.

 

The King said, “Finn says you rode out here.”

 

“Yeah, on Bee and Threepio.”

 

“Well, what say we send Finn back with Leia and the others and I’ll help you get the horses back to the stable, yes?”

 

“Sounds good, Dad.”

 

Finn stepped forward.  “Thanks again for the ride, your highness.”

 

“Any time, Finn.”

 

# # # #

 

“So,” the King said, as they started back towards the stables.  “Finn.”

 

“Was that a question or a statement, Dad?”

 

“I like him.”

 

“Me too,” Poe said, trying his hardest to make his voice sound neutral.

 

“Well, that was obvious.”  Poe groaned.  The King smiled.  “What little Leia told me about him seemed to paint the picture of a very nice, very accomplished young man.”

 

“Yeah,” Poe said, wishing the ground would open up and swallow him.

 

The King laughed.  “That bad, eh?”

 

Poe looked over at his father.  “It doesn’t matter, though.  He’s got a job to do, and even if he didn’t, I’m pretty sure if the parliament doesn’t want an unmarried King, they’d have a fit if the King’s consort was a random guy from Brooklyn.”

 

“I like Brooklyn,” the King said.

 

“Dad,” Poe whined.

 

“Son,” the King said with a sigh, “for the most part, the parliament is peopled with good-hearted people who truly care about D’Qar.  But unfortunately, there is a small contingent of small-minded jerks.  An even more unfortunately, they have some power.”  The King shook his head.  “The only reason I’m going along with Leia’s plan is because I think you’d make a wonderful leader for this country, and I don’t want the small-minded minority to deprive D’Qar of your rule.”  Poe wanted to reach over and hug his father.  “Now, there is no law that I know of that says that the partner of the monarch has to be of noble blood, or any of that nonsense, so if you like him—”

 

“Dad,” Poe said, clearly embarrassed.

 

“If you like him, tell him.”

 

# # # #

 

Poe spent the rest of the night so anxious that the staff were starting to get concerned.  He finally excused himself from dinner early to go back to his room, where he paced for a solid half-hour before deciding to just go for it.

 

He marched over to Finn’s office door—figuring he’d check there before Finn’s bedroom—and then he paused as he realized that the door was open, and Finn was talking to someone.

 

“No,” Finn said.  “No, Rey.  What I’m saying is, I’m a professional.  And rule number one of my profession is you don’t get involved with the person you’re trying to set up!  Besides, I don’t think of him that way.”

 

Poe froze.

 

“No,” Finn said.  “Look, it doesn’t matter anyway!  I’m going to find him someone perfect and then I’m going to leave this place and that will be that.  Honestly, I can’t wait until I can leave D’Qar.”

 

Poe slowly backed away from the door.  I knew it.

 

# # # #

 

“Finnnnnnnn,” Rey screeched over the phone, “you’re being an idiot.  And you’re lying!  All I’ve heard since you got there was Poe-this and Poe-that and oh, Poe was so cute this morning and—”

 

“Rey,” Finn groaned.  “He’s my client.”  He let his head fall into his hands.  My absolutely wonderful, amazing client.

 

“And?”

 

“And, I can’t date him.  How many times do I have to tell you that?  He’s.  My.  Client.  Plus, he’s a kriffing Prince!”

 

“You’re an idiot,” Rey said.  Then, he could hear her yelling, “Dad, Finn is being an idiot.”

 

He could hear his father yell back, “Tell him to be brave and go tell that Prince how he feels.”

 

Finn groaned again.  “I’ve got to go.”

 

“No, you don’t,” Rey said.

 

“No, there’s a palace emergency,” Finn said.  “Got to go.  Love you.  Bye.”  He hung up and then let his head fall to his desk.  I am so screwed.

 

# # # #

 

The next day, Finn ran into the Prince in the hall.  “Poe!”  He jogged over.  “Good morning!”

 

“Oh, hey, Finn,” Poe said, running a quick hand through his hair and backing away.  “Can’t talk.  I’ve got…a thing I’ve got to get to.”

 

Finn felt a bit crestfallen, but he quickly hid it.  “Sure.  No worries!  I’ll see you later.”

 

Finn frowned as he went back to his office.  Poe hadn’t looked well—he had bags under his puffy eyes.  Maybe he’s sick?

 

He chewed on his lip as he returned to his desk.  He had a list of names on it and today he was going to go conduct interviews with some of the guys.  Hopefully, one of you is the love of Poe’s life.

 

Finn ignored the pang of jealousy he felt at that.

 

# # # #

 

It had ended up taking three days to meet with and interview the potential matches for Poe, and he had ended up flying half-way across Europe to do it, so Finn was more than happy to be returning to the palace.  Hotels were great and all, but the palace was a far friendlier space.

 

Plus, if he were being entirely honest, he was looking forward to seeing Poe again.

 

As Finn came in, hauling his duffle up the stairs, he ran into Poe.  “Hey,” he said, tired but suddenly not caring.

 

“Oh, hey,” Poe said.  “I thought you were gone.”

 

“I was.  Just got back.”  He dropped the duffle for a moment.  “How are you?”

 

“Me?  I’m fine, just,” he ran a hand through his hair, “ummmm, I need to go…Leia wanted me.”  He jogged off down the hall.

 

“Okay,” Finn said to Poe’s retreating form.  What is wrong?

 

# # # #

 

For the next day, any time Finn saw Poe, Poe was leaving the room or running off to a meeting.  By the fourth time it happened, Finn was convinced that the Prince was upset with him for some reason.  What happened?

 

Finn tried to think of anything he could have said or done that would’ve made Poe mad at him, but he came up blank.

 

And that wasn’t the only thing pressing on Finn’s mind.  He frowned.  He was pretty sure he’d found Poe his match.  He sighed as he looked at the file.  He’s perfect, he thought to himself, as he rose and started to Leia’s office.

 

And he’s not me.

 

Finn tried to convince himself he wasn’t jealous.

 

It didn’t work.

 

# # # #

 

Finn placed the file on Leia’s desk.  “His name is Nodin Chavdri; he’s from England.  His grandfather was an Earl.”

 

“So, he has the pedigree,” Leia said, unimpressed.

 

“Sure,” Finn said, “but he’s also an avid rider; he plays polo.  He also serves on the boards of three different charities,” he opened the file and started pointing to a piece of paper, “and as you can see, they line up nicely with the charities Poe works with.  He’s also smart and funny and…I really think he and Poe might hit it off.”

 

Leia raised an eyebrow.  For a hot minute, she’d really thought that Poe and Finn would become a thing.  But obviously not.

 

“Does this Mr. Chavdri know why you were interviewing him?”

 

“No, I set it up as an interview about possibly coming here to give a talk on conservation efforts in the Amazon.  It’s one of his pet projects.”

 

Leia nodded and scanned the file.  He does sound perfect.  She looked up at Finn.  “I’ll run this past Kes and Han and get back to you.”

 

“What about Poe?  Shouldn’t he have a say in it?”

 

“He will,” Leia said, “eventually.”

 

# # # #

 

The next day, Finn wandered down to the stables and found Jess and Rose laughing over their lunches.  “Finn,” Rose said, standing and waving.  “Come join us!”

 

“Hey,” Finn said.  He looked around.  “Is Poe here?”

 

Jess shook her head.  “He’s working at the north end of the property today.  There’s a cabin there, and he likes to go there when things get too hectic here.”

 

“A cabin?”

 

Jess laughed.  “Yeah, not like a regular cabin.  It’s bigger than most people’s homes, with a full staff and everything.”

 

“It must be nice to be rich,” Finn said, sitting down.

 

Rose said, “So how goes the hunt for the love of Poe’s life?”

 

“Uhhhhhh….”  Finn shrugged.  “I really don’t know.”

 

“Really,” Jess asked.  “I thought you had some leads.”

 

“I did.  I mean, I do, but…”  He grimaced.  “Honestly, the longer I do this, the more I see Poe’s point-of-view.  The parliament should let him live his life on his own terms.”

 

“Damn straight,” Jess said, biting into her sandwich.

 

“You should tell him that,” Rose said.

 

“I would, but,” Finn kicked at the dirt, “he’s been avoiding me.”

 

Jess and Rose shared a look.

 

“Are you sure,” Rose asked.

 

“Yeah, pretty sure.  The last few times I’ve run into him, he’s suddenly wanted to be somewhere else.”  Finn sighed.  Maybe he didn’t really like me; maybe all of that laughing and joking around was just an act.

 

Jess and Rose shared another look and had an unspoken conversation.  Jess rose.  “Um, I’ve got to run some errands, but Rose, you and Finn should talk, don’t you think?”

 

“Yes, I do,” Rose said.

 

Finn looked from Rose to Jess and said, “You guys are really terrible at being subtle.  You know that, right?”

 

“Yeah,” Jess said.  “But we’re still going to pretend that you don’t know what’s going on.”  She dashed out of the stables.

 

“She’s going to go find Poe, isn’t she?”

 

“Yep,” Rose said.  “Probably yell at him too.”

 

Finn groaned.  “Please don’t,” he called out.

 

“Too late.  She’s probably halfway back to the palace by now.”

 

Finn rolled his eyes.  “I didn’t mean to start anything.”

 

“Finn,” Rose said.  “You came out here looking like you’d just lost your job, and Poe has been acting strange for the past few days.  My guess is that he’s upset that you’re still looking for a match for him.”

 

“Well, yeah, he hasn’t liked that idea from day one, so—”

 

“No, idiot, I mean he’s upset because instead of asking him out yourself, you’re trying to set him up with someone else.”

 

“He’s a Prince, Rose!”

 

“I’m well aware of that, Finn.  I also know that you two have been giving each other the heart-eyes from almost day one.”

 

“He’s my client.”

 

“And?”

 

“He’s my client, Rose.  It would be unprofessional to date him.”

 

“What if you’re his perfect match?”

 

“There’s no way that I’m the perfect match for a kriffing Prince.”

 

“Oh, stop it,” Rose said, standing.  “Don’t sell yourself short.”

 

“Rose,” Finn started.

 

“No,” she said.  “I don’t want to hear it.”  She stomped off.

 

“Great.  Now everyone is mad at me.”

 

# # # #

 

Jess ran into the cabin.  “Poe!  Where’s Poe?”

 

Snap looked a bit confused.  “Um, he’s upstairs in the office.”

 

“Great,” Jess said, taking the stairs two at a time.  “Poe!  Poe!”  She burst into his office. 

 

Poe looked up from his paperwork.  “Jess?”

 

“Are you the biggest idiot on the planet?”

 

Snap came running in after her.  “Sorry, boss, she slipped past me.”

 

“Yeah,” Poe said, rising.  He went in front of the desk and leaned back on it, crossing his arms.  “What’s this about, Jess?”

 

“Really?  What if we start by asking what this is all about, Poe,” she asked, gesturing around.  “Why the sudden need to come up here?”

 

“I have work to do.”

 

“Yeah, right.”

 

Poe pointed to the papers and files on his desk and Jess harrumphed.  “Jess, I really don’t—”

 

“You’re avoiding Finn,” she said.

 

“I am not,” Poe said.  “Besides, even if I were, he’s busy trying to find me a boyfriend.  I’m sure he doesn’t need me getting in his way.”

 

Jess shared a look with Snap, who rolled his eyes.  Snap said, “So a few days ago, it’s Finn is the greatest guy I’ve ever met and now it’s he needs his space?”

 

Poe looked up at his two friends.  “Please, guys, don’t.”

 

“Don’t what,” Jess demanded.  “Don’t stop you from making a huge mistake?”

 

“I’m with Testor on this one, boss.  I think you’re being an idiot.  He’s clearly—”

 

“He’s not interested,” Poe yelled.  “I heard him. I went to tell him how I felt and I heard him tell someone just how not interested he was, so can we please drop it?”

 

Snap and Jess stood there stunned.  Jess opened her mouth, and Poe said, “Please.”

 

“Sure, boss,” Snap said, grabbing Jess’s arm and pulling her out of the room.  When they were in the hall, he whispered, “Does that sound right to you?”

 

Jess shook her head.  “I mean, I don’t know for sure, but I can tell you that Finn has been moping around all morning.”

 

Snap frowned.  “Who would Finn have been talking to?  Leia?”

 

“No,” Jess said, thinking.  “Honestly, I can’t think of anyone from the palace besides Poe that he…  The phone!  He was on the phone!”

 

“That has to be it,” Snap said.  “But who was he talking to?”

 

“A relative?  A friend?  Someone from his business?”

 

“Get Rose to dig into Finn’s background, see if there’s anyone he’s close to.  Maybe we can track them down and see what Finn actually said.”

 

“We could just ask Finn,” Jess said.

 

“From what little I’ve seen, he’s just as jumpy as Poe, so maybe we wait until we have our evidence,” Snap said.

 

“Okay, I’ll get Rose on it this afternoon.”

 

# # # #

 

Leia walked into Finn’s office the next day.  “Finn, I talked to the King and Han and they liked Mr. Chavdri’s file.  I’m going to share it with Poe in the morning and pending his approval, I’m hoping you might get in touch with Mr. Chavdri and set something up?”

 

“Of course,” Finn said. 

 

As soon as she left, he crumpled forward on his desk.  It was bad enough that he’d had to find the guy he had a crush on a match, but now he was going to have to set up their first date.  He looked up to the heavens.  Why do you hate me?

 

# # # #

 

Rose snuck out of Leia’s office thirty seconds before the other woman returned.  “Rose, I thought you were working with the kitchen staff this morning?”

 

“Uh, I am.  I just,” Rose reached into her desk and grabbed the first thing she could find, “needed to get this,” she frowned, “umm, stapler?”

 

Leia lifted an eyebrow.

 

“We have some stapling needs…in the kitchen,” Rose said, marching out of the office. 

 

As soon as she was clear, she bolted down the hall and out to the stables where Jess and Snap were waiting for her.  “He has a sister,” Rose said, panting.  “I have her number.”

 

“And a stapler,” Jess said, looking at Rose’s hand.

 

Rose rolled her eyes and dropped the stapler onto a crate.

 

Snap looked from Jess to Rose.  “So, who is going to call her?”

 

Jess and Rose traded worried looks.  Finally, Jess said, “Oh, give me the kriffing number!  I’ll call.”  Rose smiled and read off the number to Jess.

 

# # # #

 

“Fine,” Poe said, as sullen as he’d ever been.

 

“Poe,” Leia said, “I know that I’ve been pushing for this, but if you want to stop—”

 

“Let’s just get it over with,” Poe said, pushing up from his chair.  “What does it matter anyway?  Have Finn set up the date.”  He walked out of her office.

 

Leia frowned and pushed her intercom.  “Kaydel, can you tell Finn to set up the date?”  She leaned back into her chair for a moment, thinking.  She then got up.  Passing Kaydel on her way out, she said, “I’m going to go talk to the King.  I’ll be back in a bit.”

 

# # # #

 

Finn opened the Skype session and smiled when Nodin Chavdri appeared on his screen.  He waved.  “Thanks for agreeing to this, Mr. Chavdri.”

 

“Nodin, please.”

 

“Really, thanks, Nodin.  I wouldn’t blame you if you never wanted to talk to me again, but given the nature of all of this…”

 

“I understand, and I have to say, I’m flattered that you think I might be a fit for the Prince.  I’ve read about his work with the D’Qar Literacy Program; it’s quite impressive.”

 

“Poe, er, the Prince is a very impressive man, and I think he’s going to be equally impressed with you, actually.”

 

Nodin blushed and offered Finn an easy smile.  “Thanks.”

 

Finn wanted to hate Nodin Chavdri, he really did, but he was just so nice.  And handsome.  And that accent!  “Uh, I was hoping that you might be able to fly out to D’Qar this weekend, perhaps stay for a few days after?  I know it’s short notice, but, well, the King is holding a masquerade ball a week from tomorrow, and I figured if the two of you hit it off…”

 

Nodin chuckled.  “Hoping for a whirlwind romance, Mr. Finnick?”

 

“I’m a matchmaker,” Finn said.  “I’m always hoping for love at first sight.”  He then got a bit more serious.  “And I know this is an odd thing, to basically call you up and ask if you’d like to date a Prince, but…”  Finn bit his lip.  “Given his status as a royal and the fact that he’s gay, the Prince has a hard time meeting new people and…”

 

“It is odd,” Nodin said, “but at the end of the day, I’m a sappy romantic myself.”  He pressed his lips together, looking around for a moment.  “I’ll need to make some arrangements at work…”

 

“Of course,” Finn said, “and the palace will be paying for everything, so don’t worry about any of that.”

 

Nodin smiled.  “Well, then, I guess I’ll see you in a few days.”

 

“Great,” Finn said.

 

As the feed cut off, his smile fell.  Great.

 

# # # #

 

Finn had planned an amazing first date—the kind first date he would’ve wanted to take Poe on had that been in the cards.  The weather was beautiful, so he’d packed a picnic basket and sent Poe and Nodin to a large park on the far side of the capital city.  Some local musicians were holding a concert there in the early evening.  Finn figured it would give the two men plenty of time to talk in a casual but romantic setting.

 

Yeah, get to know each other.

 

Fall in love.

 

Finn slammed his laptop shut. 

 

As the time for the date had approached, he’d started feeling ill.  Now that it was underway, he vacillated between agitated and sad.  He kept looking at the clock.  Is time going kriffing backwards?

 

Every so often, he’d walk to the window, looking out, waiting for the driver to bring Nodin and Poe back.

 

They’re probably having the time of their lives.

 

I mean, they’re both perfect and handsome and smart and nice and…  “GAH!”  Finn pushed himself away from the window and stomped towards his bedroom.  His stash of cookies was long gone, but he could at least call Rey.

 

# # # #

 

Jess drummed her fingers on the small table in the servant’s dining room.  “How long does a kriffing date take, anyway?”

 

Rose frowned, her eyes on the clock.  “I don’t know.”

 

“They’ll be back soon,” Snap said, wishing he had put a bug on Poe so they could at least hear how the date was going.

 

“I can’t believe we let them do this,” Rose said.

 

“Not like we had a choice,” Jess said.  She growled.  “Come on, already!”

 

Kaydel walked in.  “They back yet?”

 

“No,” said Rose. 

 

Kaydel slumped into a seat.  “This is all my fault,” she said.  “I’m the one who read that Buzzfeed article.  I’m the one who suggested a matchmaker to Leia.”

 

“We should’ve found a way to stop the date,” Snap said.

 

“Or at least tell Poe that he misheard Finn,” Jess said.

 

“He what now,” Han asked, walking in.  The group all stood.  Han rolled his eyes.  “Sit.”  He looked at Jess.  “What were you saying?”

 

“Ummmm, well, you see, this all starts with—”

 

Snap interrupted, “Poe got it into his head that Finn wasn’t interested—”

 

“—which isn’t true,” Rose added.

 

“Yeah, and so?”

 

“So,” Jess said, “I called Finn’s sister, and it turns out that he said a bunch of stuff to her, and we think Poe overheard him, but he missed the most important part, which is that Finn is crazy about Poe.”

 

“Kriff,” Han said, sitting down.  He looked up at the clock.  “They back yet?”

 

“No,” Jess groaned.

 

“So, if I’m hearing all of you, Poe is crazy about Finn, but he thinks Finn isn’t interested.  And Finn is crazy about Poe, but he thinks he can’t date him for some reason.”

 

“Yes,” Rose said.  “They’re both idiots.”

 

“Great,” Han said.  “I’m going to need to tell the wife about this.”  He groaned as he started to get up.

 

“Don’t bother,” Leia said, coming into the room.  “The wife already knew most of it.”

 

The group all stood and started to bow.  Leia rolled her eyes.  “Sit,” she said.  “And in case you’re wondering.  They just got back.  There was a quick hug on the stairs and then they said goodnight.”  She sat down, looking at the group.  “So now what?”

 

“Well,” Snap said, “if the date went bad, we have nothing to worry about.”

 

“But what if it didn’t,” Kaydel asked.

 

“Kriff, this is such a mess,” Jess said.

 

“There’s the party,” Rose said.  I’m sure that between the six of us—”

 

“And the King,” Leia added.

 

“And the King,” Rose said, “we should be able to get Finn and Poe alone together.”  She looked around the table.  “Right?”

 

“Sure,” Jess said.  “We’re relatively smart people.  We can do this.”

 

“So, who has an idea,” Snap asked.

 

The table went quiet.

 

# # # #

 

Nodin Chavdri showed up at Finn’s office bright and early the next morning.  “Finn,” he said with a smile.  “How are you?”

 

Finn forced a smile and rose.  “Nodin!  I’m good.  How are you?  How did things go last night?”  Is he your boyfriend now?  Your cute boyfriend?

 

“It was a great date.  I hear I have you to thank for that.”

 

Finn stammered, “It was nothing.  I just…I tried to think about what I’d find fun on a first date.”

 

“Well, it was wonderful.”

 

Finn felt like he was dying.

 

“And I was actually hoping,” Nodin said, “that I could treat you to some coffee as a thank you?  Poe has some business out of town today and tomorrow.  Plus, I was sort of hoping to have someone to hang out with?”

 

As much as Finn wanted to say no, he couldn’t.  “Sure.” 

 

“Great,” Nodin said.  “I’ll stop by in about an hour.  I heard of a great little coffee shop on the other side of the city.”

 

“Sounds good.”  Finn waited until Nodin left his office to bury his head in his arms.

 

# # # #

 

Nodin walked back to his room.  He was profoundly grateful that Poe was going to be gone for the next two days, because he had a theory.  Poe seemed like a genuinely nice guy but given that he had spent a good deal of their date talking about how amazing Finn was, Nodin was pretty sure that Poe was in love with his matchmaker. 

 

Now, Nodin needed to find out if Finn felt the same way.

 

# # # #

 

It was the day before the masquerade when a stunningly handsome man with an English accent showed up in Kaydel’s office.  “Is Ms. Organa available, by chance?”

 

Kaydel couldn’t help but stare.  She knew that Nodin Chavdri was technically the enemy, but he was also dreamy.  She blinked.  “Ummmmm, let me go check.”  She got up, promptly tripped over her own feet, and then went into Leia’s office. 

 

A moment later, she returned and ushered Nodin in.

 

“Ma’am,” Nodin said, stepping in.  “I’m sorry to intrude.”

 

“No intrusion,” Leia said.  “How can I help you?”

 

“I have a problem that I’m hoping you might be able to solve.” 

 

“And what is that, Mr. Chavdri?”

 

“Your Prince is in love with his matchmaker.”

 

To her credit, Leia didn’t bat an eyelash.  “Oh?”

 

“And Finn is very much in love with Poe as well.”

 

“Oh.”  This time Leia did blink.  “And you’re sure?”

 

“Well, neither of them has come right out and said it, no.  But given how Poe talked about Finn during our date,” Leia rolled her eyes, “and given that Finn then spent the better part of the next afternoon talking about Poe, I’m willing to gamble on it, yes.”

 

Leia smiled.  “Well, this actually makes things easier.”

 

“Ma’am?”

 

Leia leaned back in her chair.  “A group of us have been trying to come up with a plan to force those two idiots together,” she said.

 

“At the masquerade,” Nodin asked.

 

“Yes.”

 

He smiled.  “How can I help?”

 

# # # #

 

“I’m just going to leave,” Finn said, balancing the phone between his ear and his shoulder while shoving things into his suitcase.

 

“No, you’re not,” Rey said, exasperated.

 

“They’re clearly in love.”

 

“You don’t know that!”

 

“Yes, I do.”

 

“No, you don’t.”

 

“Kriffing amazing matchmaker,” Finn said, stopping to point at himself before remembering that Rey was over an ocean away.  Rey scoffed at that.  “Really?  You don’t think I’m an amazing matchmaker?”

 

Rey groaned and yelled out, “Dad, Finn is being an idiot again!”

 

“What is it this time,” Finn heard his father yell.

 

“He wants me to give him a compliment as a way to prove a stupid point.”

 

There was a moment of jostling on the other end and then Luke was on the phone.  “Finn?”

 

Finn groaned.  “What?”

 

“What’s going on, sweetie?”

 

“I’m leaving.”

 

“No, you’re not,” Luke said.  “For starters, you haven’t been paid yet.  Plus, didn’t the King himself invite you to the party tonight?”

 

Finn grumbled, “Yeah.”

 

“So, you have to go,” Rey chirped in.

 

“I can tell them there’s an emergency back home.”

 

“No, you can’t,” Luke said.

 

“Fine,” Finn said, “I’ll tell them I’m sick!”

 

“John Charles Finnick,” Rey said.  “If you do that, I will call every phone in that tiny country until I find someone who works at the palace and I will tell them that you are a lying liar!”

 

Finn sighed, sitting on his bed.  “I can’t go and watch the two of them together, guys.”

 

“Just go for the first hour.  Let the King see you and then tell them you aren’t feeling well,” Luke said.

 

“Yes,” Rey said.  “Go look at all the pretty people and eat some wonderful food and then go hide.”

 

“Fine,” Finn spat out.  “I’ll do it.”

 

“I want detailed descriptions of the dresses,” Rey said.

 

“I’m glad you’re enjoying my pain, peanut.”

 

“Go get ready, Finn,” Rey said.  “Love you!”

 

“Love you too,” Finn said.  He hung up and then flopped back onto his bed.  “Great,” he muttered.  “Just kriffing great.”

 

# # # #

 

Poe frowned into the mirror, pulling at the ruffles of his cravat.  Why in the hell am I doing this?  He sighed, looking at himself—he was wearing a deep blue fitted coat with tails and a shimmery sort of shirt underneath it.  He’d always liked how he looked in blue, but now, it just made him sad.

 

But Nodin is great.  Poe picked up his silvery mask.  He’s the best.

 

That was probably the worst part.  Under any other circumstances, he could see himself falling for Nodin.

 

But compared to Finn…

 

Poe put on his mask and straightened his shoulders.  It doesn’t matter.  He doesn’t feel that way about me.

 

And I’ve got a country to think about.

 

He gave himself a curt nod and started for the ballroom.

 

# # # #

 

I feel like kriffing Mr. Darcy, Finn thought as he waded through the crowds of people filling the ballroom.  The King had sent over a costume especially for him and while Finn was grateful, he felt like an imposter wearing it.  It was a purple velvet tailcoat, with a fancy white shirt and a black vest, and it was tight fit.  I’m leaving nothing to the imagination here, he thought, wishing that fancy formal attire had pockets.

 

His mask was a deep purple, darker than his jacket, with an iridescent glow to it, and Finn was so thankful for it.  Even though he was pretty sure anyone from the palace staff would know him on sight, it lent him a certain anonymity.  And Finn was trying to steer clear of anyone he might know, so he could put in his hour and then retreat back to his room.  So far, he was succeeding.  Most of the royal staff seemed to be congregated near the dance floor, so Finn was sticking close to the buffet.

 

Finn startled when he felt a quick tap on his shoulder.  He turned to find a man—he was guessing it was Nodin—in a cream-colored outfit very similar to his own.  The man bowed and Finn did the same.

 

“Finn?”

 

“Nodin?”

 

“Yeah,” the other man said with a relieved sigh.  “There’s so many people here.”  He pulled his mask up, looking around.

 

“I know,” Finn said.  “I didn’t think there were this many people in the whole country.”

 

“Perhaps they shipped some in?”

 

Finn laughed, hating how wonderful Nodin was, wishing that he would spit on an orphan or go kick a puppy—anything so I can hate you!

 

“Ummmm, I know this is going to seem a bit presumptuous of me, but, ummmmm,” Nodin seemed genuinely flummoxed.

 

“What is it?”

 

“Would you dance with me?”  Nodin leaned in.  “Poe’s not here yet and I haven’t danced in this kind of setting for years and…”

 

“You don’t want to step on his feet the first time you two dance?”

 

“Exactly,” Nodin said.

 

“Sure,” Finn said.

 

“Oh, thank you,” Nodin said, slipping his mask back on before taking Finn’s arm and leading him towards the dance floor.  “You’re an absolute gem.”  Finn didn’t see it, but as Nodin passed a striking young woman in a burgundy gown, he gave her a slight nod and she went running across the room.

 

# # # #

 

“Part one is a go,” Rose said rushing into a small room just beyond the ballroom. 

 

“Woah,” Han said, catching her before she crashed into him.  “Calm down.”

 

Rose ignored him and asked Leia, “Is Snap ready?”

 

Leia nodded, pressing a message into her phone.  “As soon as he gets this text, we’re ready to begin.”

 

The group traded nods and filed out of the room.

 

# # # #

 

Nodin led Finn to the dance floor where a waltz was underway.  They looked at each other for a moment before Nodin said, “I guess we just have to jump in.”

 

“And watch our toes,” Finn said.

 

Nodin took lead and guided Finn out. 

 

And that’s another thing I can add to the list.  He’s a great dancer. 

 

Jerk.

 

Finn smiled at Nodin.  “You’re really good at this.”

 

“I’m rusty,” Nodin said.  The waltz was coming to an end.  Nodin stepped back and bowed to Finn.  “But I do have a fantastic partner.”

 

Finn made to go, but Nodin quickly said, “Can we have one more please?”

 

He sounded so desperate, Finn agreed.  He stepped back up to Nodin, but instead of a waltz, now the musicians were playing something slow.  “Uhhhhh…”

 

Nodin took lead again.  “I guess I should practice this too,” he said, as the two of them swayed to the music.

 

# # # #

 

King Kes had grabbed his son’s shoulder during the waltz, apologizing to the people Poe was talking to, but claiming to need to talk to him for a moment.  “I was hoping for a quick word?”

 

“What is it,” Poe asked.

 

“My knee is acting up,” the King said, “and I was hoping that you would be an angel and take Leia for a quick spin around the floor for me?”

 

“Sure,” Poe said, relieved that that was all.

 

“Thank you,” Kes said, smiling as Leia appeared.  “Leia, I’m going to need to beg off, but Poe has graciously offered to take my place.”

 

Leia curtseyed, and Poe took her hand.  He led her to the dance floor. 

 

“How are you,” she asked.

 

“Fine,” Poe answered.

 

She rolled her eyes.  “So, you’re monosyllabic now?”

 

“Leia, it’s a party,” Poe said.  “I’m trying to make the best of it.”

 

Leia harrumphed at that but kept her mouth shut.  As the waltz ended, she let out a quiet, “Ow.”

 

“What,” Poe asked.

 

“I think I hurt my foot.”

 

“Um,” Poe started looking around.  They were in the middle of the dance floor.  “Do you want me to get Han or someone?”

 

“No, just, can you help me walk to that bench,” she asked, pointing to the far side of the dance floor.

 

“Sure,” Poe said. 

 

A slow song started up, and Poe tried to ignore all the happy couples dancing around him.  After a few measures of the song, he noticed that the lights were getting dimmer and dimmer.  “Uh, is it me or…”

 

# # # #

 

Nodin had spotted Poe and Leia as soon as the waltz stopped, and he made sure that as the slow song started, he could dance Finn towards them.  Snap and Jess danced their way towards Poe and Leia coming from the other direction.

 

As the lights got especially dim, Nodin made sure he and Finn were right behind Poe and Leia.  That’s when the handoff was made.  Nodin let go of Finn as Leia let go of Poe.  Jess and Snap “accidentally” jostled into them as Nodin took Leia’s hands and danced her away.  Jess and Snap muttered quick apologies, making sure to push Finn into Poe, as they too danced away.

 

# # # #

 

Finn suddenly found himself in Poe’s arms. 

 

For a moment, the two of them just stood there staring at each other, all thoughts of Leia and Nodin forgotten.  And then, the lights started getting a bit brighter and they noticed all the other couples dancing around them.

 

“Uh,” Finn said, nodding to the others.  “Should we?”

 

“Oh, yeah,” Poe said, pulling the other man into his arms.  He quickly looked around them, but Leia was gone.  He blinked as his eyes settled back on Finn.  “You look amazing,” he whispered.

 

“So do you.  Blue is your color.”

 

Poe felt stiff and awkward and he wasn’t sure where to look.  He licked his lips and tried to make small talk.  “The weather has been really nice the past few days.”

 

“It really has,” Finn answered, feeling like an idiot.

 

“Yeah, nice sun,” Poe said, immediately wishing he could crawl into a hole.  Nice sun?

 

“Super nice,” Finn said.  Is it hot in here?  He spotted a balcony on the far side of the ballroom.  “Uh, you wanna?”  He jerked his head towards it.

 

“Oh maker, yes,” Poe said, grabbing Finn’s arm and pulling him towards it.

 

As soon as they were out on the balcony, Poe pulled off his mask, panting just a bit.  He leaned on the railing.  “So, that back in there, with Leia?  That was a set up, right?”

 

Finn nodded, taking off his mask.  “Leia?  That’s who you were dancing with?”

 

“Yeah.  She suddenly hurt her foot and then the lights got really kriffing—”

 

“Dim,” Finn finished leaning against the rail next to Poe. 

 

“How did you get there?”

 

“I was dancing with Nodin.  Need to brush up on my waltzing.  Yeah, right.”

 

“Wait, Nodin is in on this?”

 

“I think so.”

 

“Kriff,” Poe said, running a hand through his hair.  He turned to look at Finn.  “You look amazing by the way.”

 

Finn smiled.  “You already said that.”

 

Poe smiled.  “Well, it bears repeating.”  Another waltz started back in the ballroom.  “So, they were trying to get us to dance together because…”

 

Finn shook his head.  He was pretty sure he knew why, but he wasn’t going to say it.

 

Poe deflated a bit.  He crossed his arms, looking back towards the ballroom.  “Nodin’s nice,” he said.  “I can see why you picked him.”

 

“He’s kriffing perfect,” Finn said.  “It’s irritating as hell.”  Crap.  Didn’t mean to say that.

 

Poe laughed.  “Do you feel like that with all your matches?”

 

Finn turned towards the grounds, shaking his head.  “Kriff, no.”

 

“Buddy,” Poe said, wrapping an arm around Finn’s shoulders, “It’s okay.”

 

“No, it’s not,” Finn said, shrugging out of Poe’s embrace.  “It’s unprofessional.  Kriff, I shouldn’t have even danced with him.  It was supposed to be one hour of avoiding people and then back to my room.”

 

“Huh?”

 

Finn sighed.  “I didn’t want to come,” he said, turning to look at Poe, “but my sister made me promise that I’d at least come for an hour, so my plan was to spend an hour next to the buffet and then pretend to get sick.  But then Nodin asked me to dance and…”

 

“Buffet, huh?  That’s a pretty good choice.  I usually try to find a comfy chair, but the buffet is good.  Did you try the shrimp,” Poe asked.  “It’s really good.”  Finn looked at him like he was crazy.  “Trying to lighten the mood, Finn,” Poe said.

 

“I’m sorry.  I should just,” Finn pushed off the railing and started back towards the ballroom.

 

“Don’t,” Poe said.

 

Finn froze.  “What?”

 

“Don’t go.”

 

“Why not,” Finn asked, turning.

 

“Because I don’t want you to?”

 

They stood there, about four feet apart, staring at each other.  They could hear the laughter and music from inside, but it felt like it was a world away.

 

“Why have you been avoiding me,” Finn asked.

 

Poe looked at his feet, playing with his mask.  “Seemed easier.”

 

“Easier than what?”

 

Poe turned around, leaning over the railing.  “Than being around someone that I have feelings for who doesn’t have feelings for me.”

 

“What?”

 

“You heard me,” Poe said over his shoulder.

 

Finn was next to him in an instant.  “No, say that again.”

 

“Finn,” Poe said, his voice breaking, “please don’t make me.”

 

“But you’re the one who isn’t interested in me!”

 

“Where in the kriff would you get an idiotic idea like that from?”

 

“Oh, I don’t know!  How about the fact that you’ve been running away any time we’re in the same room together lately?”

 

“Well, ummm, I mean…”

 

“Plus, you’re dating perfect Nodin!”

 

“I’m not dating Nodin!  Besides, he’s the guy you picked for me!”

 

“Because it’s my job!”

 

“Well, it’s a stupid job!”

 

“No, it isn’t.  It’s a great job.”

 

“Unless you’re so focused on the job that you don’t notice that I’m crazy about you!”

 

“Well, why didn’t you tell me,” Finn barked.

 

“Because when I went to tell you, I heard you telling someone you wanted to get out of D’Qar as soon as possible!”

 

Suddenly all the fight left Finn.  “Oh kriff,” he said.  He shook his head.  “Rey,” he said.  “I told Rey that because she knew I’d fallen for you, and I was trying to remain professional and—oomph!”

 

Poe grabbed Finn and kissed him.

 

# # # #

 

From the far end of the balcony, Rose smiled and slipped back into the party, giving a knowing nod and wink to her fellow conspirators.

 

The King leaned over to Leia.  “Let’s give them a little bit and then send someone to fetch them.”

 

“Of course,” Leia said.  She nodded to Snap, who came over.  “Give them about twenty minutes and make sure no one else tries to use the balcony, but then find an excuse to bring them back into the party.”

 

“Of course,” Snap said, bowing.

 

# # # #

 

Finn’s face hurt from how wide he was smiling, but he didn’t care.  He was a bit breathless as he leaned against the railing.  “Aren’t they gonna miss you,” he said, helping Poe tuck his shirt back in.

 

Poe shook his head.  “If they’re the ones who set this thing up, they have to have eyes on us.”

 

Finn looked around.  “Um, are you saying that someone just watched us…”  His eyes went wide.

 

“Maker, I hope not, but…”  Poe looked around.  “Probably someone on the other side of the curtains.  I mean, no one else has come out here in what…”  He looked at his phone.  “Twenty minutes.”

 

As if on cue, Snap parted the curtains and opened his mouth to speak.  Poe pointed to him with a smug look on his face.  “See?”

 

“Yeah, yeah,” Finn said, trying to straighten his vest.

 

Snap looked over both of them and couldn’t contain his chuckle.  “Um, you want to help him with his hair, Finn?” 

 

Finn looked at Poe and then made a noise.  “Kriff,” he walked over and quickly tried to tame Poe’s curls.

 

“I take it Leia sent you,” Poe said to Snap. 

 

“Yeah, we were supposed to give you some time and then remind you that there is a party going on.”

 

Finn stepped back, frowning.  “I think that’s as good as it gets.”

 

Poe took his hand and said, “Care to dance, Mr. Finnick?”

 

“I’d love to, your highness.”

 

Snap held the curtain for them as they rejoined the party.

 

# # # #

 

The next morning, the King, the Prince, Finn, Leia, Han, and some of the others were seated around a table while Nodin explained how he’d figured out that Poe and Finn were crazy for each other.  “He actually spent ten minutes in the middle of our date telling me how nice you were after he’d been a jerk to you,” Nodin said to Finn.  “That’s when I suspected that I wasn’t the Prince’s first choice.”

 

“I am so sorry,” Poe said.  He closed his eyes, blushing.  “I’m a terrible first date.”

 

“You weren’t the worst I’ve had,” Nodin said.  “Trust me.”

 

“So, that’s why you wanted to take me out to coffee,” Finn asked.

 

“Well, I had to see if it was one-sided or not, and it was definitely not one-sided,” Nodin said with a wink to Poe.

 

“At least I wasn’t the only one acting like a love-sick puppy.”

 

“So, how did you meet up with them,” Finn asked, pointing to Leia and Han and Jess.

 

“We were already planning something when Nodin graciously offered his services,” Leia said.  “Then, it was just a matter of getting the two of you on the dance floor together.”

 

“You know we saw through your little plan, right,” Poe asked.

 

“You do realize that the two of you are together, right,” Leia asked back.

 

Poe blushed again and became very interested in his pancakes.

 

“Well,” Nodin said, pushing back from the table, “I hate to eat and run, but I have a plane to catch.”

 

Leia and Kaydel both rose.  “We’ll get the car ready, and Kaydel, can you have someone fetch Mr. Chavdri’s bags?” 

 

Nodin bowed to the King and then to Poe.  “It’s been a pleasure.”

 

Poe got up and walked over, holding out his hand.  “The pleasure was all ours.”

 

Nodin smiled and shook Poe’s hand.  “Let me know when you’re in England next.  I’d love to hear how everything turns out.”  He looked over to Finn and bowed his head.

 

After Nodin left, Poe sat down and turned to Finn, “How much would you charge to find him someone?”

 

“Charge?  I’m already planning on doing it for free.”

 

Poe laughed, taking Finn’s hand and pressing a quick kiss to it.

 

The King looked around the table.  “I’m wondering if the rest of you could give me and Poe and Finn a few minutes.”

 

Everyone else got up and said their goodbyes before filing out.

 

Finn was suddenly very nervous.  “Um, sir, I know that technically, I have violated my contract and—”

 

Kes laughed.  “You were supposed to find him a boyfriend, and I’m pretty sure you did that.”  He looked at Poe.  “Didn’t he?”

 

“Yep,” Poe said, grinning like the cat who’d caught the canary.

 

“Now,” the King said to Finn, “I wanted to know what your plans are.  You have a thriving business in New York and…”  The King pressed his lips together.  “I don’t want to force the two of you into something too quickly.  I know that Leia and I have made it seem as if Poe needed to get married right away, but—”

 

“Dad,” Poe cut in.  “Finn and I had a long talk last night, and we decided that we’re going to take this slow.  Finn’s going to spend another week here and then he has a business to get back to.  I’m going to go out to New York in a month or so,” Poe turned to smile at his new boyfriend, “and we’ll take it from there.”

 

The King opened his mouth to ask a question, but Poe continued, “AND, I’m going to start meeting with members of parliament and explain to them that my personal life is none of their business and if they really want to make an issue of me being gay, I don’t think they’re going to like what happens to them in the media.”  Poe lifted an eyebrow.

 

Kes chuckled.  “I almost hate to see what’s in store for them when you get going.”  He pushed back from the table.  “Well, it sounds as if you two have everything figured out.”  He gave them both a soft smile.  “Finn, I’d like to have dinner sometime before you leave.  Maybe even have a talk together without Poe?”

 

“That sounds nice, your majesty.”

 

Kes nodded.  “I hear that the lake is especially beautiful these days.  You should make him take you.”

 

As the King walked out, Finn turned to Poe.  “There’s a lake?”

 

# # # #

 

A part of Finn wanted to roll his eyes at the cliché of it all: here he was walking hand-in-hand with the man he was absolutely crazy about; it was a sunny day and he was grinning from ear to ear.  “All we need is some shmoopy romantic music,” he muttered.

 

“Huh,” Poe asked.

 

“Just thinking about the fact that we are a walking trope at the moment.”

 

Poe chuckled.  “Hmmmmm,” he thought, “walking hand-in-hand around a picturesque lake, sickeningly in love.  Yeah, that’s good.  Not as good as misunderstandings and mutual pining, and crazy plans to get the two idiots together, but it’ll do in a pinch.”

 

Finn laughed.  “Plus, the crazy plan happened at a masquerade ball, and…kriff, when did my life become a romance novel?”

 

“If it were a romance novel, buddy, I think we would’ve already moved from PG to R-rated dates.”

 

“True,” Finn said.  He then remembered the night before.  “Well, technically last night got into some PG-13-rated territory…”

 

Poe laughed, remembering.  “Yes, it did.”

 

Finn looked over at Poe, still not believing that they were really a couple.  He still had some concerns—they did plan to take it slow, but some day, they were going to have to face Poe’s coronation and…the future.  Finn’s brows furrowed.

 

“Hey,” Poe said, noticing.  “None of that.”  He squeezed Finn’s hand.  “We’ll figure it out.”

 

Finn nodded.  “It’s just…”  He looked over at Poe, so earnest Poe nearly stumbled under the weight of it.  “I really like you and I think there could be a future with you, but…”

 

“But?”

 

“But, I have a job and a family and a home back in New York, and I don’t want to give that up, either.”

 

Poe nodded.  “I know,” he said softly.  “But this is still a new thing.  Let’s,” he took a deep breath, “let’s get to know each other.  Maybe even have a few R-rated dates,” he chuckled, “and then figure things out.”  He pulled Finn’s hand up and kissed it.  “I don’t want you to give your life up for me.”  His eyes twinkled as he added, “But for what it’s worth, I definitely see a future with you.”  Poe shrugged.  “And I’ve got to believe that for the right person, I’d do just about anything to make things work.  Yeah?”

 

“Yeah,” Finn said.  He wanted to melt at the way Poe’s eyes crinkled when he smiled—not to mention the way Poe could just turn on the smolder when he wanted to.   Finn shook his head.  “I’m pretty sure if you look at me like that, you could get me to do just about anything.”

 

Poe gave an evil little laugh.  “Oh yeah?”  He thought for a moment and then licked his lips, nodding at the lake.  “It’s a beautiful day and I’m betting the water is warm.”  He leaned in and whispered, “Want to go skinny dipping?”

 

“I really do,” Finn heard himself say before his brain had a chance to stop him.

 

Poe’s laugh grew.  “Fantastic!”  He was already shucking his clothes and stumbling towards the water.

 

“Poe?”  Finn couldn’t help his dopey grin as he watched his boyfriend trip over his jeans trying to get his shoes off. 

 

Oh kriff, I guess we’re really doing this.  Finn laughed and started untying his shoes.

 

For all of his concerns about the future, for all the ways in which this relationship was going to be tricky, as he watched Poe chuck his clothes along the shoreline, Finn knew deep in his heart that he’d found the Prince his perfect match. 

 

And as Poe divested himself of the last of his clothes and splashed into the water, Finn got a nice view of some of what the future held.  Oh, this is gonna be fun.  “Hey, wait up,” he called out, yanking at his shirt and trying to undo the clasp on his belt.

 

Poe laughed at him and dove under the surface as Finn pulled off the last of his clothes and jumped in, yelling, “The water is freezing!”

 

Poe splashed him.  “Yeah, it is.  Guess we’ll just have to warm each other up.”

 

Finn laughed.  “Whatever you say, your highness.”

 

Poe swam up and kissed him on the nose.  “Thanks for finding me such a great match, Finn.”

 

Finn rolled his eyes and playfully shoved his boyfriend under water.

 

“What,” Poe said, surfacing, “too mushy?”

 

Finn laughed.  “No, Poe.  It’s perfect.  Just perfect.”