“So what did you think?” Poe said, over his shoulder, as Finn’s eyes slid away from the large photograph of Spiderman’s ass which graced the wall in front of the descending escalator. Well, the rest of Spiderman — Tobey Maguire, Finn presumed, though he was not big into comic book stuff and wasn't exactly an expert — was there as well, but he was on all fours and his back was arched in a really unnecessary way that made Finn feel particularly guilty for noticing.
“Of the movie?” Finn answered, too late, and Poe chuckled and shook his head, turning back around.
“Yeah, bud, of the movie,” he called back.
“It was uh—“ A woman on the up escalator next to them looked up, blushed, and ducked her head; Finn saw Poe shake his, and then turn back again. Smiled at Finn, and raised his eyebrows — inquisitive, expectant. Finn felt himself flush, too. “Fine. It was — fine.” No it wasn’t, Finn thought, and frowned. Be honest. Be real. Say something else, you complete —
“Some twist, huh?” Poe said, and Finn breathed a sigh of relief.
“I mean,” he said, rolling his eyes. “I mean, ridiculous. What kind of romantic comedy — like, you can either be Hallmark or The Sixth Sense, you just — you can't be both. That should not be allowed.”
Poe laughed as they stepped off the escalator. “I guess it’s ‘cause of the song,” said Poe, turning around to face him. Hands in the pockets of his jacket, grinning a little as he mirrored Finn, walking backwards as Finn took a step toward the door — Finn had to look away, already flustered at even that much attention. He pushed the door open and waved Poe out, out onto 14th Street and the smell of sugar coated almonds roasting and subway steam billowing.
“The — she sings it! At the end!”
“Oh,” Finn said, thoughtful, as they made their way down the street. "That’s a real song? I thought it was — like for the movie.”
“Finn!” Poe stopped short and turned to look at him again. "It’s Wham! George Michael! Come on!”
Finn blinked, slow and obvious. “George who?"
Poe cocked his head, and then snorted. “You’re fucking with me.”
“Little bit,” Finn said, trying his best to hide his relief — I’m funny, he thinks I’m funny, it’s charming, he’s not —
“Oh, real cute, Finn, makin’ fun of an old man,” Poe teased, leaning a little closer to him.
Say something something witty something smart do it or he’ll notice you’re just —
Poe smiled — a particularly gentle, careful smile, which Finn knew he should appreciate but which really just made him more nervous because it meant Poe'd clocked him for the utter mess he was — and cocked his head. “Do you wanna walk for a bit? We could — go get a drink, or there’s a — karaoke place around the corner, if —“
“My apartment’s two blocks away,” Finn blurted out, cringing as he heard himself say it, heart pounding as he struggled to course correct. “I mean, if you — want a drink, we can — it’d be cheaper.” Great, now you’ve implied he’s cheap. Or that you’re cheap. Fuck. Which would be worse? “I just moved in,” he added, weakly, hoping it was enough of a non sequitur to save him.
“Really?” Poe said, curious.
Finn nodded his head, perhaps a touch too vigorously. “Yeah. Uh, a week ago. You’d be my — my first visitor.”
Better or worse? Finn thought, but fleeting, as Poe pressed his lips together, and nodded. “Well, not about to turn down first look access."
“Sci fi or fantasy?”
“Sci fi,” Finn answered. “Book or movie adaptation?”
“Book,” Poe said, quick. “Except for Twilight, of course.”
Finn blinked. “You saw Twilight? Wait, you — read Twilight?”
“Uh-uh,” Poe said, wagging his finger at Finn. “No follow ups. Hot or cold?”
“Hot,” Finn said, as the elevator dinged open. “Oh, wait, is that weather or drinks?”
Poe shrugged, following him down the hall to his door. “Whatever you want.”
“Hot weather. Cold drinks.”
“But you look so good in a sweater,” Poe said from behind him, low and playful, and Finn nearly dropped his keys.
“I — uh. Thanks,” he said, and shoved the door open. “Dogs or cats?” he added, voice shaking.
“Dogs,” Poe said, casually, as if he hadn’t noticed, and trailed Finn inside. Looked around the apartment — bare as it was, with boxes along the walls and the couch in the middle of the living room. “I mean, I like both,” he added, glancing back at Finn. “But I’ve got a dog.”
No follow ups, he remembered too late, but Poe was already pulling out his phone. “I do,” he said, showing Finn a picture of a white and orange dog — clearly a mutt, fluffy and sweet faced — in a grey sweater.
“Oh, and he knows it,” said Poe, and smiled down at the picture. “Gets away with everything. How about you?”
“I don’t get away with anything.”
Poe laughed. “No, I mean — I mean, are you going to — get a pet, or something? You’ve got the room for it.”
Finn blinked. Idiot, of course he meant — “I don’t know,” he managed, pushing through. “I didn’t really grow up with pets.”
Poe’s expression went — strange and thoughtful — and he seemed about to ask, but forced a smile instead and shook his head. “Question?”
“It’s your turn.”
“Oh, right,” Poe said, and looked back down at his phone. “Oh, I got it — iPhone or Android?”
“iPhone,” Finn confessed. “But it’s — a company phone.”
"Oooh, fancy, " Poe hummed, and Finn found himself smiling.
Poe smiled back, for perhaps a moment more than Finn could bear, and then turned away.
“You really did just move in, huh,” he said, nodding at the boxes, and the mattress still leaning against the wall. “This your first place on your own?”
Outside a dorm, Finn knew better than to mention. “Pretty much,” he said, casual as he could. “Want a tour?” Poe nodded, and Finn grinned. “Bedroom,” he said, pointing at the corner he’d designated as such, where the bed was still leaning against the wall. “Living room,” he said, regarding the central space, where the slick leather couch was taking up most of the real estate — eventually, there would be a rug — “State of the art sound system,” he says, gesturing at the two speakers attached to the iPhone port. Pointed toward the back. “Bathroom’s back there. And —“ he said, stepping behind the counter. “Kitchen.”
“Oh, gotta have one of those,” Poe said, following him in. Opened a box labeled GLASSES and pulled out two champagne flutes. “Wouldn’t happen to have anything for a toast in one of these boxes?”
“No,” said Finn. “But in this one—“ he turned to open the refrigerator.
Handed Poe the black glass bottle; Poe let out a low, impressed whistle. “Are you sure?”
Finn shrugged; it was a highly impersonal gift from his boss, apparently a standard onboarding tradition. He’d been saving it for when Rey was in town so they could celebrate together, but — when else was he going to have an impossibly beautiful man in his apartment to drink almost $200 champagne with? Rey would understand.
“I'm sure I've got a corkscrew somewhere,” he said, though he probably didn't — he couldn't remember the last time he drank anything without a screwcap or a pop top.
"Don't need one for this," Poe said, winking at him and reaching into his pocket. Pulled out — of all things — a Swiss army knife. “I’ll take care of it,” he said, all thoughtless confidence, and nodded toward the living room and the speakers.
Oh, Finn thought. Music. Right. That’s what you do, when you invite someone to your home. Pour them a drink, play them a song, ask them about themselves. “Any requests?” he called out, pulling up Spotify in his phone. “Oh, wait, I know — Rolling Stones or the Beatles?”
Poe peeked out from the kitchen with a frown. “Just how old do you think I am, buddy?”
“Oh, sorry, right: Ariana or Taylor?" Finn said, mock apologetic.
"Funny," Poe said, and ducked back into the kitchen. "The answer's Janelle, by the way," he called out.
"Fair enough," Finn called back. Heard the pop of the cork but no rush of bubbles, and figured he should get along with the music. Skimmed through his options and then — Oh, sure, that’ll work, he thought, and pressed play.
The familiar, rich tones of Nina Simone — a cappella at first, joined by brassy horns — rolled from the speakers.
“Oh, love this one,” said Poe, exiting the kitchen with two full flutes of champagne in hand. “Great choice."
Finn tried hard not to preen, but found himself grinning as he took one flute from Poe.
“What?” said Poe, smiling back, looking only slightly confused.
“Nothing,” Finn answered, and then shook his head. “I mean — just. You have this fantasy of what your life is going to be. And you — don’t really think it’ll ever work out like that. Reality's never that kind. But…” he looked at Poe; at his apartment, still smelling vaguely of fresh paint; at the tableau of the city sparkling through his windows. He shrugged.
Poe nodded to himself, and tipped his flute toward Finn. “To reality, then?” he offered, and Finn nodded.
“To reality,” he said, and watched as their glasses clinked together.
“Top or bottom?”
“Depends on the guy,” Poe said, quick and heated, as he kissed Finn’s neck. Finn swallowed, hard, hands gone still on the buttons of Poe’s shirt. “Oh,” Poe said, straightening a little. Blushing, Finn couldn’t help but notice. “You meant — “ he waved at his shirt. Finn nodded, hastily undoing the buttons. Let out a nervous huff of laughter once he was done. Poe matched it with a breathless giggle of his own, shrugged out of his shirt completely, and let it fall to the floor, knocking over the now empty flutes they’d left there.
Poe dropped his hands to Finn’s hips, and Finn leaned in to kiss him — eyes closed, mouth open, wrapping his arms around the back of Poe’s neck. Poe’s hands ran up and down his back, guiding him closer, till they were chest to chest.
“Boxers or briefs?” Poe murmured.
“I don’t,” Finn inhaled, trying to steady himself. “Don’t remember, actually?" Don't remember, can't think right now, same difference.
Poe chuckled and let his hands drift to Finn’s belt. “Can I find out?”
“Uh-huh,” Finn said, gulping in air. Poe pressed his face against Finn’s neck and made quick work of his belt and fly. Slipped his hand into Finn’s pants and gave him a quick, glancing stroke.
“Boxers,” Poe reported, cheerful, as he lifted his head again, and gave Finn another, steadier stroke. Finn could feel himself trembling — exhaled, and went to pull his sweater up and over his head, mostly just to hide the look of love-sick wonder currently taking up residence on his face.
When he was done, he leaned in again, pressing up against Poe — bare chest to bare chest, and the scent of him, something wonderfully fresh and crisp, wrapped Finn up and dragged him down into intoxicating, thoughtless pleasure. Poe was warm and steady, hands gentle but confident. Finn tucked his face into the crook of Poe’s neck and sucked in an uneven breath.
“Finn,” Poe said, nuzzling at Finn’s temple, and slowed the pace of his strokes. “I’m gonna move you over, okay?”
“Okay,” Finn said, automatic, and felt himself turned around and laid flat on his back on the couch in what felt like a second. Blinked up at Poe, stunned, feeling almost as if the breath had been knocked out of him.
“Hi,” he said, softly, and Poe blushed.
“Hi,” Poe said, kneeling between his legs. “Is this all right?”
Finn nodded. Poe leaned in, and kissed him again, full on the mouth — Finn could feel himself melting, could feel his heart racing, could feel a strange and almost painful ache in his chest. Poe pulled back before he could make any sense of it.
“I’m going to —“ his nose scrunched up and he looked away for a moment. Finn took the opportunity to stare at him, to gaze openly at the renaissance angel curls, the rich hazel eyes, the perfect curve of his lips, even as they started moving again. “— a condom.”
Poe chuckled, shaking his head. “Stay put,” he said, and rose from the couch. Headed back toward the kitchen, where he must've left his jacket.
Oh. Oh. “Oh, wait,” Finn called out, twisting around. Tried to sit up, but found himself somewhat hampered by the slick leather of the cushions. “I’ve got some in the—” Fuck, he thought, as he slipped off the couch and thudded onto the floor.
He heard it before he felt it — the tinkle of breaking glass, the crunch of shards as they embedded into something soft.
He sat up.
“Finn?” Poe was saying, scrambling back from the kitchen, shirtless and flushed, hair thick and tousled. God, even like this, flustered and clearly concerned, he was beautiful. It felt particularly unfair. “Finn!"
Finn blinked. “Hm?” he managed, following Poe’s gaze to the left, and noticed that the stem of champagne flute was pretty well lodged into his upper arm.
“Oh,” he said, and that’s when the pain hit — sharp and blinding, panic inducing, which was why — at least he’d later assume it was why — he became suddenly, phenomenally stupid, and pulled the glass out.
“Don’t—” Poe had started, and then finished with: “Fuck," as the blood began gushing. He was beside Finn instantly, pulling him back onto the couch, retrieving a discarded shirt, pressing it to the wound, and holding Finn’s arm up.
“Ouch,” Finn whined, like he was a three year old with a skinned knee or something, but fuck, it hurt.
“I know, sweetheart, I know,” Poe said, voice soft but calm, and steady. “But I need to—“ he took hold of Finn’s other hand — the one not attached to the blood-gushing arm — and pressed it to the wound. The shirt — Poe’s shirt, Finn realized — was already soaked through, blood warm and wet against his palm. “You need to keep it there while I call 911, okay?"
Finn swallowed but nodded, grasping his own arm hard. Fuck, he thought — or maybe said — as a sharp spiral of agony spread from his arm into his shoulder. Poe had his phone against his ear, and swooped in, pushing Finn’s hand out of the way and wrapping his own around Finn’s arm again as he talked. “—upper arm, a lot of blood, I think it’s arterial, and it could’ve hit the ulnar—“
“Are you a doctor?” Finn heard someone ask — himself, right, which was strange, because he knew the answer was no.
“Address?” Poe said, not listening to Finn, but looking at him, suddenly. “Finn. What’s your address?”
“582 12th St, Apt 4B,” Finn rattled off as Poe held the phone up to him. Once Finn was done, Poe pulled the phone back to his own ear.
“Got that?” he said, and then nodded. “Thanks,” he said, and hung up the phone. “They’re on their way,” he told Finn.
“I — um,” Finn said, feeling woozy. “I think I’m gonna—“
“Hey,” Poe said, looking up at him. Reached his free hand up to cup the side of Finn’s face. “Hey, no, it’s okay,” he said, gentle even as his other hand was squeezing Finn’s bleeding arm for dear life. "You’re going to be fine, okay? Just —“ the door buzzed, and he stood up. “Hold that for me again,” he said, guiding Finn’s hand back up to his arm. “I’m going to get the door.”
Up he went, striding over to the intercom panel and hitting all the buttons at once until the tell-tale buzz hummed through the apartment. Poe unlocked the front door as well, and Finn was struck by a sudden attack of clarity as to how the situation would look once the paramedics got there.
“Poe!” he called out. “Shirt?"
Poe looked over at him, head cocked, and Finn almost cried with frustration. Stared at Poe’s bare chest, and then up at his face.
Poe shook his head, frowned, and rushed back over.
“Stand up for me,” he said, not quite a request, and Finn obeyed. Found Poe practically going to his knees in front of him — and if all of his blood wasn’t currently rushing out of his body through his left arm, his physical reaction might’ve been debilitatingly mortifying. Poe, apparently unaware, pulled Finn’s pants and boxers all the way back up again, zipped up his fly, and buckled his belt. That done, Poe shoved his feet into his long-since discarded shoes, and pulled Finn’s sweater over his own head.
Finn’s breath caught, and Poe turned to look at him. “I’m—“ he started. Okay. Scared. Dying. An idiot. Half in love with you already. All the way in love with you already.
All of the things he could’ve — would’ve — said, but the door to apartment banged open, a stretcher rolled in, and his knees gave out.
“How old are you?”
“Twenty-six,” Finn said, without thinking. “No. Twenty-three. In a month. So...twenty-two," he rolled his eyes and shook his head. "Don’t — I don’t know why I lied just then.”
The paramedic who’d asked — blonde, no-nonsense — glanced back at Poe, who’d insisted on riding in the ambulance with them, and chuckled to herself. Finn tried not to read judgment into it. “Who knows,” she said, dry. “Are you on any medication?”
Finn stared up for a long moment. “Klonopin,” he mumbled. “For anxiety. And antidepressants.”
The paramedic scribbled something down and checked another box. “Ever been hospitalized before?”
“Appendicitis. In college. And uh— broke my — broken cheekbone when I was ten. Fell off my bike."
Another note. “And who’s he?” she said, glancing back at Poe again. “Friend? Boyfriend?”
“Friend,” said Poe, a little too quick.
“It’s our second date,” Finn blurted out, slightly petty, mostly pathetic. The paramedic smirked a little. “This wasn’t a sex thing,” Finn added, defensive. “I mean —“ he thought about how they looked: him shirtless and shoeless, Poe in an inside-out sweater, possibly with the start of a hickey on his neck. “It wasn’t intentional, I mean—“
“Hey, bud,” Poe said, softly. “Why are you still talking?”
God knows, Finn thought, and shut his eyes.
The next few hours were a blur of x-rays and waivers and the hushed, urgent voices of several doctors. Poe stayed, asking Finn questions over the bustle of personnel, struggling to fill out clipboards full of forms as one of the nurses peeled Finn out of his blood stained jeans.
To think he’d been nervous about Poe seeing him naked for the first time — who’d’ve thought it would be like this, under the harsh glare of fluorescents, streaked in his own blood, with a stern, solid matron of a nurse draping him in a crisp hospital gown. Nowhere to go but up, honestly.
“I’m not going to lose my arm, am I?” he mumbled to her, hoping Poe wouldn’t overhear.
“I don’t think so,” she answered, which was too far a cry from no, absolutely not for comfort.
“Hiya, Finn,” said a blue-clad form, with big green eyes and an oddly cheery voice beyond the surgical mask. Finn was too groggy — blood loss or panic or whatever it was they’d given him for the pain — to find it anything but jarring. “I’m going to need you to count down from ten, okay?”
“Ten,” he managed, tongue already too heavy for his mouth. He wondered where Poe was. Could feel his presence, hovering, not far but— but out of reach. “Nine. Eight…”
He doesn’t realize it’s pouring until he steps out of the coffee shop.
Fuck, he thinks, shrinking back under the awning. Just his luck — stood up, umbrella-less, jacket-bereft, and soon to be soaked through and freezing. He needs to delete all the dating apps and download one of those weather reminders once and for all.
“Ah, man, gotta love a good fall storm,” someone says, and Finn looks up.
There’s a guy sharing his awning — laughing a little, shaking water from his dark, curly hair. He’s wearing a fitted leather jacket, with an artfully distressed graphic t-shirt underneath, straight cut jeans, and nice leather boots. He’s older than Finn: there’s a few sprinkles of grey in his perfect hair, making him look particularly distinguished — with a strong jaw, soft lips, and — Finn can’t help but notice — enough of an ass to perfectly fill out those jeans of his.
He is — to Finn’s admittedly bitter perspective — unforgivably beautiful in that way you only really get in New York City, full as it is with models and actors and those of artistic temperament who get their big break less because of their talent than because they photograph well.
He looks over at Finn and graces him with what he probably assumes to be a very charming smile, and keeps talking: “It’s like, just a few degrees colder and we’d be getting snow, a few degrees warmer and it’s a nice break in the weather, but this, y’know, never really know what to—"
“Listen,” Finn says. “I think it’s — great that you wanna strike up a conversation with a total stranger, but — I don’t know you, and I’m just — good staring at the rain by myself, for a while.”
A moment passes. God, he’s such a jerk, it must come out somehow, everyone must be able to tell that deep down he’s the actual worst, that’s why — he sighs, shoves his hands into the pockets of his slacks. Stares into the rain as he starts, "Look, I'm sorry, that was—"
“Are you okay?”
Finn looks over at him, and he holds his hands up in preemptive surrender. “I know you said you want to be left alone, and that’s cool, but you seem like a good guy having a bad day, so if you wanna —“
“I just got stood up.”
He winces sympathetically. “Oh, man,” he says. “That sucks.”
Like you’d know, Finn wants to say. Like someone’s ever bailed on going on a date with you.
“It’s fine,” he lies. “It’s just — I don’t know. I thought it could be something. We had a good conversation, he seemed like a nice guy, but he bailed before even meeting me in person, like — who does that?”
The guy nods sympathetically, and steps closer. “You been in New York long?”
Finn huffs. “It’s that obvious, huh?”
The guy laughs. “Dating in the city sucks. For everyone, I promise. Number of times I’ve been ghosted after a first date, like —“ he reaches over, gives Finn’s shoulder a comforting squeeze. “C’mon,” he says, and nods back toward the coffee shop.
“C’mon what?” he says, letting himself be led back toward the door.
“Let me buy you a coffee.”
“I’ve already had a coffee.” He’s had three, waiting for his date to show. No need to bring it up.
The guy laughs. “Then let me buy you some soothing tea. Or maybe a scone.”
“A scone would be nice,” Finn concedes, and the guy grins.
“That’s the spirit,” he says, and guides him back inside the shop.
The lights were very bright, and his mouth was very dry.
“Am I dead?” he croaked at the ceiling.
“Maybe you were dead the whole time."
Finn had to laugh. “That would be a twist.”
“Wouldn’t it?” Poe said, coming into view above him. He looked tired — still beautiful, but human, not heart-stoppingly gorgeous like he usually did. He laughed. “Oh, wow, thanks a lot.”
“Did I—“ Finn groaned. “Did I say that out loud?”
“It’s okay,” Poe said, patting Finn’s leg. “How are you feeling?”
“Fuzzy,” Finn conceded. “The world is…” he tried to wave his hands, but his arms were too heavy. Oh, wait, his arms. He glanced to his left. “Oh, there it is!”
“There it is,” Poe said, smiling. “Surgery was very successful. Patched up artery, no nerve damage. May have to do some PT, but that’s never as bad as you think it’ll be.”
“They told you all that?”
“You signed off on me getting medical info.”
“I did?” He said, thinking about it — one of the many forms that’d been shuffled in front of his face. But yeah, he did remember — remembered his sudden conviction that if Poe knew that Finn was about to lose his arm he’d feel like shit leaving him. Finn brought his good hand up to his face and sighed. “Right,” he said. Cleared his throat a little — was it supposed to be that dry? He didn’t remember the last time he’d had a drink, maybe he was dehydrated—
“It’s the anesthesia,” Poe said, helpfully, holding out a plastic cup with a straw in it. Finn took a grateful sip. “It’s gonna leave your throat sore for a bit.”
“You know all this stuff.”
“With age comes wisdom,” Poe teased. Finn gave him a look, and Poe sighed. “I’ve been in hospitals a lot.”
Cryptic. Finn wasn’t sure what to make of it. Opened his mouth to ask, but —
“Oh hey,” said a nurse, bustling into his room. “Look at you, already awake. I’m Concha, I’m just going to check your vitals real quick.” Poe moved back and she stepped around him, wrapping a blood pressure cuff over Finn’s arm. "Surgery went well," she said, as the cuff tightened. “You’re a very lucky young man.”
“Yeah,” Finn said, glancing at his bound arm and his bleak hospital room and the beeping machines. “Lucky.”
“I’m serious,” said Nurse Concha. “If your boyfriend hadn’t been there—“
“You wouldn’t’ve fallen off the couch and onto a champagne glass,” Poe interjected — he’d moved over to Finn’s left side, and winked when Finn met his eye. Rested his hand on Finn’s chest, and Finn felt his heart skip in a way that would surely cause some concern in a hospital.
“If you say so,” said the nurse, inspecting one of Finn’s monitors. “You’re all good.”
Finn breathed a sigh of relief. “So I can go home?”
“Not quite yet,” she said. “A coupla hours. You can eat around two AM, though.”
He glanced at Poe. In an hour, he mouthed. Finn tried not to panic.
“How much’s — a couple?”
“You’ll have to talk to the doctor about that but my guess?” She said, looking him over. “Probably not till morning.”
"You don't have to stay."
"Of course I do," said Poe, dragging a chair closer to Finn's bed as they waited for the wheelchair to arrive.
"You really don't though."
Poe huffed. "Buddy, if I wasn't here, I'd just be home in bed with my dog, this isn’t—"
"Your dog!" Finn said, struggling to sit up. "Your dog, right, you need to get home to —"
“Finn,” Poe said, holding up his hands. “Relax. My roommates are watching him, it’s fine."
"Hey, not all of us have big fancy Wall Street jobs, Mr. Big Shot Junior Analyst at FO Financial."
Finn groaned a little. "You looked in my wallet?"
"I needed your insurance card," said Poe. "Don't worry, I left the twenty."
"There was sixty bucks in there."
“Was there?" Poe said, all wide-eyed innocence, and Finn had to laugh.
"Aren't you like a lawyer?"
"Yeah, not the kind that makes money, though."
"There's a kind that doesn't make money?"
"Well, if your clients don't have any...." Poe shrugged, and was about to continue when the wheelchair arrived, pushed by an orderly. "Oh, thank you, Frank," Poe said, rising from his chair and giving the man a grateful nod.
Frank, who looked more like a young Denzel Washington than anyone working the night shift in a hospital had any right to, gave Poe a quick once over and then a broad wink of acknowledgment. "No worries, man," he said, and kept glancing back to Poe as he helped Finn hoist himself into the wheelchair.
"Apples or oranges?"
"Oranges," Finn said. "More fun to eat."
Poe grinned, and grabbed three from the fruit bowl by the register. Started to — honest to god — to juggle them, with such ease that Finn was torn, between gut-churning jealousy and the chest-warming pride of: For me. That's for me. He likes me. He’s doing that for me.
"Hey!" said the cashier, scowling. "You payin' for those?"
"Yes ma'am," said Poe, letting all three drop back down into his hands and settling them on the cafeteria tray. Took out his wallet, and gave her a quick smile as he handed over a ten dollar bill.
"Well, all right," she said, mollified and obviously charmed. "Y'all have a good night."
Poe tapped his forehead in a quick salute. "Just for you, Linda," he said, and turned before he could see her begin to twirl her hair.
“Do you come here a lot?” Finn said, as Poe pushed his chair to the nearest table with one hand and held onto the tray with the other
Poe gave a confused laugh as he set down the tray. “What?”
“Linda, Frank, do you know them?”
Poe sat down in front of him. “They’re wearing name tags,” he pointed out, reaching over to unpeel one of the oranges. “I like calling people by their names if I can.” He finished breaking it into wedges and slide them over. “There you go, Finn."
Finn huffed to himself and resisted the urge to roll his eyes — god, he had to get it together. Reached for one of the pieces. “Thanks,” he said, forcing a smile. “Morning bird or night owl?”
“Night owl at heart, morning bird by habit.”
“Why by habit?”
Poe shrugged, peeling another orange. “Military family. Air Force. Work. Gotta take the dog out in the mornings. Stuff like that.”
“Oh,” said Finn. “So you’re exhausted right now.”
“This ain’t my first all nighter, buddy,” said Poe, handing the newly released wedges over. “Millennial or Gen Z?”
Finn felt himself flush. “I don’t know the cut offs.”
Poe laughed a little. “But you are twenty-two?”
“Yeah,” Finn said. “I was going to tell you. If we were still seeing each other next month, I was going to tell you."
"Once you were twenty-three?"
"Yeah. I don’t — I don’t know what I thought that was better.”
“It’s a little better,” Poe said, and then, carefully: “You know I’m ten years older than you, right?”
He didn’t. It must’ve shown on his face, that he didn’t, because Poe nodded to himself, dropped his gaze, and got to work on the third orange. “Would that have made a difference?”
“No,” said Finn, without thinking, then realized it was true. “Would it have — to you?”
“Maybe a little,” Poe said, and looked up at him. “Not because of you. I mean, because of you, but —“ he grimaced, and did something strange and nervous with his hands — half a wave between them, half a quick staccato rap on the table. “I think a lot about the — perception of things. Dating younger guys, it can seem a little —“ he shook his head again, and shrugged. “I don't think it's a great look."
“You date a lot of younger guys?” Finn said, teasing a little but genuinely curious — if that’s one of Poe’s things, what he’s into, well, at least then it’d make sense, the two of them.
“I don’t date any younger guys,” Poe said, serious.
Finn sat with that for a moment.
“Oh,” he said, finally, and ate another orange wedge.
"Big wedding or impulsive elopement?” Poe said, easing the wheelchair around a corner.
The corridor in front of them was brightly lit but entirely empty, and Poe hopped up on the back axel of the chair. Pushed off, and they rolled down the hall together, fast, leaving Finn breathless and giggling even as he tried to answer.
“Oh, Rey would kill me if I eloped,” he managed, finally.
"Rey?” said Poe, feet back on the ground as they turned into another slightly more populated hallway.
"My best friend,” Finn said, carefully. And then — because why not, at this point — he added: "My ex."
A pause. He couldn’t see Poe, but he could almost hear him thinking.
"Should I —“ Poe took a breath. “Do you want me to give him a call?"
"Her," Finn said. "Nah. She's in London, couldn’t make it back. It’ll just worry her. I'll tell her after I — when I get home."
"It's why we broke up. I wasn't great at the long distance thing, I'd just get all…weird about it. Self-conscious. Guilty for not going with her. Afraid she was gonna — fall in love with someone else. Not her fault, all on me." God, he was just a big red flag, wasn't he? Not like Poe would stick around much longer anyway, so there was probably no harm in it. Still: "I don't know why I'm telling you this."
"Because you're still a little high," Poe said, matter of fact.
"I'm not!" he said, though — thinking about it, considering it, he realized he might be: the world did still seem a little soft, the corners of his perception a little fuzzy. It'd taken longer than it should've to notice, which might have been a clue. "Huh," he said. "Guess I am.”
“We should probably stop with the personal—“
“I’m sorry I was such a jerk when we met.”
Dam broken, he continued: “I’m kind of a mess. The way I grew up, I just never learned to...be a person, I guess. To trust people, especially."
“And I’m sorry I was — weird about the other meds.”
“It's just — it's all just not really a first date conversation, right?"
“It's our second date,” Poe pointed out, quickly, and once he realized Finn was going to let him talk, added: “Actually, it's way past midnight, and we had another meal. So, technically…third date?”
“Technically,” Finn agreed, smiling — yesterday's Finn would've died of shock, knowing he'd managed yet another date with the perfect man — and then sobered. "It's not a big deal. It’s kind of a new thing, actually. "
"The anxiety or the medication?"
"The medication. I've got — a decent job now. Insurance. Enough to see a psychiatrist once a month. Therapist every week."
"Is it helping?" Poe said, curious but pointed.
Finn tipped his head back. "Why do you ask?”
Poe made a face, but shrugged. "Sometimes you just seem—"
"Like you don't —“ Poe sighed. “Like you think I'm screwing with you."
"I don't think that—“ Finn turned back around, stared straight in front of him as Poe pushed him along. "I don’t think you’re screwing with me."
“What do you think?”
Finn frowned. "I think you're being nice."
"I try to be."
"Oh, I know what you mean,” said Poe, slightly exasperated.
"Do you?" Finn said. Winced. "I mean just — I see how people look at you, and how they look at me. When we’re together, I mean. They just make this — face. Like they can't —"
Poe spun the chair around.
“Look," he said, leaning over, looking him straight in eye. "People — people make assumptions. About me, about how I — present. What that means. I'm — exotic,” he grimaced, as if the word was particularly unpleasant to contemplate. “But I'm light skinned, I’ve got — a good metabolism, I just — I fit a standard — a dumb, American, Eurocentric, standard. And I'm friendly, and I like talking to people, and they just take as — they think that means everything about me is sexual."
"And it's not?"
"I like sex,” Poe conceded. “But not everything I do is sex. I’m nice, but I don’t — flirt with people, if I’m not interested. And I am interested,” he said, looking Finn straight in the eye. “In you. I wouldn’t’ve asked you out if I wasn’t. Okay?”
“Okay,” Finn said, chastened. Poe pressed his lips together, and ducked his head.
Straightened up, and turned the wheelchair around again. “Can I say something else?”
“Can I stop you?”
“Yes,” Poe said, earnestly, wheeling him back into his room. “I’ll shut up right now, if you want. We can go back to — glass half empty, or half full, if—“
“Just say it,” Finn sighed, as Poe eased the chair up along side the bed.
Poe didn’t say anything, at first — just helped Finn back onto the bed, and covered him with a blanket. Finn would’ve protested, but — once his head hit the pillow, he realized he was exhausted and could barely keep his eyes open, much less act like a two year old who didn’t want to take a nap.
“I think you’re too hard on yourself sometimes.”
“Hm?” Finn said, letting himself sink into the mattress. It was so warm — had it been that warm before? That soft? He felt like he was — floating, a little.
Poe let out a laugh — a nice one, a fond little chuckle. Finn could still not quite believe it was because of him, but —
“That’s what I wanted to say. I think you’re too hard on yourself, sometimes.”
“‘m as hard on myself as I needed to be,” he heard himself mumble.
There was another sound — a sad, concerned hum — and the bed shifted, as Poe sat down next to him.
“I don’t doubt that,” he said, taking Finn’s hand. “But things can be different now. It’s okay to make mistakes. To be nervous. To be a jerk, sometimes, when you’ve had a bad day. Everyone’s a work in progress, and we’re all just — doing the best we can.”
He wanted to open his eyes again. To squeeze Poe’s hand. To thank him. To ask him — paper or plastic? Out of sight or out of mind? Cake or pie? — anything, anything to keep the conversation going.
“Hmm,” is all he managed.
Poe patted his hand again. “Also, just,” he said, and then — sighed. “Just listen, okay? Don’t — try to answer right now, or be self-deprecating or cool or anything. I like you. I like you a lot. You’re — handsome, and funny, and you’ve got — you’ve got an amazing smile, and beautiful brown eyes. You’re great, and anyone who doesn’t see that —“ he gave Finn’s hand a squeeze. “Anyone who doesn’t see that is an idiot. And that includes you, by the way."
Finn let out a quick, indignant huff of laugher, and felt Poe lean over.
“Get some rest,” Poe said, dropping a kiss to his forehead. “I’ll be here when you wake up.”
Finn could feel the warmth of the sun on his face.
The lights of the room were off, but the curtains were open — just enough — to let in the first rays of morning.
There was a sound — soft, and even. Breathing. He glanced down — Poe, hunched over onto the edge of the bed by Finn's hips, head bowed and braced on his folded arms. Horrifically uncomfortable, Finn was sure, but it meant his head was within reach and — well, why not.
He ran his fingers through Poe’s hair. Soft as it looked, cool like silk. “Poe…” he started to say, and then stopped. Glanced to his left: the nurse from last night — Concha, he remembered — was there. She met his eye, and brought her finger up to her lips. Finn nodded, and sagged back against the bed.
She bustled around him, checking his pulse, staring at his monitors. Made a note on her clipboard.
Finn bore it silently, keeping as still as he could, watching Poe sleep. Concha caught him at it, and smiled a little.
“Has he been like that all night?” he whispered, and she shook her head.
“He went to get you something to change into. Just got back about an hour ago.”
“Oh,” Finn found himself saying, and winced, as the blood pressure cuff constricted around his right arm.
Poe jerked up right. “Whu?” he muttered, blinking, and then his eyes focused on Finn. His shoulders sagged in apparent relief. “Oh. Hey, Sleeping Beauty,” he said, groaning as he reached back to rub at the nape of his neck.
“Hey, Prince Charming,” Finn couldn’t help but grin. “You okay over there?"
Poe huffed. “Eh, been worse,” he said, and glanced over at the nurse. “If I asked for an Advil would y’all bill me fifty bucks for it?”
“Probably,” she said, tearing open the velcro cuff. “Better just swing by a CVS on your way out.”
“Great, thanks for that,” Poe groused, and then his eyes brightened. “On our way out? You mean —“
Concha swallowed a smile and turned to Finn. “I mean you should probably get dressed,” she said. “‘Cause I’m about to go and grab the discharge pa—"
Poe whooped, throwing his arms up in victory, and then cringed. “Fuck,” he groaned, and Finn had to hold back a smile of his own.
By the time they left the hospital, the world had started up again.
People on the sidewalk, cars in the street. Sun shining, warming the crisp autumn air just enough to be bearable. Poe draped his jacket over Finn’s shoulders anyway, pulling it carefully over Finn’s left arm, which was in a new, hospital-issued sling. Hustled him to a bench across the street from the hospital before jogging over to the nearest coffee cart. Returned, about five minutes later, with two brown paper bags in tow.
Plopped down next to Finn. “Gotta love a coffee cart,” he said, setting one bag down on the ground by their feet. He opened the other one, pulled out a foil-wrapped egg sandwich and began unwrapping it. “Only place in the city you can still get a proper breakfast for under five bucks,” he said, handing the sandwich over to Finn.
Finn took a bite, and then another. He was starving, and thirsty too. “Coffee?” He said, and Poe took the sandwich from him and exchanged it with a blue paper cup. “Thank you,” he said, taking a steady gulp. “I had a…” he started, and then hesitated, wondering if he should. Then laughed, and shrugged, and pushed on. “When we went out last night. I had the — I hoped we would end up eating breakfast together."
“Oh yeah?” Poe teased, taking a sip of his own coffee. “In your version, were you buyin'?”
“I was making,” Finn said. “I’m great at breakfast.”
“Are you?” said Poe, voice soft but eyes bright. "What’s your specialty?”
“Well, let me put it this way: French toast, or waffles?”
“Oh, waffles, definitely," Poe said.
Finn smiled, and tipped his cup toward Poe. “To the next morning after?” he offered, and Poe laughed.
“To the next morning after,” he said, and reached over to bump their cups together.
They took a cab back to Finn’s place. Poe, collapsed against the black leather seats, quiet and still; Finn, leaning on his shoulder, sore and wondering if he should take the Percocet the doctor had sent him home with.
Finn paid — well, Finn’s money was used, as Poe slipped it from Finn’s wallet and hand it to the driver. He helped Finn out of the cab, and wrapped an arm around his waist, walking him back into the building.
Are you coming up? Finn didn’t want to ask, in case Poe said no, and before he knew it, they were riding the elevator up together, in tender, delicate silence.
Poe unlocked the apartment door for him, and then went to hand him the keys. Finn shook his head, and gestured at the key hook rack. Poe left his side for a moment. Finn took that time to breath, and to prepare himself. Glanced over toward the living room to see — almost nothing. The floor was clean, the glasses were gone. There was a stain on the couch, but other than —
“Oh, yeah, it looked like Manson family had stopped by when I came to get you some clothes,” said Poe, coming up beside him again. “Didn’t want you coming home to that, so I just —“
“Just a little,” Poe said. “The couch is probably a goner.”
“Yeah,” Finn said, feeling — weak in the knees, and warm in the chest, and entirely overwhelmed. “Yeah, I think —“
“Hey,” Poe said, and wrapped his arm around Finn’s waist again. “Are you—“
“Lie down with me?” Finn said, too tired to overthink it or even try to be polite. But Poe nodded, and let himself be led toward the mattress which — of course — he'd also apparently taken the time to make up before coming back to the hospital.
"God, you're perfect," Finn groaned, as he dropped onto the mattress and crawled under the sheets.
"I'm not," said Poe, following him into bed. "You just don't know me that well yet."
They lay together — on their sides, face to face, Finn on his right so that his wounded left arm could stay tucked against his side, secure in its sling; Poe, on his left, apparently so he could stare earnestly into Finn’s eyes.
"I work long hours, and I'm judgmental, and I have to control everything and — " Poe frowned. "And I don't like to be vulnerable, which — is why people don't always trust me."
"I trust you," Finn said.
Poe reached out, and pressed his warm palm to Finn's cheek.
"My mom died when I was a kid. She was sick for a long time, so my dad and I —" He pressed his lips together, expression thoughtful. "And then when — when I was deployed. I got shot down. Captured, but I don't — really remember that part. I'm not supposed to tell people about it anyway, technically it's still classified. After, though, I was inpatient for months, so," he sighed. "I've spent a lot of time in hospitals."
Finn nodded, and wished he could reach out with his left hand, and press it to Poe's cheek, completing the circuit. He leaned in and kissed Poe's forehead instead. "I didn't fall off my bike."
"When I broke my cheekbone. I didn't fall off my bike. My foster mother thought I was back-talking her. Pushed me down the stairs." He shut his eyes, and let out a breath. "You're only the third person I've told."
Poe dropped his hand to Finn's waist, and used it to pull Finn closer, bring Finn's body flush to his own. An embrace, Finn realized, as Poe began to stroke his back. "How long where you in that house?"
"Till I was sixteen. They put me in a group home, after." Finn chuckled to himself. "Honestly, it was better."
"I bet," Poe said, kissing the top of his head. "You're such a strong person."
I'm not. I'm not, at all, you just don't know me that well yet, if you did you'd see that —
Finn sighed, and nuzzled into Poe's shoulder.
Waited, until the strokes slowed, then stopped; until Poe's breathing steadied, and softened.
"I just wanted to say," Finn whispered, not sure if Poe could hear him — not sure if he wanted Poe to hear him. "If this is all this ever is, if I never see you again after today. Or if this lasts a while, or forever, or anything in between. Whatever happens. Today — it meant something. It meant a lot, to me. And I’ll — I’ll always remember— "
"Finn?" Poe mumbled.
"Yeah?" Finn said, not nearly as embarrassed as he should've been. "Why am I still talking?"
Poe chuckled — soft and exhausted — and dropped his head to press a careful kiss to Finn's left shoulder. “I’ll always remember you, too."