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A pretty good Josh story is still a VERY good read.

The Armchair Reader
Finn loves Blair. Blair loves Finn too, but he’s not in love with him. How can you be in love with someone you’ve known your entire life? Shouldn’t in love feel…different? Newer. Bigger. More… exciting?
Sure, maybe Blair is too romantic — but wasn’t Finn the one who always said there were plenty of fish in the sea?

Chapter One

 

“I think I’ve met someone,” Blair said.

He was sitting on the wooden tool chest in Finn’s workshop, drinking a can of hydrogen  water, watching Finn sand the top of a rosewood William IV dining table.

“Yeah?” Finn continued to rub at a pale watermark with a piece of very fine oiled steel wool. He didn’t have to look up to know Blair’s eyes would be shining and soft and a little dreamy. Blair was in love with the idea of being in love.

Finn was also in love. With Blair.

Which maybe Blair knew and maybe he didn’t. There had been that one time last year, when Finn had kissed Blair and whispered, “I love you, Blair. Why don’t we give it a try?”

Blair had laughed, then looked confused and finally embarrassed when he saw Finn was serious. Finn had—not quite in the nick of time—managed to laugh too and pretend it was a joke. Blair’s eyes had lit with relief, though his quick smile had been a little uncertain.

Things had been strained between them for a couple of weeks but eventually had gone back to normal.

In fairness, Finn’s timing had been crap. As usual. Blair had just found out Logan was cheating on him, so even if he had been receptive to the idea of Finn eventually stepping into Logan’s shoes, it was not the time to bring it up. It was just that by then Finn had sort of reached his breaking point.

It hadn’t helped when he’d suddenly remembered how in junior high, Blair had kissed him behind the handball courts at Ernie Howlett Park, and he’d wiped his mouth and told Blair sternly to knock it off.

Jesus.

It had only taken him twelve years to figure out being kissed by Blair was actually something he’d really, really like. That it was, in fact, near the top of the Ten Things He’d Like Most to Happen in the Near Future list. Right below Sleep with Blair and right above Discover a Goddard and Townsend family cabinet—or other piece of valuable anything—the next time he was dumb enough to bid on an abandoned storage unit.

Anyway.

“Plenty of Fish?” Finn asked. He didn’t bother to hide his skepticism. Dating sites were for the desperate, in his opinion. Not including Blair, of course.

Blair said defensively, “People do meet people there.”

“Sure.”

“Carlos and I had fun.”

Finn sanded harder. The watermark had nearly penetrated all the way through the polish. “Yep,” he muttered. “Nothing more fun than a broken wrist.”

Carlos had been into mountain biking, which Finn had tried to tell Blair was different from regular biking. As usual, Blair had to find out the hard way.

Blair shrugged. “Louis was nice.”

“He sure was. I can’t think of anybody nicer than Louis.”

Louis had been into rock climbing, and Blair had discovered belatedly that he had a little problem with extreme heights. Their first and only date had been spent with Louis coaxing and cajoling Blair off the cliffside where he’d been frozen, paralyzed with acrophobia, for hours. Hours.

Louis had been a very nice guy, and Finn was grateful to him for not leaving Blair up there on “Touch and Go Face” in Joshua Tree National Park.

Blair said wistfully, “I liked Alec a lot.”

To which Finn had no reply. He stopped scrubbing the stained wood. Alec had been way too close for comfort. Blair had been on the verge of falling in love with Alec, and Alec had been on the verge of falling in love with Blair. The thing that saved them—or rather, saved Finn—was when Alec had been transferred to his company’s home office in Indiana. Blair’s mom had been going through chemo, so there was no way Blair would have considered leaving Palos Verdes.

Blair wasn’t saying anything. Finn studied him, and his heart seemed to crowd his rib cage. It had seemed to come out of nowhere, this…crazy development in his feelings for Blair.

And hopefully it would eventually return to nowhere.

It wasn’t like Blair had suddenly changed. He didn’t act any different. Didn’t look any different. Medium height. Slight. White-blond hair and eyes a color that fell somewhere between gray and green. Some guys even thought Blair was just…average. Not Finn. Sure, part of it was Blair’s energy and his enthusiasm. You couldn’t look at him and not like him. But part of it was that somehow his wide eyes and heart-shaped mouth and bony nose fit together just…right. Perfect. At least as far as Finn was concerned.

When they’d been small they’d looked more alike. People had mistaken them for brothers. Finn had loved that.

Now he made himself ask, “Well? What’s his name?”

“Hm?” Blair glanced up from his frowning examination of a garden spider busily weaving a web in the corner of the rainwashed square of window overlooking Finn’s mother’s vegetable patch.

“What’s the name of this new guy?” Finn asked.

Blair’s mouth curved in a funny little self-conscious smile that hurt Finn’s heart. “Jimmy. Well, James. Morley. He’s a lawyer.”

“A lawyer?” Finn could barely conceal his consternation. A lawyer was going to feed right into Blair’s fantasy of what grown-up love should look like. A really nice car, and a really nice condo, and cool friends, and an important high-paying job, with plenty of time for nice vacations at places like Aspen. Like an episode of Brothers & Sisters.

It wasn’t that Blair was shallow, but he was a very good subject for advertising. Hell, he was probably a good subject for hypnosis, and being Blair, would be thrilled about giving it a try.

Finn would have liked to think that Blair, with his pie-in-the-sky degree in Fine Arts, and his impractical dreams of being a screenwriter, and his not very glamorous job working in his mom’s secondhand shop—okay, Hannah’s Heartful Hand-me-downs also sold antiques and very nice repros, some of which Finn himself supplied—would not be up to a lawyer’s standards, but that just wasn’t true. Blair was…well, he would be a catch—and more than a match—for anyone.

Heck, Finn had loved him since the fourth grade when Russell Lyle had knocked Finn’s lunch tray right out of his hands, and an outraged Blair had charged to his defense.

He’d been such a spindly, flimsy little kid with forbidding corrective lenses and a deep froggy voice that he hadn’t grown into until high school. He’d looked like a hard breeze could knock him over, and in fact, a hard breeze could knock him over. Russell certainly had no trouble knocking Blair over.

But that wasn’t the point. Finn, who was bigger than Blair and Russell, hadn’t really needed protecting. His only problem had been petrifying self-consciousness. He’d have rather been beaten to a pulp than bring attention to himself. Granted, getting beaten to a pulp was guaranteed to bring unwanted attention. But no one expects logic from a fourth-grader.

To this very day, the image of Blair charging into Russell Lyle, roaring—well, croaking—his outrage while his skinny arms churned the air like a run-amuck windmill, made Finn grin.

They had already been pals of long standing—they lived next door to each other, after all—but that day, Blair had shot to some special ranking in Finn’s heart. And there he had remained enshrined. Forever.

Even if it had taken Finn way too long to figure out that he wanted Blair for more than his best friend and honorary brother.

“What’s wrong with being a lawyer?” Blair’s light eyes narrowed.

“Nothing.”

“Then why are you looking like that?”

“I’m not. I’m just surprised that a lawyer would have to resort to an online dating service.”

Blair sat up straight. “But you’re not surprised that I would have to?”

He’d never known Blair to be particularly touchy; that uncharacteristically offended response threw him. “No.” At Blair’s deepening scowl, Finn tried again. “I mean, yes!”

Nope. Definitely the wrong answer.

Finn said desperately, “I mean, you don’t have to resort to any dating service. You could have whoever you wanted.”

Blair looked startled.

Finn listened to the echo of his words and felt his own face heat. “You know what I mean.” Which possibly made it worse? Hastily, he added, “Tell me about him. James. Jimmy. What’s he like?”

Blair stopped looking uneasy and guarded. He offered that affectionate grin he’d used to greet Finn with. Cheerfully, he filled in Finn on all of Jimmy’s marvelous qualities—way too many for any real-life guy to compete with—and then said, “He likes to dive.”

“Oh?”

Finn felt a pang. He and Blair used to go diving a lot when they were in their teens. In fact, they were always talking about going diving again. Somehow they never got around to it.

Blair nodded eagerly. “Which gave me an idea.”

“Oh no.” Finn wasn’t sure he was kidding.

“We’re going to go diving Sunday on Catalina.”

Great. Diving in the golden kelp forests. Brunch at some fancy restaurant overlooking the bay. Blair would love it. Every minute.

“Nice.” Finn was still waiting for the other flipper to drop.

“But I was thinking that I really want this to go well.”

Finn nodded, staring down at the tabletop. He had guessed wrong. The water had reached the wood, and the repair was going to be more complicated than he’d thought. He would need to brush it with a bleach solution and then build up again with stain and French polish.

He said, “Of course.”

“And the last few match-ups haven’t. Gone so well.”

Finn caught the note of diffidence and looked up. “Anyone can get lost hiking,” he said loyally. “That was Greg as much as you.”

Blair had the worst sense of direction of anyone Finn had ever met. Besides Greg.

“I know. Still.” Blair was giving him that hopeful look. That hopeful look which, when they were growing up, had so often ended with Finn grounded for a week. “I was kind of hoping…”

“What?”

“Maybe you and I could go out first. It’s been so long since I’ve dived. I’m out of practice. We could do a trial run.”

“You want to go to Catalina?”

“No, no. We can dive locally. Maybe Flat Rock? I just want to get my feet wet. Literally. So I don’t look stupid.”

Finn stared at him. Blair stared back, and Finn felt a spark of anger.

You’re not that oblivious, Blair.

Maybe Blair caught the thought rays, because his expression changed. Grew guarded. Good. Because asking Finn to help him make a fantastic impression on his big date with this new asshole, an asshole Finn already felt intimidated by? Not cool.

Not cool at all.

And yes, Blair got it. His mouth opened, an awkward retraction already forming.

Finn headed him off. “Sure,” he said brusquely. “Why not?”

Why not?

“Really?” Blair looked as surprised as Finn felt.

But yes. Because who was he kidding? He wasn’t going to turn down a chance to spend a little more time with Blair. It was a rare enough event these days. And would only be getting rarer once Jimmy the Lawyer was on the scene.

And after all…sun, sea, and schools of fish as bright and pretty as living jewels. Why hadn’t they gone diving again way before now? They should have. Once upon a time, they had spent every available moment in the water. Below the waves was like another planet. A different world down there. Kelp forests and coral reefs and old wrecks. Maybe in that other world they might just recover some of the old magic. At least for a few hours.

“Yes,” Finn said. “Really.”