Chapter Forty-Nine: “You know we both have bird names, right?”

Four days before Valentine’s Day, Finch brought heart-shaped sugar cookies to work and gave them to Robin. He had iced them in red and had even put pink sugar sprinkles on them. He looked sheepish when he handed them over and didn’t look at him once for the remainder of their six-hour shift together. Two days later, Robin had a shift with Tallulah. He mentioned the cookies under the assumption that she had been given her own batch, having worked with Finch the day before. As it turned out, however, she had not been given her own batch of heart-shaped, Valentine’s themed cookies. It appeared that it was a gift only reserved for Robin.

“Maybe he has a crush on you instead,” Tallulah said, laughing. She was laughing because it was the same joke Robin had been making at her expense for months. It wasn’t quite as funny on the receiving end, especially since the more he thought about it, the more it began to make some kind of sense. And Robin didn’t really know what to do with that.

Later that night, Robin went to Oscar and Ramsay’s apartment to hang out with them and Bear. He had been there for about two hours before Robin felt the need to talk about his predicament, mostly because he didn’t really know what to say. He didn’t know what to say because he didn’t know how he felt. He was in crisis. On the other hand, he had been suffering through his crisis on his own for several hours and was fairly convinced that he was losing his mind.

“Guys, I think Finch has a crush on me,” Robin announced. The other four turned to look at him. Ramsay already looked disinterested in the conversation, but Miles’ eyes widened slightly.

“Yeah,” Oscar agreed casually. Robin gaped at him.

“You knew?!” He demanded. He was frantic. It felt a little like his life was spiralling out of control.

“Oh I’m sorry, did you not know?” Oscar returned. “I probably could’ve told you sooner. Prevented whatever the hell is happening right now.”

“Just out of curiosity, what is happening right now?” Bear asked mildly. Robin groaned, hunched over in his seat on the broken bar stool.

“I don’t know,” he said, voice slightly muffled by the fact that he was essentially talking into his own sternum.

“Is this just pure awkwardness?” Miles questioned, raising an eyebrow at him. Robin groaned again, like he was suffering from some kind of horrible stomach illness.

“I don’t know,” he muttered forlornly.

“This isn’t because he’s a dude, right?” Oscar checked.

“I don’t know,” Robin moaned again. Miles scoffed indignantly.

“What?” He demanded. “Come on, man, it is 2016! You honestly can’t tell me you’re bothered because he’s a guy! This is no different than that teenage girl who’s in love with you! You need to check yourself because—”

“Oh my God,” Oscar interrupted before Miles could get even more worked up. “Do you have feelings for Finch?”

There was a long, fraught silence. Even Ramsay looked up from his phone in interest.

“I don’t know,” Robin groaned quietly after a while.

“I take it all back,” Miles said immediately. “I’m so sorry.”

The thing was, Robin had been feeling strange about Finch for quite a while. More specifically, he had been feeling strange about Finch and Joey for quite a while. If he was honest with himself, that feeling was jealousy. But Robin was trying not to be honest with himself, which was why he was sitting in his friends’ kitchen trying to avoid facing facts.

“This is an interesting development,” Bear remarked mildly. Robin wasn’t sure he’d classify it as interesting. Life-altering seemed more appropriate. There were a lot of things to consider. For one, he hadn’t realized until this point in his life that he was even interested in men. Maybe he wasn’t. Maybe he was just interested in one man. That seemed unbelievably corny and there was absolutely no way he would ever be uttering those words out loud to anyone at any point in his life, but least of all to Oscar and Ramsay. Secondly, why was Finch the one dude he was interested in? Finch looked like an ex-convict. His mother would be horrified, not because he was seeing a guy, but because the guy he’d chosen scowled literally all the time and communicated mostly through grunting. Robin was trying to picture how a conversation between Finch and his mother would go. His mother had been a kindergarten teacher. It would be like introducing a feral wolf to a Disney princess’ fairy godmother.

“Oh my God, why?” Robin groaned, dropping his forehead to the countertop. Someone reached out and patted the back of his head. He couldn’t be sure, but he suspected it had been Bear.

“Man, we don’t care if you’re into dudes,” Oscar said after a while. “You know that, right?”

“Yes, I know that,” Robin said, still effectively talking to the counter. “Miles just about tore my head off a minute ago because he mistakenly thought I was being homophobic.”

“Again, very sorry about that,” Miles cut in quickly.

“Shut up, turdface,” Robin returned. It made him feel marginally better. No one said anything for a long time, clearly stunned and trying to think of something comforting to offer. Well, Bear and Miles might have been looking for something comforting to say. That seemed out of character for Ramsay and Oscar.

“He’s my angry, mean co-worker. What if it doesn’t work out?” Robin continued, lifting his head from the countertop. “He’d still be my angry, mean, but then also bitter and vindictive co-worker.”

“Okay, sure,” Oscar allowed. “But what if it does work out?”

He clearly meant it as a positive.

“Then I’d be with Finch forever!” Robin countered. Miles turned to Ramsay, who just happened to be beside him, looking incredibly confused.

“What?” He asked, as if Ramsay knew the answer. Robin doubted very much that Ramsay had continued to pay attention past his initial surprise.

“And that’s a problem because he’s a dude?” Oscar checked, speaking slowly and uncertainly.

“No, it’s a problem because he never smiles and he scares small children,” Robin returned.

“Right,” Oscar replied. Next to him, Bear nodded sagely like he also understood. Miles still looked completely lost.

“Out of all the guys in the world, and there are literal billions, why did it have to be him?” Robin asked imploringly. No one said anything for a very long time. Robin didn’t blame them. He’d been in this crisis for much longer than they had and he didn’t have any answers either.

“If you do decide to go for it,” Ramsay said, eventually breaking the silence. “I strongly recommend you don’t say those words to him.”

Robin groaned and let his head drop back down to the countertop.

By the time Robin had his next shared shift with Finch, he had come to the decision, after numerous long, agonizing hours, that he would do nothing about Finch’s apparent crush on him and his likewise crush on Finch. He was going to ignore it. He’d already been doing that for months, he assumed it would be easy.

But then Finch looked up and smiled at him when he got into work. It was a real smile too, like he was genuinely pleased to see Robin. And Robin, who was operating under the assumption that Finch wasn’t ever happy to see any living human being, got that stupid Care Bear feeling again. He supposed other more well-adjusted people might call that feeling happiness.

Robin was fucked.

“Hey, how’s it going?” Finch greeted him. He had even left his place behind the front desk to wander over to where Robin was standing by the Fleetwood Mac albums, reorganizing them to piss off Chuck.

“Good, you?” Robin returned, not looking up. His palms had begun to sweat, which was annoying and juvenile.

“Fine,” Finch said, then after a minute, “You look real fucking tired.”

Robin was in fact real fucking tired. He had spent most of the past three nights not sleeping, but instead panicking mildly about the fact that he apparently wanted to date some dude who looked like he’d kick someone in the face for fun. He kept imaging how his mother would react when he told her or, God forbid, the first time she met him. He pictured a lot of shocked gasping.

“Yeah,” Robin sighed, dropping Mirage behind Kiln House. Finch laughed at him and Robin felt like a Care Bear yet again. He risked a look at Finch and caught his profile. It was sharp and angled, pretty much like everything else about Finch. Robin allowed himself one brief moment to consider what it would be like to be with Finch. He couldn’t imagine them doing anything together. But then, maybe that wasn’t entirely true. He certainly couldn’t imagine him and Finch going to romantic candlelit dinners together or strolling hand-in-hand down the beach at dusk in matching khakis. But he could imagine them going to concerts together or longboarding together. They could probably go for ice cream. Or frozen yogurt. Robin loved frozen yogurt.

Finch laughed again, breaking him from his reverie and Robin realized that he had been fantasizing about getting fro-yo with Finch for a weirdly long time. He was holding onto a copy of Tusk.

“You want to get a drink after work?” Finch asked him, still smiling. It was actually a little alarming, if Robin was being honest. Prior to that specific moment in time, he hadn’t thought Finch was capable of smiling for such extended periods. Even his smile was sharp and edged. But then again, he supposed a lot of people’s teeth were sharp. Finch nudged him with his shoulder, probably because Robin had gotten lost in his own thoughts again, this time about Finch’s teeth.

He was so fucked.

“A drink sounds good,” Robin nodded and Finch laughed at him for a third time.

“Yeah, you look like you could use about fifteen,” he said, before walking back to the counter, which was all for the best because Robin had accidentally put Tusk down in its right place in front of Rumours.

At the end of their shift, during which Robin studiously did not think about Finch in any respect, they pulled on their coats and locked up the record store. Finch shoved his hands deep in the pockets of his black parka, having reluctantly retired the leather jacket for the season, and suggested a nearby pub.

“Actually, can we go for fro-yo?” Robin asked. Finch raised an eyebrow at him.

“It’s mid-February,” Finch pointed out, as if Robin might’ve missed this fact. “You want to get fro-yo in February.”

Robin could see where he was coming from. It was actually Valentine’s Day. He was asking Finch to get frozen yogurt on Valentine’s Day.

“Yeah,” Robin nodded.

“Alright,” Finch agreed, shrugging. The two of them began walking to the nearest frozen yogurt place. It was one of ones where you had to pour the yogurt yourself, but then got to cover in whatever chocolate, fruit, and candy combination you could think of. When they got to the counter to pay, Robin told the cashier to put both yogurt cups together.

“Why?” Finch asked Robin frustratingly, not putting his cup down on the scale.

“Just let me pay for the fro-yo, man,” Robin said tiredly, coming across pleading. Finch frowned at him, but let Robin pay for his frozen yogurt anyway. Robin lead the way back outside after they each had their cup in hand. Finch was still frowning at him.

“You know it’s cold as balls out here, right?” He checked with Robin as he stopped about ten feet away from the yogurt shop. Robin turned to face him, sighing deeply, bracing himself. Finch raised an eyebrow.

“I’m really sorry if I got this wrong,” Robin said quickly before he lost his nerve.

“What the hell are you talking about?” Finch asked, looking down at his fro-yo and picking up his purple plastic spoon. Robin was struck with the realization that he needed to do whatever he was going to do really fast before Finch had a mouth full of cheesecake-flavoured frozen yogurt.

“I’m into you, dude,” Robin admitted, stepping forward. For one, long, completely horrifying moment, Finch’s expression didn’t change at all. He was still just frowning at Robin like he was a weirdo for making them stand outside in the snow-covered street while they ate frozen yogurt at eleven o’clock at night. Robin contemplated the merits of stepping out into oncoming traffic to put himself out his self-inflicted misery.

And then Finch grinned at him. It was even bigger and even more genuine than anything Robin had felt privileged to witness before.

“Cool,” he said, still grinning.

“Cool?” Robin repeated, stunned.

“Yeah, cool,” Finch nodded. “I’m into you too. Dude.”

He laughed at him, Robin died a little inside, and then Finch kissed him while they held onto cups of frozen yogurt on Valentine’s Day in the middle of the sidewalk.

“I’m telling everyone I know that you’re a massive dork,” Finch told him as they pulled apart and Robin took a quick stock of his life to make sure nothing had catastrophically upended.

“Alright,” Robin agreed and began eating his fro-yo. “You know we both have bird names, right?”

“Yeah, that could be better,” Finch replied. And then they began walking home.

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