Stunt double Matthew Reid’s been in unrequited love with actor Finn Ransom for years. And now Finn’s getting married to the love of his life, who isn’t Matthew.
Matthew’s happy for him. They’re friends, after all. He’s Finn’s double, and he’s good at hiding his emotions. Playing his role. And rehearsing action scenes with Dylan Li, their show’s lead actor. Dylan’s adorable, optimistic, and hardworking ... and Matthew really likes making him smile.
Except that Matthew’s in love with Finn. Isn’t he?
When Dylan’s injured on set, Matthew realizes what he truly wants ... if he isn’t too late.
Matthew slid down, slowly, to sit on the floor of his tiny kitchen. The tile, cold in hopeless sunrise light, tried to offer support. It couldn’t do much.
He’d known back in August, over four months ago, because he had finally met Finn’s boyfriend, and Wes had looked at Finn as if seeing the entire sun and moon and stars all shining at once, and Wes had said, I’m going to ask him to marry me.
Matthew, who loved Finn, who could see exactly how much Wes loved Finn and how Finn lit up at the sight of Wes, had been honestly happy for them. He’d even said so. He hadn’t lied.
He was happy for Finn. Really. He was.
But every headline since then --
Every story on a slow news day, with the media and Finn’s fans delighted by a fairytale happy ending --
He scrubbed both hands over his face. His face, which looked kind of like Finn’s given the right lighting and makeup, along with similar height and build: at least enough that three years ago he’d been the best candidate to be Finn on camera, during those superhero action scenes or any scene that Finn’s left knee in particular just wouldn’t hold up to.
He’d been glad to do it, to be asked. An honor. Even more so once he’d met Finn the first time.
He’d dyed his hair for years, for continuity: more pale blond than his original light brown. He did have blue eyes, though his were lighter than Finn’s tropical-ocean richness. Sometimes people thought they were related, though those people were wrong.
Finn was gorgeous. A film star. Matthew was ... himself.
He was good at his job. He always had been.
He could handle motorcycle jumps, car crashes, dives into water or through fire. He could throw in kickboxing, taekwondo, and capoeira moves: being as showy as required, on camera. He could fall from high buildings and land hard and get up and do it again, and again, if he had to.
He knew how to live with bruises. With pain.
Icy sun slid in through his kitchen window to slice across the floor.
He should get up. He should get up and go for a run, because it was a cardio day, and then he should come back and make a blueberry protein shake, and then he should haul himself over to set, because a few of the cast had another week of filming, running later than usual because of the special crossover event with one of the other superhero science-fiction shows. Finn wasn’t in the crossover, but Matthew would be, not being a double but just another one of the stunt team, everything from a Time Wraith to a corrupt super-prison guard, depending on the day.
He couldn’t make himself move.
His phone rang.
He swore, jerked back, hit his head on a cupboard, swore again, flailed. “Hello?”
“Hi,” announced the enthusiastic voice of Dylan Li, their show’s and the super-team’s lead. Like his character Danny Argent, otherwise known as the hero Quiver, he was young, optimistic, and unshakably cheerful, even at sunrise. “Did I wake you up?”
“It’s six-fifteen in the morning.”
“So ... yes?”
Matthew shut his eyes. Tipped his head back against the cupboard. Heard the thunk. “No. I was going to go for a run. What do you need?”
“I thought maybe we could go through some of the choreography? When we’re doing the prison break, and we’re in the hallway, and you have the stun batons, and I do that jump using the wall? I want to make sure it looks cool?”
The tile lay cool and flat beneath him. His small apartment was very quiet. Except for Dylan’s voice. “We can do that. Now?”
“Well, yeah. Um. Unless you’re busy. Or you want to go back to sleep. Or you want to go for a run by yourself. Or --”
“I’m on my way over. Are you already there?”
“Um ... almost.” Some sort of noise happened in the background. Voices. Indistinguishable. Dylan said, “Oops, gotta go, I’ll meet you there!” and hung up.
Matthew stared at the phone. Sighed. And got up off the floor, and went to do his job.
He realized on the way to their rehearsal space that he’d forgotten to eat. Oh, well: wouldn’t kill him. He’d grab something after. Sometime. During a break.
His hands were cold. The ground was cold too. Dull asphalt and concrete, brown branches and puddles of wet leaves.
When he came in, no one else was there except Dylan, who was sitting crosslegged on a stack of mats and texting someone. He looked up as Matthew opened the door, and waved.
He was gorgeous, a fact which Matthew had always registered academically because of the whole being in love with Finn certainty, but that didn’t mean a lack of appreciation. Thick black hair. Big expressive cocoa-brown eyes. High cheekbones, golden skin, plush lips that made audiences and fans want to kiss him, which Matthew understood on purely aesthetic grounds, of course, since he wasn’t looking.
Dylan hopped down from the mats with the grace of a twenty-seven-year-old wushu and tai chi and gymnastics practitioner -- one who did ninety-nine percent of his own stunts and fights, too -- and beamed at him. “I brought you a present!” He was dressed for a workout, in flexible pants and a stretchy teal shirt, and he was barefoot, evidently having lost his shoes in order to sit on the mats. His eyes were eager, bright, sincere.
He also held out the smoothie with the air of someone doing a magic trick, and watched Matthew’s face, with hope. “Blueberry and banana and cinnamon? From that place you like?”
Matthew, who had been thinking about blueberry before not remembering to eat, stared at him. Forgot to come up with words.
Dylan’s smile flickered. Just a fraction.