Chapter 77

July 17th, 2024

Back at the estate, Finn had his eyes closed as he let a cool 93-degree shower wash over him, tilting his head back. Water stung a little on a couple scabs on his leg that a few quicker movements that day had cracked open, but it was nothing compared to the first shower he's taken with his headwound that was pretty much healed by now. He didn't really know how long he'd been in that shower - but it had been almost therapeutic - cooling him from the hot day, the power spray softening his muscles. The muscles on his thigh kept getting a little more tense these days even from a half a day of moving around the house, and the massaging shower was a bliss.

He had been helping out a little by putting together the string lights they were to set up tonight or tomorrow morning with the guys for the vow renewal. He was in no condition to climb, not skillfully at least, but he could connect lights, help with decor and do similar maller tasks like that - and he really didn't mind knowing that he couldn't do much for G's place in Saint Michel at the moment.

Celeste was in charge of the decor of the ceremony - making dream-catcher style decor panels which she'd hid with the help of Finn into the pool house for the time being and as the two had the most experience in event planning there seemed to be a million little details they both wanted to incorporate and were trying to make happen without Rory and Logan knowing. But it was good - it gave him something to do around the house.

Frankly he needed some distraction. G was the very best at that, naturally, but it was as if his brain got exhausted way too easily if he was around people too much these days, even her, but she and him had learned to just co-exsist, not necessarily needing to do anything other than just hang out. He knew how rare that was. On the other hand, being alone gave him almost too much time to think. He couldn't shout at himself enough, internally, how stupid he'd been that night of the accident. Besides, there was this whole worry about being a examplary boyfriend to G - figuring out how he could not repeat the mistakes he'd made in the past. Truthfully - he had no clue beyond arranging dates and just being himself. That pressure was getting to him already.

He was just rinsing the hemp shampoo out of his hair when his phone rang, echoing into the bathroom to the ajar door of the bedroom, which he wasn't too particular about closing most of the time. He heard it, but because it was Thursday, he knew who it was, the timing seeming logical as well. But while he deeply enjoyed talking properly to his sister about once a week, often it taking about an hour, the whole thing including some interaction with her kids as well, this time he was a little scared. He'd no doubt get a scolding from her too once he saw the yellowish-purple bruising under his eyes. He also realized that once he told that story, if he didn't tell her about G, it would feel like outright lying. He knew he needed to rip that bandaid off.

He squeezed out some of the excess water by pressing his hair against his skull, and stepping out of the shower, dried himself off. The phone ringing stopped, but it wasn't the first time he'd call her right back. He pulled on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, thelingering water droplets on his body painting the light blue t-shirt spotty.

He took the phone to the armchair in which he landed, pushing his still damp hair over his head, casually, and pressed call.

He needed to not be a coward right now.

"This is him now," he heard Sylvie say in passing, as her fingers already pressed accept, but he could tell she was still busy speaking with someone else. It was already pretty late in Brisbane, just before the kid's official bedtime, which Sylvie was not too strict with.

"Hey," Finn greeted.

"Hey," Sylvie replied, but the enthusiasm in her voice died as she got a good look at him, and turned into the scolding look he'd seen at least a dozen times before. It wasn't the first time he'd gotten himself hurt because of something stupid.

"Come one, come and say goodnight to Finn," Sylvie urged her daughters, while trying to keep a face as if nothing was wrong.

"Uncle Finn, why are your eyes all bruised?" Chloe, Sylvie's 10-year old, asked, having no filter whatsoever.

"It's just poor lighting in here," Finn tried to draw attention away from his condition. "You're already back from camp I see?" Finn asked the girl instead.

He continued to chat several minutes first with Chloe and then with Paige about the family pets and whatever else she wanted. But as Sylvie sent the kids off to brush their teeth soon, the two were left in awkward silence.

"I'm fine, just a small concussion, a few bruises. And yes, I know, it's all my fault. I need to look after myself better and be more careful," Finn gave himself a lecture, knowing everything she was going to say.

"You should've told me," Sylvie said, sounding dissapointed more than anything.

"I know, I just wanted to look a little bit more presentable first," Finn said, as if this was an outfit issue.

"So what happened?" Sylvie asked. "Or it too hush-hush to tell me anything about it llike last time?" Sylvie rolled her eyes at him, having more than once gotten no real answer as Finn mumbled something about not being able to say much more if it included the Life and Death Brigade. She didn't know much of it, just that there was something her brother, Logan and some of the rest of them went off to do every once in a while which on occasion ended with his brother getting stiches.

"A car hit me. Wrong place at the wrong time, I was a little distracted, so all my fault," Finn admitted, not going into the details yet.

"Right," Sylvie exhaled, sounding a little relieved. At least there was no mention of surgeries this time.

"Listen, there's something else," Finn began.

"What?" Sylvie exhaled, sounding worried. Her mind was already thinking of some additional diagnosis her brother might have gotten, after all he was old enough and their huge family had a large variety of health concerns that they needed to keep a lookout for, not to mention Finn's love for the beach that despite all the sunscreen in the world was very high on the list of concerns with melanoma concerns. It wasn't uncommon that in their age some bad news were detected during the medical professionals while one was examined for other reasons. It had been the same for one of her best friends recently.

"Nothing bad, per se," Finn began, taking a deep breath which Sylvie noticed.

"Well it certainly sounds bad by the way that you're sighing," Sylvie pointed out.

"I just think you won't like it, but from my side - that excluded - it's good news, really good in fact. I'm just scared out of my mind and I really hope you won't hate me for it," Finn continued.

"Just spit it out, Finn!" Sylvie insisted.

"Remember in 2019 when I came home for two months…," Finn began.

"Right...," Sylvie tried to recall. "Something about you taking yourself out of a bad relationship, something like that? Just before you met Charlie," Sylvie pondered out loud.

"Well, I think calling whatever it was a relationship is a bit much, but yeah, sure - I guess I became attached to someone. And it was so wrong at the time, and me going away was definitely the right thing to do but..," Finn continued, but hesitated.

"You've rekindle it I gather?" Sylvie finished his though.

"I have…, and for what it's worth I am ridiculously happy…," Finn said, swallowing a small lump that was forming in his throat - saying that out loud was making him a little emotional, just adding to his fear of actually explaining the details to her.

"I like seeing you happy," Sylvie tried to encourage him, seeing him struggle. She could tell that whatever it was he was truly scared but it actually softened her a little. She didn't want her closest brother to be scared of her reaction while he was happy. After all she didn't want to be the person to ruin his happiness.

"The reason why I left back then was that she was underage…," Finn confessed. "The age difference is vast. But I swear it's like it isn't there at all. She's really way above her age mentally, and you know me… I hardly ever behave according to mine," he added half jokingly. "And this really isn't something just casual. I love her! I really do… It's like we were drawn to each other. I didn't even try anything, we just became friends and just as effortlessly as back then we became close again. I didn't even make the first move! I don't think I've ever felt closer to anyone!" he exclaimed. "She's Rory's sister, so I know this was, is, a huge risk. I know I am risking a lot of really important relationships - Rory, Logan, you….," Finn blurted, speaking quickly because he was too scared to let her respond.

Sylvie was quiet, taking it all in. Even more than the words it was perhaps Finn's impression - concern, worry, desperation that caught her attention.

"How long?" Sylvie asked, after a pregnant pause.

Finn had almost anticipated that question, his sister's criteria for a serious relationship being very much temporally determined.

"About three weeks, but basically this whole holiday we've been inseparable even before it got serious. And than there's the past - nothing physical happened back then. It was just talking," Finn said and continued to speak about what it had been like back then.

"G has always been the courageous one of the two of us to tell me how she feels, how she thinks there's no point for us to torture ourselves if we feel this way just because of societal standards. She's so smart - just graduated from NYU, a psych major but she's definitely not the kind to psychoanalyse anyone against their will. She's been amazing at taking care of me since the accident, god… I don't deserve her," he exhaled, swallowing another lump in his throat, and Sylvie could see a slight glimmer of tears.

"I don't want to say this, but I think I have to..," Sylvie began. "I mean, I love seeing you happy. She sounds like a great person.. I'm glad you're connecting, that you're not alone - everyone deserves that," she continued.

"But it's too weird…," Finn said it for her, knowing that it was probably an issue for her that her own oldest daughter, Dawn, was just a few years older than G was, making the expression 'you could be her father' he expected to hear from Sylvie more than realistic even if he hadn't pinpointed G's age to her.

"Not necessarily what I would've said, no…," Sylvie began, raising the corner of her mouth, feeling relieved she didn't need to say it. "And I don't mean to discredit what you are feeling, your feelings are valid, I'm sure. But just maybe there's a hint of a mid-life crisis I see in you? And that too is okay. You want to stay forever young so you connect with someone younger than yourself to keep that illusion alive, maybe? I've seen how you've fled commitment, proposals to settle down and have a family - so by being with someone who is so much younger you're eliminating the chance of that scenario from happening in the next decade. But that too to me speaks of the fact that you actually do want someone by your side. I could be wrong of course, but that was just what I thought. And, sure, it'd be difficult to explain to Dawn or to some of the family, but I don't think that's reason enough to disown you, my dear brother," Sylvie added, trying to lighten the mood. They were always rather straightforward with each other, allowing each other to say things out loud without taking offence.

Finn could see the logic Sylvie's train of thought had been following, but he didn't really want to agree with it. He didn't want his interior motives to be something like that - he just wanted to love and be loved. But he couldn't deny that the rest of it terrified him. He'd accepted that he was never going to have kids of his own - he'd never craved it, and with all of his family having them, same with her friends, he would never lack of the possibility to spend time with them, entertain them, teach them wisdoms and corrupt them ever so slightly. He even knew that this was something G didn't look too longing towards - she even said that she'd told 'no' to a guy who had asked her to move for him, putting herself first. But she was so young - a decade made the world of a difference in these things, even if one insisted it didn't.

"I really hope it's not just some phase, a personal crisis... whatever. She doesn't deserve that. She hasn't had the easiest of lives, I really don't want to hurt her," Finn exhaled, feeling relieved that this wasn't driving a wedge between him and his sister.

"Hey, I could always be wrong," Sylvie added with a hint of optimism. "And because I want you to be happy - I do encourage you to prove me wrong. If she's so different, this really should have you searching for your inner anchor that would stop you from running when you usually might feel like it," Sylvie suggested.