“Wow, this place is really bright.”
“Please stay on the bed.” Jim’s eyes rolled shut as the man slowly rose up on wobbling arms and pushed the sheets of the bed back. He got up, notebook slipping off his lap, and carefully placed a hand on the guy’s shoulder. “Sir, please don’t-”
“Where am I?”
“In a hospital. Please lie down.”
The doctor said that he’d taken a hit to the head and might not be entirely coherent- never mind the fact that he'd just woken up. But apparently city hall was demanding an explanation for what that… airplane-thing he’d been flying was. So they’d insisted that Jim come down and interview him.
Harvey had declined to accompany him. “I want to go see the spaceship,” He’d said without a hint of shame.
“It’s not a spaceship, Harv,” Jim had responded flatly.
“Don’t ruin my day, Gordon!”
Now, Jim rubbed his eyes and gently urged the stranger to lower himself back onto the bed. “Sir, can you tell me your name?”
The man blinked for a few seconds. “Name?”
“Uh…” Some more rapid blinking, like he was having trouble focusing. “Poe. My name’s Poe.”
Jim nodded. “Spelled like the writer?”
“Never mind. Is that your first or last name?”
‘Poe’ stared at him for a few seconds. Jim noticed that the pupil of his left eye was much larger than the right one. “Mm… I… What?”
Jim sighed. “Moving on: Where are you from?”
“I was born on Yavin 4.” Jim was kind of surprised that that came out faster and easier than Poe’s name, but he’d had concussions before, and they were a real bitch, so he let it go. “Where is Yavin 4?”
“Outer Rim,” Poe said. He was staring at the ceiling now.
Jim frowned. “Outer rim of what?”
Now Poe looked confused, and he turned to look up at Jim with a somewhat clearer expression than before. “The Galaxy?”
Oh boy. Either the concussion had scrambled this guy’s brains, or he was one of Gotham’s countless nut-jobs. All the same, Jim scribbled down ‘claims to be from the edge of the galaxy’ on his notepad and nodded. “Alright. Can you tell me how your plane ended up in Gotham Park?”
“Your plane.” He got a blank look in return. “The aircraft that you crashed into Gotham Park.”
“Can’t say I’ve ever heard of that model before,” Jim said, and wondered if maybe that name was tied into that ‘I’m from outer-space’ bit. But Poe seemed to be looking at him with genuine surprise, as though Jim had just told him he didn’t know what a car was.
“You haven’t? It’s old. It’s been around since the war.”
Another funny look. “The… Gigantic one that covered the whole galaxy?” Poe said, once again as though it were Jim who was missing something that should have been glaringly obvious. Jim couldn’t help but notice that Poe seemed to be getting clearer-headed the longer the conversation went on.
“Ah,” He said, trying not to aggravate Poe any more than he needed to. “That one.”
“Where am I?” Poe asked, with a touch of anxiety in his voice. “What planet am I on?”
“You’re on Earth,” Jim supplied gently. “In the United States of America, state of New Jersey, Gotham City.”
Poe looked stricken. “…I don’t know where any of those places are.”
“I just told you where it is,” Jim said, trying not to snap.
“I’ve never heard of Earth, or any of the places you’ve mentioned,” Poe insisted, wincing as he sat himself up in bed. “Never. And I’ve flown a lot of places.”
Jim seized on that, thankful to have a jumping point. “So you’re a pilot.”
“Yes,” Poe said impatiently. “For the New Republic. I thought that was pretty obvious, what with the X-Wing and the uniform.”
“Easy,” Jim said carefully (whilst also mentally noting that the jumpsuit and possibly the outfit Poe had been wearing beneath it was a potential clue as to where he was from). Poe was a big guy, well-muscled too. If he decided he wanted to throw down, it wouldn’t end well for Jim. “How’s your head?”
“Feels like someone kicked it in. I’m fuzzy.” Poe frowned. “But not as much as I was before.”
That much Jim could tell, and he was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the way Poe was looking at him: It was analytical, like he was sizing Jim up, and Jim had no idea if Poe was just trying to figure out his thought process or if he was considering bolting, but he didn’t like it.
Finally, Poe squinted at him. “Do you… Not get what I’m talking about? Do you not know who I’m talking about when I say that I’m a pilot for the New Republic?”
Jim considered, for a moment, if he should keep bullshitting or just be honest. Maybe it was the look on Poe’s face, one of open confusion and alarm that did it, but he finally settled on honesty. “No. Not in the least. You’re talking about flying around in spaceships for a galactic empire-”
“Republic,” Poe snapped with sudden, surprising aggressiveness. “Not an empire- Never an Empire.”
Jim nodded slowly. “…Right. Sorry. Republic. My point is, it all sounds completely nuts, and I think you took a harder hit to the head than I thought.”
The aggression faded, and Poe gently rubbed his head, wincing when his fingers brushed the goose-egg slight right of the crown of his head. “Yeah, I get the head part. But what’s so nuts about my being a pilot? Or from a-”
Poe’s eyes widened, and Jim saw comprehension in them.
“Aw, hell, you’re non-contact, aren’t you?”
Now Jim frowned. This was supposed to be simple, taking a few damn questions from a guy everyone assumed had been a stuntman or extreme sports guy. Now it was turning into a whole thing, and with everything going down in this damn city he really didn’t need the added bullshit of some guy who thought he was from space. “What? What’s ‘non-contact’?”
“Your planet, you’ve never had contact with another planet, right?”
Jim sighed, set his notepad down again and rubbed his face. “No, Poe, we have not. Now look, I get that your brains are scrambled right now, but I really just need to get some answers from you about-”
“I can prove it.”
Jim lowered his hands. “What? That you’re from space?” It bothered him how much he sounded like Harvey when he said that.
But Poe didn’t seem put off by it: He looked a little excited. “Yeah! I can totally prove what I’m saying. You just have to take me back to my ship.” Lightning-fast, the excitement turned to anxiety. “Soon as possible, if you can. I just remembered, a buddy of mine is still on the ship.”
Sarah was right, Jim thought. I am insane.
He led Poe past the crime-scene tape and into the wreckage of the… Red-Wing? Y-Wing? Something with ‘wing’ as the suffix. Fuck if he remembered at this point, when he was mostly just concerned with making sure that Poe wasn’t a violent nutcase who was going to bash him over the head the second he turned his back.
Frankly, Jim was just starting to accept that he was curious to a fault. Leaving mysteries unsolved bothered him. He liked reading about history, but he’d had to put numerous books down during his perusals of them because it was just so privately infuriating to know that no, there would never be a straightforward answer about what happened to that person who disappeared, or who the killer was, or whether not the guy they blamed for it all was truly guilty or not.
That Poe sounded so very confident that he could provide him with irrefutable proof of his claims made Jim curious as to what exactly he had planned (which, hopefully, was not to bash Jim over the head and run away). There was, of course, the overwhelming likelihood that Poe was just going to put on a tinfoil hat and start making beeping sounds to contact the mothership, but Jim was Jim and that annoying little part of his brain that demanded answers was demanding that he investigate this.
Humor the nutcase, Jim, it said. Humor the nutcase.
Said nutcase was currently probing around the wreckage of the ship. There were a few beat-cops standing around the perimeter of the crash area to keep thieves and troublemakers away, but like a lot of Gotham beat-cops, they didn’t look especially invested in boring guard duty, and Jim hoped that whatever Poe was looking for hadn’t been stolen.
“BB-8,” Poe whispered. “Buddy, hey, where’d you go?” He ducked under one of the wings, and Jim carefully moved to keep him in his sights. Poe did appear to genuinely be looking for something, and every moment he couldn’t find it his expression grew more concerned.
Jim, for his part, was starting to grow concerned about Poe. He was still pretty pale, and his movements weren’t as coordinated as they could be. “Poe,” He called, “Maybe we should pack it in for the night. It’s pretty dark out.”
“I know he’s here somewhere,” Poe insisted, and something metal clanged as he stumbled and braced himself on the side of the ship. “He would have figured out that the city was too big to find me in himself, and he would have waited here for me to come back.”
“Poe, we didn’t find anyone else in the crash. You were the only one in the ship!” Jim insisted in return, finally giving up and ducking under the wing to follow Poe.
“I was the only human on the ship,” Poe corrected.
Jim groaned. “Oh God, you’re kidding me, right?”
“I’m…” Poe brought his hand up to his head, and he leaned his forehead against the metal of the wrecked ship. He seemed to sag for a moment and, alarmed, Jim reached out to grab his arm.
“You need to go back to the hospital,” Jim determined. “You’re not okay, and being out here is only making things-”
Suddenly, there was a sound from the end of the wreckage. Both Jim and Poe turned their heads to look.
A small red light could be seen in the darkness. A moment later, there came a set of variously-pitched beeping sounds, and the red light started to move towards them.
Jim was alarmed.
Poe was not.
“BB-8!” He exclaimed, delighted, even as he shakily lowered himself to the ground. “Boy oh boy, am I glad to see you!”
Jim stared, open-mouthed, as a little ball with a half-circle for a head came rolling toward them. It was a small… Eye-light-thing on its head that was producing the red light. It began beeping and booping in an almost jubilant way as it rolled up to Poe and bumped into his legs.
Poe was grinning, and he clapped the little robot-thing as he might have done a human friend. “This is BB-8,” He said to Jim. “My little buddy. He flies with me.”
BB-8 booped and blurped at that. Jim assumed it was a confirmation of what Poe had just said, but then he didn’t speak… Robot? Yeah, he’d go with ‘robot’ for now. It made as much sense as anything else that was going on.
“Am I having a stroke?” Jim asked.
Poe chuckled. “Nah, man.” He shook his head. “Wow. It’s kind of amazing: I don’t think I’ve ever run into a planet with a civilization as advanced as this one that wasn’t aware of everyone else in the galaxy.” He frowned. “Assuming I’m still in my galaxy. For all I know I could be in a separate one. Maybe you guys are alone here.”
Jim nodded distractedly. “Yeah, definitely a stroke. Stress-induced stroke.”
BB-8 rolled away from Poe and approached Jim. It was nearly comical how his head moved up and down, examining Jim and then circling around him like a dog sizing up a new friend. After a moment, he did the same thing he’d done to Poe: He bumped into Jim’s legs, but in a way that was decidedly unaggressive. Maybe it was the roly-poly robot-equivalent of a hug.
“Alright, I believe you,” Jim muttered, “You are probably not from this planet.”
Poe frowned. “Huh?”
Jim stared at him, then pointed to BB-8. “The robot?”
That prompted a bunch of boops and blurps from said robot that Jim interpreted as offense.
“He prefers ‘droid’,” Poe clarified. “Do you not have droids here?”
Jim shook his head, bewildered. “Uh, no. Not like him.” BB-8 stared up at him without movement or sound, and Jim felt compelled to add, “That was a compliment.”
He received a pleased ‘bloop-bloop’ for that.
So, the way it broke down now was that Jim had either fallen down the rabbit hole into complete insanity, or he’d really and truly stumbled upon a genuine alien from another planet (who happened to look human and speak English).
Bringing Poe back to the hospital was maybe not a good idea. He wouldn’t tell Jim exactly what he’d been doing when he’d crashed- which silently confirmed to Jim that by ‘pilot’ Poe meant that he was part of a military force- but the time it would take for him to get the ship into working order meant that he would be on Earth for at least a month, and it was maybe best that he not be around people who would be inclined to ship him off to Arkham if they found out his actual story.
So Jim’s solution was simple.
“I really can’t thank you enough for this, Detective.”
Jim rubbed his eyes as he shut the door to the apartment behind him. “Well, it’s not every day I meet a guy from outer-space.” He gave Poe a pointed look. “You really should not tell anyone about that, by the way.”
Poe nodded absently, eyes wandering over Jim’s apartment. BB-8’s exploration was more extensive: He immediately started rolling around the chairs and table, and Jim was decently sure that the ‘bleep-boop-bleep’ he’d heard from the kitchen was a greeting directed at his microwave.
“You’ve got a nice place,” Poe said, and it was only the honest sincerity in his voice that stopped Jim from taking it as sarcasm.
“I downgraded, actually,” He said. “Used to live in a bigger place with my girlfriend.” Jim paused, uncomfortable as he’d ever been mentioning Barbara since the break-up. “I’m not here a lot. That’s how it stays clean.”
“I’m more accustomed to military barracks,” Poe said easily, setting the bag he’d scavenged from the downed ship carefully next to a chair. “They’re small and cramped and generally don’t smell very good.”
Jim snorted. “Amazing how two different military organizations in two different galaxies can have the same problem.” He motioned to the chair. “Sit. I’ll see if I can find something to eat.”
He saw Poe gingerly lower himself into the chair as he went into the kitchen. The worst of the injuries was the concussion that was still giving him trouble, but Poe had been banged around quite a bit in the crash as well; he was covered in bruises and scratches from head to toe.
“Could have been worse,” He’d said mildly when Jim had mentioned it. “Lots of pilots don’t walk away from the crash.”
As he’d suspected, BB-8 was examining the technology in the kitchen and making curious sounds at them. Poe said it was ‘binary’ that he was speaking; and Jim was good with numbers, but he wasn’t that good with them, so everything BB-8 ‘said’ was entirely unintelligible to him.
“BB,” Poe called. “Get in here and power-down. You need to conserve energy.”
BB-8 booped and wiggled in place.
“Don’t sass me, just do it.”
BB-8 gave a very negative-sounding ‘blurp’ and rolled into the living room. In spite of himself, Jim chuckled at little.
As it was, he didn’t have much in the way of food, so he slapped together two sandwiches and brought them out to the living room. BB-8 was still squirming in place, twisting around and rotating his little head (which seemed to be able to turn in a complete 360 movement and keep going) to see more of the apartment. Poe, for his part, looked like he was about to fall asleep in the chair, but he accepted the sandwich with a grateful smile. “Thanks, Detective.”
Jim shrugged as he sat down. “Just call me Jim.” He picked at his sandwich. “Is Poe your first or last name?”
“First. Last name’s Dameron.” Poe hesitated, but then said, “Guess it wouldn’t hurt to tell you I’m the Captain of Black Squadron. Probably shouldn’t say anymore than that, though.”
“It’s fine. I was military too, I get the need for discretion.”
Poe smiled. “And now you’re a cop.”
“They have those in space?”
“Oh, of course. There are criminals everywhere.”
“Lunatics, too. Gotham’s lousy with them.” His brief stint at Arkham came back in a rush, and Jim shook his head.
“You have no idea. Weird shit happens in Gotham.”
Poe gave him a little smile that was all at once curious, amused, and slightly skeptical. “Like what?”
Jim looked at him without humor. “You already have a concussion, I don’t want to give you an aneurysm too.”
“Fair enough.” Poe was quiet for a moment. Jim saw his eyelids drooping. “I won’t be here for long. I promise.”
Jim shrugged. “So long as your little ro- droid friend promises not to conquer the planet, it’s not a problem.” And it wasn’t: Jim was starting to sense that allowing Poe to share his living space would be less problematic or destructive than when he’d offered it up to Selina. “Hope you don’t mind a pull-out couch.”
“Jim, I have- literally- spent a lot of nights sleeping in my cockpit. No pull-out couch could be as uncomfortable as that.”
“Good to know.”
“You’re taking this awfully well, given that your planet’s never had contact with another before.”
“Oh, I’m sure it’s just settling down with all the other things I’ve repressed. I’ll explode eventually.
Jim pulled out the couch and grabbed a few blankets out of the cabinet. Poe was waning: The drooping eyes were falling shut for a few moments and then half-heartedly fluttering open again. The doctors had been content to release Poe from the hospital, deeming the concussion not serious to keep him from leaving, but Jim had had plenty of concussions in his life and he had to figure the poor guy’s head felt like a worn-out bongo-drum at this point.
“If you need anything,” He said before leaving the living room, “Like, say, a trip to the hospital, I strongly encourage you to wake me up.”
Poe gave him a grin and a weary salute. “Will do.” The grin softened to a smile. “Thanks again, Detec- Jim.”
“No problem, man.”
What else could Jim have done? Left the guy to be carted off to Arkham, or prison, or- shit- Area 51? Then Jim would have felt like an asshole. Poe didn’t seem to have world-domination on the mind.
He could stick around for a while. Jim didn’t mind the company.
He got into bed, idly plotting out everything that needed to be done the next day at work, from reports to meetings to…
Jim had a sudden realization:
He still had to explain who Poe was, what his ship was, and how he’d managed to crash it in Gotham Park.
And why Jim was now letting him stay in his apartment.