Location: Jakku is hot and rough, and when BB-8 rolls it leaves a wide trail in the sand. It doesn’t like it, but Designation: Friend-Poe is remaining stationary in a small shelter in a slightly larger collection of structures, and so BB-8 patrols. BB-8 does not enjoy patrolling: in the air, Friend-Poe is smooth and fast and jeering at the enemy, but on the ground he always looks up, and tends to waffle.
BB-8 doesn’t have the capacity to smell, but if it could, it imagines that the air would be thick with the scent of drying clay, broken by the rustling as various humanoids shuffle beneath the baking heat. The sun has set, but its casing is still burning to the touch, making the circuits closest to the surface feel twitchy and uncomfortable, and the coarse dirt isn’t doing anything to make the experience more pleasant. Really, BB-8 is waiting for Friend-Poe to emerge from the tent, so it can spend the returning journey to base being cooled by the vacuum of the galaxy while maybe talking to the T-70. It isn’t much of a chat, but BB-8 doesn’t like to distract Friend-Poe while he’s flying.
There is a sudden silence that rings in its head, and it turns to see the violent red of the sky being cut into distinct, black shapes on the horizon. An increasing number of Designation: Evil First Order Assholes seem to blossom into being from the last strands of light, and BB-8 whirs furiously back to the shelter, in time to see Friend-Poe carefully hold the Completed Mission Objective in one hand. It whistles at him.
[Approaching twenty clicks south,] says BB-8, [Enemy alert, Designation: Evil First Order Assholes.]
Friend-Poe’s jaw clenches, and there’s a flurry of movement as both he and Designation: Lor San Tekka push cloth aside and enter the open air, BB-8 moving nervously at their heels. This time, the low metallic buzz is easy to recognise even without the menacing shadows falling across the sand, and suddenly the village is panicked as other inhabitants scurry to safety, knocking furniture and objects over in their path. From above it, Lor San Tekka firmly tells Friend-Poe to escape, again in reference to the Completed Mission Objective, and Friend-Poe gives him a lingering look, before hurrying across the flats towards the parked X-Wing, hidden in the dunes.
“C’mon, BB-8!” Friend-Poe tells him. “Hurry!”
BB-8 tries its best, but it keeps sinking in the soft earth. By the time it reaches the ship, Friend-Poe has already clambered up into the cockpit and has started up the engines. The familiar jerk against BB-8’s head as it’s lifted into the droid socket is almost enough of a distraction to cut out the sound of heavy blaster fire and screeches from the village behind them, as Designation: Evil First Order Assholes land on the ground and appear to immediately open fire on the civilians.
[Lift off,] BB-8 shouts at Friend-Poe, footsteps rapidly approaching from behind them. It frantically turns its head in circles, watching Poe flick off the stand-by in the cockpit, [lift off, lift off!]
The X-Wing shakes violently when the first Evil First Order Assholes catch sight of them and open fire. There a heavy explosion, and a blaze of heat when the blasters catch fire. Friend-Poe returns fire but the T-70 is beeping frantically, trying desperately to cool the engines. BB-8 struggles briefly with the thought of detaching, but even if they were to gain altitude it is likely they would explode upon leaving the atmosphere, if they ever made it that far.
[Evil First Order Assholes approaching at five o’clock!] BB-8 says, spinning back and forth as the white helmets draw closer and closer.
“I see them,” it's told, and then there’s the sound of responding blasts and he watches the enemy begin to fall.
[Run, Friend Poe!] BB-8 says, beeps and whirs very quiet against the increasing gunfire as more and more ships land on the plateau. Friend-Poe seems to huff, briefly, before violently throwing off his helmet as BB-8 lands on the sand beneath the wreckage, holding a blaster in one hand as they move further away from the enemy. Friend-Poe looks around, as though searching the empty wasteland for a way out, before crouching in the dirt, holding out the Completed Mission Objective.
“You take this,” says Friend-Poe. “It’s safer with you than it is with me. You get as far away from here as you can, d’you hear me?.”
[Mission Objective dictates Friend-Poe’s return,] retorts BB-8, although it takes it regardless, gently placing the map inside its storage unit.
“I’ll come back for you.” He reasons, turning his gaze back to the village as the sound of flames tearing into living things increases in volume. “It’ll be alright!”
He gives BB-8 a small shove, before standing, carefully readjusting his grip on his blaster, and hurrying back towards the wreckage. BB-8, against its better instincts, holds still for half a second before rolling off in the opposite direction, gradually picking up speed as it moves further and further away from the Designated: Evil First Order Assholes and into the cooling night, the Objective resting heavy as it holds it close.
It does not mean to get caught, but it is still too hot to function properly, and the strange creature was apt in its ability to capture moving prey, so for the moment BB-8 is forced to beep furiously at it in the hope of release.
[Release me, please!] It shouts at the thing sitting atop the other thing, [I am important and do not have time to be held captive!]
The creature huffs at him, spitting out a dozen words in a dialect to guttural to be understood, and BB-8’s head is ready to detach from its impatience. Friend-Poe doesn’t have the time to search for it if the fluffy creature intends to drag it halfway along the desert. Or worse, if it intends to bring BB-8 back to the place from which it has been trying to escape.
Sand muffles all sounds, and these are not the heavy tread of armoured boots, so BB-8 does not detect the humanoid until they have risen up over the dune, before running down the hill to meet them. The human is shorter than Friend-Poe, and slimmer, and she violently attacks the ropes keeping it prisoner, while seeming to curse its captor in the same, croaking tongue. Feeling tired and fidgety from the environment, it has to momentarily assess the human as being [FEMALE] and [YOUNGER THAN FRIEND-POE], though with a great deal less regular emotion: Friend-Poe tends to smile more, especially around BB-8.
BB-8 is concerned about Friend-Poe.
“Shhh,” says the assumedly female humanoid says, and they stand together in silence watching fluffy thing ride off into the distance, still grumbling to itself. “That’s just Teedo, he wants to sell you for parts. He’s no respect for anyone.”
Then she looks at it, and kneels down in a way that painfully reminds it of Friend-Poe.
“Your antenna’s bent,” she tells it, before removing it. It watches as she smooths out the metal coil with thin fingers, inspecting her closely. “Where to you come from?”
[Apologies, classified,] replies BB-8, because although she(?) does not in any way resemble Evil First Order Assholes, Friend-Poe, despite his affable temperament, possesses mild paranoia and always reinforced the don’t trust anyone rhetoric. Do not risk the safety and security of the Resistance for anything. BB-8 has had no reason to question this so far.
“Classified, really?” The female says, sounding unimpressed. BB-8 beeps an affirmative. “Yeah, me too. Big secret.”
But regardless, she still reattaches its antenna without BB-8 having to ask, so for the sake of politeness it decides for her to be a Designation: Ally.
The Ally gives him a list of non-specific instructions towards the nearest settlement, but BB-8 doubts its own capability in this environment, even if it doesn’t run into any more Teedos. Friend-Poe would like her, it thinks, and while she has shown no discernible allegiance to the Republic, she also shown compassion, something which Evil First Order Assholes are known to visibly reject. So, as the Ally walks away, it says:
[Will follow you, please.]
Realising she still has company, she turns, and points back in the direction of town. “Don’t follow me. Town is that way.”
[With you, please,] it says. The heat is becoming unbearable.
“No,” she says.
[Please,] BB-8 says, using the tone it knows affects some humans emotionally.
She sighs, looking skyward, before jerking her head in the affirmative.
BB-8 lets out a cheer. [Appreciation,] it says, [and thanks! I do not like the sand!]
“In the morning you go.”
[Thank you, Ally!] it whistles at her as they walk over the dune. She smiles at it.
“You’re welcome,” she says after a brief pause. “And it’s Rey.”
One night should be sufficient for Friend-Poe’s return. Hopefully, he will come to the logical conclusion that BB-8 would navigate towards a settlement, and they will find each other. As BB-8 and Designation: Ally-Rey approach a structure the shape of a fallen AT-AT Walker, the sky above them is a clear, crystal blue.
The idea of this being a large settlement is disappointing: BB-8 had thought that Friend-Poe would be easily found at anything large enough to be considered a town, but really it is several small shelters latched by crossing shadows on a flat expanse in the desert. Scarcely larger than the village but twice as inhabited, with a number of cross-country vehicles rapidly flying in and out, all carrying some version of scrap metal, ranging from damaged hyperdrives to core reactors to one headless protocol droid. The image is more than a little unpleasant, and it stuck firmly to Ally-Rey’s heels as she easily navigated her way through the crowd, quietly narrating their journey. BB-8 can’t offer information, for both her safety and its own, but she is pleasant and loyal company, unflinching in what she wants.
She protects BB-8, from both a creature behind a desk and several opponents who throw a scratchy sack over its head.
And then there’s a shout-
Ally-Rey is still reeling from the fight, but BB-8 catches sight of familiar leather, and finds itself beeping violently before an unfamiliar face appears from behind a tent, and the two images collide horribly together.
A stranger wearing Friend-Poe’s jacket.
A Coat-Thief stole Friend-Poe’s jacket.
[Coat-Thief!] BB-8 shouts, cutting off Ally-Rey mid-sentence. [That’s not yours! Where’s Friend-Poe?!]
As Alley-Rey turns around, the Coat-Thief pauses, making eye contact for a brief moment, before sprinting in the opposite direction when Ally-Rey and BB-8 give chase. The sand is thick and loose from the constant movement around the camp, but BB-8 moves faster, because astromechs aren’t designed to be particularly visual machines, but images of Friend-Poe dying in the desert only to have his clothing torn off his body is horrific and vile beneath the steady heat of the sun.
Ally-Rey gets to him first, knocks him the ground with a heavy blow from her staff, (BB-8 is starting to really like Ally-Rey) but BB-8 sticks him with its electric pike once, twice, feeling something akin to rage.
“Ow!” says Designation: Coat Thief.
“The jacket!” Ally-Rey snaps, “this droid says you stole it!”
“I’ve had a pretty messed up day,” the Coat Thief snaps back at her, “so I’d appreciate it if you stop accusing me of-“
BB-8 is very scared for Friend-Poe, so it zaps him again.
“Ow!” Coat Thief shouts. “Stop it!”
“Where did you get it?” Ally-Rey asks, still holding her staff to his face, “it belongs to his master!”
At this, the Coat Thief sighs deeply, his head falling back. “It belonged to Poe Dameron. That was his name, right?” He looks at BB-8, who just looks between the two of them. “He was captured, by the First Order. I helped him escape, but our ship crashed,” says the Coat-Thief, sounding miserable. “Poe didn’t make it.”
Perhaps to an organism, this would be considered an emotion: grief.
Instead, BB-8 lowers its head closer to the baking heat of the sand, and clutches the Operative as close as possible.
Designation: Coat-Thief’s name is Finn, but in the jacket BB-8 can’t see anything but a dead Friend-Poe, so Coat-Thief he remains. It turns out that Ally-Rey’s about as experienced with piloting as the Coat-Thief is at lying about him being in the Resistance.
“Hold on, BB-8!” Ally-Rey calls to it.
[WITH WHAT?] it howls back, hitting the walls and ceiling with a ringing bang.
As it carefully straps itself to the walls of the ship as they spiral helplessly across the Jakku wastes, BB-8 is left screaming [PULL UP, PULL UP, PULL UP] as Ally-Rey angles and dives and ducks and turns in dizzying moves that sting like Friend-Poe, though his jacket is now being worn by a screaming thief shooting the remaining tie-fighters.
BB-8 would be impressed if it weren’t still feeling so fragile beneath its skin. The whole experience reminds him a little too much of Friend-Poe.
Ally-Rey has pulled up the grates of the Designation: Rubbish-Ship, talking wildly with Coat-Thief about the Resistance he’s clearly not a part of, before Coat-Thief leans in as Ally-Rey ducks back down into the vent.
“You’ve gotta tell us where your base is,” Coat-Thief whispers urgently. BB-8 shakes its head. “I don’t speak that,” it’s told, so it shakes its head more violently.
“Between us,” he says, “I’m not with the Resistance.”
BB-8 feigns rolling back in shock, letting out a number of obligatory beeps that vaguely mean: [I can say anything I like, since you can’t seem to understand me.]
“I’m just trying to get away from the First Order,” Coat-Thief continues, “But if you tell her where your base is, I can get you there first. Deal?”
It tilts its head, inspecting him.
Behind BB-8, Rey reappears from vent. “Hand me that pilot wrench.”
Coat-Thief turns around to look for it.
“So where’s your base?” Ally-Rey asks Coat-Thief, looking genuinely curious. Coat-Thief looks at BB-8.
“Go on BB-8, tell her.”
BB-8 silently debates this decision, turning from Coat-Thief, to Ally-Rey, then back again.
“Please.” Coat-Thief says, looking desperate. Finally, feeling the weight of the Objective, it sighs internally and says [The Resistance Base is in the Ileenium system.]
Ally-Rey looks surprised. “The Ileenium system?”
“Yeah,” says Coat-Thief, abruptly sounding far more confident, “the Ileenium system. Get us there as fast as you can!”
As soon as Rey has turned back to the ship, Coat-Thief throws up a handsign that Friend-Poe didn’t practise often, but is still recognisable. Thinking about the shape of its blowtorch, BB-8 does his best to reply in a way the Coat-Thief will understand.
Change of designation at this development, BB-8 decides; Coat-Thief becomes Designation: Evil-First-Order-Asshole-But-Alright-Maybe(?). Or Designation: EFOABAM (Ee-fo-Ay-Bam) for conveniences sake. It likes EFOABAM more than Designation: Much-Older-than-Friend-Poe and Designation: Hairball, but mainly because EFOABAM might be a terrible liar, but he’s also never been responsible for BB-8 having to run from two separate space gangs and several huge and unnecessarily terrifying creatures that proceed to tear the ship apart. EFOABAM wrestles Hairball onto a seat while Ally-Rey and Much-Older-than-Friend-Poe launch into a much smoother journey than when they first arrived. He also acts proud, and tough, but BB-8 is starting to see cracks where he’s just scared of the galaxy and what could be coming for them.
BB-8 makes an executive decision to use its electric pike on those who cause EFOABAM fear.
Ally-Rey is gone; she’s Designation: Friend-Rey now. Again, a friend tells BB-8 to run, and it does, and the person doesn’t come back.
Humanoids seem to have a tendency of breaking their words.
Because he’s still around, and also because the jacket is starting to look like a part of him, and less like a part of Friend-Poe he dragged out of a grave, Evil-First-Order-Asshole-But-Alright-Maybe becomes Designation: Ally-Finn. It feels like the calm of the storm.
Friend-Poe is alive, and there’s still sand digging into its circuits but BB-8 goes full steam ahead as a living, breathing Friend-Poe stands by his T-70, a big grin on his face that only seems to widen as BB-8 barrels into him.
“BB-8 my buddy!” Friend-Poe says, hands gently brushing out the dirt on its head and body, and absentmindedly readjusting its antenna. “I knew you’d be fine. Where’s Finn?”
Ally-Finn is standing in his jacket, looking shocked before moving forward, grabbing Friend-Poe firmly in his arms. They rock slightly on the spot, BB-8 circling merrily around them, still feeling crusty but lighter than it has in days.
“That’s my jacket,” says Friend-Poe. When Ally-Finn moves to take it off, Friend-Poe stops him. “No, no, no. You keep it, it looks good on you.”
And then he smiles. BB-8 looks between them. Oh.
Being in the sky with Friend-Poe feels like coming home, only now it really feels like one part of coming home: in the sky, in the Rubbish Ship, on the ground in the yard. The T-70 is happy to be doing something, its engines smooth and unflinching in the wild flips and turns that they cross as Pava flies above them. The stakes are higher, of course, but Friend-Poe is still buoyant and elated to be doing something, determined to make Ally-Finn’s plan worthwhile.
BB-8 knows he will see Friend-Rey again, it doesn’t need to be a Jedi or plugged into the data system to know that.
It also knows that Friend-Poe will make sure Ally… Friend-Finn will come home.
Friend-Finn does come home, only now he sleeps to heal, and Friend-Poe spends his time equally in between sitting in the med-room with Friend-Rey, and planning out the next move of the Resistance in the wake of their success. The world is fire, and Much-Older-than-Friend-Poe is gone into the depths of an icy planet, and the Resistance is frozen in a balance between elation and grief. Designation: General Organa is poised and controlled, and BB-8 spends the time after the battle trying to break the tension by circling the R2D2 unit until suddenly there is a clank, and a whir, and it comes to life.
It’s also slapped on the head by the C3PO unit that Friend-Poe finds hilarious, but then it projects an incomplete image of the sky, and BB-8 can roll forward and complete the picture.
Friend-Poe gives BB-8 a wide smile, and a thumbs up.
Friend-Rey is gone again: she takes the map and presses a hand, still cold and heavy from the lightsabre, against BB-8’s curved head and tells it to take care of Friend-Poe and Friend-Finn, and then she’s off into the sky with Hairball and the R2D2 unit to find Designation: Skywalker. BB-8 watches their take off before rolling back to the med-room, where Friend-Poe is sitting, a holo in one hand.
Friend-Finn’s flesh has slowly been knitted back together over the course of several days, so now he sleeps only to recover his strength, the remnants of his fight with Ren reduced to a long line of blistered scarring. Friend-Poe smiles at it as it rolls in, before refocusing on the vid.
[You are fond of him,] says BB-8, coming to a stop beside his chair. He freezes.
[Of Friend-Finn,] BB-8 says patiently, [You are fond.]
He shifts nervously, as though wanting to check that Friend-Finn was still unconscious.
“Has Rey been talking to you?”
There is a long pause, where he peers thoughtfully down at BB-8, who shifts its gaze between him and the prone figure on the bed.
“I…” He stops, in consideration. “I care about him, and I owe him.”
[Tell him, please.]
“You sound like Rey.”
“Yeah, it is.” He looks fond. “She took care of everyone.” He snorts. “Literally.”
BB-8 makes a slow rotation of the room, peering out into the corridor, before returning to Friend-Poe’s side.
[He was sad when you were gone,] it tells him.
He blinks. “I wasn’t really gone, BB.”
He looks slightly guilty. “I’m sorry,” he says, and then looks amused. “Rey told me you called Finn ‘Coat-Thief.’”
“He didn’t steal my jacket.”
[I know that now.]
He laughs this time, then looks down at the bed. “I think he likes Rey a lot. I’m not sure who she likes, but she could have the world if she wanted it. We can’t exactly be physically close right now.”
[He is fond of you,] BB-8 insists.
He leans over, and cocks an eyebrow. “Really? When did you become a romantic expert?”
[Not by watching you,] BB-8 tells him, and he beams, and then the moment is broken because Friend-Finn wakes up with a moan.
BB-8 isn’t an expect in Friend-Poe related romantic matters, so it gives up on subtlety and instead ducks under his legs, sending him tripping forward right into Friend-Finn’s arms.
[Now you are physically close,] says BB-8, watching as Friend-Poe begins to turn red, [problem solved.]
Friend-Finn looks curiously between them, casually holding up Friend-Poe, seemingly oblivious to the growing blush. “Did I miss something? I’m not fluent in robo-talk.”
“Nah,” says Friend-Poe, trying to push himself upright. The hold on his forearms tightens, keeping him trapped against Friend-Finn’s chest. He tugs again, to no avail. “BB-8 is just making a bad joke.”
BB-8 beeps in amusement, before slowly moving around then, nudging against Friend-Poe’s legs, shoving the two of them closer together. He tries to move away, but Friend-Finn’s weight holds him in place.
It watches as Friend-Finn looks down at him, moving his hands down to Friend-Poe’s waist, then back again. BB-8 slowly moves backwards.
“Poe,” Friend-Finn begins, as Friend-Poe manages to stand, and brushes down his shirt.
Friend-Poe just clears his throat, and moves to walk away.
“Sorry about the droid,” he says firmly, avoiding Friend-Finn’s eyes, “I’ll just… BB’s been acting weird since Rey left, so I’ll –”
“Poe.” Friend-Finn says, cutting him off, putting both hands on his shoulders, “What did the orange ball say?”
BB-8 squeaks in irritation, but is lost beneath Friend-Poe’s sudden influx of false bravado.
“Ah, physical contact,” Friend-Poe says. “You know, it’s always been a bit of a joker.”
“Not so much,” Friend-Finn points out with just as much bravado, leaning in closer. “There is some physical contact, though.”
“I am aware,” Friend-Poe says, voice very low, and then they’re kissing.
BB-8 doesn’t have a lot of experience with this, (Friend-Poe has always been more in a relationship with his X-Wing than anything else,) so it watches for a minute, makes a soft cooing noise, and then slowly rolls backwards towards the door, before moving onwards, eye set on the sky.