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she called it a void

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I


Finn was taken from his parents before they could even hold him.

 

As a child, the only touch he received was in training when he got knocked to the floor. Over, and over, again.

 

“Pick yourself up, FN-2187,” they’d tell him. And then they’d hit him again.

 

Afterwards, he’d march with his unit back to their dorm. He’d stand on a stool - not tall enough at six years old to reach the overhead lockers - and bring down the medkit. He’d sit on his bed, bind his own ribs, and cover his own cuts, and on the dozen separate bunk beds down the hall, he’d see the others tending to their wounds. Always alone.

 

Finn learnt the routine early on: if you got broken, it was your fault, and you fixed it yourself.

 

When Finn was ten, they got told that fraternization was against the rules. They were told that they were “unpure” because they were not clones. That, because of this, they might experience “certain urges” but that it was their duty to “rise above” them. They would be given suppressors. If they didn’t cooperate, they were told, they would face the consequences.

 

No one ever asked what the “consequences” were.

 

There was no time for fraternization, whatever it was, as the following year, training got harder. More theory, and more physical. “You are no longer playing games,” they told them, but to Finn, they had never felt like games.

 

As children, they had been permitted to talk to each other to learn the language, but now, the only time Finn spoke to his bunkmates was to pass on orders. Mealtimes were spent with a screen, and training was so exhausting, that Finn’s bunkmates no longer held conversations before bed. The change happened so gradually, that Finn didn’t notice until he’d spent a week entirely silent.

 

When he was fourteen, he worked out what the injection he had was for; what the “suppressors” were suppressing. Sex . They didn’t want them reproducing until they wanted more stormtroopers. They didn’t want them getting distracted, either. But soon Finn realised that the suppressor only stopped the urge for sex; it didn’t stop the urge for touch .

 

From his top bunk, Finn could look across and see the covered shape of FN-2003, and recognised for the first time what the coldness inside him was. How much he craved the warmth of skin against his. To feel something other than armour. FN-2003 was his closest friend in their unit, but they’d never so much as shaken hands. Under the safety of his blanket, he would gently touch his fingers to his hands to feel the tingle spread through him, and then he would fall asleep, with his arms wrapped around him, imagining them to be the arms someone else. An imaginary comfort.

 

It took weeks for him to find the courage, but then, FN-2003 slipped during training, and fighting every instinct - he’s broken, it’s his fault, he should fix it - Finn crouched down to give him a hand up.

 

A hand in his. Warmth. Safety. Companionship.

 

And then, it was ripped away.

 

They kept him in solitary for a week. “It won’t go on your record,” they tell him eventually, “but this is your only warning. No fraternization, understood?”

 

“Understood,” replied FN-2187.



II

 

When Finn held the dying FN-2003 in his hands, he wanted to give him comfort. He wanted to take off his helmet and his armour and give FN-2003 the final gift of touch. But he was too scared. He was in his first war. He hadn’t touched anyone since his teenage infraction. He was terrified. When FN-2003 smeared his blood on Finn’s helmet, Finn swore he could feel it seep into his skin.

 

Finn knew he was going to face the “consequences” for not following orders. Captain Phasma saw him falter. If he didn’t find a way off this ship, he would be the next one to disappear. He knew it. And so he did the only thing he could think to do, and saved the pilot.

 

Poe Dameron. He acted like no stormtrooper; his movements were fluid, not hampered by armour, and he had never been taught to keep his distance. He acted on instinct alone. During their escape, Poe brushed his hand briefly against Finn’s, and even through his armour, he could feel the heat of another person, closer than he’d ever been permitted to be. It was too much to handle on a day already filled with so much chaos. He pushed it to the back of his mind, but even then, Finn couldn’t help but sneak glimpses at him. The only faces he’d ever seen were those of his bunkmates.

 

As they escape, Finn wondered if any of the stormtroopers he shot down had been his friends. He wouldn’t know. The little white figures all looked the same from the stars.

 

Finn, Poe names him, and he feels it like a touch.



III

 

The first person Finn had touched, and already he was gone. It felt like a punishment.

 

He took Poe’s jacket from the debris in mourning, but as he scattered his armour in the desert, he saw the jacket for what it was. An embrace.

 

He felt the comfort of it around him as he approached the settlement at last. Water. People. Chaos. Finn was terrified of the new world he had stumbled into, but the old mantra was still in his head - broken, fault, fix it - and then he saw the droid and knew how he was going to fix it.

 

He was running for his life again, and this time, he didn’t want to risk it. He was terrified, and he took Rey’s hand. Comfort. Warmth. Safety-

 

She wrenched her hand away. “I know how to run without you holding my hand!”

 

That wasn’t why he was doing it, he wanted to tell her, but he understood. If touch could be wanted, then it could also be unwanted.


IV

 

Finn learnt quickly, what touch Rey thought was acceptable and what wasn’t. Most of it wasn’t. But Rey would brush hands when exchanging weapons and tools like it meant nothing, so Finn acted like it meant nothing.

 

He explained to her, eventually, where he came from. He hoped from that she would know why he had wanted to take her hand, but, he reasoned, there were also more important things happening, and even he could forget about touch for a while.

 

He watched the others throughout their adventure - hugs, and handshakes, and kisses. And when he saw Poe from across the airbase, he knew what he wanted to do.

 

His first hug.

 

He wanted to hold on forever, but he was also so happy to see Poe alive that he needed to see his face. Finn kept his hands on his arms for as long as possible, able to actually feel the warmth of Poe - alive, alive, ALIVE - under his fingertips.

 

Poe let him keep the jacket - that little part of himself that had kept Finn warm in the deepest parts of space - and then he bit his lip in a way that reminded Finn of the educational videos back on base. Sex , he thought for the first time over five years.

 

Finn was still reeling with realisation when Poe punched him on the arm; a touch unlike any stormtrooper, a closed fist not intended to hurt, but intended to tease. “You’re a good man,” Poe told him.

 

Finn had never thought of himself as a man before, yet alone a good one.


 

V


Poe and Rey worked it out eventually.

 

After the Battle of Starkiller Base and the fight in the forest, Chewbacca flew the Falcon back to D’Qar. Finn remembered only snatches; remembered Rey with a lightsaber, remembered her worried face hovering over him in the Falcon, remembered seeing the airbase, and then, waking up again, alone, and in a different room.

 

The second time he woke in the infirmary, he heard low voices.

 

“- touch deprived,” Rey was saying.

 

Finn cracked open his eyes until he could see them, whispering at the foot of his bed.

 

“I guess it makes sense, ‘troopers are trained from birth, right? That can’t be healthy.”

 

“I can feel it, Poe, it’s like an… emptiness. A void.”

 

Finn squeezed his eyes and felt his heart clench in tandem. A void . Was that what it was?

 

“He’s awake-” she whispered, and Finn realised it was idiotic to try and fool a Jedi.

 

Rey approached the bed with a soft smile and then purposefully reached over and kissed his forehead. He felt it radiate through his mind. She carefully lifted his hand into hers and Finn struggled to remember how to breathe as she held on. This was unlike any previous touch of hers; it was intentional, and one she wanted, if only for him. She could probably sense how much it meant to him; how he was memorising every movement, and absorbing the warmth from her like a wraith.

 

“Don’t do this because you pity me,” Finn said.

 

She furrowed her eyebrows and shook her head. “Like I’d do anything I didn’t want to do.”

 

Finn heard Poe snort from the other side of his bed. “Same here, buddy,” he said, and then, even more miraculously, lay his hand over Finn’s.

 

A loving touch on either hand. Finn closed his eyes and begged himself not to weep.  



VI

 

The first night Finn was shown his new quarters, Poe and Rey were waiting for him with a circular deck of cards and a bottle of murky liquor stolen from Han’s stash in the Falcon.

 

“Fancy an old school game of cards?” Poe asked.

 

Rey shook the bottle with a cheeky smile and a raised eyebrow raised that spelt mischief. “He’d want us to,” she insisted.

 

They made a toast to their fallen friends and to Rey’s new adventure on the horizon, and then, exhausted, and too drunk, they fell asleep together in the large bed.

 

Finn woke in the morning to Rey tucked into his side, and Poe pressed against his back with his arm thrown around his middle. Warmth. Comfort. Safety. He closed his eyes, and let the touch seep through his skin and into the void inside.


VII

 

The void took, and it took, and it always wanted more. Almost every night Poe and Rey would find excuses to spend the night beside him, until they stopped with excuses all together, and began to keep a knapsack of their belongings by the bed.

 

Rey went on her mission to find Luke Skywalker, and the void yearned in her absence. Finn spent his days with Poe, worked beside him, finding comfort in the small touches of companionship, and then in the closeness at night, but every time he wasn’t nearby, Finn would feel the emptiness once more.

 

He’d allowed himself to feel the hollow inside of him. He had given it power by naming it, and feeding it, and now it hurt deeper than the ‘saber of Kylo Ren. He was broken .

 

Broken, fault, fix it .

 

It was as if Rey heard him from across the galaxy. She marched out of the Falcon, with Luke Skywalker in tow, and pulled him into a fierce hug.

 

“You are not broken,” she said firmly. “And it is not your fault.”

 

She held his face and turned him to look at her, “And we,” she said, dragging in Poe by the hand, “ We are going to fix it.”

 

Finn blinked back his tears of happiness, and rested his forehead against Rey’s. Of course she knew. Of course she came back.

 

“Yeah, buddy,” Poe said, with a steady hand across his back. “What Rey said. You’re not alone in this anymore, alright?”

 

Finn reached for his other hand and squeezed it tight in his own.

 

You are a good man.

 

You are not alone.

 

We are going to fix this.

 

Three phrases that would become his new mantra. Finn held them close, and although the void took, and it took, it eventually began to fill.