You start with ‘once upon a time’.
Even Poe, who’s not the usual target audience for fairytales knows that. He’s grown up amidst larger than life figures and romantic heroes. His first formative memories are of Luke Skywalker’s heroics being lauded throughout the galaxy and watching Leia Organa marry a space pirate after saving the universe.
His childhood had practically been the first chapters of a fairytale, but then loss had started rifling through his life as if searching for trinkets to keep. Soon, the happy chapters were drawing to a close, with his mother’s death feeling like a cold iron curtain on earlier halcyon days. The shiny varnish of those happy stories began to wear down.
(In retrospect, he had been sheltered by devoted grandparents and family so that he never did see how hard it was to keep up the fairytale, always ignorant to the sweat and blood and tears behind it)
Except here he is, now, thirty-two years old, and starting to believe in fairytales again.
And that’s all Finn’s fault.
It turns out that they tell stories about Finn.
They’re on a cleanup mission on some nearby planets in the system while everyone recuperates from the Starkiller Battle. Poe had readily volunteered to get away from the infirmary and from Rey’s haunted look of knowing she’s leaving without being able to say goodbye properly to Finn.
It turns out to be far from a wasted mission. Poe’s team captures a handful of stormtrooper recruits, of which two are newly deployed soldiers sent out to fill the large gaps that the Starkiller’s loss had caused.
“They’re really hurting for talent, huh,” Jess comments wryly as they nudge the prisoners along.
Poe doesn’t say anything, trying not to think about how this could’ve been Finn only a handful of weeks ago. This is what he hadn’t experienced as a child. Battles are filled with heroic glory and that bright shiny patina that blinds you to the rest, but there’s hard work and a devotion to the cause that he’s learning about properly.
It means taking in prisoners and finding information so another base doesn’t pop out. It means trying to get as much information as they can.
Unfortunately, their prisoners are too green and can’t tell them where Kylo Ren, Hux, or Phasma are. They have nothing about Snoke, and they’re completely useless.
Except for the part where they seem visibly worried about what the Resistance plans to do with them.
“Don’t treat us like FN-2187,” is all one of them says.
Poe’s been on his way out to head back to the base, eager to check in with the medidroids to find out how Finn is doing. He pauses at the back of the transport truck, not bothering to look over his shoulder just yet. “What about him?”
“Him,” Poe barely manages to hold back his growl.
“We know what you did to it,” the other one says, his voice-box not masking the way his voice seems neglected of emotion. “We know you targeted it because of its neglected training and weaknesses to lure it to your side for torture.”
Poe presses his lips together tightly, whirling so he can stand immediately in front of the two faceless soldiers telling tall tales, reminding himself that Finn was like this once, just because he didn’t know better.
“You think Finn is weak?”
They exchange a look. “Who?”
“His name is Finn,” Poe insists, not realizing how damn close he’s gotten before he feels the tug of Snap’s hand on his upper arm, drawing him back before he can do something stupid. “He’s not some bedtime story you get told to scare you into being good soldiers. He’s a goddamn hero,” he snaps, and jumps out of the truck, not able to face the idea of having to hear the lies and the tall tales.
They’ve turned Finn into some kind of cautionary tale. They’ve turned him into some kind of nightmare so that good stormtroopers will fall in line and obey.
They have no idea how far off the truth they are and Poe doesn’t have it in him to tell them otherwise.
When he returns to the base, his first stop is to make sure his X-Wing is checked in, everything’s in fit shape, and to make sure he gets something to eat. Then, when he’s through a debriefing session with the General (which is pretty much lunch in which the General fusses over how Poe didn’t have to volunteer for the clean-up), he heads to the infirmary.
This is what those troops don’t know.
Finn isn’t some bogeyman to worry over.
There, lying unconscious on the bed, he’s an innocent who got thrown into a bad situation. And, really, who among them hasn’t had their bad share of luck? It’s what you do with it that makes the difference. Finn became a hero and fought harder than anyone else to do it. His reward has been multiple minor surgeries every day to heal his back and to let the First Order create a demon of him.
Poe picks up Finn’s hand as he settles in for the next few hours, lifting a foot to the bed as he gets comfortable. He slides his thumb over the back of Finn’s hand while he speaks, telling him about the latest mission and the day to day gossip you pick up lingering around the Resistance. He talks about Rey’s last check-in and promises that she’s plenty safe, makes sure not to mention that they have no idea where their enemies are.
“They have no idea about you,” Poe finally gets around to the part of the story that involves Finn and what their prisoners had been saying about him. “You’re better than the rest of us. You’re a hero, like the kind I grew up around,” Poe murmurs, not wanting his private words to be picked up by anyone else lurking around them.
It’s more than that, though.
Finn isn’t just a hero. He’s Poe’s hero.
His squadron teases him about coming here and playing the Prince Charming to Finn’s Sleeping Beauty, but it’s not like that. Poe’s whole life is indebted to Finn, who plucked him out of the worst situation possible and gave him a new chance at life. It’s left him feeling completely bowled over in Finn’s presence, struggling not to let it all show on his face.
He’s never really loved anyone before.
Even now, he’s not sure whether it’s the idea of Finn he loves because he hasn’t really had a chance to get to know him, but what he does know is a pretty compelling case for Poe’s heart. Someone who’s come out of the worst place in the universe and still turned out good?
There isn’t a doubt in his mind that Finn’s the most romantic fairytale Poe could ever dream up.
Poe glances up from where he’s plotting in coordinates for the next mission, fixated on the X-Wing’s navigational circuits and not General Organa. He’s a little concerned about why she’s out here on the tarmac, but she’s always been overly protective of him (which, he thinks has a lot to do with his parents).
“I just thought you’d like to know that he’s awake.”
The helmet clatters on the tarmac and Poe sprints off without even a ‘thank you’, but good manners forces him to double back, kiss her on the cheek and murmur an honest and slightly calmer ‘thank you’ before he takes off in the direction of the infirmary again, not stopping until he sees Finn awake with his own two eyes.
“You kiss him awake, then?” Jess teases fondly, her voice a soft thing as she stands behind Poe to use him as a front and pretend she doesn’t care just as much that Finn’s finally awake.
“Shut up,” Poe replies, without any malice. He’s grinning hard to hide the bursting ache in his heart that he thinks might be love. Finn’s gaze lands on him and it’s all Poe can do not to shove everyone between them out of the way to embrace Finn the way he had on the tarmac, wanting to hear his heart beating, alive and steady and well.
“Poe,” Finn exhales, like no one else exists in the room.
His heart skips a beat for the way Finn’s adoring gaze sweeps over him and he knows he’s a lost cause.
Poe comes back that night when the bustle has died down. Finn is taking tentative steps around the room and Poe lingers in the shadows of the hallway, just watching him. He isn’t sure what to make of what he feels. Finn is larger than life, both his smile and his attitude and his determination, even though he knows that he’s got his faults.
Rey had told him about how Finn had wanted to run away, but he’d still gone back for her. He’s more a hero than Poe could ever be, which is why Poe isn’t sure how to even approach this situation.
Finn turns and catches sight of him, frowning at Poe being so far away, which is fixed as soon as he gestures for Poe to come inside. Without a second invitation, Poe practically glides his way in, pleased to see Finn moving around the way he is. “Sleeping Beauty, no more,” Poe declares.
Finn makes an affronted face. “I’m as beautiful as ever,” he insists.
“Trust me, I know,” Poe agrees, seeing as that particular fact has been the one good sliver of a dream intermixing with his nightmares lately. He bites his lip and tries to stop himself from looking so pathetically adoring of the man who may as well be his knight in white reinforced armor. “You know they tell stories about you,” he says, leaning his hip against the frame of the door.
Finn pauses in his pace, giving Poe a bemused look, but even he can’t hide his delight. “Yeah?”
“I mean, there’s a couple versions out there,” Poe admits, trying to look casual and like he isn’t about to brag about he’s managed to go and start falling in love with a bona fide galaxy hero. “Your old buddies have some nasty ones, but now that I’ve had time to think about it, it’s kind of flattering, being the thing that good little stormtroopers fear at night,” he quips, having come around to that. “I mean, that was one of my top three dream jobs as a kid. Number two, even.”
“You settled for best pilot in the galaxy?” Finn jokes.
Poe shrugs, like it isn’t a big deal, but man, does his heart leap in his chest for the way Finn smiles at him so easily. “It was number three.”
“So what’s number one?”
Poe laughs and shakes his head. “It’s stupid,” he says. “And I’m telling you about the fairytales people are telling about you. Once upon a time, there was a hero named Finn who saved the entire galaxy from destruction and gave the Resistance the chance to fight another day.” And who managed to ensnare one of its pilots’ hearts for good.
“Hero?” Finn echoes, in disbelief. “I’m not.”
“You are,” Poe promises.
“No, that’s people like Rey and Han Solo and General Organa and you…”
Poe is struck by Finn’s words and needs to sit down. He scrambles for a chair to sink into, breathing out steadily as he tries to figure out how in the universe Finn’s come out of this thinking that Poe is somehow a hero and Finn himself isn’t.
“Hero,” Poe says, finally. “That was the number one job I wanted as a kid. Hero, or just being part of that group of people. The lure of being one of Leia Organa’s pilots drew me into the Resistance, but I wasn’t in it for glory at that point. I was just doing the job when you rescued me. You’re the one who refused to be what they wanted of you, you’re the heroic one.”
“I needed a pilot,” he reminds Poe, but there’s a flash in his eyes that makes Poe think there’s something more to it.
“You saved my life and then you stopped running. Finn, you’re a hero and a prince all in one,” Poe says, his gaze slowly sliding up Finn’s body and the way the medical scrubs hug his body, but look all wrong. He fidgets with the new jacket he’s been wearing, rising to his feet so he can help slide Finn’s arms into it. “Just for now,” he promises quietly. “Your jacket is in your quarters.”
“You mean yours?”
“I told you, it looks better on you. Just like the hero gig does,” Poe promises, trying not to let the heartache of knowing that Finn will be in high demand affect his smile. He steps around until he’s facing Finn, glad that at least he’ll be able to say that he knew Finn back in the day, when it all started.
“Poe,” Finn says softly.
“I just wanted you to know about the stories,” Poe says too-brightly, trying to head off whatever Finn feels like saying that might end up crushing his heart. “You’re pretty much the most charming prince I’ve ever had and I should know. You rescued me right outta a tower practically,” he says with a wink, feeling half-manic as he grabs hold of Finn’s shoulders to squeeze, knowing that he needs to get out of there. He runs a hand through his hair, knowing it’s bound to mess it up, and feels half-insane when he panics and salutes, nearly walking into a wall during his retreat.
Apparently, Poe’s an idiot in love. It only took thirty-two years to figure that one out.
After his stunningly awkward departure from Finn’s room, Poe takes a day to regain his dignity before he visits again. He gets a good night’s rest, talks to a few buddies in the squadron, and starts to feel like himself again. Only when he’s feeling completely ready to see Finn again does he bring him dinner, perching on the edge of his bed, trying to ignore the way Finn isn’t eating and doesn’t seem to stop staring at him.
“What?” Poe asks, swallowing a hunk of bread that he’s stolen from off Finn’s tray.
“Just wondering how you ever got to be so stupid. I’ve met a lot of other Resistance people by now. And I know it’s only been a few weeks since I escaped, but I’ve met a lot of people and I think you’re kind of the most oblivious one,” Finn says.
Hackles up, Poe drops his bread and gives Finn an affronted look. “What the hell?”
“You’re all they ever talked about,” Finn scoffs. “On the ship? After Jakku, Phasma and Hux and the others were so gleeful when we had you. Poe Dameron, the best pilot in the galaxy. They feared you so much that when we had you, no one wanted to see you except Kylo Ren, just because they worried what the galaxy’s best pilot could do. It’s how I knew that you were my way out. I knew I could get out of there so long as I had you. I needed a pilot,” he says. “But not just any pilot. The best.”
Poe’s smile blossoms on his face before he can stop it, leaning a little closer into Finn’s space.
“They thought I was a hot commodity, huh?”
“Yeah,” Finn breathes out, locking eyes with Poe. “I figured out pretty quickly that they were right about you. You’re incredible.”
His heart skips a beat again and he slides his fingers around Finn’s neck to hold onto him tightly, drawing their foreheads tight together. From there, it’s barely more than a breath and a thought before he leans in for the kiss that doesn’t need to wake Finn up and doesn’t need to do anything but just be.
It’s the best kiss he’s ever had and he knows it’s because it’s the only one he’s ever had on the cusp of falling in love. He can only hope it’s the prelude to many, many more.
And here’s what Poe knows about fairytales, now.
It takes two to fall in love and it takes a whole band of heroes in order to fight the villains.
If Poe gets to be a part of the love story threading its way through the action, he’s more than happy to play his part, especially when it’s Finn working his way through the pages with him towards their happily ever after.
He know it’ll be hard, but when Finn takes Poe’s hand in his and looks at him like Poe’s hung the stars, he knows that every single second of it will be more than worth it.