Sometimes when she went to sleep, tucked away in a shelter of stone on a pallet of grass and a cloak for a blanket, throat cracked from talking and muscles sore from running and walking and holding very, very still, Rey dreamt about Finn.
She never actually saw him; it was more of a feeling that curled around her like a warm, wide hand, slightly clammy with sweat and squeezing her fingers in fear. A light that settled over her shoulders like a worn, softened leather jacket that smelt like jet fuel and blaster discharge and soap, with a hint of aftershave she didn't think Finn actually wore. It curled around her, slithering into the cracks of her waiting heart, and it soothed her; let her know that Finn was alive. Finn was alive and he was safe and she didn't have to worry about him as she followed the last of the Jedi around his quiet island and dragged training out of his tired, oil-creaking fingers.
Sometimes, she dreamt of the ocean, and the island, and the beach as far as the eye could see. She dreamt of the oceans of Jakku far too often; her little hovel in the AT-AT, her ration packs, Unkar Plutt growling at her and bartering with her prices that were less than what her scraps were worth. She had never fought him, she had needed the food so desperately, and he had been watching her since she was just small, so small, but she thought that if she ever saw him again she would fight him. She could, and she would, and it would feel something like justice.
Sometimes she dreamt of the X-wing pilot Poe Dameron, with his heavy-lidded eyes and his lazy smile and the afterthought cut just under his eye that had still been healing when she met him first. Of his warm arms and the way he squeezed without abandon when they hugged, half elated and half desperate, because they had found Luke Skywalker's location, they had found him--
He had smelt like the aftershave on the coat, and she wondered about that. Wondered during the quiet evenings, when Skywalker pressed her to the pallet and told her to clear her mind and relax and feel the Force all around her. Only ever with his flesh hand, never the metal one.
She had heard stories of his hand; had heard that the medics had been able to make it look like flesh and blood again, and she wondered why it looked like a metal skeleton now. If Kylo Ren had anything to do with it; or if he turned it into a reminder for himself and for others. She wondered about Skywalker's hand and Poe's aftershave and the jacket and Finn's condition and where Kylo Ren was hiding, now, because she felt him, too, a curling black, smoky claw scratching at the corners of her thoughts, whispered lights smothered by black-out curtains--
--and Skywalker told her to clear her mind and she hung her head, muttered 'sorry' as quickly as she dared, and stopped wondering about anything at all.
Poe Dameron took to the skies and went scouting through the rubble of their losing victories with a vigor that scared his squadron; took to the skies and never came back down, because the leather was ripped down the middle and smelt burned and the skin was ripped down the middle and smelt burnt.
Jess tried to talk to him, she always did - she was the good sort, Jess, liked to keep people level and grounded even when they were doing insane aerials and saving the day. She tried to ask him what was wrong but he called for radio silence, because they couldn't be sure how close the First Order ships were or if they had ever left, and he didn't want any Resistance secrets spilled, and he just really, really didn't want to talk at all. He didn't want to think about the burnt leather of a jacket that had belonged to his grandfather, which had been passed down to his mom, which had been passed down to him. Didn't want to think about the Stormtrooper who picked it out of smoking rubble when he thought he had nothing of Poe left. Didn't want to think about that same Stormtrooper, who still called himself by the name he'd given him, lying on his stomach as medi-droids and doctors and people over dusty old datapads looking for any mention of treatments on lightsabre wounds tried to get him into something resembling stable condition.
So he took to the skies, he flew, he scouted and did everything he was good at, because otherwise he'd be down in medical on a stiff metal chair, bowed over with his forehead pressed against clasped hands and whispering prayers to a Force he had no idea about.
But even flying didn't save him from his thoughts, at the end of the cycle, and he eventually had to land to fuel up and report to the General.
His feet hit concrete and the worry settled over him like dirt and grime and sweat, uncomfortable and familiar and never fully washed off no matter how long he spent in the fresher. It wrapped around him, whispering what ifs and what abouts and doubts and worst case scenarios. His mother had always told him he was a bit dramatic, especially whenever he played out scenes with his X-wing model and a cobbled-together TIE fighter because he needed an enemy for his games. He liked to think he was riling himself up because he liked to be pleasantly surprised when he was proven absolutely and utterly wrong.
He reported to the General, who looked at him with tired eyes and a crooked smile, her shoulders pushed back but her spirit slouched, and then he turned around, changed out of his flight suit, and moved to medical like he knew he would.
He stopped at the door and stared at Finn, only called Finn because Poe didn't want to think of a person as numbers, lying on his back and breathing but still not awake, and turned right back around and asked about the next mission.
It was warm.
It was warm and it was light, and it felt like sand but soft, nothing like Jakku. Soft, like feathers; like kindness. Almost like snow.
He knew snow. The base had been surrounded by it, and sometimes he'd be asked to go out to walk a round with his squadron, because he had been sanitation but they had still had their duties, and they couldn't always go poking through the trash compactor looking for slithering, slimy things that settled in waste. It made him think of the old stories, the ones that the others spoke of in hushed whispers; the stories of the Death Star, and of Skywalker and Princess and Solo in the trash compactor, fighting the slithering, slimy things that settled in waste. Made him wonder about adventure and heroics and Good and Bad.
He stopped himself thinking too much about that, though. He stopped himself so they wouldn't realize and put him into reconditioning. He had seen others go through it. They were never the same afterwards.
But it was warm, and it was light, and soft, and he thought he heard voices but they were muffled; thought he felt something along his back, but it was numbed. It was like being back in the Suit, but instead of being cold he felt cottoned on all sides; stuffed like a bird or a toy.
There had been toys scattered on the village ground, dropped by screaming children. He remembered them looking at him with wide eyes as he stepped down onto the battle field, boots on the ground. He'd been one of the first. He'd been told to fire.
He had fired and then blood blocked his vision and then he stopped; stopped because why, why were they doing this? He watched, numbed and shocked and cold, cold all over, and when they had the pilot and were given the order to fire, he hadn't, and She'd noticed, and he knew he had to get out.
He had to get out, it was his only hope.
Fingers around his throat and blood on his hands and in his eyes and he had to get out so he grabbed the pilot and thought of heroics and crashed on the harsh sands of Jakku--
--but it was warm. And it was light. And it was soft, and cottony, and he drifted away once more and forgot.
Skywalker told her to breathe and so she breathed, deeply, smelling grass and stone and metal. She stood on her hands and felt the blood rush to her head and just breathed, ignoring the beeping of the R2-D2 that was as legendary as Skywalker; ignored the soft timbre of Skywalker's voice, hoarse and ragged like her skin when she skidded across Jakku's desert in a fumble.
The General's voice had been hoarse and ragged, too, and she wondered what kind of life it had to be like for the Skywalker Twins, children of Darth Vader, leaders of rebellion and victorious against the Empire. She wondered whether Skywalker still flew, and then she wondered if Poe Dameron knew other stories about Skywalker just like she knew other stories about Han. She wondered if she could ask him when she got back. Wondered if maybe Finn would like to listen, too.
Finn was still light filling the cracks, and Poe Dameron had become an aftershave afterthought, and both brought a sense of peace and home to her when the nights were cold and she was lonely because Chewie was camped out grieving on the Falcon and R2-D2 never left Skywalker's side.
She felt more than heard the last of the Jedi stop beside her, and before he could say anything she inhaled deeply and let go of her wondering thoughts and felt the Force around her.
When she finally collapsed, arms shaking and breathing ragged, she stared at the stones circled around her like a shield and turned to Skywalker, beaming. He stared back down at her, eyes too big for his face and expression tired and sad, and smiled back.
"Good," he told her, and he reached out with his left hand, always his left, and helped her to her feet. "We'll eat, now. And then you meditate."
She nodded, and he turned without another word and walked away. After a moment, she followed.
General Organa told him he was grounded, and so he put away his flight suit and stepped into the fresher and tried to make the water wash his worries away.
His hands felt shaky and his body was sore and numb, and he knew he should eat and then sleep in that precise order, but once he was back in clothes - civvie clothes, with a new leather jacket because he had seen the old one, his old one, the one he had inherited and given away, and it made his stomach twist and he had to get thread or something to fix it. That was a gift, like the name had been a gift, and it just wouldn't do to have it damaged.
It wouldn't do.
- once he was back in clothes, he walked straight to medical and sat down in the chair and stared at Finn's immobile presence.
He wasn't sure how long he had been sitting until he felt something round and hard gently bump against his shin, and he looked down and smiled tiredly at BB-8. Its lens stared up at him, and it made an inquiring beepbopwhuuu before leaning against his leg. After a moment, he pressed his hand against the smaller head of the droid, turning to look back at Finn.
"Yeah, buddy," he muttered, softly enough that only BB-8 would hear, "I'm worried, too."
BB-8 had nothing to say to that, but it kept vigil with him until he fell asleep. When he woke up next, he was laid out on his own cot next to Finn's with a blanket, and he sleepily reminded himself to thank the medi-droids that most likely set him up before turning over and drawing the blanket tighter around himself.
He remembered Nines, and Zeroes, and Slip.
Nines was his second, the best at following orders, and they matched his intellect hit for hit. Zeroes was the more aggressive one, who always took point when they needed to start an assault; it was better for Zeroes to take point. He was the leader and the best medic on the squad and Zeroes knew that; knew that they had to make sure he would survive so he could patch them up and shove them back out to take down the Enemy.
Slip was hopeless, always falling behind and slipping up, and he felt so protective of Slip.
It was Slip's blood that woke up him, echoes of Her orders ringing in his ears to stop helping Slip blaming him and the gurgle of blood and guilt bubbling behind a white, faceless mask. But he could see Slip's eyes behind those blackened lenses; could see the panic and the fear and the relief, and he wondered if maybe it wouldn't have been better to be shot down in that village with Slip.
Maybe it would have been easier if he had slipped away, too; lost potential disappearing in the cooling sands of Jakku.
Instead he had been too good. Too good a shot, too good at cover, too good at medical, and he had pressed a hand to Slip's pulse and felt it beat away like a panicked animal. Stayed still when Slip reached out and touched his helmet, as if trying to touch his face.
It was light, and it was warm, but it was harsh like shrapnel in between his ribs, and the cottoned voices around him sharpened before they quieted again and he slipped away.
She was standing on one hand, Skywalker walking around her and telling her to concentrate, when her vision whitened out and suddenly she was in metal halls filled with Stormtroopers leading children by the hand.
She watched as a little boy with dark brown skin and short-shorn hair followed after a 'trooper, his dark eyes wide and his mouth hanging open, and she was reminded of the children she had seen hiding in the quiet corners of the Resistance base. Because there had been children, just small ones, who were living with their families as their mothers and fathers and others fought the good fight.
The little boy was put into a room by himself, and then a medi-droid came out and stripped him down, and he stayed still and moved like a doll when the droid made him, and his eyes were dead, so dead--
--she collapsed to the ground, tears streaming down her face, and Skywalker was in front of her and touching her with both hands, warm flesh and cold steel, and asking her what did she see, what did she see?
"Finn," she breathed out, staring wide-eyed at his hands on her arms, and she shook all the harder. "I saw Finn."
"Is Finn okay?"
She swallowed, nodded, and then explained what she had seen, and Skywalker sat back and stared at her, expression inscrutable; the right side scarred from a bad encounter with a wampa, his mouth lopsided and tensed. When she had told him everything she had seen, he folded his arms over his legs and stared at her with kindness and apology both.
"Sometimes the Force shows us visions. The past, the present, the future. ...When I was training, I was worried for my friends, and I saw them in trouble. I abandoned my training early to save them."
"But why would it show me the past? That's certainly what it is, Finn's just a child."
"You've been thinking about him. The Force has connected you both - you feel him with you all the time. It's only natural that it would eventually show you something."
She was about to ask why the past again, but then she stopped, and she remembered that she had been wondering what life had been like for Finn before he had been Finn, and she dropped her head and grimaced. Skywalker touched her shoulder with his flesh hand once more, and she looked up to see him looking at her with understanding.
"We'll try again. Clear your thoughts, though, okay?"
Poe took to spending all his free time in the hangar so that he wouldn't spend it in medical.
He tinkered with his T-70, fixing up little things that got rattled during the battle, and then fixing up things that really didn't need to be fixed but he decided to fix them anyway. Like the control shift gear, and then the shielding really needed to be tweaked, really it did. Finally he took to helping the others in his squadron with their fighters, too.
Every one of them knew what he was doing, but they didn't tease him about it. It wasn't something they should or could tease him about; a friend, someone who had saved his life, was lying on a bed asleep and not waking up, a scar from an ancient weapon skittering down their back, and he could do nothing but sit there and develop a crick in the neck. So they let him help, telling him about the individual quirks of their fighters and what some of the little personal touches meant.
Snap had a photograph of his parents, for instance, and Jess had a picture of a girl with neon pink skin and wide, dark eyes who she never spoke about, but her smile turned soft and sweet when she saw it. Nien Nunb, who was a friend and a veteran and a legend on his own, helped him rewire his dash and told him stories about helping Alderaan survivors back in the days of the Empire.
BB-8 stayed with Finn, but sometimes it would come into the hangar and whuuwhumpboop at him and he'd crawl down from his Black One and follow the little droid to the mess, stomach growling and throat parched dry. He'd swallow down something that was tasteless and drink back water until he felt sick, remembering how cracked and dry he had felt on Jakku, freezing in the dunes, and then he would get up and stop at medical and listen to the beeping of Finn's heart.
General Leia stepped up beside him in medical, and he stood up a little straighter until she touched his arm and he completely slouched over.
"He's important to you?" she asked, her voice soft and harsh, cracking with age and with stress, and the slope of her shoulders was an awful lot like the man in the mask's, and he pretended he didn't see that.
"Yeah," Poe said, because he wasn't sure why but Finn had become Important. He had been by his side the moment Chewbacca carried him out of the Falcon and onto the gurney; had run with the med team even while Rey stood back and cried against the General's shoulder. Had pressed his forehead against the glass of medical and watched as they peeled off the leather jacket and his black shirt - under armor, he realized, all the kid had was his jacket and under armor - and went to work trying to fix what Kylo Ren broke.
He was shaken out of his thoughts when General Leia touched his wrist, and suddenly she was just Leia again, Princess and legend and maternal, and he slouched even further.
"He'll be okay, Poe," she whispered, and she sounded hopeful, too - hopeful that someone would walk away from her son undamaged.
"He'll be okay."
He had always been full of Promise.
That was what his superiors took note of, whenever he passed another simulation and passed another test and passed another inspection. He was the best shot in his squad, and he led well and knew how to give orders, and they had him pegged for a Lieutenant and then maybe one day a Captain like Her. One day he would maybe be given armor that stood out like Her; maybe blue chrome, so that they were matching opposites, shining and foreboding in front of their subordinates.
Instead he fled, leaving behind the future he realized he didn't want, and he met the pilot who named him and the girl in the sand who looked at him like he was human. And it was good, it was so good - but it was terrifying, and he was scared of so much, but mostly he just didn't want to go back to be reconditioned, because then he would forget he now had a name and he had people he could call his friends and who looked at him like he was human.
He would be nameless and faceless in white once again, and maybe he would have Promise again, and he'd get the blue chrome armor, and he would hate himself and never know why.
He thought about the girl, with her dark hair and her sun-bleached skin tinged red; the dusty rags and the wiry thin frame and the ribs she could count because she never had enough to eat. Thought about the pilot with the cocksure smile and trusting, dark eyes and a grip like branding.
He remembered what it felt like to hold her hand; remembered what it felt like to hug him; and it was getting cold, and the light was dimming, and the cottoned world sharpened and screeched and his back sang a cacophony of thrumming pain all the way down his spine.
He stared at the unfamiliar roof and thought about snow, and glowing lightsabres two seconds from dying out; beeping filling his ears and droids filling his vision and he gasped, his throat feeling like Jakku's cracking earth.
Someone gave him water, and he coughed when he drank too much, reaching out and finding that his limbs weren't responding like they should.
"Rey-- Poe-- where--?"
And then he blacked out.
In the ruins of a Temple, curled under a cloak worn with age and time, Rey jerked awake and stared out at nothing into the darkness, heart beating in her throat and the glow of Finn spilling out of the cracks of her heart and swirling around her madly.
When she looked over to see Skywalker standing at the door to the shelter she called her room, he took one look at her and nodded once.
"We head back tomorrow."
BB-8 shrieked into the mess hall and right into Poe's legs, making him flinch and curse as something sharp shot through his shins, but then the frantic whistling of his droid caught up with him and he was stumbling out of his seat and running out again.
Jess and Nien and Snap all watched him, nonplussed, and Wedge Antilles, back from a mission on the complete opposite side of the galaxy of D'Qar, leaned over and asked them what had gotten into him?
"Finn's awake," Jess said, as if this explained everything.
And it did. It really did.
When he woke up again, the world was white and sterile and he thought, for one mad second, that it had all been a dream and he was FN-2187 once more, and Zeroes was about to burst in and tell him that She was coming towards their barracks for surprise inspection.
But then his vision cleared and settled, and he saw vines crawling along the roof, and he turned his head (every nerve in his body screaming) and saw General Leia Organa, legend and Resistance leader, sitting in the stiff metal chair beside his bed with a tired smile and a gasping Poe leaning over behind her.
"Hello, Finn," she said, voice worn, and Finn had never imagined the phantom menace of the First Order to sound so tired, "I'm very glad to see you awake."
"Two months," Poe gasped out, straightening up finally, and a trilling whirr from BB-8 sounded, and Poe grimaced. "Two months and five days, to be precise, because BB-8 is a counter."
Finn blinked, blanking at the fact that two months of his life was all but gone, and he closed his eyes and grimaced as pain continued to wrack through him. A hand, warm and age-work but callused in the same places his were callused, used to holding a blaster and fighting, pressed to his shoulder. He looked to see General Leia Organa leaning forward, looking at him seriously.
"But I've been sleeping for so long--"
"You were healing. Now, you need rest. We will talk more when you wake up."
Even though he opened his mouth to protest, his eyes were falling shut already, and the last thing he saw before he was out was Poe switching places with the General; General Leia Organa pressing her hand against Poe's shoulder and pressing a kiss to his head and Poe, smiling tiredly but looking so relieved.
He wondered if he worried.
Chewie had control of the Falcon and they were on their course back to base, and so Rey wandered the ship and reacquainted herself with its ghosts.
She felt Han Solo everywhere she went; something warm and dry like leather and his sense of humour. He settled into the walls, into the floorboards, and the rooms where people slept; into crawlspaces and control panels and fuses. The Falcon was Han and Han was the Falcon and she had no right to fly it but she was, anyway. She just hoped she was doing him proud.
She also felt another, smoother than Han Solo, filled with pride and panic both, and when she asked Chewie about other pilots the wookie told her about Lando Calrissian, and she knew that name - he was nearly as famous as Han Solo, a smuggler who made a city on the clouds and then saved the galaxy. She only knew about saving the galaxy because Chewie told the story, and then Skywalker told the story.
Skywalker so rarely told stories, and she always sat beside him and listened in silence as he recounted the days when he was training to be a Jedi, fighting his father and learning he had a family after he thought he had lost them in a burning moisture farm. R2-D2 beeped and whistled from his side, sharing its own stories, and between the three veterans Rey knew more about the war against the Empire than she had ever known before.
They landed on the base in D'Qar in the evening to little fanfare, only Leia Organa standing out on the tarmac along with those who had guided their landing in safely. When Skywalker stood before his sister, his face shifted, and suddenly he wasn't the last of the Jedi anymore. Suddenly he was a brother and an uncle and a person, and his face crumpled and Leia had his arms around him and together they cried for everything that had been lost.
Rey left them in silence, sliding through the base and into its underground corridors, making her way to medical.
She stopped when she saw Poe Dameron sitting beside Finn's bedside, talking to him in a soft voice and Finn watching him blearily.
And then Finn's eyes caught hers, and she was dragged inside.
Poe had to tell himself that he couldn't hold Finn's hand, because really he barely knew Finn and it wouldn't be all that appropriate. But their friendship was forged in battle and blood and the wasteland of Jakku, and he felt that that made them closer than anything, really.
But he still told himself to keep his hands to himself, and he spoke in a soft voice and waited patiently for Finn to wake up every time he drifted off into sleep again.
The medi-droids were getting a bacta tank ready for Finn to be submerged in the next day. They hadn't before then, because they hadn't been sure if Finn would actually wake up, and so his back was healing much more slowly than Poe thought was right. But that would be amended soon, and he only hoped it would help Finn sit up and walk soon.
Poe was pulled from his thoughts when medical's door opened, and he turned to see Rey standing in the doorway, watching the two of them; her eyes locked with Finn's. The pilot smiled, and leaned back, before standing up and patting the back of the chair.
"You two catch up," he told her, watching as she seemed to stumble in, near trance-like, not even glancing at him, "I need to go check on things."
He didn't, he knew he didn't, and BB-8 did, too, but the droid stayed blessedly silent, rolling up to touch Rey's knee before following after him and leaving him to his thoughts.
"Rey - Rey, you're back, I was so worried--"
"I saw you," Rey interrupted, sitting abruptly on the chair and reaching out to grab his hand. "I saw you, as a child, in the Order, and you were so small, you were a child--"
"The Force, sometimes it can show the past, and I've been so worried about you and the Force linked us together and you were so small but you didn't have the eyes of a child, you had the eyes of a dead thing, it was awful--"
Her fingers, callused and dry but thin curled tightly around his, and she pressed her forehead to his fingers, and he stared at her and wondered if all her amazing abilities were really all that amazing after all.
Rey didn't stop worrying about Finn even though he was awake.
The day after she returned, they put him into a medical sleep and submerged him into the bacta tank, and it was the first time she saw the scars left behind by his fight with Kylo Ren - but also the first time she saw the marks of a childhood wiped out by the First Order.
She traced lines and scars and a brand on his arm, marking him FN-2187, and when Poe Dameron saw that he hissed through his teeth and she reached out and grabbed his hand. He smelt like the aftershave and jet fuel and sweat, and it was as comforting as Finn's blaster discharge and leather and clean metal, and after a minute he relaxed in her hold and she leaned against him.
Finn floated in the bacta, breathing, bubbles escaping from his mask once in a while to show he was still alive despite his floating like a dead thing.
She continued her training with Skywalker, standing on the rooftops of the facility or tucking herself away into tight corners where no one was likely to interrupt them. She meditated and she concentrated and she emptied her mind, but she worried about Finn and she started to worry about Poe, too; Poe, who looked so tired and worn and ragged like he had aged himself just by sitting and waiting.
Poe Dameron was not as accustomed to waiting as Rey was, and so she tried her best to help him, if she could. Tried by sitting next to him when he sat still long enough, or finding him on his X-wing, fiddling with something that really didn't need to be fiddled with anymore; bringing him food and drink and a friendship that was slow to bloom but steady enough. They weren't running for their lives from an air raid, or rathtars, or the First Order.
Their friendship came in the quiet before the storm, when Skywalker became Luke and Rey couldn't empty her mind and just feel the Force because it brought up images that broke her waiting heart.
Poe learned that Rey and Finn both loved stories, and so he told them whenever he could.
He started with the ones he knew the best; the stories of the rebellion, back in the days of the Empire, that his parents had fought in. Told them stories of Wedge Antilles, who kept to himself in the hallways, and of Gold Squad and Red Squad and the destruction of the Death Stars.
"Luke Skywalker blew the first one, with the help of Han Solo," he would say, and Rey's eyes would get misty and Finn would close his eyes and breathe. He forgot that the two had seen Solo's end; that they had been witness to the man in the mask stabbing him through the chest and pushing him over the ledge to fall into the core.
But he never avoided the stories with Solo in them, because that would be cruel to memory, and he thought that the more they heard about him, the more they would fight against the man in the mask and forget that he was Ben.
After Finn was let out of the bacta tank, feeling more invigorated than he had when he had first woken up, he took to trying to get out of his bed much earlier than the medi-droids and the doctors suggested.
"I need to be useful," he said, and that sentence cut through Poe so deeply he was surprised his heart didn't spill out of his chest between cracked ribs.
"You don't," Poe said in reply, pressing his hands to his shoulders and pushing him down; being careful of the metal implants along his spine, a stark reminder of near-death. "You've done so much, you'll do so much more, but you need to heal, so please - please, just heal."
Rey, meanwhile, didn't seem to know what sleep was, wandering the halls and curling up against the wings of his fighter as if she belonged there. She took to carrying around the jacket that Finn had inherited from Poe who inherited it from generations before, carefully sewing it back together with tiny stitches that spoke of having to mend her own things since she was old enough to live by herself in squalor.
She was so Big, but she was so Small, and she only seemed to nap when she was curled up in the stiff metal chair in medical or when she was tucked away on his fighter. Her eyes were steady, old things, with innocence shining underneath all that wisdom, and he wondered if the sands of Jakku formed her or if the events at Starkiller base formed her or if the Force had.
After a while, she came to him in quiet evenings, and she told him about her visions; told him about a little boy with a number branded on him and dead, dead eyes, pushed through a machine until he forgot what he looked like and what it was like to breathe without a helmet. Told him, like she was sharing secrets, about seeing that little boy become a proficient killer.
It was hard, she told him, to associate killer with Finn, and he agreed.
FN-2187 was a killer. He had shot those with guns in the village, taking them down with an ease and precision he had not expected from Stormtroopers.
Finn was a good man. The best of men.
They were not the same.
Finn learned to walk again slowly, and he worried that the more time he took the less patience the Resistance would have for him.
Poe was back on missions, taking to the skies and flying scouting missions and recon missions, always promising to come back but squeezing his hand like it would be the last time. Rey and Luke Skywalker had taken to the woods of D'Qar, finding solitude away from the Resistance to continue her training. She spoke of returning to the Temple, but reassured him it was nothing definite yet when he could feel the panic cross his face.
General Leia Organa spent an inordinate amount of time with him. He had not been expecting that.
"You remind me of Han," she told him one afternoon, her important notes set aside and her hands folded over her lap. He was sitting up, legs folded like he had seen Rey and Luke Skywalker sit when they meditated just outside of medical. Rey told him she did that because she had to remind herself he was fine. It made him feel warm, and he wondered if that was a medical thing or a human thing.
"I do?" he asked, because he thought he was nothing like Han Solo. Han Solo had been a war hero; brave and good and another menace to the First Order. He helped to destroy the first Death Star. He took down the shields on Endor to destroy the second. He was better than Finn.
"He tried to run away, too," she said, and he flinched. She smiled, though, looking at him kindly. "He told me he was so close to just leaving us all behind at the Battle of Yavin - so close to not bothering with the Death Star and just paying off his debts to that gangster, Jabba. But then he came back." She leaned forward, then, looking at him closely. "Do you see the resemblance yet?"
Finn thought he might, and that warm feeling that he got when Rey was near or Poe visited despite being dead tired grew in his chest, and he knew it was a human thing.
Skywalker took her deep into the woods of D'Qar, until she could feel something smokey black and slithering curl at the base of her spine and they stood before a copse of trees.
"The Dark is strong here," he told her, placing his hand on her shoulder - and it was the right hand, the metal hand, as if he had finally grown comfortable enough to reach out to people with that hand and not just beeping, dinged up droids. "You must go inside."
"What will I see?" she asked, and she thought she sounded small, like a child again. Skywalker only squeezed her shoulder, and she bit her lip and nodded. She reached down to her hip for her lightsabre, and Skywalker touched her wrist carefully.
"...You will not need that."
She stared at him, wondering what made him think that, but then she nodded and handed him the lightsabre - and he took it, flesh hand shaking as he held onto something long-thought lost, and she turned away from him and that moment and moved into the thick foliage.
Things slithered and hissed and growled as she moved, until she found a dirt-and-rock cave that dipped down. She tried to move carefully, but found herself slipping down the slope, landing on her side awkwardly. Dirt streaked her clothes and her skin, and her hair was loose and in her eyes, and she looked over when she heard the familiar, terrifying sputtering-hum of the red lightsabre only to see Kylo Ren standing there.
He was whip-thin and swathed in black, the mask hiding his human face, and behind him the shadow of something larger and far more foreboding stood behind him; its breathing echoing like a heartbeat.
She stared up at them as they came closer to her, and dodged out of the way before the lightsabre cut through her as easily as it had cut through Finn.
She dodged and she hid and she used all of her training to get away from the erratic swings of Ren, all the while keeping her eyes on the shadowed figure behind him, breathing and watching with their arms crossed across their broad chest.
When Kylo Ren screamed and lunged for her, she stepped out of the way and watched as he stumbled through the trees and was lost. Breathing hard, sweat slicking over her face and arms and neck, she turned once more to the shadow; but in its place was a tall, whip-thin young man with pale hair and pale eyes and he looked so much like Skywalker when he was Luke that her heart seemed to stop.
"You will do," he said, and then he, too, was gone, and she was alone in the dark and the Dark, breathing heavily with nothing but the afterthoughts of ghosts to keep her company.
Poe rarely slept, because his dreams were filled with fingers ripping through his skull and a mask breathing just this close to too close to his face for comfort.
Instead he napped, and he always made sure he was contorted into some weird position when he napped, because if he was flat then he would be back in that chair and if he was back in that chair then Finn had never saved him and Ren knew where BB-8 was and everything was screwed.
BB-8 was always close to where he napped, whirring and humming and constantly shifting in place because BB-8 took after Poe too much and Poe was never still. He appreciated the little droid's presence, its ticking gears the lullaby he needed most.
But sometimes Rey was with him when he woke up, his feet tucked under her legs. She would be bowed over the leather jacket, painstakingly fixing it in a way he could never dream of fixing it, and he would watch her until she glanced over at him and flushed to her roots. It was comforting to know that someone as Big and as Small as Rey was still on level with him when she wasn't being amazing and trained by a legend.
It was nice to know that she needed company, too.
Finn went to sleep at 2000 hours and woke up at 0600 hours on the dot, like clockwork, like a machine.
The doctors had marvelled at the way he could wake up so precisely, and go to sleep so precisely, without necessarily knowing what time it was or how the clock worked on D'Qar in the first place. He just did, and they always said that he was a good example of timeliness, and it made him feel a little queasy to his stomach.
General Leia Organa continued to visit him, telling him stories of Han Solo that only she knew about. She told him about Luke Skywalker, as well, personal stories about a farm boy who had followed an old man and two droids in their attempt to find an unknown princess; told him about how Chewbacca was really a gentle giant and he really did like Finn, he did; she had seen him recently and the wookie had asked how Finn was doing.
She also told him stories of little Ben Solo, who had been so lost and so confused, and she had let go of him too early and really, it was her fault he was the way he was. He never agreed with her, always argued with her, and it was so strange to argue with the woman who made the First Order so nervous that sometimes he just went quiet in the middle of his argument. She never asked him why, though; always patted his hand and changed the topic to something safer.
Rey and Poe visited whenever they could, telling him about what they had been doing. Poe told him stories about his childhood on Yavin IV, and Rey told him about Unkar Plutt and how she had hated him but owed him her survival all the same.
In return, he started to tell them about Nines, and Zeroes, and Slip.
It was strange, talking about his old squad, and when he spoke about how Slip had died, Poe had flinched and looked away and Finn realized that Poe had killed Slip.
Poe had been the shooter.
And it was strange, but it was comforting, because in a way Poe and he were connected that way; connected by the fact that they both had Slip's blood on their hands. So he reached out when Poe curled into himself and he took his hand, and he squeezed.
After a moment, Poe squeezed back.
Skywalker gave her a day to herself, and she spent it wandering the base, not knowing what to do with herself.
She visited General Leia and she visited Finn and she visited BB-8. She went into a training room and practiced with her staff; went into mess and ate food that she didn't have to bargain for with parts from picked-clean Stardestroyers. She went to the quartermaster and asked about clothes of her own, and gave him her sizes, and ignored the look of worry when she tried on a shirt and they saw how many ribs pressed through her skin or the way her spine bumped up her back like a hungry reminder; like the metal that bumped up Finn's back.
She ended up on the roof of the hangar, and Poe found her there; gave her a roll from the mess and a bottle of water and questions about what life had been like on Jakku before everything changed.
She told him about hot days and freezing nights; sand getting into her teeth and the back of her tongue and her eyes. Told him about the different creatures that watched over her and raised her; told him about the woman who had taught her how to fight so that she was always protected when she was scavenging. She told him about the first time she had ever flown, a little dustbucket that Unkar Plutt had been groaning about throwing away, and Poe had swapped that story with the first time his mother had ever taken him up in her fighter.
He told her about a childhood raised by his grandfather and waiting for his parents, and so she told him of a childhood of just waiting; one tick for every day her family hadn't returned, an entire wall taller than she was covered in white lines that made her dizzy and feel like crying. He told her about the forests of Yavin IV and how Luke Skywalker and Han Solo had been given medals of honour by the Princess there after the Battle of Yavin, and she told him about the island of her dreams, surrounded by water and so cool and beautiful that such a place could never exist.
He told her about Kylo Ren ripping into his brain and picking him apart, and she told him of Kylo Ren slithering between the cracks of her waiting heart and taking without asking, and she leaned against his shoulder and he wrapped an arm around her.
They watched a sunset different from both of their childhoods and drifted together in the comfort of a friend.
Poe had always been told that he was pretty easy to like, but ridiculously difficult to love.
He thought that was just because the majority of the people who tried to love him were looking for sex before emotion, and Poe wasn't about that at all.
He had grown up watching love; grown up with his grandparents, who adored each other, and his parents, who would die for each other. Grew up hearing about Leia Organa and Han Solo and how their love built even though there was a war and they had no such time for frivolities.
Poe wanted to know someone - to love someone - before he ever had sex with them. He was a passionate guy, Poe. Cocky and sure of himself and confident in his abilities, his squad always joked that his first love was his Black One and his second was BB-8 and that was all he needed in his life.
But then Poe met Finn, naming him and saving him as well as being saved; gave him his jacket, because he looked good in it and he was a good man and Finn was alive and that was just a relief.
But then Poe met Rey, hugging her when they completed the map, learning who she was and what she would have to do; remembering she was a human and Small despite being Big and she was a comfort.
The fact that these two people with pasts that hurt and eyes that were broken but innocent had crawled their way into his heart probably said something about him as a person.
He hoped it was a good thing.
When Finn was able to walk on his own two feet and not shake, he left medical and found himself bunking with Poe.
The room was a bit cramped, with two cots and two dressers, and Poe being as messy as he was with his belongings. Finn didn't have anything, just his jacket that Rey had finished fixing and damaged under armor, and a couple of shirts and one pair of pants that the quartermaster had brought him once he changed out of a medical gown.
But then Poe went on a mission shortly after he got out of medical, and he came back with a few trinkets that he had seen in one of the towns; and then Rey went out into the woods with Skywalker to learn how to build her own lightsabre, and she came back with a two-bladed 'sabre and wood carvings of different animals. Even Chewie came out from where he had sequestered himself on the base, giving him a blaster to replace the one he lost; General Leia Organa gave him a metal charm, shaped like a falcon, and he didn't ask where it came from but kept it close to his heart.
And slowly Finn built himself a life, putting FN-2187 behind him for good, and when he looked at himself in the mirror he didn't recognize himself from the boy with the dead eyes to this man with hope in his smile.
The best thing he had, though, that he had never had before, was the chance to hold onto Rey's and Poe's hands and not feel like he was dragging them down.
That was the very, very best thing.
"I think I might love you, you know."
She kept quiet, hoping that neither of them would wake up. She often found herself sleeping at the foot of Finn's cot, curled as small as she could be. BB-8 slept at the foot of Poe's bed, and girl and droid made neat little bookends to the picture.
But then there was a shift, and Poe was sitting up, and Finn was looking down at her, and she sighed a little and plucked at the string of one of her arm wraps.
"Who?" Finn finally asked, and she smiled and sat up and folded her legs as if Skywalker were telling her to relax and clear her head and feel the Force.
She then reached out, and two pairs of hands, one dark brown and the other a dustier brown, wrapped around her pale fingers; all of them callused in different places from different lives, and she marveled at how warm they all were, like the light filling the cracks of her waiting heart and chasing away the dark, smoky thing of Kylo Ren.
"Both of you," she finally said, and Finn smiled widely and Poe squeezed her fingers, and she felt a little more whole.