Finn and Dameron went through a lot that Rey wasn’t there for. There’s no arguing around that. She’s sure that if Finn were – if Finn were awake then the two of them would have all sorts of in-jokes, all kinds of remember when we. And Rey would just have to smile and nod along and attempt to not mind too terribly much, because of course nobody would be trying to leave her out on purpose.
Well, she thinks to herself, a little meanly, when she first runs into Dameron at the door to the infirmary, Finn and I have more ‘remember when we’, Mr Dashing Starfighter Pilot. So ha.
It’s childish and ridiculous, that urge to say but he’s my friend, but at least it’s only in her head. Nobody has to know. To Dameron’s face she just smiles and says, “hello, I don’t think we’ve met.”
(It’s such a stupid thing to say, because of course she knows who he is. How could she not, with Finn constantly saying things like oh yeah, Poe gave me this jacket and I wish you could’ve met Poe, he was just – he was the best, Rey, you would have really liked him and you know, Poe really changed my whole life. And that’s not even taking into consideration BB-8 in her other ear, chirping constantly about good kind master, my master, must find master, BB-8 misses so much.
Living with a ghost was hard, seeing the sheen in Finn’s eyes when he talked so fondly about a fallen friend, but just because Rey is glad Dameron’s alive doesn’t mean she’s really ready to be confronted with the sight of him right in front of her. He’s barely taller than her but somehow he’s this enormous warm presence, and surprisingly, shockingly handsome, and it’s all very disconcerting.)
But Dameron – all he does is incline his head, like he’s shy about something, or maybe it’s in a strange kind of deference.
“Oh, it’s Poe, Poe Dameron,” he says. His hand is still hovering in midair, reaching out for the door button, same as hers. They’re a breath from meeting.
“Well, hello,” Rey says. “I’m –“
“I know who you are,” Dameron says. He says it like everyone knows. His whole expression is kind, the way she imagines he would look at things he’s fond of. Rey’s gaze slides away from his as if it’s been melted, landing awkwardly on his feet. “It’s nice to meet you at last.”
Rey lifts her eyes just enough to see how he lowers his hand from the door button. He does it slowly, as if it’s painful, and flexes his empty fist once around open air.
“After you,” he says then, using the same hand to gesture her ahead of him. When Rey says thank you, so taken aback it’s almost under her breath, she means it.
You get to know someone, sitting together beside an infirmary bed whose occupant just lies there like a peacefully sleeping baby. It’s unavoidable. Between the beeps and whirs of the complicated infrastructure keeping Finn alive until he comes back to them, Rey learns where Poe was born, what food he likes best, how he met BB-8.
In return she tells him what it was like on Jakku. She feeds him a sanitized version, skipping over the worst parts. She doesn’t want him, or anyone, to pity her, but from the look on his face she thinks the things she doesn’t say bleed through anyway. How she fought tooth and nail for everything she had. How she watched other scavenger kids die, how she hadn’t enough food to share to save them all. How she spent nights staring up at the sky and wishing, wishing.
He doesn’t look pitying. He looks… it’s complicated. He looks guilty about something, and also admiring. It gives the feeling of his eyes on her a certain weight, a not unpleasant one.
He brings along books, sometimes, and once he figures out that Rey’s reading is rudimentary at best he reads aloud to her. He never does it unless she asks, and he never makes her feel stupid. When it’s something thick and complicated with a staid black cover Rey leaves him to it. Instead she passes the time alternately sketching plans for great imaginary machines and making a soft little BB-8 doll. When it’s finished Poe exclaims so much over it that she gives it to him, feeling color in her cheeks at how pleased he is over something so simple.
It’s been some time since she had that traitorous thought of but Finn’s my friend.
The universe changes for the better on one peaceful but otherwise unremarkable sunny afternoon, when Rey is just walking along with Pava, heading to the mess hall and talking about nothing.
“Rey,” Poe says, running up and grasping her by the shoulders, heedless of Pava’s startled expression. His body is all chaotic noise, vibrating with something. Both of his pinky fingers connect carelessly with Rey’s bare skin and it sends skitters right through her body, ending, improbably, right up at her scalp. She has never noticed before how deliberately he usually avoids touching her. “The infirmary sent a messenger; he’s awake! Come on, we have to go!”
Rey gasps a huge breath like she’s been drowning, like she didn’t even know until this second how much the current was pulling her under, and runs.
After he gets out of the infirmary, Finn seems to want to just resume things from where they left off. The little questions about a boyfriend, or a girlfriend, come more often. They’re always gentle. Finn asks her like he’s leaving himself a back door, leaving a space for her to say no like he just knows she will, because under all the jokes Finn is just a scared kid who has never been wanted in his life, not by anyone.
Rey closes the back door. She nails it shut, bars it. He doesn’t need one with her, he never will.
She doesn’t even need to get up on her toes to press a kiss to his mouth. It’s perfect.
When Rey first met Poe she had a huge, secret hurt over the fact that when it comes to Finn, Poe got there first. Even at the time she’d known it was ridiculous, such a small and selfish concern to have in the midst of a war, and now, well, she feels like she knows it ten times over. Finn can have more than one friend, and so can Rey, for that matter.
And anyway, somehow their friendship is stronger for having three people in it. There’s always someone around to eat with, or to train with, or talk shop. When Poe’s away flying, Rey and Finn can sit around and wait for him to come back. They make a tent out of the bunk sheets and play the kinds of silly old-fashioned games that are old news to everyone else on base, but so unfamiliar and interesting to the two of them. When Finn is, naturally, chosen to go on a reconnaissance mission against the First Order, Rey and Poe spend the night outside under the stars. They get BB-8 to show them projections of constellations, so they can then squint and try to find them in the sky up above them.
So it was a stupid emotion to have, but at least having had it means that she can recognize it in someone else. Sometimes, when he thinks neither of them are looking, Poe gets that terrible look of if only I’d got there first over Rey and Finn. Just when she has a careless hand wrapped around Finn’s wrist, or when Finn bounds up to her and takes her face in both of his hands, and presses a kiss to her forehead. Those little moments that mark the two of them out as standing apart from Poe, however slightly.
It makes him look like he’s just bitten into an apple and found it slightly tart. Like a hundred small disappointments, the kind you feel petty for even noticing.
Rey tucks it up into a box to think about later. Annoyingly though, every time she’s alone and she takes it out and examines it, breaking it down to its composite parts and trying to fit them back together anew, she winds up admitting defeat. She won’t break up with Finn, because even if sometimes when Poe’s reading to her she wishes it would be okay for her to rest her head in his lap, even if any time he forgets himself and touches her it leaves the limb feeling branded for days, she loves Finn and would never, ever make him feel unwanted again.
And even if she did break up with Finn, what would happen then? Would she be able to just give him to Poe? It’s a disgusting thought; Finn’s a person, not a thing. People don’t work like that. And even if she could, even if it was that simple, she’s not selfless enough that seeing Poe be happy would be all the happiness she needed. She would be lonely, living on the outside.
More than that, she has no way of even knowing which of the two of them it is that Poe wants. She imagines it’s Finn, always walking around in Poe’s clothes with his big smile, but at the same time… Sometimes Poe will take Rey for a walk out by the small orchard where the base’s farmers are growing fruit, and he’ll pluck her something sweet and ripe, and it makes her feel like they’re the only two people in the galaxy. And she wonders.
It’s another couple of weeks before Rey realizes that not only is Poe looking, but Finn is looking back.
He’s furtive about it; he never lingers long. There’s a horrible wistfulness to it that Rey can’t bear, the idea that Finn’s mind wanders in Poe’s direction, and then he shakes himself and looks back at Rey and thinks I made my choice. Rey knows Finn loves her, has never doubted that for a second, but lately she’s beginning to question the idea of having to choose someone to love above all others.
She’s beginning to doubt that there needs to be a first and only. The idea that there needs be a most.
It’s only once that idea crashes into her mind, loudly knocking everything askew, that Rey realises how short-sighted she’s been. She has spent so much time waiting for even one person – just one person – to come home to her. Why wouldn’t she want two? Why shouldn’t she have two, if they’re willing? In fact, it’s a better basis for a home. A thing with three legs is more stable than two; she’ll make them see that.
The idea brings its own problems, of course. Rey was a one for so long that it’s been hard to get used to being a two with Finn. But at least for that she has seen models that she could learn from, even living and scavenging in the wastes of Jakku. There were some raggedy families headed up by parents; one or two young couples who shared their food and took turns sheltering each other from the sun. There was only ever Rey, but she used to think about what it would be like, to be a two. To have someone else who loved her the most, who loved her more than anything. Someone who stayed.
She has no frame of reference for this, for threeness, but she knows she wants it. Imagine having two someones to love you most, and to love most in return. Two people to build a home with. Three legs, a stronger foundation.
Never mind that she’s never seen it done before. She’ll have to make it up as she goes; at least she’s good at that.
What she isn’t good at is being subtle. She can’t bring herself to ask advice from anyone, so she has to make her best guess.
She starts taking Poe’s hand as often as she takes Finn’s, cheerfully ignoring the way Poe almost flinches at her touch, casting worried glances at Finn. She puts Poe in between herself and Finn when they sit together so he has both their complete attention. She takes the two of them on dates, cadging the best pieces from the base’s kitchen and braving cook’s broom so they have the nicest picnics, and then walking off and leaving Finn and Poe chatting on the orchard’s grass so they have some time alone.
Actually, the weirdest thing about it all is that really, her attempts at wooing Poe with Finn as unwitting accessory result in a bunch of cozy afternoons and evenings that are pretty much… Almost exactly the same as usual.
Eventually though, at least one of them smells a rat. It might be the time they all get drunk, and Rey lies that there’s a Jakku tradition that the person who takes the last swallow of wine kisses the person sitting next to them (and then gives both Poe and Finn a very significant if unfocused Look) that rumbles her.
Either way, they confront her. Very gently. Although they’re confused, not upset or angry, at first she has the impulse to act like a guilty child caught smuggling treats. But then she thinks to herself that she has a choice, and she wants to make the right one. So she raises her chin and explains about how the first at anything doesn’t necessarily need to be the last, and how two isn’t the only number, or even the best.
The look on their faces… It’s like a light coming on in a dark room.
Here is what Rey has learned: love is the strangest thing. Rey would say she loves her family, but she doesn’t even remember them. It’s always been more like loving a possibility, an idea. It’s loving the comforting feeling she has always got when she thinks of how life could be with them, coming home every night safe and loved, sitting around a table where there’s always plenty to eat. It’s always been the idea of herself as Rey: Daughter, something that would be easy because she would have been born to it. Not like cutting her hands open over and over on engine parts, learning painfully how they fit together to make everything turn. Loving her family, the idea of them, it’s always been self-defense. It’s been keeping her warm at night. She has had nothing else.
The boys, though, they’re more than that. They’re not ideas, they’re living, breathing flesh, imperfect and wonderful. Finn, big-hearted and goofy and impetuous, all bluster covering up the space inside him, that unknown precipice. Poe, brilliant and loyal and gentle, who keeps the BB-8 doll Rey made him on the control panel of his fighter. She loves them so much. She’ll do anything – fight anyone, defeat anyone, suffer anything she has to – to keep them safe.
When everything is over, Rey wants to go somewhere green. She wants to build a home and stay there, and catch fish to eat, and always have a fire burning, and have the people she loves sitting around it. She’s seen what it’s like to be apart, she’s seen that pain in General Organa’s big brown eyes, so she won’t spend a day away from them more than she has to.
One night in that late space just before sleep, when she’s lying between them in the bunk that’s too narrow for all three of them but which they make work, she says this out loud. I want to be somewhere, and I want it to be with you.
Her hands, laid out on either side of her hips like she’s floating on her back in water, are close enough to each of theirs that she can feel the heat radiating from them. She doesn’t reach out and hold because it would be too pointed an underscore, because she doesn’t need to do that for them to understand. Rey doesn’t have to turn her head to see that Poe is smiling. She doesn’t need to open her eyes to see the way that Finn lets himself settle back into the bed a little, his muscles relaxing, his body opening itself, letting itself be vulnerable. Finally home safe.