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Explain it to me

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Poe has other friends, he swears. He just always ends up with Finn and Rey somehow. They need watching, that’s why. They’re kids. Children. They’re always asking him dumb questions about who’s who and how things work on the base and what are the top ten most dangerous things he’s done and where are his five favorite places to fly and so on. They’re excited about everything and they’re always laughing.

And smiling.

And touching each other.

Poe tries very hard not to watch when they do that. They’re two young people who’ve had very hard lives. They deserve peace, prosperity, happiness, and everything good, but what they can get right now is physical affection. It will never be enough to make up for what they’ve lost—and to see them go at each other, it looks like it will never be enough, period.

It started with Finn holding Rey’s hand after she came back. He’d been awake for a few weeks by then, and he’d had some time to explore the base during his recovery, so he would lead her around. She complained about it, without fail, every time. “I don’t need you to pull my hand like I’m a child, I can see where we’re going,” she’d say. “Let go of me.”

But she never let go of him. She still complains every time Finn picks up her hand, but she beams at him while she does it. A few days ago, Poe saw her grab Finn’s hand, maybe for the first time ever. Finn looked ready to melt.

He’s so damn earnest about everything. He looks at Rey like the air she breathes is sacred. It kills Poe.

They kiss in front of him, too, even though he always pretends to be very interested in the sky or the floor or literally anything but their lips. They’re not doing it to torment him. They’re just excitable. They’re kids and it’s new to them. If he were farther removed from the situation, Poe might find it endearing or amusing to watch the two of them discover sex. Their antics have even roused a smile or two from the commander, heartbroken and hardworking as she is. But as it is, every move Poe makes feels like the wrong one. They’re young and beautiful and it’s too easy to think about either of them, or preferably both of them, in his empty bed. Ignoring them never works, but it’s the best he can do. He once teased them about inappropriate displays of affection and has regretted it ever since—the gutted look Finn gave him still haunts him. But he didn’t really want them to stop, of course. He wants them to be happy. Someone should be happy.

Even when they’re not kissing, they’re all over each other. It makes sense. They’ve been starving for love their whole lives. They sit without an inch of space between them. They steal each other’s food. Poe once found Rey trying to teach Finn to style her hair, which he took very seriously and which had disastrous results regardless.

“There’s so much of it,” Finn had marveled, with the loose silk of her hair filling his hands and running through his fingers like water. Poe had to agree. He had never seen Rey’s hair down before. “Poe, you can do this, right?” He had lifted a hand as if to offer some of Rey’s hair to Poe.

“Why would I know how to do that?”

“I don’t know. You know about everything else. It can’t be harder than piloting an X-Wing, right?”

“It’s not hard at all!” Rey had said, laughing. And Poe had found himself sitting behind her, right next to Finn, despite his better instincts. Her hair was very soft. He kept bumping his hand against Finn’s by accident. They never made any progress toward putting her hair back in its usual style. Poe was useless, all his thoughts consumed by how close the two of them were and how he shouldn’t ever have agreed to this. Finn was gleefully incompetent, more interested in stroking his hands through Rey’s hair and dropping kisses on her shoulders than in finishing the task. When Rey had finally lifted her hair out of their hands, it had taken her only minutes to arrange it. Finn had traced her work—her hair, the back of her neck—with just the tips of his fingers, touching her with such wonder.

Distressed and inarticulate, Poe had excused himself.

The two of them are diligent, reliable workers, he knows. They’re helpful on the base and the Resistance needs both of them. Finn is an incredible shot, a fount of information about the First Order, and a fast learner. Rey trains tirelessly to become a more skilled Force-user. They’re not children, not really. They’ve fought. They’ve lost.

That doesn’t stop him from feeling like a dirty old man when they kiss in front of him. But he’s an adult and he’s in control of himself and eventually he’ll get sent on a mission somewhere far away and he won’t have to think about this any more.

“It’s so clear tonight, you can see the whole system,” Rey says. “Come look.”

She and Finn are already holding hands, and they’re staring at him expectantly. Sort of like puppies, except that’s not quite right, because in this case, he’s the stray who’s tagging along behind them. Poe wonders if he needs to explain to the two of them, beautiful resilient survivors of isolated and deprived childhoods that they are, that going outside to look at the stars with the person you love is romantic, and it’s weird to invite your single older friend to come with you, especially if the two of you are planning to cuddle and kiss, because that makes the aforementioned single older friend kind of uncomfortable, for reasons he’d prefer not to say.

Poe suddenly feels very tired. “I shouldn’t,” he says. He doesn’t want to explain any more than that. They’re just being friendly and enthusiastic as usual. If he says anything, he’ll be the one who makes it weird.

“Why not?” Finn says. “Whatever you have to do, it can wait. Come with us.”

It’s chilly outside after nightfall. Rey insists that they walk a long way from the base to get the best view, away from the ambient light. The only good thing about the desolation of Jakku, according to her, was the pure, undimmed clarity of the sky. Their breath clouds the air as they leave the base.

“You can have my jacket, if you want it,” Finn says with a smile. He grips the lapel of Poe’s jacket, offering it back to him, but Poe shakes his head.

They hike up to a ridge without talking much. Finn and Rey hold hands or bump shoulders or chase after each other the whole time, and Poe tries to let it happen without thinking about it too much. They bump into him sometimes, either by accident or as some kind of invitation to join the game, but he ignores it.

The base looks tiny from up on the ridge. Everything looks tiny compared to the vastness of the sky. Poe has navigated the stars his whole life, and it still amazes him. It’s beautiful and incomprehensible. He lies down on his back to get a better view.

To his surprise, Finn and Rey lie down on opposite sides of his body, rather than together. They don’t touch him at first, but hardly any time passes before both of them are pressed snuggly to his sides. The warmth is surprising, but that doesn’t explain the way his heart stutters.

“We can do this, right?” Rey stage-whispers to Finn over his chest.

“I don’t know, I think we’d better ask Poe,” Finn says.

He closes his eyes for a second. “Have you two been trying to arrange this for weeks,” he says, flatly. In retrospect, it seems entirely possible. They weren’t even being especially creative about it. Come look at the stars is just about the oldest line in the book. Not that either of these orphans could be expected to know that. It occurs to Poe that he might feel very foolish in a second or two.

“No,” Rey says. “Months. Or years, possibly. It feels like years.”

“Decades,” Finn says. “Centuries. Millennia? That’s a long, long time, right? You would know, wouldn’t you, Poe?”

“Is that a joke about my age.”

“Never,” Finn promises.

“You two do know this isn’t the way people usually do things,” Poe says. “Among humans, at least. People usually, you know, pair off.”

Finn says “really?” in a way that might be sarcasm but might be genuine interest—Poe has lost all ability to tell who’s leading who here—at the same time that Rey says, “Yes, but I don’t see why that matters. We don’t do anything else the usual way.”

Then Finn says, “You never said if it was okay or not.”

“Yes,” Poe says. “It is. Okay, I mean.”

“All of it?” Rey says, never one to miss a detail. “Touching, cuddling, kissing—?”

“Yes—well,” Poe stares up at the dizzying variety of stars, and inhales. “Maybe we could take it slow. On account of how ancient I am, and how deeply inexperienced.”

“Don’t worry,” Finn says. Carefully, tentatively, he kisses Poe on the cheek. Poe is keenly aware of Rey watching. “We’ve taught ourselves a lot, and we can explain it to you.”

“It isn’t any harder than piloting an X-Wing,” Rey says. She kisses Finn right in front of him, and for the first time, he watches without looking away.