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“The First Order is scattered,” Poe tells him one morning after turning around the chair in his med-room and sitting on it backwards, head resting on his arms. “After we destroyed Starkiller base, they all seem to have vanished into the Outer Rim.”

Finn isn’t allowed to move on his own yet: he’s trapped in a hospital gown that feels as thin as paper, and on the good days he’s allowed to push up the recliner on his bed so that he can lie at a forty degree angle. On the bad days, he dreams of Rey and a burning like ice. Sometimes, he swears he can hear tiny plates shifting along his spine.

“We’re spread thin,” Poe continues, “but we’re trying our best. Really, we’re just as crippled as they are. The New Republic was almost completely annihilated.” At this, he swallows harshly, and Finn has to look away, because then all he can see is the sky turning scarlet. He doesn’t need the Force to sense the magnitude of what happened. “Also, there’s Phasma.”

“We left her in the trash,” Finn tells him.

“Where she belongs, I’ve heard.”

Finn has to laugh at that, even though it makes his spine jerk uncomfortably. Poe seems to brighten, and his grip on the chair tightens until his knuckles are white.

“We’ve got intel that she’s still alive. Apparently trying to recruit sponsors to help them rebuild,” Poe continues, “but I can’t verify how true that is.”

“That’s not exactly what she does,” Finn says. Phasma was the very shiny shadow to Kylo Ren, a tall, faceless figure who inspired perfection in her troops and fear in the enemies of the First Order. She was the least charismatic person Finn had ever met, and he’d spent time with Kylo Ren and Hux. Okay, maybe she was tied with Hux.

“We know, that’s why we thought it was weird.”

“As weird as surviving an exploding planet in a trash compactor?” Finn asks.

“I’ve heard weirder,” Poe says, smiling again. It’s not the same smile as their reunion at the base, and it’s not the same smile as when Finn woke up. It looks hollower, and more drawn. Poe clears his throat. “But there’s good news! We heard back from your friend, finally.”

Suddenly, the idea of potentially never walking again is the only thing keeping him from jumping to his feet, because Rey is another subject that everyone seems to be dancing around.

“Rey?”

“Yeah. They tracked Luke Skywalker to some Outer Rim planet. They’ve made contact.”

Finn feels his whole body tense, and has to physically force himself to relax. There’s a cool hand stroking the crease of his elbow, and the feeling is so alien that he feels goosebumps rise on his flesh. Poe is staring at him, his expression soft.

“Sorry,” he says, “I wasn’t supposed to tell you. The med-droid thought you might freak out a bit.”

Finn breathes deep. Sometimes, if he concentrates hard enough, he can smell and feel her again; the biting taste of the sand, and the way the folds of her clothes moved in the breeze. She stands out in his mind amongst the militant uniforms of the Stormtroopers, and the commanding officers, and even the pilots of the Resistance. And at the moment, the hole where she should be is even more obvious.

“I’m fine,” Finn says, even though he really isn’t. “I’m good, all fine. She good?”

“Yeah, she’s good.” Poe, as if twitching for something to do, moves and refills the almost full glass sitting on the bedside table. Squinting, Finn notices for the first time that his hands are shaking, and that the bones of his fingers are prominent beneath his olive flesh. “She piloted the Millenium Falcon.”

“I was there the last time she did that,” Finn tells him. But thinking about it reminds him of the weightlessness of falling through the sky above the desert before the gun locked into place, and makes the new additions to his spine suddenly feel that much heavier. And it isn’t really fair to Poe, but then he rolls over and says, “I’d like to be alone, please.” Because the First Order might have discouraged it, but he’s starting to learn that he’s allowed to want things.

 

Poe leaves for about two weeks, and Finn’s told later that they’re trying to run reconnaissance through what’s left of the Republic system. Weirdly, while Poe is gone BB-8 remains, and tends to spend hours just staring at Finn from the foot of the bed, along with some ongoing commentary in the weird beeping dialect that Finn has no hope of understanding.

He knows that both Poe and Rey have learnt droidspeak, Poe from necessity and Rey from her general level of achievement in seemingly everything, but the First Order was anti-anything not human and also anti-Stormtroopers knowing too much, so while he can watch other people talking in different dialects or comprehending beeps and squeals into sentences, the entire thing just sounds like a cacophony of chaos and random noises. It’s a shame, he thinks, and he mentions it once to an orderly, and not even two days later a long-legged pilot with thick braided hair walks into his hospital room, a holo tucked under one arm. Over the past couple of weeks, he’s become used to people entering his room at random times and either giving him things or commenting on his recovery, so he just takes what’s handed to him.

He doesn’t know what he’s been given to help with the pain, but he knows that it’s stopping him from caring about things. It’s a weird feeling.

“This is for you,” she says with a dismissive grace. “Poe mentioned that you can’t understand BB, and if you’re hanging around here that’s only going to get worse.”

From out of his line of sight, he hears an agreeing whir. Then she eyes him carefully, looking nothing like the bug eyed Maz Kanata, but carrying that same feeling of making him feel flayed open. What was it Solo said? Women always figure out the truth. He isn’t sure what truth she’s figuring out, but he knows he doesn’t like it.

“What?” Finn asks finally. She smirks.

“You saved Poe Dameron’s life?” She says which, yeah, she’s definitely a pilot, but the idea of Poe sending people to check up on him causes a weird sensation in his stomach.  He isn’t sure if it’s good or bad.

“Yeah, I… he kinda saved mine too,” he tells her, if crashing into the desert is the definition of “saving” for either of them. She waves one hand airily.

“Anyone who can keep him out of trouble is fine with me,” she says. Poe hasn’t really mentioned anyone else on base, saying that he doesn’t want to overwhelm Finn too quickly. Well joke’s on him, because Finn is already plenty overwhelmed without the sudden addition of Poe’s weird and sort of protective pilot friends.

“Who–?” He starts, but she’s already sauntered out of the room.

Looking down, the holo is called “Talking Droidspeak with Your Droid-Friends! The Dots and Dashes of Binary!” and the opening paragraph starts with “If your aspirations include translating the quiet screaming of an AI trapped within a metallic carcass into words used in everyday conversation, then THIS is the BOOK for YOU!” Finn isn’t quite adept enough with sarcasm or humour to identify whether or not this is a real gift, or a joke that’ll translate BB-8 into a variety of catchphrases or obscure swearwords.

[Beep beep whirr beep,] BB-8 says, which the text says translates to: [Cabbage.]

 

Physical therapy is something only granted to humans, and this is the first time in Finn’s life that he’s been considered an individual instead of one part of a complete whole.

His spine is stitched with metal thread and tiny circuits that make sure he can still move his toes when the med-droid tests his reactions, and that he hasn’t been permanently disabled from the waist down. If he strains himself, he’s told, he probably won’t ever walk again. And yeah, that’s still the only thing keeping him from going after Rey.

That, and learning BB-8 Talk has now somehow inspired some new level of weird possessiveness that Finn didn’t even know was possible in a droid.

[Something Friend-Poe thinks something something,] says BB-8.

“Say it slower, man.”

BB-8 complies, and sounds out the series of beeps again as though it were talking to a child. Finn flicks idly through the holo. There’s a number of diagrams indicating a droid’s mood depending on what pitch or limited body movement they perform, but at the moment BB-8 has managed to coerce a nurse into allowing it up onto the bed, where it rolls minutely back and forth between Finn’s ankles.

“You keep doing that you’re gonna fall off,” Finn tells it.

[Worry beep Friend-Finn,] BB-8 says.

That’s another thing: to BB-8 he’s Friend-Finn. He knows that Poe is Friend-Poe and Rey is Friend-Rey, but for some reason his title gives him an absurd level of content. When he tried to articulate that, BB-8 had just said:

[Standard operating procedure. Once mutual trust is established, prior titles are no longer relevant and are thus replaced.]

“I had other titles?” Finn had asked, curious, at which point BB-8 hadn't replied, and just looked shiftily at the bedclothes. Or at least, as shifty as a droid is capable of looking.

BB-8 repeats the sentence for the third time, which Finn can now sound out to: [You are injured, and so Friend-Poe thinks you should stay here.]

“I am staying here. That’s part of the problem.”

[Find worth,] BB-8 insists. This is what happens when conversations last too long: the droid starts cutting down on unnecessary words, making the sentences as short as possible for convenience’s sake. All the same, “worth” isn’t a word they’ve covered yet, so he has to roll back and forth through the holo. It’s a major pain in the ass, but he’s heard that it’s still easier than speaking Wookie.

“Worth how?”

[Person. Unique. Friend-Finn. Designation: First Order Assholes, discourage.]

Finn laughs, because the title for the First Order has been one of the highlights of his stay in the med-bay. It’s so much like Poe that every time it comes up, Finn can imagine him talking to BB-8, going through all the enemies of the Resistance and giving them appropriate and insulting nicknames.

“I am a person, BB-8. I know that.”

BB-8 jabs him with the deactivated prod, startling him. [Haven’t accepted,] it says, [F-I-N-N, not F-N.]

Finn sighs, and then points to the growing pile of knickknacks on his end table. He’s had a handful of conversations with the orderly for his ward, and each one has ended with her trying to pry the stack from his room and probably toss it into the trash. And Finn can’t really fault her, because most of it is garbage. His jacket, the only thing he owns of any worth, now with a new strip of colour along the back to replace the jagged burns caused by the lightsaber, hangs over the back of the chair, but there’s a growing collection of toothpicks and soap packets, and a single tube of coloured gum, and a few dried flowers. There’s no real rhyme or reason to what he collects and keeps, it’s more a mindgame he’s entered with the orderly, waiting how long it takes for her to snap and finally start acting like he knows she’s going to: she’s going to take his treasures, and get him out of bed, and back to work. He’s hoping she won’t take the jacket, though, because it used to belong to Poe before it belonged to him, and he thinks that she will respect the possessions of person even if she’ll never trust a Stormtrooper.

“I’m getting there,” he says.

 

Poe returns looking exhausted and filthy. His hair’s grown, and he’s got a few days’ worth of stubble, but he smiles when BB-8 greets him, and beams when Finn asks how the mission was.

“Terrible,” he says, “Not as bad as that time on Dantooine with the lost Hutt sibling, but it’s definitely a close second. Top ten, surely.”

And then he sees the title of Finn’s holo, and BB-8 says something too quickly to be researched that it doesn’t repeat, and Poe snorts.

[Bad student,] says BB-8.

Finn flicks its side, and it whirs threateningly with the prod.

“I’m so glad everything here is as calm as when I left,” Poe comments, looking skyward in exasperation, but still smiling. “It really makes this whole experience worthwhile.” And then he looks at Finn. “Have you heard from Rey again?”

“No,” Finn says. The last message was broken, addressed as much to General Organa as it was to him, with Rey only managing to sneak in a smile and half a dozen words before the connection shuts off. It turns out that the oldest temple in the galaxy doesn’t have the best comm reception. He misses her like a lost limb, and his life outside the First Order has been short enough that he doesn’t have a lot to base relationships on. So far, all the ones in his life have started or at least spent a majority of time with the other person either dead or captured by a psychotic and very stabby nutjob. “Nothing else.”

Poe bites his lip, and it reminds Finn of their reunion on the tarmac, in front of half the Resistance, only instead of elated he looks pensive.

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault.” It’s not even Rey’s fault either, because how often can you say you’ve met Luke Skywalker and he’s agreed to train you? “It’s kinda what I expected.”

There’s a pause, and Poe fiddles with one of the plastic figurines that he’d added to his pile, before:

“When do you get released?” Poe asks.

“Next week.” Finn says.

He’s been trying very hard not to think about it, in between not thinking about how he can’t go after Rey and how there’s now a permanent reminder of how useless he is burned into the flesh of his back. He isn’t entirely sure exactly what the Resistance plans to do with him, because it’s one thing to help on one mission, it’s quite another to be allowed to stay permanently. He figures the medical was in thanks for rescuing Poe, but seeing as how Poe almost died anyway, he figures that favour must have been paid twice over, and they’ve just been too kind to throw him out on his ass.

The First Order probably would have shot him, and then thrown him out on his ass, by now, so he’s thankful for that, at least.

And even though he knows Poe is just hanging around out of some twisted sense of duty, he relishes every moment, until Poe realises he can do better, and that Finn is pretty much a soldier with no war to fight.

[Friend-Finn beep sleep beep beep food,] says BB-8. Finn looks at Poe.

“He says he can’t wait for you to eat something that isn’t hospital food and sleep in a bed that’s not connected to an IV,” Poe says.

“Thanks,” Finn tells BB-8, ignoring Poe’s grin. There’s a series of encouraging beeps, before the droid disappears under the bed. “I was… I was wondering about what’s going to happen to me after I get out?”

Poe frowns. “What’s going to happen to you?”

Finn holds the blankets in a tight grip. “Will I be… will I be kept on the base? Or am I…. am I still needed? We destroyed Starkiller.”

Poe looks vaguely disgusted, and Finn’s heart sinks. He’s done it now. But Poe leans forward, and gently grasps his shoulders.

“Finn,” he says, “you can stay here as long as you want, or you can leave when you want. We’re not going to keep you here as a prisoner, or force you out. Our gratitude to you doesn’t end because we blew up the First Order’s sun-eating terror planet.”

“You’re sure I… right.”

“What am I sure of?”

“I don’t have anything to fight for,” Finn says, “the First Order… they’re all I’ve ever known. I can’t promise my usefulness, or that I won’t end up running.”

“Being a person means having the choice to run or stay,” Poe says firmly, “and I’m not going to make those decisions for you. You have the right to your own autonomy.”

The concept of autonomy is about as foreign as everything else that’s been happening lately, but he doesn’t really want to ruin the moment any more than he has, so he leans back, and lets Poe chatter about his mission, and why his squadron never seems to accept his authority.

 

Finn isn’t entirely sure how this happens when, a week later, he’s sitting on his assigned bunk, a comm held firmly in one hand, looking at Rey’s transparent face in his and Poe’s shared room.

It’s apparently not usually how things are done, but Rey is nothing if not insistent, and he’d been granted permission to talk to her in private, while the General and her cabinet talk to the newly found Luke Skywalker in the meeting room. Rey looks about the same, though she’s cleaner and her hair is a little neater, and her clothes are different but in the same grey. She looks lighter, only becoming more happy when she catches sight of Finn, and grins huge and wide. Finn finds himself smiling back.

“I was so worried,” she says, sounding relieved, eyes taking in his face, “they said that you had a steady heartbeat, but-”

“I’m all good,” Finn tells her, “cleared for duty and everything, and calling you from this tiny, tiny room.”

Rey makes a show of looking around, inspecting it curiously.

“The temple is huge,” she says, “and green. And water! Even more than at Maz Kanata’s. It surrounds the land, and it’s deep, and sometimes the mist covers everything so I can’t see the distance.” She looks giddy. “Imagine! I can’t even see land!”

“How’s Skywalker treating you?” Finn asks.

She shrugs, biting her lip. “Fine,” she says, “he’s just not… he didn’t want to teach me. He told us to leave, originally.”

“Rude.”

She laughs. “Yeah, I seemed to think so, but I think I’ve grown on him.”

“I say if you can make the Wookie love you you can do anything,” Finn says. She makes a gesture of shoving him, which feels very disappointing, and only serves to show how far away from each other they are.

“And you?”

“And me what?” Finn asks.

“I can see you’re in your tiny, tiny room,” she says, “but how is it? The First Order was…”

“Well, I share a room with less people,” he says, “which is nice. There’s food, and I get to use the fresher on my own.”

“You’re still sharing?” She asks.

“Yeah, with Poe.”

“Dameron? Your pilot friend? BB-8’s master?”

“Yeah,” Finn says. “You met him?”

“Briefly,” Rey says, and then looks smug, “at your side in the med-bay, actually.”

Finn isn’t sure what he suddenly feels uncomfortable, but it has at least something to do with the exaggerated and slightly comical wink Rey throws him.

“What’s that for?”

Nothing,” she says, in a way that definitely implies something. “How’d that happen, exactly?”

Finn thinks that they were afraid of him running off, but he doesn’t say that. “They’ve taken in a lot of refugees,” he says instead, “and I think my doctor was afraid I’d stress out my back, and said I needed someone to keep an eye on me.”

Rey nods. “And BB-8? How’s he?”

[Greetings,] comes a familiar chirp from the doorway, as the door slides open and BB-8 rolls into view. [Friend-Rey, greetings!]

Finn mock glares at it. “Excuse me,” he says, “but this is a private conversation.”

[Not anymore,] BB-8 tells him, beeping until Finn picks it up and deposits it on the bed. [Friend-Finn is learning droidspeak.]

“Finn’s learning binary?” Rey says, looking between the two of them and smiling. “Didn’t want to be out of the loop?”

“I didn’t like not knowing what our favourite space ball was saying about me to my face,” Finn tells her seriously, and BB-8 nudges his side.

[BB-8 is always kind to Friend-Finn,] it insists. [Good teacher.]

“Debatable,” Finn says. BB-8 turns back to Rey.

[Friend-Poe beep Friend-Finn spends beep beep beep hospital beep] BB-8 says.

“Really?” Rey says, “is that right?”

[Correct,] says BB-8, sounding pleased.

“Does anyone want to fill me in?” Finn asks. He thinks he left the holo in the pocket of the jacket, which is across the other side of the room. “I’m not so great at this, you know.”

Rey looks at him in a way that shouldn’t be possible via hologram, and also Finn really wishes people would stop looking at him like that.

“It’s nothing too important,” she assures him, “just… Finn, are you doing alright?”

“I thought we’d already gone over this?”

“Seriously,” she says, “because I’ve been having a hard enough time, so I can’t imagine what it’s like for you.”

He asked her to run with him, once, but her sense of loyalty had overpowered his selfish need to escape, and she’d remained behind. He doesn’t think anything has changed.

“I’m getting there,” he tells her. “It’s a learning process.”

“Tell Poe hi from me when you see him,” she says, “and thank you. And Finn,” she hesitates, “take care of yourself.”

 

“We still haven’t found any of their officers, but our reports are that Phasma’s been talking to people,” says a general.

They’re standing in a lose semi-circle in the meeting room, and it’s the first time Finn’s been in here since the Starkiller mission. There are more people out of uniform, and half a dozen well-dressed dignitaries that managed to survive the destruction of the Republic. General Organa looks whether, but her face is set and her shoulders are squared.

“So theoretically,” she says, “we’re looking at the First Order now potentially recruiting systems that were previously loyal to the Republic.”

There’s a series of low murmurs, and Poe frowns deeply.

“It would appear that way,” says Statura. “At the very best, we can assume that they’re intimidating our remaining allies into inaction, effectively leaving us crippled in terms of military strength.”

The General then turns to him, and Finn feels way too exposed.

“You worked with them,” she says, “is this standard behaviour?”

“I can’t say for sure, ma’am,” he replies after swallowing several times, “Phasma has never been about talking to people outside her battalion, but I’m guessing a large portion of the higher officers were killed with their base exploded.”

She nods, looking satisfied.

“Regardless,” she continues, “I want this situation monitored closely. We’ll send several small reconnaissance teams out to the Outer Rim planets they’re supposedly based on to gather more intel. We can’t afford to have them restabilise their hold on the galaxy, especially now that the New Republic no longer exists.” She takes a deep breath, and says to Poe: “I want Rapier and Stiletto squadrons deployed in groups of two… three at a maximum. This mission is solely monitoring, we are not going to engage with the First Order until we’ve gathered more information.”

“Ma’am,” Poe says, ducking his head.

“Finn,” she says, “I understand that you’re recovering, but I want you on this assignment.”

Finn is surprised, and opens his mouth to say that he really doesn’t know what they’re planning, but she waves him off.

“At the very least, you understand how they operate, and that’s truly an invaluable resource. Whatever intel we do collect we might need you to interpret, which will help if you’re there, on site.” She nods to Poe. “I’ll send you out with my best. It won’t take long, I promise.” And then she smiles, and her eyes seem to clear. “After all, after Starkiller this should be relatively painless.”

While Starkiller is easily the most physically painful experience Finn has ever experienced, the idea of leaving everything he’s ever known and then being sent right back to it is far more terrifying. But regardless, he nods, and Poe claps a heavy hand on his shoulder.

He feels his brain buzzing as they leave the meeting, and he walks on autopilot back to his room, and when he comes back to himself he’s sitting on his bunk, and Poe is looking at him, and BB-8 has wheedled itself between his calves and is staring up at him.

“Are you alright?” Poe asks, quietly.

“Yeah,” he says, trying to shape himself awake.

Poe sighs. “You see,” he says, “you keep saying that, but I don’t think you’re being entirely truthful with me.”

Finn stiffens, an innate response, because before he’s always had to be alright, be perfect, or else he’s reconditioned or worse. “I… I am, though.”

“If you don’t want to do this, I can talk to the General for you,” Poe offers, “you’re still healing, and this has gotta be the last thing you should be-“

“Poe.” He doesn’t mean to snap, but Poe pulls back, eyes wide. Finn’s shouted at Rey before, and Han, but he isn’t relying on either of them to let him stay on the base, and he might have just jeopardised everything because his head isn’t screwed on right. “Poe, I’m sorry.”

Poe violently shakes his head. “No, I’m sorry. I pushed, and I didn’t listen.” He sighs.

[Humans are emotionally incapable,] BB-8 comments from the floor, and the sentence is long enough that Finn has to take a minute to translate.

“Thanks,” he says to it. “Appreciated, really.”

[Friend-Finn is welcome,] and then it rolls under the bed.

Poe is looking at him again, eyes wide and unguarded, and Finn really doesn’t know how to handle this. “Really,” Finn assures him, “I’m fine.”

There’s a pause, before Poe reaches forward and puts a hand on his knee.

“If there’s a point where you feel uncomfortable during this mission,” he says, “or it’s too much, tell me alright?”

“Poe, if this mission is as important as Organa said, we can’t exactly afford to-“

“You went to Starkiller base for the sole purpose of getting Rey, right?” Poe interrupts, “because you’re compassionate, and you care about people.” He inspects him curiously. “Do you seriously think I wouldn’t do the same for you?”

“I didn’t rescue from the First Order because I felt for you,” Finn finds himself saying. Poe shrugs.

“I know you ran to the wreckage to find me, and I know you’d protect Rey with your life. Whatever you seem to think about yourself, that doesn’t exactly scream First Order asshole to me.”

That shouldn’t make him feel this happy, but it does.

“I can be an evil asshole too,” Finn assures him. Poe snorts.

“Sure, buddy. Whatever you say.”

 

Romance, or the idea of any relationship outside of one of respect between a superior officer and their troopers, is something else that was never discussed.

Finn had heard stories as he was growing up, about renegade soldiers who’d gotten too involved and paid the price for their arrogance, for deciding to be something more than they were supposed to be. He saw a public execution once, while he was in advanced medical training, and it’d been a single Stormtrooper, maskless, kneeling in front of Phasma, facing out over the garrison. The other, the partner, had been shot while the two of them were trying to escape.

It was never explicitly addressed what the two of them had been doing or what they had been planning on doing, but the intent was clear. Whatever they had transcended companionship and had overthrown their loyalty to the Order, and after that what other reason did they have to stay alive? Phasma had barked out a series of sharp offences and then pulled the trigger without flinching. Hux had given the closest thing to an emotional speech he could give, talking about how the Order bred peace and expected ranks clean of traitors.

“Filthy fakes,” 2187 had been told by Zero. “Traitors, both of them. How can you just turn on us like that?”

2187 had always found himself being too involved in things that were actively discouraged, and so the idea of that sort of relationship didn’t phase him, but what Zero said, about them betraying us, as a collective, stuck.

It came back later, in the ruins of Maz Kanata’s palace, when he used a weapon made of light to fight a friend.

Although Zero probably wouldn’t have called him a friend, and Finn understands those relationships now: what he has with Rey, and BB-8, and Han Solo before he’d died. What he has with Poe, although that’s slowly slipping from what he knows to the unknown. To what gets you shot in the back of the head by a blaster.

It’s a completely different experience flying with Poe this time around; he can see how Poe leans back to take in the sky, and unconsciously smiles as BB-8 gives a running commentary on the stars, and recites a poem like a child. There’s no adrenaline, just a glowing map that feels heavy, because Finn has run a long way from the Resistance, and he faced down Phasma before throwing her into the literal trash, but he still isn’t sure where he fits.

The planet they’re flying to is called Moraband, and Jess Pava, the pilot who’d seen them off, called it a big hunk of red nothing in the middle of nowhere. While they find information about it on record, it’s nothing beyond the standard size and length of the standard week, which is sixteen days. It orbits a dying sun in a dying system, and is completely abandoned.

“It’s been empty for millennia, apparently,” Poe says, as Finn browses their dossier. “I guess it could be strategic because of its seclusion? Maybe Phasma’s trying to fine dine these rich folks from the core planets.”

The image of Phasma in evening dress, with her armour and cape, is unintentionally hilarious, and Finn finds himself laughing. Poe smiles, and yeah, Finn’s decided he really likes that smile.

He just isn’t sure what that means yet.

Sex hadn’t been as taboo as a romantic relationship, and there were always backdoor trysts going on around base where people would pretend it wasn’t happening. Those involved would just be quietly switched out and separated into different squadrons. The differences between male and female were just as abstract: they were kept in different bays, sure, but on the field they operated as one. After all, Phasma was a female, and she never seemed to discriminate based on gender. As long as you were human and didn’t oppose them, it seemed, the First Order didn’t take issue.

Their trip is relatively short, and Finn spends his time alternating between sitting next to Poe and letting him point out all the different toggles and how they were different to a TIE fighter, and sitting in the back with BB-8, still reading through the manual.

They’ve mastered colours, and some more obscure concepts like time, and space, and the weather and the stars. Finn can recognise names, and distinguish the Resistance from the First Order from the New Republic. Some things are harder: the grammar of longer sentences gets a bit weird, so for the moment BB-8 mostly uses nouns and verbs. Adjectives get more difficult because BB-8, like his master, enjoys getting descriptive and unnecessarily comedic with various things. Like, the Millennium Falcon is not the Millennium Falcon or even The Ship, it’s Rubbish Ship with a subsection of Hollow Floor, Nothing to Hold, and Friend-Rey.

“You could afford to make this a little easier for me,” he says once.

[Difficulty breeds character,] BB-8 informs him, and then begins reciting the various parts of a hyperspace drive.

 

 

His first thought is that the planet is red.

Its surface seems very similar to Jakku, although instead of sunlight there’s just a strange, oppressive haze cast by the thick cloud cover across the horizon. Jagged peaks rise from the earth at erratic intervals, marking the landscape with peaks and valleys cast in intense shadow. There’s no sign of life, instead multiple small structures that are barely visible from the air, and are far too small to be an established base.

Everything seems slightly dim, in a way that reminds him of looking through the sockets of his Stormtrooper helmet, and Finn squints into the distance, but the ground remains empty and unassuming.

“Lovely,” Poe mutters to himself, flicking on the sensor. “And we’re preparing for landing, hang on.”

[Planet is beep,] says BB-8.

“Stable,” Poe says, without looking at Finn. “You got any idea about where she’d be hiding out?”

“I’ve never heard of this place as a base,” Finn says. “The First Order likes to position itself in areas of influence, or of strategic value. This place is in the middle of nowhere.”

“She couldn’t be training troops or new recruits?”

“We would’ve been shot down before we entered the atmosphere.” Finn’s memories of childhood are mostly being told over and again that no, he can’t keep going back for his unit in the middle of a mission. That was weakness, they’d said. “Training bases are always heavily fortified, and in the centre of a larger compound. They like to completely immerse their soldiers in the Order from birth.”

Poe turns, just far enough that Finn can make out the silhouette of his nose, and the curve of his jaw. “You’re not going back, Finn.”

“I know,” says Finn. They’d kill him first.

Like Finn had been expecting, the ground crumbles beneath his boot and shifts until his footprints are indistinguishable against the sand. The air is hot and dry, and almost stale in a way that spoke of abandonment and sticks the jacket to his back.

“No large force has been here for a long time,” Finn says. “There’re no marks, no established roads. You said we were on the equator?”

“Yeah,” Poe says, frowning at the sensor, he waves it around but seems dissatisfied. “Our intel must have been wrong. If Phasma was here, I can’t imagine why she’d be collecting sponsorships or finding new allies.”

“Maybe it’s a secret meeting place?” Finn suggests.

“Even secret meeting places always have some kind of defensive capability. Like Mustafar.”

“Mustafar?”

“A planet made entirely of lava and fire.” Poe says with a deliberate airiness. Then he points south. “Should we walk south towards one of the buildings we saw from the sky?”

“Scanners didn’t pick up anything,” Finn says, because this whole situation is starting to feel weird. The tragic excuse for the sun is still out, but the planet feels dark and thick, in a way that reminds him of Kylo Ren. “Maybe we should…”

“We should at least look,” Poe points out, kicking up dirt, as he begins to walk. Finn stands motionless, until BB-8 bumps into his leg.

[Well, Friend-Finn?] it asks.

“I’ll be better when we get out of here,” Finn says, but he walks anyway.

The first building they reach is not made of metal, but weathered stone, collapsed sideways in the way things do when they have existed far longer than they should have. There are symbols in a language Finn doesn’t recognise, and the air tastes rank and vile.

“Poe,” he says.

“I know,” Poe says, still inspecting the scanner. “But this isn’t right either. Have you seen anything like this?”

“No,” Finn says, shivering. “This isn’t First Order made.”

“If I had to take a guess, I’d say it probably isn’t human made either,” Poe affirms, taking several steps back. “But there’s some kind of interference for some reason, and I can’t…”

[Foot(prints???)] says BB-8 from behind them.

They both turn, and in the thicker sand, tough with dust and small stones, there are a series of distinguishable marks, leading further up the hill. Poe bends down to inspect them.

“These… these are recent,” he says, sounding confused, before looking around again. “But they clearly didn’t spend any time in this area.”

Finn squints up the hill, and is surprised to see the glint of something solid from the plateau.

“There’s something up there,” he says, pointing. Poe follows his finger upwards. “And it’s way too shiny to have been here long.”

“A base?” Poe asks, feeling for the blaster at his belt.

“I can’t tell from this distance,” Finn says. “We’ll need to get closer.”

“This mission is supposed to be reconnaissance,” Poe tells him, “but as long as we get away from this place…”

They move quickly up the slope, carefully making sure to fit their feet into the pre-existing footprints, to try and avoid detection for as long as possible.

When they finally reach the peak, it’s only a very small structure, like a much smaller version of the rudimentary training facilities Finn had spent a half dozen cycles in, mopping floors and shooting down targets. It also looks completely deserted.

Poe moves forward, drawing his blaster, until he and BB-8 are against the outside control panel as there is a beep, and the doors open with a smooth swish.

There are no shots, and no sounds of approaching enemies, so Finn takes a deep breath, and takes a cautious step into the base. The air is musty, but the lights whirr to life, revealing a plain corridor leading to a wider room. Poe looks at him and, for lack of a better response, he nods, and they keep walking.

The difference between this and the weird statues in the valley is jarring, and the interior of the base feels both sickeningly familiar and almost comforting. He can see that the sensors are switched off, and that the emergency protocols are still ready to be used on either side of the passageway, so by the time they’ve cleared the second door and made it into the control room, Finn can feel sweat beading on the back of his neck.

Something isn’t right.

“We should look through any of the remaining archives,” Poe says, “even though I can’t imagine that they would’ve left a whole lot behind.”

That’s standard protocol; wipe out all history of a contaminated base at all costs, but Finn fires up the computer system anyway, finding it as empty as everything else.

He tries to ignore the way his hands are trembling.

[Lack of life,] BB-8 says, from where it’s plugged into a socket. [No signs of life or activity.]

“That’s not a surprise,” Poe says. “But this place is still pretty recent, and I can’t imagine why they’d leave a place like this still stan – Finn?”

Then there’re fingers wrapping around his wrist, pulling him away from the keys.

“Finn? Are you alright?” Poe’s voice is gentle, something so foreign in a place like this, and that doesn’t help with the knots of tension in his back. Then there’s another hand rubbing at his shoulders as well, and he finds himself breathing into the touch. “Do you need to leave?”

He meets Poe’s eyes, and they’re a lot closer than he’d realised. If he wanted, he could count Poe’s eyelashes.

Is that weird? That seems weird.

“I… Poe, something’s-“

Then there’s a weird, beeping noise from behind them, and Poe pulls away.

“You said this base was totally abandoned?” Finn manages to ask. BB-8 beeps in confirmation.

“Something isn’t right,” Poe says, frowning, running his hand over the control panel. He presses a button on his comm. “I’m calling for backup. This place shouldn’t even be operational.”

Finn shrugs jerkily, but the feeling of unease is growing by the moment, so he begins idly scrolling through what’s left of their security logs. The footage is grainy and weak, but littered with weird symbols and red images that are indecipherable past the flicking holo. He flicks through about a week’s worth of archives that remain devoid of life, until he stumbles upon a black blur of movement.

“Poe?” Finn asks, not taking his eyes away from the video. He feels Poe lean over his shoulder.

“That’s not Phasma,” Poe says quietly.

Finn moves further backwards, and the dark shape becomes two, then three, then four, until he finds the closest thing to a complete file, and it plays. There’s no sound, and it keeps cutting out, but its two figures standing facing each other. Their faces are cast in shadow, and the taller of the two is tense, his posture curved.

“Wait,” Poe says, and he’s pressing buttons and then the audio screeches into existence.

“-complete our task. You have passed one test, but there are many more on this path. Many more challenges you must face.”

“Who–?” Finn asks, but Poe waves him quiet.

The hunched figure looks up, and then thin light suddenly throws his dark eyes into clarity.

“That’s–” Poe starts, but then the conversation continues.

“I am ready for the next stage of my training,” says the grainy Kylo Ren, slimy voice sounding as revolting as it had in the forest, despite the disrupted audio. “Han Solo is dead, and Luke Skywalker is regaining his strength. I must be ready.”

“You will be,” says the other figure, “I will make sure of that.”

“Who…?” Poe whispers.

“I know that voice,” Finn says, wracking his brain. There was a handful of First Order officials who rarely showed themselves to the troops, but only one who appeared solely as a disembodied voice. The last time Finn had heard it was after they’d knocked out a portion of the Republic fleet over Coruscant. “I think that’s… I think that’s Snoke.”

“What?” Poe asks, hands hovering over the panel. He turns back to the frozen image. “That’s Snoke?!”

“Why would he be here?” Finn wonders aloud.

“We have to go,” Poe says, tugging furiously on his arm, “Finn, this isn’t about Phasma, it’s –”

And then everything explodes.

“Finn!” He hears, before there’s a blinding light and the world is suddenly fire.

 

He comes to, coughing, face down in the dust. His shirt is clinging to his skin, and his eyes feel gritty and rough, but he forces himself up onto his hands. Everything is spinning, and trying to shake it off makes it worse, but somehow he manages to get upright, the ground tilting dangerously as he has to quell the urge to throw up.

What was once the base now stands as an empty shell, mimicking that of the petals of a flower; heavy sheets of metal were thrown outwards by the blast, and were patterned erratically with fragments and broken panels and sparks from snapped wires. The air tastes of soot, and Finn has another coughing fit, before he realises that he is alone.

He spins around violently, fighting past his gagging, screaming: “Poe!”

There’s nothing but silence and the crackling of frames, and he begins to move forward, even as his legs struggle to take his weight.

“Poe!” No response, and Finn’s throat is cracked and dry, and he wheezes as the wind abruptly changes and he gets a face full of smoke. “Poe?” He calls again, voice cracking. “BB-8?”

There’s a loud series of whistles and beeps and, breath dragging in his throat, Finn sprints over the hill. BB-8 is trapped between two larger pieces of debris, head spinning furiously as it attempts to free itself.

[FRIEND-FINN,] it shouts, when it spots him, [FRIEND-FINN, FRIEND-FINN!]

Two of the fingernails on his left hand have been torn out of the roots, but he digs through the wreckage anyway, ignoring the slits opening on the palms of his hands. He yanks BB-8 free, holding it in the air.

“Poe,” he gasps, panic slurring his words together, “Poe, where’s Poe?”

[Friend-Poe!] says BB-8, [Friend-Poe something something beep beep something!]

“No,” Finn groans, jamming his head against the droid’s round body, “no, no, we don’t have time for this. Where’s Poe?!”

There’s another series of loud, hurried beeps, but it sounds incomprehensible and panic is making everything fast and difficult to understand.

“I don’t und- I don’t understand.” He gives BB-8 a shake, and gets a soft zap in response. Fighting the reflex to drop it, Finn stands motionless for a moment, just trying to breathe.

The air is thick with smoke, and he can feel that the ground beneath his boots is hot.

“Sorry,” he croaks, “sorry, BB-8, but I can’t-I don’t understand.”

[Yes,] says BB-8 urgently. [Yes, Friend-Poe!]

“Poe’s alive?”

[YES!] BB-8 shouts at him, and Finn has to stagger away from the wreck, still clutching the droid in his arms.

Vision blurring, but keeping a firm grip, he finds his way off the plateau and a little down the hill, where the air starts to clear, and his eyes stop streaming. BB-8’s antenna is snapped in half, and one of the panels on its body has been ripped off, leaving fragile circuits exposed. It keeps beeping at a high, frantic pace, only increasing with Finn moves to put it down.

It also keeps up the [FRIEND-POE FRIEND-POE FRIEND-POE FRIEND-POE] chant which is doing nothing to calm Finn’s nerves.

“I know,” he says, “I know, I know.”

[Find,] BB-8 says insistently, prong emerging and pointing back up the slope. [Friend-Poe incomprehensible beeps find beep beep left!]

“I can’t… can you write something in the dirt?!” Finn asks, “I don’t have time to look up everything you’re saying right now!”

BB-8 does the closest thing to a sigh that it’s capable of, and then begins to spin, forcing Finn to drop it on the ground. It immediately begins back up the hill, and Finn finds himself chasing it despite his still missing equilibrium.

The building itself had been heavy and designed for weathered use, so some of the remaining support pillars still stand, although their surface is crumbling and charred. It’s very difficult to determine any particulars left of the base, but BB-8 rolls determinedly onwards, until Finn finally loses it amongst the loose dirt still floating in the air.

“B-!“ He coughs, and tries again, “BB-8?!”

There’s a muffled beep, but Finn’s completely lost the droid. He tries to call again, and fights the urge to vomit, stumbling downwards where the smoke is thinner, and he’s less likely to choke.

He loses time, his heart in his throat, the silence around him only emphasising the fact that Poe could be lying somewhere bleeding out or burned horrifically or trapped under the rubble, and it’d be just like Jakku only now Finn knows Poe. If he thought it was devastating before, it’d be nothing compared to Poe’s death now.

He forces himself up again, and he walks half a dozen feet until he hears metal on metal, a sound as familiar as his heartbeat and, turning, he receives a hard hit to the back of the head and he’s gone.

 

It still feels jarring to be looking at so many Stormtroopers when his own face is bare.

There’s the dull, constant buzz from the light panels, a steadying noise that makes him feel grounded and smaller, back when he wore training suits instead of armour, before he picked up a real blaster and refused to shoot.

Before he met Poe, and Rey.

They’ve secured him in a device not dissimilar to how they’d trapped Poe, a lifetime ago. His wrists are trapped in two separate cuffs, and there’s a weird crackling noise near his left ear.

For the most part, thus far, he’s been left alone. He can’t really figure out why; he would’ve thought that they’d either reconditioned him or killed him in front of the other troops for show, because there’s no real use for keeping him alive in his current state. He is of no worth, and it would only waste resources to keep him detained. With the possible exception of Kylo Ren, the First Order hates needlessly wasting its assets.

There are three guards with him at any one time, and while he can’t accurately judge how much time has passed, he knows that there have been two rotations. So, roughly nine hours, give or take. They don’t look at him, or mock him, or even try to intimidate him with their presence. Instead, they stand silently, while Finn tries very, very hard not to think about the remainder of the base exploding, and BB-8’s shrill scream, and the crunching thud at the back of his head. Instead, he breathes out through his teeth, until he can feel the sweat dripping along his nose, and his shirt slicked against his back, and the throbbing pain from his hands. The soles of his shoes feel melted and weirdly warped when he curls his toes, so he lets himself hang.

The door slams open, and there’s the sound of boots that circle around him until a Stormtrooper strides into view. They have a bright red shoulder pauldron strapped over their shoulder, with a blaster at their hip, and they’re breathing heavily through the mask’s filter. They raise a hand, and two of the three that had been guarding him perform brisk salutes and leave, the door closing behind them.

There’s a tense pause, when Finn expects the Stormtrooper to kill him. Instead, they just stride back and force, arms clenched behind their back, head looking up.

Finn doesn’t recognise their serial number – it must be the leader of a separate squadron – but the idea is the same: Finn is about to be yelled at by someone up the military hierarchy. It seems almost absurd.

“FN-2187,” comes the metallic voice. Finn blinks, feeling weirdly disconnected. “Eff-En Two One Eight Seven,” they repeat, sounding it out. The name feels both oppressive and comfortingly familiar at the same time.

“No,” Finn says. The Stormtrooper doesn’t even turn.

“You deny this?”

“I deny that I’m that person anymore,” Finn tells them.

He has to force himself not to flinch when a gloved hand strikes just next to his right ear, the Stormtrooper leaning in close.

“You betray us because you think you can deny what you are? Because what, some Resistance scum on a backwater planet has told you that you’re worth something on your own? Worth something when you don’t take orders?”

Finn feels a prickle of rage in the back of his throat, but he isn’t given time to respond.

“You think that you can run off and forget what you were made for? What we made you for?”

“I wasn’t made for anything!” Finn snaps, “I was taken from my family and used to fight in some war that started before I was born!”

This time he’s hit across the face, the thick leather of the palm of the glove splitting his lip. The pain clears his head a little. The Stormtrooper leans in even closer, until Finn can see his own reflection in the smooth black lenses of the helmet.

“You think I don’t know what you are? What you think you are?” They hiss, “You think I haven’t had troopers get ideas of grandeur, that they’re people, that they’re worth something outside of their station? You think you’re the first trooper to reject everything we’ve thought for, for some idiotic, selfish quest?”

“I think you think you know what I am,” Finn says. In his head, all he can hear is Poe’s quiet voice saying you’re a person and you’re important. “I think you don’t understand anything outside of the Order, outside of having a number and being told what to do and wh-“

The hit is harder this time, enough to snap his head to the side, and he can taste blood in his mouth. The fist of his captor is trembling with rage. Finn spits out a mouthful of coppery blood and keeps going.

“I am who I make myself to be,” he says firmly, staring off to the side of the room, “because I’m a person, and I can like what I want, and I can be who I-“

He’s cut off with a backhanded blow, before his chin is held in a painful grip and he’s forced to look back at the Stormtrooper.

“You’re nothing outside of this Order,” they say. “What, you think that one day the Resistance won’t catch on? You think as soon as you stop fucking that pilot they’ll let you stay around long enough to get a ship to the Outer Rim? Why the fuck,” they pause for emphasis, giving him a shake, “would they ever waste time with something like you; a soldier who doesn’t understand loyalty, a trooper who can’t follow orders?”

There’s a throaty laugh, and Finn has to swallow. He strokes his thumb against the worn material of the jacket, and thinks about the desert, and the colour of Rey’s eyes and the way Poe looks at the sky.

“We made you into something great,” says the Stormtrooper, “something that you chose to reject, because you thought you were important enough, special enough, to mean something outside your unit. FN-2187,” and the voice is almost gentle, “we want to make you good again. We want to make you someone to be proud of, someone important. Someone who belongs.”

Finn shuts his eyes.

“Don’t you want that? You don’t belong in the mud with the traitors and murderers and thieves. You’re a Stormtrooper, the pride of the Order. You were made to bring security, and peace, to fulfil our vision of the future of the galaxy. Don’t you want that? To be back with your brothers?”

Their voice is nothing like General Organa’s, whose whole presence exuded power and grace, and they’re nothing like Han Solo, who filled the space with an easy, if tired, companionship. Their voice licks into his brain like a snake, and finds himself thinking about being a faceless being in a collected set, and how he was not expected to think on his own, or exist outside the perimeters of each mission, and how Phasma held him as the standard to be met. He thinks about his brothers, born together out of their lost childhoods, and dying when he held Slips in his arms.

He thinks about the screams, as Poe was led away in shackles, and he couldn’t fire on innocents.

It smelt like smoke then, too. Smoke and charred flesh.

He shudders violently, and the Stormtrooper goes in for the kill.

“Tell us,” they say, “tell us what you know, and we’ll start over. We’ll take you back to what you were, before. What you could be, again. All your potential, all your loyalty. We can take away the pain. We can make you FN-2187 again.”

He’ll belong, again.

But he’ll lose Finn.

He’s heard names before then and since, but Finn is his, something that marked him becoming a person, not some number in a crowd.

He’ll lose Poe, and Rey, and the Resistance, and the guilty pleasure of throwing Phasma into the trash compactor.

He’ll lose Friend-Finn.

He’s shaking his head before he realises what he’s doing, and he’s getting a solid punch to the gut in the next moment.

He bends over as far as he’s able, hacking violently and trying his best to breathe past the stitched knot in his stomach, before he’s pulled upright again, and smacked across the face. This time, the blow clips the side of his temple and is driven into his eye. He knows his cheek is going to swell, turn pink and purple, and for some reason he focuses on that as the trooper delivers two more hits, one to his left leg, dislocating his knee, and another to his chest, right beneath the collarbone. Stormtrooper gloves are not designed to deliver tight attacks, but they are heavy and hard, so Finn has to lean his head back and blink past tears.

Finn, he thinks firmly, Finn, Finn, Finn.

A hand grabs the side of his head, digging into his scalp and angling him in a way that makes his neck twinge.

“I’d kill you myself,” the Stormtrooper tells him, “but the Captain wants that honour herself. We’re going to shoot you in front of the troopers, did you know that? And they’ll cheer, because they’ll see a traitor getting what he deserves, for what he’s done. But you know what? If it were up to me, I’d make it slow. I’d kill the pilot in front of you. And the girl. I’d make you watch, I’d make you hurt in every way you’ve hurt the Order and then I’d kill you.” He’s released, and he doesn’t have the energy to glare, so he just closes his eyes. “But it’s not up to me, so I guess you don’t have too much to look forward to.”

 

The pain in his knee is becoming unbearable and his eye has swelled shut by the time the next rotation comes around, and a new Stormtrooper comes into view. He feels sick, and weirdly dizzy in a way that reminds him of Rey flipping the Falcon.

The lights seem to flicker on and off, and his breaths sound raspy and thin, and he’s having trouble thinking clearly. He can hear a lot of different voices in his head, enough that they’ve become almost indistinguishable, but he can hear Zeroes chanting TRAITOR, TRAITOR over and over, until it drowns everything out.

Finn doesn’t want to die, but he doesn’t want to live long enough for them to take everything from him.

The new Stormtrooper shifts, seeming very bored with this position, before turning to look at their partner, and clubbing them across the face with their blaster.

They fall like a stone, and if Finn wasn’t struggling to stay conscious, he would have cried.

As it is, all he can manage is a slurred, “P-Pooooh?”

And the helmet comes off, and Poe Dameron’s beaming, soot streaked face appears. “Hey, buddy.”

Screw it, Finn cries anyway.

There’re gentle hands on the restraints, and Finn falls forward, unable to hold himself up and muffling his scream when his knee jerks. He’s caught before he hits the ground, and turned, so he’s lying on his back on the floor, and Poe is leaning over him, and talking in a low tone.

“-align your leg, alright Finn? Finn?”

Finn, that’s his name. He manages a nod.

There’s pain again, and there’s a glove over his mouth as he arches off the floor, needles shooting down to his toes. He gives a shuddering gasp when he’s released, and Poe is cooing quietly, hands smoothing over his face, and his arms, and across his chest. Stormtrooper armour is carefully shaped and unforgiving to touch, but Finn manages to get a grip on Poe’s neck and drags him down.

The kiss is messy, and their teeth clack together painfully, but it’s warm and Poe’s lips are soft and trembling, and then there’s fingers caressing his bruised eye as Poe leans down further, deepening the kiss. Finn is already struggling to keep his head clear, and this isn’t helping, but he doesn’t open his eyes until Poe pulls away, and even then he tries to follow him up, to keep the contact going. He feels Poe smile against his mouth as they move apart. Poe’s cheeks are pleasantly pink, and Finn watches as he licks his lips.

“What was that for?” Poe asks, pulling one of Finn’s arms over his shoulder, beginning to haul him upright. Finn’s leg shakes, but holds.

“Got me out,” he manages. “And… how?”

Poe laughs as they stagger towards the door. “That is a very interesting story, actually.” The door slides open, and a very hard, very round object slams into Finn’s legs. The pain starts again, and he nearly falls, catching his weight against the doorframe.

[-Finn hurt?] he hears, and Poe hisses something back, and there’s a quiet beep. Looking down, he sees BB-8 circling around them, head darting around furiously, as though expecting trouble.

“Hey,” Finn says, giving a tiny wave. His fingers and knuckles are bloodied, and his thumb looks broken.

[Alive!] BB-8 responds, [beep beep Friend-Poe beep alive!]

“I don’t understand,” Finn tells him, as they begin to move down the corridor. He looks at Poe, who’s carefully inspecting the hall, looking back and forth for incoming patrols. “I still don’t understand. I don’t think I’m very good at this.”

“You’re still learning,” Poe says, sounding distracted, “and no one’s good at everything.”

“I was,” Finn says. “Good, I mean. I was the best Stormtrooper, and now I’m not.”

He really wishes he had some water. His throat feels like the desert.

Poe looks at him, considering. “Being the best Stormtrooper doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the best person, or the nicest person, or the most compassionate. Though, I think you’re all those things anyway.”

“I think you’re the best person,” Finn tells him, watching the tips of Poe’s ears turn pink. “And Rey, also. And BB-8? But he’s not a person.” He looks down. “You’re not a person, are you?”

[Debatable,] says BB-8, and Finn is way too tired for this, and his brain doesn’t seem to be working.

“I think they hit me a lot,” he says. “Hurts.”

“I know,” Poe says, sounding angry(??). “I know, and as soon as we get out of here, the first thing we’re gonna do is help you.”

“Help then termination?”

At this, Poe pauses completely, which doesn’t seem like the best idea, because doesn’t he realise that more troopers could walk by at any moment? But regardless, he gently turns Finn around to face him, and looks into his eyes.

“You’re never going to be terminated. Ever.”

Finn pats his cheek, because there’s no guarantee of that. Especially if they keep standing in this corridor.

Poe just seems to look more distressed, but he holds Finn closer and keeps walking until they round the corner, and there’s a heavily fortified hanger. So they’re off-planet, then. Poe and BB-8 talk, softly enough that Finn can’t make out what they’re saying, and then they’re moving quickly around the rim of the room, ducking behind a pile of stacked crates as a platoon marches past.

“I’m getting déjà vu,” Poe says, and Finn huffs in agreement, although admittedly their way out last time was a little smoother. At first, anyway. Poe then points to the far corner, and Finn sees that there are a handful of stretchers being unloaded from the hold. “That’s our way out.”

Finn squints. It’s a medical ship, and it’s usually part of a convoy, designed without offensive systems, but very fast and light.

“How?”

“That is a med-ship, designed to aid injured Stormtroopers. And you, Finn, are injured.”

“Not a Stormtrooper,” Finn points out, even though that’s not quite true. The only thing that’s changed is now he’s trying to deny that he is one, rather than accepting the inevitable.

“We’ll think about that when we get there,” Poe tells him firmly, and before Finn has time to get himself together, they’re moving again, and Poe is slipping the helmet back over his head. It’s odd how so few officers cast the lone trooper with an injured guy and a round droid making his way across the loading bay. Poe moves without hesitation in a way that screams military, keeping up a brisk pace as they move against the wall towards the ship. Finn does his best to stay upright, BB-8 sticking close to his heels as to stay out of sight.

The medical ship is small, but a trooper walks up the ramp inside, and there are two more carefully carting closed containers of bacta onboard. They stop when they see Poe.

“You are not authorised to be here,” says the taller of the two. Both are unarmed.

“I have an injured soldier who requires immediate assistance,” Poe says. The warmth of his voice vanishes beneath the mask.

One of the Stormtrooper leans around to get a better look at Finn, and frowns.

“He’s not in uniform.”

“Yes,” says Poe, sounding exasperated. “That’s because he’s injured.”

There’s no way this is going to work, Finn thinks to himself, Stormtroopers aren’t bred to be stupid. They move closer until only a metre or so separates them.

“Listen,” Poe says, “let me just get him on board, alright?”

“This impedes protocol,” says one.

“And you’re impeding on this trooper’s ability to stay conscious,” says Poe, striding forward.

We’re going to die, Finn thinks.

Poe carefully deposits Finn onto a bed, just as another trooper appears from the cockpit, inspecting the scene.

“This isn’t standard protocol,” the Stormtrooper says, “I really think that we should contact the ground officer.”

“I’m going to politely disagree,” says the new arrival, and then there are two blaster shots, and the two Stormtroopers hit the floor, smoking holes in their chests.

Finn can’t really comprehend on what’s happening, because his head feels like it’s being squeezed through a tube, but he remains conscious long enough for the helmet to come off, and for the long-legged pilot who gave him the binary book to shake out her hair and give Poe an unimpressed look.

“Took you long enough,” she says. “What were you two doing? Kissing in the prison block?”

“Yes,” Finn tells her, and then he’s out.

 

When he wakes, they’re in hyperspace.

He can tell, because there’s the same dizzying silence, and the weird feeling of weightlessness, like the gravity isn’t quite working in the room.

There’s a med-droid puttering around in the corner and, seeing that he’s away, rolls over to check his tongue, and make him blink into a light, and make sure he can still move his toes. The swelling on his eye has gone down, and the flesh on his hands has been carefully knitted back together, and his leg is bound in a light brace.

“You have impeded your previous recoveries,” the droid tells him. “You were still suffering a major injury, and you have only setback your own progress.”

Finn has only just made it out of the bed, but seems to have been sent straight back to it. He can’t wait to spend another three weeks held immobile in the medbay.

[Friend-Finn!] calls a familiar voice from the doorway, and he looks up to see BB-8 roll excitedly towards him, beeping frantically. [Safe, Friend-Finn, safe!]

“Hey, BB-8,” Finn says, letting his arm dangle over the side of the bunk and rest on its round head. It almost purrs. “We got out, huh?”

[Correct,] BB-8 replies.

“I’d ask how, but I don’t think I’d understand.”

[Good student, improve.]

“You’d better not be saying that just to make me feel better.”

BB-8 chortles, dancing a little from side to side, and valiantly ignoring the med-droid’s attempt at pushing it out of the room.

[Friend-Poe was worried,] says BB-8. [Worried, frantic, injured(??)]

“You’re telling me,” says Finn, letting his head fall back on the pillow.

“That’s a bit of an understatement,” says a cheerful voice, and he turns to see Poe, now stripped from the armour with a clean face. “I was a bit more than worried.”

Finn raises his arm, blindly stabbing at the air until Poe takes his hand, and sits on the side of the bed.

“How are you feeling?” He asks, rubbing Finn’s knuckles with his thumb.

“I’ve been better,” Finn says, which is true. Poe doesn’t look amused. “Poe, I’m alright. Stormtroopers are taught how to resist interrogation.”

And really, Finn didn’t do such a great job at it, but he tried.

“What happened?” Finn asks.

“Well, the base exploded,” Poe tells him. “Turns out our intel was wrong; Phasma was there, but she wasn’t there for sponsorship, she was there to provide security for Kylo Ren and Snoke, who were doing some kind of advanced… Jedi… Force training.” He winces. “We were a bit off.”

Finn frowns. “Why… why would Snoke travel to an abandoned planet in the Outer Rim to train Ren? Wouldn’t they stay in the First Order territories? He’s not known for actively getting involved in things himself.”

Poe shrugs, but he looks a little agitated. “We know next to nothing about Moraband,” he says, “and not just the Resistance; everything we have left of the Republic doesn’t declare it as anything particularly important either.”

Finn’s glad that they nearly died, that he nearly lost everything on a planet they don’t know anything about, so he just stares up at the ceiling. Poe gives him a little shake. “Are you alright? Or have I made it worse?”

Finn shakes his head. “Nah, I’m still good.”

But Poe still looks troubled so, acting entirely on instinct, he raises Poe’s hand to his lips, and gently kisses his palm. Poe freezes. Finn looks up, mouth still pressed against his skin.

“I… you still want?” Poe asks, sounding hesitant. Finn frowns.

“I didn’t kiss you for fun, Dameron,” he says. “What did you think I was doing? That I mistook you for Phasma and just couldn’t contain myself?”

“Well, you were concussed,” Poe says, starting to smile, before leaning down again.

Distantly, the med-droid says an incredibly irritable “You are detrimental to this young man’s health!” but Finn isn’t paying attention.

Poe’s mouth tastes like spice, and the dry landscape of Moraband, and the filtered air from the Stormtrooper helmet. His touch is gentle, like he’s afraid Finn is going to regret this, or fall apart, so he winds a hand into his hair and tugs him forward, forcing Poe to plant a hand on the blankets and pulling him deeper into the kiss, opening his mouth. He can’t quite stop the full-body shudder as Poe pushes into his mouth, and he forces himself up, wrapping his other hand around Poe’s shoulder, unbalancing his position over the bunk.

Poe catches himself before impact, breaking the kiss with a laugh, and looking down at Finn. There’s very little space between them, little enough that Finn can feel cool breath against his skin, and see the tiny blemishes from the explosion across Poe’s face like pockmarks. It takes no effort to pull him down again, and this time the kiss is harder, as Poe forces him back down onto the pillow, taking the strain from his arms, and moving his knee between Finn’s legs. A hand curves around the back of his knee, and the kiss changes angle, so Finn can bite the corner of Poe’s mouth, before moving back again for air.

“That alright?” Poe asks, sounding breathless, before making a weird high pitched noise when Finn buries his face in his neck. Finn grins.

“I’m pretty great,” Finn says, fighting off dizziness and fighting off his body’s weaknesses. “Are you?”

“I’ve been worse,” Poe tells him, and moves his face to kiss his forehead, and each eyelid, then his nose, and both cheeks, before kissing him on the lips again.

From somewhere on the floor, he hears [about time,] before Poe shoves BB-8 aside, letting it leave the room to the chant [kiss kiss kiss].