It was supposed to be a routine supply run, the sort of tedious, low-risk mission Poe usually gave a pass because back before joining the New Republic Starfleet, he'd spent enough time on cargo ships to last him a lifetime.
When Poe had raised a hand to volunteer, he'd gotten several raised eyebrows from the people around him, which he'd pointedly ignored. He'd spent too many days in a row watching Finn, newly healed and uncertain of his place within the Resistance, go stir crazy with nothing to do. A distraction would do them both good.
"I'm taking Finn." It hadn't been a suggestion or a request on his part, and no one had objected. Poe had learned a long time ago that few people ever questioned a man or a woman who sounded like they knew what they were doing. The General, of course, always saw right through him, but there had been nothing but approval in her eyes that day.
"You're coming with me," Poe had told Finn later, in their shared quarters, when Finn had asked about Poe's new mission.
Finn had immediately perked up, going from slightly dejected to surprised to hopeful. "Really?"
"How come? Not that I'm objecting. I'm definitely not objecting. This is me, not objecting."
"I could use the company," Poe had said with a shrug. "And it's never a bad idea to have a good gunner at hand."
"There's gonna be shooting?" Whether it had been worry or excitement coloring Finn's voice, Poe still didn't know.
"Nah, it'll be boring. You'll wish you were back here."
"No way I will!"
Poe had allowed himself to smile and think that everything would be just fine, which he was starting to regret, because when they came out of hyperspace near Malastare, they were greeted by First Order scout vessels.
First Order scout vessels demanding to know their ship registration number, origin and purpose in the Malastare system.
Poe cursed, thinking through their options.
"Any insights?" He asked Finn, who was staring at the approaching ships with the look of a man who was hoping to wake up any second now.
"Insights?" Finn turned to him, incredulous. "Insights? What, like magical, get out of jail free, secret First Order mission, hurry along nothing to see here, stormtrooper code?"
"Yeah, like that," Poe said in a breezy manner that was sure to drive Finn crazy under their current circumstances. "That would be really helpful."
"No!" Finn sounded ready to blow a fuse, but at least he wasn't staring frozenly at the viewscreen anymore. "It doesn't work like that!"
"Then I welcome you to familiarize yourself with what passes as the weapons system on this ship, because we're not getting out of this without a fight."
He could have sent out the fake records kept in the ship's database in case of planetary checkpoints, but with all the resources available to the First Order, they'd be proven false faster than Poe could say Darth Vader. Worse, their ship had so many illegal modifications, a scan from a First Oder scout vessel was bound to pick up some of it. Best-case scenario, the scouts would suspect them to be smugglers and arrange an inspection of the ship, which they couldn't allow.
"A fight," Finn said as he called up the weapons display. "A fight, he says. How are we gonna fight off two military grade scout vessels with a juiced up freighter? Huh?"
"Hey, be nice," Poe said, checking the readings he was getting from said military grade vessels, warnings flashing across his screens. "She used to be a classy core world girl. When we got her, she only had a shield generator, no lasers, no missiles, no nothing. She's no gunship, but give her a chance and she might surprise you." He glanced at the display Finn was sorting through. "There's a –"
"Found it," Finn said, activating the dormant, cobbled up weapons system before grabbing a comlink and standing up. "Gunner's position up top?"
Poe nodded. "Go for it."
"Boring, my ass," Finn said in a vaguely distressed tone as he left the cockpit. "Your girl better prove true!"
Poe bit down on a smile and brought the ships internal communications network online. "You treat her right, hear me? She can be fussy, but she'll warm up quick for you. Feel free to shoot as soon as you're ready."
There was a choking noise on the other end of the connection. Poe checked the screens again. It was maybe time to take the banter down a notch or two.
"I mean it, Finn. They know something's off, and in another ten seconds they're gonna decide to shoot first and not bother with more questions."
"So get us out of here!"
"You in position?"
"Yeah, sure, why not, let's engage the heavily armed First Order starships," Finn said and opened fire.
There was a delay of maybe three seconds before the scouts started firing back. Poe evaded them as best he could, feeding every spare scrap of power into the shields. He'd been sincere in complimenting the ship's modifications, but compared to a starfighter, especially his X-wing, she moved like a dying whale. It took all his skill to just barely stay ahead.
"Poe," Finn called out. "Do you have a plan here, or are we about to be blown into smithereens for the fun of it?"
"I need a minute to set a safe course to the nearest unmanned outpost," Poe called back. They were taking heavy fire that was draining the shields fast. "They've scanned us to hell and back, and I'm not putting the main base of operations at risk by flying in with a ship that's been marked."
The ship rocked under the force of a direct hit.
"Shit," Poe said.
"We're venting atmo."
"I can fix it, keep firing." Poe remotely slammed down blast doors to isolate the affected area and activated a subroutine to re-route life support.
"Any time now," Finn shouted. "Any time now would be good, Poe!"
"You don't fuck around with hyperspace, Finn."
"You don't fuck around with military grade scout vessels either, yet here we are."
"Okay, okay, here we go, three, two –"
The ship took another hit on one, but the hyperdrive was still online and operational, and the stars around them liquefied into streams of light.
By the time they came out of hyperspace, Poe knew they were in trouble. Again.
Finn, back in the co-pilot's seat, could apparently read Poe well enough by now to realize something was wrong.
"What? What is it?" He craned his neck as if it would help him see beyond the hull. "More scouts?"
"I've been running diagnostics," Poe said, "and now that we're out of hyperspace –"
"Wait, wait, wait," Finn interrupted, his attention drawn by the white planet slowly filling the viewscreen. "Where are we, exactly?"
"Hoth," Poe replied. "Our engines took a hit right before the jump, so the landing's gonna be rough."
"Hoth." There was a pause. "Hoth?"
"The one where –"
"And the –"
"And our engines are shot?"
"That's the gist of it."
"We're gonna crash."
"I wouldn't go that far."
Finn gave him a look.
Poe dredged up a charming smile. It worked surprisingly often on people, current company included. "It's going to be a very controlled crash," he told Finn.
Finn remained unimpressed.
"I'm impressed," Finn said.
"Right?" Poe replied, pleased. "For a moment there I almost thought we weren't gonna make it into the hangar. It would have been really bad to land out there in the open."
"I'm impressed that we're still alive," Finn clarified. "And we didn't land, we crashed."
It had been a bit touch and go, true, and the rough landing had caused additional damage to the ship, but like Finn said, they were alive, and wasn't that all that really mattered in the end?
"It was a very controlled crash," Poe insisted.
Finn made a wordless noise and pointed at the back of the hangar bay, which was admittedly a little too close for comfort.
"It's not that bad." Poe eyed the wall rising up in front of them. "That's at least five meters of breathing room, right there. Five to ten."
"Fine, okay, five to ten meters. We definitely didn't come even close to colliding with it." Finn slumped in his seat. "And you were amazing. Like always."
That last part actually sounded sincere. Poe cleared his throat.
"Come on," he said, standing up. "Let's figure out what we're dealing with."
It was worse than he'd thought.
"Okay," Finn said, rubbing his hands vigorously against his arms to fend off the cold of the storage room they were in. "Tell me if I got this right. The engines are dead. We have minimal power. The ships systems are on the fritz, which means communications are down, and whoever stocked this outpost should be sent to live here."
Poe winced at Finn's not at all unfair summary of the situation.
"It's not ideal, I admit that, but it could always be worse."
"How?" Finn looked like he immediately regretted asking. "Never mind, I already thought of like five things."
"The food will last us a couple of weeks, longer if we start rationing right away. We have shelter and at least some winter gear, so we won't be freezing to death. We don't have the parts to fix the engines, but we can find a way to contact the base." Poe grabbed Finn's shoulders and gave him a little shake. "We won't die here."
"How can you be so sure?" Finn wanted to know.
"Because if I start believing we're not gonna make it, I'll stop looking for a way out. There's always a way out."
Finn was quiet for a moment, studying the ground between their feet, but then he looked up and there was a welcome spark of determination in his eyes, along with a healthy dose of something terrifyingly close to absolute faith that Poe wasn't sure what to do with.
"You're right," Finn said. "You're right, of course you're right. We'll just – figure out a way to contact the Resistance, and they'll send someone to get us."
"That's right." Poe gave Finn's shoulders a final squeeze and let his arms drop. "Nothing to do but wait it out."
Finn shifted on his feet and tucked his hands under his arms. "We can start with the winter gear, yeah? It's freezing here. I never thought I'd miss Jakku."
"Definitely," Poe said with a fleeting smile. He did his best to ignore the pang of regret following the mention of Jakku. He missed BB-8. It had been an error of judgment on his part to leave the little guy behind just because, well, just because. His reasoning didn't hold up under scrutiny, but there was no use thinking about that now.
They went through the meager offerings of winter gear available in the storage room and layered up as best they could. It was cold enough that their breath was visible, and any bit of exposed skin started feeling tight and numb in no time. Poe didn't want to even think about the conditions outside in the open, the wind chill bringing the temperatures down further.
In its current form, the Hoth outpost had been established a few years ago as a dead drop site, meant to help out any Resistance ships in the area that were running low on supplies or needed to lay low for a while. It didn't seem like anyone had considered a scenario where a ship got stranded there for a period of time longer than a day or two, because while there were plenty of weapons to choose from, there was only one medkit, the selection of winter gear was minimal, the food situation was abysmal, and there were no subspace communicators to be found.
Poe was going to have to find someone to have words with when they got back to base.
"Scavengers might have been through here," Finn suggested when Poe reiterated his opinion.
"They wouldn't have left anything behind," Poe said, failing to suppress a shiver making its way down his spine. The cold, stiff clothes he'd pulled on top of his own had been lying around there for who knew how long, and initially felt like they might be doing more harm than good. "This place was picked clean in the months following the Battle of Hoth, but thirty years on? There's nothing but ice here, as far as anyone knows, and if you don't already have the coordinates, the old Echo Base entrance looks like any other cave."
Finn's shoulders jerked as if he'd been jolted. "Echo Base? This is Echo Base?"
Poe flexed his hands in a futile attempt to get the blood flowing. His fingers felt like icicles. "Where did you think we were?" He'd stopped being surprised by how much military history Finn knew approximately three days after Finn had woken up from his coma.
"Some other, newer base at a different location?" Finn gave the walls a suspicious look. "Isn't this place mostly made of ice and snow? Are you sure it's stable?"
"No sense building a whole new hangar when the old one is still standing. Some of the tunnels have collapsed, but this place was mapped out and given a checkup when the outpost was established. The temperatures don't climb above freezing, and there's no tectonic activity here. We're fine."
"What about the First Order?" Finn asked as they made their way back to the ship with food rations in need of some serious thawing. "You said no one would find this place without coordinates, but those must be somewhere in the remaining records of the First Galactic Empire."
"Buried under a lot of other outdated intel," Poe said. "Hoth is history, and the Resistance has given the First Order no reason to come poking around these parts."
He frowned. The First Order had been left disorganized and scrambling after the destruction of the Starkiller Base, but they'd been quick to regroup. They still had the numbers, and the new patterns emerging from the ashes were hard to predict.
"We weren't expecting them to be on Malastare either," Finn said, putting Poe's thoughts into words.
"True. Either it's a recent development, or there's a problem with recon I don't know about."
When they got to the ship, Poe shifted the rations he was carrying and fed the passcode into the access panel by the side entrance. An involuntary shudder went through him when the door hissed shut behind them. The hull breach was one of those things they had no hope of fixing, so most of the ship was still sectioned off in hopes of saving power and keeping the temperatures of the remaining areas at tolerable levels. It wasn't warm, exactly, but compared to the outside it was downright toasty.
Within the remaining space there was a small recreational area, which was where they went to store their food supplies. Finn started putting them away, efficient and economical in his movements, and Poe handed his share over without comment, watching Finn's hands as he worked.
"I could have gotten us out of there sooner," Poe said.
Finn's hands paused, but only for a moment.
"I should have gotten us out of there sooner, but there's been no intel indicating the Malastare supply base might be compromised, and seeing those scouts, having no warning – I wanted to do as much recon as I could, to compare with our records later." A pause. "And I wasn't lying about the hyperspace thing."
"Of course not," Finn said. "You did the right thing, you always do."
Poe crossed his arms and cocked his head, leaning his hip against the counter. "Ever think you might be giving me too much credit?"
Finn looked up from sorting the rations, his gaze briefly flickering, almost as if – except no, Poe was imagining it.
"No. Never," Finn said, looking Poe in the eye, guileless, sincere. "You deserve all the credit in the galaxy."
"I put your life at risk, and it might amount to nothing."
"I agreed to that when I agreed to the mission," Finn said, matter of fact, like he really didn't see what Poe was getting at. "I know I'm – it took me a while, but I'm not running anymore. I'm part of the Resistance." Finn frowned down at the counter. Then, more firmly, he said: "I'm part of the Resistance, and that means I live or die by your side."
Poe stared at Finn, helpless. Who said things like that?
"If that's okay with you," Finn added after a beat. "Obviously."
"Of course," Poe said, his voice softer than he'd intended. "Finn. I'm honored."
Finn gave him a brief, bright smile, as if unable to stop himself, and then, with a mildly embarrassed air, turned back to sorting and putting away the rations.
"I don't remember hearing anything relevant about Malastare back when I was, you know. A stormtrooper," he said. "But then I guess I wouldn't. Sanitation didn't get that sort of gossip."
"Malastare used to be affiliated with the Old Empire, but regained independence when the New Republic was formed," Poe said, welcoming the shift in the conversation. "There's been no First Order sightings in the area that I'm aware of, but Malastare is known for its fuel and technology, so it's not surprising the First Order has an interest in the system. I just didn't expect to find out the way we did."
He wondered if it had been just plain old bad luck, or if the supply base on Malastare really had been compromised. He should have thought to send out an encrypted subspace signal to a trusted contact when he had the chance – his callsign and a mention of their location would have been enough. The thought of someone being sent after them and running into a First Order blockade made Poe feel nauseous with guilt.
"Hey," Finn said, and Poe looked up to see he'd finished with the rations.
"Sorry. Got lost in my head for a minute."
Finn opened and closed his mouth, as if changing his mind about what he'd been about to say. "We should eat. We still have some of our own food left, including those bread cubes you stole – sorry, confiscated from, uh, that one guy in your squadron. Wexley?"
"Snap, yeah," Poe said, a spark of amusement chasing away some of the nausea. "He's gonna be pissed about that. Okay. Let's eat."
After forty-eight hours and counting, they were both fraying at the edges. They weren't starving, and as long as they stayed within the confines of the ship, they weren't freezing either, though it felt like either the ship was getting colder or every trip outside made the cold seep that much deeper into their bones.
Poe had made no headway with the communications systems, and Finn, while talented and capable in many areas, and a quick learner besides, didn't have the knowhow to help with the ship repairs. The lack of progress was getting to them both. Poe was frustrated with his own failure thus far to keep his promise and get them off the planet, and Finn was increasingly discontent about not being able to help as much as he'd like.
"Good job, Dameron," Poe muttered to himself, staring at a useless piece of wiring before tossing it into the scrap pile. "You wanted to give him a distraction, and instead he ends up going stir crazy on a different planet."
The evening of the third day, Poe came to the rec area to find Finn sitting on the floor with his eyes closed and legs crossed, his palms resting on his knees.
"Are you meditating?" Poe asked before realizing that if Finn was trying to meditate, interrupting him was pretty rude.
"I'm trying to contact Rey," Finn said without opening his eyes.
Poe blinked in bemusement. "Rey?"
"Yeah, I thought, if the ship isn't cooperating, maybe the Force will?" Finn opened his eyes. "Not that I'm doubting you."
"No, no," Poe said, not sure whether to be charmed, annoyed, amused or touched. "It's always good to have a backup plan. Think she's listening?"
"No way to tell," Finn said. He rolled his shoulders and stood up. "I don't think there's a shred of Force-sensitivity in me, so at best it's a one way transmission. I'll try again later. It's too cold to sit still for long."
Poe nodded and went to put together a rather pitiful evening meal for them.
"You know Luke Skywalker has been here?" Finn said when they sat down at the counter to eat. "At this base."
"Yeah, of course," Poe said. "Why?"
Finn pushed around the mush on his plate. "It's weird, is all. All my life, the way people talked about him – and now Rey is somewhere out there, trying to find him. Probably has found him."
"Maybe you should ask the Force to give Skywalker a call, too," Poe suggested, breaking out in a grin at Finn's freaked out look. He nudged Finn with an elbow. "Kidding."
Finn still looked kind of worried. "You think it might work?"
"You're asking me?" Poe shrugged. "Probably best to stick with Rey. She'll be thinking of you already, so I imagine you have a better chance with her."
"You think so? She's thinking about me?"
"Yeah," Poe said, hoping his smile wasn't as weak as it felt like it was. I definitely would.
Finn gave his food a thoughtful frown. When he went back to eating, it was with renewed enthusiasm.
That night, Poe came awake to find Finn standing over him, the low red lights of the room making it difficult to make out his expression. Poe felt cold and clammy, and he was breathing hard. The nightmare he'd woken up from lingered, putting pressure on his chest.
He let out a long, unsteady breath, and Finn, seeing he was out of the woods, took a step back, ready to return to his own bunk. It was a familiar scene, a familiar feeling, a familiar sequence of events, one engineered by Poe after the Resistance had abandoned the compromised D'Qar base and Poe had foolishly offered to share quarters with Finn at the new base.
The first time Finn had woken Poe up from a nightmare, he'd tried asking questions. Poe had shut him down, had kept shutting him down until this became the new standard: Finn woke him up, waited long enough to be sure that Poe was awake and aware and free of the nightmare, and then wordlessly went back to his bunk.
"Wait," Poe said, grabbing Finn's hand to stop him before he could get out of reach. Not that he had far to go, considering the room was little more than a glorified corridor with narrow single bunks fitted into the walls.
There was already a lump in Poe's throat, regret and low-key panic making it difficult to draw breath, but he'd broken the silence, and Finn had stopped too easily and looked too worried for Poe to take it back and return to the script.
Hesitant, Finn sat down on the bed near Poe's thighs. Poe let go of his hand to push himself into an upright position, his head full of white noise.
"Are you okay?" Finn asked.
No, Poe wasn't okay, but that didn't mean he wanted to admit it.
Finn picked at the hem of his jacket. "You're not the only one who has nightmares. It's not –" He paused. "Sometimes I'm – sometimes I dream that I'm back with the First Order, that I never left, never helped you escape. Sometimes I dream you died."
Poe curled his hand around Finn's forearm. "I'm sorry."
"I'm saying, what I'm trying to say, is that you don't have to tell me what you dream about, but I won't think any less of you if you do. No one would."
Finn's arm was warm, even through the layers of cloth, and Poe's hand was cold. That's what it came down to, in the end. That's what pushed Poe over the edge.
"I can still feel him in my head sometimes. Kylo Ren," Poe said, and Finn went tense under his hand. "Before you got me out – he got into my head. I've never felt anything like it. It wasn't the pain, though there was pain, it was – invasive. A violation. He tore something out of me, and left something behind."
"He can't touch you," Finn said, his voice low and fierce. His words resonated like an oath. "He won't get anywhere near you, ever again."
Poe pressed down against the fabric between his fingers and Finn's skin. He didn't have anything more to say on the topic, and didn't want to hear anything more from Finn.
"Are you cold?" He asked.
Finn looked nonplussed. "Of course I'm cold. I can barely remember what it's like to not be cold. I've been reduced to trying to recall and mentally relive the greatest hits of Jakku, Poe, and I might never forgive you for that."
Poe laughed, relieved. "Come on, then, grab your blanket. We can share."
Finn eyed the narrow bunk. "You sure?"
"We won't know until we try," Poe said, and Finn apparently decided to go along with it, because he went to get his blanket.
Poe rolled to face the wall and shifted until he was as close to it as possible. Finn climbed in and, yeah, these beds really were small. Finn settled down behind him, arranged the blankets over them and hesitantly put his arm around Poe's waist.
"This okay?" He asked.
"Perfect," Poe said, staring at the wall less than five centimeters away from his nose. "Unless you're about to fall off the edge."
"I'll manage," Finn said, muffled. He held on to Poe a little tighter.
Poe counted to one hundred in his head. "Finn?"
"We should double-check if the scavengers left anything behind." It wasn't what he'd meant to say. "Or see if there's another storage room I don't know about, just in case we find something useful. Food, parts, anything."
Poe blinked slowly at the wall as Finn's breathing evened out.
"Good. Okay," he whispered, trying to get his heartbeat to slow down so he could sleep.
Why it was easier to stay calm while staging a daring escape than it was to have Finn plastered along his back, he – really didn't need to be thinking right now.
Poe bit back a curse at his own foolishness and resolutely closed his eyes.
Perhaps predictably, the following morning started with Finn falling out of bed.
"Oh, crap," Poe said, peering at him from over the edge. "Are you okay? Is your back okay?"
"It's been weeks," Finn said, picking himself off the floor. "My back's fine."
"The cold can't be doing it any favors."
"It's fine," Finn said, his words contrary to the stiff way he moved. He edged out of the room, oddly flustered. "I'll go clean my teeth and get breakfast ready."
He disappeared into the corridor, and Poe fell back on the bed with a huff.
"What do you miss most?" Finn asked when they'd finished with breakfast and were on their way to explore the deeper recesses of the base. Finn didn't remember Poe suggesting the little excursion the previous night, but he'd agreed to it just as easily the second time.
"Apart from the obvious? BB-8. We wouldn't even be in this mess if I'd taken BB-8 with us."
"Why didn't you?" Finn asked, hugging his blaster like he was hoping it would turn into a portable space heater.
Poe should have seen the question coming a light-year away. He stalled, wrong-footed, because while he refused to lie outright, he didn't want to tell the truth either. BB-8 had opinions. Specifically, in this case, opinions about Poe's behavior around Finn, and since the mission was supposed to be boring and include spending time in confined spaces with Finn, well… Poe had figured he could survive a couple of days without BB-8 chirping at him about it.
"An error of judgment," Poe said. A copout, but Finn seemed to take it in stride. "What about you? What do you miss most?"
"Rey," Finn said, which – Poe actually had seen that one coming. Finn's smile was quick and sweet and a little self-deprecating. "But I've missed her ever since I woke up and she wasn't there, so that's not exactly new."
"You'll see her again," Poe said, aiming for reassuring.
"I know," Finn said. "I know I will."
Poe ran his tongue over his teeth. He was tired, he was cold, and despite the fact that they'd just eaten, he was a little bit hungry too. He thought of BB-8 again, and what the hell, it wasn't like he couldn't excuse the question as idle curiosity if needed.
"You and Rey," he said. "Are you an item?"
It was none of his business, and he wouldn't begrudge them if they were, but he'd slowly been driving himself crazy, wondering. He knew Finn and Rey were close, but how close? BB-8 had been supremely unhelpful the one time Poe had tried asking, making disgruntled, exasperated noises, insulting Poe's circuitry and then leaving to hang out with C-3PO.
"Together," Poe clarified. "In a relationship."
"Oh," Finn said. "No. Well, a friendship is a relationship? But I'm not sure she'd be into anything more than that."
"But you're into her." It was like poking at a half-healed wound. Poe knew better, he just couldn't help himself.
"I care about her, and I know she cares about me too, and maybe if things were different, I don't know." Finn kicked at a clump of snow. "I'm lucky. To have you and her both, in whatever capacity –"
Finn stopped. Stopped talking, stopped walking. His head came up, his posture went rigid, his eyes unfocused.
"Did you hear that?"
Poe, a couple of steps ahead and half-turned toward him, opened his mouth to say no when something big and white and fast came at them. There was a roar as the thing swiped a huge, clawed paw at Poe, sending him flying. He met the opposite wall of the tunnel with a sickening crack and fell to the ground, dazed. There was the sound of blaster fire, another roar, and more blaster fire.
Poe told himself to get up, but his body wasn't cooperating. He couldn't move his right arm, his shoulder was radiating pain, and his left side felt like it was on fire. He barely noticed it when things went quiet.
"Poe!" Finn shouted, and the next thing Poe knew was Finn kneeling on the ground next to him, looking distraught. "Thank the Force and the Sith and the Knights of Ren," he said when Poe blinked up at him. "That thing did not want to go down, and when I saw the blood –"
"Blood?" Poe's tongue felt thick in his mouth.
"You're bleeding," Finn said, his hand hovering over Poe's left side.
Oh. That made sense.
"I'm pretty sure my shoulder's dislocated," he said.
Finn swallowed, the movement of his throat visible from where Poe was lying. "We need to get you to the ship."
"Good thinking," Poe said. "Okay. Help me up."
Poe might have passed out for a second on his way up.
Having his good arm around Finn's shoulders put the wrong kind of pressure on his wounds, but it was better than moving the arm with the dislocated shoulder. It was slow going. They'd started out okay, with Poe mostly able to stay on his feet with Finn's support, but by the time they got to the ship, Finn was shouldering most of Poe's weight.
"Rec room," Poe said when they were finally back inside, his breath coming out in short, shallow bursts. Finn, who'd been chanting a litany of encouragements and curses all the way there, followed the suggestion without protest.
Poe almost passed out again on his way down.
"Where's the medkit?" Finn was asking, breathing hard as he hovered over Poe, worry etched into his brow. "Poe, focus. Where's the medkit?"
"Well, crap," Poe said.
"No," Finn said. "No, do not tell me the only medkit we have is in the storage room."
"There's one on the ship," Poe said, and Finn sagged with relief. "But it's in the back, in the sectioned off area. You'll have to go around the ship and through the cargo hold."
"Okay," Finn said, struggling out of his outer jacket. "Okay. I'll hurry, just –" He bundled up the jacket and pressed it against Poe's side. "Hold on to that. I'll be right back."
And Poe was alone, staring at the ceiling and resolutely not thinking about what else could go wrong.
"Are you cutting off my clothes?" Poe's head felt muzzy, and he felt numb and cold all over.
Finn shot him an apologetic look. "I tried pulling them off, but you passed out."
"Yeah, I gotta stop doing that," Poe said.
"I'd appreciate it," Finn said, peeling off layers of blood-soaked cloth.
Poe lifted his head to get a rough idea of what his wounds looked like, letting his head fall back down when his vision threatened to go gray. It was never great, seeing that much of your own blood merrily escaping your body.
"Claw marks," Poe told the ceiling.
"What?" That was Finn, not the ceiling.
"Claw marks," Poe repeated for Finn's benefit. "Those are gonna be some rad scars."
The wild-eyed, distressed look Finn was sporting receded the tiniest bit. "Rad scars," Finn parroted, wiping away blood and smearing foamy disinfectant all over the wounds, which, ow. "There's something seriously wrong with you."
"Yeah," Poe said, gesturing weakly at his side with his good hand. "That."
Finn shook his head and grabbed what looked like all the available bacta bandages from the medkit. He placed them over the wounds and followed that by covering the whole area in normal bandages.
"Are you trying to mummify me?"
"I'm trying to keep you alive," Finn said, pressing a hypo against Poe's skin.
Antibiotics, Poe assumed, looking away when Finn gave him the shot.
"I'm not dying," Poe said.
"Yeah, now you're not." Finn looked at Poe's dislocated shoulder and grimaced. "We should reset that."
"Ever done it before?"
"Part of the training. Have you dislocated your arm before?"
"Oh, yeah. Loads of fun."
"There's no sedative in the kit, just numbing cream."
"That's fine, I hate sedatives," Poe said, watching as Finn cut off the rest of his sleeve on that side. "Let's just get it over with."
Holding Poe's arm at a ninety-degree angle, Finn started pulling, firm and steady and slow, and even with the numbing cream Poe almost bit through his lip in an effort to stay still and not scream. The joint slipped back into its socket and air vacated Poe's lungs in a rush of relief. He felt shaky and clammy and weak, and the sudden decrease in pain levels left him on the shores of euphoria. Or maybe that was just bacta seeping into his bloodstream.
Finn sat back on his heels, shock written all over him. His clothes were in disarray, and there was blood all over him. His clothes, his forehead. His hands were covered in it.
"You're a mess," Poe told him.
Finn stared at him blankly for a second and started laughing. "I'm a mess? Poe, you're, I don't –" Finn stopped as suddenly as he'd started, his chest heaving. "I don't know what I'd do without you."
"You'd be fine," Poe said. He wanted to touch Finn, but Finn was on the wrong side and a little too far away for that. "Maybe not right away, but you'd be fine."
Finn had a mulish expression on his face that indicated he very much disagreed with Poe's assessment.
"You just keep being you," Poe said. "No matter what happens, you keep being you, and everything will work out fine."
"The bacta is getting to you," Finn said.
Poe hummed in acknowledgement. "I'm gonna pass out now. Sorry."
The last thing he felt was Finn's hand gently pushing his matted hair away from his forehead.
Poe woke up in the middle of the night, feeling worse for wear and marginally more clear-headed. He was still in the rec room, but Finn had taken the thin mattresses from the bunks, along with all the available blankets it seemed, and made a sort of nest out of them. Poe didn't remember being moved. Nor, he thought, taking stock of himself, his arm being immobilized and put in a sling, or being maneuvered into a clean shirt. He was kind of impressed Finn had been able to find a clean shirt.
Belatedly he realized that Finn was right there at Poe's side, sitting up with his back to Poe, curled in on himself. He was so still and so silent, he might as well have been a statue.
Poe reached out with his left hand, his fingers lingering in the air, undecided, before he placed his hand on Finn's back. Finn tensed up, but the tension leached out before Poe could even consider taking his hand away. The fabric of Finn's shirt was cool but quickly warmed up under Poe's touch.
"Where's your jacket?" Poe asked.
"You needed it more," Finn said.
A closer look at the blankets revealed that the top layer was made of clothes.
"Don't tell me you've been sitting there, freezing, for – however many hours it's been," Poe said, feeling anger tighten around his chest like a vise. "For heaven's sake, Finn."
"No. No, I just woke up and –" Finn swallowed, the dry click of his throat audible in the quiet of the ship.
"Come on," Poe said, softer. He slid his hand up Finn's back, feeling him shiver. "There's definitely room for both of us here."
It took a moment, but Finn uncurled and turned around, hissing an admonishment at Poe when he tried to help with the blankets. He settled on his side next to Poe, close but not touching.
"You keep bleeding out," Finn said, his voice pained. "Every time I close my eyes, I see you. Sometimes we're stuck here, sometimes we're back with the First Order, and either way, I keep watching you die."
Poe was a good pilot, a good comrade, a good commander. He was loyal to the Resistance and his people, and would never hesitate to put himself at risk for them. People came to him for advice on tactical matters and mechanical issues. They came to hear stories of dangerous missions, daring escapes and impossible flight maneuvers. Poe was the guy they wanted to grab a drink with, to go to war with.
The only people who came to him when they needed a shoulder to cry on were the special cases like Jess and a couple of others from his squadron, people who'd rather spend an hour silently doing X-wing repairs next to Poe than five minutes actually crying on his shoulder.
The point was, Poe didn't excel at providing emotional comfort, and he knew it. Finn either didn't know it, or didn't care.
"You saved me," Poe said, listening to Finn's breathing with a profound sense of inadequacy. "Both times. I'm alive because of you."
Finn said nothing. There was no change in his breathing.
"Here, have proof." Poe willed his heart to stay steady as he found Finn's hand under the blankets and placed it on his chest. "Feel that? That's your doing."
Finn's breath hitched and he shifted closer. His fingers curled up for a moment, indecisive, before flattening out over Poe's heart.
"When that thing attacked," Finn said and stopped, letting out a heavy breath. "Never mind. Can I – can we stay like this? For a minute?"
"As long as you want," Poe promised. A thought occurred to him, and without thinking he said: "Death by a wampa."
Poe winced. "Sorry, it's just." There was no way to stress this enough. "Never, ever tell BB-8."
Finn huffed out a quiet, startled laugh. "Stop almost dying, and I'll think about it."
Poe touched the back of Finn's hand, almost like a promise, except they both knew it wasn't a promise he could keep.
"Go to sleep, Finn. I'll still be here when you wake up."
"I think I figured it out."
It was the fourth day since the wampa attack. Finn had gone back to the storage room on the second day to get the medkit there, ruthlessly using up all the bacta he could get his hands on. After the first twenty-four hours, the combination of bacta and painmeds had kept Poe more or less on his feet. Well, in an upright position, anyway. He wasn't healing at the same rate as he would back at the Resistance medbay, but he was healing all the same, and every day Finn looked like he was worrying a little bit less.
"Figured what out?" Finn asked.
"Communications," Poe said, and Finn perked up. "Only it's kind of like your trick with the Force. I jury rigged it so we can send out a subspace signal, but as it is, there's no way for us to receive a transmission. We won't know one way or the other until help gets here. But I created sort of a feedback loop to test it, and – it should work."
"Yes!" Finn punched the air, excited. "We are getting the hell off this rock."
"And not a minute too soon," Poe agreed, smiling.
Five days later, Millennium Falcon landed gracefully into the snow-swept hangar bay.
Finn was running even before the ramp was lowered. He picked Rey up the moment she touched the ground and spun her around and around and around, laughing.
"You're making me dizzy!" Rey complained, but she was laughing too.
Poe, following at a more sedate pace, missed the lively conversation that followed, because he'd just caught sight of someone he'd missed very much.
Joy blossomed in his chest at the sight of BB-8 barreling toward him at full speed. Poe dropped to one knee with a laugh of his own.
"I know," he said in response to the furious scolding he was getting. "I know, I won't ever leave you behind again, not if I have a choice."
BB-8 continued chirping at him, only slightly mollified. Busy trying to be as conciliatory as he knew how, Poe nearly missed Finn and Rey's approach. He stood up with a wince, one hand pressed against his side, which prompted another, more worried flurry from BB-8, who then proceeded to make circuits around him like a sweet, demanding satellite.
"I'm fine, buddy," Poe said, for all the good it did. He greeted the dynamic duo with a lift of his chin. "Hey."
"Poe," Finn said, dragging a surprisingly tolerant Rey to a stop in front of him. "Poe, this is Rey. Rey, this is Poe."
"We've met," Poe and Rey said at the same time.
"Briefly," Poe added.
BB-8 parked himself in front of Finn.
"What's it saying?" Finn asked.
"He's asking if you're hurt," Rey translated.
Finn looked touched. "No, I'm fine."
"Fine the same way Poe is fine?" Rey asked.
"No," Finn said with a cautious glance at Poe. "Actually fine."
"BB-8…" Poe said, but it was too late.
BB-8's arc welder came out, and while he made no move toward Finn, the threat was there. Finn yelped and scrambled back, resorting to using Rey as a shield.
"He wants to know why you're 'actually fine' and Poe's not," Rey said, clearly holding back amusement.
"BB-8," Poe said firmly, dropping back to his knees. Detecting his disapproving tone, BB-8 turned to him with a concerned inquiry. "Not cool, buddy. Put that away."
BB-8, sheepish and somewhat sullen, followed the command. Poe glanced up, catching both Finn's relieved exhale and the fond way Rey was looking at the little droid. Poe put a hand on BB-8's dome, brushing his thumb lightly against the antenna. Perhaps he'd been a fool to think it would be difficult to share some of the most important things in his life with Rey.
"Come on, you," Poe told BB-8. "You like Finn, and you know better than to jump to conclusions. For the record, you should be extra nice to him, 'cause he saved my life. Again."
BB-8's dome swirled around to find Finn, and Rey raised a questioning eyebrow at him.
The scrutiny made Finn shifty. "Uh, yeah. I guess that's true."
Poe gave BB-8's dome a final pat and pushed himself up to his feet. "BB-8 is very remorseful and promises to never do that again."
He gave BB-8 an expectant look.
"BB-8 is very remorseful," Rey translated the eager beeps that followed, "and promises to never do that again."
She pressed her lips together, her shoulders shaking with suppressed mirth.
Finn looked at her, at Poe, and finally at BB-8, who was shifting back and forth, anticipatory.
"Okay, droid. Apology accepted."
BB-8 bleeped excitedly and did a victory lap around the three of them, coming to a stop at Poe's feet.
"Yeah," Poe said, smiling. "Let's go home."
Home, at the moment, was on a planet that reminded Poe of growing up on Yavin 4. It was the sounds more than anything else that got to him. He hadn't quite realized how quiet it had been on Hoth until they'd got back here.
The days were busy, but the nights were quiet, or as quiet as it got in a rainforest. More than once, restless and unable to sleep, Poe had taken off to a clearing a little ways off the main complex. This night was one of those.
There was a rustle behind him. Whoever it was made no effort to silence their footsteps, and it came as no surprise to Poe when Finn sat down next to him on the stone bench.
"I woke up and you were gone," Finn said by the way of an explanation. He was wearing pretty much the same thing Poe was – a black sleeveless undershirt and knee-length pants to sleep in – except, Poe thought, Finn looked better in them.
"I wanted some air, that's all," Poe said, looking up at the stars.
The air was warm and humid, a gentle breeze moving through the canopy. The jungle was like a living, breathing organism that surrounded and swallowed everything on the planet, the inescapable reality of it soothing in a way Poe couldn't put into words.
"I grew up in a place like this," he said after a long silence.
"Yeah?" Finn asked. He didn't sound like he was simply humoring Poe.
"I used to go up with my mom, in her A-wing. There were these ravines – man, my dad would have had a heart attack if he knew all the tricks she showed me."
"How old were you?"
"Some of my earliest memories are of sitting on her lap, flying. And she died when I was eight, so. Young."
Poe shrugged, because life was what it was. He still missed his mom, missed what could have been, but it was an old ache.
"You're a lot like her, then," Finn said, tentative.
Poe closed his eyes, focusing on the sounds of the rainforest, on Finn's presence next to him. "More than my dad would have liked, I think. He had a hard time after my mom passed, and I wasn't the most well-behaved kid, you could say."
"That's… not shocking to hear," Finn said with a shy smile in his voice.
"I was even worse as a teenager. Ran away from home a couple of times. Joined a salvage crew."
Finn laughed at that, but it was a soft sound, carried away into the night.
"I don't have anything," he said after a moment, and Poe opened his eyes to find Finn with his head tilted up, a faraway look on his face. "No memories. Nothing. I don't know who I take after."
Poe leaned his shoulder against Finn's and left it there for a moment.
"Whoever they were –" Poe paused to clear his throat. "Whoever they were, they were good people, had to be, to have a kid like you."
Finn turned to him, a heartbreakingly genuine smile making a brief appearance. "Thanks. Really, I – I'm lucky to have you."
In whatever capacity, Poe thought, unbidden. He leaned back on his hands and glanced at the unfamiliar constellations above them in the night sky.
"Hey, Finn," he said, waiting to be sure that Finn was looking at him. "Wanna see my scars?"
"I've seen them," Finn said, puzzled.
Poe hummed. "Good point. That line would probably work better on someone who hadn't seen me get sliced up, anyway."
Finn continued to look perplexed.
"Everyone always assumes I'm good at this," Poe said, sitting upright with a sigh. "I'm really not."
"Good at what?"
"See? You don't even know what I'm talking about. Never mind," Poe said. He would get this right if it killed him. "Finn, I really like you. A lot."
"I like you too," Finn said. There was a little furrow between his eyebrows that Poe wanted to smooth out with his thumb.
"A lot," Poe repeated with more weight and significance put on the words.
Finn's expression cleared, going almost blank with surprise. "Oh. You – really? Me?"
"Yeah." Poe bit his lip, almost wishing he'd never opened his mouth. "You don't have to say anything, it's okay if you don't feel the same. I only wanted to –"
Finn surged forward and kissed him. It was a clumsy kiss, an uncoordinated mess of a kiss, until Finn reined it back a little and it clicked in Poe's brain that this was actually happening. He tilted his head and parted his lips, soft, welcoming, and the kiss found its shape.
When it slowly came to an end, Poe's mouth felt bruised. He had a hand tangled in Finn's shirt, and Finn's hands were in Poe's hair. He was gripping a little too hard, the strands held captive by his fingers. It hurt, just a bit, just enough, exactly the way Poe liked it.
"I thought I was insane, wanting this," Finn said.
"I can't confirm or deny," Poe said. "But if you want it, it's yours."
"To keep?" The intensity in Finn's eyes was almost more than Poe could take.
"For as long as you'll have me."
"I meant it," Finn said. "I meant it when I said I intend to live and die by your side. I want – your hair against my pillow, and your skin against mine. Poe, I like you. I really like you. A lot."
"Till all the stars in the universe go quiet, and light is no more," Poe said, remembering the oath his parents used to tell each other.
He laughed, joyful, and Finn pulled him into another kiss.
All around them, the rainforest was singing, and above them, the stars.