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Dameron's Delights

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Dameron’s Delights sells the best goddamned rhubarb pie this side of the galaxy.

Poe opened it after his mother passed away, selling his ship and most of his worldly possessions for the wide open storefront, the ovens, the tables, and enough sky-blue paint to turn the inside of the place the same shade of blue as the sky on Yavin 4.

He has his mother’s recipes, and his father’s stubborn refusal to admit defeat, and he mixes pie-crust – importing real butter to the spaceport he’s settled in at great expense, because there’s nothing like the way a butter crust flakes just so when you bite into it – and brews coffee, and makes it work.

People think he’s strange, running a pie-shop in the middle of an otherwise bustling spaceport, nestled between shops selling spare hyperdrive parts, and navigation systems, but he’s got regulars, and he suspects there might be a small riot if he ever went out of business, or stopped making his ma’s famous triple berry crumble.

The regulars stop by whenever they’re in port, drinking Poe’s coffee, and eating slice after slice of their favourite pies – triple berry made with blueberries from halfway across the galaxy, apple with slices of sharp cheddar cheese, a tart key lime, and shoofly made with real, sticky molasses. Poe’s happy to let them sit in his shop for hours, in exchange for stories about what they’ve seen.

He leans against the counter and matches them mug for mug of coffee, listening to their stories about planets choked with trees, where the thick atmosphere turns the double suns a deep pink; planets where everyone lives beneath the surface in caves large enough to fit cities; planets with empty beaches that stretch for miles, where the water is purple and the sand a delicate green…

It’s enough, when the pie-shop rings with laughter and stories of places beyond the sky: enough to make the constant ache for the stars behind Poe’s breastbone fade to a pinprick, enough that he can hear the stories, and imagine that it’s him in the pilot’s seat, dodging asteroids, and exploring the unknown.

+

Finn stumbles into the pie-shop with a black eye and a split lip, delirious with exhaustion. Poe is wiping down tables in the back, humming along to the music on the radio, when BB-8 squeals in alarm and goes rocketing out from behind the counter to help.

“You okay, kid?” Poe asks, setting down the rag he’s using to clean tables and nudging BB-8 out of the way with his foot so he doesn’t spook the newcomer.

The kid – young man, really – just looks at him, and then at BB-8, swaying on his feet. There’s an air about him of stubbornness, and terror, like he’s about to drop from exhaustion, but can’t do so until he’s sure he’s safe.

“Here,” Poe says, laying a gentle hand on his shoulder, and telegraphing the movement so he doesn’t startle the kid. “Sit down over here. Let me get you something to drink.”

The kid nearly collapses into the nearest booth, and Poe hands BB-8 a clean cloth to bring to the kid. The droid bumps his dome against the kid’s knee warily and extends the cloth when the kid looks down at him.

“Thanks,” the kid mutters, in a voice that’s rusty from disuse, and he wipes at the blood on his chin and the grit on his face while BB-8 chirps at him in concern.

When Poe returns, with a hastily made sandwich, a slice of leftover peach cobbler, and a large glass of water, the kid is wiping at his lip with the cloth, and looking curiously around the shop. He gazes at the sandwich with huge, hungry eyes, and gulps down the water greedily.

“Go ahead,” Poe says, pushing the sandwich closer to the kid, “it’s all yours.”

He finishes closing up while the kid eats, wiping away the dirt he’d tracked in, turning off the ovens, and locking the doors. He’s balancing the register when there’s a soft snore from the table, and an affectionate whir from BB-8 and he looks over to find that the kid has fallen asleep at the table, one fist clutched loosely around a fork that’s resting on the empty cobbler plate.

He stands and stares for a moment, lets his eyes track slowly over the strong shoulders, dark skin, and high cheekbones.

BB-8 bumps gently into his shins, beeping softly but insistently, and Poe smiles down at his droid.

“I don’t know if we can keep him, BB-8,” he says, “that’s something he has to decide for himself. Yes, it does look like he came from a long way away.” He nudges the droid in the direction of its charging center. “No, BB-8, I’m not going to kick him out.”

The kid sighs in his sleep and curls even further into himself, and Poe smiles. He shrugs out of his jacket, and lays it across the kid’s shoulders, tucking the sleeves around his arms.

He finishes closing up shop quietly, then scribbles a note that he leaves within arm’s reach of the kid:

Stay as long as you need .

Upstairs, in his small apartment over the pie-shop, he takes a shower, scrubbing the day’s work off his skin. He dresses in soft sleep clothes when he’s done, and resists the urge to sneak back down to the shop to see if the kid is still there. Instead, he opens up a ration pack, tips it into a dish and sticks it in the oven, toweling his hair dry while it heats. He eats standing up, using his fingers to scoop the food out of the dish, and then drops into bed, shifting against the cool pillows until he can see the stars through the sky-light in his room.

Like clock-work, ships stream away from the spaceport every five minutes, their lights blazing against the deep blue sky. Poe watches them until they streak away into hyperspace, or disappear around the curve of the planet, and he breathes through the desire for flight and adventure that radiates down from his heart to the calluses and burns on his hands, and his tired feet.

+

The kid is still there when Poe walks down before the sun rises to heat the ovens. He’s maneuvered himself onto the bench of the table he’d fallen asleep at, and is curled up, one hand clutching the collar of Poe’s jacket, and the other creasing the note Poe had left.

Poe smiles to himself, and hums softly as he fires up the ovens, and takes a look at the dough he’d set aside to rise the night before. He dips his fingers into a jar of flour and scatters a handful of it over his work surface, before tipping the dough out, dividing it into loaves and onto baking sheets. The ciabatta go in first, followed by his famous sourdough, and then something new: challah woven in a complex rope and brushed with an egg wash before being set in the oven.

He’d gotten the challah recipe from Elijah Vuul, a trader who stopped by whenever his route brought him to Poe’s spaceport, and who had found a holodisk containing his great-great-great-great-grandmother’s recipe, and brought it to Poe the last time he’d been in town.

The drip coffee is going, and Poe is up to his elbows in pie crust when there’s a loud crash out in the front of the shop. He rushes from the kitchen through to the shop, just in time to see the kid pick himself up from the floor, dust himself off, and surreptitiously check his surroundings to make sure no one saw him fall. He freezes when he sees Poe, who’s doing his best to wipe the flour on his forearms onto his apron, and not doing a very good job of it.

“Hi,” the kid manages after a moment, and attempts a smile that makes him wince, and probe at the tender skin around his eye.

“I can get you some ice for that, if you want,” Poe says. The kid just blinks at him, and he gives him another moment before saying: “I’m Poe. Poe Dameron. What’s your name?”

The kid flinches at that, and ducks his head. “They called me FN-2187,” he says hollowly, and darts a glance at Poe from beneath his eyelashes before scanning the room, as if he’s casing the exits.

“F-N…” Poe starts, and shakes his head. “That’s not a name, how ‘bout I call you Finn? Is that okay?”

The kid – Finn – looks at him with very wide eyes, and nods tentatively, before ducking his head to smile at his shoes. “Finn.” He says, rolling the name in his mouth. “I like that.”

Poe smiles. “You hungry, Finn?” He asks, and turns his back on him to check on the coffee, and swipe two heavy mugs from beneath the counter.

“Did you mean what you said in the note?” Finn asks, taking a seat at the counter, and watching Poe pour coffee, and rummage for milk in the fridge.

“Sure did,” Poe says, keeping his tone and manner light. Finn is doing a bad job at pretending he’s relaxed on one of the stools in front of the counter, listing dangerously to one side, and clutching at the countertop with white-knuckled hands. “You can stay as long as you need to.”

“In exchange for what?” Finn asks, quickly, as if hoping to catch him in a lie. Poe takes a slow sip of coffee, his eyes taking in the defeated line of Finn’s spine, the military-grade tension in his shoulders, the way he’d been half-dead on his feet the night before, and the way he’s still looking for the nearest exit, ready to bolt.

“You can help out around here, if you like, but you don’t have to,” Poe says. “I have a spare room, and an extra cot you can use. It’s small, but it’s better than nothing.”

“Why?” Finn asks, his voice sharp and mistrustful in the dawn-lit pie-shop.

Poe shrugs, wrapping his hands around the mug. “Because it’s the right thing to do,” he says, softly. There’s something pressing at his insides, like someone has wrapped a hand around his heart and squeezed. Something about Finn makes his protective instincts flare up. He wants to provide something safe for Finn – a warm meal, a bed, a place where you didn’t have to keep a constant eye out for a blaster shot to the back – something like home, for the soldier without a name.

“I don’t know anything about bread,” Finn says matter-of-factly, and his grip on the counter-top lessens. Poe laughs, and the sound makes Finn startle and stare.

“I do more than bread,” Poe says. “I make the best goddamned rhubarb pie this side of the galaxy.”

That makes Finn laugh, and he laughs again when BB-8 careens out of the kitchen at speed, beeping excitedly at Finn.

“I don’t speak droid,” Finn says, apologetically. “I can’t understand you, I’m sorry.” BB-8 trills at him and turns to Poe, waiting for a translation.

“That’s BB-8, he helps out around here,” Poe says, and shakes his head as BB-8 beeps stridently. “He’s very happy to make your acquaintance.” The droid flicks a thumbs up at Finn, who grins and returns the gesture.

Poe ties his apron back on while Finn and BB-8 get acquainted, and Finn jumps to his feet, BB-8 close on his heels.

“If you give me an apron and instructions, I can do whatever you need me to,” Finn boasts, and only seems to realize that he’s wearing Poe’s jacket after he’s caught the striped apron Poe tosses him. “Oh, shit, shit , sorry…” he mutters, dropping the apron in his haste to pull off the jacket. BB-8 picks the apron up and chirps at him.

“Hey, hey.” Poe stops him with a gentle hand on his wrist. “Keep it, it suits you.”

“But it’s your --.”

“I’ve got other jackets,” Poe says, shrugging. He does, although none of them are worn quite as soft as the one Finn is wearing. His shoulders are broader than Poe’s and they stretch the old leather tight, but he looks better in it than he did when he stumbled into the shop last night. Taller. More confident; in Poe’s clothes.

Poe turns back to the coffee maker, and sneaks a glance over his shoulder at the way Finn runs appreciative hands down the jacket, as if he can’t believe it’s his. He tucks something into the pocket, a flash of white paper with Poe’s messy handwriting on the back, that makes Poe smile at the mug of coffee he’s refilling.

“Come on into the back,” he says, handing Finn a fresh cup of joe. “Are you hungry? I’ve got some scones that are just about ready to come out of the oven.”

Finn’s stomach rumbles loudly in answer, and Poe laughs. Once they’ve had their scones – currant and cardamom, slathered with butter and fresh from the oven – Poe turns back to the pie crust he’d abandoned, rolling the dough flat and draping it gently over each pie tin. He shows Finn how to pinch the edges so that they scallop, and leaves him to it while he sorts through the day’s fruit delivery.

“You want to help chop strawberries?” Poe asks, wrenching the wooden lid off the crate, and checking the fruit inside the padded container.

“What are strawberries?” Finn asks guilelessly, and Poe nearly drops the crate on his toes as he whips around to stare at Finn.

“What are…? Oh. Oh, buddy. C’mere, I’m about to change your life.”

Finn likes strawberries. Poe washes them and cuts their tops off with a paring knife, before handing them over. Finn flinches the first time their hands brush, but he pretends he doesn’t, and Poe is happy to play along.

Finn’s eyes go wide at the first taste of the fruit, and then they turn wet, as he chews and blinks too rapidly. Poe smiles down at his hands, and then reaches for the container for another handful of fruit to wash for Finn.

Finn likes blueberries too. And apples, both granny smith and honey crisp. He doesn’t like molasses – “too sweet,” he says – but he likes maple syrup, and caramel. He tastes lemons and limes and oranges; bittersweet baking chocolate, and vanilla extract, both of which prompt betrayed looks that make Poe shake with barely controlled laughter. He tastes baked and unbaked pie crust, along with a sliver of butter, and dashes of cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves, because Poe quickly found himself unable to refuse in the face of Finn’s boundless curiosity, and had hauled out most of his baking supplies so that Finn could taste each and every one of them.

He sends Finn upstairs with instructions on how to work the shower and where to find spare clothes before the first customers of the day arrive, and edges around BB-8 to unlock the door and slide baked goods into the glass cases, and pies onto pie plates.

BB-8 zooms through the rest of the shop, sweeping dust from the hard-to-reach corners, and getting in Poe’s way as he finishes opening up.

“I know, BB-8,” Poe says, in response to the droid’s excited beeping. “I like him too. He’s going to eat me out of house and home, but I like him.”

+

By the end of Finn’s first week with Poe, he’s tasted most of the food in Poe’s kitchens, learned how to knead and roll out the dough, and become fast friends with Jessika Pava, who delivers the fruit and extra-fine flours Poe special orders.

She’d been surprised to meet Finn, who had his own apron, and rapport with BB-8 two days in, but she’d recovered quickly, and was telling a rapturous Finn about watermelon by the time Poe had finished checking the shipment, and paid.

“I’ll bring you one next time I drop by,” she’d said, sketching a lazy salute in Poe’s direction. “Free of charge, it’s a crime you’ve never tried it before.”

Poe insisted that she didn’t have to, but she turns up a few days later anyway, with a shipment of fresh rhubarb, and a heavy canvas sack that she hands to Finn with a bright smile.

“You didn’t have to do that,” Poe mutters, watching Finn wrestle the huge melon from the sack while BB-8 nudges at his calves and trills loudly.

Jess shrugs. “I wanted to,” she says, handing over an invoice, and leaning back against the counter, watching Finn run curious hands over the watermelon. “He’s cute. Anything for my best customer’s boyfriend.” She winks at him, and Poe flushes, fumbling with the credits he’d pulled out to pay her with.

“He’s not my boyfriend,” he hisses, “don’t give BB-8 any ideas.”

“But you do think he’s cute,” Jess says, laughing at him.

“That’s neither here nor there,” Poe says, with all the dignity he can muster. “He’s a soldier, or he was. I think he defected.” He sighs, and runs a hand through his hair. “He hasn’t said anything about it yet, but he was in pretty bad shape when he got here.”

“Shit,” Jess says bluntly, and Poe nods. She turns to study Finn while Poe signs the invoice, and then calls: “Finn, no , you gotta slice it first,” after a moment of worried silence.

Poe rescues the watermelon from Finn’s ministrations, and brings out a cutting board and a knife, slicing it while Finn and Jess laugh together. He passes thick slices to everyone, and peaceful silence falls, interspersed with the sounds of chewing, and BB-8’s inquisitive trills.

Finn finishes his first slice in silence, gnawing the lush red fruit down to the rind with his brow furrowed. He looks up when he’s finished and exhales shakily. “ Damn ,” he says, and then laughs at Poe’s grin. “Damn,” he repeats. “That is delicious. Can I have another slice? Does it go in pie?”

“It’s a little too watery to work well in pie,” Poe says, while Jess laughs. He hands Finn another slice. “People make soup out of it sometimes, though. We could try that for dinner.”

Finn’s eyes go wide and round, and Jess laughs at them both. “That’s my cue,” she says, activating her anti-grav delivery cart. “I’ll see you boys next week.”

Finn likes the watermelon soup Poe makes for dinner. He likes all of the food Poe makes, and before Poe knows it, a month has gone by, and his shrink-wrapped ration packs are gathering dust in the back of a cupboard, while he makes everything his ma ever taught him, and more, for Finn.

They fall into a routine that immediately feels so familiar Poe isn’t sure how he ever managed without Finn sleeping in his spare room, chattering to BB-8, and sitting across from him at the dinner table, delightedly discovering new foods that he’s finally allowed to enjoy, and not just consume for sustenance.

They both wake early in the mornings, and Poe tips last night’s dough out onto the floured surfaces and kneads and shapes loaves of bread while Finn gets the coffee brewing.

Finn likes coffee almost as much as he likes strawberries. He drinks cups and cups of it, with a hearty splash of cream and two sugar cubes.

“We weren’t allowed to have coffee,” he tells Poe one evening, while staring at his fingers. “We just had this terrible green energy drink.” Poe makes a face, and Finn raises one palm to eye level and studies it. “My hands won’t stop vibrating,” he says. “Strange.” He inspects his trembling fingers for a moment longer, and then shrugs, reaching for his coffee cup.

“How many cups of coffee have you had today?” Poe asks warily, nudging a cabinet open with the toe of his boot to see if they have any decaf.

“Eight,” Finn says promptly, and Poe stares at him.

“Maybe go easy on it, okay?” Poe says, pulling the cup from his warm hands, and pouring it out, before ducking back down to the cabinet he’d opened. “Why don’t we have some tea, instead. You ever tried chamomile?”

They drink tea in the evenings now, mugs of black tea flavored with bergamot and citrus that Finn takes great pleasure in preparing.

In the mornings, when the coffee-maker is brewing the first pot of the day, Finn mixes together the pie-crust dough, while Poe slides the bread into the ovens, and moves on to scones. They take a break for coffee and breakfast when the scones are done, sharing a plate of pastries between them before going back to their tasks.

Finn slices the fruit for pie fillings with military precision, while Poe mixes, and adds a dash of sugar, a dash of spice, and whatever else he’s moved to include in the moment. He lets Finn roll out the dough, and takes silent pleasure in watching the way Finn furrows his brow and concentrates on making the dough the same perfect thickness, and the scalloping around the edges just right. It always comes out a little lopsided, but no less delicious.

Throughout the day, they both deal with customers, Poe swapping stories with the regulars, and taking orders, and Finn working the cash register, entertaining BB-8, and charming everyone in the damn building, Poe included.

Jess stops by with deliveries a couple times a week, and a strange fruit or vegetable for Finn whenever she can swing it. The only thing Finn hasn’t enjoyed so far is the okra Jess imported from god-knows-where, probably just to see the look on Finn’s face when he tried it.

In the afternoons, when the lunch rush dies down, Poe lets Finn make them both sandwiches and gamely eats whatever’s put in front of him, although some of the combinations Finn comes up with are decidedly strange.

“I’m not sure jalapeño and pastrami go together, buddy,” he’d had to say at one point, his eyes watering from the spicy peppers.

When they’ve eaten lunch he sends Finn and BB-8 out to the local green market, with a list of things for dinner.

Finn’s gotten a little soft around the middle, and Poe would be lying if he didn’t find it attractive. Finn is still wearing Poe’s clothes, even though Poe has been giving him wages so he can buy himself things if he wants, and his shoulders stretch the soft cotton of Poe’s shirts.

Finn seems to grow every day – laughing louder, and stretching wider into the empty, dusty spaces of a life that Poe is only now realizing has been terribly lonely.

When the pie-shop is closed for the night, and Finn and BB-8 are busy cleaning the kitchen, and the tables, and balancing the register, Poe mixes dough for the next morning in his big, standing mixers, and then he walks up to his small apartment, and starts dinner.

Since Finn tumbled into his pie shop and moved into his spare room, Poe has cooked every one of his ma’s recipes: from thick steaks rubbed with her special blend of spices, to mouth-watering chowder made with the double-headed crustaceans one of the local green market vendors sells, to tortilla soup loaded with tomatoes and chilies and crispy strips of floating tortillas, and baked pasta stuffed with cheese and Poe’s special tomato sauce.

If he’s completely honest, he’s showing off – he’d made dinner for Finn that first night because he’d looked like he might fall over if he didn’t eat something, and then Finn had been so appreciative of the food, he’d… well, he’d sort of gotten carried away with it.

“I know what you’re doing, Dameron,” Jess had said, the last time she stopped by with his regular delivery, and a small bunch of cilantro for Finn. “Everyone knows the fastest way to a man’s heart  is through his stomach.”

Poe had swatted at her, and she’d laughed, and then laughed harder at the sight of Finn with cilantro behind one ear.

Tonight, Poe is making a stew out of all the leftover vegetables they have in their fridge. He’d begun boiling onions, chicken bones, and spices for the stock at lunchtime, and the apartment smells delicious and comfortable when he heads back up to make dinner.

He slices carrots and mushrooms, thickens the stock with a dash of flour, tastes it, adds salt, and is making a quick batch of dumplings to add to the broth when Finn tramps up the stairs.

“All clear downstairs, boss,” he calls, and then sticks his head over the pot full of stew and inhales deeply. Poe shoulders him out of the way, ignoring the way his stomach swoops at the warm solidity of Finn’s body.

“Hands off,” he says, “it’ll be ready soon.”

Finn sets the table while Poe drops dumplings into the broth and watches them plump as they cook.

“You’re really good at this,” Finn says, when Poe places a bowl in front of him. “Cooking, I mean.”

“You’re just hungry,” Poe says, smiling at him, and hopes the steam rising from the stew hides his flush when Finn beams at him.

“I mean it,” Finn says, when his spoon hits the bottom of the bowl, and he’s chasing the last dumpling, and bit of celery. “You’re really good at this. How did you get so good at it?”

Poe laughs, “My ma. She taught me everything I know.” He pauses - Finn’s never mentioned any family, and he doesn’t know if bringing up his own will upset him, but Finn’s smile just widens, and he continues.

“She was a fantastic cook,” Poe says, pushing his bowl away so he can lean his elbows against the table. “And a baker, too. She could cook a meal that would bring a man to his knees,” he grins, and Finn mirrors it. “That’s how she got my father to marry her,” Poe tells him, and Finn laughs.

“What was your favourite thing she ever made?” He asks, and Poe leans back from the table, crosses his arms, and tells Finn about his ma’s rhubarb pie.

They do the dishes together: Finn washes, splashing water all over the place and getting soap on the back of his neck, behind his ears, and the ceiling. Poe dries, and sings along to whatever’s on the radio. Finn joins him at the chorus, with a voice that’s more enthusiasm than technique, and when a scratchy recording of an old waltz comes on, Poe drops his dish towel and grabs Finn’s soapy hands, spinning him energetically around the tiny space.

Their fingers slide together, soap suds tracking down Poe’s wrists, and he brings them to a standstill in the middle of the small kitchen. Finn is laughing, clutching at his hands, and Poe looks down at their feet, and counts out the one-two-three, moving them in a disheveled square.

Finn is a terrible dancer, and Poe’s got rhythm, but it’s hard to remember the steps with Finn’s hands on his waist, and his smile mere inches away.

They end up rocking back and forth, out of sync with the waltz, and taking turns twirling each other around the room. Poe dips Finn when the song ends, and Finn squeezes his eyes shut and laughs and laughs.

“You’re a terrible dancer,” Poe tells him when they’re both standing again.

“I’ve never danced before,” Finn retorts. “It’s not my fault.”

“I’ll have to teach you sometime,” Poe says, and busies himself with the dishes when Finn nods eagerly.

Before they part for bed that evening, Finn puts a hand on Poe’s shoulder and says: “Thank you for telling me about your family.”

Poe puts his hand on Finn’s shoulder and squeezes. “Thanks for listening,” he says, and there’s a moment where Finn rocks forward, his eyes on Poe’s lips, before he pulls back, waves, and disappears into Poe’s spare room.

On his own again, Poe breathes, brushes tingling fingers against his mouth, and goes into his own bedroom. He strips and collapses in bed, shifting on his pillows until he’s directly beneath the skylight.

He falls asleep with his eyes on the stars, but for the first time in a long time, his mind is planet-side, with the man sleeping in his spare room.

+

Poe learns that Finn was a stormtrooper two months after Finn stumbled into his pie shop, bruised and bloody.

He wakes to a strangled shout in the middle of the night, and is moving towards the spare room before he’s even fully awake.

Finn is thrashing about on the camp bed, sweat rolling down his forehead, and when Poe sinks to his knees, and lays a hand on Finn’s shoulders, he startles awake with a huge, shuddering gasp.

“It’s okay,” Poe murmurs, and Finn’s whole body stiffens at the sound of his voice. “You’re okay,” he repeats, louder. “I’ve got you.”

Finn’s eyes are wide and frightened, and he’s shaking. Poe pulls the extra blanket from the foot of the bed and throws it over his shoulders, and when that doesn’t seem to help with the shaking, he gets up and sits beside Finn on the bed, opening his arms.

Finn smells like Poe’s soap, and he clings to Poe, pressing his nose into his collarbone and sucking in ragged lungfuls of air. It takes a frighteningly long time for him stop shaking, and it’s only Poe’s hands in his hair, and his voice in his ears that eventually seem to calm Finn down. When his breathing is back to normal, Finn’s hold on Poe’s arms loosens incrementally, but he keeps his face tucked into Poe’s neck, and Poe draws his fingers in slow circles across Finn’s back, pretending he doesn’t feel the wetness seeping into the collar of his shirt.

Finn isn’t wearing a shirt, and his skin pebbles beneath the sweep of Poe’s hands. At the top of his spine, there’s a raised line of scar tissue, and Finn shudders when Poe draws his fingers across it.

“Did I hurt you?” Poe whispers, his voice still scratchy from sleep. Finn shakes his head, and takes a breath that only shakes a little bit.

“That’s my…” he ducks his head, and exhales a warm whoosh of air over Poe’s chest. “They branded me,” he whispers. “With my name. It says ‘FN-2187.’”

Poe tenses, and Finn finally pulls back, allowing cold air to rush in to where they’d been pressed together. “Sorry,” Finn says, starting to look frantic. “Sorry, I…”

Poe gets his hands on Finn’s shoulders and stops him as he scoots backwards on the bed. “Finn,” he says, “Finn, hey. I’m not angry. Well I am angry, but not at you. They branded you? Who?”

Finn pulls his hands into his lap, and twists his fingers together. “I can’t tell you,” he whispers. “If you know you won’t let me stay here anymore.”

Poe exhales shakily. “Finn,” he says. “Finn, buddy. If I ever kick you out, BB-8 will stage a mutiny, and I’m pretty sure half the regulars would help him. Jess would kill me with her bare hands. You still have that note, don’t you?”

Finn’s eyes slide to the right, where the note is sitting on the small table beside the camp bed, creased almost beyond recognition. Something swells in Poe’s chest, and he gets two fingers beneath Finn’s chin and tugs lightly, until their eyes connect. “I meant it, Finn,” he says. “Every word. You are welcome to stay here as long as you need. No matter what you’re running from.”

Finn blinks rapidly, his eyes glittering, and he grabs wildly for Poe’s fingers when Poe takes his hand away.

“I’m First Order,” he blurts, and then looks horrified with himself. “I mean... not anymore.” He shakes his head vigorously. “Not for a while.” Poe squeezes his hand, and Finn takes a deep breath, and starts talking.

“They took me from my family when I was little,” Finn says. “I can remember my mother’s voice sometimes, but I never remember anything more than a few scraps of a song she used to sing.” He hums tunelessly, and Poe squeezes his hand again.

“They trained me to be a stormtrooper. I grew up in a military base, between barracks and training rooms. They never let us out, so I didn’t see the sky of the planet we lived on until I was fifteen. I wasn’t… I wasn’t very good at being a stormtrooper. They assigned me to sanitation duty, but sometimes there’d be missions, and they hand us all blasters, and fly us to a planet and make us…” He falls silent, his hand shaking in Poe’s. “I didn’t,” he whispers. “They punished you if you didn’t fire your blaster, so I shot at the ground, or the sky, but I never… I couldn’t hurt anyone. The people we were shooting at had never done anything wrong, not really. I couldn’t hurt them.”

“How did you get away?” Poe breathes.

“We had a mission on Takodana,” Finn says, slowly. “We were ambushed, and I managed to hide until the squadron left.”

“They didn’t come back for you?” Poe asks quietly.

Finn shrugs. “Stormtroopers are easily replaceable,” he says. “They didn’t think twice about leaving me for dead. I bartered my armor and blaster for passage off Takodana, and then stowed away on the first freighter I could find. Didn’t make it too far, though,” he says ruefully. “They found me before the ship even left port.” He glances shyly at Poe. “And then I met this great guy who let me stay in his pie-shop, and I haven’t run since.”

Poe laughs, softly, and Finn ducks his head, staring at their hands. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you,” he whispers. “I thought you’d kick me out if you knew.”

“I told you,” Poe says, “you can stay as long as you need.”

“What if I end up staying forever?” Finn whispers in a rush, and Poe shrugs.

“Fine by me,” he says. Finn squeezes his hand with a small, delighted smile, and lets go, burrowing down into the blankets on the camp bed.

“I like how you can see the stars through the window from here,” Finn says quietly, after he’s stopped rustling around, and made himself comfortable. Poe bites his lips to contain his smile.

“I watch the stars, too,” he admits. ”I used to fly,” he says, after a moment of comfortable silence. Finn looks at him, and then tugs at his arm until Poe is lying down beside him in the tiny camp bed, their shoulders and hips pressed together. “I was a great pilot,” he says. “I could fly anything.”

“Why did you stop?” Finn asks, turning his head so that his lips graze Poe’s shoulder.

Poe’s breath stutters, and he twists his fingers in the sheets. “My parents passed away,” he says, after a moment. “It was my ma’s dream to open up a shop like this, and when she was gone, I sold my ship to do it in her memory.”

“Do you miss it?” Finn asks quietly, and Poe huffs out a laugh.

“Every day,” he says, and then pauses. “But… a little less, recently.”

Finn’s mouth curves into a smile against his shoulder. “You’re a good man, Poe Dameron,” he murmurs, and his breathing evens out a moment later.

Poe twists his head to look at Finn, tracing the curve of his jaw, and the hand he’s still holding, and wonders how he can be so sure.

+

When Poe wakes up the next morning, he’s alone in the camp bed, with a spring sticking in his back. He rolls over, and tucks his arms beneath his head, staring at the pre-dawn sky through the skylight.

He can hear BB-8 beeping in the kitchen below, and something warm unfurls in his chest when Finn’s deeper voice replies. There’s the sound of oven doors being opened and closed, but it’s early still, and it doesn’t smell like anything’s burning, so he relaxes back into the bed, and closes his eyes.

He can still feel the raised skin of Finn’s brand beneath his fingers when he thinks about it, and he clenches his hand into a fist, exhaling angrily at the thought of Finn growing up in such oppression. Stolen from his family, forced to assimilate, expected to kill on command…

Poe’s fingers spasm around an imaginary neck, and he takes a deep breath. It’s over now, at least. Finn is here, and he’s safe. He has a roof over his head, food and friends, and Poe, and Poe would sell his ship all over again before he saw Finn in danger.

He’s just relaxed enough to sink back towards sleep when there are footsteps on the stairs, and Finn pushes open the door with his foot, carrying a tray crowded with plates and cups inside the room.

“Good morning,” he says cheerfully, and puts the tray down on the small table beside the bed. He’s made scrambled eggs and thick slices of sourdough toast, slathered with butter, and there are two mugs of coffee, a bowl of sugar, and a small jug of milk.

Finn looks tired, but happy, and he seems happier still to see Poe’s messy hair, and rumpled sleep clothes.

“Hi,” he says, breathlessly, and Poe can’t help his smile.

“Hey Finn,” he says, and Finn bites his lip, nods decisively to himself and clambers on to the camp bed, one knee landing on either side of Poe’s hips. He nearly upsets the breakfast tray in his enthusiasm, and Poe smacks his forehead into Finn’s when he sits up to steady it.

Both of them swear, and Finn cups his hand over Poe’s forehead. “Sorry,” he says, and strokes a hand through Poe’s hair.

“Finn,” Poe manages, each fiber in his body straining towards the touch. “Finn, buddy, what are you doing?”

“This,” Finn says, and presses their mouths together.

It’s terrible kiss: their teeth clash painfully, and neither of them have brushed their teeth, but Poe feels like all of his nerves are coming alight at once, and his chest heaves when Finn pulls away.

“Wow,” Finn says, his eyes on Poe’s mouth. “That was good. I liked that.”

Poe leans back against the pillows and laughs helplessly. There’s a loud beep from below, and Poe covers his face with his hands as BB-8 trills encouragement from the kitchens.

Finn pulls his hands away from his face and leans back in for another kiss. Poe takes control this time, sliding a hand through the rough curls at the nape of Finn’s neck, and pressing his tongue against Finn’s lips. Finn whimpers, and knocks an elbow into Poe’s appendix in his scramble to get closer.

Poe presses his forehead to Finn’s when they break apart, and smiles when Finn’s stomach grumbles loudly. “Let’s eat breakfast,” he says. “We’ll have plenty of time later.”

Finn sits back on his heels. “I experimented with the eggs this morning,” he says proudly, handing Poe a plate. “I wanted to see what I could substitute for salt.”

Poe pauses, a forkful of eggs halfway to his mouth. “What did you substitute for salt?” He asks warily.

“Horseradish,” Finn says, cheerfully. “And sugar.”

 fin