“So BB-8 told me you saved ‘em from a dastardly scavenger,” a man says and Rey recognizes him from BB-8’s descriptions of its master more than their brief meetings — the X-wing pilot Poe.
“What do you want?” she asks.
“Just to say hi. I’m Poe, remember? We… met briefly,” he says. He grins and reaches over Finn’s unconscious body to offer her his hand. The silence is only interrupted by the beating of Finn’s heart — amplified by the equipment in the isolation room. His smile falters slightly.
“I hear Finn saved you too. We should start a club.”
She looks at him and lets go of Finn’s hand to take Poe’s. His hand is so warm in comparison to Finn’s and he squeezes her hand as he shakes it.
“A club?” she asks, taking her hand back and fitting it around Finn’s again.
“It’s very exclusive right now,” Poe says, “Ace pilots saved by Finn, the ex-Stormtrooper.”
“How much has BB-8 told you?” she asks, suspicious. She thinks about everything she told the little droid — and, worse, about the moment where she considered trading it for food.
“A lot,” Poe says.
“Whoa, whoa! Don’t worry,” he tells her. “BB-8 doesn’t have a single bad thing to say about you. Rey, is it? BB can’t shut up about how great you are.”
“Oh,” she says. The blood rises in her cheeks, but she can’t understand why the kindness of a droid would do that.
BB-8 rolls into the room — Rey was told it is usually an isolation room, for patients in need of critical care — and chirps excitedly about a droid called R2-D2.
Rey feels her eyes go a little wide.
“Sounds great, BB,” Poe says. He looks back up at Rey and steps further into the room.
“Do you mind?” he asks, pulling a chair up.
She shakes her head. “No.”
He turns the seat and sits on it backwards, reaching out with both hands for Finn’s hand.
“I can’t wait for him to wake up and tell me how he kicked some First Order ass,” Poe says.
Rey nods. “He did. He saved me.”
“Me too,” Poe says. “Exclusive club, remember?”
“Yes,” Rey says. “I suppose… We could be a club.”
They lapse into silence and Rey sits with the question on her tongue for a very long moment, twenty breaths at least.
“What kind of club?” she asks. “Not a weapon, right?”
Poe laughs and Rey feels something angry boiling in her stomach. Her face is hot.
“Yeah, they probably only have one kind of club on Jakku,” Poe says. “This kind of club would be… a group of people with something in common.”
“Like a family?” Rey asks.
Poe smiles at her and she feels that heat again.
“Yes, like a family,” he says. “Better than a family, even, because you can’t pick your family, but you choose to join a club.”
“I didn’t choose to be saved by Finn,” Rey says, frowning. But she would, if she could. And if she could have woken a moment earlier to stop Kylo Ren from doing this to Finn, she would have chosen that.
“Yeah, but you don’t have to agree to be in a club with me,” Poe says.
“Oh,” she says, not understanding.
“So, wanna be in a club with me?” he asks.
She makes a face at him and he laughs. She can see his knuckles rise when he squeezes Finn’s hand.
“Alright,” she says. “I agree.”
When Poe grins she can see all his teeth, very clean and straight with a bit of space between each tooth. She is still getting used to seeing other humans, but she likes to see Poe. She likes to see Finn too, even though she would rather see him healed and awake.
“Great,” Poe says.
They sit in silence, listening to Finn’s heartbeat on the monitor. Rey counts her breaths and looks at Finn’s face, then Poe’s, then Finn’s.
When they are called away, it is because General Organa has a plan. This plan is full of words that Rey is used to hearing only in rumors and the stories of drunk scavengers — Jedi temple, Dark Side, Empire.
She looks at the General and wonders how she carries so much. They don’t talk about it, but she seems to understand what Rey is thinking without Rey having to say. Is that the Force?
The plan is accepted — Rey will go to Luke Skywalker, the Luke Skywalker. With the New Republic destroyed and the Resistance’s forces decimated, the best ship to take is the Falcon. Rey knows she is living in the tall tale of a drunkard.
But taking the lightsaber and going to Luke Skywalker — to bring him back to his sister, to have him train her to be a Jedi — means leaving Finn.
She works on the Falcon and prepares for her departure, wishing every hour that Finn will wake up. The Resistance gives her clothing and food. There is so much water that she gets to bathe with it every day. Sometimes she lets it run over her body as cold as it will get, until her skin turns into bumps and her teeth chatter in her skull.
Finn does not wake. Her departure is hours away.
She dresses and the warmth of the air around her isn’t painful, like the heat on Jakku, but it softens the bumps on her skin after a cold shower. Her clothing now is thicker, meant to insulate against the occasional cold breeze.
Rey leaves the large room where she stays by herself, alone.
“Ready to go become a Jedi?” Poe asks, standing just to the left of her doorway.
“How long have you been there?” she asks.
“Uh,” Poe asks. “I was going to knock, but I could hear the water in the fresher.”
“Why are you here?” she asks.
“I know you check on Finn every day,” he says.
“So?” she asks, defensive.
“I know because I check on Finn every day, too. The 2-1B’s kind of a gossip.”
Rey blinks. Her eyes feel wet and she can barely stifle the instinct that tears are a waste of water.
“So, I just wanted to ask if you want me to tell him,” Poe says.
“Tell him what?”
“That you waited for him every day,” Poe says, “but you had to go meet a Jedi and save the galaxy.”
“Yes,” Rey says. “Tell him that.”
“Alright,” Poe says. “I will.”
“And… tell him,” Rey starts.
Poe looks at her, his eyes very intent on her eyes and his mouth closed, not even smiling a little.
“Tell him that I’ll come back,” Rey says. “I promise.”
“I’ll make sure I’m there when he wakes up,” Poe says. “I’ll tell him.”
Rey smiles. She knows that Poe is busy helping the Resistance build up its forces again. But she wants to believe him. She wants someone to be there when Finn wakes up, so he isn’t alone.
If it can’t be her, then… Poe and she are a club, aren’t they? And that’s like a family. At least that’s what he said, which is enough for Rey. It will have to be.
“I’m going to see him before I go,” she says.
“Do you want me to come with you?” Poe asks.
Rey thinks about holding Finn’s hand with Poe across from her, holding the other. She liked that. But she also wants to be alone with Finn before she leaves.
“No,” she says, unsure of herself.
“Alright,” Poe says, smiling. “Say hi for me.”
“I will,” Rey says.
It’s the first thing she does as she takes Finn’s hand: “Poe says hi.”
She squeezes her hand around Finn’s hand and hopes that someone will still be holding it when he wakes up. If she’s not back, Poe will be enough. Just let there be someone. Don’t let him be alone.
Poe Dameron wakes with a start — his body tells him he’s injured. He throws himself into motion and out of his bed. The pilots now have enough space that they’re not three to a room anymore. He doesn’t like the reasons, but at least there’s no one to witness him stumble around shirtless trying to figure out what just hit him.
“BB-8!” he calls out when he hears the droid beep. He can see its lights in the darkness of his bunk. “BB-8! I’ve been shot!”
The droid sticks out its short-distance weapon and blue electricity casts interesting shadows in the small room.
“What the varp,” Poe says, which he has only heard General Organa say once but he liked it so much he adopted it into his vocabulary.
BB-8 puts the zapper away and hurriedly tells Poe that he’s needed in the infirmary’s isolation. The 2-1B told BB-8 to fetch him immediately. Finn is awake.
Poe nearly leaps over BB-8 to get to the door. He runs through the base’s dark, quiet corridors not particularly caring if he wakes anyone up on his way. His bare feet slide across the floor as he takes each turn a little too fast. He stumbles once and catches himself on a light fixture before he can fall onto his face.
He can hear Finn before he gets to the infirmary.
“Where’s Rey?” he shouts. “Where is she? What did you do with her? Tell me or I’ll rip your drives out!”
“Hey now!” Poe shouts back. “No violence against medical droids.”
“Who’s there?” Finn shouts. “I won’t talk! I won’t go to reconditioning!”
Poe moves as quickly as he can, BB-8 on his heels. He’s breathing a little hard, but leans against the door to isolation and tries to play it cool.
“Forgot me already, Finn?”
Finn looks at him with sweat dripping down his face and his mouth slack. His eyes are so wide and the whites seem like the brightest thing in the dimly lit room.
“Poe,” he says.
“Hey buddy,” Finn says. “Sorry I wasn’t here when you woke up, I promised Rey I would be.”
“Rey?” Finn says. “Where is she? Is she alive?”
Up close, Poe can see that Finn’s wrists are restrained to the recovery bed. He scowls.
“Yeah,” he says, distracted. “She’s doing great. She’s training with Luke Skywalker — or at least I think that’s what she’s doing. The only message we got was from Chewbacca and it wasn’t a great transmission. Apparently the ancient Jedi temple is pretty remote.”
Finn’s mouth falls a little more open.
“Why’s he all tied up like that?” Poe asks the droids.
“The patient became quite distraught when he awoke,” the droid explains. “He must remain still or risk regressing his recuperation.”
“What’s it saying?” Finn asks. “What’s going on?”
Poe lowers himself until he’s level with the bed, looking up at Finn.
“The droids are a little distressed,” Poe says. “Say you’ll hurt yourself with all this sitting up and yelling about tearing their drives out.”
“Oh,” Finn says, and every breath makes his chest heave under the white gown he wears. The back is open and Poe can see the healing injury on his back — the skin swollen and dark. That can’t feel good to lay on.
Finn winces when he lays back down, but he does. The restraints open.
“I thought… I thought I was back on Starkiller.”
“Nah,” Poe says. “I blew that up. Well, with some help.”
“What?” Finn says, his eyes wide. “Seriously?”
Poe rests his chin on his hands and grins. “Seriously.”
Finn’s expression fades from something surprised into something Poe recognizes as dark and confused.
“Everyone I ever knew was on that base,” he says, his voice very small.
Poe’s pride goes cold. He feels like his heart just dropped into his stomach — maybe he should ask the med droids about that.
“Hey,” he says. “You know me. I’m here.”
He reaches out and takes Finn’s hand.
“You know Rey,” Poe continues. “And Chewbacca. They miss you. Chewbacca wanted to know how your recovery was going. He flew the Millennium Falcon right to Rey after she kicked Kylo’s ass.”
Finn smiles a little. “She did that?”
“Yeah,” Poe says. “She sure did.”
“Tell me about it,” Finn says, and the excitement is back in his voice.
Poe grins and begins to tell Finn what Rey told him — with embellishments from what he read in her debriefing report from General Organa and a few of his own exaggerations for flavor.
“I hate to interrupt, boys,” the general says.
Poe’s neck makes a series of pops when he turns his head whiplash fast. He gets to his feet in a hurry and turns.
“General,” he says.
“Officer Dameron,” she says. “You beat me here.”
She smiles a little. “And in such a state.”
Poe looks down at himself — suddenly really aware that he’s in his pajamas. But General Organa is dressed in a gown and robe, with her hair hanging down in braids that look well-slept on.
Poe bites his lip. “I was in a hurry.”
“I understand,” she says.
She moves across the isolation room and Poe can really see the royalty in her, with the hem of her robe brushing the floor and her hands tucked into her robe.
“Finn,” she says. “How good it is to see you awake.”
“It’s good to be awake, uh, General,” Finn says. “Are you here to debrief me?”
“No need to rush that,” the General says. “I’m here to thank you.”
“Thank me?” Finn asks. “But I couldn’t stop him after—”
“You did so much,” the General says. “Rey told us everything she could. Has Poe told you where she is now?”
“She’s with Skywalker, Luke Skywalker,” Finn says. “She’s a Jedi!”
“She’s training to become a Jedi,” the General tells him. “I hope.”
Poe notes how General Organa sighs when she says this, but Finn seems oblivious to any problem.
“I can’t believe it,” Finn says. “I can’t believe the Jedi are really real, they’re really returning.”
“There will always be individuals who could become Jedi,” the General says, “if they received the proper training. In fact, I believe you could be such an individual, Finn.”
Finn’s eyes look like they’re about to pop out of his head, which can’t be good when he’s already sweating and visibly in pain. An alarm goes off and BB-8 begins to sound an alarm of its own beside Poe’s leg.
“Hey now, BB-8, it’s okay,” Poe says. “I’m sure it’s okay.”
Before any of the medical droids can do anything, the alarm stops. The 2-1B bows its head, but asks General Organa to please not distress its patient any further.
“I apologize,” the General says. “Finn, please focus on your recovery. We will discuss this when you’re ready.”
“I’m ready!” Finn says. He tries to sit up and Poe can see the muscles of his back tense as it curves upward, pulling his shoulders back and make him grimace. He doesn’t cry out, but Poe can hear the hiss of his breath escaping through his clenched teeth. He goes back down hard.
“As I said, when you are ready,” General Organa repeats.
She moves out of the room as graceful as ever, more like a queen than a general.
“I hate this,” Finn says.
Poe looks down at him. “You hate that General Leia Organa thinks you could be a Jedi?”
“No!” Finn protests. “Not that, obviously. This! I hate this.”
“Well,” Poe says, “you almost froze to death — and that was after you got sliced up by a lightsaber.”
Finn groans. “How am I supposed to be a Jedi? I got my ass kicked.”
“Really?” Poe asks. “The way Rey tells it, you held Kylo Ren off with a lightsaber duel. That’s wild! Does the First Order even train their Stormtroopers on lightsabers?”
“No,” Finn answers. “I’ve really only used blaster before.”
“And you held your own against that Dark Side lunatic?” Poe asks, already knowing the answer. “That’s incredible! Just like how you were such a great shot in our TIE fighter — and then in the Millennium Falcon. The Millennium Falcon!”
“Oh yeah,” Finn says, grinning.
“Just think what you could do with a little more practice,” Poe says. “I’ve been flying since I was barely big enough to see out of the cockpit — that’s the real reason I’m so great.”
“Oh, you’re great, huh?” Finn asks.
“Best pilot in the Resistance,” Poe says, with a smile he hopes is as playful as Finn’s.
“I don’t know about that,” Finn says. “Have you ever flown the Millennium Falcon?”
Poe can only laugh.
They argue — jokingly, but passionately — about whether Rey should count. Poe says she doesn’t, because she’s off becoming a Jedi. If she counts, then shouldn’t Luke still count? But Finn has him when he points out that Rey is completing what was originally Poe’s mission for the Resistance.
Then Poe yawns.
“Are you tired?” Finn asks.
“You woke me up,” Poe explains.
“Oh,” Finn says, “so that’s why you’re wearing that. It didn’t really look like a Resistance uniform, but I know the Resistance can be a little… wild.”
“Wild?” Poe asks, smiling. “You really thought I just walk around all the time in only a pair of pants?”
“Well,” Finn says. “Not when you’re flying, obviously.”
Poe laughs so hard. He grabs Finn’s hand with both of his and rests his forehead against Finn’s curled fingers until he’s down to soft chuckles, feeling breathless or maybe delirious.
“I’m so glad you’re awake,” Poe says.
“I’m so glad you’re here,” Finn says.
Poe can’t help but smile. Finn is so honest and his words, for a moment, make Poe feel just like he does when a ship shifts past lightspeed and jumps through the galaxy at Poe’s command.
Not long after he’s conscious, Finn is cleared to leave the medical bay. It probably isn’t called a medical bay, because they’re on a planet and not a ship. But he never asked.
He thanks all the doctors and medical droids repeatedly, trying to remember their names. He’s pretty good at it, actually, names are even easier than numerical designations.
Finn smiles thinking about how he has a name now too.
He walks out of the medical bay hoping to find Poe.
“Finn,” General Organa says.
Finn turns and stands, straight-backed and stiff.
“Come with me.”
He follows her — wondering at how a voice of such authority can come from someone so short and old. The highest ranking officer he ever met aboard the Starkiller was Captain Phasma. He never saw her face, so maybe she was older too. Certainly, she wasn’t short.
But General Organa spoke with the same kind of authority in her voice and Finn found himself following her at marching pace.
They went through hallways as dark and twisting as those Finn was used to, though smaller. There was a doorway or two that some troopers would have had to duck to go through. Like Captain Phasma.
He felt… guilty. She would have killed him, surely, any of them would have. No one defected from the First Order. The First Order didn’t even come back for its fallen. If Slip had…
Finn breathed a little harder through his nose and stepped a little harder down the hall behind General Organa.
She turned her head slightly, but didn’t look over her shoulder.
They left the Resistance’s complex and stepped out into sunlight and warmth and green.
Finn realized he was still wearing the clothes he’d been given in the medical bay — including the shirt that opened at the back. He reached around and held the back shut against a light breeze.
“Excuse me, ma’am,” Finn said, nervous. He swallowed. “General Organa?”
“Yes?” she asked, finally looking back at him.
“Where are we going?”
“To the edge of the river,” she said.
No one questions their superiors in the First Order, so Finn’s tongue touches the roof of his mouth for a long moment before he asks, “Why?”
She stops and turns, looking up at him with shrewd eyes. Finn leans back slightly, just slightly, and thinks of Maz Kanata. He hopes she's okay.
“You're not really up for weapons training yet,” she says. “And I'm a little reluctant to let Poe Dameron turn you into a pilot just yet. But you're healthy enough to meditate.”
She turns back. “Probably.”
“Meditate?” Finn asks. “Yeah, sure, I can meditate. I can do anything. I feel fine.”
Sometimes his back spasms — but it did that sometimes when they had a long field exercise in the cold followed by early-hours floor polishing.
Also he only coughed that one time while he was laying down and he held his stomach just like the doctor had told him to, stayed straight-backed. It totally didn't feel like his wound was going to burst open.
He doesn't ask the General what “meditate” means.
Instead, they sit on a flat outcropping of stone over the shallow river and she says, “I'm surprised the First Order encourages their stormtroopers to meditate. Protocol must have changed since I was a girl.”
“Oh,” Finn says. “Probably.”
“Do you know what the Force is,” she says — not asks.
“Well,” Finn says. “I've heard things — overheard them, really.”
“I shudder to think about what people on Starkiller base thought of the Force,” General Organa says.
“I'm no Jedi,” she continues. “So I likely won't be as poetic about it. All living things produce a field of energy. That energy is the Force, and through it, everything is connected.”
“And there some people, uh,” Finn looks at the General for confirmation that he isn't interrupting.
“Some people can control that energy,” he finishes.
“Yes,” she says. “For now, I just want you to become aware of it — or more aware, at least.”
“How do I do that?” Finn asks.
“You sit here and think about it,” she says. “Try it for an hour, and if that's too hard, three hours.”
Finn makes a face — the kind of thing that's normally hidden behind a clunky white mask. The General smiles at him.
“Good luck, Finn.”
He tries. He really does. He closes his eyes and breathes through his nose. He thinks about the leaves overhead and the trees they're attached to. Are there fish in this river? He thinks about fish.
Fish are living, right? Do fish have the Force?
How long is an hour on D’Qar? Finn doesn't know and has no way to tell anyway. Also his back is sweaty. He's not even wearing real clothes.
“Hey there,” Poe says.
Finn snaps his head to the right and stares, wide-eyed.
“Leia told her old droid where you were,” Poe says. “BB-8 slipped the intel to me.”
“Oh,” Finn says. “I probably shouldn't be talking to you. I’m meditating.”
“In your hospital gown,” Poe says, like it’s a question. Poe has eyes. Obviously he can see what Finn’s wearing to meditate.
“It's not a gown,” Finn says.
He could say something about how Poe visited him when he woke up. He thinks of three different things to say, even, starting with “At least I'm wearing a shirt.”
But he liked that moment. He wouldn't want Poe to think he didn't.
“We're about the same height and my jacket looks good on you,” Poe says. “Come with me, we’ll see if anything else I own would fit you.”