“You don’t need a designation now. You get to have a name,” Finn explains patiently to the five ex-Stormtroopers gathered in the cantina like they’re expecting a firing squad. Poe can’t believe how small they look very small without their uniforms, though that might have something to do with the way they hunch and shuffle like penguins huddling together for warmth. One of them, the tallest one with the red hair cropped neatly around a surprisingly delicate face, doesn’t know what to do with her hands. They keep fluttering about her, first into her pockets, then running through her hair, then wringing each other, then holding her sides. Another keeps his eyes on the ground as he rubs the toe of his new Resistance issued boot into the floor. He looks the youngest, maybe sixteen, if that. The oldest is a woman, maybe late forties, with the palest skin Poe has ever seen, with inexpertly sheared black hair and tired eyes. To her side is a squat woman who could have been Poe’s little sister. She holds the hand of a twitchy looking blond who keeps bumping his shoulder against hers.
None of them meet Finn’s eyes, though sometimes in their attempt to avoid his face, they make inadvertent eye contact with Poe, who smiles as encouragingly as he can and tries not to think about how many Stormtroopers he’s shot in the line of duty.
Finn points over at Poe. “He gave me my name when I escaped. It helped me figure out who I was outside the order.” Finn gives Poe a nervous smile that none of the ex-Stormtroopers catch, seeing as how they’re all still studying everything except the legendary mythic nightmare of the First Order standing right in front of them. His story had motivated them to defect, they had searched for the Resistance to find him, and when they’d first stood in front of Finn two days ago after their arrival, three of them fainted straight away.
“Come help me with them,” Finn had asked Poe earlier this morning. “I don’t know how to give an orientation.”
“You’re probably the only person on the base who’s qualified to orient them,” Poe had replied.
And Finn had grinned at Poe in that way that put Poe in mind of Starkiller Base draining the entire sun for energy. Poe is consistently sure that Finn absorbed at least one Red Giant to power his smiles. “But you’re the one who oriented me!”
And how the hell was Poe supposed to say no to that?
The ex-Stormtroopers look Poe’s way. He gives them a tiny wave.
The tall one with the red hair straightens her back, bites her lip, and raises her hand.
“You can just speak,” Finn says, which is actually not how military discipline works on this base, but that’s not relevant at the moment and anyway Poe’s never been very good at playing drill sergeant.
“Umm,” she says. “How, umm.” She can’t look at Finn. She looks at Poe instead. “How did you name him, sir?”
“Oh, I just offered a name. I didn’t like the idea of calling the man who saved my life by a number,” Poe says. He nods at Finn. “He’s the one who accepted the name.”
“From my designation,” Finn says proudly. “FN to Finn.”
“AC-1943, sir,” says the squat woman as she looks at Poe. And she waits.
“It doesn’t have to be from your designation,” Finn adds as five pairs of eyes look towards Poe to name them, which is a hell of a lot more than Poe was planning to do this afternoon. “It can be from anything.”
“Then I want to be Finn too,” says the tall one with red hair.
“Then I’m Finn-Three,” the blond, ZX-11001, if Poe recalls correctly, says with an eagerness that makes Poe wonder if having five digits in your name was like being at the back of the alphabet during attendance, and this time 11001 is getting in on this numbering thing on the ground floor.
“No, I mean—” the second Finn starts to clarify as the squat woman says, “Then I’m Finn-Four.”
“That’s not how names work!” Finn says.
“Finn-Five,” the black haired woman whispers. As far as Poe can recall, that’s the first thing she’s said since she arrived piloting the ship of the First Order’s newest defectors.
“No! We’re not allowed to have the same name,” Finn says. Then he glances at Poe, who coughs discreetly and shakes his head. “Or we’re allowed to have the same name, but people usually don’t?” Poe wiggles his hand in a sort of, gesture. Finn shakes his head and rallies. “Look, no one else on Starkiller Base was called Hux, right?”
The ex-Stormtroopers mumble a discordant, “No.” Poe has never been more reminded of a kindergarten classroom.
“Right! Because Hux was a person. And if he was Hux-One, and there was a Hux-Two—”
“Then he wouldn’t be a person anymore,” says the youngest boy. “He’d be a Stormtrooper.” He drops his eyes and raises his chin. “I don’t wanna be Finn-Six.”
“Good,” says Finn proudly. “Good. What do you want to be?”
It’s interesting, Poe thinks, how silence could be so filled with panic.
“You all can take your time,” Finn adds.
After another long moment, Finn-Two offers, “Finn-Beta?”
Finn-Four raises her hand. “Why don’t you give us our names, and we’ll work with that?”
“I can’t pick your names for you,” Finn says.
She points at Poe. “He picked your name for you.”
“Do people ever name themselves?” Finn-Four asks. “I thought someone had to name you?”
And because Finn Prime is looking a little out of his depth here, Poe shifts, watches how every eye snaps to him, and says, “There’s at least four thousand sentient species on record, and each of those species have more cultures than you can even imagine.” He smiles encouragingly again. “There’s no way to do this wrong. As long as it’s what you want to do.”
The older woman smiles the smallest fraction of a smile in response. “It’s that last part,” she says quietly, “that we’re getting used to.” She studies Finn. “I want to be called Five.”
And the red-haired woman says, “I want to be called Finn.”
And the blond boy says, “I want to be called Lightning Bolt Suncatcher.”
And Finn, the original Finn, nods solemnly. “If you want those as your name,” he says, sounding every bit the officer that Finn confided to Poe that the First Order wanted him to be, “then they’re perfect.”
An hour later, the five newest members of the Resistance walk out of the cantina with five new nametags. They’ve got a half hour break before Finn takes them on a walking tour of the base. Poe leans back in his seat as Finn packs up the datapads he used to create five new identities. “You like Finn, right?” Poe asks.
“Yeah,” Finn says enthusiastically. “She’s great!”
“No, no, also one of you needs to get a nickname asap. I mean…” Poe pauses. “You like your name, right?” Poe gestures at the door Finn’s five ducklings just walked out of. “You all just brainstormed for more than an hour about what they wanted to be called. I just called you something.”
“You called me my name,” Finn says like it’s the simplest answer in the world. And then, while Poe’s still feeling a little breathless from that, a little colossal and humbled by the way Finn says it like there was never a doubt in his head, Finn adds cheerfully, “You want to stick with us? I’m showing them the gardens after this, I think they’ll like the gardens.”
They do like the gardens. When they ask, Finn tells them the name of every single flower.