They’re cleaning up after a short and victorious battle with Stormtroopers on some nameless world – Finn’s not even sure why the First Order cares about this place, but it made a good excuse to try out some of the new tactics he’s been teaching the ground troops of the Resistance – when Finn finds the cat. It is a large and imposing creature, an off-white shorthair with a battered looking face and a torn ear, and it has a broken leg. Finn is pretty sure that it would take a harder heart than he’ll ever possess not to want to help the poor thing, so he scoops it up as gently as he can.
It hisses and claws at him, furious at the manhandling, and he swears and grabs a bit of cloth from the ground to wrap it in so that it can’t maul him too badly. He’s got it firmly wrapped before he realizes that the cloth is, in fact, a cloak – one he remembers vividly. Captain Phasma’s cloak.
He doesn’t remember seeing her in the battle. How odd.
But the cat is hissing and injured, so he puts the oddity out of his mind and heads for the transport ship.
The med droids are somewhat less than pleased when he presents them with a furious injured cat, but they splint its leg and check it over to make sure nothing else is damaged, and give it back to him with instructions on making sure it doesn’t try to chew the cast off. He talks them into trimming its claws while they have it sedated, because if he can avoid being scratched to pieces, he’d prefer that.
He shares a room with Rey, but she’s off on a mission at the moment; with any luck, by the time she gets back, the cat will be healed and Finn will have managed to find someone to give it to. He’s pretty sure he shouldn’t keep it; a Resistance base is no place for a pet. It might get run over by a droid, or squished by an X-Wing, or even eaten by one of the alien Resistance fighters who doesn’t realize it’s a pet. But while it’s healing it’ll probably be pretty safe in his rooms.
It wakes up yowling some hours later, by which time he’s coaxed a litter box out and a large pillow out of the Quartermaster and some chopped meat out of the cooks, and it stops yowling as soon as he puts the bowl in front of it. It looks…startled, in fact. Like it didn’t expect to be fed. But it eats all the meat, and then it sniffs its new cast all over – Finn braces himself to have to stop it from biting, but it doesn’t do any more than sniff – and then pads around the room, broken leg held daintily off the ground, investigating the bunks, the closet, and the ‘fresher, and giving what Finn would swear is a disdainful look to the litterbox. He’s never actually had a cat before; maybe disdainful looks are normal.
He tries to pet it. It tries to claw his hand. Right, then.
Poe comes back to his rooms with him after dinner, to continue their evening tradition of telling each other stories. Poe is, predictably, charmed by the cat. The cat hunkers down under Rey’s bed, as far from Poe and Finn as it can get, and hisses.
“Have you named it yet?” Poe asks.
“No,” Finn admits. “I mean, I’m probably not going to keep it once it’s healed – seems a bit silly to name it.”
“Probably right,” Poe says. “Sensible.” And he leans back against the wall, legs sprawled across Finn’s bunk, shoulder warm against Finn’s. “What sort of story do you want today?”
“Tell me about birthdays,” Finn says, because Jess has invited him to her birthday party and he is not entirely sure what that entails.
“Sure thing, buddy,” Poe says, and launches into a hysterically funny story about his ninth birthday, at which he attempted to eat an entire cake by himself. Finn laughs until his stomach hurts.
When Poe leaves, Finn notices that the cat has slunk to the edge of the bed’s shadow and is watching them both with what he’d almost swear is bafflement. Maybe it’s not used to the sound of laughter?
The next day Poe says he’ll meet Finn after dinner, and shows up with a ten-pound bag of cat food which he’s clearly gone all the way to the nearest inhabited planet to procure. Poe is far too good a man sometimes. Finn thanks him gratefully: the cooks are nice, but Finn doesn’t want to have to keep begging them for meat scraps.
The cat looks dubious about the food - it’s really quite an expressive animal - but it takes a bite, and then eats the whole bowl in about the time it took Finn to pour it.
“Hungry little thing,” Poe observes, and tries to pet it. It does its level best to tear his hand off; thankfully his reflexes are good enough to get him out of range. “And not really a people person!” he laughs.
“No - it hasn’t let me touch it at all,” Finn says. “Maybe its previous owners were cruel to it. Or maybe it’s a stray - but it uses the litterbox just fine.”
Poe shrugs. “This and other mysteries,” he says philosophically. “Your turn to tell a story, buddy.”
Finn settles himself on his bunk while he thinks of what to say, and Poe is apparently tired, because instead of sitting next to Finn, he sprawls out across the bunk with his head in Finn’s lap. After a moment’s stunned immobility, Finn dares to run a hand through Poe’s hair. Poe makes a sort of rumbling happy sound and goes limp. “Your cat doesn’t know what it’s missing out on,” he mumbles. “You’ve got nice hands.”
Finn isn’t quite sure how to respond to that, so he just lets it go. “The closest thing we had to a birthday,” he says instead, “was graduation from training.”
Poe makes a noise of interest. Finn keeps petting his hair. It’s oddly soothing. Under Rey’s bunk, the cat creeps forward a little, as though it also wants to hear this story.
“We were given our armor,” he says slowly, “and our blasters. Those of us who qualified for specialist training were commended. We were assigned our new units. Captain Phasma made a speech.”
The cat twitches a little. Poe hums. “What sort of speech?”
“She told us we were the arm of the First Order, that we must do our duty and that by surviving training we had proven our capability to do so. That as long as we followed orders we would be inevitably victorious. She said she was proud that we would be joining the ranks of her troops.” Finn is silent for a moment. “We all wanted to be like her, you know: the Stormtrooper so loyal and skilled that she earned a name. Hearing her say she was proud to have us serve under her...it was probably the best moment in my whole life before Jakku.”
“That’s a little fucked up, buddy,” Poe says, rolling over so he can look up at Finn.
“Yeah,” Finn agrees. “I was so proud to get my helmet. They’re really uncomfortable, you know.”
“Yeah. The eye-holes are too high, and the padding’s never in quite the right place.”
“Is that why you were so surprised when you put on a flight helmet.”
“Yep,” Finn says. “But I gotta say, your uniforms are far less classy than the First Order’s.”
Poe laughs aloud. “What, you don’t think bright orange flight suits are classy?”
“Sadly, no,” Finn says, grinning.
When Poe leaves, Finn looks over at the cat, which is watching him unblinkingly. “I’d pet you, too, cat,” Finn tells it. “If you wouldn’t claw chunks out of me.”
The cat turns its back on him and curls up to lick its tail. Finn laughs at it and turns out the lights.
A few evenings later, one of the cooks overhears him complaining to Poe that the cat still won’t let him touch it, and comes over with a little pouch of dried fish. “Teach it that approaching you brings good things,” the cook advises.
Finn tries it out that evening after Poe leaves, lying on his bunk and dangling a hand over the side with a piece of dried fish in it. “Come and be friendly, cat,” he coaxes. “No one’s going to want to adopt you once you’re healed if you try to mangle everyone.”
The cat hisses at him and retreats further under Rey’s bunk. Finn sighs.
But he tries again the next night, and the next, and after three days of patient coaxing, the cat deigns to slink from under Rey’s bunk and take the fish from his hand. It glares at him when he tries to pet it, but hey, every little step counts, right?
The next evening, Poe is entirely engrossed in a book of X-Wing maintenance. “I’m really sorry, buddy, but I have to figure this out before the next mission,” he apologizes, leaning in the door to Finn’s room.
“That’s alright,” Finn says. “You can stay here while you read, if you like; I’d like the company.”
Poe shrugs and settles himself on the bunk with the holoreader in his lap. “I’m not going to be terribly exciting company, but sure, I’ll stick around,” he replies. Finn flops down on his stomach, Poe’s leg warm against his side, and sets about his new nightly ritual of coaxing the cat over. It actually approaches him fairly quickly, and once it’s taken the fish, it gives him a resigned look and sits down within reach. He runs a hand down its back and beams when it doesn’t even hiss.
“Poe, look, it’s letting me pet it!” he whispers. Poe glances up from his holoreader and chuckles.
“Huh - you must’ve won it over with your smile,” he murmurs back.
“I think it was the fish,” Finn says, daring to scratch the cat gently behind its ragged ear. It rumbles a low purr, then leaps to its feet as if startled by its own noise and flees under Rey’s bunk. “Drat.”
“Hey, I didn’t think you’d ever make friends with it,” Poe says. “Way to prove me wrong, buddy.”
“Heh,” says Finn, and rolls over to look up at Poe. “So what’s the matter with your X-Wing?”
“It’s yawing oddly when I turn,” Poe says distractedly. “I think something in the steering mechanism may have shorted out. BB-8 can’t find the problem - or hasn’t yet; it’s spending the night down there doing deep-level diagnostics.”
“I wish Rey was here,” Finn says. “I bet she could find the problem for you.”
“She could probably fix it without even thinking,” Poe says ruefully. “We can’t all be mechanical geniuses.”
“Pity,” Finn says, and sits up to read over Poe’s shoulder. Extra learning is never wasted, and leaning against Poe is more comfortable than it really ought to be.
Finn wakes up to the cat yowling; he has a nasty crick in his neck from sleeping sitting up, and Poe looks like he’s not in the best shape either. “Wow, I haven’t tried to pull an all-nighter since the Academy,” he sighs. “Still, I think we found the problem; thanks, buddy.”
“Want me to try and help fix it?” Finn asks, levering himself out of bed to go feed the cat. It likes routine, he’s found: if he doesn’t feed it at precisely oh six hundred and eighteen hundred, it yowls like a siren going off, and if he doesn’t clean its litterbox promptly after feeding it, it shits on his pillow. He’s beginning to regret taking it in, a little; but he could hardly leave it to die.
“Nah, you’ve got that meeting with the General, but thanks,” Poe says, claps him on the shoulder, and heads out. Finn sighs and scratches the cat behind its ears absently, which it tolerates.
“The General’s almost as intimidating as Captain Phasma was,” he tells the cat, which perks its ears as if listening to him. “And she’s tiny! She shouldn’t be so scary. It’s not as though she’s ever tried to claw my hands off, either, unlike some creatures I could mention.”
The cat flicks its ears and ignores him magnificently.
That night it lets him pet it for five whole minutes before retreating under Rey’s bunk. Finn is rather unreasonably proud.
“Cat,” he says quietly to the glowing eyes under Rey’s bunk, some nights later, “it’s dreadfully confusing here, you know.” He laughs a little. “Back - before, if I’d tried to bring an injured animal back to base and take care of it, I would have been ordered to shoot it, and then sent to reconditioning.” He’s silent for a minute.
“I don’t miss it, really,” he tells the silent cat after a while. “But sometimes I miss knowing what’s expected of me, you know? Back before, I was just expected to follow orders, and that sufficed. I was pretty good at it, too. Well, except for the bit where I couldn’t shoot people. But here - here there’s so many choices, cat. What to eat. What to wear. Who to spend time with. Even what to do - they’ve offered me medic training if I want it. I think I do. It’d be nice to heal people instead of killing them. But the General wants me to help out with strategy and intelligence, too, so I’ll probably be doing that. I owe her a lot. Can you imagine what Captain Phasma would have done if one of us had shown up with a Resistance defector - one of the Stormtroopers, I mean?”
The cat hisses quietly. Finn laughs. “Yeah, she woulda had the defector shot on sight as a spy. And honestly that would have been merciful. I don’t even want to think about what General Hux or Kylo Ren would have done. Well, I know what they would have done; they did it to Poe.” He grimaces at the memory. “Come to think of it, the Captain probably would have shot anyone who claimed to have escaped from the Resistance, too, in case they’d been turned into a Rebel plant. Not let them lead an attack. I’m glad the General’s not like that.”
The cat makes a faint mrowing noise. Finn grins into the darkness. “Yes, yes, I’m absolutely a mess about Poe, I know. I’ve got too much else going on to worry too much about that. Maybe once I’ve gotten my feet properly under me.”
The sound the cat makes is suspiciously like coughing up a hairball. Finn makes a mental note to watch his step in the morning. “Thanks for listening,” he says, and the cat makes no answer to that.
“If you sleep there I’m going to have trouble breathing, cat,” he points out. The cat on his chest curls up a little more firmly and keeps purring. On the one hand, Finn is proud that he has managed to coax the skittish creature into such close contact. On the other hand, it’s astonishingly heavy for its size. He sighs.
“Your fur tickles,” he complains mildly, but he doesn’t try to move the cat. “If I ever do get Poe to spend the night, you’re not going to be welcome in the bed, you know.”
The cat raises its head and gives him a disgusted look. He can’t help chuckling. “A man can dream,” he says. “And I suspect when I do ask, he’ll say yes. I’m not as oblivious as Pava thinks I am.”
The cat sneezes and curls back up. Finn wipes his cheek and grimaces. “Why do I like you, cat?” he mutters, and strokes a gentle hand over its curled form. It purrs more loudly.
“Get you a little jacket and let you run around with BB-8 once you’re healed,” he muses quietly. “You can be judgmental assholes together.” He’s been learning Binary, and BB-8 has a truly foul vocabulary. The only person the little droid is truly nice to is Rey - it even swears at Poe, though with a great deal of affection. “Maybe I can ask it to learn to translate for you,” he adds. “If nothing else, listening to it make shit up would be hilarious.”
The cat snorts in its sleep. Finn grins and closes his eyes. There’s something very soothing about the warm weight on his chest, and he’s asleep before he can remember to turn off the lights.
Rey looks the cat over suspiciously. “There is something weird about that animal,” she says.
“It broke its leg,” Finn offers. He is ecstatic to have Rey home, for however long she can stay, but rather worried that she will insist he get rid of the cat. He’s gotten kind of attached to the violent little furball.
“No - something else,” Rey says. “Maybe I’ll have Master Luke come and take a look at it tomorrow.” She shrugs. “But as long as it’s not going to try and maul me in the night, I suppose I don’t mind having it here.” She crouches down and offers the cat her fingers. The cat sniffs them and sneezes. “Gee, thanks, and the same to you,” Rey mutters.
“It really doesn’t like people,” Finn says apologetically. “It doesn’t even like Poe - I thought everything liked Poe.”
Rey looks up and smirks. “Are you sure that isn’t just because you like him enough for everyone?” she asks. The cat yowls something that almost sounds like agreement. “Yeah, they’re kind of sickeningly adorable, aren’t they,” Rey adds to the cat. “No wonder you hide under the bunk - probably worried that being that silly will rub off on you.”
The cat bumps its head firmly against Rey’s knee. “Hah,” says Rey, “it agrees with me.”
Finn sighs. “There’s gratitude for you,” he says to the air. “I feed it, I clean its litterbox, I spend weeks teaching it that petting is nice, and what does it do? It decides my best friend is wonderful. I mean,” he adds, grinning at Rey, “you are wonderful. But still.”
Rey grins back and accepts his hand up from her crouch. “Maybe I just smell good,” she offers, then sniffs and grimaces. “To a cat, at least. Mind if I go take over the ‘fresher for a while?”
“Not at all,” says Finn, and catches the cat before it can follow Rey in. The cat yowls a little, disconsolately, and then sags in his hands when he scratches it behind the ears. “There now. I’m not that bad.” The cat gives him a dubious look.
Rey doesn’t forget about asking Skywalker about the cat, though, and so Finn finds himself leading a whole little parade back to their room the next afternoon: Rey and Skywalker and Poe and even the General. He’s not quite sure how they’re all going to fit. It’s not that big a room.
Skywalker looks at the cat for a long moment, and then turns to Rey. “You have very good instincts, Padawan,” he says solemnly. “That is not a cat at all.”
The cat yowls and retreats under Rey’s bunk. Finn frowns. “Is it an alien of some sort? Shit - it is, and I’ve been insulting it for weeks, haven’t I?”
Skywalker chuckles a little. “No, it’s not an alien. I am not entirely sure how it is possible, but that cat is a human who has been transformed.”
Finn blinks at the cat. It is bulky and pale-furred and battle-scarred and aloof, and it was standing on Captain Phasma’s cloak when he found it. Shit. Shit shit shit.
“Captain?” he says. The cat glares at him, which proves nothing. Poe puts a supportive arm around Finn’s shoulders.
“Can you turn it back?” Rey asks Skywalker curiously. “I mean, if it’s stuck being a cat, then it doesn’t matter who it used to be.”
“It is out of balance,” Skywalker says gravely. “The Force is bent around it. I believe that if we were to bring that Force into balance again, the cat would regain its human form.” He gestures, and the cat, which has been hunkered down and hissing through this whole speech, goes suddenly silent and limp. Finn makes a wordless sound of objection: even if that is Captain Phasma, it’s also his cat. “It is unharmed,” Skywalker says, “only asleep. Will you bring it to the General’s private conference room, please?”
Finn grimaces, but he gets down on his knees and tugs the cat gently out from under the bunk and into his arms. It’s limp and warm and breathing steadily.
“Want me with you, buddy?” Poe murmurs.
“Yes, please,” says Finn.
He puts the cat down gently in the middle of the open floor, and waits while the General locks the door and Skywalker and Rey take positions on either side of the cat. Rey pats his shoulder apologetically as she walks past, which is nice of her.
Skywalker says, “Padawan, do you see how the Force is bent?”
“I do, Master,” Rey replies solemnly.
“Unbend it,” Skywalker orders her. Then, nodding to Finn, “I will ensure no harm comes to the cat.”
“Thanks,” Finn says through a dry throat. Poe leans a little harder against his side, comfortingly. Rey frowns and reaches out, holding one hand above the cat, and gestures.
The cat shimmers, and Finn has to look away; it’s like trying to stare into the sun, blinding and unpleasant. When he looks back, there’s a person curled on the floor where the cat was, one he recognizes from the one time she took her helmet off, at that long-ago graduation ceremony when the white armor he was given was still a source of pride.
“Phasma,” he confirms, feeling sick.
Skywalker gestures a little, and Finn can see the exact moment that the Force-induced sleep ends. Phasma goes still, no longer a relaxed curl but a tense coiled spring. She lies there for a long moment, then - slowly - gets to her feet and comes to attention, turning as if by instinct to face the General. There is a long moment of silence.
Poe murmurs in Finn’s ear, “So, who talks first? She talks first? We talk first?” Finn resists the urge to put a hand over his face and giggle helplessly.
Phasma looks over at them, and to Finn’s surprise an expression of faint exasperation crosses her face. “Your compassion is a weakness,” she says to Finn, who stands up a little straighter and looks her in the eye, because there’s little else he can do. Poe is warm against his side, and Rey is standing battle-ready only a few feet away; he has his friends beside him, he can face this. Phasma sighs a little, faintly. “Thank you for saving my life,” she says, almost wearily. “Also, I suspect I speak for everyone on this base when I say that you and your pilot should stop dancing around each other already.”
Poe bursts into laughter, hiding his face against Finn’s shoulder. Finn puts a hand over his eyes and listens to Rey and Skywalker and the General laughing, too. “I was waiting for a calm moment,” he says plaintively.
“Buddy,” says Poe, “even your cat knows we’re being stupid about this.”
Finn sighs, and turns to face Poe, and pulls him into a kiss. “There. We good?”
“We’re good,” Poe says contentedly. “And hey - I’ve got a single room.”
“Good,” says Rey, which sets Skywalker and the General off into peals of laughter again.
Phasma is just staring at all of them with an expression of deep dismay. “You’re all quite mad,” she says.
Finn smiles at her. “Yes,” he says, “And you just spent a month as a cat. You’ll fit right in.”
Phasma’s sigh sounds like it comes from the bottom of her soul, but she doesn’t actually disagree.