The world was ending and it was no time to have a personal crisis but Poe couldn’t seem to help it.
“They’re so cute,” Poe moaned into the mess table.
Jessika ignored him with the skill of someone who had had a lot of practice. Poe thought this was a little unfair seeing as he had resisted complaining for almost all of dinner and he had politely sat through her sighing about Luke Skywalker, who was in no way cute.
He pointed this out to her.
“It’s not like that,” Jessika said, eating her pudding with something like zen. “I admire his piloting skills.”
Everyone admired Skywalker’s piloting skills. Not everyone blushed every time they thought about him and doodled pictures of his first Jaeger in their pilot handbook. Still, Poe knew better than to bring it up. He was looking for sympathy, not a black eye.
“They’re just so good together. Have you see them in the sparring room?”
“Even if I hadn’t, your verbal play by plays would have rendered my presence irrelevant,” Jessika said. “Also, I’ve been in your brain.”
Poe was well aware that his brain had been more than usually full of the newest pilots at the Shatterdome but all the same. “The code,” he reminded her resentfully.
It was an unwritten rule that pilots didn’t talk about the things that had witnessed in the drift. At least, not in public and not without a beer or something to ease the sting.
Jessika snorted. “Verbal play by play,” she repeated, poking him with her spoon.
Poe inspected his jacket to see if she had left pudding behind when Jessika said, “Thank god,” and stood up.
Two people slid into the space that she had vacated. Two people in a one-person space. Two people with beautiful, wide smiles.
“Hi,” Rey said, beaming at him.
“You’re coming to our test tonight?” Finn asked.
“Wouldn’t miss it,” Poe said, meaning it like a hopeless idiot.
They smiled at him, hands clasped. Finn’s leg was touching his, a little.
“Why did Jessika run off?” Rey asked, turning to look after Jessika who was now sitting with Han Solo and his snot-nosed kid. They were all laughing, even Kylo. Poe had an unpleasant suspicion he knew what the joke was.
“I’m sure she had something important to say to Solo,” Poe said quickly. “You all should grab some dinner before your first drift. It’s not something you want to do hungry.”
“But you’ll be there, later?”
Poe couldn’t help but smile at Rey, who looked uncharacteristically uncertain.
“I’ll be there,” he promised. He did his best to give them manly, friendly shoulder pats as he rose, grabbing his tray and walking in a direction that meant avoiding Jessika and the others as he left the mess hall.
The thing was that Poe could’ve have saved himself some trouble and locked Finn down back when he was in the academy. Finn had been a recruit and a good student. The operative word being student. Poe wasn’t blind to the smile and the eyes and the general everything about Finn but it would have been unethical to do anything about it, especially when it looked like he and Jessika were likely to go down in a blaze of glory as Jaeger after Jaeger fell every day.
So he hadn’t said anything at the time but he had felt like he had got his just rewards for his patience when Finn had made the cut for the final stand and had come to the Hong Kong Shatterdome to find a drift partner.
It had taken him all of six hours. Poe was confident in his connection with Jessika and he had spent years around Organa and Skywalker before the two of them had retired. All the same, he had never seen anything like Rey and Finn.
It was just too improbable. Rey was the until-recently estranged daughter of Skywalker and Finn was a regular recruit. They had never met before and that sort of drift compatibility always took time to settle into. But Poe had been there and he had seen for himself the way that they settled into a singular being after one sparring match.
Finn moved into Rey’s quarters after a week.
Poe could have also saved himself some trouble by taking a dislike to Rey. She had come out of nowhere to take a Jaeger and to take Poe’s pilot. But it was impossible to dislike Rey with her adorable smile and incredible strength. Frankly, in spite of Jessika’s hero worship, Poe was inclined to think that Rey’s mother was some sort of goddess because Skywalker didn’t have a fraction of his daughter’s talent or personality.
Or her looks, if they were being honest. Poe hadn’t only been impressed by their fighting, he had also been a little turned on.
Finn had been eager to introduce Rey and Rey had been eager to get to know “someone who is so important to Finn,” so now they were around all the time. They ate most of their meals with him, asked him for fighting tips, questioned him on the history of the program, and helped out with the maintenance of his Jaeger.
(Jessika had nearly put her foot down at the last one but then she had seen Rey at work and demanded that Poe keep them.)
He was doing his best to treat Rey and Finn as though he were some sort of older mentor figure but mostly this led to him feeling like a dirty old man all the time. It had been weeks and he still hadn’t gotten used to them and their beautiful, energetic presence and it was a strain to pretend to be uninterested. But it was all worth it because it had Rey and Finn fooled. Even if no one else was.
“Here to watch the test?” Marshall Organa asked, face perfectly neutral. Poe wasn’t stupid. He knew that she was laughing at him and he equally knew that he could do nothing about it.
“It seems like lots of people are,” Poe said, trying to smile a supportive mentor smile instead of grimacing.
It was true, too. It seemed like half the Shatterdome was there. It was a big deal after all. The newly built Storm Trooper was going to be in action for the first time along with her pilots. Maz Kanata was running the tests, as usual. Han Solo was at his wife’s side, their son hovering in the back, scowling at the new Jaeger. Jessika was there. The K-science crew, BB, CPO, and RD (they all went by their initials like some gang of nerds), was out in full force. On top of that, there were at least a dozen techs, loudly exchanging bets about the outcome of the tests.
Organa smiled at him. “How do you think they’re going to do?”
“They’ll be brilliant,” Poe said. Because was there any doubt?
And then they nearly destroyed the Shatterdome by chasing the RABIT.
“This was mistake!” Kylo roared. “They don’t have enough experience. We aren’t going to be able to rely on them in the field if they can’t even handle a simple test.”
Surprisingly it was Solo not Organa who stopped Poe from punching their shitty son in the face. But Solo gave him a sympathetic look at the same time.
“Kylo has a point,” Jessika told Poe, as they walked away from the control center. “They are inexperienced.”
“That’s true but we need them,” Poe said. “And they can do this.”
“You almost sounded like a Jaeger pilot there, instead of lovesick puppy,” Jessika teased. “But you can drop the act and go find them. I won’t even tell anyone. “
Poe didn’t need to be told twice
He found Rey and Finn in the balcony overlooking the hanger. He had shown Finn the balcony when he had given him his very first tour of the facility. Poe was warmed by the thought that Finn had liked the place enough to remember it.
They looked up as he approached and at the sight of their sadsack faces he immediately went into comfort mode.
“Oh, hey guys. Don’t worry about it. Everyone gets caught in the RABIT sooner or later and you all have such a strong compatibility that it was inevitable, really-oof.”
Rey had reached up and tugged him down by his hand so that he landed between the two of them, cross-legged.
“Thank you,” she said, tucking her head against his shoulder. He felt Finn’s hand find his and Poe was back to being the creepy old man again.
“It’s my fault,” Finn said. “They were my memories.”
“Oh hush,” Rey said. “It could have been mine just as easily.”
Poe wondered what they both had in their pasts to make them so vulnerable. Just thinking about it made him want to roll them both in a fuzzy blanket and keep them safe forever. Instead, he was going to send them off to fight giant sea monsters. A+ mentorship Dameron.
“It happens to everyone,” Poe reminded them. “You’ll get the hang of it.”
“We will,” Rey said, stubbornly. “Of course we will.”
Poe wasn’t expecting them to have to get the hang of it so quickly but he sure as hell wasn’t complaining when Fleet Fighter and Millennium Falcon were stranded in the middle of the ocean fighting two of the biggest kaiju that Poe had ever seen and Storm Trooper came out of nowhere to save their asses.
Poe had been pretty sure that they were dead as a doornail when Fleet Fighter’s power went out but they had been saved with one of the most impressive take-downs he had ever seen, while he and Jessika hollered their encouragements.
Despite the odds, Rey and Finn had saved everyone. The only casualty of the night was Kylo’s left arm.
“Your kids are alright,” Jessika told him afterwards, the jubilant crowds surrounding them. Poe hugged her. For once, she didn’t even pretend to fight it, proof that she was as exhausted as she looked.
Poe was dead on his feet, himself, and decided to head straight to bed.
His plan was derailed by the fact that his bed was already occupied.
“They’re cheering your names out there,” Poe said, stepping inside his room and toeing off his boots. “You’re missing your own celebration.”
Rey shrugged at him. “We’d rather be here.”
You are a dirty old man, Poe told himself. Seriously, they were sitting on his bed. They were sitting on his bed and they were holding hands again.
“You did great,” he said, joining them but trying to keep a respectable distance. It wasn’t a successful effort. The PPDC wasn’t exactly generous when it came to bunk space. His knee brushed against Finn’s thigh in a very distracting manner.
“Yeah, we kicked ass,” Finn said, grabbing Poe’s knee in an even more distracting manner.
Not so distracting that Poe didn’t notice what he was wearing. “Is that my jacket?”
“It was getting cold in here,” Finn said looking shifty. “I can take it off.”
“No, no. It suits you,” Poe said desperately.
He heard Rey stifle a giggle and he glared at her as best as he was able. Her hand was covering her mouth but her smile was clear in her eyes.
“Poe,” she said, reaching out to touch his cheek. “We couldn’t have done it without you.” Poe was pretty certain that he should just run. He needed his brain to fight and right now it was melting. Then Finn’s hand moved a little higher on his leg and it disintegrated entirely.
“Er-“ he said, trying not to look down. “You both were amazing all on your own. I’ve never seen fighting like that.”
Rey rolled her eyes. “If we wanted flattery, we would have just stayed out there.”
“It’s not flattery,” Poe protested. “I mean it! You guys are amazing.”
Finn heaved a deep sigh, shaking his head. “You were right, Rey.”
“I know,” Rey said smugly before swinging herself into Poe’s lap, one leg straddling Finn’s.
“Um,” Poe said, desperately holding his hands up. He looked to Finn but Finn didn’t seem angry. In fact, he looked entirely pleased with the situation. His hand had moved to Poe’s hip to leave room for Rey.
“Here’s the thing,” Rey said, putting her arms around his neck. “We really like you.”
“And you really like us,” Finn said, voice a little husky. His thumb was making some very interesting circles.
Rey shook her head, looking fond. “Just say yes so that I can kiss you.”
Poe was able to manage a nod and Rey beamed before swooping down to kiss him, hands fisted in his t-shirt.
He was pretty sure that Rey’s kiss was the least coordinated he had had since he was a teenager. Too many teeth and too much force and Poe wanted so much that he felt like he was going to liquefy.
“God yes,” he heard Finn say beside him and kiss-drunk, Poe reached out for him.
Finn kissed more carefully, tender and slowly, one cradling the back of Poe’s head.
“Oh,” Poe said, looking between the two of them.
“Now you’re getting it,” Finn said, smiling against his jaw.
The world was ending and it was probably no time to fall in love but Poe couldn’t seem to help it.
He woke up the next morning with his arm completely numb where Finn was lying on it and Rey tucked so close to his side that she was almost under him. They were both still partially hanging off the bed and Finn was drooling on him.
Poe grinned at the ceiling like a lunatic.
Rey woke up first, blinking at him blearily before tucking her face back into his side. “Go back to sleep,” she muttered.
“It’s nearly time for breakfast,” he said, apologetically stroking her shoulder.
She made a discontented noise and reached around him to poke Finn who startled awake and would have tumbled off the bed if Poe hadn’t managed to catch him.
“Morning,” Finn said, smiling and blushing simultaneously.
Morning breath be damned, Poe leaned forward to kiss him.
“Breakfast,” Rey said, giving Poe a poke this time. “And then more kissing.”
Poe was pretty sure that the entire Shatterdome had to know exactly what was going on. Rey was wearing one of Poe’s shirts and Finn was wearing the jacket from last night. Finn insisted on getting them both breakfast trays, something that Rey would likely have objected to if she weren’t casually holding Poe’s hand while talking to her father of all people.
Poe did his best to look innocent but Jessika later laughed at the line of hickeys down his neck (every one of them belonging to Rey) so it wasn’t very successful.
Skywalker looked very calm but he always did. For all Poe knew, he could be plotting murder while his daughter cheerfully relayed the finer points of the previous day’s battle.
Finn interrupted with their trays, sitting in-between them so that Rey had to let go of Poe’s hand. It was all right though, because it was a tight fit, and Finn was warm against his side.
“I bribed the cook for some oranges,” Finn told Poe. “I know you like them.”
“Oh, jeez, you didn’t have to do that,” Poe said, knowing that he was blushing.
He heard a sound that might have been a chuckle from Skywalker but when he glanced over, his face was impassive as ever. Poe warily offered a section of his orange to a beaming Rey, thinking that at least they were getting the worst of it out of the way.
He had forgotten about that Luke wasn’t the only Skywalker around.
The Marshall was simultaneously one of the warmest people that Poe knew and one of the most terrifying. Poe usually got the warm version not the kaiju-killing Amazon who had cowed the actual United Nations over and over.
“Let me be clear, Mr. Dameron,” she said with a pleasant smile, “if you hurt my niece or her nice young man a kaiju will look far nicer than I.”
Jessika was nearly bent over in laughter beside him.
Han and Kylo watched him narrowly throughout the day and Poe had an uneasy feeling that they were just waiting for a chance to jump him.
“Why do you have to be related to so many people here?” he asked Rey.
She and Finn were training. Poe probably should have been off doing the same with Jessika but they were more experienced pilots. Besides, Finn and Rey had been insistent on his presence after he had admitted to enjoying watching them spar.
“Solo once threatened to take out my kneecaps,” Finn said cheerfully, deflecting a blow.
Rey looked concerned, though her footwork didn’t falter for second. God, she was beautiful.
“I told them to stop with that,” Rey said.
Finn shook his head at Poe in a commiserating way. Rey took the opportunity to whack him on his leg.
“2-1,” Rey announced cheerfully, leaning down to quickly kiss Poe on the cheek before getting back into fighting stance.
It was all pretty idyllic, really, for an apocalyptic scenario. If only BB, CPO, and RD would stop spouting out doomsday prophecies and if only Poe would stop believing them, it would have been perfect.
“There’s going to be a triple event,” Finn said when they were all lying in bed. “And then another and then there will be four and no one will be there to stop them.”
“The plan will work,” Rey said, but she sounded uncertain.
Poe had witnessed more plans to close the Breach than he was comfortable talking about but he wasn’t going to share. “The plan will work,” he agreed, injecting all the confidence he could into the statement.
Poe trusted BB and his mad science brain. And he trusted the Marshall. He was pretty sure that the plan was going to work. The problem was that he was about equally sure that none of them were going to survive it.
He didn’t want to think about it so he rolled over on top of Finn with a smile.
“How can it possibly fail when we have the best pilots in the PPDC on the job?” he said, pressing a kiss to Finn’s jaw.
“Try his pulse point,” Rey suggested.
Poe felt Finn’s full body shiver. “You’ve been holding out on me,” he accused Rey.
She grinned at him and threw her shirt (his shirt, god) off over her head. “Have I been?”
“The backs of her knees are really sensitive,” Finn suggested in that husky voice that made Poe want to eat him alive.
“Are they?” Poe said with a grin, reaching to pull her closer.
Poe had figured that someone would have to replace Kylo in Millennium Falcon but he hadn’t thought it would be Luke.
“Why not the Marshall?” Rey whispered, after the announcement had been made.
“Luke wouldn’t let her,” Jessika whispered back, an arm slung around her shoulders.
Poe had difficulty imagining anyone letting the Marshall do anything. But he had heard rumors about the old Mark I Jaegers and what they did to their pilots. He knew that the Marshall hadn’t been in a Jaeger in years, nor had Skywalker for that matter.
“Are they even drift compatible?” Finn asked, his arm around Poe’s waist.
“They fought together once against Death Star,” Poe said.
Jessika looked awed at the memory and for once, Poe couldn’t make fun of her. Death Star had been the largest of the category threes and the battle had been one of the fiercest ever won. Organa had already moved into management at the time but when Han Solo’s co-pilot, Chewie had been injured, he had needed a replacement. Luke had unexpectedly been compatible and the rest was history. It actually was in most history books, these days.
“I’m going to go find Luke,” Rey said, ducking under Jessika’s arm and hurrying away before Finn or Poe could follow her.
Poe gave Finn a questioning look. Finn shrugged. Jessika threw her hands in the air and went to go to talk to one of the technicians.
“She’s weird about him,” Finn said. “I mean, I’ve never had parents so I’m not totally sure what normal is supposed to look like but I know this isn’t that.”
Poe felt a twinge in his chest at the thought of Finn growing up alone and slung an arm around his waist. Finn leaned in immediately. “Let’s go spar some and Rey can come and find us later.”
It was almost an hour later when Rey came into the gym. Finn and Poe were both plastered with sweat. Poe had the benefit of experience but Finn was young and a good fighter in his own right.
“You’re probably drift compatible,” Rey said quietly.
They both turned.
“We are,” Poe admitted. They had done tests at the Academy. But Poe had already had Jessika and now Finn had Rey so everything had worked out okay.
Rey smiled but it looked tired. Finn walked over and hugged her. She hugged back fiercely.
“Can we go somewhere?” Rey asked.
Leaving the Shatterdome was out of the question when the mission was set for the next day but Poe thought for a moment. “I know somewhere,” he said.
The Shatterdome had used to service a far larger population than it was currently doing and this meant that it produced less waste. Poe, who had been among the first people to arrive at Hong Kong, had overseen the shutdown of non-essential functions. This included one of the waste valves that dumped directly into the ocean.
It had been cleaned and Poe had spent more than one evening sitting on the edge of the tunnel, breathing in the sea air. For someone whose career put him in the ocean, he rarely got to enjoy the breeze.
Rey and Finn were in a similar situation if their deep, gulping breaths were any indication.
“It’s wonderful,” Rey said, eyes squeezed shut, as she leaned out towards the ocean.
Finn smiled at Poe and Poe felt like the king of the world.
They sat in silence until the sun began to move low in the sky.
“Luke’s doctors told him that if he gets into a Jaeger again, he’ll die,” Rey said.
Poe didn’t pretend to be surprised, just put a hand on her shoulder.
“It’s silly,” she said, tears in her voice, “because I know that it’s very likely that we’re all going to die and it makes no never mind that his death is more certain. But, still, I’ve had him for only a short time.”
Poe pulled her onto his shoulder, letting her know it was okay to cry. Finn wrapped an arm around her waist and whispered things to her. Poe could only catch bits and pieces but it was comforting nonsense anyways, the tone more important than the words.
Finally Rey pushed herself up and wiped her eyes with the simplicity of a child, back of her hands brusquely flinging away the tears.
“I needed that,” she said, then she turned to Finn with a smile made all the brighter for the tears.
“Did you know it might be our last night on Earth, Finn?”
“Why, I did not, Rey” Finn joked. “We’re going to have to think of a pretty awesome way to spend it.”
Both of them turned to Poe, faces wearing identical mischievous expressions.
“Don’t look at me,” Poe said, widening his eyes. “I can’t think of a single thing I’d like to do.”
“Oh,” Rey huffed, eyes dancing.
Finn laughed and tugged at his hand. “Come on, Dameron. If you haven’t got any ideas than we’ll just have to do all the thinking.”
“God help us all,” Poe said, allowing himself to be pulled along.
Maybe they should have spent their last night on earth making love and whispering secrets but instead Rey stole some ice cream from the kitchens and Poe brought out his stash of brandy. They left their door open and Jessika, some of the technicians and, a little sheepishly, Kylo came in.
They watched the old Star Trek DVDs that Poe had tucked under his bed. Kylo let Jessika braid his hair and, seeing the results, Rey demanded that Jessika do hers as well. Finn, who was an awful lightweight, put his head in Poe’s lap while listening raptly to one of technicians yelling about warp drive, nodding vigorously against Poe’s thigh, saying “that makes so much sense, man.”
Later, another of techies produced a deck of cards. Knowing that the technicians were poker sharks, Poe and Jessika forbid the game. They ended up playing go-fish. Finn, despite the fact that he couldn’t speak without slurring, beat them all.
Then the ice cream and the brandy were gone and it was late. Kylo left first, with a surprisingly heartfelt thank you. Rey was moved to hug him and so Finn felt like he had to as well. Then everyone was hugging everybody and in the mess it was easy to disguise any tears against someone’s shoulder. Jessika kissed Poe on the cheek before leaving, something she had only done once before when they had first drifted.
When it was just the three of them, Rey and Poe lifted Finn up onto the bed. He was half-asleep but his smile was still fully charged.
“I love you both,” he said. “Like so, so much. More than I love Storm Trooper, more than I love the beach. I love you both more than I love the sun.”
“We love you too,” Poe told him, ducking his head to hide his laughter.
“Yes,” Rey agreed. “Now budge over. I want to be in the middle.”
It would have been a nearly perfect last night on Earth except that it wasn’t a last night at all.
Poe had gotten used to the Doomsday clock and there was something crazy about being there to see it stop, Rey under one arm and Finn under the other.
“We really did it,” he said, awed. “We really fucking did it.”
BB poked him.
“Yeah, yeah,” he said, smiling over his shoulder at the orange haired scientist. “We couldn’t have done it without you all.”
Unexpectedly, the science team had saved the day with last minute info. Poe had only caught the tail end of the rumors but he had heard that they had done it by doing a four-way drift with a kaiju. Judging by the matching burst capillaries they were sporting, it was probably true. The science team was a bunch of crazy bastards, Poe thought with a grin.
“What are we going to do now?” Finn asked, sounding a little lost.
There would be funerals to attend. Skywalker and Solo had saved everyone but themselves when they detonated the nuclear bomb into the breach. Organa had gone to her room before the clock had been shut down, sending everyone away but her son. Then there were the personnel and friends that had been lost in the previous days’ kaiju attack. There would probably be a press junket like the good old days. They would probably have to make nice with UN or whomever else wanted to give them money.
“Any ideas?” Rey asked, nudging Poe lightly.
Poe had always joked with Jessika about retiring to a farm and she had always joked about retiring to become a model. They hadn’t wanted to jinx anything by making real plans.
“We could go to see my parents?” Poe suggested, suddenly wanting nothing more than that.
Rey and Finn looked up at him wide-eyed.
“Could we, really?” Finn asked.
“Yeah,” Poe said, a little self-conscious. “They’d love to meet you both. I mean, I don’t want to presume-“
“Presume away,” Rey said and Poe felt Finn nod against his shoulder.
“Let’s go,” Finn said, like they could get on a plane that very moment.
And maybe they could. For the first time in a long time, the future was full of possibility.