The feeling comes back to him at random moments. When he’s waiting in line for food, or listening to his friends joke around, or working on a piece of equipment with BB-8 merrily bleeping away by his side. Suddenly—no identifiable trigger, nothing in particular that jolts him into remembering—he’ll be back there, jaw snapping shut as the back of his head slams against a steel surface. The sharp pain of the impact drowned out by a feeling like his head is about to split open, like tidal waves of pressure are beating against the insides of his skull.
A black hole opening up at the center of his mind.
It didn’t feel like anything he’d ever felt before. He still can’t make sense of it. Even when he lets the feeling in, leans back and exhales and focuses on it, he can’t pin down what it was like.
He can recall fragments of it, though. Searing pain in the wake of Ren breaking past his defenses. The sudden, overwhelming fear that his skull would crack under the pressure. His eardrums ringing with the sound of his own scream.
And then, blissfully, just when he thought he couldn’t physically take any more, was sure he was going to stroke out, wouldn’t even mind if it meant the pain would stop: the feeling of nothing at all.
When the feeling steals up on him, he doesn’t freak out. He doesn’t start sweating, or breathing faster. There’s no buzz in his ears. There’s just that flashback—head slamming back jaw snapping shut skull splitting open—followed by a cold sense of unease crawling up his spine, spreading out across the back of his neck. Sometimes it stays for hours; sometimes it stays all day.
He doesn’t get nightmares. He doesn’t dream about the mask, the cries of the villagers, waking up in the desert with a blinding headache and his mouth filled with blood and the man who’d saved him gone, most likely dead.
Instead, he just can’t sleep.
He tries. He’s tried going to bed early, going to bed late. He’s tried wearing himself out, running countless laps after dinner and doing push-ups in his quarters until his arms were shaking and his not-yet-healed body ached all over.
He’s tried forcing himself to lie still and keep his eyes closed for hours. He’s tried wandering around the base at night to lull his mind into a state of calm, brewing the herbal drink Snap swears by, settling down at a corner table of the empty mess hall with the cup cradled between his palms and his head resting against the wall. He’s tried jerking off, perfunctorily—a means to an end. It didn’t feel very good, and like everything else it didn’t help at all.
He ends up spending most nights staring at the wall, his head throbbing dully and his eyes burning with exhaustion, until day breaks.
Humans can’t function without sleep, which means he must be getting some sleep, because he’s still functioning. Maybe he drifts off in the hours before dawn.
Sure as hell doesn’t feel like it, though.
Caf keeps him awake. Functioning. It makes his jaw muscles tense and his pulse flutter distractingly in his throat, and he still feels a little foggy-minded whenever he’s not flying, but it does the job.
The lay of the land is as follows:
Starkiller Base has been destroyed. Han Solo is dead and their fleet has been thinned out considerably. Finn went through bacta tank treatment and is now in an induced coma and Rey has gone to find Luke Skywalker.
After they took down Starkiller Base, as everyone celebrated, General Organa called a small-scale meeting and urged them to think of this victory as a setback rather than a deathblow to the First Order. If anything, it might have made them more ruthless, more determined. There was a chance the location of this base had been compromised; they’d need to stay alert.
Poe watched the General speak. The hard lines around her mouth, her straight back and her squared shoulders. She looked at him, and he looked away, face hot with—shame.
He joined in the celebrations. Received hugs and cheers and pats on the back. Laughed with people and toasted to the lives lost and drank almost enough to pass out. (Almost.)
It takes him a couple of days to make it to Finn’s bedside. Not for lack of time—staying alert means lying low, and lying low means fewer off-planet missions. Poe joins Snap on a few intel runs. Their findings aren’t very encouraging: The Senate has been in a state of chaos ever since the Republic capital world was obliterated. (“No shit,” is the General’s response to this status report.) First Order activity is at an all-time low, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Lurking in the shadows, those fuckers, Snap says, and Poe fears he’s right.
Several small teams are sent out to scout for potential new bases. Poe volunteers for that mission as well. Anything to keep busy, to keep moving. It seems the longer he stays in one place, the easier the feeling manages to find him. It never seems to find him when he’s out there, flying.
The General tells him no. “I need you here,” she says, but she doesn’t say why, and she doesn’t give him any further instructions.
That night he watches holovids until his head hurts and BB-8 has to recharge. Poe goes light-headed when he gets up for a piss. Maybe he’s slept, maybe he hasn’t. His ribs still object to abrupt movements; bruises heal faster than broken bones.
He enjoys the way the base feels in the dead of night. Its cool, quiet darkness. He drifts through the cluttered yet deserted hallways and even sits outside for a while, looking at the stars. It makes him feel like a walking—well, sitting, technically—cliché. Before long the hair at the back of his neck stands up, a chill running down his spine.
He goes inside again. The roundabout way he takes back to his quarters leads him past the med center, and he pauses at its door.
He’s thought about visiting Finn. Of course he has. He didn’t really know what was stopping him before. Now, standing here in front of the closed door, he does. He feels like it might not be his place. Like he shouldn’t blindly expect it to be his place, or shouldn’t even assume to have a place in Finn’s life at all.
Poe owes Finn everything, but that doesn’t mean Finn owes him anything.
Besides, Poe isn’t even sure if Finn is planning on staying after he recovers. Rey had said something about the Outer Rim, hadn’t she? Or maybe Finn will travel after her, if she’s gone for too long. Maybe Rey will come back with Luke Skywalker and then Finn will leave with her and Chewbacca on the Millennium Falcon.
Poe kind of likes the thought of that—the three of them exploring the galaxy together. Chewie has seen too many wars, and surely Finn’s had more than enough of his fill of the First Order. He and Rey should never even have had to worry about the Order in the first place. They’re too young. Too young to stay here and fight alongside the Resistance.
This war shouldn’t have been theirs.
Poe’s hand touches the wall panel, and the bay door hisses open.
“Voice authentication required,” the med droid stationed at the door says somewhat accusatorily when Poe enters. “Voice authentication req—”
“Poe Dameron,” Poe tells the droid as he walks past it.
He doesn’t bother waiting for the inevitable beep of approval. He is Poe Dameron, after all. Poe Dameron, who smiles and cracks suggestive jokes and says things like “The Resistance will not be intimidated by you.” Poe Dameron who made it back to base against all expectations, jacketless and sunburned, and swiftly charmed his way out of the med center despite his concussion. Poe Dameron who headed the attack on Starkiller Base with the marks of his interrogation (the Resistance will not be intimidated) still on his face, under his clothes.
Poe Dameron, who sleeps like a fucking log.
“I’m kinda jealous of you,” he tells Finn’s unconscious form.
Finn’s unconscious form doesn’t reply.
“At this point I feel like I could do with a nice induced coma of my own, to be honest,” Poe continues, finding himself a chair to settle in. It’s an old but comfortable one, designed with consolation in mind. He pulls one knee up to his chest—ow—and rests his head back against the wall.
The blanket drawn up to Finn’s chest rises and falls evenly with every breath he takes. It’s sort of soothing to watch.
Poe must drift off in the hours before dawn, even if it doesn’t feel like it, because when he focuses his eyes on the window his vision is blurry and the sun is out.
Dr. Kalonia asks him to be there during the final stage of weaning Finn out of the coma. “He’ll be disoriented, and possibly in pain,” she says, “and there’s no one else.”
“Yeah,” Poe says. “’Course. I’ll be there.”
Unsurprisingly, the first thing Finn mumbles when he wakes up is, “Rey?”
“No, buddy, it’s me,” Poe says, leaning in.
Finn’s brow is creased, the corners of his mouth twitching.
“It’s me, Poe,” Poe adds, because how much time have he and Finn spent together, really? It would be unlikely for his name to be on the forefront of Finn’s currently overtaxed mind. Just because Finn’s name was the first name he remembered after regaining consciousness on Jakku—
“Rey,” Finn says again. His eyelids are trembling and sweat is starting to bead on his forehead. The breaths he’s drawing in sound ragged.
“Is this normal?” Poe asks.
Dr. Kalonia’s expression is grave. “It’s certainly not beyond expectation,” she says, “but it’s not the most desirable outcome.” She takes Finn’s wrist, frowns at the readout of his vitals on one of the screens surrounding the bed.
“He’s hurting,” Poe says. He reaches for Finn’s other hand, which is balled to a tight fist. “Shouldn’t, can’t you just—” Finn’s hand clasps around his, hard, and he has to bite down on the inside of his cheek to keep from crying out. “That’s a pretty firm handshake you got there, buddy,” he says under his breath.
Finn blinks. “Poe,” he mumbles. His eyes slip shut again almost immediately.
“Yeah, hey,” Poe says, gently squeezing Finn’s hand. His fingers are already starting to go numb. “It’s me. Take it easy, all right? You took quite a beating after saving the day. Again.”
A long pause.
“Solo?” Finn mumbles next.
“I’m—look, are you just listing the names of all the people you’ve met in the past few days, or what? ’Cause in that case you might wanna slow down a little, you’ll run out pretty soon.”
Dr. Kalonia cuts him a quick, unimpressed glance, but Finn makes a noise and turns his face in the direction of Poe’s voice. Like it’s anchoring him, helping him find his way back.
So Poe continues to talk. Talking is one of the things he’s good at, after all.
He isn’t expecting Finn to be awake when he stops by the med center late that night. It’s not a planned visit—he hadn’t exactly gotten out of bed with the purpose of going to see Finn in mind. He doesn’t even know what time it is. Between the general brain fog and the dully throbbing headache he’s been nursing all day, he’s probably not really thinking straight at all. It’s just that his nocturnal wanderings led him back here, and he figures he might as well.
Finn is sitting up in bed. He looks up when the droid at the door announces Poe’s arrival, his face lit from below by the glow of the holopad in his lap. He looks… good. Healthy, considering. Bacta’s one hell of a cure.
“Should you be sitting up?” Poe says anyway, pushing his hands into his pockets of his sleep pants.
“Should you be in here?” Finn counters. “It’s the middle of the night. Doesn’t the best pilot in the Resistance have important things to do tomorrow?”
Poe shrugs, not sure what to say. He does have important things to do tomorrow, as it happens—he and Jess are hopping over to a neighboring system to pick up a datastick. Poe didn’t ask what’s on it, but it must be important, all right, or the General wouldn’t be sending two separate ships. Not when they’re so painfully low on pilots, and resources, and funds.
Finn seems to misinterpret Poe’s silence, because he hastily says, “Not that I mind, obviously, please, sit down, I’m happy you’re here. I’m bored out of my skull. There’s only so much napping and resting you can do before you get fed up with it, you know?”
Poe lets out a hollow laugh. “Well, at least you’ve got some entertainment,” he says, nodding at the holopad Finn is holding.
“Oh, this thing.” Finn waves the pad around and then turns it off. “It’s pretty cool. Lots of stuff on it. I think I prefer live entertainment, though.”
“Not sure how entertaining I’m gonna be,” Poe says honestly as he settles in his chair. He stifles a yawn.
“You were very entertaining the last time I saw you,” Finn says. “Well, more like heard you, I guess. Which actually goes to prove my point.”
“Yeah? You heard all that?” Poe doesn’t even remember half the things he said. All he knows is he talked until his mouth ran dry.
“Some of it.” Finn pulls a face. “Can’t remember much else from the whole experience. Thanks for, uh. Being there. It helped.”
“You saved my life,” Poe says. “It’s the least I could do.”
Finn huffs, amused. “You know, there’ve been about half a dozen people in here to talk to me today, and I’m pretty sure all of them called me ‘the man who saved Poe Dameron’s life’ at some point in the conversation. I’m thinking of making it my official last name.”
“It’s a life debt I owe you, buddy.”
“It was the right thing to do,” Finn says. He’s fiddling with a corner of his blanket.
“But it wasn’t the easiest thing to do.”
Finn shrugs. “Anyway,” he says, smoothing out the blanket. “There’s something else you owe me.”
Anything, Poe thinks. He says, “What’s that, then?”
“The story of how you made it back here after we crashed on Jakku.” Poe blinks, trying to remember, and Finn adds, “You told me when I first got here that you’d tell me all about it sometime.”
“I did, huh,” Poe says. He scratches his jaw, stubble rasping against his fingertips. “Well, I guess now’s as good a time as any.”
When he gets back to his quarters a few hours later, Poe’s stomach jolts at the realization that this was the longest time they’ve spent together yet, edging out the moment of their frenzied escape during which Poe had offered Finn a name and heard him laugh for the first time.
“Dameron, you look like a steaming pile of shit,” Jess tells him the next morning. “When was the last time you slept?”
He arches an eyebrow at her. “Good morning to you too.”
“Poe, for once I’m not kidding.” She pulls him to the side. “Are you up for this? ’Cause I could—”
“Up for this? We’re barely even leaving the system. Anyone would be up for this. Finn would be up for this, and he’s not even allowed out of bed for extended periods of time yet.”
Jess gives him a look.
“Come on, Jess,” Poe says. “You’re not seriously worried about me falling asleep behind the cons, are you? You and I both know I could fly that baby in my sleep. What’s the worst that could happen?”
“Oh, I don’t know, we could get ambushed and captured—”
“And tied up and roughed up a little? Been there, done that, lived to tell the tale. Not nearly as much fun as some people make it out to be. And I was probably more tired when all that went down, come to think of it.” Before the getting captured part, that is. Never underestimate the effect of adrenaline.
“Fuck, Poe,” Jess says. “This is not a joke, all right?”
“Hey, come on,” Poe says, bumping their shoulders together. “I’m fine. And even if I weren’t—best pilot in the Resistance, remember?” He winks at her. “It’s gonna take a lot more than a bad night’s sleep to throw me off my game.”
“You’re insufferable, you know that?” Jess says, but she relaxes. “And just so we’re clear, if anything goes wrong today I’m blaming it all on you, hotshot.”
Nothing goes wrong.
It’s a relief to be flying again. The dark vastness of space, the thrum of the ship settling in his bones, BB-8 quietly beeping to himself from somewhere behind Poe—for a few hours, it’s all that matters. All there is. He doesn’t feel anything else. Hunger, anxiety, fatigue, all gone.
After they touch down again and deliver the datastick to the General, Poe takes a long shower. It’s in the fresher that his hands start shaking. Not just his hands, he notices as he’s toweling off. He’s trembling all over, even though he doesn’t feel cold. He needs food, he realizes, he can’t remember the last time he ate. Too long ago. But he’d also promised Finn he’d stop by, hadn’t he, so—
“Hey, whoa, whoa,” Finn says, straightening up when he catches sight of Poe. His eyes are wide. “I think you need to—”
“Sit down,” Poe says, promptly doing so, “I just need—”
Sitting down doesn’t make the black spots in his field of vision go away, or the loud, persistent buzz in his ears. He puts his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands and closes his eyes. The sound of his blood rushing in his ears swells to a roar. He crosses his arms over his lap and rests his face on them instead. Finn is talking to him, Poe thinks, but he can’t make out the words.
There’s something cold and wet on the back of his neck. It feels good—grounding. He tries to focus on that. This will pass, he tells himself. It’ll pass. He just needs to not pass out. That’s it. Just don’t pass out.
He carefully lifts his head when the roar starts to subside, his vision still swimming.
“Hi there,” Finn says. “Here. You need to eat.”
He’s shoving something into Poe’s hands. Poe eats it without looking at it or even trying to identify what it is, swallowing it down with the water Finn hands him next. Then he puts his elbows on his knees again, steeples his fingers together and presses his forehead against them. He keeps his eyes closed until the dizziness has passed.
“Wow,” he says, sitting up. He’s still a little shaky. The wet cloth Finn had placed around his neck starts sliding down his back, and Poe catches it, awkwardly puts it on Finn’s nightstand. “Okay. I’m back. Hi.”
“Hi,” Finn repeats. He looks worried, but he’s smiling, too. “You sure know how to make an entrance, don’t you, Poe Dameron? I was this close to calling a med droid on you. Are you trying to steal my thunder?”
Poe shrugs. “Well, don’t you think you’ve been hogging all the attention for long enough now? What with the whole dramatic lightsaber-to-the-back thing, and the coma…”
It’s easy, slipping back into the semi-flirty banter they seem to have going on. It’s already starting to feel familiar.
“Oh, it was just a flesh wound, really,” Finn says, seamlessly taking over. “And I personally feel like it shouldn’t count as a coma if it was medically induced. I prefer to think of it as a good long sleep. Which just so happened to take place under sedation.”
“Whatever you want to call it, buddy,” Poe says. He pats Finn’s forearm. “Either way I’m glad to see you up and running again.”
Finn winces. “No running just yet. But up, definitely. Definitely up. I made it all the way to the fresher and back today. I know some people would claim that these droids don’t have the capacity for facial expressions, but I swear mine looked proud of me, Poe. I’m pretty sure it would’ve applauded me if it, y’know, had hands instead of pincers.”
“So you’ve been getting into all kinds of adventures while I was gone,” Poe says. “Good to hear.”
“What can I say, I’m a busy guy,” Finn says with a grin. “Wildly popular, too. It’s a good thing you booked a spot in advance. Even your General stopped by earlier.”
Our General, Poe almost corrects him, but he catches himself just in time. Finn might not want to stay and join the Resistance. It’d be better for him if he didn’t. We’ve been over this, Poe tells himself sternly. “She did?” he says instead.
“Yeah. She wanted to thank me for everything I’ve done.” Finn pulls a face while saying it, as though he somehow believes that everything he’s done—defecting from the First Order, breaking Poe out, safely bringing BB-8 back to D’Qar, providing literally all the vital intel for their successful attack on Starkiller Base, going down there to get Rey and disable the planetary shields, taking on Ren—isn’t all that impressive. “She told me about Rey’s mission as well.”
Poe nods. “Now there’s an adventure for you, huh?”
“Unbelievable,” Finn says, shaking his head. “Always one-upping me, that woman. From the day we met. First on Jakku, then with the rathtars, then in the fight with Ren…”
“Well, I mean,” Poe says. “If we’re comparing achievements here, I’m technically the guy who fired the shot that blew up the Death Star’s bigger, meaner cousin. Just saying.”
“Yeah, after we destabilized its core. I’m the guy who carried the bag with the explosives, so that practically makes me single-handedly responsible.”
Poe laughs. “Let’s call it a joint effort.”
“Whatever you want to call it, buddy.” Finn laughs too. Then, his face falls a little. “I still can’t believe Solo is gone, you know.”
Life in the Resistance is fast-paced and precarious. They mourn their dead, of course they do, but there’s no time to dwell on, well, anything for too long. It hadn’t yet occurred to Poe that whereas everybody else has had days to grieve and move on, Finn only just woke up yesterday morning. For him, the hurt is still fresh.
“Yeah, buddy,” Poe says softly. “I know.”
“He just…” Finn waves his hands around, makes a wooshing sound. “Yeah.”
“Yeah,” Poe echoes.
“Anyway,” Finn says after a few seconds. “I have it on good authority that you’re a pretty big deal in this whole Resistance business, so I think they’d like keep you around a little while longer. Which means you, Poe Dameron, need to go eat some proper food. And take a nap or something. Before you actually collapse.”
Poe makes a point of sighing as he pushes himself to his feet. “You know, I don’t recall you being this demanding when you were in a coma. Or when you were obediently following my directions during our great escape.”
“Well, I’d only just become an ex-stormtrooper,” Finn says, eyes bright. “I hadn’t had a lot of practice. But I’ll have you know I’m a pro at it by now.”
Laughing, Poe touches Finn’s shoulder by way of goodbye.
They haven’t heard from Rey yet. The General isn’t concerned, and neither is Poe, but Finn is. He asks about her every time Poe goes to see him, and every time Poe has to disappoint him.
“I’m sorry, buddy,” he says again, shaking his head. “Still no news.”
He doesn’t have to tell Finn that it’s a good thing they haven’t received any messages from Rey, or picked up any signals from the Falcon. If they had, after all, chances are the First Order would’ve been able to intercept those messages and signals as well. Poe doesn’t have to tell Finn this because Finn knows it. They both know Finn doesn’t ask the question expecting an answer. Not really.
Finn looks at his hands. “I just wish I could’ve said goodbye to her.”
“She’ll be back,” Poe says.
“Will she?” Finn says. “How can you be sure?”
It sounds like another more or less rhetorical question, so Poe doesn’t answer. He’s distracted by the hiss of the bay door opening. He looks over his shoulder, surprised to see the General in here—and then quickly realizing it’s not that surprising at all.
The Resistance has never operated with insider information before. Finn is the only person on this base who’d be able to make an educated guess as to where the First Order might retreat to regroup, or how many of their troopers and leaders were stationed at Starkiller Base when it blew up. He is essentially their biggest asset right now. It would make sense for the top of Resistance command to make an effort to keep him around.
Poe’s heart rate speeds up at the thought.
“General,” Finn says, relieved. “Have you heard anything from Rey or your brother?”
She shakes her head. “I’m sorry, Finn. And I’m afraid there are more pressing matters to worry about at the moment,” she says, meeting Poe’s eyes. “Thought I’d find you here. We’ve got a problem.”
The feeling is back—curling around the top of his spine, twisting tight around the column of his throat. Poe has gotten so used to associating it with his time on the Finalizer that it takes him a second to recognize it for what it actually is: a spike of fear, directly brought on by the General’s tone of voice.
“The First Order managed to narrow down our location to this system before we rid the galaxy of their little art project,” the General says. “That’s what was on the datastick I had you and Jess retrieve. An encrypted message intercepted by our allies. We couldn’t risk having them transmit it to us.” She takes a deep breath. “You know what this means. As soon as the Order is anywhere near fighting strength again, they’ll come knocking at our door.”
There’s no doubt about it: They wouldn’t survive such an attack. Not with their current numbers. “We need to move,” Poe realizes.
The General nods. “We need to move,” she says. “And fast.”
“What? We can’t just up and leave here,” Finn says, aghast. “Rey won’t be able to find us!”
“She’ll find us.”
“Luke will know where to find me, Finn. I promise.”
Finn, looking somewhat mollified, sags back into his pillows.
The General closes her eyes and presses her fingers to her temples. She looks just about as exhausted as Poe feels. “I need you in the conference room ASAP, Poe. Emergency assembly. Finn, you’re invited as well, of course, if you feel up for it.”
Finn nods. “Feeling much stronger already, General. Doc says she’ll be discharging me soon.”
“Glad to hear it.”
“We’ll be right there,” Poe says.
“That’s going to be a hell of an operation,” Finn says once the General has left. “Moving all this stuff? All these people? Without attracting any attention? It’s a logistic nightmare.”
“Guess that’s the upside of being chronically understaffed and strapped for cash,” Poe says wryly. “Fewer things to move.”
“But still,” Finn says, “it’s a lot of work, and you’ll need to find a base that’s as well hidden as this one, preferably a minor outpost or an old Rebellion-era base so you won’t have to start from scratch, but it’d have to be an unknown one, obviously, and…”
Yeah. Poe could really do with a fifty-hour nap before all this goes down.
Of course, there’s no time for a fifty-hour nap. It’s all hands on deck with the organizing, packing and transporting. They have to avoid drawing attention to themselves and their new location, too, which slows them down; they use old, small freighters and various different routes and detours.
They’ve had to settle for one of their outposts on a tropical planet. Its base is built into an immense cave, almost completely shielded from view by the heavy foliage. Like D’Qar, the planet doesn’t have any native intelligent life—an advantage, Poe thinks grimly, when it comes to minimizing collateral damage.
It’s certainly not ideal, though. The first time he sets foot on the planet, sweat is pouring off him within minutes.
“Oh, we’re gonna have a hoot training the new recruits here,” Jess says, wiping her forehead on her sleeve. “That’s not me volunteering, by the way. That’s me expressly not volunteering.”
“Don’t worry, Pava,” Snap says. “No one in their right mind would put you in charge of the newbies.”
“Not to mention there’s nothing to volunteer for,” Iolo adds. “Last I checked we actually have to go out and recruit people in order to get new recruits.”
Jess shakes her head. “Guys, guys. Why the negativity?”
“Let’s just focus on getting ourselves an actual functional base for now, all right?” Poe says. “We’ll work it out from there.” He can feel a tension headache brewing already. The humidity is making him feel light-headed, short of breath. He tugs at the collar of his shirt, which is already soaked. It’ll take everyone some time to adjust, he thinks. They’ll just have to make the most of it.
The first time Finn sets foot on the planet, he comes to a halt at the bottom of the freighter’s loading ramp abruptly enough for Poe to actually walk into him.
“Wow,” Finn says. He doesn’t even seem to notice that Poe is plastered against his back, hands on Finn’s shoulders to keep them both from losing their balance and also to reassure himself that he didn’t just hand Finn a ticket straight back to the med center. “I—wow.”
“What’s up?” Poe says, taking a step back once he’s reasonably certain that Finn won’t crumble to his feet if Poe lets go of him. Finn is slowly looking around.
“I’ve never been on a planet like this before,” he says. “It’s beautiful. I never…” He stretches out his hand, palm upward, as if trying to weigh the hot, humid air. “Wow,” he says, again, more quietly this time. “This place is amazing.”
It feels like a chasm opens up at the center of Poe’s chest, that’s how moved he is by Finn’s—Finn’s boundless warmth and enthusiasm. Finn’s innate Finn-ness, which the First Order never managed to drill out of him, and probably never would’ve managed to drill out of him no matter how hard they tried. It’s not the first time this feeling strikes Poe, but the awe in Finn’s voice and the look of wonder on his face against the backdrop of their, yes, undeniably beautiful surroundings, the vibrant colors and giant trees, the distant calls of birds and the sound of the wind rustling through the leaves: It all comes together in this moment, and Poe is left dazed.
“Glad you like it,” he manages to say, instead of You are amazing, or I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone like you, or something equally cringe-worthy and non sequitur.
Finn turns, smiles at him, and Poe’s chest throbs.
Insomnia or no insomnia, Poe would have had trouble sleeping on this planet while his body was still acclimatizing. At some point during the first night, he feels like he might just float out of his room in a pool of his own sweat. He lies on top of his sheets, naked, blinking at the ceiling and breathing shallowly.
The air in here seems too thick to fit into his lungs. Slowly but surely it starts to feel like there’s a weight pressing down on his ribs, a gloved hand reaching out to squeeze his windpipe shut. He shoots upright, clutching his throat and gasping for breath. His chest is heaving painfully. Even after he’s pulled on some clothes and splashed cold water into his face he still feels vulnerable, ill at ease.
Apparently he’s not the only one who couldn’t sleep tonight. There are people everywhere, setting up equipment, carrying boxes into rooms, talking quietly among themselves. Poe keeps his head down as he heads for the narrow, winding hallway he discovered the first time he explored the base.
The path leads to a wide, covered ledge overlooking the entrance of the ship hangar. There, Poe finds Finn, who’s sitting shirtless with his back against the rock wall and gazing out at the rainforest. He looks peaceful, content. Well, that makes one of us, Poe thinks, lingering in the shadows for a moment.
“Hey,” Finn says when Poe sits down next to him. He doesn’t sound surprised to see Poe. “I think Rey’s going to love it here.”
Poe pictures it, Rey’s face, recalls her rare yet blinding smile. He smiles. “Ain’t no Jakku, that’s for sure.”
Finn’s upper arm moves against Poe’s as he laughs. “Thank the stars it isn’t.”
“Could’ve been worse,” Poe says. “Could’ve been Hoth.”
Finn narrows his eyes at him.
“Think Starkiller Base, but even colder.”
“Oh,” Finn says, pulling a face. “Yeah, no. Let’s not. That—no.”
Poe crosses his arms behind his head. There’s a light breeze blowing his hair back from his face, cooling the sweat on his skin. It’s definitely a lot more pleasant out here than it was in his little furnace of a room. “How are your quarters?” he asks.
Finn shrugs. “Fine. Hot. I’m bunking with a couple technicians for the time being. They’re very nice to me.”
“They’d better be.” Then again, Poe can’t imagine anyone not being nice to Finn. “Does that mean Dr. Kalonia has officially discharged you?”
“Well, she kind of had to,” Finn says reasonably. “We don’t have the med bay up and running yet.”
“Good point,” Poe says, trying to ignore the way his heart skips a hopeful beat at that one little word—we.
The eight pilots they manage to recruit are younger, less experienced and more embittered than Poe would’ve preferred them to be. They all lost friends and family members in the destruction of the Hosnian system. “Anger is a powerful source of motivation,” Nien says, and he’s right. It’s also an unpredictable one.
Snap and Karé pick up on some signs of First Order movement on their recon flights, but it’s still nowhere near the amount it used to be. They’re licking their wounds, the General says, biding their time. The Resistance needs to stay alert. To be ready.
Poe, less needed in his capacity as commander when there are no battles to be fought or plans of attack to be forged, is tasked with training the new recruits. It’s a grueling process. Most of them don’t know how to shoot and steer at the same time; some of them have never even flown an X-wing before.
Between the work and the weather, Poe is pretty sure he’s chronically dehydrated. The headaches don’t really go away anymore. Some nights his body is even worn out enough to pull his mind into sleep—fitful and no longer than thirty minutes at a time, but still. He’ll take what he can get.
Finn spends most of his time with the top of command, weighing in on strategic matters and helping make sense of any incoming intel. Members of the Resistance start talking to him, and about him, with the same respect they use to address the majors.
(“Which is just weird,” Finn says. “And some of the younger ones get really nervous and confused when they find out I don’t have a last name. They have no idea what to call me.”
“What happened to The Man Who Saved Poe Dameron’s Life?” Poe asks.
“I floated that idea to the General. She said it’d just go to your head.”
“Too bad,” Poe says. “I kind of liked it.”)
Although he’s busy, and popular, Finn seeks out Poe’s company more often than Poe had dared to hope for. He always seems to gravitate toward Poe’s side during meetings and find him in the mess hall that also functions as a common room and a storage space and everything else, really. Those moments—meetings and meals—are the moments Poe comes to look forward to.
One of the things Poe learns in those moments is that there are few things as satisfying as watching Finn eat. Finn is somehow able to shovel down substantial amounts of food in one sitting while visibly savoring every bite at the same time. After finishing his meal he likes to lean back and just sit for a while, keeping his empty plate in front of him like a trophy.
Sometimes, when neither of them have any other commitments for the evening, they end up lingering at the long tables for hours, other people weaving in and out of the conversation. Sometimes, when someone moves as if to try and squeeze in-between them on the bench, Finn shifts closer to Poe instead, and they’ll end up pressed together, their thighs touching. Sometimes one of Finn’s hands will brush against Poe’s arm when he gestures while talking, or briefly come to rest on Poe’s shoulder when he pushes himself to his feet to go get another drink and refill Poe’s cup of caf without asking.
Poe doesn’t speculate about whether or not Finn means anything more by those touches. Again, he’ll take what he can get.
The first real tropical downpour catches them by surprise.
Poe has had his recruits—they’ve been calling them Baby Team; they should probably work on a better callsign—practicing maneuvers for several hours. He decides to save Flying in Adverse Weather Conditions 101 for another day and instructs them to get back to the hangar, waiting until they’ve all safely navigated their way inside before starting his own landing cycle. By then the rain is coming down viciously enough to form an opaque blur in front of Poe’s viewport. Black One is rocking in the wind.
Touchdown is so rough that BB-8 lets out a panicked yelp.
“Sorry, buddy,” Poe says, switching off the cons. His neck hurts from the ship’s jostling. When he takes off his helmet, bright spots start dancing in front of his eyes. He closes them and squeezes the bridge of his nose, staying in the cockpit until Kaydel yells something at him from below.
Poe is tired and sweaty and sore, but he doesn’t go straight to his room to freshen himself up. Instead, he ties the sleeves of his flight suit around his waist and makes his way to the place where he knows, somehow, he will be able to find Finn.
“Hey,” Finn says, smiling up at him. “I saw you guys come in.” It’s raining into the overlook. Finn is sitting much farther back than usual, just beyond the reach of the pelting drops. “Must be difficult, flying in weather like this.”
“Not for me,” Poe says. Which is true. Usually. He rubs at his neck.
Finn looks up at him again. “No, of course it isn’t.” He’s laughing, but he doesn’t sound like he’s mocking Poe, or even like he’s joking, as Poe had been. He sounds sincere about it.
Poe rolls his shoulders, slowly tilts his head to one side and then to the other. “Quiet day for you?”
Finn nods. “The General has asked me to start training people as well,” he says. “Keep ’em from going rusty. Small-unit tactics, CQC, that kind of stuff. I used to be pretty good at all that.”
Poe knows Finn well enough by now to know that he can take pretty good to mean top of the class here. “Of course you were,” he says, sincerely.
Finn laughs again. It’s something he does often, laughing. Finn wears his heart on his sleeve just as defiantly as he keeps his empty plate in front of him after finishing a meal at his own pace. He laughs at jokes and gestures widely as he speaks; when he disagrees with someone, he disagrees loudly and indignantly.
“Are you up for that?” Poe asks. “Physically, I mean?”
“Yeah,” Finn says. “I’ll be careful. Hey, are you just gonna stand there, or what?”
Poe pulls a face. “I smell rank,” he says. “I need a shower.”
“Oh, come on.” Finn pats the spot next to him. “Please?”
There is very little Poe wouldn’t do for Finn. That’s a fact he’s already made his peace with.
“You smell fine to me,” Finn says, bumping their shoulders together once Poe is seated next to him.
“You’re just saying that because you’re my friend,” Poe says. “But I appreciate the sentiment.” He pulls his knees up and rests his elbows on them, leans his head back against the rock wall. His vision is blurring over again. He closes his eyes and sighs. The air is much clearer now. It’s a little colder, too. He might even be able to get in a couple hours of sleep tonight.
“You all right?” Finn asks.
Poe opens one eye to look at him. “Yeah. Sure. Why?”
“You look tired as hell.”
“This is the Resistance,” Poe points out. “Our work won’t be done until the First Order is defeated. Anybody who doesn’t look tired isn’t pulling their weight.”
“Okay, wow, firstly, relax. And secondly, that’s not what I—you look different tired.”
“Are you having trouble sleeping?”
Poe makes a non-committal noise. “Nothing I can’t handle, buddy.”
Finn is eyeing him with a calculating look. Poe fleetingly considers saying it. You’re right. I’m having trouble sleeping. I feel like I haven’t slept in weeks. Like I’m on the verge of falling apart. If there were anyone he could say it to, it’d be Finn.
“Sweet of you to worry about me, though,” he says with a wink.
“I get these dreams sometimes,” Finn says. “They’re not nightmares. Just these sort of glimpses. A forest at night, the feeling like someone’s following me. The sound of that lightsaber. Water, an island.” He pauses to press his fingertips to a spot of moss that’s growing in a crack in the rock wall. The gentleness of the touch makes Poe’s stomach tug. “I don’t think…”
“Don’t think what?” Poe asks when Finn doesn’t finish his sentence.
Finn shrugs. “Just, sometimes I’m not really sure they’re my dreams. If that makes sense. You know?” He glances up at Poe through his eyelashes.
“Rey,” Poe says. It does make sense, somehow. A phrase echoes through his mind—the force is strong with him. He doesn’t remember who said it to him, or who it was about. Actually, he isn’t sure it’s a memory at all. “Well, as long as you don’t commandeer one of our ships and fly off to some remote corner of the galaxy, I guess.”
Finn laughs. “I won’t, buddy. I’m not planning on going anywhere anytime soon.”
“You’d better promise,” Poe says. He’s joking, of course, his voice light, but as he says it his lungs turn to ice. His chest feels tight the way it did when his arms were shackled by his sides and there’s a burst of pain just below his midriff, reminiscent of the way it feels when someone jams the back of a blaster there over and over again and your arms are shackled by your sides and you can’t get away, can’t even flinch or curl in on yourself so you’re forced to just lie there and take it until they decide to take a break and talk and laugh among themselves while you lie there and blood and sweat drip down into your eyes, your mouth, the hollow at the base of your throat.
“Yeah,” Finn says easily. “I promise.”
“And hey, last I heard Rey didn’t commandeer a ship. More like borrowed it.”
“Inherited,” Poe says, remembering the look on the General’s face when they waved Rey off. Pride and grief and sorrow and regret and nostalgia all rolled into one.
“It’s pretty insane, isn’t it?” Finn says. “The Millennium Falcon.” He shakes his head. “And to think none of this would’ve happened if you and I hadn’t met. Rey would still be a scavenger on Jakku, I’d still be a nameless stormtrooper—”
“I’d be stardust,” Poe says. “Or a nice hearty protein meal.”
Finn bumps their shoulders together again, harder this time. “Stop it,” he says. “Don’t ruin the moment.” He leans to the side and reaches out his hand, watching the raindrops burst on his skin. “I can’t believe how warm the rain is. Do you think it’d feel like a shower if you were standing in it?”
Poe allows himself to imagine it, the two of them standing there in the pouring rain. Finn’s hands on his waist, his own hands around Finn’s face, tilting it in. The way Finn’s mouth would be slick with rain, inviting, drops of water clumping his eyelashes together.
“Yeah,” Poe answers belatedly. “It does.”
Finn smiles. Smirks, would be a more accurate description.
“Oh, no,” Poe says. “No way, Finn, you are not dragging me out—”
Finn does. Poe may be well trained, but he’s no match for Finn in terms of physical strength. One moment Finn is jumping to his feet, his hands wrapping around Poe’s elbows, and the next Poe has already been yanked upright and pulled forward into the rain.
They’re standing only a few feet from where they’d been sitting, but they’re both completely soaked within seconds. Poe considers being annoyed about it (his flight suit!) or at the very least pretending to be annoyed about it, but he’s too distracted by Finn’s smile, Finn’s bright eyes, the reassuring warmth and weight of Finn’s hands curled loosely around his wrists.
Life on the new base slips into a routine, which is more than a little unsettling. On D’Qar, almost no day was the same. Now Poe has been stuck on-planet, training the baby pilots, for what feels like an eternity. They’re good kids, smart without being smart-asses, most of them, and eager to learn. It’s not their fault that Poe feels stuck.
But he does. Feel stuck, that is. He’s itching to move. Doesn’t matter where to. He’d be fine with joining Snap and Iolo on recon, or Jess on medical supply runs. Hell, at this point he feels like he wouldn’t even mind an all-out First Order attack. He hates this, the endless waiting for something—anything—to happen. The constant awareness of the threat that’s looming over them, silent, unmoving. It’s making him nervous.
Once Poe’s recruits have mastered the art of flying and shooting at the same time and are able to pull off some advanced maneuvers without endangering themselves and everyone around them, he sends them to Finn to brush up on their ground combat skills.
Finn is a much better teacher than Poe. He’s enthusiastic and demanding, but patient and supportive at the same time. He’s also one of the most skilled fighters Poe has ever seen. Which is unsurprising, perhaps, considering the fact that Finn was trained from birth, which also makes it a little gut-wrenching, but not any less impressive.
During sparring sessions, Finn has some of their best-trained soldiers flat on their backs in under a minute. It’s beautiful to watch; the focus in his eyes, the sweat gleaming on his skin, the tight controlled lines of his body. The half-amused, half-apologetic look he gives his opponents when he offers them a hand to pull them back to their feet.
“Seriously,” Jess says one day when she’s sitting next to Poe, watching Poe watch Finn explain some complicated hand-to-hand combat move to his recruits, with wide arm gestures and encouraging smiles. Everyone is listening intently, nodding in all the right places. “I think he could punch you in the nose and you would just thank him for gracing your face with his fist. Maybe it would even turn you on. Would it turn you on? I think it would turn you on.”
Poe good-naturedly nudges her foot with his and says, “Don’t you have things to do?”
Some evenings, the mess hall/common room/storage space/everything-else-really is spontaneously transformed into a lounge, a dozen or more people coming together to drink and hang out. Poe never really used to drink unless he had a good reason for it—you never know when you’re gonna get kicked out of bed in the middle of the night to blast some enemy ships from the sky, after all—but it’s nice, he reflects, letting loose every once in a while. Maybe this slower, more predictable pace of life isn’t all bad.
He’s hanging back on one of the couches with a now empty beer mug in his hand, watching Finn win his card game from a distance. Poe finds it easy to tell whether Finn is winning or losing, even when Finn is on the other end of the room with his back turned to Poe. Finn is very good at a wide range of things, but it’s safe to assume that planetary poker would not be one of them.
It’s warm in the room, comfortably noisy. It’s nice. Poe thinks that maybe he’d be able to fall asleep here. Maybe.
“Hey,” Finn says from where he’s now hovering over Poe. He’s smiling. He’s got a really nice smile. Nice eyes, too. “Enjoying yourself?”
Poe nods. “Come sit with me,” he says, patting the couch. Finn does. He’s warm and he smells good. Poe would tell Finn that if he were drunk, but he’s not. There’s just enough alcohol in his bloodstream to pleasantly dull his senses and not nearly enough to lower his inhibitions to any meaningful extent. It’s a pretty good balance, even if he says so himself.
“How are you?” Finn says.
Poe shrugs. Right now, he feels pretty good—loose-limbed and a little overheated, but not in a bad way. In general, though, he feels untethered, off balance, like he’s not-so-slowly coming undone; like he’s spiraling downward in a freefall and he’s both terrified of hitting the ground and, in some strange and detached way, curious as to what’ll happen when he does.
He asks, “Right now or in general?”
“I don’t know,” Finn says. Another smile. He’s beautiful. “You choose.”
Poe feels himself smiling back at Finn. Finn’s face is pretty close to his. Poe could lift his hand and touch Finn’s cheek, feel his soft skin, if he wanted to. He wants to, but he doesn’t do it. He does let his fingers brush against Finn’s forearm, which is lying in the narrow space between their thighs.
“Right now,” Poe says, “I’m good.”
“Yeah?” Finn says. He doesn’t move his arm away. “How’s your side?”
“Only a little less bruised than my ego. Thanks for that.”
Finn laughs. Poe likes making Finn laugh. “I’d say I’m sorry, but I can’t go easy on you just because you’re you,” Finn says. “I wouldn’t want to give anyone the idea that I’m giving you special treatment.”
“You kicked my ass in front of all my kids. If they stop respecting me, I’m holding you responsible.”
“You’re the one who volunteered to help demonstrate the technique. And I’m pretty sure you’ve got nothing to worry about. Two of them still call you Mr. Dameron and one can’t even look you in the eye because he has such a gigantic crush on you.”
Poe huffs out a laugh. “He’ll get over it.”
“Over the great Poe Dameron? I doubt it.”
“Not feeling all that great these days,” Poe says, without meaning to. Finn turns toward him, putting his arm across the back of the couch. If Poe were to move now, even just a little, Finn’s hand would brush against his neck. His stomach goes hot at the thought.
Yeah—gigantic crush sounds about right. He feels a flash of sympathy for his baby pilot.
“Yeah?” Finn says. “Wanna tell me why?”
Poe thinks fuck it and shifts, settling deeper into the cushions. Finn’s hand doesn’t move away. The tips of his fingers touch Poe’s jaw when Poe tips his head toward Finn.
Finn still doesn’t move his hand away.
“I don’t know,” Poe says. “I guess I used to do all this crazy shit and I always managed to pull it off. Always made it out in one piece, never got caught. I used to be that guy.”
He was really good at being that guy. It’s the reason why General Organa recruited him for the Resistance in the first place.
“Used to be, huh,” Finn says. He doesn’t sound very convinced. “So what are you now?”
Poe shrugs. “The guy who doesn’t always manage to pull it off, I guess.”
“One mission you didn’t manage to pull off. That’s still a pretty solid track record if you ask me.”
Finn’s hand moves, but not away; he’s now idly touching, almost stroking, Poe’s temple with the pad of his thumb. It feels nice. Poe wonders if Finn is doing it on purpose. He doesn’t seem drunk, or even tipsy.
“And the mission didn’t fail, Poe,” Finn says. “I completed it. You said that yourself.” He gives Poe a slow, playful smile. “You’ve got me to cover your ass now.”
It hits Poe—not for the first time, and probably not for the last time—that Finn spent almost his entire life with those monsters. He’s endured years and years and years of indoctrination and conditioning, of them trying to forge him into a weapon without a mind of his own. And despite all that, he had been strong enough to make it out with his personality intact.
Poe, by contrast, spent a couple of hours in the clutches of the First Order, and he’s been steadily losing it ever since.
He says, “Yeah, well, maybe you’re a stronger person than I am.”
They’ve been holding eye contact for a while now. It occurs to him that maybe he should look away, or move. But he still feels so comfortable, despite the unexpectedly serious turn their conversation has taken. Warm here in his safe little corner of the couch, with Finn’s hand and eyes on him.
He doesn’t move or look away.
“They never chained me to a chair and beat me all day long,” Finn says. “I mean, I’m not saying they were kind to us, obviously, and they had other ways of punishing us, many other ways, but, y’know, cost-benefit analysis, right? They’d invested a lot of time and resources in us. In all of us.”
Poe thinks, Don’t.
Finn continues, “There was this guy in my unit, he was… inadequate, to put it mildly. Definitely not cut out to be a stormtrooper. Too slow, not smart enough. But after so many years they weren’t just going to get rid of him. They couldn’t afford that. And what Ren did to you, I can’t—I honestly can’t even imagine what that was like. You’re allowed to be a little fucked up about that. It would make sense for you to be a little fucked up after that.”
“Don’t,” Poe says sharply. He feels like he’s going to be sick. “Fuck, Finn, don’t downplay your own—”
Trauma seems to be the word he was heading toward. He can’t get it past his teeth.
He says, “Stop trying to make me feel better about this.”
This time, Finn’s smile is a challenge. “Make me.”
Poe could. He could lean in and cup Finn’s cheek and kiss him, kiss him breathless right here for everyone to see. All it’d require is a little movement and a lot of courage. The look in Finn’s eyes has Poe almost certain that Finn would let him—would slide his hand into Poe’s hair and pull him in, meet him halfway.
“Aw,” Jess says from where she’s now perching on the armrest on Poe’s side of the couch. “Look at the two of you. Adorable. Scoot over, will you?”
“Get outta here, Pava. I ain’t moving.”
“You can sit here,” Finn says, pushing himself up. Poe closes his eyes and takes a second to mourn the loss of the moment.
“Why thank you, Finn. You’re very generous. Unlike some people.”
“He’s too good for this galaxy,” Poe says without opening his eyes. “Unlike some people.”
The couch cushions dip and creak as Finn shifts closer to him and Jess worms herself into the spot Finn vacated on the other end of the couch. Poe keeps his eyes closed, trying to hold on to his relaxed state of mind. Finn has settled warmly against his side. One of his hands is on Poe’s thigh—not idly brushing against it, but resting on top of it, his fingers splayed out over Poe’s knee and his thumb rubbing back and forth.
Poe’s stomach wavers pleasantly.
He doesn’t remember much else from the evening. Maybe he dozes off at some point; he’s not sure.
He wonders if, maybe, he’s been a little in love with Finn since the moment they met.
Finn, after all, had seemed too good to be true right from the start—appearing when Poe had long given up hope and was trying to come to terms with the fact that he would never make it off this ship alive. Trying but not succeeding, because he couldn’t stop thinking about how he’d failed, failed his mission, failed BB-8, failed Lor San Tekka, failed the General, the Resistance, the Republic, the galaxy at large.
For a split second, Poe had even considered the possibility of this being some sick joke played on him by his captors. Beat him, break his mind, and then—just for fun, to satisfy their own sadistic urges—dangle one last shred of hope in front of him before ripping it from his hands again and executing him. Or maybe they were planning to take him apart slowly, piece by piece, day by day until eventually his heart would give out, filming the torture to taunt the Resistance with the footage once they got the chance.
But then Finn had taken off his helmet, and Poe had looked into his eyes and believed him.
Maybe Poe has been in love with Finn ever since that very moment.
Or maybe he fell in love a few minutes after that, when he heard Finn whispering, “Stay calm, stay calm,” to himself. Or a few minutes after that, when Finn cheered and shouted, “Did you see that?!” after the first time one of his shots hit the mark dead center. Or a few minutes after that, when he didn’t even attempt to conceal his outright disbelief at Poe’s resolve to return to Jakku.
Maybe Poe fell in love with Finn when he caught sight of him on the landing strip at D’Qar, mouth agape, just as stunned and exhilarated to see Poe as Poe was to see him. Standing there wearing Poe’s jacket that fit him like it was made for him. Maybe Poe started falling in love there and then, and he hasn’t stopped falling since.
The days wear on.
One of Poe’s baby pilots leaves. “I don’t think I can handle this life, man,” he says. “I thought I could but I can’t. I’m out. I need to go home. I don’t know how you all deal with this. With any of this.”
That night, after hours of tossing and turning, Poe gives in. Allows himself to think it—
The feeling spreads up his spine and reaches around his neck to the back of his throat, and he lets it. Curls up facing the wall and focuses on breathing around the heavy weight of it in his chest. By now he knows that it’s useless to try to fight it down, or get away from it. The only place where it doesn’t manage to find him is in space, and he hasn’t been out there in such a long time that the joy and relief of flying is becoming more and more difficult to recall.
In some bizarre way, the feeling is almost starting to feel like a friend.
He lies motionless till morning, when BB-8 bumps into his bed several times and then inquires if Poe is ‘taking a mental health day’. It’s a phrase he must have picked up from Jess, or C-3PO, or someone else; Poe sure as hell hasn’t ever used it around him, if ever at all.
“No buddy, I’m up. I’m getting up,” he says, rolling onto his back and contemplating the long trek to the fresher, the effort of putting on clothes, the daunting number of hours in a day.
BB-8 bumps into the bed again.
“I’m up,” Poe says.
In the shower, headache pulsing along to the rhythm of the near-scalding water pounding down on his back, he closes his eyes and buries his hands in his hair and wonders how much longer he’ll be able to take this.
They still haven’t heard from Rey.
“If we were able to establish contact with the Falcon, so would our enemies,” the General says (again) when Finn brings it up (again) after a meeting. “That’s the reason why we disabled the ship’s tracking device.”
It’s getting late; the command room is empty save for the three of them. Poe puts down his empty caf cup and leans back against the table with his hands tucked into his underarms, watching the conversation unfold. He’s aware of his heart beating unsteadily in his chest. He tightens the grip of his arms.
“But then how will we know if something happens?” Finn is saying. “For all we know, they could be dead!”
“I would know if Luke were dead.”
Finn looks unhappy and unconvinced.
“Have faith in your friend, Finn,” the General tells him in a gentle voice.
“I do,” Finn says. “Have faith in her. I have all the faith in her. I couldn’t have more faith in her. It’s the rest of the entire galaxy I’m a little concerned about.”
“Aren’t we all.” She smiles grimly. “Well, if the two of you don’t mind, I’m going to call it a day. Sleep tight, boys.”
“Good night, General,” Finn says, resigned. He lowers his head and starts tapping away on his datapad again. The General touches his side before leaving, and he briefly smiles up at her.
Poe hesitates, then follows her out into the hallway. “General,” he says.
“Poe,” she says, turning around to face him, “no. I know what you’re going to say.”
“Just let me go after her,” Poe says. “We’ve got the exact coordinates of where she was headed, don’t we? Just send me—”
“No. I need you here.”
“You keep saying that!” Poe says, loudly. Too loudly. She looks at him, eyebrows drawing together. “I’m sorry, General. But you keep saying you need me, telling me I’m too valuable, and yet you’re not letting me do shit these days. It’s been weeks since the last time—”
His voice is trembling. So are his hands. He clenches them to fists, unclenches them again. “Just send me on a mission,” he says after taking a breath. “Any mission. Fuck, I’m—” I’m going stir crazy over here. I’m losing it. I don’t think I can take this anymore. “Please, just give me something to do. Somewhere to go.” He needs to keep busy. Needs to keep moving. He’s falling apart here, can’t she see—
“Poe,” the General says, touching his cheek. The gesture is as familiar as it is unexpected; he winces, almost flinches away from it. “Listen to me. You know just as well as I do that we can’t draw any unnecessary attention to ourselves at the moment. We lost most of our fleet. We’re still cut off from most of our financial backers. We can’t afford to waste equipment, or fuel. Even if there was a reason to send a ship after Rey, and I’m telling you, there isn’t, it wouldn’t be wise. It would put everyone in danger. Them, you, us. You know I can’t risk that.”
Poe says, “General.”
“No, Poe,” she says. “I’m sorry.”
She looks tired. But so is Poe—he’s so tired, so fucking tired of this, all of this, everything, and there’s no way for him to escape. He can’t sleep, he can’t get out of here, he can’t.
He can’t get away.
The feeling surges up from his stomach through his chest to his throat, all the way to the space behind his eyes. He feels like he’s going to black out, or throw up, or both.
The General strokes his cheek with her thumb before walking away.
“Fuck,” Poe says when she’s disappeared around the corner. He slaps his hand against the wall. Hot needles of pain shoot through his palm. He does it again, and again, and then he doesn’t stop, drives his knuckles into the wall until he finds himself slumped on his knees, chest heaving, curled in around his throbbing bleeding hand, the hot coals of humiliation already smoldering in his gut.
“Poe,” Finn’s voice says. “Poe.” Warm hands on his shoulders. “Hey, look at me. Poe.”
Poe doesn’t, can’t, meet Finn’s eyes. He presses his forehead to the crook of Finn’s neck instead. Finn smells good, comforting. Maybe Poe should just—stay here. For a little while. If he can’t get away, at least just let him stay right here.
“Hey,” Finn says, fingers combing through the hair at the back of Poe’s head. Poe chokes out another embarrassing, shuddering breath. “Hey, it’s okay, c’mon, let’s just get you to the med bay, all right?”
“It’s broken, isn’t it,” Poe says.
Dr. Kalonia glances up at him from the holoscreen in her hand. “Yes,” she says. “That’s what tends to happen when you try to take on a stone wall, Commander.”
Fuck. Poe closes his eyes. “How long will it take to heal?”
“It’s a complex fracture. The splint will need to stay on for a few weeks at least.”
“Will I be able to—”
Weeks of no flying. His lungs seize up at the thought.
“Not right away, at least,” Dr. Kalonia amends. “But your hand isn’t what I’m most worried about. Your blood pressure is too high and your heart rate’s through the roof. I’m admitting you for the night. I don’t want to hear it, Commander,” she says when Poe opens his mouth to protest. “Not this time. You’re not leaving here until I say you can. If you refuse to take care of yourself, I’ll have do it for you. Your body needs rest, Poe. You’re not invincible.”
Poe has already argued with one of the people he respects most today. He doesn’t have the energy to add another one to the list. He keeps quiet and lets his head fall back against the wall hard enough for it to bounce back, a sharp burst of pain flaring through it. It’s a welcome distraction from the pain in his hand and the mild nausea that always seems to follow on the heels of a broken bone. Right after his ribs have healed, too. His own body just keeps on betraying him.
“And don’t do that either,” Dr. Kalonia says sternly.
“I mean it.”
She places the screen on his nightstand. “Have you had dinner?”
“The med droids will be here,” Dr. Kalonia says. “If there’s anything you need, you can ask them. Would you like me to have someone find BB-8 and send him your way?”
Poe shrugs. “He’ll show up sooner or later, if he feels like it.”
“All right,” Dr. Kalonia says, getting up. “Comfortable clothes are in the drawer under the bed. Anything else?”
Poe shakes his head.
“Good night then, Commander.”
“Good night, doctor.”
She turns off the lights and lingers at the door until he has changed and gotten under the covers. For a brief moment, Poe feels six years old again.
He doesn’t move for a while after she leaves, out of sheer exhaustion and dejection rather than anything resembling obedience. As the minutes tick by, though, restlessness starts roiling inside him again. If BB-8 were here he’d have some distraction at least. Why hadn’t he just accepted Dr. Kalonia’s offer? He considers asking one of the med droids to send out a signal, but he decides against it.
If this were any other night, he’d have gotten up by now. Watched a vid, wandered through the base. Sat outside and look at the stars. None of that ever helps him sleep, but then, neither does lying in bed.
Fuck, he misses sleep.
A wave of dizziness washes over him when he sits up. He waits for the nausea to settle again before getting to his feet. His head is still spinning. He has to take a break and support himself on the wall halfway through his expedition to the toilet.
After that, instead of getting back to bed, he picks his way toward the bay door.
“Voice authentication required,” the droid stationed there says.
The droid takes a moment to consider his answer.
Poe’s stomach sinks.
“Access denied,” the droid says. If Poe didn’t know any better, he’d say the droid sounds apologetic about it.
Poe presses his forehead to the cool steel of the door, closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. Desperation is welling up in his chest, but it was useless and foolish to punch a wall the first time and it would be useless and foolish to punch a wall now.
“So I can’t get out of here,” he says, more to himself than to the droid.
“Only in case of emergencies,” the droid responds anyway. “Dr. Kalonia has prescribed bedrest.”
Poe hiccups out a laugh. His eyes are burning behind his closed eyelids. He can’t seem to swallow away the hot lump in his throat. “Then give me something to help me with that, damnit.”
“What did you have in mind, Commander Dameron?” the droid asks.
“I don’t know, some barbs? With a side of potassium chloride, maybe, while we’re at it?”
A long pause. Then, the droid says, “Unfortunately, Commander, I am not authorized to administer this combination of medications to members of your species.”
Poe laughs wetly. “Never mind,” he says, straightening up and wiping his face on his sleeve. “I wasn’t—I didn’t mean that. Just give me something to help me sleep. Anything.” His voice breaks on the final syllable, and he’s so, so glad there is no one else here. Hell, even having BB-8 around to witness this would’ve been too much.
“If you would kindly return to your assigned bed, Commander, I will be with you shortly.”
Poe obeys, because he’s tired, and because apparently he doesn’t have all that many other options here. He lies down on his stomach and shoves one arm under the pillow. His cheeks feel raw and glowing, like he’s about to come down with a fever. Maybe he is. Hell, sure, why not. He closes his eyes.
He’s half convinced the droid won’t get back to him, but it does. Poe doesn’t ask—doesn’t care—what’s in the syringe, just rolls onto his side and offers his arm.
“Sleep well, Commander Dameron,” the droid says as a tingling feeling travels up from the inside of Poe’s elbow to his shoulder, and then he’s out like a light.
He sleeps, he’ll later learn, for almost fifteen hours straight. He half-wakes up only once, very briefly, feeling like the time he drove a speeder into a wall when he was a kid—all his muscles are aching and he can barely get his eyes open and his head is so heavy he feels like he might never be able to get up again.
Which is fine, really, he reflects, as the warm blanket of sleep covers him again. Sleep is good. He’s missed sleep.
He thinks he can hear Finn’s voice at some point, but he isn’t sure. After a while he sees his mother’s face, which can’t be real, which means Finn’s voice probably wasn’t real either. There’s a hand brushing through his hair. That probably isn’t real either, but it feels nice anyway.
The second time he wakes up, Dr. Kalonia is sitting on the edge of his bed. He blinks at her, equal parts unable and unwilling to lift his face out of the pillow.
“Welcome back, Commander,” Dr. Kalonia says. “How are you feeling?”
“Mmm,” Poe says, closing his eyes again to reflect on her question. His neck is stiff; his back hurts; his hand is throbbing. He pulls it to his chest. His other hand hurts as well, now. He doesn’t know why. He’s too tired to look.
“Can I have some of what he’s having?” Jess’s voice says.
“Fluids and vitamins?” Dr. Kalonia says dryly.
Poe flexes his fingers, feeling the telltale tug of an IV drip on the back of his uninjured hand. All right. That probably means the doctor is expecting him to stay here a little while longer. He doesn’t mind. He doesn’t feel like getting up just yet.
“No, more like those drugs you’ve got him on,” Jess says. “They’re pretty great from the looks of it. Or you could just give me a few back-up syringes to use on him when he gets annoying, that’d be cool too.”
That’s not a very nice thing to say, Poe thinks drowsily.
“That’s not a very nice thing to say,” Finn’s voice says.
“Hey, Finn,” Jess says. “Didn’t hear you come in. You should hear the things this guy has to say about me when he thinks his comlink is off. Your precious Poe isn’t all he’s cracked up to be, you know. I could tell you stories—”
“Can hear you,” Poe says, without opening his eyes or raising his head.
“Oh good, you’re not dead. The doc said you weren’t dead, but I told her I’d believe it when I saw it. Isn’t that right, Doc?”
“Yes, Jessika,” Dr. Kalonia says mildly. The mattress shifts. “His vitals appear to be improving, but I think we should give Commander Dameron a little more time to sleep it off.”
That sounds like a good idea. Poe likes Dr. Kalonia. She has good ideas.
The mattress dips again. “Hang in there, hotshot. We’re doing absolutely fine without you, so you just take your time to recover, yeah?” He can feel Jess muss up his hair and press a kiss to his cheek. From somewhere farther back, he hears Finn say, “Is it okay if I,” and Dr. Kalonia answer, “Yes, of course.”
The room grows quiet again. Poe has almost drifted off, mulling over the words Jess had used—take your time—recover—odd words to use in this context—you don’t ‘take your time’ to recover from a few cracked knuckles, do you—you take your time to recover from—other kinds of injuries—more serious injuries—when he feels something brush against the back of his hand. He shifts onto his side, squints at it. Finn’s fingers are hesitantly curling around his.
“Hey,” Finn says in a soft voice. “Is this okay?”
“I remember you holding my hand,” Finn says. “When I woke up. It was nice.”
Poe remembers Finn almost crushing every single bone in his hand while coming out of the coma. He smiles. It takes a considerable effort.
“You should go back to sleep,” Finn says. “I’ll be here, okay?”
“’Kay,” Poe agrees, and he’s gone again.
Finn is there the next time Poe wakes up. So is BB-8.
“No, he’s fine,” Finn is saying. “He—BB-8, for the last time, stop. Shocking. Me. He’s—” He lets out a relieved sigh when Poe groggily pushes up onto one elbow. “See? See, look, he’s awake, he’s alive, he’s fine. He’s fine. Poe, please tell your damn droid you’re fine. Lie if you have to, I don’t care, just—”
“BB-8,” Poe says, his voice rough. BB-8’s head swivels around. The stream of high noises he lets out seem to reverberate in Poe’s head. He scrubs a hand down his face, which is rough with stubble. “Calm down, buddy. You’re making my head hurt.”
“I’m pretty sure I just lost weeks of progress with him,” Finn says, rubbing his side. “Just when I thought we were getting somewhere.”
“Don’t hurt Finn,” Poe tells BB-8 sternly. “Ever, okay? I can’t believe I even have to tell you this.” BB-8 lets his head droop for a second. Then, he defiantly chirps a question.
“I’m fine.” Poe rolls onto his back and throws his arm over his eyes to shield them from the light. His hand throbs in protest. “Nothing happened. I just had a little accident, that’s all.”
BB-8 expresses his suspicion.
“No, you’re right, buddy,” Poe admits. “They wouldn’t have given me that for a little accident. Wait, they gave me what?”
The concept of rhetorical questions lost on him, BB-8 immediately repeats his answer.
“Well, that certainly explains why I feel like a freighter crash-landed on top of me.” And why his mind feels so sluggish, and why his speech is a little slurred. And why he slept for—he doesn’t even know how many hours. Many, judging by the dull ache in his spine and across his lower back. “I just had a little accident and a lot of sleep deprivation. But I’m all right now, see? All good.”
BB-8 accuses him of employing incorrect and/or inadequate recharging techniques, and offers to pull up some stats and charts to educate him on the optimal way for humans to recharge.
“No, bud, I’m good. Thanks though. Now go apologize to Finn.”
BB-8 rolls over to Finn and beeps out a sad little apology.
“It’s okay,” Finn says. “Just stop doing that thing with the thing, okay? It hurts and it’s not very nice. Use words, not electric shocks.”
Poe lifts his arm to test the waters. The light is still too bright. BB-8 lets out another contrite beep before rolling away and guiltily parking himself in a corner.
“How are you feeling?” Finn asks softly.
“Um,” Poe says, covering his eyes again and considering the question. Mortified, is one of the words his brain helpfully supplies. “Hungry, I guess.” Very hungry, actually. Famished. Turns out sleeping properly for the first time in weeks takes a lot out of you. Who’d have thought.
“Right,” Finn says. “I meant more like…”
“What, mentally?” Poe lowers his arm despite the white-hot bursts of pain it sets off behind his eyes.
“Yeah.” Finn’s eyes are soft. His face looks open, worried.
Poe says, “I’ll be fine.”
“Leia was in here earlier,” Finn says. “While you were asleep.”
Leia. Huh. That’s an interesting development. “What’d she say?”
“Nothing much. She just sat here with me for a while.”
That seems unlikely; Poe has never known General Organa to be anything but highly selective and pragmatic in the way she allocates her time. She would’ve come here with a purpose in mind. Finn’s not going to tell, though, and Poe’s not going to ask him to. “How long have you been here?” he asks, suddenly suspicious.
Finn shrugs. “I was just returning the favor.”
“It wasn’t a favor. And you don’t have to”—what is he even trying to say—“return anything. To me.” See also: jacket. Jess had a field day with that one.
The corner of Finn’s mouth twitches upward, as though he’s thinking about the same thing. “Maybe I wanted to.”
“And you didn’t answer my question,” Poe says. Damn, adopting a flirtatious tone of voice is difficult when neither your mouth nor your brain is operating at its normal speed. He struggles through. “How long have you been sitting there watching me sleep? Honestly, I don’t know how comfortable I feel about this.”
“Don’t worry, you didn’t do anything embarrassing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone sleep that deeply. You barely even moved. Your back must be killing you.”
Poe grimaces. “Yeah, it is. Thanks for reminding me.”
“One of your baby pilots tried to visit as well, by the way,” Finn says. “She wasn’t allowed in. That droid at the door takes its job scarily seriously. And just so you know, the official story here is that you came down with a nasty bug. You might have to fake a cough for a while.”
“There’s an official story,” Poe says. He groans. “Fantastic.”
“Well, yeah. What did you think was going to happen? Our beloved Commander is in the med bay,” Finn says. “They’re frantic out there. Fighting over who gets to be the first to bring in their bouquet of flowers. Hand-picked, of course. Selected with great care.”
“Oh really? You think I’m kidding?”
Poe forgets what he was going to say when a muscle in his back cramps up. He winces, draws in a sharp breath.
“You okay?” Finn says anxiously, sitting up.
“Fine.” Poe grits his teeth and tries to shift into a better position. He can’t seem to find one. “Fuck, I feel like I’m eighty years old. I’m probably getting bedsores already.”
“You look great for an eighty year old,” Finn says.
“Well, at least there’s that.” He gingerly settles on his side, facing Finn.
Finn gives him a soft smile. “So insomnia, huh,” he says.
Poe squints at him.
“I asked a droid about it. I wasn’t familiar with the term, but I read up on it while you were asleep.” He pauses. “There are meds you could try.”
If only it were that easy. “I’m a pilot,” Poe says.
“Yeah?” Finn says. “So?”
“My mind needs to be clear 24/7. Can’t do my job when I’m drugged up to my eyeballs.”
“Well, I’m sure something can be worked out. And you can’t do your job when you’re chronically sleep deprived either,” Finn points out. “It results in loss of concentration, memory lapses, dizzy spells…”
“I can deal with it.” He’s been dealing with it. He’s functioning, isn’t he?
“That’s not—the point is that maybe you don’t have to,” Finn says, throwing his hands up. “Stars, you really are as stubborn as they come, aren’t you?”
He looks adorably frustrated. Poe can’t resist riling him up a little further by saying, “Yeah, but I have the charm and the good looks to pull it off.”
“That doesn’t make it any less infuriating.”
“Not even a little?”
Finn glares at him. “Okay, maybe a little,” he admits then.
The tone of the conversation has circled from playful to serious to playful to serious again. Poe pushes up onto one elbow at the same time as Finn leans in.
Poe blames it on the drugs in his system that he just lets his eyes slip shut and doesn’t even consider pulling away when Finn’s hand comes up to cup his face. Finn’s lips are soft and warm and perfect against his, and Poe has almost mindlessly opened up for Finn’s tongue when he realizes—
“Finn,” he says, ducking his head. “I want to, but I just slept for about five hundred hours. My mouth tastes like death.”
“Right,” Finn says, flustered. He sits back. “Right, um, would you like some—here.”
He picks up a cup from the nightstand and all but pushes it into Poe’s hands. Poe blinks at it a few times before taking a sip.
Shit, that feels good. “Oh,” he says. “Wow.” He hadn’t realized how thirsty he was. “Thank you.” He drains the cup in one go.
He doesn’t remember the simple acts of drinking and holding things being this exhausting, but then, everything up to and including breathing seems pretty damn exhausting right about now. He slowly maneuvers himself back into a horizontal position.
Finn is looking a little awkward and lost, which won’t fly. Poe reaches for him.
“Hey,” he says. “You all right? ’Cause if you didn’t mean to do that, you can just ask one of these guys to knock me out again and I’ll have forgotten all about it in the morning.”
Laughing, Finn takes his hand. “No, I meant to do that. I’ve been meaning to do that. Don’t worry.”
“Okay,” Poe says. “Good.”
Finn squeezes his hand. “It’s just that I’m not really familiar with all of this,” he says. “Just about the closest we could come to expressing that we liked someone else was sneaking out of bed after lights out and jerking each other off as quickly and quietly as we could.”
Poe thinks about that, about Finn crawling into bed with him, curling around him. Thinks about Finn stroking him, Finn whispering ssshhh into his ear when a noise escapes from his throat, Finn’s breath hot against his skin. About the hard line of Finn’s dick pressing up against the small of his back, the wet tip slipping tantalizingly between his thighs from behind—
“Well,” Poe says. He clears his throat. “If that’s the strategy you feel most comfortable with, I’ll tell BB-8 to leave my door unlocked at night from now on.”
Finn laughs. “Don’t be such a—look, I’m just saying, I’m a little out of my depth here. That’s kind of why I was waiting for you to make the first move.”
“Yeah, buddy. I get it.” Poe hesitates before untangling their fingers and reaching for Finn’s face. Finn looks at him, eyes big. He’s already leaning into Poe’s touch.
“You’re gonna have to come down here, bud,” Poe tells him after a second. “As much as I want to kiss you right now, I don’t think I’m physically capable of lifting my head out of the pillow.”
The angle is impractical and a little uncomfortable, but the fact that this is Finn—Finn rubbing his thumb along the underside of Poe’s jaw, Finn letting out a soft noise when Poe deepens the kiss—more than makes up for it.
Something occurs to Poe. “Hey, does that mean you can keep quiet during blowjobs?” he mumbles against Finn’s mouth.
Finn pulls back slightly. “Maybe,” he says, eyes twinkling. “Why, would you like a demonstration? Wanna test my limits?”
“Hell yeah.” Not right now, though. His eyelids are starting to feel a little heavy again.
“Are you falling asleep on me?”
Poe shakes his head. He’s not falling asleep. He’s going to stay awake and spend some more time kissing Finn. He’s just—resting his eyes—
The next time he wakes up, Finn and BB-8 are gone and Poe is burning up.
Because of course he is.
“Looks like your body finally caught up with you,” Dr. Kalonia says when she finds him sweating and shivering. “I’m not even surprised. You seem to have a strong aversion to doing things by halves.”
“Really into tough love, aren’t you, doc,” Poe says through chattering teeth.
She strokes his sweat-damp hair back from his forehead. The palm of her hand is nice and cool. Another shiver ripples through him. He grits his teeth, his jaw cramping up almost immediately.
“It’s called adjusting your bedside manner to the patient, Commander. You are terrified of being coddled.” She says it matter-of-factly, as though it’s information that can be found on his chart, written right under his name and age and height. Poe Dameron; 32; 5’9”; terrified of being coddled.
“Hey,” he says hoarsely. “Personal attack when I can’t defend myself, not cool.” He runs out of breath halfway through the sentence.
“Don’t even try,” she says, pressing two fingers to the side of his throat. “Save your quips and your I’m fines for everybody else. Your emotional perfectionism doesn’t fool me, Poe Dameron.” She checks her chrono and beckons a droid over.
“Now you’re”—he’s actually wheezing, great—“just making up terms.”
“Am I,” she says. She turns to the droid. “Take his temperature every hour. Call me back here immediately if his fever exceeds 104 degrees.”
“And these sheets need changing, too. Move him to another bed when he feels up for it.”
“Maybe next year,” Poe says. “Or the year after.”
Dr. Kalonia ignores him and produces a stethoscope. “Could you sit up for me, please?”
He can. He does pretty much pass out on her shoulder, though, which is embarrassing. He’d make a joke about it, but he’s not sure whether feeling embarrassed about pretty much passing out on someone’s shoulder is contained under that vague term of hers. Better safe than scolded. Besides, he’d need air in order to speak, and that seems to be a bit of a problem at the moment.
“And start him on a nasal cannula if the shortness of breath gets too severe,” Dr. Kalonia instructs the droid when she’s done pressing the too-cold chest piece of the stethoscope to Poe’s chest and back and asking him to breathe in as deeply as he can. Which is not very deeply at all. He’s not used to underperforming on basic tasks like this. He’d make that joke too, if he had the energy for it.
Poe is allowed to lie down again, and the fever immediately swallows him whole. His vision blacks over. When the room comes into focus again, Dr. Kalonia is watching him tensely.
Poe wheezes, “How much time do I have left?”
He tries not to feel too smug when she lets out a loud, startled laugh.
“Unbelievable,” she says, shaking her head. “All jokes aside, Poe, I’m concerned about you. Maybe I should stick around a little while longer.”
And do what, exactly? Poe thinks. Stare at me until I feel better? He shakes his head, hoping to convey the thought without having to exert himself any further.
“No? Would you prefer me to leave?”
He shrugs, nods.
She briefly touches his cheek. It reminds him of General Organa. “I’m going to limit your visitors until your condition starts improving,” she says. “Any exceptions you’d like me to make?”
Another full-body shiver—more like a shudder at this point. Poe thinks about Finn’s soft, worried eyes. He doesn’t think he’d be able to handle those eyes on him right now.
He shakes his head. It feels like either passing or failing a test. He’s not sure which it is.
“Okay,” she says. “Would you like something to help you relax? Nowhere near as strong as what you had before, just something to take the edge off.”
Again, he’s not sure whether he’s passing or failing the test when, after a moment’s hesitation, he nods.
He’s not surprised to find there’s a tube hooked into his nose when he wakes up.
He is surprised to see a seated figure from the corner of his eye. He vaguely remembers telling Dr. Kalonia that he didn’t want any visitors. Sort of. But then, General Organa is not exactly your average Resistance member. Not even scary door droid would try to get in her way.
Poe feels like he’s drifting on a cloud. Nothing hurts. He doesn’t even feel hungry anymore. He doesn’t understand why. He feels like he should be hurting—like he is hurting, actually, like somewhere deep within his body muted voices of pain are struggling to make themselves heard. Weird. He wriggles his fingers, moves his head.
Oh. That explains a lot.
“This is exactly what I was hoping to avoid,” the General says. “By keeping you close. I suppose I should’ve known you’d find a way. You always find a way. You never do anything by halves.” She sighs. “Well, maybe it’s for the best. At least now you’re too weak to argue with me when I tell you you’re suspended until you’ve recovered.”
Again that word, recover.
“Just cracked knuckles,” he mumbles. His mouth feels dry, numb; forming the words is difficult.
She huffs, an amused noise. “Go back to sleep, Poe. You’re distracting me. I’m finally getting some reading done. No one’s bothering me in here.”
“Glad to be of service.” The word General, with all its consonants and vowel sounds, seems impossible to pronounce from his current point of view. He settles for, “Leia.”
She strokes the inside of his forearm. It feels nice. He falls asleep again in the middle of fervently hoping that she won’t stop stroking the inside of his forearm before he falls asleep again.
“Well then,” Finn says. “You don’t do anything by halves, do you?”
“You know,” Poe says, “you’re not the first person to say that to me in the past few days.”
He puts down his spoon and surveys his progress. So far, he’s only made it halfway through his bowl of yogurt. The act of eating is offensively exhausting, especially when combined with the act of speaking. Breathing is starting to get difficult again.
“You can still get a refund if you want,” he tells Finn while struggling to get the cannula back in his nose with one hand. “I won’t hold it against you.”
Finn says, “Huh?”
“Refund,” Poe says. “Warranty period. Faulty goods. Or false advertising. Either would work, really. You can still return me to the store and get your money back, is what I’m saying.”
“What the fuck are you on? Here, let me—” Finn moves to sit on the edge of Poe’s bed, bats his hand away.
“I still have a temperature, I think,” Poe says, placing his hands in his lap and holding very still as Finn puts the cannula on him. “Maybe I’m a little delirious.”
Finn doesn’t respond, focused on his task. When he’s done and about to sit back, Poe impulsively chases him for a kiss. He gets one, a long, slow, deep kiss that goes on until he starts to feel light-headed. Which, unfortunately, has nothing to do with Finn and everything to do with Poe’s current condition.
“I wish I could say I’m never gonna get tired of kissing you,” Poe says, “but I think I might need a short break now.”
Finn laughs and straightens up, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. “Well, at least you’re not falling asleep on me. Still an improvement on last time.”
“Told you,” Poe says. “Faulty goods.”
Finn is still sitting on the edge of the bed. He touches his thumb to the corner of Poe’s mouth. “I like these goods,” he says. “And I won’t have you questioning my judgment. I have excellent judgment.”
“Okay, bud,” Poe says easily, because if he wants to stay on good terms with Dr. Kalonia he’s going to have to finish his meal at some point, which will require a substantial amount of energy, which he therefore cannot afford to waste arguing with Finn.
Finn smiles. Then, suddenly, his eyes widen. “You don’t even know yet,” he says. “We heard from Rey yesterday.”
“No way,” Poe says. “Is she—”
“She’s fine. She’s coming back soon. With him.”
Luke Skywalker. This time, Poe goes breathless for an entirely different reason. It feels like there’s something blooming in his chest, something he can’t identify.
“The General really seems to think he’ll be able to make a difference,” Finn says. “What do you think?”
Poe says, “I think he’s our last hope.”
And that’s it, he realizes, that’s the feeling blooming in his chest—hope.
He spends a few more days in the med bay, until Dr. Kalonia deems him fit enough and his heart no longer has to work overtime to compensate for his stubbornness (her words). She discharges him with a caf ban and a host of pills to take.
Poe learns that General Organa wasn’t kidding when she said she was suspending him.
“What, you thought I was joking?”
“I’m the commander of your entire fleet,” Poe says. “Which is our first line of offense as well as defense. Of course I thought you were joking.”
“Well, I wasn’t. Get out of my office.”
Poe makes a noise of protest. “I thought we were running a resistance here,” he says.
“I’m running a resistance here. You, on the other hand, are nothing more than a pretty face until either you’re cleared for active duty or the First Order attacks full force. Go. Get out of here. Go do something non-Resistance related.”
“Like what?” Poe says as she shoos him toward the door. “What do people do when they’re not resisting?”
“You’re asking me?” the General says, giving him one last gentle push out of her office.
“So now I guess I’m just waiting for the First Order to attack,” Poe says when he relays his conversation with General Organa to Finn that evening. They’re in Poe’s bed, Poe waiting for his sleeping pill to kick in, Finn pressed up against his side—present, hilariously enough, on doctor’s orders, to make sure Poe doesn’t have an adverse reaction to the drug and choke on his tongue in his sleep or whatever. (“I assume that’s not going to be a problem,” Dr. Kalonia had said, eyes flitting knowingly between the two of them.)
“Really?” Finn says. “Really. Does the idea of having to take it easy for a little while really seem that bad to you?”
Poe shifts. Feels the weight of Finn’s head on his chest, the way Finn’s hand is absently stroking his stomach where it has sneaked under Poe’s shirt.
“No,” Poe admits. “No, I guess it’s not that bad.”
The drug does its job, more or less. Poe mostly sleeps through the night and wakes up feeling reasonably well rested, physically speaking. However, it also gives a muzzy, dreamlike edge to everything. All day long he feels like he’s only just woken up, still toeing the edge between sleep and wakefulness.
It’s fine—even sort of pleasant—when he’s still lying in bed in the morning, and a complete nuisance when he’s up and about. He can carry out basic tasks, and hold a conversation, but he definitely wouldn’t be able to fly like this. Let alone command the entire air force of the Resistance.
The first day, he’s not too bothered by it; toward the end of the second day, he starts feeling agitated; after the third day, he’s tempted not to take the damn drug at all.
Dr. Kalonia says it’s just a temporary solution. There are other things they can and will try. For now, he just needs to be patient.
“It’ll be okay,” Finn tells him seriously. “We’ll figure it out.”
Poe has no idea what Finn could possibly do to help him figure this out, but it’s hard not to feel at least a little reassured by the determination in Finn’s eyes and voice.
He takes the drug.
On the fourth morning, he wakes up with his chest to Finn’s back and an arm slung around Finn’s waist. This is something that hasn’t happened before. Every morning until now, Finn was gone by the time Poe woke up.
“Hey,” Poe says, lifting his hand to rub at his eyes. They feel as dry as the Jakku desert. Fucking drugs. “You’re still here.”
“Yup,” Finn says cheerfully. “No early-morning training sessions today. I’m all yours for now.”
He pulls Finn closer. It’s been quite a while since the last time he woke up next to someone else. It’s been even longer since the last time he woke up next to someone he cared about the way he cares about Finn. He presses his nose against the nape of Finn’s neck and breathes in.
The sun is warming the room through the curtained windows. Poe is reminded of those heady, luxurious days of staying in bed all day with a lover—getting each other off several times, only taking breaks for showers and meals. The smell and heat of Finn combined with those memories combined with the fact that it’s morning have him more than half hard already.
Finn moves back against him, and Poe inhales sharply.
“Oh hey,” Finn says, half-turning and straining his neck to press a kiss to Poe’s mouth. His eyes are bright. “Good morning.”
Poe’s mouth feels as dry as his eyes. There should be a canteen of water somewhere near the bed. He fumbles around until he locates it and pushes himself up just enough to take a few long swigs. He offers the canteen to Finn, who drinks from it and then places it on the floor at the head of the bed. The muscles in his back roll beautifully as he does so. Poe trails his hand down the smooth, naked expanse of Finn’s shoulder blade.
Finn hums and reaches behind his head, fingers sinking into Poe’s hair. “Hey, you’re actually awake, right?” he asks.
“Yeah,” Poe says, pushing himself up a little more to start a path of kisses down Finn’s jawline. Sleepy, but awake.
“Okay, good,” Finn says. “Just checking. I wouldn’t want you to miss this.”
He shifts onto his back and then takes Poe’s face between his hands and kisses him again, slowly but deeply. His eyes flutter shut. One of his hands starts drifting down Poe’s chest, ghosting across his nipple on its way down his abdomen.
Poe wishes he didn’t have one hand in a splint. Wishes he could touch Finn the way he wants to touch him—pin Finn’s wrists above his head and press him down into the mattress, or slowly explore Finn’s body with his hands and his mouth before sucking him down, taking his time to finger him open. Show Finn what lazy, unhurried morning sex can be like.
Plenty of time for that still, Poe tells himself, his breath hitching as Finn’s hand works its way into his underwear and wraps around him, big and warm. Finn isn’t stroking him, just casually feeling him up, the callused pad of his thumb rubbing at the base of Poe’s dick and dragging in a slow circle around the head. It’s hot as fuck. Arousal coils tight in the pit of Poe’s stomach, and he can feel his face flush.
Finn breaks away from the kiss. “These need to go,” he says, pushing at the waistband of Poe’s boxer briefs. Poe lifts his hips and pushes them down all the way, kicking them off. Next to him, Finn is doing the same. He’s hard too, dick slapping against his stomach, the head glistening.
Poe’s mouth waters at the thought of taking it into his mouth. At the thought of tasting the precome on his tongue, of Finn’s fingers tangling in his hair, Finn’s feet scrambling against the mattress—
His train of thought is interrupted when one of Finn’s hands comes up around the back of his head and pulls him down into a clumsy, messy kiss. Poe moves until he’s hovering over Finn on all fours, bracing himself on his forearm to keep that damn injured hand out of the way. Their dicks touch when he grinds down, and Finn bucks up against him, murmurs a startled, “Oh, fuck,” against his mouth.
Poe wants to tell Finn I can’t wait to suck you off, wants to tell him Let me hear you and Moan for me and You look so good like this and hundreds, thousands of other things. This doesn’t feel like the moment for them, though. He grinds down against Finn again, the undersides of their dicks sliding together, and Finn makes another desperate noise. His fingers tighten in Poe’s hair.
“You like that, huh?” Poe can’t resist saying, pressing a kiss to the side of Finn’s sweaty face. He reaches down between them to ease Finn’s thighs further apart and better position himself. The next slow, deliberate roll of his hips drags a long moan out of Finn.
“Fucking—” Finn says, squeezing his eyes shut. “Just touch me already, will you?”
Poe grins and wraps his fingers around Finn’s dick. It feels hot and thick in his hand. Finn’s free hand closes around his dick, and they jerk each other off at the same slow pace, their open-mouthed kiss dissolving into them gasping into each other’s mouths.
It’s morning, and Poe woke up half hard surrounded by Finn’s smell and body heat, and now with Finn panting under him, looking up at him through hooded eyes—he can already feel his orgasm building low in his stomach, his toes curling with it.
He disconnects their mouths and presses his forehead to Finn’s collarbone. Finn’s hand flexes in his hair. “Fuck, Poe,” Finn sighs. The burst of air hits the shell of Poe’s ear, and Poe shudders against him, fucks up into the tight circle of his hand.
“C’mon,” Finn says in a breathy voice, “that’s it, come for me—”
He still hasn’t let go of Poe’s head, and Poe rides out his orgasm with his face pressed against Finn’s chest, gasping. Finn moves up against him one last time and then goes rigid. Poe can feel the wetness of his come hitting his stomach.
Finn’s hand slides away from his neck. Poe rolls off Finn and settles against his side, the filthiness of their come and sweat be damned. He feels completely wiped out; he could easily fall asleep again like this, with Finn’s chest still heaving under his arm and the smell of Finn and sex everywhere.
“Fuck,” Finn says, again.
“Mmm,” Poe says. Finn’s fingers are combing through his hair and trailing up and down the side of his face. He closes his eyes and sighs. He hates knowing that this feeling of content will turn sour as soon as he gets up. He wishes he could stay like this for hours. He could, technically, but Finn has things to do, and Finn is a pretty essential element of the scene.
“What time do you have to get up?” Poe mumbles.
The press of warm lips against his forehead. “Doesn’t matter.”
“Okay,” Poe says. His jaw cracks as he yawns. He winces, rubs at it. “Nice.”
“Told you,” Finn says. “Taking it easy isn’t all bad.”
“Not that bad at all,” Poe agrees, already dozing off.
“Oh, you guys are having sex,” Jess says when Poe and Finn finally make it to breakfast—early lunch, really. The mess hall is relatively empty, which is a good thing, because Jess is not exactly keeping her voice down. “Fucking finally.”
Finn, who has stopped dead in his tracks, splutters something.
“Don’t listen to her, she’s full of shit,” Poe tells him as he sits down next to Jess. “You’re not gonna convince me that you can tell that just from looking at us, Pava. No way.”
“Well, no. Not from looking at Finn,” she says. “You, though. You look smug as hell. You look like you’ve either just had the best orgasm of your life or pulled off an outrageously risky mission without any casualties, and seeing as the First Order has been on a convenient little vacation—”
“No way,” Poe repeats.
“And your hair is a mess.”
“She does have a point there,” Finn says as he sits down opposite Poe, their ankles touching. Poe runs a hand through his hair.
“Okay, fine, it’s also the first time you guys are showing up for breakfast at the exact same time,” Jess says. “And it was bound to happen eventually. Hey, hotshot, would you like to finish my eggs? I gotta bounce. Baby Team’s waiting for me outside.”
“I’m sorry,” Poe says, “I think I misheard you.”
“Oh, the General didn’t tell you?” Jess beams at him. “Kids are mine now. You never told me how much fun it is to train them. We’ve been practicing dogfighting. They’re loving it.”
“She’s going to ruin them,” Poe says mournfully, watching Jess leave.
“Nah, they’re fine. They adore her.” Finn pulls the half-finished plate Jess left in front of Poe toward him and starts in on the eggs.
Poe fiddles with the hunk of mealbread he’d grabbed for himself, tearing pieces out of the center and rolling them into little balls between the fingers of his uninjured hand. As he’d expected, the post-coital haze and the contented feeling have long dissipated. The sleepiness that felt luxurious earlier is starting to feel stifling now, clouding his mind.
“Not hungry?” Finn asks around a mouthful of food.
Poe shrugs. His stomach feels heavy. It’s like there’s a weight pressing down on the back of his tongue, something he can’t swallow away. It’s not that he isn’t hungry; it’s that he’s not sure he’d be able to swallow his food, or keep it down.
“Hey,” Finn says. He reaches across the table, touches the back of Poe’s hand. “Like I said, we’ll figure it out, okay?”
His voice is too kind, his eyes too concerned. Poe wants to pull away, but also not—wants to recoil from Finn’s kindness and concern and throw himself headfirst into it at the same time. It simultaneously makes his skin crawl and his chest fill with warmth.
He settles for nodding and not moving his hand away.
Watching the Millennium Falcon touch down is like a dream. Poe can be reasonably sure it’s not, though, based on the fact that Finn is running toward the ship with a screeching BB-8 at his heels.
Poe stays where he is. He glances at the General, who is still standing next to him. Her gaze is trained on the ground and her hands are curled to loose fists by her side.
“General,” Poe says.
She snaps out of it, meets his eye. “Poe,” she says. “I’m sorry. Memory lane.” Her face relaxes into a smile. “You must be excited to meet the great Luke Skywalker.”
Poe shrugs. “He was never my idol,” he says truthfully, with a wink. The corners of her eyes crinkle up. Then a cloaked figure appears at the top of the loading ramp, R2-D2 beside him, and the General takes a breath and steps forward.
Poe decides to hang back. There’ll be plenty of time for him to meet Luke Skywalker still, and this isn’t the moment to intrude. He averts his gaze and instead looks at Finn and Rey, who are embracing each other tightly at the bottom of the ramp. Finn catches his gaze and motions him over.
“Poe Dameron,” Rey says after letting go of Finn. She surprises Poe by pulling him into a hug.
“Thank you,” she whispers into his ear. “For taking care of him for me.”
It’s been more like the other way around, actually, Poe thinks, holding her until she lets go. Even though he hadn’t spent much time with her before she left to find Luke Skywalker, he can tell that there’s something different about her. The look in her eyes, the way she holds herself. She looks calmer. More centered.
“It’s good to see you,” Poe tells her, and he means it.
He doesn’t take the sleeping pill that night. He doesn’t tell Finn. It’s not like he’s hiding it from him either; Finn is still catching up with Rey. Encouraging her to sample all his favorite foods and showing her all his favorite spots in and around the base, probably. Hearing her out about her cross-galactic journey on the Millennium Falcon, and the time she’s spent with Luke Skywalker. Maybe he’s telling her about Poe. About them.
After turning off the lights and settling in bed, Poe realizes that he has no idea if Finn is planning to spend the night with him at all. They haven’t really gotten around to discussing things like sleeping arrangements yet.
By the time Finn gets in, Poe has been holding still with his eyes closed for long enough to have drifted off into a state of half-sleep. He’s lying with his back to the door. He decides not to move and keeps his breathing even as Finn rummages around the room, humming to himself.
The mattress dips when Finn gets into bed beside him. A hand settles gently on Poe’s side, curving around the bottom of his rib cage. “Night,” Finn whispers, pressing a kiss into Poe’s hair, and a surge of heat shoots through Poe’s body, all the way from his hairline to his toes.
Finn falls asleep.
After a few hours of lying there listening to Finn breathe, Poe admits defeat. He cautiously disentangles himself from Finn and gets out of bed as quietly as possible. It’d be useless for him to take the drugs now—he wouldn’t be able to function at all tomorrow.
Another sleepless night, then.
He ends up wandering to the overlook. It’s raining again; he can hear the rustling of the rain long before turning the corner. He doesn’t know whether or not he’s surprised to see Rey sitting in Finn’s usual spot, looking over her shoulder at him.
“Hey,” she says, watching Poe as he sits down next to her.
“Hey,” Poe says. “Couldn’t sleep?”
She shrugs. “I’m just pausing here on my way back to the Falcon. They assigned me a bed, but it didn’t feel right. Buildings don’t really agree with me.”
Poe can’t hold back his laugh. She looks at him, quizzically.
“I’m sorry,” Poe says. “I’m not laughing at you, it’s just, this base is sort of a glorified cave. Most people wouldn’t even consider applying the word ‘building’ to it.”
“I’ve been living in the Millennium Falcon,” Rey says. “Before that, I lived in an AT-AT. This”—she makes a wide gesture with her arm—“is very much a building to me.”
An AT-AT. That’s a story he’ll have to hear sometime. Some other time.
“How about you?” Rey asks. “Couldn’t sleep either?”
“Something like that, yeah.” He wonders how much Finn told her.
“You can be honest with me, you know,” Rey says, as if hearing his thoughts. “Finn told me everything.” She sounds refreshingly unapologetic about it.
Poe squints at her. “Are you reading my mind?”
He says it in a playful way, so he’s a little taken aback when he suddenly finds himself on the receiving end of a vicious glare. “No,” Rey says emphatically, defensively. “Of course not.”
“Hey, hey,” Poe says, holding up his hands. “I’m not accusing you of anything. And it’d be fine if you were, really. I’ve got nothing to hide.”
She gives him another glare, this time one with disbelief mixed in. Apparently all the women in Poe’s life—the General, Dr. Kalonia, Jess to some extent, and now Rey—can look right through him. Great. “That’s not the point.”
“I know,” Poe concedes.
Rey looks away again, out at the night-dark forest. The rain is coming down in sheets.
“Finn really missed you,” Poe says in an attempt to steer the conversation back to neutral ground.
“I missed him, too.” She says it solemnly. “I’m glad he’s okay.”
“Bacta works wonders on physical injuries.” And Finn’s inherent strength and positivity helped, too.
“He’s a strong guy,” Rey says quietly.
Poe narrows his eyes at her again. “Listen, are you sure you’re not reading my mind?”
“I can’t read minds,” Rey says, in the same impatient voice as before. “Just because I’m force-sensitive doesn’t mean—Luke has been trying to teach me some things, but I can’t read minds.”
“Things like what?”
She shrugs. “I don’t know. I suppose it’s not very impressive yet. It’s almost like hypnotization, except more vague. I can’t really explain it. I could try to show you, but…”
I will show you the dark side.
The searing pain of Ren pushing past his defenses; tidal waves of pressure beating against his skull; a black hole opening up at the center of his mind.
“Yeah, sure,” Poe says, voice light, heart beating too fast, the skin of his neck breaking out in goosebumps despite the sultry night air. “Why not.”
Rey looks skeptical. “Really?”
“If you’re up for it.”
“Okay,” Rey says, sitting up. “Okay, you should, uh, could you lie down? With your head in my lap?”
“You do this with Luke Skywalker?” Poe asks once he’s settled with his head resting on Rey’s crossed legs, his arms folded across his stomach. His hand is throbbing dully under the splint.
Rey snorts. “No, of course not. Not like this. I just thought it would be easier if I—” She puts her hands on Poe’s cheeks, both at the same time. He instinctively jerks away from the unexpected touch.
“Sorry,” Rey says, looking a little flustered. “I should’ve—um, okay, I’m going to be touching you now.”
Poe huffs out a laugh.
“Close your eyes,” she says authoritatively.
He closes his eyes.
Her small palms are radiating heat against his face. He can hear her breathe, slowly and intently. This must make for a pretty weird scene, he thinks, the two of them up here in the overlook with Rey bent over him, holding his head in her lap.
“Relax,” Rey says. “You’re so tense. It won’t work when all your defenses are up. This is supposed to be a synergy of minds.” Poe can practically hear the quote marks. He tries not to smile.
Poe obediently breathes out.
“In through your nose, out through your mouth,” Rey instructs. She’s massaging his temples with small circles of her thumbs. “Yes. That’s it.”
Her thumbs stop moving. Poe keeps his eyes closed, keeps breathing in through his nose and out through his mouth. Focuses on the sound of the falling rain. Waits for it—whatever it is—to happen.
After a while, he thinks he starts feeling something. The throbbing pain in his injured hand has ebbed away. He’s slowly sinking into a state of calm that feels like it’s not originating from his own mind. It starts at the crown of his head and trickles down the back of his neck and spine, drop by drop. He doesn’t know whether it’s whatever Rey is doing or just the fact that he’s lying here, concentrating on his breathing, listening to the rustling of the rain, with his eyes closed and warm hands framing his face.
“Ugh,” Rey says above him. The warmth of her hands abruptly disappears. “Damn it, it’s not working.”
Poe blinks his eyes open. “Sucks,” he says, sitting up and scrubbing a hand down his face.
“That’s a nice attitude,” Rey says. “Luke just keeps telling me to have patience.” She rolls her eyes.
“Yeah, I’ve personally never been a huge fan of the whole patience thing.”
Rey sighs. “Me neither.”
They sit in companionable silence for a while. The sense of calm seems to linger in Poe’s body and mind, weighing down his limbs and his thoughts in a pleasant way. He yawns and stretches, one of his shoulders popping satisfyingly. “I should probably get back to bed,” he says.
“I should probably be on my way to the Falcon,” Rey says.
Poe nods. “You’ll want to be well rested for tomorrow,” he says. “I’m sure Finn’s got a whole scenic tour planned. And he’ll want to introduce you to everyone too, if he hasn’t already.”
The corner of Rey’s mouth twitches, and she looks down.
“He’s something else, isn’t he?” Poe says.
“Yeah,” she says. “He is.” She pauses. “He really likes you, you know.”
“Good,” Poe says. “I really like him.”
Rey smiles. “Good,” she says.
When Poe gets back to his room, Finn is spread out across the mattress, on his back, snoring lightly.
Poe tiptoes over to the bed and carefully molds himself to Finn’s side. Finn makes a noise, his biceps flexing under Poe’s head. Poe holds his breath, but Finn doesn’t move again, and he relaxes. When he puts his arm around Finn, he can feel Finn’s slow, steady heartbeat under his palm. He suppresses a sigh. Not so bad at all, he thinks.
“You all right?” Finn mumbles suddenly, his hand brushing against Poe’s.
“Yeah,” Poe says in a soft voice. He presses a kiss to Finn’s chest. “I’m fine. Go back to sleep.”
“Okay,” Finn mumbles, idly fondling the back of Poe’s hand before going still again. His breathing deepens. Poe closes his eyes and buries his face in the curve of Finn’s shoulder, holding him close and breathing him in till morning comes.