“Um, Poe, are you sure that this is a good plan?” Finn asked, casting a guilty look around the empty hangar like they were going to be apprehended at any moment by scary men in dark masks (or white ones; it was all the same in the First Order, probably). Beads of sweat glistened on his forehead. It would have been funny, if Poe didn't know some of what he'd gone through before joining their cause. He gave his friend a reassuring pat on the shoulder instead.
“It's a great plan,” he promised with a grin. Hopefully it was encouraging. “Stuff's different here, remember? And besides, it's not like we're going to keep it; we're just gonna take it up for a while, see how it flies.”
“But did you ask General Organa?”
That would have taken all the fun out of it. “The General isn't going to mind,” he said dismissively. “Isn't she always saying how you should feel free to try new things?” He gestured to the little two-seater ship he'd chosen. It was a local ship, on loan to the General during their stay. More importantly, it was a ship that Poe hadn't piloted yet.
He planned to change that.
Finn looked slightly less nervous, but still by no means okay with the idea. “Yes,” he agreed, “she has been encouraging me to try new things. Not you. In fact I think what she said to you was more like “don't break anything, don't chip the paint, might as well not even touch it”. Which, aren't you about to disobey one or more of those orders if we take this ship out?”
That was entirely besides the point. Also, Aunt Leia had said it much more regally than that. He and Finn would have to work on his impressions. “Just get in,” he said, shoving Finn's shoulder lightly, mindful of the still-tender muscles. “We'll have it back within the hour. The General will never even know.”
Grumbling under his breath about the likelihood of that (Poe pretended not to hear), Finn climbed into the little ship and settled himself in the co-pilot's seat. Grinning his brighter-than-ten-thousand-suns smile, Poe clambered in after him.
Once they'd had a few moments to familiarize themselves with the controls, Finn and Poe managed to bring the little ship into the air quite smoothly. Well, it was mostly Poe's doing; but Finn pressed the buttons he was instructed to at the appropriate times, and pretty soon they had cleared the treetops and were zipping about in the lower atmosphere.
It was thrilling. There was still a hint of fear about the potential consequences of his actions, but on the whole he was feeling a lot better. Poe's love for flying was sort of understandable when you were the only craft in the sky, moving so fast that the stars were a blur and the hull is was extension of your skin, you could practically feel the air moving over it (even though logically moving that fast on your own would kill you). No one chasing you was also a big plus. Finn definitely found flying a lot more enjoyable when there was no one trying to shoot them out of the sky.
“I guess this isn't so bad,” he admitted to Poe after a while. The only thing that would have made it better would have been Rey, but she was still off on her journey to bring back Luke Skywalker. He said as much, and Poe laughed at him.
“You've got to stop pining over that girl, Finn,” he chuckled. “She'll be back before you know it; but you're gonna waste away to nothing if you don't start having some fun.”
Thinking about Rey was fun, but Finn had learned from experience that it didn't help to point stuff like that out to Poe. “I am having fun,” he said instead. “Plenty of fun! Look at all the fun I'm having!”
“You wanna take the stick?” Poe waggled his eyebrows, which Finn had to stop and translate as “inviting” and not “really really creepy” (he had a whole mental catalog of Poe's various facial expressions and their meanings).
Finn really was having fun, but asking him to fly the ship was just inviting trouble. “I'd rather not.”
“Too late!” Poe hit a button, and the little craft jerked violently as control was transferred to Finn's console. He yelped in a way that probably wasn't manly; but at least Rey wasn't there to hear him.
“Hey! Not cool, man! Not cool!” He had no idea how to fly this ship. Frantically, he started hitting buttons and switches, throwing Poe a terrified glance. The man was grinning like an idiot, seemingly unaware that they were about to plummet towards the planet fast enough to turn the whole town the base was under into a crater. “I don't know how to fly a ship!”
“Crash course!” Poe said cheerfully.
Finn would have glared at him, if his attention wasn't so focused on trying to figure out the controls. “That sounds like a very literal phrase, Poe Dameron!” They were freefalling. They were freefalling and Finn was going to die. And on top of that, General Organa was going to get that look of disappointment on her face that always made him want to straighten up and start polishing bulkheads or something. He didn't think he could handle being that kind of disappointment. “I am not dying because you wanted to take the weird ship out for a joy ride,” he yelled.
“You've got this!”
They were diving down towards the planet very fast. It was still night, but Finn could see the village lights approaching at a terrifying speed. “I can't do this, Poe!”
“Just take the stick and ease her up.”
Finn wrapped his hands around the control stick, but hesitated. “I'm not a pilot,” he started to say, but Poe's hands covered his, and when he looked up his friend was still smiling. “You've got this,” he repeated. “Now, on my count, I want you to ease the stick up slowly, you got that? One, two, three!”
“So tell me again what happened?” Leia asked calmly. She looked between the two men standing side by side. The hemmed and hawed, eyes shifting to look everywhere but at her. She smothered her amusement and gave them her Most Royal Frown (perfected ages ago when she still had the title), because it was what they were expecting and it wouldn't do to show favoritism, even if they were her favorites. (For a second they reminded her so much of Han and Lando that it hurt, but she shoved that thought down where it couldn't be touched.)
“We stole an aircraft,” Finn admitted. He stood up straight eyes fixed just over her shoulder.
“Borrowed,” Poe corrected him quickly.
“Borrowed without permission.”
“I didn't have orders not to try It out.”
“What exactly is unclear to you about don't touch anything?”
It was like watching children play King of the Mountain, racing and climbing over each other to get to the top. “Gentlemen,” she cut in firmly, before their bickering could get any worse. They hung their heads guiltily. “Is the craft still intact?”
“No.” Finn said.
“Mostly.” Poe said almost at the same time.
Leia raised an eyebrow. “Mostly?”
“Well, we scraped a few coats of paint off during the landing,” Poe explained. “Maybe knocked off an external sensor or two. Nothing that can't be fixed.”
“I'm a bit surprised; with your reputation, Mr. Dameron, I would think that flying a simple little craft like that would be so easy you wouldn't even scratch the paint.”
“Falling,” Finn interrupted with emphasis. “We were falling for most of that horrifying experience.”
“Yes, but we were falling with such style, such grace and finesse!”
Finn made a strangled sound that Leia identified with all too well. When one's husband and brother were both crack-shot pilots, one tended to be more sympathetic to other victims of such people. The poor boy.
That grin was still fighting for dominance, but Leia had spent too long as a diplomat to let it win. “Hopefully you have the same style and finesse with a wrench and paintbrush,” she said to Poe, because he really did need to remember that he worked for her. “Because you are going to be making the repairs to that ship yourself, as a token of goodwill to the village that lent it to us. And there will be no touching, breaking, adjusting, or flying of anything while you're making the repairs. Finn, I'd like for you to join him, just to keep an eye on his progress. If he attempts any of the things that I just mentioned, you send for me directly, do you understand?”
Finn brightened up, and gave an enthusiastic nod. “Yes sir! Uh, ma'am! I mean – you have my word, General Organa.”
“Traitor,” Poe muttered. His eyes gleaming in the way that suggested he planned on breaking all of the rules, and dragging Finn along with him. In the name of showing the kid a good time, of course.
Just so long as they didn't crash to a fiery death, Leia found herself oddly okay with that.