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Alone in a Crowded Room (When I'm Here With You)

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The thing about recovery, Finn learns, is that it sucks.

He supposes he should be grateful. Scratch that—he is grateful. Of course he is. He’s alive, and free of the First Order, and a part of the Resistance, surrounded by like-minded rebels who don’t see him as simply an ex-stormtrooper, but an ally, an asset. He has hope, and the whole galaxy laid out before him.

None of this is lost on Finn. He’s grateful. But he’s also kind of…bored.

He isn’t in much pain, all things considered. There’s a scar, a stripe of fresh, pearly-smooth skin extending from his right hip to his left shoulder, but it doesn’t hurt—tugs a little when he bends over or twists to see it in a mirror. He almost wishes it did hurt. It would make more sense, then, that his legs feel so stiff and feeble, that he can only shuffle unaided from one wall of his recovery room to the other, wincing with the arduous lift and drag of each foot, as if walking were a foreign concept, as if he hasn’t owned a pair of functioning legs his entire life.

Mostly he just sits and watches: the staff bustling around the med center, various pilots and technicians and officers rushing past his window, the planet spinning on without him.

“So dramatic,” Kalonia chides at his disgruntled sighs and groans. “You could’ve been paralyzed, you know.”

“I know, and I’ll never forget it, because I have you here to constantly remind me,” he’ll reply through gritted teeth, and she’ll glower over her shoulder, and he’ll plaster on his sunniest smile, and she’ll roll her eyes, and it’s all very friendly and pleasant and routine and boring.

It’s not that he doesn’t appreciate Kalonia and the med staff. They saved his life. He’s so grateful. He cannot count the number of Force-forsaken times a day he thinks about how grateful he is.

And here’s the thing about gratitude: after a while, even that becomes tedious. I’m so lucky to be here, to be alive, he’ll think, and another voice in his head will chime in, kriffing hell, Finn, we get it. Enough already. So much gratitude. He might be going a little insane with it.

There is, however, one thing he’s not bored with, and certain he never will be.

Poe Dameron comes to see him every day. Poe sits by his bed—sometimes for ten minutes, sometimes for hours—with a boundless arsenal of stories to tell and ways to make Finn laugh and star maps to pour over, eager to include Finn in his strategizing. Whenever Poe runs past the med center on his way to and from whatever Resistance task he’s been assigned, he always makes sure to give Finn a little wave and a smile. One afternoon, Poe performed an elaborate skit outside Finn’s window, pulling faces and showing off some casual acrobatics until he accidentally toppled smack into General Organa, who shook her head and smirked while Poe blushed an impressive shade of pink and Finn laughed so hard Kalonia came storming out of her office to chide them all.

Finn’s bored, and irritated, and he misses Rey, but without Poe Dameron, he’s certain he’d have lost his mind by now. And it’s to Poe that Finn finally appeals for a jailbreak.

“I’m fine,” he insists when Poe balks at his suggestion. “I’m great, actually. Look, my back’s almost fully healed—”

Almost.”

“And you’ve seen me walking around—”

“Sure, you’re walking, but I wouldn’t exactly call you…”

“Call me what?”

“Independently mobile?”

Finn scoffs. “You’re starting to sound like Kalonia.”

“She has been known to be right, from time to time.” Poe smiles, and Finn feels his buzz of annoyance drifting away in the face of Poe’s cheer. “We just want you to get better, buddy. Quick as you can.”

“Ugh.” Finn tosses his head back against the pillow. “Why do you all have to be so nice while you torture me?”

Poe laughs and pats Finn’s knee. “Because we’ve all been stuck in here. We know the drill.”

“Oh, and you just like turning the tables on a poor new bedridden victim?”

Poe props his chin in his hand and grins. “No, we like you. We don’t want you to suffer any longer than you have to.”

Heat creeps up the back of Finn’s neck—he’s not sure he’ll ever get used to Poe’s unabashed affection, his gentle sincerity. “So you’re not gonna bust me out of here.”

“For your own good.”

“For my own good. Fine. Can I at least, I don’t know, walk to the mess hall? Eat real food at a real table? Spend one night in a bed that doesn’t watch my every move?” He puts a hand over Poe’s. “Please?”

Poe must pick up on the very real frustration in Finn’s voice, because he sighs, and his eyes flicker to the door. “Let me see what I can do. Okay? No promises, but…let me see.”

Finn beams. “You’re my hero, Poe Dameron.”

“Likewise,” Poe says, clapping Finn’s shoulder and wandering out to find Kalonia. Finn buries his head in his hands, his ears burning, because Force, Poe has to stop that, or Finn’s going to pass out from this constant lightheaded, breath-stealing, tingly warmth of embarrassment (definitely not a crush, he thinks, absolutely positively not a crush).

Poe apparently turns the charm on full, because he wins Finn a night of freedom. Finn whoops and punches the air, almost knocking a monitor over.

“Now don’t get too excited,” Poe says, laughing. “We’re gonna go to the mess and get something to eat, hang out for a bit, and then you’re back in bed. Doctor’s orders.”

“But not this bed, right? Please tell me not this bed.”

“How about my bed?”

Finn gapes at Poe for a moment, unsure whether or not he’s imagining the slight, sly twist to Poe’s lips. He clears his throat, shakes his head a little, rubs at the back of his neck. “I don’t have my own quarters?”

“You do, but they’re pretty sparse. I thought my room might be a bit more homey, until we have time to get yours feeling properly welcoming.”

“Poe, you do know I slept in a hard bunk in a tiny room with a squadron of troopers my whole life?”

“I know.”

“And they didn’t exactly encourage us to make it our own. I'm pretty sure 'homey' isn't in the Order's vocabulary.”

“I know.”

“And won’t it be cramped? Two of us in one bed.”

“I’ve got a cot I can sleep on, if it’s more comfortable for you,” Poe says, unruffled by Finn’s idiotic question, of course he has a cot, Finn, you’re the biggest moron in the galaxy. “But hey, it’s totally up to you, pal. If you wanna sleep in your own quarters, that’s more than fine.”

“No, nonono, it’s fine, your quarters are fine,” Finn says all in one breath. He crosses his arms over his chest, shrugs one shoulder with as much nonchalance as he can muster. “I mean. You know. Whatever.”

Poe smiles like Finn’s told a joke only the two of them understand. “Alright. Then how about we get outta here?”

“Yes. Hell yes.”

The walk to the mess is a slow one. Poe keeps a hand on the small of Finn’s back to steady him as they limp through the corridors, returns any passing greeting while Finn pays attention to his own feet, willing them to move faster, work better. By the time they reach their destination, Finn has sweat beading at his hairline, pooling at the base of his spine, and he’s ready to call the whole thing off, abruptly nervous at the wide expanse of populated space, the chaotic chatter of conversation, the sheer amount of choices he has to make: what to eat, where to sit, who to speak to. Though he doesn’t have the best track record with following orders, he’s still not quite sure what to do without them.

As if on cue, Poe takes the lead, steering him towards a table near the front of the room where a few pilots are gathered, finishing their meals. “Snap, Jess, Iolo, Karé,” Poe nods to each in turn as he lowers Finn to the bench beside them. “Meet Finn.”

“It’s about damn time,” Jess says, extending a hand; she has possibly the most enthusiastic handshake of anyone Finn’s ever met. “Dameron hasn’t shut up about you for one kriffing second since Starkiller. We were starting to think he made you up.”

Finn frowns. “Why would he make me up?”

“To hide the fact that he doesn’t have any real friends,” Iolo chimes in. Finn bristles, ready to jump to Poe’s defense, but Poe squeezes his shoulder and laughs along, and he stands down.

“How are you feeling?” Snap asks.

“Good,” Finn says. “Ready to help the Resistance in any way I can.”

“Bored,” Poe stage-whispers, and they all laugh.

“Trust me, Finn, we know the feeling,” Karé assures him. “You stumbled onto the orneriest bunch of self-sacrificing lunatics this end of the Outer Rim. We’ve spent our fair share of time in those beds. Kalonia deserves a medal for all the hell we’ve put her through.”

“She deserves a nice, long retirement far, far away from us,” Poe says. “Hey, I’ll go grab us some chow. One of everything?” He doesn’t wait around for Finn’s reply.  

Poe brings back a truly ridiculous amount of food, and Finn ends up eating more than he intended, suddenly starving. (You’re still recovering. You need the energy, Poe says, gladly piling his plate with seconds.) The other pilots stick around long after they’ve finished eating, and Finn starts to relax, enjoying their easy banter, their open demeanors. He feels welcomed. He feels—he’s starting to feel—like he’s home.

Then, all of a sudden, Finn hears music. It’s coming from the back of the room, getting incrementally louder, and he’s not sure who’s playing it, whether or not it’s a recording, but Poe leaps to his feet, a grin spreading across his face.

“Oh kriff,” Jess says.

“Pava.”

“Do we have to?”

“C’mon, Pava.” Poe offers his arm to her.

Jess rolls her eyes but follows him to the middle of the room, where the two of them begin to dance. It’s a fast dance, light and loose and lively, Poe and Jess spinning around each other in a familiar, practiced way that tells Finn they’ve done this before, and he absolutely hates himself for the twist of jealousy knotting up in his gut.

“Showoffs,” Karé mutters as she scoots into Poe’s abandoned seat. “They learn one Margengai-Glide from a visiting dignitary and they think they’re hot stuff.”                                                    

“Do they do this…a lot?” Finn asks, feigning as much disinterest as he can without taking his eyes off them.

Karé laughs. “They whip this thing out anytime Dameron so much as thinks he hears music. And don’t let Pava fool you—she loves it as much as he does.”

“Oh.” Finn stares down at his hands. “And he likes her…a lot.”

“He does.” Karé glances at Finn out of the corner of her eye. “She likes him, too.”

Finn nods.

“Everyone likes Poe. I like Poe. The General likes Poe. Jess’s wife likes Poe.”

“Yeah, Poe’s a likeable—wait. What?”

Karé winks at him. “So I wouldn’t stress over it, champ.”

The song ends, and a smattering of applause echoes through the hall. Poe and Jess take a few giggling, exaggerated bows, dipping low, hands waving. Another song begins, this one slower, and Poe turns on his heels, locks eyes with Finn and smiles, a slow curving of the lips that has Finn’s breath stuttering in his chest.

“Your turn,” Poe says, striding over to Finn. “Let’s go.”

“Whoa, wait a minute, I don’t think…I can’t—”                    

“Of course you can.” Poe takes Finn’s hand, pulls him up, and Finn’s protests die in his throat. “One hand here,” Poe says, placing Finn’s hand on his shoulder, “and one here.” Poe takes his other hand, squeezes, puts his own on Finn’s waist, and starts to spin them leisurely. “You’ll tell me if you get tired, right?”

“Uh huh.” Finn peeks over his shoulder, stumbling over Poe’s foot in the process. “Oh Force, I’m awful at this. Is everyone watching us?”

“Nah. Doesn’t matter. You mind?”

Finn shakes his head, but keeps watching his leaden feet.

“Don’t worry about it. Hey.” Poe puts a finger under Finn’s chin, lifts until their eyes meet. “Hey, Finn. I—”

“Dameron!”

Poe closes his eyes, his jaw clenching in barely concealed irritation. For the first time since Finn’s met him, Poe seems less than enthusiastic to drop everything at the General's call. “Yes, ma’am?”

To her credit, General Organa looks apologetic, her mouth downturned and eyes knowing. “If I could borrow you, for just a moment.”

Sorry, Poe mouths, and Finn nods through the lump in his throat. Poe runs his hand up and down Finn’s side, pausing to tug wistfully at the hem of his shirt, and gives him a lackluster smile. “Coming, ma’am.”

Poe turns to go, and Finn hobbles back to the table. Karé slaps him on the back, conciliatory, and Snap strikes up another round of conversation, but Finn’s heart isn’t in it. He picks at his food, no longer hungry, tries and fails not to look dejected. He’ll see Poe later, of course, but he feels like he’s lost an important moment, let it slip from his grasp—the soft music, the swathing comfort of being surrounded by friends and focused so fully on one another, the stolen hours of Finn’s temporary freedom dwindling, and Poe, so fond and so close. He can’t get this moment back.

Unless he can.

He’s claimed moments before, ones that never belonged to him, bent the trajectories of others towards his own path, as hastily thought-out and mapped-out as it was. He marched off a shuttle and lowered his blaster instead of firing. He marched into a cell and got himself a pilot. He didn’t know what he was doing then.

He doesn’t know what he’s doing now.

The other pilots start to disperse, unable to put off their own duties any longer, and Finn stays. He waits. He waits until he’s the only person left at the table, the only person left in the mess hall, until he’s dozing off, his head pillowed on his outstretched arm.

He startles when someone calls his name. He finds Poe beside him, shaking his arm gently, his brow furrowed with worry. “Finn, wake up.”

“What’s wrong?” Finn asks, his voice rough with sleep. “What happened?”

Poe blinks. “Huh? No, nothing happened, I just…you’re still here?”

Finn rubs his eyes. “Yeah. I waited for you.”

“Buddy.” Poe huffs and wraps an arm around Finn’s shoulders, the creases around his eyes smoothing. “You didn’t have to wait for me.”

“I wanted to.” Finn swallows. Screw lost moments, he thinks. He hasn’t lost anything. He rallies his nerve, looks Poe dead in the eye and says, “You owe me a dance.”

Poe’s eyes widen. “Oh.” He scrambles to his feet. “Yeah. Okay. Yeah. Just let me…just a second.”

Finn laughs as Poe nearly sprints to the back of the room and starts up the recording, nervousness and yearning and joy all bubbling up inside him, making him feel dizzy and jittery and lighter than air. (A crush, he admits to himself, fine, okay, it’s definitely a crush.) Poe returns, holds out his hand, and they move to the center of the room, Finn putting one hand on Poe’s shoulder, slipping the other into his hand.

“Good remembering,” Poe says, curling a hand around Finn’s hip. They spin slow to the music, rocking from foot to foot, inching closer until Finn wraps his arm around Poe’s neck and Poe tangles his hand in Finn’s shirt and their temples press together. Poe sings along to the song, and Finn's heart attempts to pound right through his ribcage, but he doesn’t want to stop, doesn’t want to leave, wants to stay near Poe for the rest of the night, and longer.

They dance until the song ends, and for a few seconds after, swaying slower and slower until they finally still, holding each other close.

“See?” Poe murmurs next to his ear. “You can dance. Told you so.”

Finn brushes his nose against Poe’s. “Shut up.”

“You’re a natural.”

“Poe.”

“I swear, Finn, you can do anything.”

Finn laughs and grabs Poe’s face between his hands. “Poe Dameron. Shut. Up.”

His kiss catches Poe effectively off-guard; Poe makes a little mmphf sound, inhaling sharply through his nose before returning the kiss, wrapping his hands around Finn’s wrists and smiling against his lips. When they pull back, Poe looks as flushed and flustered as Finn feels.

“So do I, uh,” Poe says, bumping his forehead against Finn’s, “do I still have to sleep on the cot tonight?”

Finn splutters. “Are you kidding me? You’re kidding me. I can’t believe you. I just kissed you, and you’re asking me if—”

Poe kisses him again.