Somewhere in the Inner Rim
“We’re here,” Poe murmurs. He sets down his holoviewer and sits up from the side of the bunk in their quarters, leaning forward to drop a kiss on the top of Finn’s head.
“I told you, there’s nothing you can do that’ll distract me from getting caught up on these reports—wait, we are?” Finn keys the console to display their flight status instead of the latest squadron deployments.
Poe swings his leg over the bench and rests his chin on Finn’s shoulder. His reflection in the console screen wears a pleased grin. “Yep.”
“How can you tell?”
“Felt the sublights cut in,” Poe says. “That shift in the harmonics—ah, you’ll pick it up the more often I can get you in a ship like this. Something smaller than a Star Destroyer.”
“Still won’t fit in your X-wing with you,” Finn says, scooting around on the bench so he can kiss him. Poe makes a pleased noise into Finn’s mouth and wraps his arms around him, unsubtly trying to maneuver them both away from the console.
“Hey, just because you’ve got the straight line to the General doesn’t mean you don’t have to review these reports too,” Finn protests, when he gets a breath. He’s been more than diligent, learning everything from ground crew to helping out in the medbay, volunteering as much strategic information on the First Order as he can remember. Poe has been supportive—but ever since they left on this mission, he’s been gently pressing for them both to relax, take a break.
Finn doesn't really do breaks.
Well, except for breaks for kissing, and sex, and that one time Poe made him stop reading and come listen to ‘this is the best song ever written’. There's just so much he still doesn't know—still needs to know, to be able to help the Resistance effectively.
“Read ‘em while you were out poking around the ship earlier,” Poe replies, brushing his nose against Finn’s.
“Oh yeah?” Finn pulls back enough to give him a challenging stare.
“Yeah,” Poe says and dutifully recites, “Blue and Red Squadrons are patrolling the remains of the—” The door chime forestalls any further detailing of the Resistance’s strategic movements. “Come in,” he calls.
The flight officer’s gaze takes in their closeness behind the console. Finn is practically in Poe’s lap, and neither of them is fully dressed. Her cheeks turn pink. “We’ve dropped out of hyperspace at the coordinates the General gave you,” she informs them, her eyes going to the middle distance. “But we’re having some difficulty scanning the planet’s surface.”
Poe surreptitiously nudges Finn with an elbow—they’ve been expecting nothing less from a system that’s stayed off the Galactic map for decades—and says, “Thank you, officer. Is the shuttle prepared for our departure?”
“Yessir,” she says. “Whenever you’re—ready, sirs.” She backs out at Poe’s acknowledging nod and the door slides closed behind her.
“We’re sharing quarters,” Finn says, shaking his head, but smiling. “You’d think they’d be more used to this sort of thing.”
“I suppose they’re more used to the secret tryst ‘sort of thing,’” Poe says, reluctantly letting go of Finn and reaching over for his shirt on the bed behind them. “Sneaking around at odd hours, getting caught in the engine room, you know.”
Finn considers that for a moment. “Sounds like fun.”
“I could stand to learn how to be sneaky,” he says, and shrugs. “Not really used to being anything but conspicuous. Anonymous, sure, but there really wasn’t any way to miss a whole battalion of stormtroopers in armor coming down a ramp.”
Poe throws him a look—the one Finn’s learned to interpret as the First Order is a real piece of work look. “You stood out, all right, but in a good way,” he says, loyally, and squeezes Finn’s hand.
Finn can’t help but lean in, smiling, at that. For a kiss, the mission can wait another minute.
Ten minutes later, Finn’s strapped into the copilot’s seat of the shuttle as Poe takes them down into the planet’s atmosphere. It’s no bumpier than any other descent—Poe is the best pilot in the Resistance, after all—but Finn feels strangely unsettled, watching the clouds stream past the viewscreen in the dark. Like the sensation of having forgotten what it was he was going to say, or that he’s left behind something important.
“You brought the portable scanners, right?”
“Yeah, buddy, there’s one in each of our packs. With backup power packs.” Poe spares Finn a curious glance.
Finn thinks. “And the protein bars? We have enough for the week?”
“Okay, I know it’s our first actual mission together and we both want to get everything right,” Poe says, “but you packed those yourself, remember?”
“I—yeah. Yeah.” Finn falls silent, running down a mental checklist of their supplies and coming up completely accounted-for. “I just feel like maybe I forgot something.”
Poe makes a faux-worried face. “Did you bring your jacket?”
“That I know I packed.” Finn expects he’ll want to wear it sooner rather than later, though; mostly because he likes the way Poe looks at him in it.
“Did you say good-bye to BB-8?”
“‘Cause you know, no holo-calls until the freighter comes back to pick us up in a standard week,” Poe continues. There’s a gentle thump underneath the shuttle as the landing gear extends. Out the viewscreen, Finn can see the forest clearing ahead, and the landing lights glinting off of some part of the abandoned smugglers’ base.
“Aw, you miss him,” Finn teases.
“Yeah, well, you’re a lot warmer in bed than he is, I'm willing to make that trade,” Poe says, cheerfully, as he sets them down and hits the control for the ramp. He unstraps from his chair and stands up. “Come on, let’s go scout the base. Maybe you’ll figure out what you forgot once you have a look around.”
But Finn sets foot on the planet’s surface, and the sense of wrongness only intensifies. The nighttime sounds of the forest seem muffled, distant, and even though he knows Poe is at his side, it’s like no one is there—unless he turns to look. It feels like falling through empty space with every step.
He hesitates, swaying a little on his feet, and Poe puts a steadying hand on his elbow. “Hey, you okay?”
“I think—I think I gotta sit down.”
Poe guides him over to a tree stump with a hand on his shoulder, and Finn drops onto it. He puts his head in his hands, trying to focus on calm, fighting down the inexplicable hollowness rising inside him. Poe sits cross-legged on the grass beside him, reviewing planetary information on a softly glowing datapad, even though Finn knows they were both thoroughly briefed on the world with as much information as the General had been able to scrounge up—or had been willing to tell them, anyway. Highly classified mission and all.
“Type I atmosphere, standard gravity,” Poe reads aloud. “You’re not allergic to something, are you?” He smiles up at Finn, but his eyes are worried.
Finn shakes his head. Despite the coolness of the evening, he’s starting to sweat, and he rubs at his forehead uneasily. “Stormtroopers don’t get allergies.”
“I’ll add that to the list,” Poe says, lightly, but his brow is starting to furrow.
“It’s like—I can’t get my feet under me,” Finn tries to explain. “Like vertigo, but I don’t get vertigo, I don’t get space-sick or agoraphobic on planets.” He can’t seem to stop himself from rambling.
“Hey, it’s okay.” Poe puts a warm hand on his knee. “Just breathe. We’ll figure it out.”
“You should go on ahead without me,” Finn says. He offers a faint smile. “I’ll catch up.”
“And leave you here to get eaten by the—” Poe looks down at the datapad— “zero-point-eight meters tall, canine-like predators?”
Finn unholsters his blaster and sets it down on the stump beside him. “I’m sure I’ll hear them coming.” He doesn't feel as certain as he tries to sound; he can't even hear the insects he can see swarming around them in the dim radiance of the datapad.
“Nope. We go together. Even if I have to carry you.” Poe pats Finn’s thigh—and then snatches his own blaster out to point at something beyond the trees. “Okay, now we’re definitely going,” he says, getting to his feet slowly and shouldering his pack.
Finn turns his head to see two pairs of gleaming eyes in the dark. “Point-eight meters tall, you said?” he asks, pushing off the tree stump to stand.
“Seems like they’re bigger, doesn’t it?” Poe replies, putting himself between Finn and the animals emerging from the forest towards them.
“Little bit,” Finn mutters. He turns to cover the rest of the clearing, grasses rustling around his boots— “Does the datapad happen to mention if they’re particularly good at hunting in packs?”
“Three more.” Finn thumbs off the safety on his blaster and sights the closest animal, which is stalking towards him and whipping its long tail back and forth slowly.
Poe calls over his shoulder, “You feeling up to this?”
“Adrenaline’s helping me shake it off,” Finn responds grimly, ducking and firing as the creature leaps at his head with its claws extended. He sees the flash of two of Poe’s shots out of the corner of his eye, and spins to shoot another creature off their backs. His third shot misses its target and only scores the animal along its shoulder—it howls, the sound again unusually muted, as if it was much further away. As it crashes to the ground mid-leap, its tail whips out across Finn’s arm. He shouts in surprise and pain, but still takes down the last animal, his blaster bolt striking home at the same time as Poe’s.
“That was a hell of a welcome,” Poe says, holstering his blaster and coming over to Finn. He frowns and takes Finn’s arm, hissing sympathetically at the sight of the raised welt crossing from wrist to elbow under his shredded black sleeve.
“Good thing my jacket’s still in my pack, or you’d have another patch job on your hands,” Finn says, examining the injury himself. It burns, and he fights the urge to rub it, knowing he’ll only make it worse. “Must be some kind of poison in the tail,” he mutters, instead, and takes out his scanner to record the information.
“Let’s get under cover and I’ll patch you up,” Poe says. Finn nods and heads for the closest building, Poe covering their retreat.
Inside the smugglers’ barracks, the forest has steadily retaken most of the outer rooms. Nearly every room is carpeted in moss in shades of gray and green; some ceilings are nothing more than gaping holes to the stars above. Thankfully, nothing bigger than a sand-rat scurries out when their glow rods illuminate the shadows.
Finn picks a room that still has a bed frame and sits on the edge of it, fishing a tube of salve from his pack. He tosses it to Poe, keeping his blaster in his free hand and pointed at the door. Poe sits down next to him and gently smoothes the salve over the welt. It tingles, but dulls the line of fire. “Ready for some exploring?” he asks, as Finn presses a kiss to his temple in thanks. “Or do you still feel dizzy?”
Finn finishes wrapping a bandage over his forearm, doing his best to ignore the sensation of wrongness still clouding his mind. “Give me something to focus on and I’ll be okay.”
“Great,” Poe says, looking unconvinced, but adds, “Where do you want to start?”
Finn recalls the mental image of the base from the air. “I bet there’s power generators in the central building. If we can get ‘em working, maybe you can slice into one of the consoles and have a look through the smugglers’ deleted files.”
Poe nods. “Got a lot of faith in my slicing skills, huh,” he says. He pats Finn’s shoulder, getting up. “Don’t suppose you have a hunch as to what we should be looking for?”
“I was kind of hoping there would be a sign that says ‘Secret Weapon,’ actually,” Finn says. He follows Poe back out into the barracks’ main hallway, blaster at the ready.
“All written in lights?”
“And flashing,” Finn agrees, absently, covering their backs. They don’t go out the way they came in—he hopes the dead animals they left on the far side of the base aren’t drawing more attention from scavengers, and makes a mental note to go back and bury the bodies later.
“The way the General talked, I think I’ll know it when I see it,” Poe says, as they pass between buildings on their way to the large one in the middle of the clearing. Around them, there’s a few ruined storehouses, another barracks-type building, and a hangar with its roof completely caved in, and Finn notices Poe’s eyes lingering on that last.
“Yeah? What do you think something both the Jedi and the Sith wanted hidden looks like?”
“Something really dangerous,” Poe says. Finn looks at him curiously—his voice has gone flat. Finn reaches over and takes his hand, and Poe squeezes back, doesn't let go until they get to their destination.
Inside the main building, glow rods in hand, they pick their way across fallen branches and thick snaking vines towards the center. Insects and a couple of small mammals scurry away as their covers are disturbed. Finn shines the light after a particularly large creature, but it's just another rodent.
The door at the end of the hall is jammed at an odd angle with just enough room for them to squeeze under; Finn hopes the predators haven’t decided to den in there. Poe crouches and shines the glow rod into the darkness beyond. “Looks empty,” he says, ducking inside. “And big.”
“See any generators or consoles?” Finn asks.
“No, but—” Poe whistles softly. “You should see this.”
Finn crouches under the hanging door and stands up. Poe’s glow rod plays off of the trunk of an enormous tree growing in the middle of the room, its branches reaching out and up to frame the transparisteel ceiling. He crosses to it, looking up and up, and reaches out to touch its bark—like everything else on this planet, the sensation is wrong. It feels weird, less rough under his palm than he would have expected. “Imagine what it looked like when the base was in operation,” he says, awed. There is a single weather-beaten and time-worn chair lying on its side nearby, and Finn tries to picture the smuggler who would have sat beneath such a tree. Not just sat—whoever it was, they held court.
“We should make camp here,” Poe says. “And maybe we can climb it before the week is over? If you’re feeling better?” His face is hopeful by the light of the glow rod. “Are you feeling better?”
Finn shakes his head and rights the chair, dropping into it with a sigh as dust scatters the faint light into mist around him. “It’s not so bad now, but nothing sounds right in my head. There should be an echo in this room, but I don’t hear it.” He flashes on a memory—“I was too close to a sonic grenade once in training. The blast had my ears ringing for hours. Sort of like that, but—” he gestures helplessly— “different.”
Poe gently presses the back of his hand to Finn's forehead. “No fever,” he says. “Nothing we know about this place should be affecting you like this.”
“It doesn't even smell right,” Finn mutters.
Poe sniffs the air curiously. “What should it smell like?”
“I don't know,” Finn says. “Ever since I took off my helmet and breathed something other than recycled air, I know planets have their own smells.”
“I get it,” Poe says. “D’Qar smells all green, lush, especially after a good rain.” His eyes go soft, a little.
“Like Takodana,” Finn agrees. “This place should be like that, maybe, with all the trees.” He sighs, and adds, “Maybe I just need to rest.”
Poe blinks. “Did I just hear that right? The busiest, most hard-working ex-stormtrooper in the Resistance should take a break?”
Finn punches him on the arm, not very hard, and smiles faintly. “Yeah, all right.”
They lay out their bedrolls next to each other, in what Finn judges to be the most defensible position in the room at the base of the tree. It's warm enough inside the building that Finn doesn't suggest a heater and instead simply flops down on the bedroll without taking more than his boots off.
Poe sets up a monofilament tripwire across the door to alert them if anything the size of the predators tries to get in, and when he comes back to camp, says, “I'll take first watch.”
Finn throws him a look. “If I wake up and you never actually gave me a watch—”
“Then you'll have slept more than a handful of hours in a row for the first time since you got out of the medbay,” Poe replies, half-smirking. He relents at the dismay on Finn's face. “I know what you’re doing, but of all people, I'm the last person you have to prove yourself to.” He leans down and kisses Finn briefly. “Get some sleep, okay?”
Finn lies awake for the better part of an hour, watching Poe pacing a perimeter, lit faintly by the glow rod. It's like they're the only two people on the whole planet, he thinks, and then that sets his mind adrift, wondering what other worlds are out there that haven't been discovered, around what distant suns.
Poe is orbiting me, is the last hazy thought that goes through his mind, just before he falls asleep.
In the morning, the tree looks even bigger, stretching up and out of the ceiling. It's spring on this hemisphere, and leaves are bright dots all over the branches, about to unfurl. Poe leans up against the tree trunk, alternating sips of caf and bites of a protein bar. His olive shirt is rumpled from being wedged into his pack haphazardly; Finn sniffs his collar when he goes to kiss him and is actually a little surprised it smells clean, wonders idly when Poe had time to do laundry before they left.
“Breakfast,” Poe says, handing over a cup of caf and an identical protein bar.
Finn gulps down a mouthful of each, and makes a face at his caf. “This tastes awful.”
Poe peers at his own mug sleepily. “It's the same blend as home,” he replies. “Just a fast-brew version for travel.” He takes another sip. “Tastes okay to me, though.”
Knowing he could use the stimulant, Finn reluctantly downs the rest. “I got a read on where the power generators are on the base,” he says, fighting the impolite urge to stick out his tongue and scrape it off with a stick.
Poe cocks an eyebrow at him. “How’s the head?”
Finn shrugs. “Good enough.”
“Still—?” Poe waggles a hand to suggest disorientation and steps closer, reaching out like he wants to check Finn over again himself.
“I’ll get past it,” Finn assures him earnestly. “I used the medical scanner while you were sleeping, and there’s nothing wrong with me that a few days’ hard work won’t fix.”
Poe just looks at him. “I’m half tempted to order you back to bed,” he sighs. A gleam dances in his eyes. “But I know you won’t go unless I join you.”
Finn grins back. “That sounds like a promise. And I definitely think you should always keep your promises.” He leans in and brushes Poe’s lips with his own.
“But the mission comes first,” Poe says, sounding mock-resigned.
“The mission,” Finn agrees, rolling his eyes affectionately back at him.
They spend nearly the entire day getting the generators back online, after they bury the predators a safe distance away from the base in the forest. Poe’s mechanical know-how is extensive, but even he admits that BB-8 usually provides a lot of technical support. And Finn is grateful, now, that he spent a week taking apart and reassembling a shield generator under Snap’s guidance—but a shield generator is still pretty different than a two-decades-old power generator. Especially the ones built by smugglers instead of to specs, either Imperial or Republic.
“I have a whole new appreciation for Rey being able to get the Falcon off the ground,” Finn mutters, sometime in the afternoon, wiping sweat and grease from his forehead with the back of a hand as he pushes away from a generator. One of the sleeves of his black shirt slips down, and he pushes it back up above his elbow irritably. “Smugglers.”
Poe looks over from where he’s lying on his back under the generator’s control panel, his hands occupied with wires. “Hey, that ship is a historical relic,” he says.
“A relic you’d do anything to get your hands on,” Finn retorts. “Even if it fell apart on you. In hyperspace.”
“Yeah, I would,” Poe says agreeably, then, “Ow!” He sucks on the injured finger and then points it at Finn. “Next generator, you’re doing the rewiring.”
Finn slides in next to him, taking care not to get caught on the mynock’s nest of wires hanging down. “Sure, but after this, I’m finding a working ‘fresher in the barracks,” he says, reaching up to help adjust the wires back into place.
“Nuh-uh, I’m teaching you about climbing a tree first.” Poe nods approval at Finn’s positioning of the cluster of wires and slides the panel closed over their heads.
“Pretty sure I know how to climb,” Finn says, scooting back out. “Three points of contact on the wall, keep your arms straight, use your legs.”
Poe rolls onto his side and props his head on one hand. “Yeah, but a wall ain’t a tree . You get a whole different perspective being up in a tree that you don’t get climbing in a—what, a training facility?” He grins at Finn. “It’s not all about the mission.”
Finn laughs and shakes his head. “You do not let up,” he says, brushing dirt off his hands and getting to his feet.
“War’ll still be going on whether we climb a tree or not,” Poe says, shrugging.
“Oh, I’m pretty sure the fate of the galaxy depends on it,” Finn teases. He sticks a hand out for Poe to grab and get up. “We got two more of these, and then you can show me what’s so great about getting up close and personal with the forest.”
It turns out one of the things that’s great about climbing a tree, is the way Poe looks at Finn in wide-eyed appreciation while they’re doing it.
“What?” Finn says, reaching up for the next branch. Poe’s gazing down from a nice solid branch another half a meter or so above his head; he had stopped trying to give Finn directions and just let him climb somewhere around the thirty-second mark.
“I like watching you,” Poe says. “You have excellent form,” he adds, and raises an eyebrow at Finn suggestively.
“I do have a pretty great form,” Finn replies, getting his footing secure— ‘no boots,” Poe had said, “you can't feel the tree with 'em’ —and a hand on the branch Poe’s sitting on. He pushes off the trunk and hauls himself up at the same time to claim his spot next to Poe, letting his feet hang over the side of the branch. “Gotta say this about a tree,” he says, “I was never nose-to-nose with so much weird stuff living on a training wall.” He flicks a bit of multicolored moss off his shirt and watches it fall to the ground three meters below.
Poe smiles at him, bumps Finn’s bare foot with one of his own. “I forget sometimes, when I’m up there, just how much life there is on the ground. Not just sentients or droids, but all this—” He makes a sweeping gesture that’s meant to encompass the whole forest.
“We were drilled on planetary ecosystems a lot as kids,” Finn says, absently, leaning against Poe’s shoulder and twining their fingers together on the branch. He looks out at the trees, at their branches catching the wind in graceful arcs, silhouetted against the light. “I can probably draw you some biogeochemical cycles from memory.”
“That’s—nope. I’m not gonna ask you about early stormtrooper education right now,” Poe says, stopping himself. “Just gonna enjoy the view.”
Finn frowns and turns to look at him. “I don’t mind telling you.”
“I know, buddy, but sometimes it’s like I’m gathering intel instead of just being your friend.” Poe’s gaze is steady, earnest.
“Hey, it’s my life,” Finn says, shrugging. “The things I learned, that’s how I’m the friend you’ve got today.” He grins to himself. “Well. Maybe friend isn’t the word I’m looking for.” He reaches over and pulls a twig out of Poe’s hair, twirls it between his fingers.
“Oh yeah?” Poe murmurs, leaning his forehead against Finn’s.
“Yeah,” Finn replies, tilting his head to kiss him. “Who needs words?”
Poe huffs a laugh into his mouth, but only leans in more, deepening their kiss. His free hand comes up to curl around the back of Finn’s neck.
But Finn closes his eyes, trying to feel their usual connection, the tingling light and warmth of their closeness, against the return of that same strangeness. And although he’s delighted with Poe in his arms, gloriously kissing him, there’s still something haunting the back of his mind. Something missing.
They take their time climbing back down the tree. Poe had wanted to stay up to watch the sunset, but had acquiesced when Finn pointed out that the animals they’d fought off the night before seemed to be nocturnal—“since they didn’t hassle us all day.”
“Did I tell you I used to climb this Force-sensitive tree in my backyard on Yavin IV?” Poe asks, dropping off the last branch to the ground, where Finn has already been waiting, and admiring the way Poe’s thighs strain against his pants, for the last two minutes.
“A Force-sensitive tree?”
“Yeah. Grown from a fragment Luke Skywalker gave my mother.” Poe smiles at the memory, brushing bark off his hands before bending down to get his boots on
“How did you know it was Force-sensitive?” Finn asks, as they start walking back to the barracks building.
Poe nearly stumbles. “Wow,” he says. “Um.”
Finn gives him a look. “Seriously?”
“Well, Luke said —”
“Uh-huh,” Finn says, skeptically, his eyes dancing with amusement.
“You better not be disparaging the great and powerful Luke Skywalker,” Poe warns, shaking a teasing finger at him. “Or my mom,” he adds.
“Never.” Finn smiles. “Especially not your mom.” He kisses Poe’s cheek to seal the promise.
They walk on in companionable silence for a few moments, and then Poe says, very thoughtfully, “It glowed sometimes.”
Finn bursts into laughter at that.
He doesn’t stop chuckling to himself until they find the sole working ‘fresher on the base, when Poe strips down and, barely waiting the thirty seconds it takes for Finn to get his own clothes off, bodily hauls them both into the shower.
Finn gasps at the ice-cold water sluicing over them, and flattens his palms on the tile wall, presses himself already hard and shivering against Poe to steal his warmth. Poe buries his head in Finn’s neck, one hand slick with soap on Finn’s hip and the other sliding in between, long fingers wrapping around both of them. He jerks them off together, hard, fast; the water never gets any hotter on Finn’s back as he shudders, but Poe’s breath is steam on his skin.
Clean and dressed again in his now rather battered black shirt, Finn pokes idly at the console in the outer room, waiting for Poe to finish drying off. The comm system is, unsurprisingly, decades out of date. Which is fine; aside from Rey there’s nobody out in the galaxy Finn really wants to talk to, and with them both being on secret missions there’s no sense in sending out a holocall anyway.
Poe comes out of the ‘fresher, his curls damp and pushed back from his forehead. “Any luck?”
Finn shakes his head. “Aside from the ancient comm system, there’s not much left of the file structure to work with. Let’s split up and check the rest of the rooms?”
“Hoping somebody was a little lax in their data security?” Poe perches awkwardly on the edge of the console to tie his boots.
Finn shuts off the console and straightens up. “From the looks of things, the smugglers cleared out in a hurry. Maybe we’ll get lucky.”
“May the Force be with us,” Poe echoes. “You sure about splitting up? It’s getting dark.”
“I don’t think those creatures can get in,” Finn says. “I’ll take the west side of the building. Meet you back here in an hour?”
Poe looks from Finn to the ‘fresher, his eyes amused. “Planning to get dirty again?”
Finn shrugs, the corner of his mouth twitching up. “Can’t imagine how that might happen.”
“Okay,” Poe says. He claps Finn on the shoulder and slides off the console. “Meet you back here then unless one of us finds something.”
Four equally useless consoles later, Finn is finally able to piece together a handful of files. Unfortunately, none are particularly enlightening: there’s a set of ship manifests that look to be sanitized for the sake of inspections; an order for two collars and leashes; and then a garbled series of messages between a trio of sentients involved in an ongoing argument over either a deal or a date gone wrong, Finn honestly isn’t sure.
He sighs and leans back in his chair, stretching his arms over his head and yawning. Out the window he can see stars glinting through the forest canopy, and a pair of eyes—
Finn yells and falls out of the chair, but rolls to his feet with his blaster in hand just as Poe comes running through the door.
“Are you okay?” Poe demands, following Finn’s gaze to the window, where one of the predators is staring intently at them through the transparisteel, whipping its tail slowly.
“Just surprised me,” Finn says, brushing aside his own misgivings that he hadn’t noticed it sooner. “Did you find anything?” He doesn’t turn his back on the animal.
“Just some racy holos of an old 'vid star. You?”
“Nothing like a weapon, or anything we can use,” Finn says. He yawns again.
Poe notices. “I think maybe we should call it a night, start again in the morning,” he says. “See if we can get into the systems in the main building like you originally planned.”
“If we can get back in the main building without getting attacked,” Finn mutters. A second animal stalks out of the forest to join the first.
“Poor things must be hungry,” Poe says. “They seem a little thin to you? I think I’ve got an extra protein bar in my pack.”
“We are not making friends with the wildlife,” Finn says. “Not when they have teeth like that.” He points.
“Kidding,” Poe says, hastily, as one of the predators tenses as if to spring at the window, making a strange purring sound that’s audible even through the transparisteel. “Let’s get outta here.”
As they head back down the barracks hallway, Finn glimpses the animals at each window they pass— “They’re following us,” he says. “Y’know, I think the file on this planet is incomplete.”
“I’ve got a few ideas for what we should add,” Poe agrees sardonically. “Predators hunt in packs. Like to stalk their prey. Understand what windows are.”
“I think I got a plan to get past ‘em,” Finn says. “Give me your extra bar?” Poe hands it over, curious.
Finn sprints to the door at the end of the hallway, opens it, whistles loudly and hurls the protein bar as hard as he can into the forest. Both of the predators turn and lope after it.
“Come on, come on,” Finn calls, bouncing on the balls of his feet, and Poe dashes out towards him. Finn turns and starts to run for the central building—
And from the corner of his eye he sees a third animal launch itself out of the trees at him, its heavy weight crashing into his back with a fiery memory of pain, and slamming him to the ground, head-first.
Finn wonders dimly how he missed seeing that one, just before he blacks out.
He wakes to find himself lying on his side, his head in Poe’s lap, in their camp under the enormous tree, a glow rod casting shadows in every direction. “Hey,” Poe says, softly. “Welcome back.”
Back —Finn shifts gingerly to check, remembering the claws sinking into his body where he’d been slashed before. His shirt is gone, and there is a new set of bandages covering his spine. “I don’t hurt?”
“Doctor Kalonia slipped me a few extra pain meds just in case,” Poe says. “Got ‘em into you first thing after I patched you up. Again.” He looks down at Finn, his smile crooked. “I think this planet is trying to kill you.”
Finn recognizes the expression in his eyes. It’s the same look Kalonia had given him when he’d tried to sneak out of medbay a few days early.
“Oh no,” he says, making an effort to get to a sitting position. “No, you’re not making me stay put the rest of the week, Poe, it’s my mission too, the General sent us together—”
“Okay, okay,” Poe says, holding his hands up in surrender. “I just—” He runs his fingers through his hair. “I don’t like it that everything is coming after you here.”
Finn frowns. “Me? They didn’t attack you?”
“Nope. Their attention was on you the whole time. Made it easier to shoot them off, but for a second I thought—” Poe gets to his knees, reaching out like he can’t bear not to touch Finn, but his hands hover just short of pulling him into an embrace.
“This would be a terrible place to die,” Finn says, trying to be light. He takes one of Poe’s hands and sees his own blood on it, ignores that and puts it over his heart. Holds it there, wonderfully warm on his bare skin. “I don’t even know what it’s called.”
Poe visibly relaxes at their contact, though his eyes don’t look any less worried. “A planet where the galaxy threw allergies and wild animals at one man to get him to slow down and take a breather,” he says, carefully maneuvering Finn into the circle of his free arm. “No? Too long?”
“Not allergies,” Finn reminds him, cuddling into his side drowsily.
Poe presses a kiss behind his ear. “Oh, right. By throwing a ‘mysterious ailment’ and wild animals at him.”
“And this is hardly ‘a breather,’” Finn murmurs. His eyes close almost of their own accord.
“Well, I gave you a lot of pain meds,” Poe whispers back.
“Mm. Thanks,” Finn manages, as he drifts off to sleep again.
“We are not getting caught outside after dark again,” Poe says the second morning, applying a new layer of salve to Finn’s injuries.
Finn lifts his head from where he’s had his face buried in the pillow. “No argument here. I liked that shirt. And, y’know, the number of scars I already had on my spine.”
Poe rubs his shoulders consolingly in response. “I’ll set my chrono to alert us when it’s half an hour before sunset.”
Finn looks around, and realizes how much light there is in the greatroom; the tree is a stark silhouette against the sky. “What time is it now?”
Poe smirks. “Well past your usual wake-up, buddy.”
Finn pushes up onto an elbow. “Poe—”
“You needed it, all right?”
He spots a datapad over on Poe's bedroll, and even upside down he can make out one of the tactical reports they'd both been supposed to read on the freighter, on the second-to-last page.
“When did you sleep?” Finn demands.
“Didn’t.” Poe shrugs. “It’s okay, I took a stim. Just like going on a long trip in Black One.” He catches the expression on Finn’s face. “You can’t order me to bed, I outrank you,” he adds, smugly.
Finn glares at him half-heartedly. “Fine. Give me a hand up and let’s get to work. And if we’re not going to search after dark, no more climbing trees until we find what we’re looking for.”
“Deal,” Poe says, giving the tree a longing look and patting its trunk sadly. Finn tries, but fails, to hold in a laugh.
The base’s comm building is in just as much disrepair as the rest of the place, ceiling gone and most of the windows blown out with vines crawling in. But Finn is hopeful when Poe’s able to slice into one of the consoles and pull up a whole history of inventories done on the smugglers’ goods. He sets up another console to download everything and they both set to reading.
“There’s years of contraband here,” Poe says. “More than enough to have put these people away in just about every star system from here to the Unknown Reaches.” He pauses, and scans the inventory scrolling in front of him again. “Well, maybe not Nar Shaddaa.”
Finn nods absently, reading over his own display as it downloads and brushing away a stray flying insect that keeps trying to land on the illuminated letters. “They ran plenty of weapons. Nothing I haven’t heard of before, though. Definitely not anything the General would be interested in, but I still think this is our best bet.”
A couple hours later, Poe groans and stretches. “I can’t keep reading this stuff.”
Finn looks over at him. “No? I’m into their third year of smuggling spice. Prices picked up midway through the second quarter, and they stockpiled a lot. I bet the market collapsed before they could move it all, though, because some of these other indicators were already trending downwards.”
Poe stares, tilting his chair back on two legs, balancing with a foot up on the edge of the console in front of him. “Are you actually enjoying this?”
“Yeah,” Finn says. “It’s like piecing together a strategic puzzle, only, you know, illegal.” He glances down again.
“A strategic—Finn, are you going to deliver an economic analysis paper on smugglers to Leia?”
“You know, I just might,” Finn says, thoughtfully.
“I told them they couldn’t keep bouncing you around from department to department,” Poe mutters. “Wasting your talents. Your potential.”
Finn hits a key and halts the display scroll. “I was learning,” he says, quietly. “I’m still learning.”
“Learning, hell, you could be teaching.” Poe rocks his chair back to the floor with a thump. Dust flies up, catching sunlight in a cloud. “You know more than half my instructors at the Academy.”
“I could teach?”
“If you like,” Poe says.
Finn thinks of the instructors he had as a stormtrooper; the way they’d forced Slip to fight, exposed his mistakes as weaknesses to exploit. But the Resistance training he’s seen hasn’t worked like that at all. Poe has a whole squadron of new pilots under his wing, only pitting them against each other in the friendliest of competition, never to crush anyone’s spirit. Supporting every single recruit to get better, instead of washing them out—or worse.
“Think anyone would take a class from me?” he says, hesitantly. “Would they expect me to teach on First Order tactics?”
“They’d be lined up out the door for anything you wanted to teach,” Poe replies, getting to his feet and stretching. “You’re brilliant.” He squeezes Finn’s shoulder. “I’d be in the front row, staring at the hot professor, writing down every word out of his mouth...”
Finn laughs. “I’ll think about it. Maybe put together a thesis out of the stuff I’m reading here.” He turns back to his console, his mind already back on their current work, setting aside future possibilities for their immediate mission, with all its own uncertainty. “It’s surprising, actually, that this crew was loaded with so much merchandise they couldn’t move—they were a really successful outfit, probably picked up the pieces after the Hutts went down.”
“Could be they were keeping a low profile,” Poe suggests, idly toggling a switch on the defunct comm system back and forth.
“Not likely. This amount of inventory’s pretty sizeable,” Finn says. “Diverse contacts, diverse interests. These people were running quite an operation.”
“I wonder if the General knew about them,” Poe says. “She would’ve had high-level clearances during and after the war, access to lots of classified information, not to mention being married to a really famous smuggler.” He turns back to Finn— “You think she knows what the weapon is?”
Finn frowns at that. “If she did, why wouldn’t she tell you?”
Poe’s mouth twists in frustration. “I don’t know.” He paces back and forth for a moment. “Maybe she didn’t know. General Solo could’ve lost touch with his contacts when he went straight.” He shakes his head. “Not worth guessing about if we don’t find it, though.”
“Well, let’s keep digging,” Finn says.
“Tomorrow.” Poe nods in the direction of the windows, where the long shadows of the forest are edging towards them as the light changes. “Let’s head back.”
“Chrono alarm hasn’t gone off yet.”
“It’s okay to cut out a little early when there are predators literally waiting to eat you,” Poe says, with a laugh. “The data’ll still be here tomorrow.”
Finn gets up from his chair slowly, mindful of his back again for the first time in a couple weeks. “What did you have in mind?”
“Since you’re not passed out, for once, I thought we could poke around the central building,” Poe says. He notices how stiffly Finn’s moving and raises his eyebrows. “Of course, we could just lie around camp instead, and I could tell you more stories of my inglorious youth?”
“Explore first, stories later,” Finn suggests. Poe surrenders gracefully, draping an arm around Finn’s shoulders as they head back.
One ring of rooms out from their camp in the main building is a long dining table whose design is obscured by a layer of dirt, but it looks, even to Finn's untrained eye, to have been pretty expensive. Poe whistles softly and runs his fingers along the edge of the table. “Fancy. Reminds me of holos of New Republic state dinners. ‘Cept those didn’t usually end in explosions.”
“What?” Finn looks over to see Poe holding up his hand to show him his soot-stained fingers. “Huh.” He scans the room for a minute, walks over to the doorway to check an angle and aiming an imaginary throw— “Here.” He crosses the room and pushes some vines away with his foot. There’s a decent-sized crater scarring the stone floor.
“Grenade,” Poe says, coming over to examine the spot. “Probably more if we cleared all this out.”
“Yeah,” Finn studies the starburst pattern for a moment, ground troop positions going through his mind. If the commander wanted them taken alive, flash and sonic grenades first, explosives if there was more resistance... “Guess we know why they abandoned the base.”
Poe frowns at him. “The New Republic had no love for smugglers, General Solo or Calrissian aside, but I don’t think they would’ve tried to clear ‘em out.”
Finn nods and leans against the edge of the table, feeling its smooth edge under his palms. “Agreed. But I don’t remember anything from our—Imperial propaganda holos or histories about this place.”
“Maybe it was classified,” Poe says.
“Hiding the weapon?” Finn wonders, but then he realizes, and adds, “Keeping it out of anyone else’s hands.”
“Well, let’s even the odds and find it fast.” Poe squeezes his shoulder, smiling. “We’ve got two days left, and I intend for us to climb at least one more tree before we go home.”
“You can climb me at least one more time,” Finn says, the words out of his mouth before he can stop himself.
Poe pauses, smirks, and looks Finn up and down like he’s planning his ascent. Finn warms at that, grabs a handful of Poe’s shirt, pulling him off-balance and into his arms, their bodies colliding.
“This is more than three points of contact,” Poe murmurs, and plants his hands on either side of Finn on the table. Finn presses up to meet Poe’s amused mouth with his own, eliciting a soft moan when he sucks on Poe’s lower lip.
“So, you don’t want to hear my stories?” Poe asks, moments later, still leaning into Finn and breathing a little faster.
Finn has his hand under Poe’s shirt, skimming his ribs with a flat palm, and one leg hooked around the back of his thighs. He smiles to himself. “Kinda want to add to ‘em.” He slides his hands down to catch at Poe’s hips, rubs in circles on his skin. It feels good again to touch Poe, like his head’s finally on the right way after the last two days of disorientation.
Maybe he’s just developing a tolerance for the place.
“Buddy, you’ve got a starring role in the best one,” Poe says, definitively, kissing Finn’s neck before throwing him a sly grin and sliding out of his grasp. He’s to his knees, fingers going for Finn’s belt, before Finn fully registers what Poe’s up to—
“Here? ” Finn says, his hands curling on the edge of the table. “But it’s so—” He doesn’t know how to finish that sentence. Dusty? Creepy?
Poe looks up, his whole body going still, alert. “Do you want me to stop?”
“I—” Finn rests his hand on Poe's shoulder, strokes his neck with his thumb. “No.”
“If this is too weird,” Poe starts, and Finn leans down to kiss his forehead, ignoring the way his back twinges.
“Just had to get used to the idea,” he says.
“Being watched by ghosts,” Finn says, letting his lips quirk up.
Poe hmms and puts his hand back down Finn’s pants. “Never would've guessed you for the superstitious type.”
“I’m not, but you hear stories—” Finn breathes out and arches into Poe’s grasp. “The dead talking to you—”
“Gonna make you forget about all that,” Poe says, wickedly, and bends his head to his task.
Finn steals a bleary-eyed kiss from Poe and is off to dig into the inventories again before Poe has even finished his morning caf. It’s a routine they’d fallen into at home, Finn waking early—“Ridiculously early,' some of the other Resistance members had put it—and heading out to work. Not that this planet feels anything like home; the sun is the same warmth on his skin as he jogs between buildings, but it’s more wild, and yet, somehow more quiet. He sees occasional tracks from the predators, but no other sign of the nocturnal animals.
As he gets into the files, there’s a couple of months where it looks like the smugglers were dealing in ships more than anything, and then a period of time that just looks like a lot of credits coming in without physical objects going out— “Information,” he sighs aloud regretfully, knowing he won’t find out what with the relevant datapads long gone.
Poe slips into the chair at the other console and keys it on. “Anything good?”
“Not yet.” Finn starts in on another file, dated somewhere around 9 ABY. It’s strange, not like the other merchandise, but an invoice and a label, and a technical drawing, done in an Imperial style, of some kind of harness—
He stands up so fast he knocks his chair over. “Come on. I know what we’re looking for.”
“Where are we going?” Poe keeps pace with him easily as they leave the building and cross the clearing.
“The storehouses. I have to see for myself,” Finn says, though certainty, and an odd dread, is already welling up inside him. “Maybe there’s one or two left behind.”
Vine-covered rubble is scattered all across the storehouse floor from the collapsed ceiling above. Finn scans the room. “Here,” he says, pointing to the biggest heap of battle-scarred permacrete. “Help me clear this.”
He clambers over top of the pile and starts pulling chunks away, tossing them to the ground. Poe scrambles up beside him and doesn’t ask what they’re looking for, doesn’t say anything. Just helps, only shooting Finn the occasional glance.
Underneath it all are two cargo containers, one almost completely crushed, but the other still intact. Finn studies it for a moment, then picks up a piece of permacrete to smash the lock. The sound doesn’t echo right in the open space, but Finn ignores that, staring at the contraptions stacked up inside the container.
And just like that, it all falls into place.
“What is it?” Poe asks.
“Nutrient frame,” Finn says, tonelessly, like he’s reading a manual. “Old design, from about twenty years ago.” He shakes his head. “I thought they were a rumor. Specs in a database for something that never got made. A myth . Like everything else I thought about the Jedi.”
“Finn, what —? ”
“Of course you don’t know what they are,” Finn continues, looking down at where he’s running a hand over the frame on the top of the stack. Inside, relief at being able to complete the mission wars with a rising sense of foreboding. He presses on, determined to see it through. “Your New Republic, the Resistance, you’d never have had these. Not when Luke Skywalker was one of your greatest heroes. Not when the Force was on your side.”
“I don’t understand.” Poe touches his arm uncertainly.
Finn finally lifts his eyes to meet Poe’s. “The Empire made these to carry ysalamiri into battle . ”
Poe’s mouth falls open. “I thought those were a myth,” he says.
“The General wants to stop Kylo Ren. But not with a weapon,” Finn says, flatly. “By keeping him from using the Force.”
“With little Force-repelling creatures? But that would mean cutting Rey off—cutting Luke off—” Poe stops suddenly and stares at Finn. “You’ve been feeling all wrong since we got here. Since we were in orbit.”
Finn returns a puzzled stare of his own. “Yeah, so?”
“Do you know what that means?” Poe demands excitedly. He grabs Finn by the shoulders, a grin spreading across his face. “Finn, you're Force-sensitive!”
“There's probably millions of ysalamiri on the planet,” Poe says. “Each creating their own dead spots in the Force, amplifying the effect thousands of kilometers into space. You felt it. ”
“I'm no Jedi,” Finn says, putting his hand over Poe’s mouth to stop him. “Rey. Rey went to train with Luke.”
“Tell me your symptoms again,” Poe mumbles around Finn’s fingers. “Like everything’s muffled? Like you're missing something? You’re missing the Force .” He takes Finn’s hand away from his mouth and laces their fingers together.
“There’s no way I’m Force-sensitive. I would’ve been reconditioned within an inch of my life,” Finn tells him bluntly.
It’s a measure of how close they’ve become over the last few months, that Poe waves that revelation off without flinching. “I’ve never seen you miss a shot. Not until we got here, anyway, and you still shot those predators off our backs, no problem. You pick things up faster than anyone I’ve ever met—and don’t tell me First Order training made you this way, I know you.”
Finn tries to take a step back, but Poe’s still holding his hand and doesn’t let go. “I’m not, Poe—if I was I could have saved—I could have stopped Kylo Ren—”
“You fought him,” Poe interrupts, and then, gazing starry-eyed at him, “You saved me.”
“So maybe the Force brought us together,” Finn says. “That doesn’t mean I’m special.”
Poe bites his lip, thinking. “I’ll prove it to you.” Then he shakes his head. “The shuttle won’t get us out of orbit. But when the freighter comes back and we’re going home? You’ll see. You’ll have the Force.”
Finn huffs an incredulous laugh. “So I’m a good shot. Maybe I picked up Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber a couple times. Doesn’t make me a Jedi.” He squeezes Poe’s hand. “Can we get back to the mission now? I’ll even pick out a tree to climb for when we’re done.”
“You just wait, Finn, you’re even more special than anyone knows.” Poe points at him. “I’m making you a second priority mission target.”
“Fine.” Finn points back at Poe. “But you’re not going to tell anyone your theory when we get back on the freighter.”
“Not until after I prove it,” Poe says, beaming with such delight that Finn can’t come up with anything else to stop him. “Now, what do you think ysalamiri look like?”
Three hours later, Finn sits in the crook of a tree about two meters off the ground, patiently holding out the end of his protein bar to a creature that looks like nothing more than a furry snake with legs.
Which is steadfastly ignoring his presence.
“I don’t think this is working,” he calls over to Poe, who is similarly extending food to another ysalamir in another tree—only Poe is slowly inching up a higher branch towards the creature, holding on for dear life with his other hand.
“I always said protein bars were an acquired taste,” Poe calls back. “Hang on—let me get in position—” Finn watches as Poe worms his way closer and then stops and puts half the bar on the branch next to the ysalamir.
It does nothing.
“I think it’s asleep,” Finn says, doubtfully.
Poe reaches out and carefully pets the ysalamir’s back. “Aw, it’s soft,” he calls. “And--asleep.”
“Maybe that’ll make it easier to pick up,” Finn suggests. Poe nods, his gaze still on the creature. He inches forward again and slides his fingers under the ysalamir. It flicks its tail, flinging the fragment of protein bar off the branch.
Poe instinctively tries to catch the piece of the bar, loses his balance and topples out of the tree with a surprised yell. Branches snap as he falls, futilely grabbing at the air.
There is a thump.
Finn cries, “No!” and hurtles down out of his tree, forgetting the ysalamir, ignoring how the bark scrapes his palms, the whole galaxy narrowing down to Poe sprawled on the ground, his eyes closed. He drops to his knees next to Poe, running his hands all over his body to check for blood, for breaks; “Poe, Poe —” tearing out of his throat—his memories spinning out over Jakku—
“Did I ever tell you about the time I fell out of a Force-sensitive tree?” Poe mumbles. He opens his eyes, and focuses on Finn’s face.
“Are you okay?” Finn demands, his panic subsiding.
“Just got the wind knocked out of me,” Poe says, as he pushes up on his elbows with a grunt, and wiggles his fingers experimentally. “I’m all right, buddy. Nothing to worry about.” But he winces as he gets into a sitting position against the trunk of the tree.
“Blast, this planet’s trying to kill you now, too.” Finn puts his arms around him, careful not to squeeze too hard and checking Poe’s ribs.
Poe laughs into Finn’s ear, his hands going automatically around his waist. “It’s just gravity.” He tilts his head, considering. “When you learn how to use the Force, you’ll be able to catch me next time I fall,” he says, happily.
“Next time? ” Finn is dismayed.
“With you, I’m always falling,” Poe says, looking up through his eyelashes, and it’s such a ridiculous thing to say that Finn can only hold on, laughing.
There is, of course, a trick to getting the ysalamiri off the trees without harming either the little furry creatures, or themselves, any further. Finn figures that between him and Poe, managing three is pretty good--maybe even more than the mission might call for.
“I don’t know if leaving them in the shuttle overnight is a good idea,” Finn says, as they strap the captured ysalamiri on their nutrient frames into the back of the shuttle.
“You worried they’ll get cold?” Poe asks. “They’re furry, I’m sure they’ll be fine. And it’s not like they’re going to leap off the frames and run around wrecking the place.”
“What if those predators come sniffing around?”
Poe shrugs. “Shuttle's tough. Worst they could do is scratch the paint job. You want to sleep in here with the little guys? We can break camp tonight.”
Finn thinks about it. “Well...it might be nice to have one more night all to ourselves,” he concedes.
“That's the spirit,” Poe says. “”We'll make a—a tourist out of you yet.”
“Tourist? ” Finn protests. “Of this place?” He gestures down the shuttle ramp at the forest clearing. Something out there rustles ominously, as if in agreement with his assessment.
“Vacationer?” Poe is grinning. “I'm sure we can find some more relaxing things to do, now that you've secured our target.” He scratches the nearest ysalamir’s head lightly.
“What did you have in mind?”
“Let's go for a walk in the woods,” Poe says.
“A walk.” Finn frowns at him.
“Walking around a forest full of things that're trying to kill me. Us.”
Poe claps him on the shoulder and lets his hand linger. “It's daylight for a couple more hours, and I've got my feet firmly planted on the ground. Everything will be—”
“Don't say it,” Finn interrupts.
“You know, buddy, for someone who doesn't think he's in touch with the Force, you sure are worried about tempting fate,” Poe observes, tilting his head back and smiling.
“Well, with the luck I've been having,” Finn says.
“Nah, it's just that the Force can't be with us here,” Poe says, sounding remarkably confident, even as he asserts that the most fundamental power in the galaxy is missing.
“Will you—you can't keep just saying all this stuff about the Force,” Finn says, sitting down abruptly on the ramp and frowning into the forest.
“Why not?” Poe sits down next to him, tucks an arm around his waist.
“What if you're wrong about me?”
“I'm never wrong,” Poe says. “Despite what Karé might try to tell you.”
Finn replies, dryly, “I don’t know, Poe, I take everything your squadron says about you as the unvarnished truth.”
Poe squeezes his side gently. “Do you want me to be wrong?”
Finn hesitates. “You grew up with a glowing tree and stories of a Jedi saving the galaxy,” he says, finally. “I spent the last few years learning how to tell when Kylo Ren was going to blow something up with his mind.” He exhales slowly. “If I can actually be a Jedi—I want you—what you know about the Force, about me —to be right more than anything.”
Poe shifts around so they’re face-to-face and puts his other hand on Finn’s cheek. “I told you,” he murmurs, and his eyes are as certain as the moment he declared we’re gonna do this. “I’m never wrong.” Then he’s kissing Finn to seal his promise, warm and steady.
They break camp, and then Finn insists on securing the base. “Got everything?” he asks, standing over the comm consoles they’d hacked.
“Uplink’s done,” Poe replies, stuffing the last of the datapads into his pack.
“Good.” Finn unholsters his blaster and steps forward. He fires two shots dead center into each of the consoles.
Poe nods his approval as sparks leap up from the smoking holes before them, and says, “Okay, we’re agreed, no geological surveys.”
“We’re tourists,” Finn says, somewhat reluctantly. “Hiking.”
“I mean, you can take holos to send Rey, and the General will probably want to see them in case she thinks this would make for a good base,” Poe amends.
Finn looks at him.
“No? Those predators would make for pretty good guards, don’t you think?”
Finn laughs and shakes his head. “Iolo would come back mauled half to death from trying to make friends with one.”
“Eh, I heard stories about people keeping rancors as pets,” Poe shrugs, leading the way back out of the comm building.
“Rancors,” Finn says, skeptically. He holds his hand up to shield his eyes from the mid-morning sun.
“Galaxy this big, people’ll try anything,” Poe says.
“Including going for a walk in the woods,” Finn mutters. Poe turns a blinding grin back at him.
There’s too much growth to be able to tell if there were once any real trails into the forest, so they just pick a direction and start walking, hand in hand. No predators make their appearance, and after half an hour of rustling through the trees, jumping over downed logs, and taking the occasional holo, Finn has to admit, “It's...nice.”
“You like it?”
“Better 'n running and fighting my way through the trees,” Finn says. “These—these I could just climb up, watch the sun rise.”
“Listen to the avians, swat some bugs,” Poe agrees. “After the war's over, we’ll climb all the trees in the galaxy.” His eyes crinkle at the corners as he makes his reckless promise.
“Even the ones on Kashyyyk?”
Poe pretends a moment of worried consideration. “Okay, maybe not those. But everywhere else.”
Finn smiles at him. “One mission at a time, Commander,” he says, and squeezes Poe’s hand.
After an uneventful rendezvous with the freighter, Poe immediately heads off to send an encrypted declaration of success to the General. Finn oversees the transfer of the nutrient frames and ysalamiri to the cargo hold, and then he stands by and watches the crew secure them for the jump to hyperspace. If he really listens for it, he can hear the the sublight engines humming as the freighter moves out of the planet’s orbit.
A few minutes later, Poe slips back into the hold at his side, and idly pets one of the smaller ysalamiri, which continues to ignore him completely.
“Keep that up and BB-8’ll think you’re planning to replace him,” Finn teases.
“Ah, they don’t really have any personality,” Poe says, turning to leave for their quarters. “Just kinda cute.” He walks backwards down the corridor in front of Finn, a hint of a smile tweaking the corners of his mouth. “Hey, d’you think we’re out of range now?”
Finn says, “Out of range of wh—”
—and it’s like sound and color rush back into the world; like stepping out of a dark room into the light; like the first time he pulled off his helmet and saw Poe’s face with his own eyes.
He stops in his tracks and reaches out to grab Poe’s arm, his heart pounding.
Poe grins. “Thought so. You do feel it!”
“This is the Force? I can feel the Force?”
“I mean, you should probably check with Luke to be sure, I’m about as Force-sensitive as a rock,” Poe says, “but the way you lit up just now—I’d bet my X-wing on it.”
A comms officer curtails any more of Finn’s flabbergasted stammering by clearing her throat as she steps up to them. “Return transmission for you, sir.” She holds out a datapad and adds, “You'd both better get strapped in for the jump to hyperspace.”
“Thanks,” Poe says. “Come on, we'll read it in our quarters.”
Once there, Finn makes to sit at the console, but Poe flops down on their bed and pulls him after. Finn snuggles up against Poe’s side while he reads, holding the datapad over his face.
“That was fast,” Finn says, eager to hear. “Like she knew what to expect all along?”
Poe nods. “She says she won't apologize for her secrecy about this mission, that it was too important that there was no chance of the First Order being able to learn of the real target until we had it in hand. She hoped you'd know, Finn, about them—” he smiles ruefully—”even if I couldn't figure it out.”
“She knew,” Finn murmurs, “this whole time.”
“The General also says she looks forward to seeing what else you can do,” Poe adds, and then, beaming, "Jedi!"
“You didn't tell her!” Finn smacks him with a pillow.
Poe grabs the pillow and they wrestle for it for a minute, legs entangling. Finn eventually wins out and pins him, the pillow crushed between them.
“No. I want your Force-sensitivity to be a surprise, in person,” Poe says, mischievously, only panting a little bit and wriggling under Finn's hands. “I think what she means is you’ve got a galaxy’s worth of options, after the successful completion of your first mission.”
“What if what I want is this?” Finn asks, leaning down and nuzzling into the crook of Poe's neck.
Poe sighs happily, his arms going around Finn to hold him in place, but says, “Much as I'd like to stay in bed with you forever—”
Finn grins against Poe's skin and shakes his head. “To be out here, looking for ways to help the Resistance. Exploring, maybe. With you, Force or no Force.”
“Well, then you better learn to fly,” Poe says. His eyes are bright, and his mouth is warm, and soft when Finn kisses him. He feels it again, then—their connection, filled with joy and light and love.
Finn thinks he might be glowing.