Finn ran to the door so quickly he almost kicked the whole desk in front of him over. He had to untangle his feet from around the desk first, stepped over his discarded sandals, and continued his rush to the door in his bare feet. “Poe,” He said, “Poe, this is a bad idea.”
Poe was already halfway out the door, his hand on the doorframe, and froze with a confused half-smile on his face. “Finn, we’ve talked about this for weeks, this isn’t a surprise.”
“I know but-” Finn tried to think of the right words to say that actually made sense with the weird, twisty feelings he had in his stomach. “I can’t do this, Poe. I can’t.”
Poe stepped back inside, tucking his duffle bag back over his shoulder and put both of his hands on Finn’s shoulders. “Finn, buddy, listen. It’s been six months. She’s been a part of our life for six months. This was going to happen sooner or later. I was going to have to leave somewhere, and the two of you were going to have to get along without me somehow.”
“But I don’t know how to do this, Poe.” Finn protested, “I don’t know how any of this works, I’ve never done it before.”
“Weren’t you a Stormtrooper? Didn’t they teach you anything about how to handle stressful situations in the First Order or were they just complete failures on every level?”
“Yeah, well my Stormtrooper training didn’t exactly cover being a father to a two-year-old girl.” Finn rattled it off more harshly than he intended, and he had to turn and check over his shoulder to make she wasn’t nearby to hear him. She was, of course. She always was right behind him when he least expected her, making less noise than any creature alive ever made. She had her arms wrapped around the little ragdoll Rey had given her last time she had visited, looking up at them both with her big, brown eyes that had so thoroughly convinced Poe to adopt her in the first place. Twi’lek orphans were unfortunately commonplace after what the First Order had done to Ryloth, and when Poe had come home with the little girl in his arms, her skin so blue that she almost disappeared against the rich blue sky of Takodana and her expression so mournful that she seemed about ready to cry at every hour of the day, Finn couldn’t say no. He couldn’t live with himself if he did. She was just a little girl, she needed to have a good home, a safe home.
But then came moments like this, where he looked at her, and he felt woefully, hilariously underequipped and underprepared for whatever was going to happen next. He’d felt that a lot ever since he met Poe, Rey and the others, and since then he’d done his best to learn, to get the sort of life experience that someone needed to function outside of an army of soldiers raised from birth. He was doing his best. But a lot of the time, his best just wasn’t good enough, and, he felt, this time was going to be one of those.
“Poe,” He turned back to him and lowered his voice. “Every time I’ve had to watch her, it’s been a disaster. Every time you’ve been out of the house for more than a few seconds, something’s gone wrong.”
“You can’t just lump the thing with the fried surrip-bass and the fire in with all this,” Poe chided him, “That was an accident, you learned from it, and we got ronto roasters afterward so it all worked out. And the whole thing with the refresher, you got to put that sanitation expertise of yours to work, it cleaned up in a snap!”
“I can’t do this, Poe.” Finn pleaded with him. “She needs you here, you’ve been the one taking care of her, you’ve brought her here, you’re the one she trusts and knows and loves. I’m just here.”
Poe released Finn’s shoulders, but only so he could cup his hands around Finn’s face and look him in the eyes. “Now, that’s a lie and you know it. You’re better than that, Finn. I know you’re better than that. If you were just here, you wouldn’t have helped to save the galaxy so many times, hmm?” He released his right hand and pointed his index finger into Finn’s face. “I’m counting on you, buddy. This isn’t just about me, this is about her. She needs you, okay?”
Finn took a deep breath and let it out through his nose. He knew arguing was futile, it wasn’t like he was going to change Poe’s mind about going. This was an important job he had, and it was something that would help a lot of people. But there was still that same twisty feeling in his stomach, it made his knees weak.
“Now,” Poe released him and stepped back to the doorway again. “It’s only going to be a few days. A few trips, a few flyovers and some fancy parties for diplomats, and then I’ll be back.” He turned and looked at him, and then back at her. “Shara, please be good for Finn, okay?”
She didn’t respond, but then again she often didn’t, she didn’t know a lot of Basic yet. When Finn glanced over his shoulder at her, he could see that she had two of her fingers stuck in her mouth.
“Finn,” Poe said, bringing Finn’s attention back around. “Do you promise to be good for Shara?”
Finn nodded. “I’ll try.”
“You’ll do great, I know it.” Poe stepped back inside for just a moment, gave Finn a hearty slap on the arm, and then turned and was gone, hiking up the path toward the spaceport, the door swinging shut behind him.
Finn took another deep breath, then turned around. Shara, her fingers still in her mouth, her doll still clutched tight to her body, was looking up at him with that same mournful expression in her eyes. Every time he looked at her, he could see burning villages, he heard people screaming, he could see white-clad soldiers with streaks of red and black on their armor. It wasn’t his fault, what had happened to Ryloth, the First Order had destroyed a lot of worlds long after he’d escaped it. But he still felt guilty, guilty that he’d ever been a part of it, that he’d ever done anything to help them.
She was the one to talk first, lowering her fingers from her mouth. “Is Daddy gonna be okay?”
Finn knelt down, he knew he didn’t have to but it didn’t feel right to talk to her while standing so much taller than she was. Finn wasn’t tall, but little Shara was barely up to his knees. “Poe’s, uh. He’s gonna be fine.” Finn assured her, trying to inject as much confidence into his voice as he could. “He takes trips like this all the time.”
Shara shook her head. “Not Papi, Daddy.”
Fin blinked. What? “What?”
Shara walked forward a couple of tottering steps, and stuck her still-wet fingers out to point at the door behind Finn. “That’s Papi.” Her hand pivoted, and it pointed directly at Finn with the same determination as if she were holding a blaster. “That’s Daddy.”
Of course. It was the game Poe played with her. Trying to get her to say the names Finn and Poe had proven surprisingly difficult, so he tried to teach her to give them simple nicknames. Apparently, those were the ones that had stuck.
Then the other part of what she said hit him. Finn tapped himself on the chest. “Am… am I going to be okay?”
She nodded, and her fingers went back into her mouth.
Finn sighed. Here he was, so pathetic that even she could see that he was panicking and frantic. Of course, his shouting a moment ago probably wouldn’t help his case much. “I’m gonna be okay.” He said to her, “But I’m gonna need your help around here while Papi’s gone, okay? We’ve got to look after the house together, and we’ve got to look after each other.”
Shara nodded and said nothing.
Finn took a deep breath. So far, so good, no one one was on the floor screaming and nothing had been thrown into the walls yet. “Do you, uh, do you want to see what I was working on?”
She nodded again. So he held out his hand to her, and she tottered forward, still clutching her doll, and raised her other hand to put into his. Her fingers were still wet from being in her mouth, but he didn’t mind. She gripped his fingers tight, like she was afraid that if she let go, she’d be swept away from him.
“Here, let’s go sit at my desk.” Finn got up, but not all the way up, walking at a sort of half-crouch so she could keep holding his hand as they left the hall and entered the front room that served as a sort of office and work space. “I have some drawings up here that I think you’ll like to look at, and maybe I can lend you some of my supplies so you can help me draw up something else, how does that sound?”
Shara nodded again. She was a child of few words. But for a moment, as he walked her over to the desk and she saw all of the papers and blueprints had he had to work on all of the engineering projects that he was trying to juggle, that mournful expression fell off of her face, her eyes lit up, and her pudgy cheeks lifted into a smile.
* * *
“I’m home!” Poe pushed through the door with his usual fervor, despite the lateness of the hour. It was a pretty good bet that whatever they were doing, even if it was sleeping, Poe and Shara would be delighted enough to see him to not mind the racket. But as he entered the front hall, there was no sign of them, no sound. The lights were still on, so they had to be home somewhere. He kicked out of his boots, dropped his duffle there on the floor and poked his head around to see if anyone was in Finn’s office. “Hello?”
He wasn’t entirely prepared for what he saw. The normally fastidious room with its carefully stacked and organized plans and the meticulously set up drawing stations was turned upside down, with papers strewn about everywhere, hanging on the walls, draped over the top of the desk, laying about in scattered piles, they were everywhere. But it wasn’t Finn’s drawings, though they were on Finn’s materials. These were simplistic, blocky, lopsided and crude, laced with colors in weird places, each one a semi-abstract work in and of itself, to the point where each one had a name on it written in much neater script saying what it was and his mind still wasn’t able to make sense of them.
But it wasn’t the drawings that really brought his attention around. It was the two figures sitting in the chair behind the desk. Finn has passed out asleep in his chair as he often did, his head leaned back and chest rising and falling with the soft, slow regular pace of someone who had been trained to sleep just about anywhere at any time. Sitting on his lap, her head down flat on the desk with both hands still partially curled around drawing utensils, was Shara, her tiny headtails draped over the sides of her head and slowly twitching in her sleep. Underneath her was a half-finished drawing of some sort, one she’d been most of the way to finishing before the both of them had conked out for the night.
Poe couldn’t help but grin. This was why he brought Shara home, this was why he knew that he could give her a good home. It wasn’t because he would be a good father to her, though that might wind up being true anyway. It was because he knew that no matter what he thought about it himself, Finn would be a great father.
He stepped into the room, being very careful not to step on any of the drawings. Even without his boots on, he didn’t want to smudge or tear any of them, because they were all precious and he was going to have them all scanned and loaded into a savedrive for when Shara was older. He came around the side of the desk and slowly, gentle, picked Shara up from Finn’s lap.
“Oof, you’re getting heavy.” He said to her in a soft voice. She’d been so thin and wiry when he’d first seen her, the good food and good living here had done wonders for her. “Come on, off to bed.”
Shara stirred awake, half-opening her eyes and giving a soft little moan. “Hi Papi.”
“Hi, sweetheart.” Poe readied to carry her away to bed, but he had one more order of business. He bent over and gave the still-sleeping Finn a soft kiss on the forehead. “Told you you’d do great.” He said with a smile. As he turned to go, he saw the drawing that Shara had been working on still on the desk. It was a simple little drawing of a house, with a lopsided roof, and three figures that were probably meant to be people alongside it, one of which had a streak of blue through it but the others clearly hadn't been finished being colored in. And at the bottom, in Finn's distinctive, blocky handwriting, was the title of the piece: "Family"