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our voices across the stars

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Something chimes from very close by: a short sharp high sound.

He opens his eyes, and the ceiling is far too low, is far too gray, is crisscrossed with circuitry and wires and the peeling edges of wedged-together paneling, and he doesn’t see any of it: he sees nothing but featureless blank and for a very long moment he thinks he’s trapped beneath that sullen sky in which the stars were slowly appearing. Trapped and bleeding beneath the silent spiraling falling snow -- trapped between the shadows of the trees that were disappearing into that darkness, and the moving shadow edged in red and hatred and -- strangely, fear, fear like bitterness and sour sweat heavy on his tongue.

A moving shadow that was his enemy, that was a killer -- the shadow that he hated with all of his heart, and he knew how to hate because it was the thing that was instilled into him, planted into him, reinforced by white armor and the faceless helmets of the ones who were only briefly his comrades --

Silence falls, then, just like a sudden blow, and he blinks, and the darkness and the shadows fly away from him, and he thinks he might know this ceiling, which means that he might know where he is.

Best to be sure. Best to take his time and to remember: so he takes a deep breath, and the air is cool, and a little damp. The air is full of faint scents. Flowers, perhaps, hot and sweet and pulsing one moment, then fading away -- and in its return twice as potent and twice as memorable. Smoke, as of green branches held near a fire, gently cooking the sap and releasing it into the spaces around him. Fierce light, pulsing, brightly illuminating -- and why does he think of blue? Blue like bright hope, like bright power.

The chime starts up again: warning notes, he thinks, and something else, this time repeated and regular, coming and going to keep time with a blinking green panel near his hand, and he pokes at it with one finger, in a movement that doesn’t cause any pain.


A name -- his name.

And he knows this voice.

“Rey,” he says, and relief floods through him, warm and soothing.

He can put a name to where he is now, and that, too, makes him feel like he’s going to be all right.

The largest bunk aboard the Millennium Falcon, and it has to be the largest one, because he doesn’t occupy it all by himself.

The scents still lingering in the air are the scents of the beings who share this bunk with him, and one of them is speaking to him now, calling his name.

And he says her name again: “Rey. I -- I’m awake now.”

“And you feel better,” she says, gently.

“I do.” Even though she can’t see him right now, he shakes his head anyway, trying to begin to explain himself with the movement. “I don’t know why I’m still dreaming of Starkiller.”

There’s a long pause before she responds. “I wish I could escape that place, too.”

He knows that weight in her words, knows the shiver that crawls down his spine afresh, and he clenches his hands and needs to hold on to her.

“Give me a moment,” he says.

He needs to go through his limbering-up exercises first: so he starts with his right hand. Tension in all the muscles and joints for three heartbeats, hold, then release. Right arm, lower and then upper; right shoulder. Move to the left side, from the shoulder on down. Neck, chest, midsection. His right leg and then his left leg.

He feels a little warmer, a little more comfortable in his own skin, by the time he thinks he’s mustered enough courage to get to his feet.

Largest bunk on the Falcon this might be, but it’s still cramped. It’s a bunk on a light freighter, after all, and most of the interior is given over to cargo space, and so: he braces his palms on the walls and pushes himself upright, and he winces only a little. The pain is in his shoulder, like tiny sharp edges driven into his muscles, and that’s acceptable. It only means he’s been putting weight on it when he doesn’t have to, that he’s been sleeping on his side. He isn’t doing anything wrong.

“I’m all right, I’m all right, I’m all right.” He lets the words fall from his lips like a wish and like an invocation, and it seems to work, because now he’s on his feet, and the only stars in his vision are the ones that come from lack of sleep.

His footsteps echo back to him as he crosses toward the cockpit -- and he fully intends to head straight there, except that some strange impulse forces him to stop next to the dejarik table.

For a moment, he thinks he sees the soft limp shape of a discarded black jacket thrown across the marked surface: aged broad shoulders, no hint of a slump in them, and the markings and scorch lines of too many battles to count.

The image lingers for only a moment, and when he blinks again, the table merely retains the faint ghosts of rings left by various containers.

Hard to face the thought of the being who might have worn that jacket: and Finn makes himself keep moving.

And any thoughts he might have had about missing presences on this ship are dissipated when he stops in the last doorway: beyond are the chairs for the pilot and the co-pilot, and perhaps one or two other members of the crew -- but he’s never seen actual crew on this freighter before, and so he only has eyes for the two seats, and for the beings occupying those seats.

As he watches, Rey, in the pilot’s seat, is moving, sparse and graceful and quick. Coordinates from the nav computer, course corrections, checks on the engines, the continuing hurtling path through hyperspace and on to the destination -- they’re supposed to be heading towards a rendezvous point with some of the other members of the Resistance. They’re supposed to be picking up supplies, and probably taking on a few passengers, and there might have been a few other tasks entrusted to them -- he’s not sure he can rightfully remember, but he trusts her to know and to get them there.

He finds his eyes drawn to her hands, and for once she’s not covering them up with gloves, or the long lengths of loose-weave cloth that he’s associated with her from their first meeting: so there’s nothing in the way, and he can appreciate the sureness and swiftness of her, the pure resolve she brings to bear on each gesture.

Not for the first time, he wishes for a way to go back in time, just to watch her fly the Falcon into a stall that led into a backflip, in atmosphere -- specifically, the scorched and sunblasted atmo of Jakku.

But now that he’s looking, he can also see the unmistakable lines of raised pink skin, too smooth, too stark, on her skin.

Burn lines.

Maybe she hears the change in his breathing patterns; maybe she senses the change in his feelings, because she looks away from the viewports and -- she’s not smiling, not precisely, but there is a tilt to her mouth that makes him think of reassurance.

Burn lines: meaning the burning reek of ozone, the blinding flash-movements of a lightsaber.

He doesn’t question the instinct that propels him forward to touch her -- and he runs his fingertips over her bared forearm. Tiny bumps in her skin rising to follow him.

“Wait,” Rey whispers, and her next movement breaks the contact between them.

Her grip on the control sticks, the muscles bunching and moving in her arms, and she’s dropping them briefly back into realspace, comms panels lighting up silently, messages flickering as they scroll up in bright light.

The Resistance is growing, he thinks, if the list in one of those flashing messages is any indication.

Growing in numbers is one thing -- growing in strength is another, and he whispers that to himself.

“I know,” Rey says, equally softly.

Off to the side, there’s a quiet intake of breath.

And they’re whispering because Poe Dameron is sleeping in the co-pilot’s chair. The lines of pain in his face are only a little obscured by the bacta patches he’s wearing. One on his neck, the other just forward of his left temple, and a third on his cheek.

Very carefully, Finn lifts his hand and places it on Poe’s head. Warmth, and softly waving strands, richly dark.

“Has he been sleeping long?”

He watches Rey shake her head. “He sleeps in fits and starts.”

“He has these spells,” he says.

“Yes, he does. And sometimes he sleeps through you and me having nightmares.”

He could almost, almost envy the other man that.

When Rey sighs, he looks back at her, and nearly recoils from the sense of her: the murky weight of old hurts.

“I can feel that,” he says, and reaches out again with his free hand.

Relief shivers in his nerves when she touches him back. When she holds on to him.

“They tell me to wait,” Rey says. “Both of them. Luke and Leia. But when they tell me to wait they always look like they’re going to cry.”

That makes him tell her about what he’s seen. “Do you see -- things -- on the dejarik table? Things like a black jacket?”

Something glitters in her eyes, suddenly. “He’s here.”

And Finn knows who he is.

“I think it’s different for you and for me,” she continues, after a moment. “I don’t see -- Han, or the things that he left behind. Sometimes there’s a weight on my shoulder, the weight of his hand. Sometimes I think I hear him telling me what this switch does, or how to bypass that alarm.”

It’s an unexpected thing to hear her chuckle. “And sometimes I just hear him yelling at this ship, you know?”

And Finn smiles, though he feels it waver at the corners.

“‘Hold together,’” Rey says, still laughing, soundless but sweet. “Whatever he was using to hold this ship together -- I don’t know what to call it.”

“Sheer bloody-mindedness, maybe,” he offers.

“Maybe,” she agrees. “Or the Force.”

He would have been happy to just remain in that bittersweet moment -- but then Rey yawns, and it spreads to him -- he rubs at his eyes, opens his mouth to complain --

“You two are -- not a herd of stampeding banthas.”

Burred and blurred the words might be, but Poe is smiling as he says them.

As Finn watches, he cracks one eye open. Lets out a fond sort of snort. “Can’t a being get some kind of sleep around here?”

Rey laughs, soft, choking, gentle. “I thought you had -- let’s see, how did you put it? Grave misgivings about this ship?”

“And you were just trying to be sneaky,” Finn hears himself say, around a grin. “You wanted her to get out of the pilot’s seat so you could fly this thing.”

“You’re not flying the Falcon on fumes,” she adds.

And Poe chuckles. “So I’ll fly this thing when I’m rested -- but by all the stars let me rest.”

“Incorrigible,” Rey says, and laughs some more.

And she turns back to the controls, which lets Finn lean down to press a kiss to Poe’s forehead.

“How do you feel?” he hears Poe ask.

“Hear that, Rey?” he says. “Beaten up and all, and he’s still worrying about us.”

“Because he’s special,” Rey says. “Because he’s our Poe.”

“He is,” Finn says. He sits on the floor of the cockpit because his knees creak alarmingly at all the bending and squatting to get to their levels.

To Poe, he says, a little more sternly, “Why do you always get into fights? And don’t bother denying it, I had this story straight from Testor, and I don’t think she lies to me.”

“No one slags off the General,” Poe mutters. “Not while I’m around anyway.”

“I’d like a go at them,” Rey adds.

He raises his eyebrow at her. “And now you’re encouraging him.”

“Shouldn’t I?”

He doesn’t have to think that one over. “All right, you’re right, no one insults the General. It seems like everyone in the Resistance tends to be a little touchy about her. A little protective.”

“Aren’t you?” This time the question comes from Poe, and it’s interrupted when he yawns again.

This time Finn manages to resist the urge to yawn in response.

And he adds, “Yes, I do feel protective. But -- I also feel that she doesn’t need any help when it comes to a fight. I mean, I think she can do a good job of looking after herself.”

Rey laughs. “She’s a better shot than Luke is. I mean she’s always been better at shooting. That’s the story he tells me.”

“I want to hear those stories,” he says.

“So do I,” Poe says.

And Finn would have been content to let the conversation stop and start and stop again, but Rey sighs, and gets up, and blinks. Lists to the side.

He gets up as quickly as he can, and lets her lean against his hip.

“Just -- let’s get back to base,” she says, slurring the words a little. “Let’s get these tasks done. And then I’m going to sleep.”

“You’ll let us take care of you, right?” Poe asks, on Finn’s other side.

He feels her nod.

He wants very much to take care of her, and of Poe.

With them, the silence isn’t blank or fearful or sinister.