Poe shifted in his perch atop one of Black One’s wings, closing the plate over top of the power couplings. “How’s that, Beebee?” he called down to where the droid was watching him anxiously. Much to BB-8’s perpetual disappointment, he wasn’t built for maneuvering on top of X-wings and thus was resigned to the top of the step ladder Poe had used to climb up.
[Partner-Poe, I cannot run diagnostics from down here!]
Smiling a little to himself, Poe said, “Yeah, I know, buddy, it was more a rhetorical question. I’ll have you check my work when I’m finished.”
Black One certainly needed some work. She’d taken heavy fire and it made Poe cringe thinking about it. Far too close a scrape, that was for sure. He stroked his hand over a scorch mark. “And then a fresh coat of paint for my girl,” he murmured. “Promise.” She deserved it, after the mess of that last flight. Treat your ship right, Poe always felt, and she’d keep you alive.
Poe climbed over the wing, listening to BB-8 admonishing him to watch where he was going. He scooted over towards the s-foil actuator, nudging his toolbox along with him, but he over-balanced, swaying until he could right himself. He only just managed to keep the toolbox from falling straight off, though he supposed losing a couple of wrenches and a hydrospanner would have been preferable to the splat his head would have made against the floor of the hangar.
BB-8 was shrieking shrilly. [Partner-Poe! Please provide a status report!]
“Oh, I’m fine,” Poe said, waving him off, though the distress in BB-8’s tone was obvious. “Just a slight mishap. No big deal.”
[You could have fallen! The drop is far!]
“I didn’t, though. Honest, I’m fine. Look, I’ll go slower.” Poe made a point of crawling entirely unhurriedly the rest of the way, clinging to his ship as he went.
[You must be more careful, please.]
“I’m always careful,” Poe said with a grin, settling more comfortably near the actuator, legs spread.
[Friend-Snap calls you a terrible liar. Friend-Snap is correct.]
“You’re agreeing with Snap, that’s a bad sign.”
[If you were careful we would not have been shot at. We would not have detoured from the mission.]
Pausing, Poe looked over at BB-8. “Hey, you agreed it was a good lead. Don’t go putting it all on me, pal.”
The droid’s little round head was whirring on its axis agitatedly until the large eye focused on Poe. [Objection! I expressed many concerns but you said they were unnecessary. I agreed because I must always go where Partner-Poe goes.]
Blast. “Beebee, you know I’d never make you do something you didn’t want to.”
[My primary objective is to assist Partner-Poe.]
[I must always help Partner-Poe. You are my partner.]
“I am. And you can choose to--”
BB-8 was loud and insistent. [I choose to help. Even when you are being reckless and careless of your fragile organic shape.]
“Beebee,” Poe said softly, carefully setting down the pliers in his hand so the droid would know he had Poe’s full attention. “I’m always okay. I always come back.”
BB-8’s head was drooping and the binary speech came out low and sorrowful. [Humans do not always keep their word.]
Poe felt like something was pinching in his chest, like his breath was catching. Was that what BB had learned from him?
He moved again and BB-8 called out anxiously. Poe waved him off, “Nah, Beebee, I’m coming down, okay? Will you move down off the ladder so I can climb down?”
There was a tell-tale series of thuds indicating BB-8 was doing as Poe had asked. Poe crawled back over, more cautiously than normal, until he could swing down off the back off the wings and drop lightly onto the top of the step ladder. BB-8 was waiting for him at the bottom, spinning in a nervous circle, watching Poe all the while.
“See? Fine,” Poe said, holding his hands up.
BB-8 spun around his feet. [This time.]
Crouching down, Poe said, “Hey, can I be honest with you? You’re right. Sometimes humans don’t keep our word. I guess I’d be lying if I told you I’d always be fine because I can’t promise you that. I don’t know what will happen, and I don’t like lying to you, pal.”
[I know when you lie.]
“I know. What we do is dangerous, you know that. You’ve gotten my ass out of more scrapes than I can count.”
[Affirmative,] BB-8 agreed with a note of pride.
“So… So I guess…” Poe considered what he wanted to say. “Things might not turn out okay, one day. I might not be okay. Or, Force forbid, you might not be okay. But I try my best, you know? Whenever I tell you something, I mean to keep my word. Someday something might happen that keeps me from doing that, but when I make you promises, I mean them, and I do everything I can to keep them.”
BB-8 seemed to be seriously considering this, that one big eye centered on Poe with an intensity that should have been impossible for an astromech. Maybe it was just Poe putting too much human emotion onto BB, but BB-8 was just… special, to him.
[You will try to be more careful,] BB-8 eventually said. [Not so reckless with your fragile body.]
Poe wasn’t sure he could actually promise that; he knew himself. “I like being alive,” he hedged. “I try to stay that way.”
[Try. Is trying good enough? Didn’t Friend-Muran try? He did not pull up fast enough.]
Muran. Poe shook off a wince. “Aw, buddy,” Poe said, resting his hand on the top of BB-8’s small curved head-piece. “You know I’m always quick enough.”
Sometimes Poe worried that he should meddle with BB’s programming, that maybe this attachment he displayed wasn’t good for the droid. But Poe had had BB-8 since the Academy and somehow he couldn’t… BB-8 was his friend. Poe couldn’t bring himself to change him.
“Besides,” Poe said, smiling. “I’ve got you, pal. All the insurance I need.”
The sound that came out of BB-8 was a cheerful burble, more feeling than anything else.
“Okay?” Poe said.
[Affirmative, Partner-Poe.] BB-8 sounded more like himself, happier.
“Affirmative,” Poe repeated, liking the way BB-8 made a cheerful twirl on the floor. He rose to his full height and glanced up at Black One. “I’ll have this sorted soon and then we’ll get you settled in your station so you can check my work. Sound good?”
[Good! We will have Black One back to optimum performance!]
“Exactly, buddy,” Poe said, grinning again. “All three of us at optimum performance together, as it should be.”
It was all Poe asked for.