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Ships Passing in the Night

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Ships that Pass in the Night (idiomatic):

            —persons who almost encounter each other, but never do

 

# # # #

 

Poe stretched his neck and looked at the clock on the wall: four-kriffin-thirty.  He groaned.  Someday, he promised himself.  Someday, I’m gonna work normal, human hours.  He stood up and walked to the window, staring into the darkness.  The streets outside were quiet.  Always quiet.  He sighed and walked to the mini-fridge behind his desk.  He pulled out a tiny carton of milk, opened it, and chugged it down.  Just one more hour.  Or so.  Closer to two, but who’s counting?  He stretched his neck again.

 

It wasn’t bad, really, being a Sheriff’s Deputy in the small town of D’Qar.  About the worst crimes they ever saw were petty thefts and the occasional robbery.  Still, last year, Poe’s boss, Sheriff Statura, and his wife had adopted twin girls and Poe had nobly—stupidly, Poe often reminded himself—offered to take over the night shift at the Sheriff’s Office so that Statura could be with his family.  So, Poe and one or two junior officers, depending on the night, manned the phones and watched the front desk and let the time tick by.

 

It wasn’t a hard job, but it was draining, and it played hell with Poe’s life.  I’m basically a vampire now, he thought.

 

# # # #

 

Sheriff Statura walked in the door at 6:15 that morning.  Poe smiled and got up.

 

“Quiet night?”

 

“Yep,” Poe said, picking up his bag and shrugging on his leather jacket.  “I left some files on your desk.”  He started for the door and stopped.  “How are the girls?”

 

“Wonderful,” Sheriff Statura said.  “Pretty soon they’re going to be running around here causing havoc.”

 

“Well, let’s hope I don’t have to lock them up then,” Poe said with a smile and a wave.

 

Poe fell into his bed at exactly 6:32am.  He reached, blindly, for the alarm clock and switched the alarm on.  As he let the clock fall onto the nightstand, he was already snoring.

 

# # # #

 

The alarm buzzed.  Finn opened his eyes and stared at the red blinking numbers: 6:35.   Just like every other morning of my life.  Finn took in a deep breath, let it out, and got out of bed.  He tried to keep a good attitude, but it was hard. 

 

Finn had been working at First Order Insurance since moving to Arkanis, and while it was a steady paycheck, he hated his work.  First Order despised its clients, plain and simple, and Finn’s days were filled with trying to find ways not to pay out on their claims.  He’d been doing it for two years now, and he was fairly certain it was killing his soul.

 

But it’s Friday, he reminded himself as he gobbled down a blueberry yogurt on the way out the door.  Tomorrow is the library and animal shelter!  Finn smiled as he jogged to the bus stop.

 

# # # #

 

Rey looked up and burst into a wide grin.  The library opened every Saturday at 10am and every Saturday at 10, Finn Orlani showed up for a four-hour volunteer shift.  “Finn,” she said, walking over.  “How are you?”

 

“Good,” he said, stopping to give her a quick hug.  “What do you have for me today?”

 

She nodded to a cart.  “Reshelving to start.  Then, I might have you help me with stuffing envelopes.”

 

“Sounds good,” Finn said with a laugh.

 

Rey watched him wheel the cart towards the children’s section and couldn’t help smiling.   Finn was…well, Finn was the best friend she had in the entire world.  And the fact that they’d met in the hell-hole called First Order?  Well, that’s what made their friendship extra-special.

 

Rey had been working as a secretary at First Order while she finished up her Masters of Library Science at Arkanis University.  From day one, she had loathed every single person working there—they were all soulless drones.  And the bosses?  Ms. Phasma and Mr. Hux had to be the two most despicable human beings she’d ever met.  But then, on her second day at First Order, this guy had walked up to her desk and handed her a coffee.  “Sorry,” he said.  “I didn’t know what you’d like.”  He dug in his pockets, pulling out dozens of sweetner packets and honey packets and little packets of creamer.  “But I thought I’d bring you a welcome coffee.”

 

That had been Finn, and from that day on, they’d been the best of friends.

 

So, of course, Rey took Finn with her when she went to D’Qar to visit its library, which was looking for a new librarian.

 

D’Qar was a sleepy little town only thirty minutes outside of Arkanis, and Finn fell in love with it the moment he saw it.  Rey cackled.  “I’m from here, you know.  My dad runs the animal shelter and my aunt is the mayor.”

 

“So why are you in Arkanis?”

 

“That’s where the university is, silly!  Besides, First Order pays well,” Rey groaned.

 

“I know,” Finn said, adding his own groan.  He looked out the window of Rey’s car.  “So you’re really going to leave me and come work out here?”

 

“If they’ll have me,” Rey said, excitedly.  “I’ve always loved that library, and now that Ahsoka is retiring…”  She looked over to see how Finn’s face had fallen.  “Finn!  It won’t be that bad.  You can still come and visit!  Or better yet, why don’t you quit First Order and come live here?”

 

“Sounds great.  I’m sure I can find a place with my zero dollars income.”

 

“Finn,” Rey said, slapping his arm.  “You hate that job.”

 

“Yeah, but I love having money to pay rent and buy food.”

 

Rey shook her head.  “Well, regardless, you’re still gonna be up here all the time.”

 

“We’ll see,” Finn said, wishing he really could quit his job and live in this beautiful town.

 

# # # #

 

Rey got the job and once she graduated, she happily quit First Order. 

 

A few weeks later, after Finn had helped her move back to D’Qar (and after ten emails from Rey begging him to come) Finn showed up at the D’Qar public library one afternoon, offering to volunteer on Saturdays.

 

Truth be told, the library was teeny-tiny (as was D’Qar) and there wasn’t much for a volunteer to do, but Rey missed hanging out with Finn, so she found him work.

 

# # # #

 

Luke looked up from behind the front counter at the animal shelter.  He smiled as Poe walked in.  “Ten o’clock on the nose,” Luke said.

 

Poe laughed.  “Can’t keep the puppers waiting, can I?”  He let himself behind the counter and signed in on the volunteer sheet.  “Anyone need any special attention today?”

 

Luke got up and started towards the back.  “New dog that we’re calling Snap.  He’s a big fluffy thing, but a bit older.”

 

Poe frowned.  Older dogs were harder to adopt.  Most people wanted shiny new puppies.  “I’ll be sure to slip him an extra treat or two.”  He picked up a leash, pocketed some treats, and followed Luke back.

 

Snap was a mutt, plain and simple, with patches of brown and tan fur and a tongue that hung out of the side of his mouth.  Poe laughed, looking at him.  “Hello, Snap!  How’re you doing buddy?”

 

The dog started wagging his tail. 

 

“Can you sit?”

 

The dog did.

 

Poe turned to Luke.  “Trained?”

 

“Looks like it.”

 

Poe walked into the cage and hooked up the leash.  “Well, I’ll test out a few other commands on the walk.  See what’s what.”

 

“Good.”

 

“We’ll be back in half an hour or so.”

 

“Thanks, Poe.”

 

# # # #

 

Finn leaned against the check-out desk as Rey looked through his weekly selection.  She stopped at what looked to be a tawdry romance and raised an eyebrow.  “Her Forbidden Lover?”

 

“Guilty pleasure,” Finn said, as she scanned the barcode.  “And I’m not sorry.”

 

She shook her head.  “Finn, there is so much good literature out there and—”

 

“And I read that too.  But sometimes I like something a bit…more stimulating.”

 

Rey put up her hand.  “I don’t want to know.”  She gathered his books.  “Here.”

 

Finn smiled.  “Thanks, peanut.”  He put the books under his arm.  “See you next week!”

 

Rey waved as Finn left.  She looked up at the clock: 2:15pm.  Another forty-five minutes before volunteer #2 shows up.

 

# # # #

 

At three o’clock, Finn walked into the D’Qar Animal Shelter.  “Luke?”

 

There was some noise in the back and then the older man poked his head out the door.  “Finn?”

 

“Hey Luke!”  Finn walked behind the counter and signed in on the volunteer sheet.  “What do you need me to do today?”

 

“Well, we’ve still got one or two dogs that need to be walked and I need someone to check on the water dishes while I get this finished up.”

 

“I’m on it,” Finn said, humming as he walked to the back.

 

# # # #

 

Rey heard the front door slide open and looked up.  Poe Dameron came sauntering in.  “Rey!  How is my favorite librarian in the whole wide world?”

 

“Good, Poe.  How are you?”

 

“Good.  Sleepy, but good.”  Rey cocked an eyebrow.  “Had to get up a little early today.  Most days I’m not up until noon.”

 

Rey shook her head.  “You need to get off the night shift.”

 

“Bad things still happen when the rest of the world is asleep.”

 

“Yeah, but surely someone else could take the shift for a while.”

 

“Hey, it beats working for the Arkanis PD, I can tell you that.”

 

“You know, you don’t have to spend your Saturday afternoons here,” Rey said.

 

“Rey, Rey, Rey, Rey, Rey,” Poe shook his head.  “My grandpa left you that sprawling military history collection, as well as all those papers, and I see it as my family duty to catalogue and organize it.”

 

“Poe, every year another member of your grandfather’s squad donates something and…”  Rey smirked.  “That collection is unending.”

 

“Yeah,” Poe said with a shrug.  “But I like the work.”  He yawned again.

 

“Stimulating?”

 

“Oh behave, you,” Poe said, just as three children come running up to the desk, books in hand.

 

“Fine,” Rey said, turning to the children.  “Just let me know if you need anything, okay?”

 

“Always, mi’lady.”  Poe started to a storage room in the back

 

# # # #

 

It was six; the library had been closed for an hour, but Poe insisted on staying until she was ready to leave.  She looked at the stack of books he’d picked out for himself and began checking him out.  She raised her eyebrow at the last book of the stack—a romance novel called The Lady’s Forbidden Desire.  “What is it with these things?”

 

“What?”

 

She held up the book.

 

Poe blushed.  “Who doesn’t like a little romance?”

 

“No,” she said, shaking her head.  “You’re just the second relatively intelligent person today who’s checked one of these things out.”

 

“Way to be a snob, Rey.”

 

She rolled her eyes.

 

# # # #

 

Finn was busy ruffling Snap’s fur when Luke came back in.  “I think we’re set for the night,” Luke said, chuckling as Finn ended up on his back with Snap licking his face.

 

Finn laughed and tried to get out of Snap’s embrace.  Finally, Luke distracted the dog with a treat.

 

“Too bad I can’t have a dog in my apartment.  I like him.”

 

“He’s trained as best as we can figure, but no tag and no chip.”  Luke shook his head.

 

“It’s a shame,” Finn said, standing.  He turned to the dog.  “Good night, Snap.”

 

As he and Luke walked to the parking lot, Luke asked, “Want to do dinner with the family tonight?”

 

“No thanks,” Finn said.  As much as he loved the Skywalker clan, he’d reached his limit for people for the day.  “Tell your sister and everyone else hi for me.”

 

“Will do,” Luke said, waving as Finn got into his car.

 

# # # #

 

“Luke,” Leia said, “we were just about to start without you.”

 

“Sorry, had to rescue Finn from an amorous mutt.”  He kissed his sister’s cheek and then made the rounds with the rest of the family.  He shook hands with his brother-in-law, Han, and Han’s best friend, Chewie.  He planted a kiss on his daughter’s head.  “How are you,” he asked as he slid into the seat next to hers.

 

“Good,” Rey said.  “How are things at the shelter?”

 

“Good,” Luke shrugged.  “We have a new one that both Finn and Poe are in love with that I’m really hoping finds a home.”

 

Rey shook her head.

 

“What,” Han asked.

 

“Finn and Poe.”  She frowned.  “Dear, sweet, wonderful Finn and adorable, lovely, kind Poe, who are the two nicest people I know—and they’re both single—and I don’t think they’ve ever crossed paths even once.”

 

“No,” Luke said.  “That can’t be right.  They’re both at the shelter and the library every week.  They had to have crossed paths…”

 

“No,” Rey said.  “I’d hear about it, trust me.”

 

“How is that possible,” Leia asked.  “Every story you tell from the library stars either Finn or Poe and the same thing goes for your shelter,” she said to Luke.

 

“But it’s like they’re operating in two different realities,” Rey said.

 

Luke thought about it.  “She’s right.  If Finn volunteers in the mornings, Poe comes in in the afternoons.”

 

“It’s the same thing with me.  If I have Poe to help me close up, Finn is there to open.”

 

Han rolled his eyes.  “And there’s a reason that you can’t just tell them about each other?”

 

Rey groaned.  “I’ve tried, Uncle Han.  Trust me, I’ve tried.  Any time I start on dating with Poe, he reminds me that he works the night shift and it wouldn’t be fair to anyone to start a relationship.”  Rey rolled her eyes.

 

“We need to get him off that shift,” Leia mumbled.

 

“He took it so that Statura could be at home nights with his kids,” Han said.

 

“I know,” Leia said, “but there have to be other officers who could cover that shift.”

 

“Well, Mayor,” Luke said.  “You might need to look at the budget.  See if there is any money for a new hire.”

 

The whole table groaned.

 

“No politics at the table,” Leia reminded her brother.

 

“You’re the one who wants to get Poe back on a daytime schedule.”

 

Leia redirected things.  “What about Finn?  Have you told him about Poe?”

 

Rey’s voice got tiny.  “After the debacle with Ben…”

 

The entire table groaned again.

 

“You set that boy up with Ben,” Han asked.

 

“It was last year, before the whole Kylo Ren thing,” Rey said.  “I…I don’t know.  I thought maybe opposites attract?”

 

Han shook his head.  “Kylo,” he muttered.

 

“So, Finn isn’t going to listen to you when it comes to available men, but Luke?”

 

“Hmmmm,” Luke said, looking up from his mashed potatoes.

 

“Would you be willing to play matchmaker,” Leia asked.

 

“Sure,” Luke said, leaning back with a glint in his eyes.  “On one condition.”

 

“What,” Leia asked dryly.

 

“Well, if we can’t find Snap a home…”

 

“Luke,” Leia started.

 

“Who’s Snap,” Han asked.

 

“He’s a wonderfully well-trained dog at the shelter and…”

 

Han laughed.  “Sure,” he said.

 

“Han,” Leia said sharply.  “We already have six dogs.”

 

“Well, then, Chewie can take him.  Can’t you Chewie?”

 

Chewie muttered something that no one caught.

 

“Great,” Han said.  “It’s settled.  Luke will play matchmaker.  Leia will find Poe a better schedule.  Rey will never set anyone up with my wayward son again, and Poe and Finn will live happily ever after.  Can someone pass the peas?”

 

# # # #

 

“Coffee,” Finn kept muttering under his breath.  As if that’s going to make my Monday better.  He shook his head.  It’ll at least make me more awake, for whatever that’s worth. 

 

He was staring at the sign in front of his favorite coffee shop, enticing him with chocolate chip scones, when a customer leaving Java the Hutts clipped his shoulder.

 

Finn let out a quick, “Sorry” as he heard the other man say the same.

 

Something about the man, though, caught Finn’s eye.  He stopped and turned.  The man was his height, with a mop of dark brown curls on his head and a well-worn brown leather jacket.  Cute, Finn thought as he turned back to the coffee shop.  A part of him wanted to run after the guy, get his number.

 

He shook his head.  Man, I need to get laid.

 

# # # #

 

Need to get to bed, Dameron, Poe thought as he stumbled out of Java the Hutts, an iced tea clenched in his hand.  He’d had to drive into the city to follow up on a stolen car case and it was so far past his bedtime that he wasn’t sure he was going to be able to drive back to D’Qar.  Hence the iced tea.  “Please work,” he mumbled to the cup as he accidentally clipped someone’s shoulder on the sidewalk.  “Sorry,” he called back.

 

He heard a muffled sorry from the other guy and kept walking.  After about twenty seconds or though, he looked back—the guy was pulling open the door to Java the Hutts.  He looked to be in his twenties.  Short cropped black hair and big brown eyes.  Pretty, Poe thought.  Just my type.  Then, he reminded himself, no time for love on the night shift.

 

Poe groaned as he got into his car.  I seriously need to find a new job.

 

# # # #

 

“You work on Finn and I’ll work on Poe,” Rey said to her father that Tuesday during lunch.

 

“I thought you said that Poe wasn’t going to—”

 

“I’ll wear him down,” Rey said, taking a huge bite of her burger.

 

Luke shook his head as he picked at his salad.  “I almost feel sorry for him.”

 

Rey smiled as she chewed.  “Almost.”

 

# # # #

 

Finn pulled last week’s books out of his bag.  Rey picked up the romance novel.  “And how was Her Forbidden Lover?”

 

“Actually, pretty good,” Finn said, sliding over this week’s books to Rey.

 

Rey shook her head, dropping Her Forbidden Lover and picking up this week’s haul.  “His Forbidden Romance?  Really Finn?”

 

“Just check them out already!”

 

# # # #

 

Luke had been trying to figure out a way to say this all afternoon.  Just ask him.  “So, Finn, how are things?”

 

Finn raised an eyebrow as he changed out a water bowl.  “Fine.”

 

“But, I mean, your personal life?  Are you getting out there?  Dating?”

 

Finn couldn’t help the groan.  Rey.  “I’m fine,” Finn said.

 

“Really,” Luke asked.

 

Finn turned around and leaned against the back of the cage.  “Yeah, Mr. Skywalker.  I’m good.”

 

Luke raised an eyebrow.  “That’s not what my daughter says.”

 

“I knew it!”

 

“She’s just worried about—”

 

“She’s the one who set me up with that psychopath!”

 

“That would be my nephew, Ben?”

 

“Yeah, Ben,” Finn spit out.  Worst date of my entire life.  And that’s saying something.  “Look, Luke, I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but…”  Finn sighed.

 

“I really think you’d like Poe,” Luke said quietly.  “But I’ll respect your wishes.”

 

“Thanks,” Finn said, walking to the front room to get some treats for the dogs.

 

I’ll respect them, Luke thought, but don’t count on Rey doing that.

 

# # # #

 

Poe waited at the checkout desk while Rey turned off most of the lights.  He tapped his fingers against the books he was going to check out.  Then, another book caught his eye.  “Her Forbidden Lover?”  He smiled and picked it up, reading the back cover.  “Hey Rey, can I check this one out too?”

 

Rey came back to the desk and looked at the book.  She grinned.  “Of course, you can.”  She took the book from his hand.  “You know, the guy who checked this out before you—”

 

“Nope.  Stop right there, Miss Rey.  I told you.  No romance while I’m working the night shift.”

 

“Just romance novels?”

 

“Ha ha.  Just check me out.”

 

“Fine.  But I think Finn is perfect for you.”

 

“Finn?  What kind of a name is Finn?”

 

Rey ignored him.  As they started out of the building, she said, “Hey, Poe, wanna do lunch a week from tomorrow?  It’s been forever since we’ve actually hung out.  Outside the library, I mean.”

 

“Sure, kiddo.  Wanna say noon at Maz’s?”

 

“Sounds good.”  She smiled.  “See you next week!”

 

# # # #

 

“Hey Finn,” Rey purred into the phone that Monday.

 

“Hey peanut!  What’s up?”

 

“I was thinking.  Wanna have lunch next Sunday?  We get to hang out at the library and all, but…”

 

Finn smiled.  She’s up to something, but what the hell.  “Sounds good.”

 

“Great!  You can come by my place and pick me up.  Eleven forty-five on Sunday, okay?”

 

“I’ll be there.”

 

# # # #

 

Rey and Finn sat in a booth at Maz’s.  Rey frowned down at her phone.

 

“What is it?”

 

Rey looked up.  “Oh, nothing.”  She bit her lip.  “Just let me answer this text.”

 

Poe: Soooooo sorry, Miss Rey, but Bee somehow managed to eat some chocolate.  We’re at the emergency vet and Bee is going to be fine, but there is no way I’m making lunch.  Rain check?  Sorry!

 

Rey: No worries, Poe.  I’m glad Bee is okay.  We’ll do it some other time.

 

Rey shook her head.  Maybe they aren’t meant to get together.

 

# # # #

 

Finn walked up to his car after lunch and saw something under his windshield.  “No!”  He grabbed the parking ticket.  CRAP!!!!!!

 

Rey shrugged and gave him a weak smile.  “Sorry!  I really thought you could park here.”

 

Finn shook his head.  “Just get in the car, peanut.”

 

# # # #

 

The next Wednesday, Finn took a half-day to drive to D’Qar to pay his ticket.  I can’t believe I got a parking ticket in a town so small they don’t have a mail-in or online option for paying.  ARAGH!!!!

 

Everyone in the Sheriff’s Office was very nice and Finn had the ticket paid in twenty minutes.  He looked down at his watch.  4:45pm.  He frowned.  I’m gonna hit traffic if I head back now.  He turned to the nice woman at the front desk whose name tag said Kaydel.  “Are there any good places to eat around here?”

 

“Have you tried Maz’s?”

 

Finn laughed.  “That’s where I got my ticket.”

 

She laughed.  “Well, there’s also the Republic Bar and Grill.  It’s good.”

 

She gave him directions and five minutes later, he headed to the parking lot.  As he was getting into his car, he watched a man pull up in a beautiful black mustang.  “Wow,” he said.

 

The man got out of the car and Finn couldn’t help but stare.  He was beautiful.  Finn watched as he pulled a bag and a brown leather jacket out of the back seat.  The man was humming a happy little song and there was something so warm and inviting about him that Finn wanted to talk to him.  Say something, he thought.  Ask him out.

 

The man turned and met Finn’s eye and Finn panicked.  He got into his car and put his head on the steering wheel.  Well, that was smooth.

 

# # # #

 

Poe was humming as he got out of his car.  Tonight’s gonna be a good night.  He smiled, pulling his bag over his shoulder and putting his jacket over his arm.  I can feel it.  He turned and there was a beautiful guy across the parking lot watching him.  He was about to smile and wave when the guy seemed to startle and jumped into his car.

 

Poe frowned.  He walked towards the office and paused near the guy’s car.  Something told him he should say hi, but then he looked in the car.  The guy had his head on his steering wheel.  Poe sighed.  Maybe not.

 

He walked towards the office, sparing one look back at the beautiful guy, who was now driving off.  Better luck next time, I guess?

 

# # # #

 

The call came in around midnight.  Poe wouldn’t have minded, but he’d shown up early today so that Statura and his wife could have a proper date night.  It’s gonna be a long night.  Poe groaned, beating Officer Pava to the phone.  “D’Qar Sheriff’s Office, how may I help you?”

 

“Poe,” a voice whispered.  “Is that you?”

 

Poe’s whole demeanor changed.  He shot a look to Pava who nodded and looked ready to move.

 

“Yeah, this is Poe.”

 

“Poe, this is Ematt from the gas station.”

 

“Yeah, Ematt, what’s up?”

 

“Well, it looks to me like something’s happening over at Lor San Tekka’s liquor store.  That big guy?  The one with the stupid name?”

 

“Kylo,” Poe growled.  They’d grown up together and Poe was not a fan of the man Ben Solo had become.

 

“Yeah, he’s there, and there’s some others and…”

 

“We’ll be right there.”  Poe hung up the phone and was already moving.

 

“Jess, call Karé and Iolo and see if they can meet us at Lor’s Liquor.”

 

“Will do.”

 

“I’m going to head on over.  You follow.”

 

“Got it.”

 

# # # #

 

Poe parked across the street and got out.  He took a deep breath, his hand resting on his gun.  Maybe it’s nothing.  He grit his teeth.  It didn’t feel like nothing. 

 

He tried to size up the situation.  There were two cars in the parking lot.  Poe didn’t recognize either.  There were only two thin windows at the front of the store and neither was offering him much of a view.

 

He took a breath.  How to play this?  Assume the worst?  Go in and play dumb? 

 

Poe was still weighing his options when he heard a shot.  He yelled into his radio, “Shots fired” and ran into the store to find Lor San Tekka grasping his arm and Kylo Ren holding a gun to the old man, screaming.  Two other men stood behind him, laughing.

 

Poe raised his gun.  “Ben,” he shouted.  “Put down the weapon.”  Ben’s two friends took off towards the back.  Poe could hear Jess’ squad car in the distance.  Thank goodness.

 

Ben turned and screamed at him, “My name is Kylo Ren!”  He fired at Poe, hitting him square in the shoulder.  Poe fell back, but he could hear Jess already coming in.  She shot at Ben, who dropped his weapon and ran.

 

Jess yelled into her radio, “He’s coming out the back.”

 

“Got it,” Iolo’s voice squawked back.

 

Jess bent over Poe.  “Boss?  You okay?”

 

Poe nodded.  “I’m fine.”

 

“Yeah, right.”

 

“Dispatch,” Jess said.  “Poe’s been shot.  Can we get an ambulance out here to Lor’s Liquor on Third street?”

 

“Pava, I’m fine.”

 

“Poe, you’re bleeding all over the floor.  Shut up.”

 

# # # #

 

Han sighed as he walked out of the Sheriff’s Office.  He closed his eyes and let the sun warm him for a moment.  I guess it could’ve been worse.

 

His visit with Ben had not gone well.  “Kylo” had screamed at him for being a bad father and refused his help.  Han doubted Leia was going to have a better go of it, but she was going to try later. 

 

Maybe Luke?

 

He frowned and started forward.  Need to go apologize to Poe, he thought.  Later.  He looked over at the library and decided to go talk to Rey.  Need to tell her what’s going on.

 

He walked in and Rey ran to him.  “Uncle Han?  How is…”

 

He hugged her, kissing the top of her head.  “Poe is fine.  Ben got him in the shoulder.”

 

“How is Ben?”

 

Han shrugged, walking back to the front desk with her.  “Angry?  Confused?  Didn’t want to see me, that’s for sure.”

 

“I’m sorry to hear that, Mr. Solo,” said the young man behind the desk.

 

“I know you,” Han asked.

 

“Uncle Han, this is Finn.”

 

“Oh, you’re Finn,” Han said, looking the man up and down.  “Rey’s told us a lot about you.  Most of it good.”

 

Finn smiled.  “She’s told me a lot about you, too.”

 

“Wait,” Han asked.  “Is this the one you set up with Ben?”

 

“Yes,” Rey said.

 

“Sorry,” Han said to Finn.

 

Finn shook his head.  “No, it’s fine.”  Finn stood.  “Rey, you should sit.  You too, Mr. Solo.”

 

“It’s Han, kid.”

 

Han fell into a chair behind the counter.  “Quiet,” he said, looking around the library.

 

“Yeah, I think everyone’s a bit on edge with the shooting last night.”

 

Han nodded.  “That why you’re here,” he asked Finn.

 

Finn shrugged.  “Rey was upset and…I kinda hate my job anyway, so…”

 

Han laughed.  “What do you do?”

 

“I work for First Order Insurance.”

 

“That place?  What in the hell are you doing there, kid?”

 

“Earning money to pay rent.”

 

Han smiled.  “I like this one, Rey.”

 

“I’ve been trying to talk Finn into quitting, but…”

 

“I need to eat,” Finn said.

 

“So, what do you do?”

 

“At First Order?”

 

“In general,” Han said.  “Like, if you could work anywhere?”

 

Finn leaned back.  “Well, my dream job would be starter for the Yankees, but seeing as how I couldn’t even cut it in college ball, I doubt that’s gonna happen.” He shrugged.  “I got my degree in accounting.  That’s what I was going to do when I graduated, but there weren’t any jobs and First Order was hiring…”

 

“Accounting,” Han said.  He scrunched his face.  “Give me a few weeks.”

 

Finn looked at Rey, who said, “Uncle Han knows everyone.  If there’s an accounting job to be had anywhere around here, he’ll find it.”

 

“Thanks,” Finn said.

 

# # # #

 

“What,” Finn said, re-reading a memo two weeks later.  “What?”  He looked around the office, hoping there was someone who could miraculously appear to tell him what he was reading was some sort of sick joke.

 

He got up and marched to Phasma’s office.  “Ms. Phasma, may I?”

 

The statuesque woman nodded and Finn walked in.  “I just got your memo about the shooting in D’Qar.  You can’t be serious.  You want us to deny physical therapy?”

 

“Mr. Hux and I have been reviewing the record and we think there is precedent for denying coverage of that, among other things.”

 

“But it was a police officer shot in the line of duty!”

 

“And?”

 

“And don’t you think that—”

 

“What I think, Mr. Orlani, is that you need to start worrying about the bottom line.”

 

“You can’t be serious.”

 

“I assure you, I’m deadly serious.”

 

“I quit,” Finn said.  He couldn’t believe it, but it felt so right.

 

“What?”

 

“I said, I quit.  Get someone else to do your dirty work.”  Finn marched out of the office, sent a copy of the memo to his personal email and packed up his desk.  He was out of the building in less than ten minutes.

 

“Great.  Now what?”

 

# # # #

 

Poe stood in Sheriff Statura’s office.  “Sir, I promise.  I’m ready to come back.”

 

Statura smiled and shook his head.  “Poe, you’d say that if your arm was falling off.”  He stood.  “But as it is, I’m glad you came in today because the mayor has asked for a meeting and she wants you to be there.”

 

“The mayor?”

 

“Yes,” the Sheriff said, grabbing his jacket and walking towards the door.  “We have an offer for you.”

 

“Not a desk job,” Poe said.  Please don’t make me a glorified pencil pusher.

 

“Just hear the woman out,” the Sheriff said as they left through the back door.

 

# # # #

 

Finn stood in the reception area of the D’Qar Sheriff’s Office.  “Um, is Poe Dameron here?”

 

The receptionist looked up and smiled at the bunch of flowers Finn held in his hand.  “I think so.  Let me check.”  She picked up the phone and started talking to someone.  Then, her face fell.  “I’m sorry.  You just missed him,” she said.  “He’s not going to be back in today.  He’s in a meeting with the mayor.  Is there anything I can do?”

 

Finn handed the get-well bouquet to the woman.  “Can you give him these?”  He pulled the card out of his pocket—the one explaining how he used to work for First Order and that Poe and the Sheriff’s Office had good reason to push back against anything First Order tried to pull—and handed it to her.  “Thanks!”

 

# # # #

 

Poe leaned back.  “So, let me get this straight?  You want me to become the Community Outreach Officer?”

 

“Yes,” Leia said.  “You’d be in charge of facilitating relations between the Sheriff’s Office and the wider community.  Specifically, you’d run educational programs, coordinate with citizens groups, and manage PR for the office.  What do you think?”

 

Poe pursed his lips.  It wasn’t hard-core police work, but it would get him out in the community, interacting with people.

 

“There’s a raise,” Sheriff Statura added.  “And it’s a nine-to-five job.”

 

Poe laughed.  “You know how to wear down a man’s defenses don’t you?”  He looked at the mayor and the sheriff.  “Yes.  Of course, yes.”  He stood up and shook the mayor’s hand.  “Thank you.”

 

“Thank you, Poe.  For everything you’ve done for D’Qar.”

 

# # # #

 

Poe wandered back to the Sheriff’s Office to find Kaydel smiling with a big bunch of yellow daises in her hands.  “Here,” she said, shoving them forward.  “They’re for you.”

 

Poe raised an eyebrow.

 

“Someone has an admirer,” Kaydel sing-songed as he walked back to his office.

 

Poe sat in his chair, smiling at the daises and wondering who had sent them when he realized he was also holding an envelope.  He opened it to find a standard Get Well Soon card but inside the card were some print outs.  Poe frowned and read the card.

 

Hello.

 

You don’t know me, but my name is Finn Orlani, and I used to work at First Order Insurance.  I was the person assigned to your case when I realized that I couldn’t in good conscience work for the Order anymore.  I hope you’ll find the pages I’ve printed for you useful when the Order inevitably tries to deny your Physical Therapy.  Don’t let them.  They’re the worst.

 

Yours Sincerely,

Finn

 

Poe leaned back in his chair with a smile.  He picked up his bouquet, closed his eyes, and smashed it into his face, enjoying the smell of the daisies.

 

# # # #

 

“Why are we here again,” Finn asked Rey as they slid into a booth at Maz’s Diner a week later.

 

“Uncle Han wanted us to meet him here.”

 

“And?”

 

“That’s all he told me,” Rey said, frowning.  The frowning stopped a second later as she spotted her uncle.  “Han!”

 

Han smiled and came over, sliding in next to Rey.  “Hey kid,” he said, hugging her.  “Finn,” he said with a nod.  “Heard you quit your job.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Well, I’m glad to hear it.”

 

“Really?  Because I’m wondering how I’m gonna make rent next month.”

 

Han smiled.  “Don’t worry about that, kid.”  He waved at someone behind Finn.  “Maz!”

 

A small, wrinkled woman came over to their table, staring at Finn. 

 

“Maz,” Han said.  “I want you to meet Finn…Finn, what’s your last name?”

 

Finn held his hand out to the woman.  “Finn.  Finn Orlani.”

 

She nodded.  “Han tells me you’re an accountant.”

 

“Well…”

 

“He’s the best in Arkanis,” Han said.

 

“Yeah,” Rey added.  “He’s having to beat them away with a broom.”

 

Maz lifted an eyebrow.

 

“I studied accounting in college but couldn’t find a job after I graduated,” Finn said.

 

Maz smiled.  “I like this one.  He’s honest.”  She looked Finn over once more.  “Yes.  You’ll do.  You’re hired.”

 

“What?”

 

“You’re hired.  You’re going to do the books for this restaurant and the two others I own,” she said.  “Unless you don’t think you can handle it?”

 

Finn’s whole world flip-flopped.  “I can handle it.  Of course, I can handle it.  When do I start?”

 

“Monday,” Maz said.  “Come by first thing and we’ll go over the books.”

 

“Sounds good.”  Finn said.  “Thanks!”

 

The old woman nodded and walked away.

 

Finn let out a loud whoop that had the other diners looking at their table.  He smiled and reached across the table to hug Han.  “Thanks!”

 

“Okay, kid.  Tone it down a bit,” Han said, trying to push Finn off him.  “You’re welcome.”

 

“Looks like you’ll be moving to D’Qar, Finn,” Rey said with a smirk.

 

Finn laughed.  “Yeah, I guess so.”

 

# # # #

 

Finn had been in D’Qar a month.  He had a cute apartment close to Rey’s.  He’d figured out most of the intricacies of working with Maz, and he was slowly getting to know his new hometown.

 

He was in his office, at the back of the diner, looking at the books for the previous month when Maz came in.  “You need to stop and eat.”

 

“Maz, I’ve gained five pounds since I started here.”

 

“Yes, and?”  She looked him over.  “It looks good on you!”

 

He laughed.  “Yeah, well it won’t when it’s thirty pounds.”

 

“Go eat,” she barked.

 

“As soon as I’m finished with this statement,” Finn mumbled, turning back to his work.

 

Maz wandered out of Finn’s office to the front of the restaurant.  She looked around at the lunchtime crowd and then spotted a particular favorite.  “Poe!  Poe Dameron!”  She walked over to his table.  “How are you?”

 

“Maz,” Poe said, rising to give the woman a hug.  “How are you?”

 

“I’m good.” She nodded at Poe’s shoulder.  “And you?”

 

“As right as rain.”

 

She snorted.  “You’d say that even if your arm was falling off.”

 

“Why does everyone say that?”

 

“Because it’s true.”

 

She looked at the remnants of his meal.  “How was it?”

 

“Great, Maz.  But you know that.”

 

“Good.  That’s what I like to hear.”  She started towards another table.  “Don’t be a stranger,” she said to Poe.

 

“I won’t.”

 

A few minutes later, he took his bill up front and paid.  Poe sighed contentedly as he walked out of the diner.  He patted his stomach.  “That was good,” he said to himself.

 

# # # #

 

Finn walked out of the office to the dining room just as the front door closed.  He spied one of Maz’s satisfied customers standing outside on the sidewalk patting his stomach, and it reminded Finn just how hungry he was.  “Hey, Padme,” he said to a nearby waitress.  “Can I get a burger and fries?”

 

# # # #

 

Rey smiled at the romance novel at the top of Finn’s stack: The Lady’s Forbidden Desire.  At this point, she didn’t even bother to make a comment, just shook her head as she scanned the barcode.

 

“So, what are your plans for the rest of the weekend?”

 

“I was thinking about curling up with a book or two and ordering pizza.”

 

“Finn, seriously!  You’re young.  You should be going out, having fun.”

 

“Pizza and reading is fun.”

 

Rey sighed.  “You are a lost cause.  Get out of here.  Go tell my dad I said hello.”

 

“Will do,” Finn said, gathering up his books.  “See you later, peanut!”

 

# # # #

 

When Poe walked in an hour later, Rey decided just to be blunt.  “I want to set you up with my friend, Finn.  I think he’s perfect for you and now that you’re back working normal, human hours, you don’t have any excuse.”

 

“Hello to you too, Rey,” Poe said, looking around at the other patrons who heard Rey’s outburst.  “How are you doing?”

 

Rey smiled and leaned back.  “You heard me, Dameron.”

 

“Uh, well…”  He shrugged.  “Do I have to answer now or can I think on it?”

 

Rey sighed.  It’s better than a flat-out no.  “Fine.  You have exactly 48 hours.”

 

“Thank you,” Poe squeaked, heading back to his files.

 

# # # #

 

Luke frowned, watching Finn refill the water containers.  He’d tried this before and it didn’t work, but…  I’m nothing if not a being of eternal hope.

 

“Finn,” Luke said.  “I want to say something and I want you to hear me out.”

 

“Luke, is everything okay?”

 

“What?  Oh yes, everything’s fine.  Sorry, Finn. Didn’t mean to get so serious on you.  No, this is about the guy that Rey and I want to set you up with.”

 

“Luke, we’ve already been over this.”

 

“Finn, just hear me out.  Because if you don’t, I promise that Rey is going to start in on you again, and then, she’s going to recruit Han and my sister, and pretty soon all of D’Qar is going to be meddling in your love life.”

 

Finn shivered.  As outlandish as it sounded, Finn knew it was true.  “Okay.”

 

“His name is Poe Dameron and he works for the—”

 

“Sheriff’s Office,” Finn said.  “I know.  I was working his case when I quit First Order.”

 

“Wait, you’re the one who gave the Sheriff’s Office the copy of that memo?”

 

“Yeah,” Finn said.  “Thankfully, your sister knows some good lawyers because I’m pretty sure First Order wanted to come after me for that, but…”  Finn shrugged.

 

“Why did you do it?”

 

“Because it was the right thing to do.”

 

Luke laughed.  Rey’s right.  They’re perfect for each other.  “Finn, trust me on this.  You are going to love Poe Dameron.”

 

Finn laughed.  “I’ll think about it, okay?”

 

“That’s all I ask.”

 

# # # #

 

Poe undid his collar and unbuttoned his dress jacket.  A year ago, if someone had told him how much he’d enjoy teaching little kids about self-defense and stranger danger, he wouldn’t have believed them.  He smiled.  But man, do I love my job these days

 

For a moment, he just basked in the sunshine.  Then, he looked across the street: the juice bar, a tailor’s shop, and Ackbar’s Used Books.  I haven’t been in there in years.

 

Poe laughed and jogged across the street.

 

A little bell tinkled as Poe came in the store.  It was dusty and brimming with books—every single surface covered in stacks and stacks of them, and yet somehow, Mr. Ackbar managed to organize things fairly well.  “Hello,” Poe called out.

 

“Back here,” said the old man.  He came hobbling out.  “Let me know if I can help you.”

 

“Will do,” Poe said.

 

He started up the history aisle and immediately stopped to study a book on the Peloponnesian War.

 

# # # #

 

Finn stared at the tiny shop in the strip mall.  Ackbar’s Used Books.  He sighed.  Maz said it was good.  He shrugged.  Might as well at least go in.

 

A bell gave a sad little tinkle as Finn pushed open the door.  A voice from somewhere deep inside the space said, “Let me know if I can help you.”

 

“I will,” Finn said, staring at the high columns of books staked just about everywhere.  “What is this place,” he muttered.  He walked to the cooking section and started browsing.

 

# # # #

 

Poe had two books in his hand by the time he spied the romance aisle.  I really shouldn’t.  He looked around.  But there’s no one around.  He looked some more.  Is there?  He’d heard someone else come in a little while ago, but he hadn’t seen the mysterious stranger yet.  He spared one more look around the shop before starting down the romance aisle.

 

# # # #

 

Finn had four books in his arms, two cookbooks, a nice copy of Anne of Green Gables, and a book on amateur astronomy.  This place is great, he thought, as he turned a corner and spied the romance aisle.  Oh man, he thought.  Maybe just a peek?

 

No.  I really should go, Finn thought, walking to the cash register and putting his books on the counter.  He was about to ring the bell for someone to help him when he paused.

 

A quick peek couldn’t hurt.

 

Finn crept over to the romance aisle and stared down it.  Of course, there’s someone there.  Finn walked over to the self-help section.  It was bad enough when he had to bring romance novels up for Rey to check out, but he really hated the idea of anyone in public knowing about his guilty pleasure.  Come on already, buddy.  Just grab a book and go!

 

Finn watched the guy—the decidedly beautiful guy with big brown curls and…  Hey, wait a minute!  Don’t I know him from somewhere?  Finn studied the man, but he couldn’t place him.  Oh screw it.  Finn marched down the aisle and started browsing the titles.

 

# # # #

 

Poe couldn’t help but notice that a very beautiful man was now standing next to him looking intently at the romance titles.  Probably picking something out for his girlfriend, he thought.  That’s just about my luck.

 

Poe crouched down, scanning the titles for something titillating.

 

The man leaned down and did the same.

 

Poe’s eyes alighted on a title that he liked: His Forbidden Secret.

 

He reached for it at the exact same moment as the other man.

           

Poe looked up into the man’s eyes.  “You’re a fan of…”

 

The man looked away with a slight smile, pulling his hand back.  “Yeah, I…”  He shook his head and stood, gesturing for Poe to take the book.

 

“No, man, you got here first.”

 

“No, your hand was on it before mine.”

 

You’ll never know if you don’t take a chance.  Poe took the book with a smile and stood.  “How about we share it?”

 

The other man met his eyes.  “And how would we do that?”

 

“I could read it and then give it to you?”

 

“That could work,” Finn said. 

 

“Of course, we’d need to trade phone numbers so I could get it to you.”  Poe had a sly smile on his face.

 

“We could do that.”  Finn grinned as he held out his hand.  “Finn.  Finn Orlani.”

 

Poe’s grin was huge.  He started laughing.  “No.”

 

Finn looked confused.  “No, that’s really my name.  Finn.”

 

“No, I meant…”  Poe shook his head.  He held out his hand.  “Poe.  Poe Dameron.”

 

“As in?”

 

“Rey’s friend Poe.”

 

Finn started laughing.  “And Luke’s friend Poe.  And the guy I gave flowers to Poe.”

 

“Exactly!  I’ve been hearing about you for months!”

 

“Months and months,” Finn said.  “Rey and Luke never stopped.”  He felt like his face was going to burst his smile was so wide.

 

Poe seemed mesmerized by it.  And for a moment, they just stood there, staring at each other.  “Uh,” Poe rocked back on his heels.  Please be free.  Please be free.  “Are you doing anything right now?  ‘Cause I’d like to buy you a burger or something.”

 

Finn’s smile became even more blinding.  “I’d like that.”  He motioned towards the register.  “How about we buy our books and then we can go over to Maz’s?”

 

“Maz’s?”  Poe bumped his shoulder into Finn’s.  “I love that place!”

 

“Of course, you do,” Finn said, shaking his head.  Is this really happening?

 

Poe put his books on the counter next to Finn’s and called out, “We’re ready to check out!”  As Mr. Ackbar came up front, he studied Finn. “Hey,” Poe whispered as Ackbar started ringing them up.  “You ever been to Java the Hutts in Arkanis?”