The ride back to the Resistance base is silent, or at least no one deigns to talk to the pilot. There’s a small voice inside of him that insists they’re communicating with each other, somehow, probably through the Force, but Poe pushes it down and goes back to feeling ignored, like furniture in their company.
When they reach the base he lets them head down the ramp first, hanging behind to busy himself with redundant checks of a ship he could disassemble and reassemble in his sleep; anything to keep his mind off of Takodana and the General and the overwhelming wrongness of Kylo Ren’s presence.
There’s uproar on the tarmac, he can hear it, and he’s not sure how General Organa thought Kylo Ren’s return would go. He wants to march down there to help defend her, to help convince everyone that she knows what she’s doing, that they should trust her, but… things are different, now.
He doesn’t want to say it, doesn’t want to admit it to himself. He can’t.
So, he doesn’t. There is work to be done instead. Ships to keep in the air, mouths to feed, intel to go over, and an ex-Stormtrooper and potential Jedi to find to join him in all of it.
Poe doesn’t wait for things to quiet down outside, opting instead to silently pry open the emergency hatch near the cockpit. He drops into the crowded space below the ship, relocks the hatch, and slips away from the commotion.
For dinner he is joined by Finn and Rey, and they try to get him to talk about recent developments without pushing him too hard for answers. They settle for a nod of a head or a downcast look in response from their pilot, in exchange for a kind hand on his shoulder and a constant flow of alcoholic drinks that seem to smooth his fretted brow.
The rest of the evening is spent avoiding the General, though he’s not even sure she’s been trying to find him. That thought stings but he buries it, pushes it away because it hurts. There’s a sour mix of betrayal and the feeling of being replaced that’s buzzing around in his chest, close enough to a broken heart.
Her son is home now.
She doesn’t need you anymore, Poe.
You were a fine replacement while he was gone, but –
Her son is home now.
Her real son is home now.
And she doesn’t need you anymore.
He bashes a fist against his forehead, trying to somehow knock loose the feeling of it. Poe knows that if he lets himself think too much about Kylo Ren that the memories of his time on the Finalizer will come bubbling back up, bringing that familiar memory of pain the General’s son had inflicted upon him.
Poe scoffs out loud to no one as he semi-drunkenly stumbles down the hall to his room.
She’d seen it, Poe. What he did to you.
She’d seen you on your knees from it.
She’d read the reports.
She’d held your hand as you suffered.
And it doesn’t matter to her.
It never did.
Frustrated, he bangs a fist against his head again and curses in Yavinese while he keys in the code to his room, fumbling with it once or twice before landing on the correct combination.
The door slides shut and locks behind him, a few beams of artificial light from the hallway leaking through the small slit underneath it. Poe manages to find his way to his bunk and falls onto it face first, feet dangling off the side.
The room begins to spin in the darkness and he lets his eyes fall closed as he begs the Force for a night without dreams.
The Finalizer, cell 64949.
He wakes, finally, the ever-present buzz of the interrogation droid reminding him that nothing has improved during his most recent injury-induced unconsciousness.
The first breath he’s fully aware he takes is painful – a broken rib or two, most likely – but he stays quiet and tries not to show it, doesn’t want to give any goons working him over the satisfaction. The light shining down on him is severe and it stings through his head sharply, and he cracks open his eyes only slightly in his best effort to dull the harshness of it. There’s drying blood covering most of his face but thankfully none has gotten in his eyes.
He tries to still the dizziness that rocks his vision, grateful that no one has come to punch him yet while he adjusts.
His merciful solitude doesn’t even last long enough for him to let the pent-up tension out of his muscles, the predatory voice of his captor rising menacingly out of the shadows.
The sound is muddled and Poe misses what was said, reluctantly gathering what little strength he has left as he lifts his head and leans forward, stealing a nervous glance at the interrogation droid as it hovers purposely within view. He remembered the needles, the shocks, the chemicals, the question repeated until even hearing it became another form of torture, and he looks away as his own distorted reflection comes in to focus.
The masked man steps closer to where Poe has been left discarded, broken and wrung out and shackled, and mocks him about his well-being. Poe humors him with a response, albeit half-heartedly. It hurts to speak at all.
He endures the banter until his companion tires of it, and Poe tries not to flinch away as the man raises his hand towards Poe’s face. Poe braces for the impact and swallows a second of confusion when it doesn’t come before he finally feels it, the slow trickle of discomfort beginning to creep through his blood. He tenses up from the unwelcome sensation, syrupy and thick and coarse as it rises from his chest into his throat, coughing weakly as if he could somehow shake himself free of it.
This fresh pain is like acid pouring over his bones, an inescapable burning that refuses to abate. He’s sick with it, stomach turning itself in knots as he struggles to convince his lungs to keep circulating air.
He hears the deafening crack of his head against the restraint rack before the sensation of it even reaches him, eyes screwing shut as he shudders through what feels like a broken skull. He laughs to himself, silently, in between waves of competing agonies, his subconscious finding some kind of morbid humor in the First Order’s relentlessness.
The question comes again and Poe tries to focus on the words instead of the way his muscles are spasming futilely against the too-tight restraints, instead of the wound on his temple that has reopened and is bleeding anew, instead of the air that catches and stops in his throat, straining and tearing through his chest like a forest fire. The dizziness is nearly overwhelming and there’s a growing roar in his ears that makes it hard to hear anything his captor is saying, though Poe has a decent guess as to what the question might be.
Pushing the words through gritted teeth, he shoots off something daring about the Resistance, instantly regretting the response he gets as his feels the long, invisible tendrils of the Force wrap tightly around his neck, drawing him forward.
Poe struggles against the intrusion working its way up his spine and into his brain, agony soaking behind his eyes. He coughs out a breath as the grip on his neck tightens, bringing him closer to the black gloved hand of the man directing his torture. He tries to pull away, forearms aching as they’re wrenched unnaturally against the restraints binding his wrists.
The man asks the question again and again and then it’s all Poe can hear, the words repeated as they bounce around in his skull, increasing in volume until he aches with it. The pain is so overwhelming that he can’t seem to remember what life was even like when he didn’t hurt, when his head wasn’t split apart and forced open like an andev fruit. He screams in frustration, eyes bloodshot and wet with tears.
His captor flexes his fingers, balling his hand into a fist as Poe loses all bodily control. He falls limp, head hanging forward, muscles unresponsive. His screams have been silenced but the question still roars between his ears. Somehow, over it all, he can still hear the hum of the interrogation droid.
The pain hasn’t stopped. He doesn’t think it ever will.
The man in black reaches forward, gently running his fingers through Poe’s hair, the touch like fire against his scalp. Poe twitches in the torture rack, body useless, thoughts overwhelmed. He lets out a small, pitiful and desperate whine as the hand tightens in his hair, pulling his head up to meet the emotionless gaze of the man’s mask.
He feels like he’s slipping away, blackness crowding at his vision. He’s fading, and knows with a near-certainty that his body is going to give in soon, head lolling uselessly in his captor’s grip. The man shakes Poe in annoyance, forcing his waning focus back on the task at hand, back on the question.
Poe blinks, mouth hanging slack, blood dribbling messily down his chin. The all-consuming pain surges through his body and then is drawn back, and Poe gasps for air, eyes darting back and forth in a panic. Before he can drag in a full breath, the agony returns, hotter and sharper than before. He cries out softly, the effort of it an afterthought, as he’s slammed back against the headrest of the rack.
The question returns as well, asked by the familiar monstrous voice from above him. Poe feels the soft leather of the man’s gloves as his hands come to grip the sides of Poe’s head, fingers digging into his skin, hard enough to bruise. He can feel each one as the energy from it forces its way through his mind, the edges sharp and stinging and unrelenting as they follow the path the question takes, hunting greedily for the answer.
Poe tries to block the intrusion but he’s too weak, too wrung out to fight against what’s asked of him. He bites his tongue in the vain hope that self-inflicted pain would somehow cancel out all the other agonies clamoring for his attention.
He sags in his restraints, pushed past his physical and mental limit as the man tightens his grip and digs deeper. When the question comes again, there’s little Poe can do to stop his thoughts from darting to the answer, his survival instinct seizing control, frantically doing all that it can to just keep Poe alive.
The man finally pulls his hands away and Poe can feel the careless tendrils of the Force as they’re roughly dragged from his mind, as indifferent as razors and as merciless as a thunderstorm.
Poe’s head sinks back against the headrest and he tries to shut his eyes in shame. His torturer lets him lay slack for the barest of moments before grabbing Poe’s jaw and turning it to face him. He looks on blankly, sweat and tears stinging the cuts on his face. The man in black holds him in a tight grip for what feels like an eternity until he finally laughs, the maliciousness settling in Poe’s gut and twisting it.
He closes his eyes again, overwhelmed with guilt. He failed. The man took everything. Poe can’t help but think of the General, and how disappointed she’ll be.
The hand on his jaw falls away and Poe can do nothing beyond allow his broken body to lay limply against the device to which he’s chained. The aftershocks of pain coursing through his limbs leave him little control, not that there’s anything he could even do in this state.
The man in black stands in front of him triumphantly, his demeanor arrogant and vulturine. Hours seem to pass before he finally leaves the cell, the relief of it barely registering through the thick fog occupying Poe’s mind.
He cries out, weakly, to no one.
Poe knows what’s next, what they’ll do to him, but he’s too destroyed to bother to care. The world moves on around him, oblivious and unfeeling. His eyes fall closed as his failure eats away at what’s left of his hope.