“It’s adorable,” Rey says, running her fingers gently over the tiny creature’s fur.
“It’s trying to eat my hand,” Finn points out, waggling his fingers. The creature squeaks and tries to pounce on the offered prey, but stumbles over its overlarge paws and falls over instead, paws batting at the air. Finn dangles his fingers above the creature, knowing there’s a silly grin on his face and not able to suppress it.
“I could teach it to hunt better than that,” Rey says, giggling. “Aww, poor little thing. What do you think it eats?”
“Apart from fingers?” Finn asks, laughing. “Probably meat, judging by the teeth. Look at those tusks!”
“Meat,” Rey says, nodding. “Stay here and keep it safe while I go raid the kitchen?”
“Sure,” Finn says, and ruffles the little creature’s belly-fur while it makes little trilling noises and gloms onto his wrist. “Who’s a good little hand-eating critter?” he coos at it, and it lashes its tail and chirps something that certainly sounds friendly.
Rey gets back with a large bowl of cut-up meat, and the creature rolls clumsily to its feet and makes hopeful mewling noises until she puts the bowl down in front of it, then buries its nose in the bowl and begins devouring the meat ravenously.
“Do you think Master Luke will mind if we have a pet? Or General Leia?” she asks hopefully.
“Well, the pilots have that tooka, and Kaydel has fish,” Finn says, shrugging. “It should be alright.”
“Then we should name it,” Rey says. “What do you think we should call it?”
“Hm,” Finn says, running a hand down the creature’s stripy spine. “I dunno. Never named anything before.”
“Me either,” Rey says. “Oh! I know! We should wait until we get back, and ask Poe!”
“Good thought,” Finn says, grinning. “He’s good at naming things. And I bet he’ll like you, won’t he, hungry thing,” he adds, rubbing the creature behind the ears and grinning when it trills happily.
The little creature grows steadily over the next week - rather alarmingly steadily, actually. When Rey brought it aboard their little transport, it was just the right size to curl up in Finn’s cupped hands. On a regular diet of all the meat they’ve got aboard, though, it has grown over the course of a week to be almost as long as Rey’s torso - not counting its tail - and heavy enough to be an effort to lift.
It’s still ridiculously affectionate, though, trilling with delight when they pet it and curling up eagerly in their laps every time they sit down. It doesn’t like to be apart from them - it cries if they try to lock it out of their bunkroom at night - but it’s very warm and its weight across their feet is actually rather pleasant. And on the third night Finn wakes up from a nasty nightmare that he’s back in the First Order, and the creature comes and licks his face and trills comfortingly. Usually he has to go find Rey or Poe after a nightmare like that, and reassure himself that he’s really not there anymore, but - there was never anything like this creature in the First Order. He settles down again with an arm flung over the still-trilling creature, and goes peacefully back to sleep.
So the creature is useful as well as adorable, and as far as Finn’s concerned, that’s a pretty good argument for keeping it, if they do end up needing to argue.
It likes to chase things - anything will do, though it’s delighted when Rey produces a ball of twine from somewhere and sends it rolling across the main room - and it likes to gnaw on bones, and it likes to curl up on top of whoever is available and trill pleasantly, for hours if it’s allowed. Finn gets used to cleaning his blaster or reading holobooks with a heavy weight draped over his lap, and Rey grows accustomed to piloting with the creature sitting on her feet. It’s remarkably easy to box-train, which is a great relief, as Finn is perfectly able to clean almost anything, but doesn’t enjoy it. It likes to be brushed or petted or have its belly-fur ruffled, and will roll over and beg for pettings at any and all opportunities.
Finn adores it. So does Rey.
“Hey, buddy,” Poe says, opening his arms. Finn hugs him enthusiastically. “How was the mission?”
“Pretty uneventful,” Finn says. It was an information-gathering mission, and a chance for him and Rey to work on refining their Force-bond; they got some useful intelligence and have gotten much better at wordless communication. “We found a - a pet, though. D’you want to name it?”
“Oh man, you guys found a pet?” Poe asks, BB-8 beeping enthusiastically and whirling in a circle. “What is it? Tooka? Pittin?”
“We’re not sure,” Finn says, and Rey steps out of the transport behind him with the creature curled up in her arms.
“Uh,” says Poe, eyes going wide.
“Buddy?” Finn asks, as Rey comes up beside him and he reaches out to ruffle the creature’s ears. The creature trills and licks his fingers, then looks around curiously, ears and nose twitching at all the new sounds and scents.
“Uh,” Poe says again. “Finn, Rey, buddies, that’s - that’s a Nabooian tusked panther.” BB-8 helpfully projects a little blue hologram of what the creature is going to look like when it’s full grown, all lanky and striped and deadly.
“Oh, is that what it’s called,” Rey says, leaning down and nuzzling the top of the creature’s head happily. “It’s very friendly! What do you think we should name it?”
“Uh,” Poe says a third time, and then, warily, reaches out with one hand, offering his fingers for the Nabooian tusked panther to consider. The creature sniffs at Poe’s hand curiously, then licks his fingers and offers its chin to be scratched. Poe scritches obediently. “You guys do know these things grow to be six feet tall at the shoulder?”
“They do?” Rey asks, delighted. “Oh, you’re going to be so big and lovely,” she coos at the creature in her arms.
“Such a good big fluffy darling,” Finn agrees, grinning soppily down at the creature.
“You’re both quite mad,” Poe says, sounding amused and a little dismayed. “And you want me to name your new...baby apex predator?”
“Apex!” Rey says gleefully. “That’s it!”
“Apex,” Finn says thoughtfully. “Yeah, that’ll do. What do you think, Apex?”
Apex trills. Rey giggles. Poe shakes his head.
“Of course you have a pet Nabooian tusked panther,” he sighs. “I should probably just be glad it isn’t a rathtar. Well, come on, let’s go tell the General I’m no longer the least sensible person on base.”
“Course you are,” Finn says, falling into step beside Poe easily, Rey on Poe’s other side. “You put up with us, don’t you?”
“...You may have a point, there, buddy,” Poe says ruefully, and Rey’s laughter is joined by Apex’s joyful trills.