Chapter 1: Going Home
Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to airy thinness beat.
John Donne, A Valediction Forbidding Mourning, 1633
It’s General Organa’s idea. ‘I need to spend time with Rey alone,’ she says in that warm voice of hers. ‘Get Finn out of my hair.’
‘Sure,’ Poe says. That seems like a mission he can –
‘Trust me,’ the General adds, with a very knowing look, ‘spending time on a mission together can really clarify your feelings about someone.’
Poe doesn’t even try to refute it. If the General knows, she knows. And she always knows.
The Resistance is scattering – heading to star systems across the galaxy to recruit new members and raise funds for new war matériel. It will also provide a long-delayed trip home for many of them, and a moment to breathe and grapple with all that has happened is something the General stresses. She gives them a final speech, saying, ‘You are each our greatest strength right now. Everything depends on you finding new people to join our cause. They don’t have to volunteer to fight – they can support us financially, too – but you have to convince them. Think about why you joined and why you’re still here. Use that.’
Poe isn’t nervous about the mission, but he is very nervous about asking Finn to accompany him. He rehearses what he’ll say all morning – showering, shaving, going over the largely useless morning report (still no ships for him to inspect) – but in the moment, he fucks up and says the first thing that comes to mind.
‘Buddy, will you go home with me?’
Finn looks confused as hell and Poe starts stuttering. ‘As in, I know you don’t have a – you don’t know, I mean, what your home planet –‘
And then Finn breaks into that huge smile of his, the most pure, uncalculated facial expression in the history of the galaxy, the one that makes Poe infinitely more sweaty and nervous than a First Order dreadnought.
‘I would love to.’
Poe hasn’t been in love with a straight man in almost a decade. It’s the kind of thing he had to train himself out of, and once he did, he was much happier for it. His earliest forays into romance had all been unattainable crushes on guys who had zero interest in him or, worse, guys who would use him to satisfy their sexual curiosity and then discard him because it just didn’t feel right. It had been a hard habit to break, and he’s proud of himself for doing it.
Except it turns out that he didn’t break it at all. Instead, it lay dormant, waiting for the strong jawline, warm brown eyes, and radiating compassionate purpose that defines Finn. Poe is assuming he’s straight, of course, based on pure statistics. That and his devotion to Rey.
How anyone thought Finn could ever be a stormtrooper, Poe doesn’t know, and he feels powerless to stop himself from falling completely, hopelessly in love. When Finn was in the hospital wing, he had visited him daily, sitting by his side with BB-8, unable to touch him through the protective plastic coating as his body had healed. Poe had sewn up the gashes in the jacket he gave him and then torn it all out and sewn them up again, so it looked better. In the middle of the second try, the General had come by and had given him a Look – one eyebrow raised, eyes staring directly into his – and had said, ‘I knew I’d find you here,’ before leaving without asking him for anything.
They take a transport on Poe’s credit, which isn’t much, but does buy them two second class seats for passage to Yavin. Takeoff is rough, the big ship swaying from side to side as it is buffeted by low atmosphere winds. Poe glances at Finn during – they have no window (because second class), so, he tells himself, there’s nothing to look at but his seatmate – and sees his eyes closed, his face in a tight grimace.
‘You all right, buddy?’
‘Reminds me of getting dropped off on a mission.’ Finn opens his eyes and turns his head to look directly at Poe, clearly making an effort to smile. ‘At least I have a seat this time.’
The ship exits the planetary atmosphere and there’s the familiar sensation of Poe’s stomach adjusting in the seconds before the artificial gravity arrives with a clunk. This is an ancient transport, based on that sound. Poe knows the make and model, of course. And everything else about it – specs, corporation history, what routes run these ships as standard. There’s been a few serious mechanical incidents with this model, the details of which Poe knows intimately, and he has a fleeting second of hoping it holds together as they feel the hyperdrive ignite with a muted roar. Then they enter hyperspace and he settles back in his seat.
‘On the plus side,’ Poe says quietly to Finn, ‘the First Order wants you dead now. So no more missions, even if you do get captured. Just, you know,’ he mimes slicing off his neck.
Finn grins. ‘Great point.’
Their seats are next to each other with a table in front of them that they share with a pair of Dressellians opposite, mother and daughter by the look of them, who have been chatting nonstop since takeoff and are eating something that smells pleasantly of spiced meat. Poe keeps looking at the door that leads to the droid compartment. First class passengers get to keep their droids with them. Third class is not allowed to bring them at all, which is why he sprang for the nicer seats.
'Worried about BB-8?' Finn asks quietly.
'I hate to leave him in there,' Poe admits.
‘I’d say we could sneak him out here, but he’s kind of big.’
Poe laughs, and tries to keep his eyes focused on a vague point somewhere in the centre of the spiced meat. ‘Thanks for coming with me.’
‘Thanks for having me,’ Finn says. ‘How long does it take to get there?’
‘From here –‘ Poe considers. They’d been given a ride by some members of the Resistance to Amboro, which was where they’d boarded this transport. ‘Four hours to Thalus, then we get a much smaller transport to Yavin 4. That’s a five hour journey. We might be the only ones on it, too.’
‘And Yavin 4 is where you grew up?’
Poe nods. ‘It’s nice,’ he says.
‘It was the headquarters of the Rebellion.’
‘For a while,’ Poe says. He grins. ‘An exciting while, I’ve heard. I wasn’t around then.’
‘Me either,’ Finn says.
‘Once we land, we’ll be close to home,’ Poe says, already picturing it: the brown and grey stone buildings rising from the jungle, the huge trees, and his father’s house, almost hidden behind a profusion of greenery.
‘My dad’s a mechanic at the Massassi Valley spaceport. We can walk to his house.’
‘That was a Rebel spaceport.’
‘Still kind of is,’ Poe says, unconsciously letting pride into his voice. ‘Yavin 4’s an Outer Rim planet, and we’re not sympathetic to the First Order.’
‘Did your father work on Rebel ships?’
‘Sometimes,’ Poe says. ‘He wasn’t always a mechanic. He was a Pathfinder, and he fought at Endor with Han Solo. But after Endor, he and my mother moved to Yavin 4 and he needed a job. So he became a mechanic.’ Poe hesitates, then adds, ‘My mother, by the way, died. A long time ago. When I was eight. But she was a hero in the Rebellion. A fantastic pilot. She knew the General really well.’
‘I’m sorry to hear that she died,’ Finn says, and Poe wonders how Finn always knows how to say things the right way.
‘Thanks,’ he says, and then feels bad for bringing up parents, when Finn doesn’t have any. And then he wonders if this is a terrible idea, bringing Finn home, to meet his dad, to see the perfect little house in the jungle – if Finn is going to feel deprived of everything he doesn’t have and never will.
‘So we’re staying with your father?’
‘That’s the idea.’ Poe glances at him. ‘Is that all right?’
‘Yes,’ Finn says. ‘I can’t wait to meet him.’ There it is again: that way Finn speaks with total sincerity. Poe believes him.
They nap for the rest of the ride to Thalus. Thalus is a bustling spaceport, one of the main connection hubs for journeys on to the Outer Rim in the ancient transport network established at the height of the Old Republic. Poe sees a notice on the board for a transport to Mos Eisley, Tatooine, and feels a pang: Luke Skywalker is – was – from Tatooine. The General’s brother, legendary X-Wing pilot, someone who made the ultimate sacrifice for belief in hope, in rebellion against the rule of fear…
Finn’s hand lands on his arm, viscerally reminding Poe of when they had watched Rey move the boulders on Crait and they had involuntarily grabbed each other’s hands. ‘Yavin 4,’ Finn says, pointing at the board with his other hand while BB-8 beeps agreement. Poe follows his finger to the bay number and time.
This transport is mostly empty. The Old Republic once had supported less popular destinations by subsidizing the cost of frequent transport to them, trying to draw the Outer Rim closer to Coruscant economically, if not physically, but that practice had slipped away centuries before Poe was born, lost to budget cuts and Senatorial wrangling. Now it is expensive to use this style of transport, which is why a thriving black market has sprung up for the service of travel to and from the Outer Rim. Poe doesn’t trust a black market pilot to not recognize them on the wanted holos and alert the First Order, so instead, he pays the exorbitant cost of three tickets – there’s no droid compartment on this one – and they settle into threadbare seats near the back of the ship, a round table in front of them. A food cart comes around and Finn immediately springs forward and buys them some purple tea and a plastic-wrapped packet of dough balls filled with meat.
‘Where’d you get the credits?’ Poe asks.
Poe grins and accepts his tea, which is delightfully warm in his hands. Of course she’d thought of everything.
The transport is chilly. A MD-X851, roughly seventy years old, a model that has probably been running this route uninterrupted since the time of the Late Republic. Jedis might have ridden on it. The last time Poe had gone home, he’d taken his own X-Wing – a fact he laments, now, remembering the explosion. Finn had come running to see if he was all right…
‘Does it bother you to not be the pilot?’ Finn asks.
‘No,’ Poe lies. ‘I mean, maybe a little. But flying one of these would be pretty boring.’ Finn grins at him, knowingly, and Poe grins back. He wants to be flying this more than just about anything. ‘You looked like you were doing all right yourself on Crait. With flying, I mean.’
‘Really?’ Finn asks, sounding incredulous. ‘I barely kept it pointed in a straight line. Rose had to tell me about the ski.’ He looks down at the table and shakes his head. ‘I’ve got to get better at being a pilot. And doing lots of things. We need people who can do lots of things.’
‘Here,’ Poe says, loving that ‘we’. He reaches over to BB-8 and puts a hand on the droid’s smooth, slightly warm body. ‘We’ve got some time. Let’s study some famous battles.’ BB-8 knows what to do, and calls up the Battle of Yavin immediately. ‘Good choice,’ Poe tells him. Finn leans closer to the hologram, his face showing complete focus. Poe surreptitiously watches Finn instead; he’s watched this holo so many times he can narrate it in his sleep.
Together, they go through the stages of the battle: the Y-Wing attack (‘Glad we don’t have those any more,’ Poe says, and when Finn asks why, Poe pauses the holo and launches into Poe’s Professional Opinion about Y-Wings, a talk he’s given so many times that members of his squadron have given it a title. Finn, for some reason, listens raptly, so Poe gets carried away, really breaking down the details of Y-Wing faults as a bomber, compared to, say, the MG-100 StarFortress…); Red Squadron’s entrance (Poe: ‘X-Wings are the greatest ships, even these older models. Look at the manoeuvrability –‘ here moving the hologram backwards and forwards, focused on Luke Skywalker’s ship as it moves down to engage the towers on the surface of the Death Star ‘-at the speed there, you can really get a good spin that no other ship can replicate…’); through the losses (Finn’s face deeply concerned, so that Poe relives the tension that he hasn’t felt viewing this holo in years); and finally to Skywalker’s final shot, the way that the proton torpedoes arc just so, and is it the Force that guides them in or Skywalker’s skill as a pilot, Poe doesn’t know, but he’s thought about it a lot, and he tells Finn about that too. BB-8 cues up Scarif next, a little step back in time, but of course Poe knows his way through this one too, culminating in the bravery of the Hammerhead that always gets him a little choked up. He can tell that Finn feels it deeply too, and he loves him for it.
As they feel the gentle tug of exiting hyperspace, Poe realises that he’s been talking at Finn for the duration of the journey about the thing he knows most about in the galaxy, flying and ships and tactics, and that Finn has been asking him questions, intelligent ones, and he thinks to himself, absolutely not for the first time: I am in deep.
‘Poe,’ Finn says now, as the blue-green sphere of Yavin 4 looms before them. ‘What do you think about the fact that the same people selling the Rebellion – the Resistance – ships are also selling them to the First Order?’
Poe frowns, startled at the question. ‘Is this about Canto Bight?’
‘A little bit, yeah.’
Poe can’t help himself; he sneers. ‘War profiteers,’ he says, ‘not willing to choose a side.’
‘But they sell us ships too, right?’
Poe hesitates, not because he’s ashamed, but because he isn’t sure. ‘I guess so,’ he says. ‘We’d have to ask the General more about that. But I do know that one of the reasons why we’ve always used X-Wings is because Incom – now Incom-FreiTek – won’t work with the First Order. That hasn’t always been the best financial decision, and their manufacturing plants have been bombed, but they’ve stuck with us.’
Finn nods. ‘You love them,’ he says, not in a mocking way. ‘X-Wings. The way you talk about them…’
Poe has taken plenty of good natured ribbing from people over the years about this topic, but coming from Finn, it feels like an honest question that deserves an honest answer. ‘I grew up loving them,’ he says. ‘My earliest memories are of my mother’s. She let me sit on her lap and we went up into space.’ The ship lands, and Finn breathes out, an obvious sigh of relief. ‘You ok?’
‘I want to think about ships the way you do,’ Finn says. He reaches for his small bag and looks at BB-8, who is watching them both, uncharacteristically quiet. ‘I’m trying.’
Chapter 2: Kes
Kes Dameron looks older, and Poe wishes he didn’t. He’s speaking with an R2 unit beside a heavily modified single passenger craft that Poe thinks from the wing shape was probably once a Gesso14Y, an Old Republic-era light pleasure craft that has a tendency to compress in high gravity situations. The reinforced dome around the jutting cockpit further confirms his suspicions. Kes is being patient with the R2, but Poe can tell from his body language that he’s annoyed.
‘Wow,’ Finn says beside him.
‘That’s your father.’
Poe glances at him, startled. ‘How did you know?’
Finn’s mouth seems to struggle with hiding a smile. ‘You look exactly like him.’
Kes looks up then, and his face transforms. ‘Poe?!’
‘Dad,’ Poe says, crossing the shop floor and giving him a tight hug.
‘We received the General’s signal,’ Kes says, gripping Poe’s shoulders tightly. ‘We knew things were bad. But we didn’t have anything to send… We’ve been working on repairing some fighters and getting them fly-ready. There’s a lot of old frames and parts around.’
‘It’s ok,’ Poe says, relieved. They have something to offer. ‘Really. Anything you have.’
Kes leans back and searches his face. ‘I’m happy to see you, Poe, but why are you here?’
‘To recruit. To get new resources.’ Poe, looking at his father’s concern, finally feels the full weight of it. ‘Things are bad.’
‘They’ve been bad before,’ Kes says, bracingly, but his hand on Poe’s shoulder is still very tight. ‘We’ll work on it.’ He hugs Poe again. ‘I’m so happy to see you.’
‘Me too, Dad.’
‘Hi,’ Kes says, reaching past Poe to Finn. ‘I’m Kes Dameron. Poe’s-‘
‘Father,’ Finn says, shaking Kes’s hand and grinning. ‘I got that.’
‘This is Finn,’ Poe says, and then, too late, ‘my friend.’
‘Finn,’ Kes repeats, and Poe can hear that his father, who has been sort-of-joking for years about wanting a son-in-law, has gotten exactly the wrong idea. ‘So nice to meet you.’
‘You too,’ Finn says warmly, and Poe wants to slap himself in the face, because his father is absolutely going to keep the wrong idea with Finn’s friendly attitude.
‘Where did you come from?’ Kes asks. ‘All the way from Crait?’
‘We hitched a ride to Amboro,’ Poe says. ‘Then passed through Thalus.’
‘That’s a long journey,’ Kes says. ‘You boys must be exhausted.’ He glances at the controller he wears on his wrist. ‘It’s late here too, I didn’t even realise.’ The forgotten R2 unit beside the modded ship beeps indignantly. ‘Yes, yes, we’ll finish this in the morning,’ Kes tells it, and it zooms off, conveying extreme displeasure. Kes rolls his eyes. ‘That thing’s a real mess. Let’s go set your bags down at home and get some dinner.’
At the house, Poe says, ‘I’ll make up a bed for you in the guest room,’ to Finn, pointedly looking at Kes.
‘This is where you grew up,’ Finn says. He’s looking around at everything. ‘It’s so nice,’ he adds.
‘Thanks,’ says Kes, beaming. ‘That’s too kind. Poe, why don’t you show him your room?’
‘My childhood bedroom?’ Poe says, giving his father death eyes.
‘Yes!’ Finn says. ‘I would love to see that.’
Poe looks between the two of them – Finn, clearly excited, and Kes, who is struggling to suppress a laugh – and wonders if bringing Finn was a mistake.
Finn is seemingly fascinated by everything in his room, especially the three photographs on the wall beside his bed. Poe tries to imagine not knowing this place and seeing it for the first time as Finn examines each one.
First, his mother and him on a beach, Poe a little dark-haired boy with an intense look of concentration on his face as his mother prepares to toss him into the waves. ‘That’s you,’ Finn says, sounding wondering. Poe realises with a pang that Finn has never seen a photograph of himself as a child.
Second, his parents’ wedding, with his parents standing side by side at the centre, and, flanking them, the General and Han Solo. ‘It’s crazy that your parents know them.’
‘The Rebellion wasn’t a big place,’ Poe says. He runs his fingers down the glass over his mother and the General.
And third, a larger photo, this one clearly made as a joke, featuring Poe’s mother posing dramatically in front of her T-65B X-Wing, her hands on her hips, her gaze off to the distance. A huge caption painted across the front of it reads, ‘What Would Shara Do?’
‘Her squadron made that for her,’ Poe says. ‘As a parting gift when she retired.’
‘She seems like she was great,’ Finn says.
Poe can feel his gaze. ‘She was,’ he says simply.
In the guest bedroom, Kes has made up the bed. ‘It can get colder here at night,’ he says, clearly fretting over blanket choice.
‘This is so nice,’ Finn says, looking around at the room. ‘I hope it’s not an inconvenience.’
Kes and Poe trade a look and Kes laughs. ‘We have had so many heroes of the Resistance sleeping in this room over the years…’
‘All the time I was growing up,’ Poe adds. ‘People were always staying with us.’
‘You must know,’ Kes says to Finn, ‘it’s not a lifestyle conducive to having your own home.’
Finn grins. ‘I can see that,’ he says.
‘So,’ Kes says, ‘you join the long line of Resistance fighters to sleep here. But don’t worry, I always clean the sheets.’
Poe rolls his eyes as Finn laughs. ‘That was a pity laugh.’
‘Never,’ Finn says. ‘Thank you so much.’
Kes is giving Poe a Look that clearly means I like him. ‘I’ll let you get settled in. Then let’s go over to Samos and get some food.’
Poe’s mouth starts watering, but… ‘I should go inspect those ship components,’ he says. ‘See what we’re dealing with.’
Kes and Finn convince Poe to come to dinner, mainly by promising him that they will go immediately from the restaurant to the hangar. Poe suspects he’s being lied to but the two together are an unstoppable force of Poe-suasion. Everyone at Samos knows Kes and Poe, and they receive free wine as a welcome home from the owner of the restaurant. They sit at rickety wooden chairs on the beach and Samos himself carries a table to them, the tide having recently receded, this new sandy real estate theirs to claim. Finn marvels at the sea, the smell, even the serpentine gullies who constantly dodge and dart around the table, trying to snatch bits of their food, despite another restaurant patron threatening them with a warning shot from a blaster. Poe marvels at having Finn here, in his most familiar, safe place in all the galaxy.
Kes steps to the bar to speak with a friend, and Finn leans over to Poe and whispers, ‘I’ve never had wine before.’
Poe grins. ‘Be careful, then.’
‘Did you tell your father about me?’ Finn asks.
For a second, Poe thinks, I don’t have to tell him how I feel about you, he knows, but then he realises that Finn means something else. ‘About you being a former stormtrooper?’ Finn nods, a worried look on his face. ‘No,’ Poe says quickly, ‘but he won’t care. He fought with former Imperials in the Rebellion.’
Finn makes a nervous face at him that makes Poe’s stomach swoop. ‘You sure?’
‘It’s not like you voluntarily joined up,’ Poe points out. ‘Also, you saved my life. So that’s going to be a big thing for him.’
‘Right,’ Finn says. ‘I guess I did.’ He leans back in his chair and takes a tentative sip of the wine. ‘This is… interesting.’
Unsurprisingly, Finn winds up drunk. After a weaving walk home from the restaurant, Poe sees to it that he makes it into the guest bedroom, keeping careful hands on his arms and chest. As they get into the bedroom, Finn grabs his hand and says, ‘This was a mistake?’ and Poe can’t help himself, a little tipsy, and starts giggling, so Finn does too.
‘It’s all right,’ Poe says. ‘How does it feel?’
Finn considers, seriously, his hand still holding Poe’s. ‘I’m not… sure.’
Poe longs to raise Finn’s hand to his lips and kiss it, but instead he pushes him lightly so that he sits down on the bed and says, ‘The best cure is sleep.’ Finn nods obediently, swings his legs up onto the bed, and shuts his eyes.
As Poe is leaving, Finn calls, ‘Thank you, Poe. For everything.’
‘It’s nothing,’ Poe says, more quietly than he intends. ‘Really.’ He looks back at Finn, who appears to have already fallen asleep. He knows he’ll never make the first move here. Finn is innocent in a way that frightens Poe with its power. No matter what his body wants – and fuck, it wants a lot right now – he could never forgive himself if he hurt Finn.
Poe walks out to the screened-in porch that serves as a dining room and finds his father seated at the table, looking at a holo of a Y-Wing.
‘No,’ Poe says, shaking his head. ‘No, no, no.’
‘We’ve got quite a few of them,’ Kes says, looking up at him. ‘Do you need bombers?’
Poe feels a wave of shame rush through him. ‘Yes,’ he says quietly.
‘Well, I thought I should take a look at them just in case,’ Kes says, and zooms in on the aft engine. ‘They’re a mystery, aren’t they?’
‘Obsolete by Endor,’ Poe says, shaking his head, trying not to think about the losses they sustained – losses that were on him – taking out that dreadnought. He’s been telling himself for days that if they hadn’t destroyed it, then they would have been destroyed by it the second it tracked them through hyperspace, but the loss of his people is an inescapable ache that he carries everywhere.
‘Want to talk about Finn?’ Kes asks, maybe misinterpreting Poe’s silence, or maybe getting it and offering him the mercy of a change of subject.
‘What about him?’ Poe asks, sitting down in front of the holo and rotating it.
‘How’d you meet?’
Poe laughs. ‘That’s actually a great story.’
‘Let’s hear it then.’
‘I got captured by the First Order,’ Poe says. ‘Long, not great story why. So I’m being held on one of their ships in orbit over Jakku. A stormtrooper comes to transfer me to somewhere – I’m thinking an execution. The stormtrooper leads me into a corner and I’m thinking this is it and then he pulls off his helmet and tells me he’s rescuing me.’ He pauses, remembering his first look at his face, the utter shock he’d experienced as the trooper had removed his helmet. ‘It was Finn.’
Kes raises his eyebrows. ‘A spy?’
Poe shakes his head. ‘A defector. He was in his first battle and he couldn’t go through with killing civilians. He knew I was a pilot and needed me to fly us out of there.’
‘And you did?’
‘Yeah,’ Poe says. ‘We stole a TIE/fo.’
‘Ooh,’ Kes says. ‘I’ve never even gotten to take a look at one of those. How was it?’
‘Fast. Honestly? Fun.’
Kes laughs. ‘I bet.’
‘You barely even feel the thrusters. You tap it and you’re gone.’
‘So you and Finn fly off in a TIE…’
‘We got shot down, actually,’ Poe says. ‘I was being stupid, made a mistake and got hit by one of their guns. We crashed on Jakku. I got thrown from the crash and thought he was dead. The same thing happened to him – he came looking for me in the cockpit but thought I’d burned to death.’ Kes grimaces and Poe says, ‘Don’t worry! We were both barely even injured.’
Kes rolls his eyes. ‘Barely even injured, sounds like just what I was hoping for. Go on.’
‘So, we made our way separately to Resistance headquarters. I landed after a little mission and BB-8 told me he was there and… I’ve never been so happy to see someone.’ Poe contemplates the holo, remembering his joy at seeing BB-8, and then his disbelief at the news that Finn was the one who had rescued his droid. He’d figured the handsome stormtrooper was someone he’d see once and think about for the rest of his life. Instead, he’d looked up from BB-8 and seen Finn and everything had stopped. All he’d known was the need to get to him as fast as he could. He remembers Finn’s arms around him in a tight hug, seeing Finn in his jacket, losing his mind to say one of the all-time worst corny lines about the jacket – ‘Keep it, it suits you.’ Thank whatever cosmic forces were out there that Finn hadn’t laughed in his face.
‘And then…?’ Kes prompts.
‘And then a lot of other things happened. He got hurt and was in a bacta suit for a while. When he got better, it was in the middle of a fight and…’ Poe doesn’t want to talk about the events of the past few days. ‘Well, we haven’t really had too many quiet moments since. The General sent most of us off on this recruitment mission. Since he was a stormtrooper, he doesn’t know his homeworld or his family, so I asked him to come with me.’
Kes raises his eyebrows at Poe. ‘This seems complicated.’
‘Oh,’ Poe says, slumping into his chair, ‘yeah. It is.’
They both contemplate that for a moment. Then:
‘For what it’s worth,’ Kes says, ‘I absolutely adore him.’
Poe looks up at his father. ‘Yeah,’ he says wearily, ‘me too.’
Chapter 3: Where We Stand (and Fight)
Poe wakes up at the exact early time he does every morning and is briefly disorientated. His childhood bedroom is not where he expected to be awake and thinking about the morning’s ship report.
Then he remembers that they have no ships.
And that it’s partly his fault.
He stands and walks down the hallway to the toilet, feeling his way along the wall in the semi-darkness of the time just before sunrise. They don’t use doors on Yavin 4, just long, heavy curtains that touch the floor, and when he passes Finn’s, the curtain is slightly pushed aside, and he’s almost involuntarily drawn to peek into the room. Finn is sprawled across his bed, blankets mostly off, not wearing a shirt. His chest is muscular, with a hint of hair on it. Poe is going to remember that sight for the rest of his life. He brings a glass of water into Finn’s room and leaves it on the desk beside the bed with a note to drink it when he wakes.
He walks down the hill to the hangar with BB-8 as soon as he’s showered. Together, they poke around the ship his father was trying to fix until they get it airworthy again. Poe loses himself in the mechanical task. He’s surrounded by the loud arichi music one of the mechanics is blaring through speakers covered in vines on the hangar wall above, and by the scent of his homeworld’s sea that wafts in through the open bay doors. For the first time in his life, he longs for nothing more than this.
‘There will come a time,’ the General had said to the small class of officers when Poe was first elevated to the command of a squadron, ‘when you will make a mistake so terrible that your first instinct will be to try to die as a martyr rather than to fly home and face yourself and the family of the person whose death is on your hands.’
Poe has never truly felt those words until now. He’s terrified to face Rose, or any of the other dozens of Roses that he knows exist.
‘But trust me,’ the General had continued, and Poe had been stupid then to not hear how personally she felt those words. He understands now. ‘Trust me, all of you, when I say that the braver choice is always to live.’
Poe thinks of Holdo. She, too, had made the braver choice. But then, she hadn’t had the deaths of dozens of people – people who had trusted her – on her hands. She had done the best she could with what she was given. Done better than he would have done with the same command.
BB-8 is beeping excitedly, cutting into his thoughts. He slides out from underneath the engine compartment and sees Kes and – stomach dip, yep, he’s still got the will to live – Finn. The image of him in bed flashes vividly through Poe’s head.
‘What do you think of that aftermarket motivator?’ Kes asks, grinning.
‘I think this ship is 90% aftermarket, and it wasn’t a good market,’ Poe replies, sitting up on the sliding board. ‘It’s mostly fixed, though.’
‘How long have you been here?’ Finn asks.
Poe looks at BB-8, not sure. The droid beeps, a little mournfully. ‘Three hours.’
‘Couldn’t sleep?’ Kes asks sympathetically.
‘I wanted to finish this for you so we could go inspect those other ships.’ Finn looks away, grinning. ‘What?’
‘Is he always like this?’ Finn asks Kes, which annoys Poe.
‘Oh yes,’ Kes says, nodding. ‘His mother was just the same.’ Kes ruffles Poe’s hair, which is even more annoying. ‘He’s been on a mission since he could walk.’
‘We are here on a mission,’ Poe points out. ‘We need people, ships, funding.’
‘I know,’ Finn says soothingly. ‘But I am pretty sure that General Organa also wanted you to take a break.’
Poe is aghast. ‘She didn’t say that.’
‘Not specifically, no,’ Finn says. ‘But it was pretty heavily insinuated that she wanted everyone in the Resistance to go home and regroup.’ Poe’s face must betray some of the panic he feels, because Finn adds, in a gentler tone, ‘It’s been a rough few weeks, don’t you think?’
Poe stands up and brushes himself off rather than come up with a response. He doesn’t want to take a break; if he stops moving, he’ll implode. ‘I would just like to know what we’re working with,’ he says, looking at his father.
And Kes, who knows him better than anyone, smiles a little sadly and says, ‘Let me deal with this ship’s owner and then we’ll go see what we’ve got.’
The path to the old Rebel hangar is overgrown, left purposely neglected in case of attack or infiltration. Kes leads them through dense rainforest – Yavin 4’s specialty – cutting aside vines with a machete. Poe can tell that people have been through here recently from the newly cut branches, but he knows that for anyone who didn’t grow up running through the jungle it probably seems untouched. Behind him, Finn slips a little, and Poe reaches out a hand to catch him. Finn clasps his hand tightly for a second and nods; Poe realises that he seems to have become preternaturally aware of Finn’s physical presence. As they cross a stream, he automatically reaches back just as Finn reaches out for his shoulder.
‘Slippery,’ Finn says, looking at him.
‘Yeah,’ Poe agrees. ‘It takes some getting used to.’ He turns back and sees Kes regarding them with an unreadable but distinctly kind look on his face. For Finn’s sake, he asks, ‘Are we close?’
‘Very,’ Kes says, pushing aside a bundle of leaves to reveal a rough wall of volcanic stone. The wall is carved with sinuous, serpentine symbols – some remnant of the old Massasi architecture that haunts these jungles. Kes reaches along the wall into the greenery, pulls a hidden lever, and a touchpad appears. BB-8, who has been keeping close to Poe’s feet to avoid getting slapped with foliage, rolls forward and inspects it. Kes taps in a code and the door slides open with a low rumble. They step inside, Kes first, Poe motioning Finn and BB-8 ahead of him before he enters the massive, shadowy space of a hangar.
Kes says to Finn, ‘Yavin 4 was one of the birthplaces of the Rebellion. Disparate star systems came together here under the leadership of Senator Mon Mothma, Senator Bail Organa, and others.’ Poe can see Finn looking around with wide eyes. ‘Yavin 4 was ideal tactically because the old Massasi buildings are huge and structurally in great condition despite their age. They’re also hidden from any kind of life scans because of the massive signals given off by the jungle.’
‘This is amazing,’ Poe hears Finn say, but he’s looking around at the ships in various states of repair and calculating. They’re old. Very old.
Poe has known most of the people present in the cavernous hangar for a long as he can remember. They remind him of comfort, of the smell of new ship components and how it feels to learn. The first to see him is the man called Thurbados, who is always accompanied by a sleek, silent diamine that Poe used to pet for hours while watching his father and her owner work on X-wings. Thurbados approaches him, a little older now, and shakes his hand.
"We saw the General's signal and feared the worst," he says.
Poe struggles with what to say and settles for, "We're still here. Let's see what you've got."
Thurbados nods. His diamine is riding on his shoulder, and leaps into Poe’s arms once he gets close enough. Finn, beside him, bursts into startled laughter as she flows up Poe’s shoulders and neck, purring and rubbing herself on his face. Poe grins in spite of himself and strokes her soft head. ‘I missed you too, buddy,’ he says, as BB-8 chirps with a hint of jealousy. Poe reaches down with one hand and pats the droid. ‘Don’t worry,’ he says, and the diamine leaps from his shoulder to BB-8’s head, bounces, and then lands on the arm of Thurbados’s heavy leather jacket, claws digging in so she can stay in place.
‘Poe,’ Kes says quietly. Poe looks up to see several other people approaching. He greets them all, mechanics, shipbuilders, pilots retired and active, trying to answer questions, until someone says, ‘Get him a place to stand!’ and he finds himself forced to give an impromptu speech on a ladder platform used for ship maintenance, holding one of BB-8’s attachments to amplify his voice.
‘Listen,’ he says, trying to gather his thoughts. ‘I know the news doesn’t sound good.’
‘We got the General’s signal,’ says Mala, an older pilot.
‘I know,’ Poe says. ‘And I’ll be honest with you: we took a lot of damage.’ He swallows and looks in the crowd, eyes roaming with no destination in mind. All he can think of are the lives lost, the calculation: was it worth it?
Then he sees Finn.
In ancient navigation, when disparate star systems first struggled to escape the bonds of gravity, they had had a concept called a Signal Star: a distant sun that remained fixed due to the vagaries of planetary and solar rotation and revolution. The Signal Star guided the earliest explorers into the skies and, more importantly to Poe, served as a guide to bring them home again.
Looking at Finn’s face looking up at him, determined, serious, encouraging, he sees his Signal Star.
'But it isn't all bad news,' he says, and his own voice sounds more strident. 'Snoke is dead.'
There's gasps from the assembled audience, so Poe repeats it, looking hard at the crowd. 'Snoke is dead.'
Someone in the crowd calls, 'Who's in charge of the First Order?'
'Kylo Ren,' Poe says, and his body remembers torture: the sick feeling of violation. He has to consciously unclench his fist, look again at Finn, centre himself. 'But he's impulsive. A terrible tactician. We saw that for ourselves at Crait.' Finn nods, once, sharply. 'There’s more. Vice Admiral Holdo brilliantly destroyed their capital ship. Heroic,' he swallows, 'heroic Resistance bombers destroyed a dreadnought.' He stops, because that’s where the good news ends.
‘I want to introduce you to someone,’ he hears himself say. Finn blinks and Poe waves at him. Finn makes an embarrassed face and Poe waves some more. Kes gives Finn a little shove on the back, and he finally starts to move. As Finn walks to the front of the crowd, Poe says, ‘This is Finn. He saved my life. He left the First Order and joined the Resistance.’ He stops, not sure where to go with this, as Finn joins him on the platform, suddenly close and warm and a little intoxicating.
Finn looks into his eyes for a moment and then turns to the crowd and says, ‘Thanks, Poe, that’s really kind of you to bring me up here. And I’m not the only defector from the First Order, I’m sure of it. I made a choice for myself, but there will be lots more like me. They take children from their homeworlds to turn them into stormtroopers – it’s not like they recruit based on their ideals.’ Poe watches Finn, a little breathless at his charisma. The passion in his voice is evident. ‘That’s because their ideals are nothing but greed and fear. They want to strip the galaxy of its resources and enslave its people – just so the very few can have ultimate power. They know the only way to do that is to make the rest of us live in so much terror that we submit.’ Finn looks over at Poe, who attempts, mostly unsuccessfully, to close his mouth. ‘We’re here, like you are, to fight to make the galaxy a safe and free place for everyone.’ He grins at Poe. ‘We’re here because it’s the right thing to do.’
Poe grins back. Distantly, he’s aware that there’s spoken assent coming from the crowd, but there is nothing that could make him take his eyes off of Finn right now. He manages to say, ‘So right now, we need ships, we need other supplies, and we need new fighters. That’s what we’re here to do.’
‘And what other Resistance members are doing all across the galaxy right now,’ Finn adds, and he turns to look out at the crowd, somehow breaking Poe’s spell and allowing him to do so too.
‘Exactly. All over the galaxy, we’re rebuilding. You’re going to be vital to that. Your work here is so valuable, and so appreciated.’ Poe looks out at the people he’s known his whole life. The thought that he’s very, very lucky to have been born here passes through his head. Would he have arrived at the conclusions that Finn has if he’d been a stormtrooper? He hopes so. ‘So, we’re going to give you,’ he glances at his watch, which multiple people have joked should have a single hand pointing to ‘We’re already late,’ and says, ‘a half hour. Then Finn and I are going to walk around and inspect the different ships, see what we’ve got, take inventory, and see where we’re going. All right?’
Everyone nods or says yes or otherwise assents, and sets off, looking determined. Poe turns to Finn. ‘Thanks for coming up here,’ he says, trying to sound apologetic. ‘I know I put you on the spot.’
‘No, it was good,’ Finn says, and he puts his hand on Poe’s forearm. ‘This is what the General asked us to do. For the Resistance.’
Poe nods. ‘Thanks, buddy. I’m terrible at saying that inspirational stuff. You absolutely killed it.’ From the ground, BB-8 beeps quizzically. ‘Come on, we’ve got some time to kill.’
Poe leads Finn to a small kitchen area in one corner of the hangar and uses the control panel there to make them both a cup of Yavin’s particular ground bean tea, which has an elaborate grinding-steeping-stirring process that Poe always finds soothing to complete. Finn watches him intently, and that’s not soothing at all, but it’s definitely not bad either. When he hands him the finished cup, frothy with creamy white moof milk, Finn sniffs it and says, ‘Is this like wine?’
Poe laughs. ‘This does the opposite. It clarifies. Careful, it’s hot. And it might be an acquired taste…’
Finn takes a small sip and smiles. ‘I like it,’ he says. ‘Yavin 4 seems great.’
‘It is,’ Poe agrees. And then, feeling badly: ‘I’m really, really lucky.’
Finn waves a hand as if to say, ‘No matter.’ ‘So tell me what we’re looking for,’ he says, ‘when we’re inspecting ships.’
‘Well,’ Poe says, thinking hard. He’s been inspecting them his whole life. Starting from first principles will be a good thought experiment. ‘First of all, these are old ships. They’re going to show wear. Look for things like scorch marks – it could be evidence of a short, or some other electrical problem, or maybe just where the ship got hit with blaster fire and the frame weakened. Look for missing rivets or other connectors. Anything that appears out of place.’
Finn winces. ‘I’m not sure I’ll know what’s out of place. In fact, I know I won’t.’
‘I’m going to look at the exact same things,’ Poe says, reassuringly. ‘You’ll learn.’
Indeed, Finn proves to have an excellent eye for spotting things that are out of place, which is exactly what Poe needs – another reason to love Finn. They spend hours together, pouring over each ship, giving BB-8 notes, and by the end of it, Poe trusts Finn’s judgment nearly as much as he trusts his own.
The last ship they inspect is an ancient T-65 that Kes seems to be trying to resurrect with scrap metal over its holes. Poe knows instantly whose ship this was. The half-completed Death Star painted just under the entrance to the cockpit signifies its service at Endor.
‘You don’t have to fix this one,’ he says to Kes.
‘Shush,’ Kes replies. ‘Shara’s somewhere telling me to get it fixed for you.’
Poe glances back at Finn, who mouths, ‘Your mother?’ Poe nods, once, and then walks around the X-Wing. It’s in bad shape. His mother had died of a sudden illness, probably as a delayed result of the chemicals used by the Imperial mining operations that had destroyed her home planet while she was a child. She’d left behind a husband, a son, and this ship. The latter had carried her for over a decade through battle after battle and its body still bears witness to that protective role. Poe walks to the side opposite his father, where he knows Kes can’t see him, and lays his forehead against the cool skin of the ship. What would Shara think of him, of his mistakes? He hears Finn’s footsteps and looks up just as Finn walks around the corner. Finn nods at him and Poe pushes himself off the body and says, ‘How does she look to you?’
‘There’s some scorch marks,’ Finn says, voice gentle.
‘Yeah,’ Poe says, nodding, talking himself down from emotion, ‘that is very true.’
‘This thing is a real dinosaur,’ Kes says from the other side of the ship. ‘It might be the only running T-65 left. Unless Luke Skywalker still has his…’
Poe and Finn give each other a look, and then Poe opens his mouth to break the news.
Chapter 4: Discovery
Time for a classic fanfic trope: sharing a bed.
The next morning, Poe wakes at his usual time and almost falls out of bed in surprise. Sitting at his feet, knees drawn up and a book open on his lap, is Finn.
‘Good morning,’ Finn says pleasantly.
‘Yeah,’ Poe says, still startled, pushing himself up to lean against the wall behind his head. ‘Couldn’t sleep?’
Finn closes the book, shaking his head. ‘I asked BB-8 to get me up early so I could catch you.’ He glances at his watch and grins. ‘He warned me it would be early, but I don’t think I knew how early.’
‘I’m a morning person,’ Poe says, a little defensively, glancing at his droid. The lack of loyalty is stunning.
‘Sure,’ Finn says, ‘but this doesn’t really qualify as morning yet, does it? Anyway, I knew you’d be going down to the hangar. I want you to keep teaching me about ships. I want to learn everything I can.’
Poe blinks and wonders if maybe, just maybe, it’s as obvious to Finn as it is to him that they are made for each other. ‘Happy to help, buddy,’ he says. If Finn wants to spend every waking moment with him talking about the mechanics of space travel… ‘I’m going to shower, and then we can go.’
‘Great,’ Finn says, and he reopens the book. ‘I already did that,’ he adds. ‘BB-8 showed me how to use it.’
Poe shoots his droid another look. BB-8 rotates his head a little, as if to say, you know how charming he can be. ‘Glad you guys are friends,’ he says, more to the droid than Finn.
The shower is open air, behind the house, and cordoned off with three tall walls of woven reeds, forming a tight triangle with a hose hanging into it. It’s rustic, which is why Poe assumes Finn needed direction. Once he steps inside and tugs the reed wall into place, his mind immediately focuses on thoughts of Finn showering. Finn naked, in between these walls, Finn’s body… Poe leans forward with a hand on the reed wall that he knows is supported by the wall of the house, his other hand reaching down to touch himself. It’s the first time he’s really thought about Finn beyond a generalised longing, but from his single glimpse of Finn’s naked chest two nights ago, it’s easy for him to imagine what it would feel like to touch Finn, to run his hands down his body…
But he can’t imagine what it would be like for Finn to touch him; it feels like he’s going too far. He puts his head against the back of his hand, pressed into the wall, and exhales shakily. Finn is apparently something so special that he can’t even have a wank about him without too many feelings. He grabs the bar of soap, caught between weary annoyance and disgust. This, he tells himself as he scrubs his arms, is why you don’t fall in love with a straight man.
Angst aside, their days fall into a nice routine. Poe sends BB-8 to wake Finn whenever he does, and then they go together to the hangar, and work on ships until lunch. After that, they try to fulfil the second part of their mission: recruitment.
Leia has provided them some ideas about what to say to convince people to join their side:
‘The First Order uses the vast material wealth of the small group of people invested in war to buy fear – they buy it through enormous ships, through legions of enslaved soldiers. The reason why it took the Republic so long to rebuild is because it was built on democracy, on the will of all of the people – and it’s much harder for people to grasp their freedom than it is to threaten them into fear.’
Poe knows he can’t say any of it convincingly, despite Finn’s protestations, but Finn can. Florid prose flows off his tongue and becomes heroic speech. Finn looks the part, too, Poe thinks: handsome, strong, any number of other adjectives that he’s liable to start saying aloud if he’s not careful. Finn convinces people, but not as many as either of them would like. It’s not Finn, as Poe reassures him, but the fact that Yavin 4 has always been so close to the Rebellion/Resistance that everyone who would even remotely consider joining already has done so. Still, they are having some luck, and Finn is rapidly picking up everything there is to know about flying. Poe tries to obey his father and let himself feel comfortable for a few weeks. If it works at all, it’s because Finn is there. He still dwells on his mistakes every moment that the other man isn’t distracting him – but at least there’s moments of distraction.
One night, some of the younger mechanics invite them down to the beach for a party. There’s a bonfire, and music, and drinking, and at some point after sunset, Poe gets dared to jump off a cliff into the sea. He’s done it a million times, but he doesn’t tell Finn that, and the other man follows him up the cliff path asking him if he’s sure this is a good idea. At the top, a warm breeze whips around them. The sea glows with a brilliant purple bioluminescence from the algae that lives on its floor, and it illuminates the night in a flickering, warm glow. Poe remembers how high the cliff is and it spurs him on. He starts stripping off his clothing until he’s wearing nothing but his briefs.
‘Poe, this is crazy!’ Finn says, and Poe looks over at him and grins.
‘It’s great,’ he says, tempted by the night and the wine to step forward and kiss Finn, but then Finn does something more surprising and, looking directly into Poe’s eyes, he unbuttons the front of his tunic.
‘Are we really doing this?’ Finn asks him, and there’s a tease in his voice that makes Poe go weak at the knees.
‘We’re doing this,’ he replies, unable to stop grinning.
Finn tosses aside his shirt and steps out of his trousers; Poe is sure he’s staring, but he’s tipsy and he could write a poem about the long muscles in Finn’s thighs. He’d probably compare them to the wings of a sleek fighter…
Finn steps to the edge and looks back at him, holding out a hand. ‘I don’t know about this.’
Poe grabs his hand and drags him backwards. ‘We’ve got to run for it,’ he says. As they leap off the edge he lets out a ‘Whoop!’ Finn’s hand clenches his. In the water, they surface together, Finn laughing and gasping, and Poe doing the same, happier than he’s felt in he can’t say how long.
After they swim to shore, they climb back up to the top of the cliff, slipping in their bare feet, to retrieve their clothing. By the time they reach the top, they’re dry enough that they can dress. Finn flops backward onto the grass, re-buttoning his tunic, and Poe, running his hands through his hair to dry it out, looks down at him with what he knows is a stupid grin on his face.
‘That was amazing,’ Finn says. ‘This is amazing. Yavin 4 is amazing.’
‘Look,’ Poe says, seeing in the distance one of the classic views on the planet – the two tallest Massasi temples, towering over the jungle and silhouetted in moonlight. Finn sits up as Poe sits down beside him in the long grass. They lean together, the movement in unison, instinctual, so that their shoulders touch; Poe sits cross-legged, while Finn leans back on his hands, his legs out in front. They watch in companionable silence, the party below forgotten, for what feels like an hour as the moon ascends, its reddish hue casting the jungle and the temples and the skin on their hands and faces in its warm light. Poe wishes his thoughts could be as peaceful as the night.
‘Do you want to talk about what happened with the mutiny?’ Finn asks quietly, because he’s apparently got some latent Jedi abilities. ‘I can tell that it’s killing you.’
Poe looks down at his hands, instantly transported to the deep well of guilt that seems to occupy most of the interior space of his body. ‘A lot of people died because of me,’ he says.
‘You did what you thought was right,’ Finn says, and his voice surprises Poe with its fierceness. ‘What more could you do?’
‘Lots,’ Poe says, not even trying to stop sounding bitter. Not with Finn. ‘So much more.’
‘You thought you were doing as much as you could,’ Finn points out.
‘I wonder,’ Poe says quietly, longing to lean closer, longing to reach behind and rest his hand close enough to Finn’s to touch it, ‘I wonder if I would have made the same choice as you did. If I hadn’t grown up here, with my parents, with every opportunity they gave me…’
‘You would have,’ Finn says instantly. ‘There’s no question in my mind.’
Poe smiles. ‘Thanks, buddy.’
‘You know,’ Finn adds, ‘I’m not such a great hero myself. I tried to run away twice.’
Poe glances over at him, then back at the horizon. Finn is giving him an intensely serious look. ‘From the First Order?’
‘No,’ Finn says. ‘After. First, when Rey wanted to take BB-8 back to the Resistance and we went to Maz’s. I was on my way to join a freighter crew and live the rest of my life in the Outer Rim until the First Order showed up.’
‘I think –‘ Poe starts, but Finn holds up a hand.
‘And second, when I thought things were hopeless for us. I thought that Rey would come to a destroyed fleet or a bunch of prisoners. So I took her tracer and I decided to run away. And then I met Rose, and she stopped me.’
Poe thinks, with a spasm of jealousy that cuts through him like a shot from a blaster, that of course it was Rey and Rose in Finn’s mind.
‘I thought,’ Finn says quietly, again with the mind reading, ‘that you could take care of yourself.’
‘Thanks, buddy,’ Poe says, looking back at the temples. ‘Turns out I couldn’t.’ He pauses for a second; self-doubt isn’t something he particularly wants to bore Finn with, and he also doesn’t want Finn to catch how much this hurts. He’s got tactical issues on his mind too. ‘We need to be ready for whatever technology the First Order used to get through our cloaking devices,’ he says.
‘Oh,’ Finn says, ‘DJ told them. The codebreaker.’
Poe blinks. ‘About the transports?’
‘When he overheard you on the comlink,’ Finn says, and when Poe’s face does whatever it does now that he’s horrified, Finn, looking stricken, says, ‘I thought you knew.’
‘He overheard me?’ Poe repeats.
‘Poe,’ Finn says. ‘Poe, I’m so sorry. I thought you knew.’
‘I need… a moment,’ Poe says. He shoves himself to his feet; behind him, he can hear Finn saying something, but he doesn’t take it in as he walks rapidly down the cliff, his vision a blur despite the moonlight, every step down a potential pitfall, and he stumbles more than once, and stumbles again on flat ground as he walks rapidly to his father’s house and into the small communications room. He pulls out his communicator and puts in a code he knows he’s not supposed to use except in case of an emergency. But this is, this is…
The signal travels through the vast distance of space, and he sits, hands clenched in his lap except when he’s fiddling with dials. He doesn’t know what time of day it is where she is, he doesn’t know who will answer, he doesn’t know –
‘Comm- Captain Dameron?’
‘General Organa, please.’
There’s only a few moments of static and then the General appears. He can’t tell where she is, but he thinks she looks older. He’s seized by a sudden fear for her life, by a mortal terror of the fragility of even the strongest person he’s ever met. ‘Permission to speak alone, General.’
‘Sure, Poe,’ she says, ‘give me a moment.’ The hologram disappears and he waits for what feels like an eternity before she reappears.
‘You figured it out?’ she asks quietly.
‘Finn told me – I didn’t know – ‘
‘Rose debriefed me,’ she says.
‘I’m sorry,’ Poe says, and then he says it again, over and over, because it’s the only thing he can say. ‘I’m sorry for disobeying you at the dreadnought. I’m sorry-‘
‘Poe,’ the General says gently, ‘your heart has always been in the right place. But now you’re learning the more painful process of getting your head there too.’
Poe makes a noise of despair and puts his head in his hands. ‘How can I face them?’ he whispers. ‘How can I face the families of the people I killed?’
‘Some people need to run away. Someone asked me once.’ Poe understands that she means Han. ‘Contrary to popular opinion, I’m not just an ice princess,’ she adds. ‘I did consider it.’
Poe huffs a laugh, startled.
‘But I didn’t do it. And I don’t think you will either.’ Poe shakes his head. She tells him, ‘A good leader learns from their mistakes. Poe, you think I’ve never been responsible for people’s deaths because I was stupid? It comes with the territory.’ She pauses, and says, less stridently, ‘I will carry them with me forever, but the best way to honour them is to learn from failure. Don’t let their deaths be in vain.’
Poe feels marginally better; not like he’s absolved, but like he’s been given permission to begin the lifelong process of absolving himself. He puts away the transmission equipment and walks heavily down the hallway to his room. It is very late, but he finds Finn sitting on his bed.
‘We all made that choice, together,’ Finn says immediately. ‘None of us trusted Holdo.’
‘I should have been the leader there,’ Poe replies. He feels empty. Finn sitting on his bed any other time would have been a miracle, but right now, he’s just exhausted. Finn pats the space beside him and Poe slumps down onto it, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, his face in his hands. Finn’s hand settles onto his shoulder and squeezes.
‘Poe, you tried to do what you thought was right.’
‘I should have trusted the leadership of the Resistance. I thought that I deserved a command that I didn’t.’ Every word feels necessary. ‘This is all on me. All of it. I’m responsible for so much.’
‘You didn’t know we’d get caught. We shouldn’t have trusted DJ. We were too – too convinced of the goodness of people, I guess.’
‘I don’t think that’s the lesson here,’ Poe says. He turns his head, still resting on his hands, to look at Finn, probably the only person in the galaxy he would admit these things to. ‘I’m not the only one who should be in charge if the General can’t be. Hell, I’m probably not even the tenth person who should be. I need to trust that other people can fix things too.’
‘You’re a leader,’ Finn says, quietly. ‘You’re learning.’
Poe puts his head back into his hands, thinking. After some time has passed, he realises that Finn's hand has slipped down to his lower back, where it’s making soothing circles just above his waistband. He looks up to meet Finn’s eyes and there’s something there – a charge that makes his breath catch.
Finn says, "I want to stay here with you tonight. Is that all right?"
Poe’s heart starts thudding like he’s just gotten the signal that there are a hundred TIEs incoming. "Yeah," he says, not sure how to pitch his voice. He wants to ask: "So should I do sexy now? Are you going to do sexy now?" Instead he says, "Yeah," again, in a slightly lower tone.
Finn stops touching him, leans down, and tugs his boots off; Poe follows his cue, his hands shaking a little and fumbling with the straps across his ankles. Then Finn scoots back, lies down on the other side of the bed, and curls onto his side so that he's facing Poe. He pulls the light sheet over himself, says, "Goodnight," and closes his eyes.
Flabbergasted, Poe does the same, turning so that when he opens his eyes, he'll see him, and mumbles, "Goodnight." Somehow, miraculously, he falls almost instantly asleep.
He wakes sometime in the dreamlike dark, one of those hours after midnight and before there's any hint of colour in the sky. Through the open window, he smells sweet aracynth and hillania, not cloying, familiar. A bird calls in the night with a haunting trill, over and over, slow, like a lament. As his eyes adjust, the planes of Finn's face coalesce from shadows.
Poe is a romantic, and he'd be the first to admit it. He wears his mother's ring on a chain around his neck and wants to give it to the right guy. He’s always fallen hard. But nothing, nothing has prepared him to feel like he does about this man. This isn’t so much a fall – he can handle those just fine – as it is a plummet from space to the bottom of the sea, the kind of drop into an abyss he’s had nightmares about taking if his ship explodes in low orbit. In the midst of the war, of uncertainty about who will live to see the next day, this is genuinely terrifying.
In the morning he wakes, and Finn is still sleeping beside him. He shakes him gently awake and they go to the hangar and everything seems the same. That night, Finn doesn’t ask, just appears in his bedroom, dressed for bed, and Poe slides to the side to make room for him.
This goes on for over a week. After the fourth night, Kes says to Poe, ‘Seems like no one’s sleeping in the guest room any more,’ which Poe doesn’t even bother to respond to; between trying to think his way out of the crippling guilt and trying to feel his way out of Finn doing nothing in his bed but sleeping, he thinks he’s going slowly insane.
On the eighth night, when Finn is just about to pull the sheets over his head, something inside of Poe snaps, and he reaches for the other man. Finn must see his look, because he says, ‘Everything feels so complicated right now.’
Poe instantly backs off, stung with hot shame.
"Except with you," Finn adds.
"You don't think this is complicated?" Poe asks, unable to stop himself.
Finn rolls onto his back, frowning. Poe sits up and presses himself against the wall, taking deep breaths, trying to slow down his heart. He hopes to any higher power that his dad is sound asleep, which is not a great feeling at his age.
‘It’s different,’ Finn says finally. Poe looks down at him; Finn has an abstracted look on his face. ‘Being a stormtrooper,’ Finn starts, and then he seems to reconsider. ‘There wasn’t any of this,’ he says finally. ‘Before, where I was. We’re trained to not feel, to not even know, companionship. Because we’re not sentient beings worthy of that companionship.’
Poe’s heart breaks. Finn is the most kind, loving man he’s ever met. How could they expect to repress that? How could anyone who ever met him not know what he is? ‘I’m sorry,’ he says, hopelessly.
‘Don’t be,’ Finn says. ‘Thanks to you, I got out.’
‘Thanks to yourself,’ Poe points out, ‘we both got out.’
‘I needed a pilot,’ Finn says, turning and propping himself up on an elbow so he’s looking up at Poe.
‘That’s what I am,’ Poe says, trying not to sound despondent. ‘If I’m anything, it’s a pilot.’
Poe manages to make eye contact. ‘Yeah?’
‘I need to figure out what it means to – to have friends.’
Poe bites his lip. ‘I understand,’ he says, because what else can he say?
‘So like I said, everything feels really complicated.’ Finn is giving him a very serious look. ‘It feels like I could choose anything. Any path at all. And I’ve never had that option before.’
Poe aches to just touch the other man, but the natural familiarity usually between them eludes him now. He broke something by trying to ask for too much. ‘How does that feel?’
‘Scary,’ Finn replies instantly. ‘Before, if we got too attached to someone in our unit, one of us got transferred. I had a good friend, years ago – but I haven’t seen him since our commander figured it out.’
Poe doesn’t know what Finn means by good friend, nor does he think it’s a good idea to pry – though he desperately wants to know. ‘I’m sorry,’ he says again, because there’s nothing else to say.
‘I have to think my way through this,’ Finn says. He reaches out and takes Poe’s hand, clasping it tightly in his. ‘I have to understand what choices I have.’
Poe strokes the back of Finn’s hand with his index finger. ‘Why doesn’t it feel complicated with me?’ he whispers.
Finn makes a little humming noise and looks pensive for a moment before saying. ‘I don’t feel like I have to be anything with you. Heroic or strong or…’ He hesitates. ‘I can just be myself.’
Poe squeezes his hand. ‘You are those things anyway,’ he says, ‘but I’m really happy to hear that, buddy.’
Finn goes to sleep beside him. Their hands are still joined. Poe lies awake for hours, overtaken by a melancholy so deep that he feels in danger of never surfacing from it.
Nothing feels normal, in this galaxy overtaken by war, devastated by fascist totalitarianism. The most important things – friendship, love, family – are at a distance, separated from him by the alienating span of ever-present worry. Finn might feel that he suddenly has choices, but he, Poe, is afraid that he has no control over his life, no conception of what it would look like to live without the war, of what it would mean to win. He remembers the Republic, but it is growing more distant by the hour. And if the Resistance fails, the only place either of them will go is to an Imperial firing squad.
He shifts as close to Finn as he can without feeling like he’s intruding on the other’s man space and rests his forehead against the back of Finn’s hand, still clasped tightly in his own.
He’s a pilot, yes, but he wants to be more. He wants a partner, a home, a life not defined by opposition to hate.
He wants Finn.
He laughs at himself in the dark, because what else can he do?
In the morning, he wakes earlier than normal, exhausted, and hatches a plan.
He wants to give Finn something.
There are a finite group of planets from which the First Order kidnapped children to create their stormtrooper army. Poe has BB-8 do some initial research to narrow down the list, and, once the droid presents him with some possibilities, goes to the data centre in Massassi. It is down the road from the hangar, as most things are in the small town. He leaves Finn in the care of Kes with an excuse about seeing an old friend. He spends hours pouring over planetary records, trying to piece together a possible homeworld for Finn, until he makes what feels like the right choice: Bujal 8, a planet that was once warm but has been made cold by Imperial and now First Order pollution, remnant of a greedy plan to drain fuel locked beneath the planetary surface using the power of its core. The people of Bujal 8 look like Finn, Poe thinks, flicking through holo after holo of the planet’s recent history. And the timing for his being taken is right with when Imperial ‘recruitment’ is documented.
Poe walks home in the semi-darkness of early dusk and enters via the kitchen door, knowledge warm inside of him. He can’t wait to tell Finn what he’s found. He shuts the door and finds Finn and Kes leaning over the table, kneading dough together. The tableau before him is so arresting that he forgets, for a second, everything he wants to say. Love seems to suffuse the room and all he can do is stand and let it rush into his body.
"Your dad is teaching me to make karo," Finn says, looking up and smiling.
"Your favourite food," Kes chirps, with a sly grin over Finn's shoulder aimed directly at Poe.
"My favourite food," Poe echoes, pulling himself together. He reaches for a piece of dough and gets his knuckles rapped with Kes’s spoon.
'All right, all right,' he says, not actually annoyed at all. He walks to the cooker to give the salta sauce a stir. He's standing behind Finn, listening to Kes give him quiet words of instruction and encouragement, when he feels a tap on his elbow. Then a warm hand slides down his forearm to his own hand and presses a piece of dough into it. The dough is sticky, and there's a moment in the transfer when it is stuck between their two hands, and Poe's heart stops; then the dough is safely with him and Finn's hand is gone. When he raises it to his mouth, his heart restarts but all he can think of is Finn touching it. He puts it in his mouth and rolls it around, the subtle sweetness on the tip of his tongue. What would it be like to put Finn's fingers in his mouth, covered in dough, sugar still on them from kneading...
'Poe, you're burning the salta,’ his father says, which is completely true.
Kes sets up a table outside the house, unrolling the heavy tarpaulin awning and affixing it to tall poles; rain is threatening and the awning serves as an invitation to friends leaving the hangar, advertising that they have food and company to offer despite the bad weather. Poe and Finn wind up shuttling plates, food, and drinks back and forth from the kitchen to the table as various people arrive, most bringing something to contribute. The space gets chaotic with people and the noise of rain drumming on the tarpaulin. Poe marvels at how easily Finn moves within it, friendly with everyone, repeatedly asking Kes what he can do to help, letting Thurbados’s diamine perch on his shoulder. Poe is bursting to speak with him, and just before Kes is about to serve the main course, he grabs Finn’s arm and pulls him into the hallway off the kitchen.
‘What’s up?’ Finn asks, smiling at him.
‘Listen,’ Poe says, ‘I’ve got an idea.’
‘Know how we’re worried that we’re not recruiting enough people?’
Finn cocks his head. ‘Pretty sure everyone here tonight is already involved,’ he says teasingly.
‘What if we went to another planet?’ Poe suggests. ‘Just for a few days, just to scout it out.’
Finn frowns thoughtfully. ‘Sure,’ he says. ‘What planet?’
‘Bujal 8,’ Poe says, hoping that Finn will suddenly recognise it, but Finn shakes his head.
‘Never heard of it.’
‘The Empire mined it to destruction,’ Poe says quietly. ‘Then deserted it and left its inhabitants to pick up the pieces.’
‘Sounds like a good place to recruit then,’ Finn says seriously. ‘Is it near here?’
‘Not too far,’ Poe says. ‘It’s a little closer in to the centre of the galaxy. But Finn…’
Finn regards him calmly; Poe’s heart is pounding. ‘Yeah?’
‘They also took children from there to be stormtroopers,’ Poe says. ‘Between twenty and twenty five years ago.’
Finn blinks. Poe sees the understanding arrive on his face, sudden and unsure if it’s welcome. ‘You think…’ Finn blinks again. ‘You think it might be my homeworld,’ he says, his voice for once flat and unreadable.
‘It’s a complete guess,’ Poe says cautiously. ‘I had BB-8 look for possibilities and then I studied each of them. This one seems most likely.’
‘Poe,’ Finn says. He looks away, frowning, and Poe realises a second later that he’s trying to keep his emotions in check. ‘Poe, why did you look for that?’
‘Listen, buddy,’ Poe says, suddenly cold with worry that he’s done the wrong thing, ‘if you don’t want to go there, I completely understand.’
Finn looks back at him, his eyes roving all over Poe’s face. ‘No,’ he says, shaking his head, ‘that’s not it at all.’
‘I want you to know your home,’ Poe says, trying to explain. His hand is still wrapped around Finn’s arm and he can feel the other man’s body, warm and solid. ‘I love it here,’ he says. ‘This place – the people here – they’re partly why I fight. I want you to have that. If it’s at all possible.’
Finn gives him a sudden hug, and they hold each other tightly, Poe feeling the tips of Finn’s fingers digging into his back. ‘Poe. Thank you,’ Finn says into Poe’s ear.
Outside, they sit at the table, pressed close by the quantity of people and chairs around it. Finn’s hand finds its way to Poe’s leg at some point in the night, and Poe takes it and holds it there tightly. He doesn’t know what this is, but in this moment, they are connected and it feels like enough. They clean up together while Kes finishes a bottle of wine with a few remaining guests, all old hands from the Rebellion.
‘We can take one of the fast ships,’ Poe suggests as he washes plates with the light beamer. ‘Plan to stay for a few days.’
Finn gets BB-8 to play him a holo of the planetary surface. ‘Looks cold there,’ he says. ‘Do we have coats?’
‘There’s some around here for interplanetary travel,’ Poe says. ‘And we’ll take a ship we can stay in. We’ll be prepared.’
‘When can we go?’ Finn asks, still staring at the holo.
‘Tomorrow, if you want,’ Poe says. ‘I need to talk with my dad, but otherwise…’
He leaves Finn watching holos and goes outside to talk to Kes; instead, he nearly collides with him coming through the door.
‘Hey,’ Kes says, startled. ‘Mika needs a place to stay tonight. She just flew in from offworld and hasn’t made arrangements yet. I saw that Finn still has some things in the guest room. Can you get them and put them in your room?’ Something on Poe’s face must betray the situation, because Kes says, sounding somewhere between bemused and concerned, ‘Still complicated?’
‘It’s fine,’ Poe lies. Kes gives him a Look. Poe adds, ‘I’ll tell you later,’ and about-faces back into the kitchen. ‘BB-8, I need you, buddy.’ The droid swivels his head, beeping inquiringly. Poe takes a deep breath and remembers Finn telling himself to ‘stay calm’ on the Resurgent-class Star Destroyer. ‘Finn, someone else needs the guest room…’
‘Oh, I’ll get my bag,’ Finn says instantly, leaving Poe to gesture wildly at BB-8 to get into his room. Then he, a grown man who has been in hundreds of life-threatening situations, panics completely while opening the wall panels of his childhood bedroom, searching for one that Finn can use. He yanks out a pile of clothing that hasn’t been worn since before he went to the New Republic Flight Academy and throws it at BB-8, who beeps indignantly and tries to shove everything underneath the bed with every arm and attachment he has. When Finn enters, Poe and BB-8 have just managed to fit an old shirt reading, ‘Yavin 4 Junior Pilots Club Captain’ and several mismatched socks behind the desk.
‘Here,’ Poe says, indicating the now empty panel. ‘Is that enough space?’
Finn grins and holds up his small bag. ‘I don’t have a lot,’ he points out.
Somewhere in the night, Poe barely surfaces into the wakened world; there’s a low, flashing light in his view and it’s just enough to bother him. He’s too exhausted to do much about it but try to cover his face, and he moves until he’s close to the wall, which feels oddly warm and smells amazing, before sinking back into sleep.
When he wakes up again, his face is pressed into the side of Finn’s soft cloth-covered hip, and Finn’s arm and hand are resting on his back. He lies there breathing gently for several moments before he pushes himself up onto his elbows, blinking sleep out of his eyes.
‘Good morning,’ Finn says softly, and Poe thinks he could wake up to that for the rest of his life.
‘Watching holos?’ he mumbles, realising what the light was. BB-8, down at the end of the bed and broadcasting them onto a space on the blanket-covered bed somewhere near Finn’s knees, beeps assent. ‘Is that Bujal 8?’
‘Yeah,’ Finn says. His hand is still warm on Poe’s back. Poe twists to squint at the holo, pushing his curly hair out of his eyes. The planet has a rocky surface, studded with very occasional twisted, small trees. Whatever Finn is watching seems to just be remote aerial footage, flying low over the landscape and filming without commentary. It moves over what looks like a small village composed of makeshift buildings, and then Poe realises that it is the outskirts of a larger city, which appears to have once been great but has fallen into decay.
‘You’re right,’ Finn says quietly. ‘I watched a different one earlier and the people there do look like me.’
‘It’s just a guess.’
‘I know,’ Finn says quickly. ‘It might not be.’ Not looking at Poe, he adds, ‘But what if it is?’
‘That’s what I hope,’ Poe says. ‘The General always says its important to keep hope.’ He looks at Finn, studying his serious profile and the tense set of his shoulders. ‘Let me go talk to my dad, and then I’ll find us a ship.’
‘Poe,’ Finn says, ‘thank you. Really.’
Poe squeezes his shoulder and gets out of bed. ‘You stay with Finn, BB-8,’ he says, as the droid makes a move to come with him.
His father is drinking ground bean tea on the porch with Mika, an older pilot who Poe knows was friends with his mother. ‘Poe,’ she says, smiling and reaching out a hand to him; he clasps it warmly. ‘When do I get to meet your cute future husband?’ she asks, raising her eyebrows.
Poe rolls his eyes. ‘Thanks, dad.’
‘Call it what it is,’ Kes suggests.
‘More like call it what you want it to be.’
‘Finn likes you too,’ Kes protests.
‘Finn doesn’t know what he wants.’
‘A handsome boy like you? How could he turn that down?’
Poe groans, mortified. ‘Dad.’
‘Pilots,’ Mika declares, ‘are constantly making their romantic lives more dramatic than they need to be. Like everything else in their lives. Last night it sure seemed like he likes you. And, you know, the sleeping together.’ She makes a mollifying face at Poe. ‘Not that I’m complaining. I appreciate the place to stay.’
Finn appears in the doorway with BB-8 in tow. Poe leaves him with Mika – a little bit terrified about what she’s going to say to him – and walks with his father down to the hangar.
‘We need a fast ship that won’t be too bad to live in for a few days,’ he says. ‘We’re going to go to Bujal 8.’
Kes squints at him. ‘I’ve never even heard of it,’ he says. ‘Is this a mission?’
‘We’re hoping it’ll be a good place to recruit,’ Poe says, and he gives a quick rundown of the Imperial history of the planet.
‘Any particular reason you chose that one?’ Kes asks. ‘I can think of a hundred more with the same story.’
‘Yeah,’ Poe says. ‘I had BB-8 look into it and I think it might be Finn’s homeworld.’
Kes stops walking and looks at him. ‘You think?’
‘He was a stormtrooper,’ Poe says, stopping too. ‘He was taken from his home when he was a child. The First Order was taking children from that planet around the right time.’
Kes frowns. ‘What does Finn think?’
‘He wants to go.’
‘Is this a good idea?’
‘I don’t know,’ Poe admits. ‘But Finn wants to go…’
‘You gave him the idea.’
‘Sure. But who wouldn’t want to know their homeworld?’
Kes shakes his head. ‘Who knows what state it’s in now? Imperial occupation, children taken, you think this is going to be a happy place?’
‘He has a right to know,’ Poe tries. Kes raises his eyebrows. ‘And what if he has family waiting for him?’
Kes is unimpressed. ‘What if his family is dead?’
‘Then he’d know.’
Kes puts a hand to his mouth. ‘Poe…’
‘Your heart is in the right place,’ Kes says. ‘But you should have thought this through.’
‘I did,’ says Poe, annoyed. ‘I wanted to help Finn.’
‘You’re young,’ Kes says, which annoys Poe even more. ‘Maybe you haven’t learned this yet. But trust me. Sometimes you don’t want to know. And when it comes to the Empire… you don’t want to know.’
Poe turns away, frustrated. Maybe he’s fucked up again. ‘Well, I already told him, and he wants to go. So there’s nothing to be done.’
They finish the walk to the hangar in silence, and Poe assumes the conversation is over, until they reach the vast open bay doors. Then Kes stops again and puts his hand on Poe’s arm. ‘What’s to be done,’ he says quietly, ‘is for you to be there for him. For whatever he’s about to experience, bad or good.’ Poe opens his mouth to say something affirmative, but Kes continues, staring into the distance, ‘It’s hard, with the way things are, to really love.’ Poe looks into his father’s face and sees himself in it for the first time. ‘Trust me,’ Kes continues, and Poe feels the loss of his mother, viscerally, in a way as sharp as the day he first understood what it meant that she was dead. ‘I don’t mean to fall in love, or to have a love affair. I mean to really love, the way I think you two do. You’re going to have to hold each other close through unimaginable things.’
‘Dad,’ Poe says softly.
Kes meets his eyes. ‘I miss Shara every day.’
Poe swallows hard. ‘Me too.’
‘Come on,’ Kes says, and he squeezes Poe’s arm and then presses his hand to the keypad by the door that will call his pit droid. ‘Let’s find you a ship.’
Chapter 5: Bujal 8
The ship Kes and Poe find is a chunky VoloP8, an elongated cuboid with a few low, rounded projections and four pleasingly large engines projecting from cones on its back end: fast in hyperspace but not flashy enough to cause problems if they need to stay incognito. The cockpit is entirely glass, which gives a nice, near spherical vantage. It has light shields because of the fuel requirements, but it’s manoeuvrable enough to keep them out of trouble until they can hop into hyperspace – shields, after all, are for pilots who make mistakes.
Poe slides into the captain’s seat and familiarises himself with the controls while Finn leans over his shoulder, watching him. And then Poe, feeling like a saint, stands up and offers the seat to Finn.
‘You need the practice,’ he says, even though his entire body is crying to be piloting a ship, any ship, again. ‘Take us offworld and get us into hyperspace.’
Finn’s determined look almost makes it worth it - almost. Poe straps himself into the co-pilot’s seat and walks him through take-off. As the ship leaves Yavin 4’s atmosphere, bucking slightly, Poe leans forward, looking down through the floor at the lush world below.
‘We’ll be back soon,’ Finn says, correctly reading his thoughts.
Poe asks BB-8 to make the calculations for the jump to hyperspace and then manually feeds them into the ship computer to show Finn how to do it. Finn pulls the lever, the stars lengthen into lines, and Poe relaxes back into his seat as the pale glow of hyperspace surrounds them.
Finn leans back too and takes an audible deep breath.
‘It never gets less exciting,’ Poe says truthfully. ‘The way a ship feels when you put it through its paces – when you’re banking and accelerating and fighting gravity – it always feels amazing.’
Finn grins at him. ‘Exciting wasn’t quite the word I was thinking. But thanks for teaching me all this. It really helps. I love listening to you talk about flying.’
Poe stares out into hyperspace, thinking about his father’s words. ‘Trust me, you’ll get tired of it. No one who has ever spent much time around me has said that.’
‘I haven’t gotten tired of it yet,’ Finn says, and though his voice just sounds playful, Poe of course wonders if he hears something more underneath it. ‘You’re passionate about it. I like hearing people talk about the things they care about.’
Poe resists the urge to start talking about Finn himself. ‘What are you passionate about?’ he asks instead.
‘I’m trying to figure that out,’ Finn says. He puts up a hand and rubs the back of his neck, a habit Poe has noticed means he’s thinking seriously about something. ‘The First Order didn’t exactly leave room for us to develop interests. Some troopers get really into things relating to work – different kinds of weapons, or Imperial ships, or something like that – but I never did.’
‘What was it like?’ Poe asks, quiet, afraid that if he presses he won’t get anywhere.
Finn squints forward, his lips pursed. ‘It was my whole life,’ he says finally. ‘There was no time for anything else – they saw to that. And I was –‘ he pauses. ‘I was good at it, I guess. I was good at training missions. Jakku was my first real mission, and well,’ he grins over at Poe, ‘we both know how that ended. I got commended for my bravery in training missions, but told that I was helping weaker members of the unit too much.’
Poe can see all of it; nothing Finn is saying is surprising to him. Finn is the most loyal person he’s ever encountered, ready to chance his life at a moment’s notice for people he’s just met, which feels like an outgrowth of being raised in the First Order’s philosophy but being too inherently good to be twisted by it. Poe feels the awesome responsibility of Finn’s loyalty – how Finn had trusted him instantly about the Vice Admiral, how he’d acquiesced to Poe’s plans because he’d trusted him. And then Poe remembers Finn grasping his fingers to give him Rey’s tracker, trusting him completely with that too. And Finn’s hand finding his as Rey lifted the rocks, freeing them from the mine on Crait. He knows that because Finn would die for her, he would too.
He trusts Finn completely, too.
It is simultaneously the most terrifying and deeply liberating feeling he’s ever had.
‘Poe, listen, I’m sorry if I’m being difficult.’
Poe looks up at him, startled, finally able to see the scope of his love for this man. ‘Difficult?’
Finn raises his eyebrows. ‘You know, the whole sleeping in your bed thing?’
‘Oh,’ Poe says, tempted to burst into laughter. He’s over here thinking about the nature of true love and Finn is trying to obliquely talk about sex. ‘It’s, you know, it’s fine. It’s nice.’ Finn’s eyebrows stay raised, so Poe elaborates, truthfully. ‘I’m a terrible sleeper. I wake up in the middle of the night all the time, and then I lie there, and I just…’ He grins. ‘I dwell. But with you there, I don’t do that. I mean, I do it a little. But not as much.’
Finn gives him side eye, but he’s smiling. ‘I don’t know why General Organa ever thought you’d relax.’
‘I doubt she really thought I would,’ Poe admits. ‘And she did give us a mission, too.’ He taps BB-8. ‘BB-8, give us a map of Bujal 8.’ BB-8 beeps happily and displays a holo of the planet. Poe scans it quickly, taking in the topography, locations of major cities, and any other notable features. ‘Give us open spaceports,’ he says, and BB-8 displays a very short list. ‘We need to plan for where we’re going.’
Finn leans forward, also studying the globe. ‘There’s only one main city,’ he says.
Poe nods, frowning as he reads through the list. ‘Just one city and two spaceports. The Empire or First Order will have improved one of them; we want the other. The city is a hub for trade, though.’
‘So the second spaceport should be fairly, well, free.’ Poe flips through the holo, scanning for the type of information he’s looking for.
‘Oh, yeah,’ Finn says. ‘I looked at this last night. The main city – Galosian – is open to anyone who wants to trade there.’ Finn reaches towards the holo and points to the city. ‘It’s a walled city. You have to get a token to enter at the spaceport. You use the token to pay your way onto a magtrain that goes into the city.’
Poe frowns. ‘We’re there to trade information,’ he decides. ‘We can’t fake having goods. Not in a ship of this size.’
They construct an elaborate backstory before they land, but they needn’t have bothered – the customs official is busy watching a holo of two Twi’leks performing some feats that would have been anatomically impossible in any other humanoid species, and, without glancing up, he slides them two tokens.
Together, they go into the city. On the magtrain, Finn is goggle-eyed, head swivelling as he tries to take in everything through the thick, curved glass that forms its upper walls. The space is crowded with sentient creatures of all varieties. Poe and Finn have to stand, so they hold onto a long metal bar that hangs from its ceiling. Their hands are close enough that Poe can feel the heat from Finn’s. Above their heads, the sky roils, a composition of heavy, overlapping grey clouds that sweep across it at top speed. In only a few minutes’ travel time, they are sliding underground into a dark tunnel, having entered via a round hole just outside a massive metallic wall. Poe squints at the map on the train’s ceiling, looking for the centre of the writhing mass of rail lines, until he finds a place labelled, ‘Central City’.
‘Here,’ he says to Finn, pointing. Finn nods, tight-lipped. Poe is so nervous that his hand is sweating on the pole.
Central City is like a larger version of the train car, a market teeming so much with life and business that they can scarcely move through it. Poe despairs at the scale of the place, but he follows Finn, who has set off through the crowds with what seems like purpose. Finn keeps turning down alleys and corridors, into increasingly cramped spaces. They pass by shop after shop selling droid components, ship components, comlinks and other communication devices, and eventually, in what feels like it must be the smallest and oldest part of the market, weapons. Poe eyes the blasters, wondering if Finn needs a better one, but Finn keeps moving, and they emerge suddenly into a wider space full of food stalls.
‘Hungry?’ Finn asks, and Poe nods, suddenly realising that he’s ravenous. ‘I’ve been following my nose,’ Finn says, grinning. After several minutes of vacillation, he chooses a shop that sells meat and fibrous plant matter in thick, aromatic sauces. The cook seats them at one of three rickety tables crammed into the shop beside his cooker. A droid with one arm hands them each a bowl with a spoon and then places a steaming vat of food in the centre of their table. The air is thick and warm with spices, in stark contrast to the cold clamminess of the market itself.
They each raise a spoonful of thick, steaming food to their mouths, eyes locked as they take their first taste.
‘Well?’ Poe asks, once he’s swallowed. It’s spicier than he’d expected. It reminds him of home.
‘Nothing,’ Finn says. ‘I don’t recognise it at all.’ He grins at Poe. ‘Only a thousand more shops to try.’
‘Why’d you pick this one?’
Finn shrugs. ‘I don’t know. Trying to go with my feelings.’ He grins again. ‘The Force, right?’
Poe grins back, helpless in the face of Finn’s charm. ‘Good luck with that.’
They explore the city for hours, long past when the grey sky darkens to black, although there are no stars to be seen and Poe has no idea what time it really is. The city is frigid in the night, and after the comfort of Yavin 4, the cold cuts through Poe’s jacket like a hundred tiny burns. He cinches it up to his chin and stuffs his hands into his pockets. Finn seems too taken with exploration to notice – or maybe, Poe wonders, Finn is just used to it.
Despite the cold, the city stays awake, neon lights ablaze and crowds heaving. Poe knows they have to talk to locals if they have any hope of learning anything, so he finds the dive-iest dive bar he can, asks the bartender for a suggestion on where to drink, and then they go there. It is upstairs in a massive round building crammed with shops selling replica luxury goods, through a set of doors labelled for workers only, down a featureless, narrow corridor, and then through a series of long beaded strands in front of red laser beams that perform a weapons scan. The woman at the door raises her eyebrows to their blasters, but waves them inside once Poe gives her some credits.
Poe’s personality has always been a little intense for the careful persuasion of recruitment, but Finn proves to be a natural, sussing out the political positions of nearly everyone at the bar within a half hour. There is zero First Order sympathy, but a lot of apathy towards doing anything about it. Poe leans back and lets Finn work his magic.
For several days and nights, they go through this routine – searching during the day for anything that might trigger a memory in Finn, and searching at night for help for the Resistance. They are far more successful – that is to say, successful at all – with the latter. Very late each night, they make their way back to their ship via the magtrain to collapse into bed.
The VoloP8 has capacity to sleep four, with two stacked bunks, but there’s never even a question that they’ll use any but one of them. Bujal 8 is cold, and it takes a few minutes when they return to the ship for its internal heating to catch up with it. The first night, Poe climbs into one of the lower beds fully clothed, teeth chattering, and tugs the blanket to his chin.
‘Sorry,’ he mumbles, trying to bring feeling back into his fingers and toes.
‘Poe,’ says Finn, sounding a little horrified. He slides into bed beside him, also fully clothed, and wraps his arms around him. Poe thinks, despairingly, in for a planet, in for the system, and snuggles into Finn’s chest. He breathes in the smell of him and falls asleep almost instantly. When he wakes, early in the morning, Finn still has his arms around him, and they are both still wearing their coats. From that night on, when they get into bed, they gravitate together, arms at the ready to hold each other.
Poe tries not to think about the physical damage he’s doing to himself waking up with a hard-on that urgent every day and not doing anything about it.
On the fourth morning, Poe wakes to Finn once more watching holos about the planet courtesy of BB-8. He knows that Finn is frustrated that he hasn’t recognised anything.
‘Maybe,’ he suggests, scrubbing his hand through his curly hair, ‘this isn’t the right planet.’
Finn sighs. ‘I don’t know,’ he says. ‘I think the First Order must have done some kind of mental conditioning. If I try to think about anything before them, I just… can’t. There’s nothing there.’ He pauses and leans back from his hunched position so that his arm is pressed against Poe’s; Poe instinctively wraps that arm around Finn’s shoulder and lays his hand onto Finn’s chest. It is comfortable, it is perfect, it is, he tells himself, not at all sexual. It is whatever Finn wants it to be. Finn’s hand comes up and rests over Poe’s. ‘Here’s the thing,’ he says, still staring at the holo, while Poe breathes in the warm scent of his hair. ‘Are you certain the First Order even took children from here?’
‘BB-8 put it on the list,’ Poe replies, startled. The thought had not occurred to him.
‘It’s just that we haven’t really seen or heard anything about it.’ Finn squeezes his hand, involuntarily or not, Poe can’t tell. ‘We’ve now talked to dozens of people, people who absolutely detest the First Order, and no one has mentioned it.’
Poe hums, considering this. Then he says, ‘BB-8, where did you get that info?’
BB-8 beeps instantly: the New Republic archives. Poe frowns at him. ‘Why do you have access to those?’ The droid hesitates; never a good sign. ‘BB-8?’ The droid issues a string of beeps, almost too fast for Poe to keep up with it. He paraphrases for Finn, who is looking between them anxiously: ‘Threepio gave the files to BB-8 to protect them when the General thought there was a threat to the archives on the Hosnian system.’
‘Threepio is General Organa’s protocol droid, right?’
Poe nods. Thoughts are racing through his mind: it had been stupid to think that BB-8 would be able to find that information so easily. There is no free flow of information with the First Order in charge. The General and other former Old Republic senators had argued that there needed to be a truth-telling commission after the end of the first war, but their ideas had been rejected; louder factions within the New Republic had stressed the importance of appeasing the former remnants of the Empire. Many unpleasant things were ignored or passed over with little comment except from a small group of people like the General. And as the First Order had expanded, it had snuffed out any nascent reportage of its crimes.
‘Poe,’ Finn says, sounding urgent. ‘What are you thinking?’
Poe looks to the side, blinking, trying to put his thoughts into order. ‘Seven years ago,’ he says finally, ‘I left the pilot programme for the New Republic. I was completely frustrated with their failure to contain the First Order. It wasn’t poor military tactics, either. They were letting them get away with things that I thought were unacceptable because they wanted to appease the worst parts of society.’ He pauses and frowns. ‘It’s not that I didn’t see their point. The Republic was fragile. But the General – she was saying to anyone who would listen that a Republic built on bad foundations would never stand. She got labelled an alarmist.’ Poe sighs. ‘Everything she predicted has come true, and more, by the way. For a while, we were hoping she’d be made Chancellor.’ He laughs, bitterly, remembering how brutally her enemies had attacked her and her supporters. He was still in the Republic military then, labelled a troublemaker by his commanding officer because of his vocal political opinions. The General’s ability to keep going in the face of all that adversity amazes him to this day. ‘You probably know the next part. She convinced sympathetic members of the Senate to help fund a secret Resistance, led by her.’
‘And you joined it,’ Finn says softly.
Poe nods. ‘But at first, it wasn’t really a military operation. First, quietly, not wanting to draw attention to themselves, the General and her allies assigned various people to record what the Empire had done and what the First Order was continuing to do as they grew.’
‘Really?’ Finn asks, startled. ‘Where did she find them? The people to record, I mean.’
Poe smiles, genuinely this time. ‘The General knows a lot of useful people,’ he says. ‘My very first mission for the Resistance was flying this woman who used to be a professor on Alderaan to a First Order-occupied planet to document what they were doing to the inhabitants.’
‘Nothing good, I assume,’ Finn says, quietly.
‘So what happened to what she documented?’
Poe glances at BB-8. ‘It went into an archive that the General started. But it was in the Hosnian system. I assumed it was gone.’ Something is nagging at him.
The General chose BB-8 to hold the Hosnian archives.
‘When did Threepio do that, BB-8?’
The droid tells him: right after the Resistance set up their base on D’Qar.
The General must have had an idea, then, of what the First Order would do to the Hosnian system.
But BB-8 is his personal droid…
Finn squeezes his hand again and turns around so that he’s sitting on the bed cross-legged, looking directly at Poe. He asks, ‘What’s going on?’
‘I’m not sure,’ Poe admits. ‘The General saved all of the archives on BB-8 that I thought were destroyed by Starkiller Base.’ He runs both his hands through his hair, thinking hard. ‘I don’t know why.’
‘She trusts you,’ Finn says. ‘And the archives are important.’ Finn’s brown eyes look into his, the look alone warm enough to hold back winter. ‘Documenting what happened is important.’
‘But I could get blown up any day,’ Poe protests. ‘BB-8 and I do dangerous things all the time.’
‘Poe,’ says Finn quietly, insistently, so that Poe looks up and meets his eyes. ‘She clearly wants you to lead the Resistance when she’s gone.’
Poe feels the bottom drop out of his stomach. ‘Well, good thing she’s not gone then, right?’ he asks. ‘And is never going to go,’ he adds, very firmly. ‘My body will be orbiting the wreckage of a Star Destroyer long before she’s gone.’
Finn gives him a thoughtful look of evaluation. ‘I hope not.’ He turns back to BB-8. ‘So you’re sure?’ he asks the droid. ‘This planet? The First Order took children from here?’
Poe is still thinking about that quiet, ‘I hope not,’ and almost misses BB-8’s response. But, he hears, ‘Yes, I’m sure.’
Finn stands up and reaches to the floor for his belt; Poe involuntarily watches the muscles in his back move underneath his white tunic. He is always aware of the physicality of Finn. ‘Let’s go into the city one more time,’ Finn says.
Chapter 6: The Temple and the Mountain
This is around the halfway mark for this fic. This chapter gets a little, uh, dark, but I promise happier times are ahead. Thank you for reading and especially thank you if you take the time to leave a comment!
They disembark in a different part of the city than they have been to before at Finn’s suggestion. ‘I’m trying to let the Force guide me,’ he explains very seriously to Poe on the magtrain. ‘I mean, I’m not even sure I feel the Force, but every time I’ve held Rey’s lightsabre – twice now – I’ve felt something. So maybe it’s…’ He shrugs.
The streets are narrow here, the grey clouds above blocked by overhanging balconies strung with laundry. This part of town feels ancient. Poe instinctively seeks sky, so he keeps looking up, and finding nothing but built endeavours. They pass a run-down stadium for podracing, a sport that hasn’t been popular outside a few holes in the Outer Rim in several human generations, and then enter a market selling caged miniature avians. Vendors – uniformly old – sit beside their twittering stacks of tiny prisoners, talking to one another and chewing and spitting a dark purple substance that stains the streets. Poe, feeling strangely sentimental, imagines the longing of each small creature in its cage for the freedom to stretch its wings and fly. Finn touches his arm and he’s so grateful he could cry.
And then Poe senses it as a shadow before he sees it: a massive building that lurks behind the crowded block like a slouched beast. They come to a crossroads at the end of the avian market and he catches his first full glimpse of it.
Finn looks at him. ‘I think we should go there,’ Finn says quietly. There is no need to point.
The exterior is grey steel, composed mainly of twisted turrets with jagged edges that resemble spears. Rust is deeply embedded in its grooves, clinging like living moss to the shadows of its textured form. Poe doesn’t like it one bit. He’s always been fairly secular, but ever since seeing the General survive the destruction of the Raddus bridge, he’s become a bit more devout. Now he wonders if the Force is suddenly with him, telling him that this is a bad idea.
Finn opens one of the doors with barely a touch to the keypad beside it, and they step into a dim foyer. The door whooshes shut behind them in a rush of air. There’s only one light: on the wall opposite the door, roughly chest-high for a human. It illuminates a fragmentary yellowish stone the size of an astromech’s dome. Poe steps towards it, frowning, and sees the label: ‘Piece of the Holy City found orbiting the remains of Jedha Moon’. Its surface is covered on its only smooth and unbroken side with dense Old Aurabesh, incomprehensible to Poe.
‘Jedha?’ Finn asks quietly. ‘Wasn’t that the first test of the Death Star?’
Poe nods, and reaches out to touch the stone’s surface; a glowing blue field appears around it to protect it and he withdraws his hand, chilled.
‘What was the Holy City?’ Finn asks. ‘I thought the planet was uninhabited.’
Poe looks at him, startled. ‘Is that what they teach you in the First Order?’
Finn flicks his gaze up from the stone to meet Poe’s eyes. In this dim light, he is almost painfully handsome, all his edges smoothed out, his eyes huge. ‘I guess that’s probably not true, huh?’
Poe looks back at the stone; his emotions seem to be in hyperdrive in this place and he needs to find some chill. Looking at a poignant symbol of the Empire’s utter disregard for sentient life will definitely help. ‘Jedha’s Holy City was one of the most sacred sites for people who believed in the Force. People went there on pilgrimages from all over the galaxy. My mother’s parents went, I know.’ He looks back at Finn. ‘It also had the galaxy’s largest cache of mined Kyber crystals in its temple. The Empire occupied the city and took the crystals to power the Death Star laser. One of the most violent groups of Rebels – back before there was a Rebel Alliance – was based there for that reason. Once the Empire was done looting the temple, they tested their new weapon on the city, and essentially destroyed the moon in the process.’
‘Well stated,’ says a man’s voice from the side, and they both jump as a tall, very old human steps through an interior doorway neither had noticed was there. He wears long robes and a heavy, gilded chain with a large, empty, cage-like sphere hanging from it; the weight of the chain seems to be dragging him forward, because he is very stooped. ‘You should mention the Guardians of the Whills.’
Poe, staring at the man, says to Finn, ‘They guarded the temple. Two of them escaped off planet with a rebel pilot and went on to be heroes in the Battle of Scarif.’
‘Dead heroes,’ the man says.
‘Everyone who entered the atmosphere of Scarif died,’ Poe says quietly, ‘and many more above it.’ His mother had survived, though. And so had the General.
‘Our Temple here,’ the man says, bowing his head in their direction, ‘is but a small facsimile of the greatness of Jedha. And the chains of my sacred office once held a Kyber crystal from the Holy City itself.’ With clear effort, he raises the chain around his neck and indicates the cage. ‘The Empire took it, of course.’
Poe is suddenly on high alert. ‘When was the Empire here?’
The old man looks at him, calm, his gaze piercing despite his age. ‘Oh, I don’t remember. Many years ago.’
Poe frowns at him; is he lying? Beside him, Finn asks, ‘Can we look around your Temple?’
The man indicates the door he came through and bows again. Finn looks at Poe, his eyes seeking agreement. Poe nods, and follows him through it; the man – a Guardian? – follows them. The interior is vast, frigid, and gloomy, lit by distantly-spaced sconces that are low on what must be very high walls. Poe glances up but can see no ceiling, only gradations of grey fading to blackness. His sense of foreboding increases.
‘I’m going to look around,’ Finn says quietly, and Poe understands; he, too, wants to whisper in this tomblike place.
He nods at Finn and touches his arm: ‘Be careful.’ He’s not sure of what, but the statement feels imperative. Finn nods, and Poe knows he feels it too. He watches Finn leave, walking towards the first lit sconce, far away on a wall. There’s something underneath it that Finn seems to want to see. Then Poe turns to the old man.
He is looking at Poe closely. ‘Tell me about the other one,’ he says, voice shaking with age. ‘Your husband.’
Poe doesn’t bother to correct him. ‘He doesn’t know where he came from,’ he says. ‘He thought it might be here.’
‘He looks like it, doesn’t he?’ the man replies, gaze on Finn, who has reached the nearest sconce and is standing underneath it, illuminated and still, like a tableau as he examines whatever it is meant to illumine. ‘The First Order,’ he says then, and Poe takes a deep breath, but the man trails off.
‘What about them?’
‘You’re trying to recruit to stop them,’ the man says, suddenly full of clarity. ‘In the city. I’ve been hearing rumours from acolytes.’
‘Yes,’ Poe says. ‘Does that bother you?’
The man looks into the distance. Poe follows his gaze and can just make out an altar. It looks bare. ‘Do you want to know about the children?’
Poe’s heart starts pounding. He remembers his father: ‘With the Empire, you don’t want to know.’ But he says: ‘Yes.’
‘They took them,’ the man says. He looks at Poe, suddenly, his eyes shining. ‘Not the children from the city. From the farms.’
Poe swallows; his mouth is suddenly almost too dry to speak. ‘Where are the farms?’
‘Gone,’ the man replies. ‘Do you really think the First Order would leave behind evidence of their crimes?’
‘Who lived on the farms? What happened to them?’
The man shakes his head. ‘Gone,’ he says. ‘All gone.’
‘Killed?’ Poe presses. ‘Imprisoned? Enslaved?’
‘I don’t know,’ the man says, which again seems like a lie.
‘Where were the farms? Can you tell me how to get there?’
‘You shouldn’t go,’ the man replies. ‘You won’t find happiness.’
‘I’m not looking for happiness,’ Finn says, suddenly appearing at Poe’s side. ‘I’m looking for answers.’
Poe reaches for him involuntarily and Finn’s hand finds his.
The man regards them both. In the low light, his face is full of shadow, the bags under his eyes enormous. ‘Go up the stairs behind me. Ask my acolytes. I… I cannot remember where the farms were, now.’ He looks at Poe, eyes blazing. ‘Or when the Empire was here.’
The stairs are narrow, circular, and ancient, their metallic edges shiny from footsteps, their corners dull with patina. There is almost no light. Poe lets Finn go first, and within a few steps, can barely make out the other man’s back. They ascend, round and round, until they come to a hallway. The wall is open halfway up on one side, and Poe can look down and see, far below, the vast room they just left. The man is on his knees, his hands flat in front of him and his forehead pressed to the stone floor. He is saying something in a singsong, chanting voice, but Poe can’t quite hear it.
‘This place is creepy,’ Finn whispers. Poe looks back at him, makes an exaggerated concerned face, and nods.
‘Really glad we’re here together, buddy,’ he says.
‘Same,’ Finn replies, fervent.
At the end of the hallway, they find a door with weak light spilling from underneath it. Finn looks back at Poe, who takes a deep breath and raises his fist to knock.
‘Come inside, would you?’ a high voice, in strongly accented Basic, makes them both jump. Glancing at Finn and putting his free hand to his blaster, Poe pushes the door open.
Behind it is a small room containing a dark-skinned human woman, a Neimoidian, and a table with food on it. A tall protocol droid of a make and model Poe doesn’t recognise stands in the corner, illuminating the space with a light embedded in its raised palm.
‘Why did the Master send you to us?’ asks the Neimoidian in that same, high voice.
‘We’re looking for the location of some farms,’ Finn says. ‘He said you could help us.’
‘Farms outside the city,’ Poe clarifies.
The Neimoidian laughs. ‘No farms anywhere on Bujal 8, my friends,’ they say.
‘Where there used to be farms, then,’ Poe says.
‘Why do you want to know that?’ the human woman asks.
‘Your Master told us that the First Order took children from there,’ Finn says, much calmer than Poe feels. ‘I think I might be one of them.’
The woman is looking at him, unblinking. The Neimoidian seems startled. ‘Is that true?’ they ask the woman. ‘Did they take children?’
The woman shrugs. ‘So some of the old people say,’ she says, the picture of indifference. ‘What do I know, I’m not a farmer’s child.’
‘Can you help us or not?’ Poe asks.
The woman shrugs again. The Neimoidian looks at Finn. ‘You look like you could be from here,’ they say.
‘Please,’ Finn says. He is appealing to the woman. ‘If you know anything…’
Not looking at Finn, she says to the droid, ‘Give us a map of Galosian.’ The light in the droid’s palm changes to a holoprojector and the planet appears, orbiting on the table top, spinning and changing rapidly to focus in on the city. ‘Show us the temple.’ Again the map shifts, until a model of the building they stand inside of occupies most of the table. ‘We are here,’ she says. ‘Now, watch carefully.’ Poe leans forward, trying to commit everything he is seeing to memory. The woman reaches towards the holo and manipulates it with her bare hands, a neat trick, so that the temple becomes smaller and smaller within the city, and then the city, too, becomes smaller, so that its walls come into the holo.
‘Wait,’ Finn says. ‘Let me see where the spaceport is.’
The woman does not wait. The map continues to expand, and then she twists it deftly with her hands, so that they slide past the city. East, Poe thinks. They go east. He follows the coordinate shifts as best as he can.
‘Let them see,’ the Neimoidian protests, but the woman shakes her head.
‘This is forbidden knowledge,’ she says, voice angry. ‘As long as I show that I possess it, I am a marked woman. I wish to give it away as quickly as possible.’ She finds some place on the map and shrinks down its view to focus on a ridgeline. Poe looks desperately for some defining feature, finding two notched rocks and little else.
‘They were here,’ she says quietly. ‘This was the start of the fertile valley. The river flowed from this hill here. The farms spread out in all directions.’ She removes her hands and the holo disappears. Finn gives Poe a despairing look, but Poe thinks he’s got it. ‘They are gone,’ she says, looking at Poe rather than Finn. ‘Tell your man that he will not find a thing there. Tell him that he should not try to uncover this.’
Poe looks at her, hard. ‘I don’t tell him to do anything,’ he says quietly. ‘Thank you for the knowledge.’
‘Thank you,’ Finn echoes. He sounds stunned.
The Neimoidian titters nervously. ‘I’m Murat,’ they say, ‘and this is-‘ But whatever the woman is, her name is so long and flowing that Poe cannot grasp it.
‘Leave the temple,’ she says. ‘Leave Galosian. Do what you need to do, and then leave Bujal 8. If you bring the First Order back here,’ she closes her eyes and takes a deep breath, then opens them again. They are wet. ‘I will personally find you and kill you.’
Neither says a word until they are back at the ship. It is late in the day, but by silent accord, they have returned to the spaceport rather than try to recruit tonight. Poe hates himself for bringing Finn to this planet, for ever thinking of this scheme. The himself of a week ago, who had been so happy and self-assured, is a fool who he wishes he’d never known. He wants to protect Finn from himself, past, present, and probably future versions too since he’s so intent on acting without thinking.
His father was right, of course he was, and Poe regrets not listening to him to the depths of his soul.
Finn sinks into a seat inside the ship’s living quarters. ‘When can we go? How far is it? Can we go there tonight?’
‘I think we need to wait until morning,’ Poe says, truthfully. ‘It looks like a few hours’ flight. I don’t want to go in the dark.’
Finn looks frustrated, but nods. ‘What are you thinking?’
‘That I made a mistake in bringing you here.’
Finn snorts. ‘You didn’t bring me here, Poe. This was my choice.’
‘I came up with the idea in the first place.’
Finn gives him a steady look. ‘Whatever we find, this is something I needed to see.’
Poe gets BB-8 to show them a map of the planet, and he thinks he works his way from the temple to the ridgeline she’d shown them. Finn watches him intently, saying nothing.
‘Two hours atmospheric flight,’ Poe says. ‘I want to stay in atmosphere to survey the terrain, make sure I’m right. We don’t know the coordinates, so we’re going to need to keep an eye out.’ He sits back and rubs his eyes. ‘Hopefully I’ve got this.’
‘That’s amazing,’ Finn says. ‘I can’t believe you remembered it.’
Poe laughs mirthlessly. ‘I’ve been to a lot of briefings.’ He looks at Finn, who is staring at BB-8’s map.
‘Poe, that woman’s name-‘
‘I couldn’t pronounce it,’ Poe says.
Finn, not looking at Poe, takes a deep breath. ‘Think I have a name like that? That style, the flowing sound?’
Poe doesn’t know. ‘If you do,’ he says, trying to lighten the situation, ‘I’m going to have to learn to pronounce it.’
‘Me too,’ Finn says.
Poe leaves him with the map and makes them a quick ready-meal dinner, heating water and pouring it into two packs. He forgets, sometimes, that Finn was a soldier too; when he takes his food pack wordlessly and breaks into it, Poe remembers all over again. He finishes eating and leaves Finn watching more silent holos of the planetary surface courtesy of BB-8. He takes off all of his clothes but an undershirt and tugs on comfortable, soft trousers, then lies down in bed with a book he’s been trying to claw his way through despite everything. Normally he reads at night when he’s having trouble sleeping, but with Finn around he hasn’t had a chance. Eventually, his eyes grow heavy and the words stop making sense; he lets the book fall closed with his fingers in between the pages and falls asleep.
At some unspecified point later, Finn comes into the bed, removing the book, lifting Poe’s arm and crawling under it, and laying his head in the junction between Poe’s neck and collarbone. Poe, waking, looks down at the head lying on him, and wraps his arm around Finn’s shoulder. ‘All right?’ he mumbles.
Finn puts one warm hand onto his chest, directly over his heart. Poe wonders if he can feel it accelerating with wakefulness and Finn-proximity. They lie like that for a minute, and then Poe, now caught between the slippery world of dreams and the groggy world of consciousness, moves his other arm, putting his hand gently onto Finn’s cheek. He feels the curve of his eyebrow, runs his index finger down the straight line of his nose, until his fingers find their way to rest against his full lower lip.
‘Poe,’ Finn exhales, his breath hot on Poe’s hand. Poe is rapidly getting hard, a fog of desire descending the slopes of his already liminal mental state, and Finn’s voice being so low and breathless is not helping. Finn turns further, burying his face against Poe’s body, and throws a leg over Poe’s thighs. ‘Poe,’ Finn says again, and Poe realises, with a horrible sinking feeling, that Finn is somewhere near crying if not already actively there. He twists so that he can wrap Finn in both arms, erection not forgotten but dismissed, and just holds him.
‘I can’t believe I met you,’ Poe murmurs against the side of Finn’s head after some time has passed. ‘I can’t believe you rescued me.’
‘You can’t believe,’ Finn says, sounding incredulous. ‘Poe Dameron. The best pilot in the Resistance. Rescued me from the First Order.’ His voice dips. ‘The best pilot in the Resistance named me.’
‘Only the best, for you, Finn.’ Poe knows he’s not making a lot of sense right now.
‘You are the best,’ Finn says. Poe keeps holding him, even as he feels himself falling back to sleep, holding on for the sake of his own life as best as he can.
In the morning, Finn wakes him with a cup of ground bean tea, because apparently Poe lives in a very strange kind of heaven now, where he’s done nothing good to deserve the miracles he’s receiving. He sits up in bed and sips from it while reviewing their route with BB-8. Finn returns, and Poe can sense his nervous energy – the room is practically vibrating with it.
Poe himself is heavy with dread. He can’t taste his tea.
‘Poe?’ Finn says finally, as Poe is strapping himself into the pilot’s seat, ready to go. Poe can tell that whatever he’s about to be asked, Finn has been thinking about it all morning.
‘I, uh,’ Finn slides into the co-pilot’s seat. ‘Are you ok with doing this?’
Poe blinks at him. ‘Yes? Why wouldn’t I be?’
Finn pauses. ‘General Organa, who I know you care about very much, gave us a mission. And we are really far away from that mission right now.’
Poe turns back to look at the gauges. ‘I didn’t forget about it. But I’ve got another, equally important mission to complete first,’ he says, rather more grimly than he intends. ‘And I know she’ll understand.’ He doesn’t look over at Finn as he adds, ‘Strap in.’ A second later, he hears the three-point click. He settles his hands on the controls and relief washes over him. This might be the only thing he’s good at, but at least it’s something. ‘BB-8?’ he calls, and the droid beeps assent from behind him: all systems are go. He keys the intercom and states his intention to leave the spaceport; a moment later, a scratchy voice informs him that he is clear. He pulls back on the stick and they throttle into the sky.
He makes it seem like they are heading into orbit, and then drops down again, as far from the spaceport’s range as he feels comfortable going without losing track of their route. BB-8 makes encouraging beeps behind him as he visually confirms the towers and traffic of Galosian in the distance. Then he steers the ship into a steep-walled, grey canyon, and they set off, hopefully under the radar.
The landscape is barren. They see no animals and no plants. Basic geology suggests that this canyon was cut by a massive river, but it, too, is gone. Poe wonders at the logistics of the city, if all food must be brought into it or if any can be produced on-world. Finn is silent as the canyon slowly recedes, becoming a wide plain; Poe skims low along the ground now, not afraid of being seen. They are following the path of this recently-gone river, and rise slowly in elevation with it, the landscape still a uniform grey, monotony dotted by the occasional scrub bush clinging to life but nothing larger than a droid. Finally, after nearly two hours, Finn raises his hand and points.
Poe squints ahead. He can already feel the winds starting to move differently around the ship. Flying atmosphere side is always an exciting experience because of weather, and mountains, like coasts, complicate matters.
And there the mountains are: a sheer face of rock blocking the horizon from this distance. ‘I think so, buddy.’ He reaches forward and adjusts a stabilizer. ‘BB-8, we’re close, right?’ The droid warbles: they’re close to where Poe thinks they’re going. Poe can hear the droid’s disapproval of such a vague set of instructions and it makes him grin. The wind shifts a bit more and he flicks them out of autopilot and grabs the stick as Finn gasps. ‘Hold on,’ he says. ‘Just normal winds.’
‘Ok,’ Finn says, tense. ‘I trust you.’
Poe steers them through it as the ship bucks and swings. The shape of the mountains clarify as they approach them, and Poe searches for a ridgeline, for two notched stones, for anything recognisable. And then –
‘I think,’ he says, bringing the ship around, ‘that we are here.’
Finn is looking down at the grey mountainside below them through the glass floor. He says nothing.
There is a broad, slightly sloping field in the shadow of the two notches. Poe sets the ship down gently and looks at BB-8. ‘You agree?’ he asks in the sudden silence after he’s killed the engines. BB-8 beeps soft assent. Poe unclips from his seat and together he and Finn walk to the door.
Poe asks anxiously, ‘Do you want me to come with you? Do you want me to wait?’
Finn shakes his head. ‘I’m not sure what I want,’ he says.
‘Take BB-8,’ Poe suggests. ‘If you want me – if you – he knows how to contact me.’
Finn seems to be too preoccupied to notice how awkward Poe feels. He squeezes Poe’s arm quickly and gestures to the droid, who gives a mournful goodbye beep to Poe and rolls fast to catch up to Finn’s stride. Poe waits a moment, standing in the open hatch, and then steps down onto the ground. It is cracked, but not particularly hard; the soil crumbles away beneath his feet, leaving behind fractured impacts. The wind is unbelievably cold.
As Poe walks, he realises: there is nothing here. Nothing whatsoever. The landscape is as barren as the rest of the planet outside the city and its spaceport. In the distance, he sees Finn crouched on the ground, running his hands over something with BB-8 beside him. He sees him lift a handful of soil and let it be swept away by the fierce wind. Is Poe wrong about their location? He looks again towards the notches – it seems correct. He flew east. He could be wrong, but in his heart he feels that he is not. This is the place.
But what becomes of somewhere when it is no longer a place? Because this place has been erased.
The sun shifts in the sky, and still Finn and BB-8 are exploring the area. Poe shelters inside the ship, inspects the exterior, makes himself a warm drink, frets about whether or not Finn will want food when he returns. He continues to be cold, as he has been for every part of their Bujal 8 experience that hasn’t involved being in bed with Finn.
The comlink beeps. ‘Poe? Come look at this.’
Poe exits the ship and searches for them, eventually seeing their reassuring shapes in the distance, near the foot of the steepest part of the ridge. The wind tears at his clothing, his hair, and his face. He wonders if it is possible to lose eyelashes or an eyebrow to it. Or to frostbite.
Finn is crouched down beside BB-8, his hands on the ground. He stands when Poe draws close enough to speak. ‘Look at this.’
Teeth chattering, Poe joins him, crouching down when he does. The ground appears just as crumbled and empty as everywhere else, until – he sees it, suddenly. A metallic fragment – unmistakably a component from an agricultural droid. The arm is partially exposed, fresh marks in the dirt where Finn has swept it aside. Finn, studying his face, sees him see it.
‘There were people here,’ Finn says, fervent. ‘There were farms.’
Poe wants to cry. He wants to cover up that droid arm and let it be its own harvest in the soil. Fertile evidence of a genocide, to be excavated someday by someone who can do something about it. Or by someone so far in the future that they won’t care anymore. Poe stands, not sure what to do with his face, with his hands. Finn is still watching him so, so intently.
‘There were people here,’ Poe manages.
‘Maybe my people,’ Finn says.
Poe lets out a long breath he hadn’t realised he was holding. ‘Do you think so?’
‘It feels right,’ Finn says, ‘but I’m not sure how much to trust my feelings.’
‘I’m sorry,’ Poe offers. Sorry for what? That he hasn’t personally fixed this by winning the war? No, that’s not right. Finn has to know he’s trying to do that, despite his many missteps. Sorry for bringing him here. Finn, rightly Poe thinks, ignores him.
‘At least we know,’ Finn says, and Poe isn’t sure who he’s trying to convince. ‘We know there were people here.’ He looks at Poe fiercely. ‘They haven’t been completely erased.’
‘No,’ Poe says. He looks at BB-8. ‘Are you documenting this?’ The droid beeps: yes, of course, obviously, come on, this is big time important to Finn. Poe nods. ‘We’re gonna make sure it’s not.’
Chapter 7: What's in Front of You
It's time for things to get real.
Finn and Poe return to the ship a bit later. Poe knows where they’re going now and rockets into space; they are back at the spaceport in just under thirty minutes. Finn is silent again on the ride. When they land, Poe, who has been going over conversational ideas in his head for the duration of the flight, opens his mouth to say something inane, but before he can, Finn stands and says, ‘I’m going to go into the city.’ He makes eye contact with Poe. ‘Just by myself, tonight.’
Poe, taken aback, nods. ‘Let me know if – if you need anything.’ Finn doesn’t say anything as he leaves. Poe waits a few minutes and then throws himself into the other mission, the one that is filed in his head as Save the Galaxy and Restore Democracy and Make the General Proud instead of Save Finn and Make Finn Happy and Make Him Love You Too. He heads to the spaceport tavern to see if he can meet some pilots looking to turn hero.
He returns to the ship hours later; no Finn. He sits on the bed, worrying, waiting, not at all even pretending to read the book open on his lap. And then, when the sun is nearly up, he hears the door open and Finn’s footsteps, and the man himself appears, looking like he’s aged as many years as hours he’s been gone.
‘I talked to Rey,’ Finn says abruptly. ‘We had a good talk.’
‘Good,’ Poe says. He knows how important she is to Finn, and he hopes, with a sort of resigned melancholy, that she comforted him. He wants Finn to be comforted by anyone who can do it.
Finn crosses the small bedroom compartment and pulls the hanging chair in the centre forward so that he’s sitting directly in front of Poe. ‘Did I ever tell you that when I first met her, Rey just wanted to go back to Jakku?’
Poe doesn’t know where this is going, but, because it’s Finn, decides to trust the process. ‘No.’
‘Yeah, she kept saying she had to go back, that her family was going to come looking for her there.’ Finn takes a deep breath. ‘The problem is that it turns out she doesn’t have a family. She told me that she believed all her life that they would come back for her – her parents, who left her on Jakku in the care of a petty crime lord.’
Poe swears, softly. ‘That’s terrible.’
‘Yeah. But she just told me that she’s decided to face the truth. That she knew it all along.’
‘That they were nobodies. That they were never going to come back for her.’ Finn looks straight ahead, jaw set, determined. ‘She said I have to let go of the past and just focus on what’s in front of me.’
Poe longs to do something, anything, to make this right. ‘I’m sorry for bringing you here.’
‘Don’t be sorry,’ Finn says. ‘Really.’
Poe says, staring hard at a spot on the floor: ‘I thought I was giving you a great gift. I should have known better.’
‘Poe,’ Finn says quietly. When Poe doesn’t say anything, he says his name again, leaning forward and getting in his space. ‘Poe, let me tell you something.’
Poe looks at him and tries to meet his eyes. It hurts. ‘What?’
Finn takes a deep breath. ‘Remember the night before we came here?’
‘You fell asleep. And I was lying awake telling myself I wasn’t going to get too excited.’
Poe swallows. ‘Yeah.’
‘I was lying,’ Finn says flatly. He pauses and frowns. ‘I kept imagining a family.’
Poe wants to cry. ‘Yeah?’
‘Like, we’d land here and somehow find someone who would, I don’t know, recognise me.’
‘Finn, I’m so, so sorry.’
Finn ignores him. ‘And they’d take us into their house, and cook us a meal, and I’d know it, I’d know it used to be my favourite thing to eat. There’d be pictures of me on the walls when I was little. I’d have siblings. Maybe a sister, I always wanted one. Aunties and uncles would come over to see me. I’d introduce them all to you, the person who brought us back together.’
Poe’s throat aches. ‘Finn.’
‘And it would be – it would be enough. I’d know where I came from. I’d have people who – people who loved me.’ His eyes appear to be staring directly into Poe’s soul. ‘I wouldn’t be alone anymore.’
‘I hate this,’ Poe says quietly, forcefully. ‘I hate that it didn’t happen.’
‘Yeah.’ Finn pauses. ‘I do too.’
‘This is,’ Poe hits the wall with his palm, frustrated. ‘This is all the Empire’s fault. All the First Order’s fault. You deserve to have a family. That’s the absolute bare minimum of what you deserve.’ He rubs his eyes. ‘They strip mine planets for resources, they conscript – no, they enslave people – people like you. Their families – your family – never got to know you.’ He’s gesturing sharply with one hand and he knows it, but he can’t stop. ‘And I mourn for you, but I mourn for them too.’ His voice breaks, but he presses on. ‘They deserve to have known you. Finn. They deserve that.’
‘Poe,’ Finn says.
‘Part of me wants to stop thinking about it,’ Poe continues, fully letting go now. ‘I’m exhausted. I want to lie down on the ground and sleep forever rather than have to think about what they’re doing, what they did, what they’re going to keep doing. But I think about you and your family and I know I have to keep going.’
‘Poe,’ Finn says again, and he reaches forward. Poe meets him halfway, so that they are hugging messily across the divide between chair and bed, and then Finn winds up seated on the bed beside Poe, with Poe’s arms around him, holding onto him as tightly as he can. Finn’s face is pressed into his neck and Poe is breathing in the scent of his hair and trying not to cry. Finn might be crying, Poe isn’t sure, but he’s clearly emotional, so Poe strokes his head and back and tries to make soothing sounds, which come out a little bit broken around the lump in his own throat.
‘I’m sorry,’ Poe finally settles on, and then he can’t seem to stop saying it, like he has been for weeks now, about everything, until suddenly Finn twists his head away from Poe’s neck and presses his lips to Poe’s. Poe, caught in the middle of the “orr” in sorry, breathes the rest of the word into Finn’s mouth before he registers What Is Actually Happening.
Finn leans back and Poe releases him like he suddenly discovered he was trying to hold onto fire. Maybe he was. Finn is giving him a strange look, almost like an appraisal.
‘Did you want that?’ he asks.
‘Want…?’ Poe can’t seem to formulate thoughts. He knows he was saying something important just a moment ago…
‘Me to kiss you.’
Poe bursts into shaky laughter. ‘Finn. Buddy.’
‘Did I want it.’ Poe scrubs a hand across his face, but avoids his lips – Finn touched those. He’s going to let that linger. ‘Yes. Yes, of course I did. From the day I met you.’ He pauses. ‘Well, I was a little distracted then. From the day I was on the tarmac and BB-8 told me you were still alive and I saw you in my jacket.’
Finn is grinning. ‘Sorry I lost that on Snoke’s ship.’
‘It’s ok. You look good without it too.’ Poe grimaces, blushes, and says, ‘Finn…’
‘You told me you couldn’t say that inspirational stuff,’ Finn says. ‘I think you nailed it.’
Poe laughs and rubs his face again. And then he realises – why isn’t he touching Finn? Why would his hands do anything but touch Finn? ‘So Finn, buddy, um…’
Finn raises his eyebrows. ‘Yeah?’
‘Can I kiss you again?’
‘I think I kissed you the first time,’ Finn says, cocking his head. ‘So again isn’t really…’
Poe doesn’t hear the rest of it, and Finn doesn’t really get to say it – though for a second, Poe thinks he’s going to try, even with Poe’s mouth pressed against his – but then Finn makes a little sighing noise and runs his tongue along Poe’s lower lip and Poe forgets he thought anything at all before right now. He puts his hands up, one wrapping around the back of Finn’s neck, the other settling on the perfect, springy hair just above his ear, his fingers curling around the curve of Finn’s perfect skull. He pulls him as close as he possibly can, wanting to swallow him, to be devoured by him. Finn makes a noise dangerously close to a moan and then his hands cup the sides of Poe’s face, warm and gentle, but underneath that, strong – and his grip is just strong enough that Poe feels need in there too. But –
‘Finn,’ he says, leaning back. ‘Finn is this –‘
Finn blinks at him. ‘What?’
Poe is a little out of breath, and a lot out of the brain capacity to be eloquent – his body has some other things it’s trying to process. ‘You’ve had quite a day,’ he manages. ‘Is this – too much?’
Finn’s face stills. ‘Poe,’ he says, somehow very calm, ‘do you think I haven’t been thinking about this for a while?’
The events of the past several weeks flash through Poe’s mind. They seem to involve a lot of Finn listening attentively to him talking about X-Wings, Finn touching his arm or his hand, Finn in his bed… ‘Hm. Ok. Kind of sensing a pattern. I’ll admit that. But I don’t want you to, um, to rush into something because you’ve had – you’ve had an emotional day.’
Finn raises an eyebrow, still the picture of collected rationality. Poe has no idea how he’s doing it. He feels slightly hysterical. Then Finn’s face softens, and he puts one hand on Poe’s cheek, his finger tracing the outline of the bone beneath the skin.
‘I appreciate the thought,’ Finn says. ‘I really do. But I promise you, I’ve thought about this. And Rey told me to focus on what’s in front of me.’ He leans forward and kisses Poe, quickly, lightly, on the lips, then draws back, grinning. ‘Oh, look where you are.’
‘Not close enough,’ Poe says, going in for another kiss. Finn’s grip this time is tighter, his breath more ragged. He definitely moans, though it’s a bit hard to hear over the little groaning noises that Poe is unable to stop himself from making. They’re still side by side on the bed, and Poe realises that it’s terrible, because he’s not fully touching Finn everywhere that he possibly can be, so he sort-of-stands – keeping his hands firmly on the sides of Finn’s head so that their mouths don’t separate – Finn makes a noise of protest – and Poe swings his leg around and straddles Finn. Finn actually gasps into his mouth, even though Poe is now just kneeling on either side of his thighs, using Finn’s shoulders to prop himself up – and then Finn’s hands wind up on his back, shoving up roughly between his jacket and his tunic. Poe pushes him back onto the bed, and Finn drags him down with him in a sprawl of limbs and jackets and bodies and the mutual need of those bodies to touch everywhere. Poe is fully hard, and pressed into Finn’s thigh, pulling his mouth away from the other man’s to drag it down his chin, the tip of his tongue catching on light stubble all the way down, alternating rough feeling and soft tasting. Finn gasps again, pressing up into him, and there it is, Finn is hard too, so hard and big that Poe has to pause to just appreciate this single feeling of pressure against his hip, the sexiest feeling imaginable. He lets his teeth graze Finn’s Adam’s apple. He thinks about saying something crazy like, ‘Can I lick your entire body?’ One of Finn’s hands is in his hair, clenched so tight that for a second he thinks he’s being pushed down to suck his cock, which, surprisingly forward but fuck yes, Poe is extremely here for it if that’s what Finn wants. And then Finn says, his voice catching:
‘Stormtroopers don’t do this.’
Poe gets it. He pushes himself up slightly on one arm and strokes his hand down Finn’s cheek. ‘Good thing you aren’t a stormtrooper then.’
‘I mean,’ Finn says. He’s sweating. Poe decides it would definitely be weird – right now, so early on in this adventure – to ask if he can lick the sweat off of his hairline. He files that away for the later, hidden desires part of this, with high hopes that they get there. He wants to be given every fraction of this man. Finn grimaces and Poe manages to focus enough to hear him say, ‘I’ve never done this before.’
‘I’ve never done this before either,’ Poe tries, wanting to make it fun. ‘Kissed you, I mean. For that matter, wanted to kiss anyone as much as I want to kiss you.’
Finn looks up at him, a little grin appearing on his face. Poe grimaces. ‘Too mushy?’
Finn gives him that appraising look again. ‘You meant it though.’
The swagger. Poe could swoon. He might be doing it right now, technically, since he is lying down. He settles for, ‘Yeah, I meant it.’
‘Then keep saying it,’ Finn says, grinning wider. Poe kisses him hard, but dials back the desperately needy, blinded by desire to ride Finn until he comes inside of him part. He still feels it, but he wants Finn to feel safe too. Finn wants him, Finn is hard because of him, and that is enough for right now. They can work on the rest later. Like maybe after they’ve had some sleep – exhaustion hits Poe like a blast to his wing.
‘I will,’ he murmurs, sliding to the side, keeping his hips and thighs and cock pressed against Finn’s body and throwing one leg over his lap to keep Finn’s hardness pressed into him. Finn shifts to face him, seeking his mouth again, but slower now, urgency nowhere near gone, but instead dialled back, like adjusting for atmospheric entry in a storm – don’t rush it, you’ll mess it up, just keep your hands on the controls, gentle but firm –
‘You have a nice ass,’ Poe mumbles in between trying to taste every part of Finn’s lower lip. One of his hands is in Finn’s back pocket, the other curled up between them, holding Finn’s hand.
Finn starts laughing against his mouth, and has to pull away, pressing his head into Poe’s chest and shaking with mirth. He uses his free hand to gratuitously grope Poe’s thigh and hip, seemingly searching for something, still shaking –
‘It’s not funny if you’re laughing at your own joke,’ Poe says, barely able to get out the words around his own uncontrollable giggling.
Finn’s hand finds the back of his trousers. ‘You do too,’ he says, raising his head, suddenly very serious, to kiss Poe in mid-chortle. ‘I like kissing you when you’re laughing,’ he adds, a little bit shy. ‘I get your tongue.’
Poe nuzzles against his face, breathing in his scent, ‘Finn.’
‘This feels like I made the right choice,’ Finn adds, and grins when Poe meets his eyes.
‘Buddy, I am so happy to hear that,’ Poe says, voice dipping down an octave.
Exhaustion overtakes them not long after; Poe almost falls asleep mid-kiss, which seems like the kind of dumb and terrible thing he would have done when he was a teenager. He feels giddy, fifteen, like this is his first make out session. Maybe it is, if there’s some Platonic ideal of a make out.
‘Poe,’ Finn murmurs against his ear. ‘You’re not making a lot of sense.’
‘Am I talking out loud?’ Poe mumbles. Finn embraces him tightly enough that Poe’s not sure how no one suffocates, but he wants it, it is so good, it is perfect. It must be nearly morning by now. Poe falls into a deep, black, emotionally exhausted sleep.
Chapter 8: You and Me
Short chapter today. The plot returns next time (more smut probably will too).
Poe wakes up with the impression of Finn’s jacket on his cheek, sore from the spare electronics he keeps strapped to his lower leg and which have been digging into him all night. He hopes he stops waking up in his clothes soon.
Finn is soundly asleep. Poe, on an urge that Finn not wake up with any regrets, gets carefully out of bed so as not to disturb him and goes into the galley. He decides to make an elaborate breakfast.
Finn walks in as BB-8 is patiently making reassuring beeps in response the fifth time he’s said: ‘I hope Finn likes this.’
‘Pretty sure I will,’ Finn says. Poe almost drops the bowl as he turns. Finn in the doorway is leaning, his clothes rumpled, his face creased with a smile. Poe’s stomach dips like it’s entering zero-g.
‘Good morning,’ he says, rather breathier than he intended.
‘Good morning,’ Finn replies, still leaning in the doorway, still smiling. Poe reaches for courage and takes the two steps across the galley so that he can lean in and kiss him. Finn’s hands find his waist and pull him in close; the kiss gets prolonged, Poe’s stomach fluttering wildly; BB-8 makes an alarmed beep and they both turn to see the pot on the stove about to overflow. Finn grabs it, keeping his other arm tightly around Poe. ‘Where does this go?’
‘Just on the table,’ Poe says. He puts his hands on Finn’s chest, feeling the broad muscles through his tunic. ‘Let’s give it time to cool.’
Despite BB-8 having set an alarm that briefly jolts them from kissing against the doorway, they ultimately eat a very cold and congealed breakfast. Poe barely notices, sitting as he is with one hand in Finn’s, resting on Finn’s thigh. He might as well be eating sand.
‘Listen, Poe,’ Finn says after they’ve finished eating.
Finn gets a faraway look on his face, the first time he’s taken his eyes off of Poe since he entered the galley. ‘What’s wrong?’ Poe asks.
‘This is perfect,’ Finn says, briefly looking back at him and smiling, his head cocked, ‘Really. Nothing could be better than how this is. But.’ He looks away again.
‘But everything else,’ Poe says, commiserating.
‘What do you do,’ Finn asks, ‘when you’re so sad, and so angry, that you don’t…’ He looks back at Poe, this time a little helpless. ‘You don’t know what to do?’
Poe grins, mirthlessly. ‘I work harder.’
Finn grins back. ‘Let’s take down these fuckers,’ he says. ‘You and me.’
Chapter 9: The Best Laid Plans
Together, they form an unstoppable recruitment machine. Poe knows a lot of extremely driven people but aside from the General – who can and does run circles around him – he’s never met anyone else who could keep up with him - until Finn. Poe has the info, the technical know-how about the Resistance, who and what it needs, and where to look to get it; Finn has the charisma and people skills to convince others to make it happen. They start to work their way deeper into the social structure of Galosian. They learn the backdoors of the market, the families and gangs and police and bureaucrats, who has the best interests of the city and the galaxy at heart. Finn charms them all, and when they have questions, Poe knows the answers.
At night, returning to the ship, they have each other. They’re all business in the city, riding the magtrain, walking past the customs agent and into the ship. It’s killing Poe, who wants to have a possessive hand on Finn every second of the day. As soon as he puts his palm on the lock to the ship’s hatch, an internal magnet unique to the two of them comes to life and they are in each other’s arms before BB-8 can initiate the docked security sequence. All they’re doing is kissing, clothes on, but to Poe, it’s sexy as hell.
Finn seems to feel the same.
One night, things get more heated than they have yet, and Poe is pressing Finn up against the counter in the galley, his hands everywhere, his tongue on Finn’s ears and neck as much as his mouth. Finn is breathing like he’s just escaped a Star Destroyer – a sound Poe is intimately familiar with – and when Poe shoves his hard cock into his leg, Finn reaches back and pulls himself onto the counter, wrapping his legs around Poe’s waist and pulling him closer. Poe puts one hand under Finn’s thigh, gripping the muscle there as he rubs against it, feeling the edge of orgasm, something he hasn’t done yet with Finn –
‘Poe, hang on,’ Finn says abruptly.
Poe freezes. ‘What?’
‘Sorry,’ Finn says. His chest is heaving underneath his tunic. ‘It’s a lot.’
It is indeed a lot for Poe too, who carefully lets go of Finn’s thigh and says, ‘It’s ok, I’ll be right back,’ before fleeing into the shower room. He stands in front of the mirror staring at himself – his hair wildly mussed, his face shining with sweat, his clothing twisted and tugged – and debates finishing this now or splashing water on his face.
You’re a grown ass man, he tells himself. This is ridiculous.
‘Poe,’ Finn says from behind the door. ‘I’m really sorry.’
Poe turns on the tap and opens the door, so that when Finn enters, he’s scrubbing wet hands over his cheeks and through his hair. ‘Don’t be sorry,’ he says, sincerely. ‘This is the best time I’ve ever had with someone.’ He turns around and leans against the counter, looking at the gorgeous man in front of him, still a little stunned that he met him.
‘Ever?’ Finn asks, sounding incredulous.
‘Yeah,’ Poe says, with a grim flashback to a lot of shitty heartbreak.
Finn squints at him. ‘You’re the most attractive man I’ve ever met,’ he says, reaching forward and brushing the annoying curl off Poe’s forehead. ‘And you have one of the sexiest jobs in the galaxy.’
‘I don’t think of it as a job,’ Poe deadpans. ‘More of a calling.’
Finn rolls his eyes. ‘You know what I mean.’
‘You were a stormtrooper,’ Poe replies flippantly. ‘You know what it’s like. Danger everywhere, put two people in a life or death situation, well, mistakes get made.’ He shrugs.
Finn gives him a long look. ‘That’s not what being a stormtrooper is like,’ he says. ‘Trust me. It’s regimented. You don’t –‘ He shakes his head. ‘The feelings might be there, but there’s no way for it to become physical.’
Poe winces with regret. ‘Sorry,’ he says. ‘It’s – it’s like this.’ He pauses, trying to think how to say it. ‘You –‘
‘You,’ Finn clarifies, looking a bit grim.
Poe swallows. ‘I, in the past, would meet someone, we’d bond intensely when we were in danger, just, hey, you’re in the Resistance, I’m in the Resistance, you hate the First Order, I hate the First Order, and one thing would lead to another. And then a little bit later, they’d wake up and realise that the person in bed beside them – me – was difficult to be around. Wanted to talk about X-Wings too much.’ He remembers an ex-boyfriend who was particularly good at calling him out right where it hurt. ‘Was too intense.’
‘Too intense?’ Finn asks, one eyebrow raised. ‘Can’t imagine that.’
‘I know, right?’ Poe looks down and to the side. ‘But I haven’t done that in a long time,’ he says, truthfully. ‘I’m not interested in it anymore. And the higher up the ranks I’ve gone, the less acceptable it’s become, from an operational standpoint. I could never sleep with someone I command. It would be completely inappropriate.’ He makes a decision and looks back at Finn. ‘I’m only interested in the right person, now. In finding that person and being the best I can be for him.’
Finn’s face softens and he steps forward, into Poe’s waiting arms. ‘You don’t always have to be the best, you know,’ he murmurs in Poe’s ear. ‘I know you’re going to be no matter what I say but, know that you don’t have to put this kind of pressure on yourself.’ He kisses him, gently. ‘Not with me.’
‘Absolutely with you,’ Poe says, appalled at the suggestion. He looks seriously into Finn’s eyes. ‘Just like the Resistance, just like the General. You deserve it.’
The next night, as they are lying in bed, Finn puts a hand onto Poe’s waistband and then up to his stomach, his palm sliding underneath the cloth of Poe’s tunic. Poe shivers at his touch and Finn instantly stops kissing him.
‘Is this all right?’
Poe presses his hand to Finn’s. ‘Yes.’
‘Good,’ Finn says, and then he reaches up and undoes the button on the shoulder of Poe’s tunic so that it falls open. The second it does, Poe realises what is about to come tumbling out – his mother’s ring on its simple gold chain.
‘What’s this?’ Finn asks, squinting at it.
Poe figures there’s no point in obfuscation. ‘My mother’s wedding ring,’ he says. ‘There for safekeeping.’
Finn smiles as he looks at it. ‘I like that,’ he says, and Poe is reminded of the fact that Finn has no heirlooms. He longs to give him one.
He says, recklessly, ‘I want to give it to my future husband.’
Finn doesn’t look up at him. ‘Might have to get it resized.’
‘Sure,’ Poe agrees, now wondering how big Finn’s ring finger is.
‘Or totally changed, depending on species,’ Finn adds.
‘Right,’ Poe says. ‘If it’s for a tentacle, I’ll probably just give it with the chain.’
‘Good idea,’ Finn says. He lets go of the ring and slides his hands underneath the open sides of the tunic, letting them rest on Poe’s naked sides. ‘I’ll leave it on you, then, but this – I’m taking this off.’
So it goes for the next few nights, a slow progression of Finn taking away more and more articles of clothing, of touching progressing lower and lower down the body. Poe glazes over in public a lot, reliving the events of the night before. Finn always puts a hand on his arm and gives him a knowing smile when he does.
One night, as Poe is negotiating slipping his hand inside of Finn’s trousers, BB-8 rolls into the galley, beeping frantically.
‘What?’ Finn asks, startled, as Poe jumps away and starts yanking on his clothes.
‘Two people approaching. One trying to keep out of sight.’ Poe grabs his trousers off the floor and steps into them, hopping in a circle as he tries to get his blaster belt up around his waist. He stands, straightening it, and almost runs into Finn, who is holding out his tunic. Together they get it on, Finn buttoning it at the shoulder as Poe stuffs its ends into his belt.
‘Hang on, let me cover for you,’ Finn says, reaching for his own belt.
‘Whoever is looking for us will know there’s two of us,’ Poe says.
‘Yeah,’ Finn agrees, ‘but I’ll keep out of sight so they can’t see what direction I’m shooting from.’
Poe nods just as BB-8 says: they’re here.
‘Poe,’ Finn says, and Poe kisses him.
‘Be careful,’ Poe murmurs. Then he hits the button on the door to the hatch and steps down onto the sandy soil inside the hangar space they’re renting.
Murat, the Neimoidian from the temple, stands before him, looking startled. They blink a few times and then say, ‘Did you know I was here?’
Poe would bet the ship that the other person out here is the woman acolyte. ‘My droid told me,’ he says. ‘Can I help you?’
‘Can we go somewhere to talk?’ they ask. ‘You and the other.’
Poe frowns at them. He senses zero guile but has no idea what they might want. ‘Where’s your friend?’
Murat calls the woman’s name, the sound as beautiful and unpronounceable as before; she appears, looking annoyed. Murat says, ‘There’s a tavern that’s quiet.’ They have a pleading look that Poe recognises from civilians encountered on missions. They seem to think that he and Finn can set things right. He wants to tell them, it’s probably not going to work. Whatever you want us to blow up, it’s not going to be destroy enough stuff to fix the problem. He beckons to Finn and asks BB-8 to lock the ship.
The hangar tavern is a large, dark space located on top of the control tower. It has an arresting view of the sparkling towers of the city. In the dark, it is impossible to tell how run down they are. The tavern is full despite its size, and they have to fight to find a table; eventually they secure a dark, semi-circular booth. A handsome human waiter, presumably chosen as a guess at the dominant preferences in their party, brings them a sample of drinks on a tray and doesn’t leave until he has an annoyingly large quantity of Poe’s credits in his hands.
‘So,’ Poe says, trying his best to be polite, ‘you wanted to talk.’
The woman is staring off into the distance, her face conveying deep unhappiness at being here. Finn is silent beside him, and he can tell that he’s looking at her. Murat takes an unsteady sip of their blue wine and says, ‘We don’t even know your names.’
Poe sighs. ‘You wanted to talk,’ he says. ‘Now you’re asking questions?’
‘Finn,’ Finn says, pointing to himself. ‘And Poe.’
‘You can call her Asi,’ Murat says, gesturing to the woman. ‘I know her name is hard to learn.’
‘They want to join you,’ the woman says abruptly. ‘It’s a mistake.’
Finn focuses in on Murat. ‘You want to join the Resistance?’ he asks, leaning forward.
They nod, looking scared at their own boldness. ‘I heard you have a new Jedi. I’d like to be of service to her.’ They glance at the woman and add, ‘This is my calling, as a Temple acolyte.’
Poe frowns at them. He’s not sure what the official position on Rey is – are they calling her a Jedi now? Are they letting people know about her knowledge of the Force?
Finn says, ‘We’ll see what we can do.’
Murat exhales audibly and takes another big gulp of their wine. ‘Asi, I told you this wasn’t a mistake.’
‘You’ll help them?’ she asks, looking at Finn.
‘Of course,’ Finn say without hesitation. ‘Anyone who wants to fight the power of the First Order is our friend.’
The woman looks at Poe. ‘Did you go to the farms?’
‘They were gone,’ Poe replies.
She blinks and nods. ‘I’m not surprised.’
‘We found part of a droid,’ Finn adds. ‘An agricultural one, by the look of its arm.’
‘That’s more than I thought you’d find.’
‘What do you know about it?’ Poe asks her. He can tell there’s more to her than hostility and care for her friend – though those things are certainly real.
‘Nothing more than I told you.’
‘How’d you know where to look?’
She looks directly at him, eyes flaring wide. ‘My family was once very powerful on this planet,’ she says. ‘My parents and grandparents traded with the farms. Sometimes I spent time there with extended family.’ She glances at Finn, and then back at Poe. He gets the impression that looking at Finn is painful for her. ‘The First Order came when I was a very young acolyte. Many of my people died.’ Her eyes are boring into Poe’s, gleaming with something – anger? Pain? Both? ‘I remember them.’
Finn’s hand is suddenly on Poe’s thigh, gripping it hard. Poe grabs his hand and squeezes. ‘Maybe the First Order took some of the children, and they survived too,’ Finn says.
‘Maybe,’ the woman says. ‘Let me see your right arm.’
Murat suddenly looks scared. ‘Not here, Asi.’
The woman ignores them. ‘Let me see it.’
Finn has to let go of Poe’s hand to show her. Poe clamps his hand onto Finn’s leg. He doesn’t know what to think of any of this, but Finn is going ahead with it. He lays his arm on the table, his palm out and up.
‘I need to see your elbow,’ she says. ‘There should be a mark.’
‘Not if he was too young,’ Murat says. They give Poe an apologetic look.
Finn tugs off his jacket. Poe, needing to demonstrate his role as protector of Finn, reaches over possessively and takes it, keeping it on his lap, and then he helps him roll up the sleeve of his tunic, fastening it at the shoulder. Finn gives him a look that Poe can read clear as day: he’s scared, and has no idea whether or not to trust the woman.
‘You don’t have it,’ she says, waving her hand. ‘They stamped the children of the farms at birth.’ She turns away from them. Finn looks quietly devastated. Poe, furious, carefully rolls down the sleeve, trying to convey to Finn: don’t necessarily believe her.
‘Asi,’ Murat says, urgently, ‘Not in public.’ They pause, and Poe sees them note the sudden shift in emotions at the table. ‘Tell them about,’ they say another very long name that Poe can’t catch.
The woman shakes her head. ‘I thought he was from the farms,’ she says, brittle. ‘I don’t want to help some offworlder.’
‘Hey,’ Poe says, leaning forward, Finn’s hand tense on his arm. He swallows and tones down his voice, because this feels important. He’s sure she’s lying. ‘Any help you can give us would be greatly appreciated. We might be able to help you with something.’
She raises her eyebrows at him. ‘I don’t think so.’
Poe looks at her, calculating. ‘I don’t know you,’ he says. ‘I don’t know what you’ve been through. But it seems to me that you’ve been through something.’ He tries to choose his words carefully; this is not his best skill, but he is going to give it everything he has for Finn and the Resistance. ‘The Resistance has plenty of people who aren’t there for noble reasons. They’re there for revenge. Against whatever the First Order has done to them and their loved ones.’ The woman blinks at him. Finn’s hand is gripping him almost painfully, which spurs him on; he feels close to something. He shifts tactics and looks at Murat. ‘Why are you afraid of Finn showing his arm in public?’
Murat looks at the woman, who is looking away now. ‘There are agents of the First Order everywhere,’ they say, very quiet.
Poe knows; they’ve been careful to the point of paranoia, but he’s definitely sensed danger and left situations because of it. ‘In the spaceport in particular?’ he asks them.
‘They watch everywhere,’ the woman says. ‘They left behind agents.’
‘They want you to think that,’ Finn says quietly.
‘I’d rather not take the chance,’ the woman snaps.
‘Please,’ Finn says to her. ‘Help us. We want to help you.’
‘You want the war to continue.’
‘I want the war to end,’ Poe says, meaning it.
She rolls her eyes. ‘Then walk away.’
‘Some of us can’t do that,’ Finn says. ‘Some of us have to fight.’
Finn leans forward. ‘Because the people we love are fighting. And need to be fought for.’
Poe looks at him; Finn is looking at the woman, his face very serious. Poe is so grateful to have him by his side, a partner he hadn’t known he needed until he met him.
‘Tell them to quit fighting then,’ the woman says, waving a hand. ‘Retire to your homeworld. Try to make it a better place.’
‘I don’t have a homeworld,’ Finn says, every word enunciated. ‘The First Order took it from me.’
‘And they’re led by someone from Alderaan, Asi,’ Murat pleads. ‘And before there was a First Order, before there was even an Empire, the Emperor ruined my planet. He convinced our leaders to invest everything in a phony war. Now we’re poor, most of us refugees, hated by everyone.’
‘They killed my people,’ the woman says evenly, ‘but you don’t see me out here murdering. I’ve moved on. I’m devoted to my religious studies.’
Murat, frustrated, says to Poe and Finn, ‘Asi knows someone who can help us.’
‘How can they help us?’ Poe asks.
But Asi shakes her head, and Murat will say nothing further. Frustrated, they promise to meet with Murat the next day and leave. Once they are on the ship, Poe says to Finn, ‘I think that woman – Asi – I think she was lying.’
‘I think so too,’ Finn says, sounding upset. ‘I think she’ll come around.’
‘Oh,’ Poe says, ‘I meant about your arm.’ He collapses backward onto the bed and then forces himself to sit up and remove his shoes. He’ll see if he has the strength to get his belt off – they’ve been getting three or four hours of sleep a night for a while now and that, combined with the drink he had at the bar, has just hit him hard.
‘I don’t know,’ Finn says quietly. ‘Does it really matter, anyway? If they’re all gone then why does it really matter if this is my homeworld? Just an empty field where some people who looked like me used to live.’
Poe looks up at him. Finn’s face says very clearly that he doesn’t mean it. ‘I really think she’s lying,’ he says. He reaches out and takes Finn’s hands, pulling him close and leaning his head against Finn’s stomach. ‘Something about you has her rattled.’
‘She thinks we’re going to bring the First Order here,’ Finn says, now playing with Poe’s hair as Poe embraces him. ‘That’s a reasonable fear.’
‘It is,’ Poe agrees. ‘I’ve been thinking about that.’
‘We should leave soon,’ Finn says. ‘We’ve done good work here. Maybe too much.’
Poe tilts his head up and looks at him. ‘How do you feel about leaving?’
Finn shrugs. ‘I told you before. I’m going to focus on what’s in front of me.’ He smooths his fingers through the sides of Poe’s hair so that his hands are framing his face. ‘Poe.’
Poe turns his head and kisses the palm of Finn’s right hand. ‘Let’s go to sleep,’ he says. ‘We’ll talk to Murat in the morning and then make a plan for leaving.’ If he’s honest, he’s been anxious about Bujal for days. He wants to get back to Yavin and contact the General.
‘Sensible,’ Finn says, with just a hint of his playful side.
Chapter 10: The Dream, the Tower, and the Canyon
They meet Murat at a café near the temple the next day. The Neimodian is alone, and pensive.
‘Asi will come around,’ they promise. ‘You have to trust me, I know her so well. She wants to help but she is so scared of exposing – the person she knows who can help.’
‘We can’t stay on this planet much longer,’ Finn tells them. ‘So you have to convince her now if you think it’s possible.’
Murat looks unhappy.
‘Is this person really worth it?’ Poe asks.
Murat nods. ‘Yes,’ they say. ‘I can’t tell you more – it would be betraying Asi’s trust. But I promise you. This is worth it.’
They’ve overstayed their welcome on Bujal, and Poe knows it. He becomes twitchy, certain that danger is closing in on them. He’s been in a Finn-induced haze and he berates himself for it. But Asi requires time to acquire as an asset and Murat seems to think it will be valuable – and what if it is?
What if this is the chance between life and death for the Resistance?
The problem being that he’s been wondering that about everything lately.
That night, in troubled sleep, he dreams:
He is at a briefing, Finn beside him. The General is speaking, or maybe another older woman, it is difficult to tell, her face keeps shifting. Han Solo is there, as is Luke Skywalker, and Admiral Ackbar, and many other heroes of the Rebellion, people he has spent his life idolising, many of whom gave their lives for the good of the galaxy.
The meeting breaks up and he realises that he hasn’t listened to a word; he has no idea what their mission is. Finn is determined, serious. He’s wearing an orange flight suit. They walk together to the hangar. Finn turns to him in front of an A-Wing with an Imperial walker painted on its nose. This ship served at Ord Mantell. Finn wraps his arms around Poe’s shoulders and Poe clings to him, suddenly fully knowing the mission. Then Finn climbs into the ship and Poe walks with several other Pathfinders into the belly of a stolen Imperial transport.
Endor is a different kind of jungle than Yavin. Ferns coat its forest floor; above, his view is dominated by towering trees with solid trunks wider than a small fighter. It smells mineral rather than floral. It is also eerily silent. The wildlife has all been killed by bored Imperial troopers guarding a shield generator that protects the second Death Star. Poe squints into the blue sky and can see it, orbiting above them, a malevolent and false moon.
But then: they are captured. Poe knows that Finn is with Green Squadron, and he thinks only of him, barely aware of the danger he is in, even as a stormtrooper slaps him in the face, even as he’s forced to kneel. The rumour is that Vader is coming to deal with them. He knows, with absolute certainty, that Vader has murdered Luke Skywalker. The Death Star is still above them. So where is Green Squadron? Did they escape? The dream devolves into a series of flashes: stormtroopers. Trees. Black-suited legs that Poe knows belong to Vader. A stormtrooper removing his helmet in a corridor, just as Finn had the first time Poe met him; but then the face isn’t Finn’s, but someone Poe has never seen before: a hard face, cruel and scarred. All he can think of is the coldness of space and the broken ships floating in it, of a body that must be lost in that vastness –
He sits up so hard that he smacks his head against the wall and crumples backward, hissing and holding his forehead. Finn’s arms are around him instantly, one hand pressed to his where it holds his forehead, the other around his shoulder. Poe turns and pushes his face into Finn’s warm neck, breathing deeply, trying to calm himself.
‘It was just a dream,’ Finn says, stroking Poe’s back. ‘Everything is ok.’
‘Is it?’ Poe mumbles. He knows all about stress dreams – his first month at the Academy, he’d dreamt every night for a month that he’d get into a cockpit and have zero knowledge of how to fly. Since joining the Resistance, he’s repeatedly had dreams about failing the General, failing his squadron, failing the galaxy – but never one quite as intense as this. ‘It felt really real,’ he says, and, a moment later. ‘Ugh. I feel very stupid right now.’
‘Don’t,’ Finn says. ‘Dreams can be like that.’
Poe looks up from Finn’s neck to stare at the grey wall. There’s low light in the room coming from the running boards in the hallway; a safety feature on the ship in case of an emergency evacuation. ‘It was the Battle of Endor,’ he says quietly. ‘I was – you were – you were my mother, which sounds crazy, but I was my father, I think. You were you, I mean, but you were going to fly with Green Squadron to try to take down the Death Star and I was going with the General down to the surface of Endor.’ He rubs his eyes.
‘So it had a happy ending?’ Finn asks, teasing gently.
‘No.’ Poe rubs his eyes. ‘We didn’t bring down the shield generator. The Empire won.’ He hesitates, still trying to shake the dream. He wants Finn to understand. ‘That wasn’t the worst part. The whole time I just felt this complete, horrible…’ searching for the word, ‘dread. We were separated, you in the sky, me on the ground.’
Finn leans his head against Poe’s upper back, his face turned so that he’s looking to the side, and wraps his arms around Poe’s chest. He says, ‘That’s what’s going to happen.’
Poe twists to look at him. He can just see the top of his head. ‘What do you mean?’
‘When we’re in a fight,’ Finn says, not looking up, ‘you and I will most likely be in different places. Like we were the last time we were in a fight.’
‘I don’t like that,’ Poe says.
‘But if it’s what has to happen…’
Poe makes an unhappy noise. ‘We were together on Crait.’
‘Yeah, and I was crap at flying.’
‘You’re getting better.’
‘Not fast enough to be in an X-Wing squadron, come on, Poe.’
Poe tries to imagine being Finn’s commanding officer and cannot. He puts a hand onto Finn’s where it rests on his chest. ‘Finn…’
‘Listen, Poe,’ Finn says, suddenly firm. ‘Let’s talk.’
The bottom drops out of Poe’s stomach. ‘All right,’ he says, cautious.
Finn sits up and turns so that they’re facing each other. ‘Are you ready for this?’
Poe frowns. ‘For what?’
Finn gestures between them. ‘For this.’
‘Does it seem like I’m not?’
Finn looks at Poe very seriously. ‘I know that you take things to heart, Poe,’ he says. His reaches for Poe’s hand and runs his fingers along his palm, tracing the lines there. ‘I’ve known that about you from very early on. So I didn’t want to make the wrong choice and have to tell you that I’d changed my mind.’
Poe swallows. ‘That’s nice of you.’
‘I’ve made my choice now,’ Finn says, and he lifts Poe’s hand to his mouth and kisses the ridges of his knuckles. ‘But Poe, I need you to ask yourself if you’re really ready for this.’ He lets go of his hand while Poe blinks at him. ‘I’m not here to save you,’ he says firmly. ‘You’ve got a lot of things going on in your life. Maybe this makes it too many.’
Poe thinks of his parents – retiring very young to Yavin 4. Of the General and Han Solo, whose marriage fractured under the strain. He’s been accused of it before: the Resistance is his life.
‘I want this to work,’ Poe says, honestly. ‘So, so much, Finn. And I will do everything I can to make it so.’ He looks down at his hands, trying to think of how to say it. ‘I won’t stop fighting while the First Order is out there. Or anything like it. I’ve thought for – forever, I guess, for as long as I’ve been thinking about it, that this is my purpose in life. But what if –‘ He looks up at Finn. ‘What if my purpose is to do all that for you?’
Finn runs his hand down Poe's face. 'Your ex said you were intense?' he asks teasingly. 'Can't imagine why.'
'You're my Signal Star,' Poe says softly, leaning in and kissing Finn's cheek. 'You're guiding me home.'
They meet in a private chapel at one side of the temple. Murat, draped in their long, grey robes, is kneeling when they enter, but stands quickly and turns to them, bowing low with their hands pressed together before their chest.
'My friends,' they say. 'Welcome.'
'Murat,' Poe says. 'This is the last day we're going to be here.'
Murat frets, their face a study in worry. 'Asi is still not sure.'
'That's fine,' Poe says. 'We can't afford to wait any longer. I believe we're in danger here.'
Murat sighs. 'Yes, I believe that too,' they say. They look down at their green-grey hands. They have a small metal ring on one finger, bearing an incised motif of a crystalline shape with bars - presumably representing light - radiating outwards from it. A khyber crystal, Poe thinks. 'Let me speak with Asi and make her understand.'
'Don't worry,' Finn says suddenly; he's been pensive and silent for most of the day, and it startles Poe to hear his voice. 'You've given us more than enough, Murat.'
'Do I come with you?' they ask.
'No,' Poe says. 'We'll give you money for passage to meet a contact in a neutral location.'
Murat looks startled. 'I go alone?'
'Yes,' Poe says gently, 'but trust me, the contact will be kind.' He's sending them to another Neimoidian, an older one who fought in the Clone Wars alongside Bail Organa. Esah will look after Murat.
'You doubt me?' Murat asks softly.
'We doubt everyone,' Poe replies grimly. 'The price we pay for safety.'
Murat hesitates, then nods. 'Of course. It makes sense. I didn't think of it that way.' They step towards the door. 'Let me speak with Asi. I'll be back soon with an answer no matter what.'
Poe sits on a bench in front of the small altar in the chapel. There's an image of a robed figure carved into the stone stele that forms most of the altar, but it has been utterly defaced, as if someone took a sharp tool to the head and whatever the figure had in their hands. In front of this stele is a pile of offerings - spare electronics, droid components, and an unidentifiable flower species that must have come from the market, since Poe has seen no flora, living or dead, anywhere in Galosian.
'Think that's a Jedi?' he asks Finn.
'You didn't doubt me,' Finn says.
Poe turns to look at him; he's standing by the door, arms crossed, frowning. 'Finn...'
'You just said we have to doubt everyone. You didn't doubt me at all. You just let me into your briefing.'
Poe raises his eyebrows. 'You rescued me from a Star Destroyer. Then you returned my droid to headquarters. In the company of Han Solo and Chewbacca.' Finn's lips twitch. ‘And you had important information about Starkiller Base.’ Finn still doesn’t say anything, so Poe adds, 'And you looked gorgeous in the D’Qar light.'
Finn grins, seemingly against his will. 'I bet you say that to all the guys you recruit without following proper procedures.'
'I've only done that once,' Poe protests.
'And you give them all jackets.'
Poe is thinking of a retort when they hear noises outside the chapel door. Poe is on his feet and on the other side of the door from Finn in seconds, blaster drawn. Finn has taken his blaster out but holds it low, beside his leg.
They make eye contact across the doorway and Finn mouths, 'Bad feeling.'
There's more noise, low voices, a rustling, and then suddenly the old man - the Guardian - calls out, 'You're not welcome here!'
Finn mouths, 'Upstairs?'
Poe's mind races through the options. They can exit the temple, but who knows what is waiting for them outside. The interior of the temple is dark...
'Haven't you taken enough from us?' The old man's voice is now pleading.
But upstairs is just leading them deeper into the labyrinthine building.
There's footsteps. Poe tenses and sees Finn do the same, and then the door opens slowly. Poe steadies his blaster, ready to shoot.
'It's me,' Murat whispers. 'You have to go. Now.'
'What's our best way out?' Finn asks, so quietly that Poe struggles to hear it at all.
Murat steps into the room and shuts the door as gently as they can.
'Who is it?' Poe hisses.
'The tax collector,' Murat says darkly. 'Some First Order accountant. Used to be Imperial. Barely changed his uniform. Comes to collect from us every year. He's early this year. We have nothing. No one comes to see a temple without any crystals.' They cross to the altar. Poe can't help but notice that there are no other doors, and no windows, anywhere in the room.
'Murat,' Finn starts, as they bend down to the bench and start looking at the floor.
'Help me,' they say. 'Move these offerings.'
Still holding his blaster in one hand, Poe crosses to them and starts to push them aside.
'Be respectful,' Murat snaps. 'Put them on the bench. Quietly.'
Annoyed, Poe moves them one by one, as quickly as he can with one hand. Finn is doing the same, laying metal on stone as softly as possible. Murat presses their hands to either side of the stele and takes a deep breath.
For a second, Poe thinks they are praying; then the stele slides upward, shockingly silent and swift for such a large piece of stone. Underneath it is a passageway.
'This takes you to the crypt,' Murat says. 'Follow the passage. It will take you to the market.'
Finn bends down beside them; Murat reaches out their hands and Finn clasps them tightly. Poe covers them with his blaster as Finn says, 'Murat. Thank you.'
'Here,' Poe says, reaching into his jacket pocket and removing the bag of credits and Esah's contact information. 'Take this. Everything you need is there.'
'I didn't get to talk to Asi,' Murat says, stricken. 'I have to talk to her for you.'
'It's all right,' Finn says, taking the bag from Poe and pressing it into Murat's palm. 'You've done enough.'
'No,' Murat says. 'Take your ship and leave the spaceport. There must be places to hide.'
Poe hesitates; the noises outside the door are louder still, the Guardian yelling. 'Does he need our help?'
Murat shakes their head sharply. 'You can't help us,' they say. 'If they know we've been in contact with the Resistance...'
'Ok, ok,' Poe says. He digs into his pocket again and pulls out one of the few small, handwritten cards he keeps for very rare circumstances. 'This is how to contact my droid,' he says. 'If we haven't heard from you in three hours, we'll assume that Asi won't agree to anything and we'll leave.'
Murat slips the card into the bag and says, 'I will contact you. Within three hours.'
Finn lowers himself into the hole left behind by the raised stele and reaches for Poe.
'Contact Esah,' Poe says to Murat, suddenly urgent.
'I will,' they say. 'I hope I will see you both again.'
'Yes,' Poe says, accepting Finn's hand and slipping his blaster into its holster. It is only a step of a few feet into the crypt, but Finn holds his fingers tightly anyway. He looks up as Murat does lowers the stele.
They raise a hand in farewell. 'May the Force be with you.'
The stele slots into place with a very soft rumble; the crypt is suddenly completely black. Poe blinks, trying to let any natural light into his eyes, but there is none. He clutches Finn's hand.
'Poe,' Finn whispers, sounding a little panicked. 'Do you have a light?'
'Yes,' Poe says, and he draws a small electric torch from his belt and toggles it to ‘on’. A thin, round beam shines from it, illuminating very little of the space; Poe has the sensation of being somewhere vast, but with a low ceiling. 'There's a breeze, do you feel it?'
'Yes,' Finn says. 'Move towards it?'
'I think so.'
They walk for what feels like years. Poe starts to feel claustrophobic, the terror of being in an enclosed space with no escape, the irrational panic attack that he sometimes gets when someone else is piloting a ship, like he's going to run out of oxygen and no one will notice. Finn has not let go of his hand and for that he is infinitely grateful. Finn anchors him to the here and now.
They come to a solid wall, and Poe comes close to a real panic, but he hears a noise – Finn is doing something – and then Finn says, 'There's something up here. A round seal.'
'A way out?' Poe asks, shining the light upward. Yes, there is a round seal, and what is clearly some kind of hatch. 'Wish Murat had given us more directions.'
'Yeah,' Finn grunts, straining upward on his tip toes to touch it.
'Here,' Poe says, 'let me boost you.'
Finn takes the torch and Poe kneels, knitting his hands together and bracing. Finn puts a hand on his shoulder and says, 'Are you sure?'
'I've got you,' Poe says.
Finn puts his weight on Poe's hands and Poe shuts his eyes, counting the seconds that he has to hold him up; Finn drops the torch and has to hop down to grab it, then, apologizing, put it between his teeth and step up again. Poe grits his teeth and wills Finn upward. Then he hears a shifting noise, a deep scraping, and Finn says, 'Got it.' It takes a few more tries, but Finn is able to manually shove the hatch open enough to create a human-sized opening. He bends down and kisses Poe, gently - 'You're amazing' - before balancing himself once again and then pulling himself up through it. Poe stands, wiping sweat from his brow, shaking out his aching fingers and forearms.
Finn reappears in his vision. 'We're safe,' he says. 'We're in some back room. It's deserted. But I can see a way out into the market.'
'Great,' Poe says. 'Not sure I can jump that high though.'
'I've got you,' Finn replies, and a second later, a rope appears. Poe shakes out his fingers one last time and grabs it, knotting it through a metal hook on his belt and dragging himself up it until Finn can grab his shoulders. They collapse in a pile on the ground in what is, indeed, a back room, crowded with stored boxes of food.
'Are you all right, Poe?' Finn asks, touching his face.
'Think so,' Poe says. 'But let's get out of here.'
They make it to the magtrain and then the hangar, nervy with adrenaline and paranoia but without further incident. BB-8 opens the ship doorway for them and follows Poe into the cockpit, beeping quizzically about a First Order tagged ship.
'I know,' Poe snaps. Finn follows him into the cockpit. Poe drops into the captain's seat and starts flipping switches. 'Tower,' he says to BB-8, who calls up control on the comlink. 'Are we clear for offworld?' Poe asks, and gets an affirmative. 'Finn, strap in.'
'Where are we going?' Finn asks, sliding into the co-pilot's seat and grabbing the buckle.
'I'm going to do the same thing we did last time, fake that we're going offworld and drop down into that canyon. We'll wait for Murat's signal. If we haven't heard in a few hours, we'll leave for good and go back to Yavin 4.' He looks over at Finn. 'Is that all right?'
Finn takes a deep breath. 'Yes.'
'Good.' Poe doesn't look behind him, just calls, 'BB-8?'
The droid beeps: ready. Poe takes the ship out, slow and steady, but his hand is wrapped around the stick so tightly his knuckles are white.
'I hope the Guardian was ok,' Finn says softly.
'Me too,' Poe says, toggling the anti-grav as they reach the limits of Bujal 8's atmosphere.
'Poe,' Finn says suddenly, as BB-8 bursts into an explosion of upset chirps.
There's a First Order Dissident-class cruiser sitting in orbit. Its body is between them and Bujal's reddish sun, silhouetted and dark, but Poe would know that ship class’s outline anywhere.
Poe manages to keep his hand steady, flying as casually as he can, arcing the ship in a broad loop around the curve of the planet, until the cruiser is out of view.
Then Poe brings the ship down to the planetary surface, diving as fast as its specs will allow - and a tiny bit past that - until they reach the canyon and drop fully out of view. Poe sets the ship down a sharply overhung ledge that he remembers from the last time they were here and kills the engines. In the sudden quiet, he looks over at Finn, whose face has a fine sheen of sweat.
'You're a hell of a pilot, Poe,' Finn says, shaking his head. 'Keeping calm...'
'Thanks.' Poe doesn’t really want to hear it, even from Finn. He unbuckles from the seat and stands, trying to stretch out the tension in his arms and hands. 'I'm used to that kind of situation.'
Finn lets out a breath. 'I really have to get used to being chased by the First Order.'
Poe snorts. 'I'm not sure it's something you can get used to.' He presses his hands to the ceiling above his head and pushes up, trying to relax his shoulders. 'What time is it? How much time are we giving Murat?'
'Two more hours, about.'
Poe nods. He's too wound up to sit. 'I'm going to inspect the ship for hyperspace travel,' he announces, and leaves the cockpit.
Outside, it is snowing, big, desultory flakes that remind Poe of blowing ash from a burning township on Jakku. He thinks of kindly old Lor San Tekka, and of the General asking him to secure the map. He thinks of Luke's final stand, distracting Kylo Ren and saving the Resistance. Luke Skywalker, his childhood hero, who had the strength to be a hero one last time.
He looks up; Finn is there, holding up BB-8's detachable comlink.
'Murat says that Asi will introduce us to her aunt tomorrow at noon.'
'Apparently she's rich,' Finn says. 'And wants to put her money towards a worthy cause.'
Poe raises his eyebrows. 'That's what we've been waiting too long to hear?'
Finn shrugs. 'I think we've been waiting for me to make up my mind, don't you?'
Poe runs his hand along the side of the ship. 'Well?'
'I don't know,' Finn says, despair and something else in his voice - it takes Poe a moment to hear that he's resigned. 'I don't think I'll ever know my homeworld.' He hesitates, and adds, 'But I am so, so glad that you brought me here.'
'Yeah?' Something in Finn’s voice finally manages to calm Poe.
'I'm learning who I am,' Finn says. 'This is vital to that.' He steps forward and takes Poe's hand from the side of the ship. 'Come inside with me, Poe. It's freezing out here.'
'Help me finish the ship inspection,' Poe says, but his actions don't match his words, because he pulls Finn close and wraps his arms around him, clinging onto him, burying his nose in Finn's hair, which is wet with fallen snow.
'I will,' Finn murmurs.
'Stay with me,' Poe adds.
Finn puts his hands on Poe's face and looks into his eyes, his gaze steady and steadying. 'I will.'
Chapter 11: The Smut before the Storm
Sometimes you need a little smut in between the plot. And sometimes the smut IS the plot. I present to you a little bit of both.
The ship requires some minor service, which Poe teaches Finn how to perform. They come inside from the snowy outer world and Poe stands shivering in the entryway until Finn wraps himself around him. 'We're safe here, right?' Finn asks.
Poe's unconscious eye flick in the direction of space is enough of an answer. 'Let's pretend we are, buddy,' he suggests. 'Nothing we can do about it, after all.'
They make dinner together, close and familiar.
'Come to bed,' Finn says as soon as they've finished eating.
Poe shivers involuntarily and grins. 'Let me just check on the flaps one more time,' he says.
'That can't wait?' Finn asks, his foot sliding up Poe's leg.
Poe, turned on, hesitates, and Finn grins and removes his foot, leaning over and kissing him, long and hard. 'I know,' he says, 'that you'll wake up in the middle of the night worrying about it if you don't. Go.'
Poe, caught leaning forward from trying to prolong the kiss, says, 'You're too nice to me.'
'Nah,' Finn replies, waving a hand. 'Need help?'
Poe shakes his head. 'It'll just take a minute.'
He steps outside, warmed to his core against the harsh planetary conditions, and finds an unfamiliar, incredibly welcome sight.
'Finn,' he calls through the doorway. 'Come see this.''
Finn appears a moment later, pulling on his jacket. 'What?'
Poe points at the sky. 'It's been snowing the entire time,' Poe says softly. 'I haven't seen the stars in...' He thinks about how long they've been here. 'Weeks.'
Finn is not looking at the stars; he's looking at Poe. 'You've missed them,' he says, not a question.
'Yes,' Poe says, staring up at the firmament, its face studded with tiny dots of light, a million billion planets and worlds, and the cloudy swooping arc of the galaxy, their place in it even tinier than those dots. He looks at Finn and sees the stars reflected in his eyes.
'Let's sleep under the skylight so we can see the stars,' Finn says, taking Poe's hand.
They take blankets into the cockpit and make a little nest on the floor where they can lie together underneath the glass ceiling. Finn steps close and unties Poe's tunic; Poe puts his hands under Finn's and slides it over his head. So, so slowly, they go through the now-familiar ritual of removing each other's clothing, this time with a deep and reverent passion that seems to obliterate the passage of time; Poe feels like he’s moving through a dream. Every touch of Finn's warm skin, every taste of his mouth, the deep scent of his body that intoxicates Poe with every breath: this is the most intimate thing he's ever done. He'd take his over a thousand impulsive fucks. They lie together under the blankets and hold each other, Finn with his face buried in Poe's neck, tracing shapes with huffs of warm air onto his skin, while Poe looks upward at the whirling, unfamiliar constellations and tries to imagine a known star against this backdrop. Somewhere out there, there's a home where they both belong.
'What are you thinking about?' Finn murmurs into his ear.
'What makes someone a good person,' Poe answers truthfully.
Finn doesn't laugh. 'What made you think of that?'
Poe wonders while he runs his fingers up and down Finn's back. 'I've spent a lot of time thinking,' he says finally, 'about what makes someone bad. It feels strange to think that a person could be completely bad, and I've tried to think of ways that even bad people could be good. To try to understand why... why the galaxy is like this. Why we're at war.' He pauses, searching for words. ‘But I think I'm wondering... why spend time thinking about evil? It’s just the easy choice, the choice to be selfish. Instead, let's spend time thinking about good. The choice to be heroic is much harder, and,’ he searches for the right way to phrase it, ‘much more interesting, than the choice to be evil.' He turns his head and kisses Finn, slow and hard. 'I think about you all the time,' he adds, leaning back just enough to speak and be understood, before leaning forward again.
‘Poe,’ Finn breathes against his mouth. ‘Poe, you're a good person.'
Poe stops kissing him and says, 'I'm not trying to get compliments.'
'I know,' Finn says. He runs his hand down Poe's face. 'But you are.' Poe starts to say something sarcastic, something to deflect, because he doesn't feel particularly good, but Finn continues: 'Poe, I love you.’
Poe shuts his mouth. He’s not shocked, exactly, but he’s something adjacent. He knows he doesn't deserve this but he wants it so much. Finn is looking at him, solemn, dark-eyed, and underneath this open sky, Poe’s heart thrills. ‘Finn, buddy,’ he touches his lips, ‘I love you so much.’
Finn kisses him hard, with purpose, and Poe feels a shift between them. Then Finn climbs atop him, pressing his body down into the soft bedding, and Poe is suddenly hard, straining upward towards Finn as the other man bends down and kisses him again, his hands running down Poe’s sides, his mouth dipping to Poe’s collarbone. ‘I want this,’ Finn says. ‘I want you.’
‘I want to be what you were looking for,’ Poe says. ‘I can do it. Let me do it.’
Finn’s knees press into his sides as he sits up slightly and looks down at him. ‘I know.’ He strokes one hand down Poe’s nose and mouth. ‘I trust you.’ Then his mouth is fire on Poe’s skin, trailing kisses down Poe’s chest, until he reaches the line of curled hair below his belly button. Poe’s cock is hard and leaking, lying heavily against his leg; Finn doesn’t touch it with his hands, but instead runs his tongue from root to tip, so that Poe gasps and tries to press up into him.
‘I don’t know if I’m going to be any good at this,’ Finn says.
‘You will be,’ Poe says, ‘trust me.’
Finn laughs, his breath teasing and hot on Poe’s hard-on. ‘How do you know?’
‘I know you,’ Poe says, ‘and you are good at everything.’
Finn laughs again. ‘Poe, you’re not really making sense.’
‘Should I be?’
‘Look,’ Poe pants, sitting up; Finn looks startled. Poe is using every ounce of self-restraint he has, but delayed gratification has kind of been the hot name of the game here and he sees no reason to stop. Plus, he wants Finn to feel totally comfortable. He takes Finn’s hand and sucks his fingers into his mouth, licking each one, tasting salt, soap, underneath all that a faint taste of ship mechanic’s grease which is frankly more of a turn on than he’s willing to admit. ‘Let me show you,’ he suggests around Finn’s fingers, running his tongue up the V between index and middle.
‘Um,’ Finn says, eyes glassy. ‘Show me how?’
Poe pushes him down into the blankets, rolling so that now he’s the one doing the straddling, and bends down to his cock. ‘Ok?’ he asks Finn, whose eyes are now enormous. Blinking, Finn nods. Poe wraps his hand around him, forming a tight fist, and strokes upward. Finn groans and flops backward, chest heaving. Poe can’t wait to be doing this for the hundredth time, the thousandth time, to know every single thing that Finn likes so he can always be perfect. He wraps his mouth around the head and sucks as much of his cock into his mouth as he can from this angle, which admittedly is not optimal; Finn gasps and grabs his arm, hard. Poe draws back with his mouth, leaving his hand tight and in place, and asks, ‘Still ok?’
‘Yes,’ Finn hisses. Poe can’t resist licking the line of bone along his hip, tasting the sweat there, before sucking Finn’s cock into his mouth again. Finn’s grip on his arm tethers their bodies together, so that they are joined at hand and arm and mouth and cock, and no one can float away into space, as Poe’s brain seems to be threatening to do. He gets into a good rhythm, stroke, suck, stroke, suck, and he can feel Finn tensing in his mouth and hand, the thick vein along the underside of his cock straining with blood, Finn’s gasps getting harder, a sharp taste in the back of Poe’s throat, until Finn suddenly arches his back and comes. Poe swallows for what feels like years, until Finn collapses down, his grip on Poe’s arm released. Poe slides his free hand up Finn’s thigh and chest, feeling the slick sheen of sweat there, touching Finn’s mouth. Finn kisses his fingertips as Poe tastes the last of him and then gently releases his cock and sits up, rolling the taste around in his mouth.
‘Poe,’ Finn groans. ‘Are you… did you really… oof.’ He rolls over and buries his face in the blankets and starts laughing into them. Poe starts laughing too, running his hand down Finn’s back to his bare ass. Finn shivers and rolls back over, a huge grin on his face. ‘That was, that was something.’
‘Something good?’ Poe asks, pretending to be insecure, ignoring the radiating sun that is Finn’s face right now.
Finn starts laughing again and drags Poe down into his arms. ‘You know, I think I picked up some pointers.’
‘You’re a quick learner,’ Poe murmurs against his neck, pressing his erection into Finn’s thigh. He buries his face into Finn's hot shoulder and whispers, 'This is why I fly. This feeling, this… '
Finn puts both hands on either side of his face and raises his mouth to kiss him. 'I told you I needed a pilot.'
‘You’ve got me,’ Poe says, fervent.
‘Should I be talking about X-Wings while I’m doing this?’ Finn asks in a very sweet voice, his hand finding Poe’s cock and stroking it.
‘I’d rather you weren’t talking at all,’ Poe suggests.
‘Good point,’ Finn says, and then he doesn’t, because his mouth is doing something else. Poe comes moaning, his feet cramped from curling his toes, his mouth dry from gasping. Finn curls up against him and wraps his body around Poe’s as tightly as he can, one of his hands buried in Poe’s hair, the other held tightly in one of Poe’s.
Someday, Poe thinks, Finn is going to finish sucking him off and flip him onto his stomach and fuck him. Someday, he’s going to fuck Finn. Someday, he’s going to be trying to catch just a moment’s sleep in Resistance HQ, in one of the sleeping pods or even a couch in a dark corner like he had to do whenever he needed a moment’s break on Fal, and Finn will find him and curl up at his side. Someday, they’re going to be so familiar with each other that touching will be second nature, that Poe won’t marvel at it every time. Someday, they’ll have a bed of their own, in a home of their own, and they’ll be there together every night.
He whispers, ‘I love you.’
Finn drowsily opens his eyes, kisses him lightly, and says, ‘I love you too, Poe. Now stop thinking and go to sleep.’
Chapter 12: The House of Revelation
This is a chapter about my deep love for Finn. Thank you for reading.
Back in the city, after a harrowing flight in the shadow of the First Order Destroyer, Poe keeps one hand on his blaster at his waist and the other ready to grab Finn. They meet Asi in a corner of the market, outside a stall selling colourful beads that supposedly grant the wearer Force powers. Her grey acolyte robes look particularly drab.
‘No Murat?’ Finn asks.
‘They left Bujal 8 this morning,’ Asi says. ‘They said you gave them passage to meet with someone and join the Resistance.’
‘That’s true,’ Finn says. He sounds surprised. ‘I didn’t know they’d go so soon.’
Asi shrugs. ‘The tax collector scared them.’
‘Where are we going?’ Poe asks, anxious to get out of the public space.
Asi leads them to one of the market exits, across a street packed with traffic, and to a waiting speeder. Poe doesn’t know all his speeder models, but he knows enough to know that this one is expensive. It is fully enclosed, with blacked out windows. As Asi approaches, a droid exits the driving area and opens the back door for her. ‘Come on,’ she says.
‘Her aunt’s rich,’ Finn says quietly to Poe’s wary look.
Inside the speeder, Poe doesn’t like it one bit. He never trusts any situation that he doesn’t pilot to himself. The droid offers them beverages, which Poe waves away; he sits partially turned towards the darkened window, trying to follow where they’re going, while Finn engages Asi in conversation.
‘Will you miss Murat?’
‘Of course,’ she says. ‘But this is the right choice for them.’
Asi hesitates. ‘Galosian is going to change,’ she says finally. ‘Things are coming. We’ll discuss at my aunt’s house, but it may not be wise for me to stay.’
Poe feels Finn look at him, but keeps his eyes on the road, determined that they should be able to find their way back in case this becomes a disaster.
They come to a large stone wall with a guard; there’s a discussion between the droid and the guard; and then a portal opens in the wall and they glide through it. Poe’s skin pricks with cold, nervous sweat as he hears the portal shut behind them.
‘Wow,’ Finn says quietly. They are abruptly inside a lush perimeter. Poe can see low buildings with mud walls, mostly obscured by towering bushes, flowering plants, and trees. The speeder stops, and the droid opens the door again. Asi steps out. Her robes appear in much stronger contrast to this landscape than they do inside the city.
‘This is my family’s home,’ she says as they follow her. The ground is springy, the air clean. Poe thinks there must be a tremendous amount of power being used to filter it. ‘My aunt is the matriarch. You can call her Lola.’
‘We’d really like to know how to pronounce your real names,’ Finn says. ‘It feels disrespectful not to.’
Asi smiles – the first time, Poe thinks, that he has ever seen her do that. It transforms her face completely. ‘Our names are intentionally hard to pronounce,’ she says, ‘so that only those closest to us may truly know us.’
They walk through a cold, light rain – no amount of money, short of building a dome, can solve Bujal 8’s terrible weather – past several buildings, each a single story, with pale beige mud walls, their doorways colourfully painted with geometric motifs. Poe senses that these motifs tell knowledgeable visitors what each building is for and who it belongs to. He sees a particular labyrinthine motif repeated above the doorframe on each.
‘My aunt is the matriarch of our family,’ Asi says, apparently seeing his look. ‘That is her symbol.’
She leads them into the grandest building they have seen thus far: a round, low room, its mud walls punctuated by large, curved glass windows. The interior walls are painted with much denser and more ornate motifs, but they are still geometric and incomprehensible to Poe’s eyes. He wonders if he’s seeing the remnants of an old, non-Aurabesh language. As they enter, he notices several of the windows flicker from being screens displaying readouts of information – shipping notices? They flash away too quickly for him to tell – to complete translucency.
Asi says a long name that starts with a sound that could be ‘Lola’ and bows to a woman standing by a table at one side of the room. ‘I’ve brought the two Resistance fighters. Finn and Poe.’
The woman hands the tablet she is holding to a short droid and waves it away with a heavily beringed hand. Poe guesses that she is close to the General’s age, or maybe a little older. She is physically imposing, taller than either he or Finn, with broad shoulders and an ample body. He immediately senses both immense wealth and keen intelligence. ‘Welcome,’ she says, and her voice matches her physical presence: it fills up the space inside the building and makes everyone in it – there are several people looking at tablets of their own – attend to her. She steps forward and grasps both of Finn’s hands in her own, looking deeply into his eyes. ‘This is the one, Asi?’
Poe watches Lola study Finn, and watches Finn be studied, his gaze steady and intense. ‘I spoke with Maz Kanata several weeks ago,’ she informs Finn. ‘She said there was a rebellious stormtrooper who might be from Bujal 8 and that I should keep an eye out for him. I did not expect us to meet so soon.’
Finn looks surprised. ‘What did you think?’
‘I was shocked,’ Lola admits. ‘We believed that the First Order took all the children from Bujal 8 to be slaves, not stormtroopers.’
‘They make sure that you aren’t with people from your homeworld,’ Finn says. ‘I don’t know how many children they took from here, but they would have sent them to all different places.’
‘No chance for solidarity, of course,’ Lola says. ‘I do not know if there is a way to prove it definitively, but we shall try. Asi…’
‘Yes.’ Asi steps forward and holds out a hand to Finn. ‘Come with me.’
‘Where are you taking him?’ Poe demands. Even disregarding his feelings for Finn, splitting them up inside a potentially hostile and locked compound is an absolute no.
‘We will do some simple tests to see if he could be related to anyone on the planet,’ Lola says. She is now studying Poe. ‘And I would like to speak with you alone, Poe Dameron.’
Finn is looking at Poe and biting his lip. ‘Trust them,’ he says quietly.
Poe looks back at him, trying to say with his eyes, ‘I don’t like this, buddy.’
‘How long will it take?’ Finn asks.
‘Not long,’ Asi says.
‘Long enough for me to speak with you, Poe Dameron,’ Lola says, but so cheerfully that the threat is almost completely masked.
Poe and Finn give each other a long look. Poe shrugs, Finn nods, and then he follows Asi out the door. Lola waves a hand and everyone else in the room leaves too. Then:
She raises her eyebrows at Poe. ‘Tell me about him.’
Poe is still annoyed that she knew his name. ‘What do you want to know?’
‘Well,’ she says, looking amused, ‘I will admit to being very confused about the status of the Resistance right now. I heard your Jedi was a woman.’
Poe feels his frown intensify. ‘Where did you hear that?’
Lola laughs. ‘Trust me, what happened on Crait has spread far and wide. Leia Organa has escaped the clutches of the First Order yet again. Snoke is dead at the hands of the Resistance, his capital ship destroyed. An untested and unloved Kylo Ren now seems to think he’s in charge of the First Order. Luke Skywalker returned, and gave us a new Jedi.’ Lola steps closer. ‘A woman.’
‘Wow,’ Poe deadpans, letting the conversation play out, not sure where Lola is going with this. ‘Sounds like you were right there.’
Lola glares at him. It is suitably intimidating. ‘So if there is a new Jedi, and she is a woman…’ Poe gives her his blankest look. ‘Then who exactly is he?’
Now Poe is genuinely confused. ‘Finn?’ he asks.
‘Yes, Finn. Or whatever his name really is.’
‘He doesn’t know. The First Order never gave him one.’
Lola sighs. ‘Beside the point, Poe Dameron. Leia Organa wouldn’t send her best pilot on a mission with just an escaped stormtrooper.’
Poe laughs, relieved. Is that what this is about? Him? ‘Trust me,’ he says. ‘The General didn’t send me with Finn.’
‘Then why are you here with him?’
Poe shrugs. They might as well let the dianoga out of the sewer. ‘Because I’m in love with him.’
Lola raises her eyebrows. ‘I don’t feel that you’re a good liar,’ she says.
‘I’m not lying.’
‘No,’ she agrees, now squinting at him. ‘You’re not, are you?’ She takes a step closer to him. ‘You don’t know.’
Poe isn’t about to be unnerved by a little threatening physical proximity. Come back and talk to him when you’re a dreadnought, thanks very much. ‘Don’t know what?’
‘That Finn is strong with the Force.’ She takes another step closer. ‘The Resistance has two Jedi. And the First Order only has one. That certainly changes the equation.’
Poe blinks at her. ‘Why do you think that about Finn?’
Lola hesitates, and looks away from him, transparently debating with herself about what she plans to tell him. He can’t tell if it’s an act or not. ‘If you don’t know…’
‘I’ll find out,’ Poe bluffs. If this is true, the General must know… and Lola doesn’t seem to know that Luke is dead… ‘You think that General Organa and General Skywalker don’t know?’
‘Oh, indeed, I have no doubt that they do know,’ Lola says shrewdly. ‘I’m just debating whether or not I should tell you, who must obviously be lower in Leia Organa’s estimation than I thought if she’s not letting you in on secrets.’
Poe can think of a million reasons why Leia hasn’t told him, but the one that comes to mind first – and stays there, jostling hard for position at the front of his thoughts – is that she doesn’t trust him anymore. He grimaces involuntarily, never one to keep his emotions to himself. ‘So this is a rumour you’ve decided to believe?’ he demands, trying to draw her source out of her. Maz, maybe?
‘You two just happened to stumble upon the Temple,’ Lola says. ‘If that isn’t the Force, I don’t know what is. The Temple is not easy to find for newcomers. It’s been deliberately camouflaged.’ She regards him, frowning. ‘And yet you went almost directly to it.’
Poe thinks: yes, Finn did that. But he says, ‘It was after several days of searching elsewhere.’
She shrugs. ‘You don’t have to believe me.’
‘What are you doing with him now?’ Poe asks. ‘You must know that blood tests for Force sensitivity were discredited decades ago. If they hadn’t been, the First Order would be scouring the galaxy, murdering babies.’
‘I don’t need to test him,’ she says. ‘The Guardian came to me and told me what he’d sensed. Guardians train themselves, over decades, to achieve Force sensitivity in moments of great import. This was the third time in his life that he’d sensed something.’
Poe needs time to process this, but he knows she’s not going to give it to him. ‘So what do you want from him?’ he demands. ‘To gawk? Is that why you brought us here? Why keep up the reluctant act, why-‘
She bursts into laughter. ‘To gawk?’ she repeats. ‘At a Jedi? Boy, I lived in the Old Republic. It was swarming with Jedi. I’ve seen a hundred of them. Not a one prevented the rise of the Emperor. All of the ones I ever saw died at the hands of a clone trooper.’
‘General Skywalker stopped the Emperor,’ Poe snaps.
‘And yet here we sit,’ she snaps back, ‘on a planet that lost its children after the Emperor’s death.’
‘So why,’ Poe asks, in his most patient voice, ‘am I here?’
‘I thought you could speak to General Organa for me,’ she says. Abruptly, she turns away and collects her tablet from a shelf. She taps her fingers over the screen and a hologram appears: a large building, rotating gently with the planet. ‘We’ve just learned that the First Order is planning to build a garrison here. Soon.’
Argument forgotten, Poe steps close to the hologram, studying it. ‘These are the plans for it?’
‘As far as we know.’
‘Where did you get these?’
‘I have my sources.’ She turns her head away from the hologram and he can feel her studying him. ‘They destroyed this planet once. They will destroy it again, and all that we have worked to rebuild. Galosian is fragile. It rains all the time because they seeded the clouds, but there’s no way for the land to hold the water, because they poisoned the soil and no plants can grow. We’ve managed to engineer our way out of those challenges. We’ve started working with terraforming to regrow plants. You saw my garden. That’s the first experiment. If they build this garrison, they will take all of the resources that we have.’
Poe meets her eyes. ‘Asi said you wanted to fund the Resistance.’
‘I want to do more than fund it.’
Poe can work with this now and worry about Finn later. ‘What do you need from us?’
‘We have people trained to fight,’ Lola says, ‘but not enough.’ She adds, sardonically, ‘We lost most of our people of fighting age some time ago.’
Poe doesn’t want to break the news to her that the Resistance probably has fewer people than she does – in part, because of me, his brain adds, poisonously – so he says, ‘What about weapons? Ships?’
‘We can buy them,’ Lola says. ‘They can be used by the Resistance for whatever they like once we’re done here.’
‘Do you have the authority to do that?’
Lola laughs. ‘Oh yes,’ she says. ‘Galosian has a ruling council and I am the leader of it.’ She smiles at him, conspiratorially. ‘When the First Order left, we had to rebuild. Smart people were able to make their moves. My family had always been powerful, so I stepped into the vacuum.’ She puts her hand on the table in what Poe realises belatedly is a conscious display of the wealth contained on her beringed fingers alone. ‘I can authorise plenty.’
Poe has never negotiated a deal like this. It feels like there’s a lot of strings attached. ‘I’ll speak with the General for you,’ he says. ‘What’s your timeline on this? How long do we have?’
For just a second, Lola’s self-confidence slips. ‘We don’t know how soon they are coming,’ she says. ‘We wait for them every day.’
‘So you need me to speak to the General immediately.’
She nods. ‘What does that require?’
Poe thinks. He has the secure line but he would never use it this close to the centre of the galaxy. Nothing is that secure. Easier just to go to her, probably. ‘Five days,’ he says. ‘To get there and back.’ He hesitates, biting his lip as he thinks. ‘But listen. Have you seen them build a garrison? Do you know what it entails?’
‘They drop all the parts in from space,’ Poe says. ‘They’re manufactured elsewhere. So they are able to put up the actual garrison building and populate it with stormtroopers very quickly. Like, a matter of days. But all the things you’re talking about – water diversion, for example – well, the garrison will be supplied from space for a few weeks while the stormtroopers on the ground finish all the location-specific components.’ He thinks of Snap and Jess destroying a series of oil tanks in a daring raid on Wavinos. ‘We’re familiar with these methods. The Resistance has successfully disrupted garrison building in its early stages.’ He realises that he’s gone into the mode where he comforts civilians on the ground. It feels right.
‘Thank you,’ Lola says, and with a wave of her hand, a door opens and a droid rolls through it. ‘Go. Find Asi and Finn. Bring them here.’
‘Can you give me all the information you know about the garrison?’ Poe asks. ‘Estimating numbers, size…’
‘Yes.’ Lola takes another tablet, types several things on it, and then hands it to him. ‘Choose a password,’ she says, ‘so that we can keep it secure.’ He immediately thinks of, and rejects, ‘2187’. He chooses another and she transfers the information, then looks up at him.
‘I like you, Poe Dameron. So let me give you a word of advice…’
He looks back at her. ‘Yes?’
‘In the Old Republic, the Jedi were never allowed to love.’
Poe blinks at her, startled, as the door slides open and Finn enters with Asi.
‘Poe,’ Finn says, voice warm, like a hand reaching out.
Poe goes to him. ‘What did you learn?’ he asks quietly. He tries not to let Finn see how changed everything suddenly feels. Finn, a Jedi? But Finn, perhaps because he is indeed strong with the Force – or maybe because Poe is crap at hiding his emotions – clearly sees something in his face and raises his eyebrows: we’ll talk about whatever that is later.
‘It looks like I am from Bujal 8,’ he says quietly. ‘Asi did a blood test.’
‘Finn,’ Poe says, not at all sure what the right response is, or if they should trust any of this.
‘It’s all right,’ Finn says, still very quietly. ‘I don’t know what to think either.’
‘We can talk about more in a bit,’ Poe says, trying to speak in a way that Lola and Asi won’t hear – an absurd idea in this still room. He says, more loudly, ‘Lola just told me that the First Order is planning to build a garrison here.’
‘Yes,’ Finn says. ‘Asi told me too.’
‘I’m going to go to the General,’ Poe says, ‘and speak with her about what the Resistance can do.’
‘I’m coming with you,’ Finn says.
‘Are you sure?’
‘You’re welcome to stay here with us,’ Lola says, and Poe wonders, again, if she’s to be trusted. He believes her about the garrison, but he also sees that she’s almost greedy to keep influence with Finn. Having one of the only three Force sensitive people in the galaxy be from her home planet would be invaluable to her.
‘I’m going with Poe,’ Finn says firmly.
Lola nods. ‘Of course.’
‘We’ll go now,’ Poe says, suddenly more anxious to leave this planet than ever before.
Lola gives them a comlink and tells them to call her if they need anything. The droid with the speeder deposits them at a different station, one far from the market. They are silent on the ride back to the magtrain, surrounded by Galosians, as if both have secrets so heavy that they weigh down their tongues. There must be a sporting event or some other large public activity, because the train car becomes continuously more crowded until they are packed in, separated from each other by several people who are drinking raucously. Poe’s feeling of anxiety intensifies as he sweats and counts the stops. One look at Finn’s face tells him that he feels the same.
The magtrain to the spaceport, in contrast, is almost deserted, although across the platform, the ones going into the city are fully packed.
‘What’s going on?’ Finn asks a woman on the platform, and she shakes her head and shrugs.
‘I’m just a trader,’ she says. ‘Never been to this planet before.’
On the magtrain, it is just them and three other people inside the cavernous car. Poe is astonished by the level of activity that the city seems to draw to warrant this infrastructure. Bujal 8 may be a barren wasteland, its lone city grey and foreboding, but Galosian still buzzes with commerce. Perhaps Lola can purchase many ships… A new X-Wing, something he hasn’t allowed himself to dream about, flashes into his head, shining, its S-foils locked, ready to go…
Two more stops. People get on and off, allowing Finn and Poe instinctively to move closer to each other until they are almost touching. ‘I don’t like this,’ Finn says to Poe, a quiet look of panic in his eyes. ‘Something is wrong.’
Poe sees them board out of the corner of his eye and knows instantly who they are – he’s interacted with enough of the type to notice. As the train accelerates away from the platform, he slides his hand onto Finn’s waist and steps in close, pressing his mouth to Finn’s, fitting their bodies together tightly.
‘Poe,’ Finn murmurs against his lips. ‘You can’t do this in public, I won’t be able to stop.’
Poe shivers involuntarily and kisses him a little harder. ‘I love you, buddy,’ he says, drawing back just a fraction and moving to kiss his ear and whisper, ‘I really do. But covert First Order to my right. Three of them.’
Finn goes still and alert in his arms. He turns his head and kisses Poe’s jawline, breathing, ‘I see them.’
Poe kisses Finn’s mouth again and slides his hand underneath Finn’s jacket to rest on his blaster. ‘Can you get the one on my left leg?’
‘Mmhmm,’ Finn says, and Poe feels his hand move down, squeeze his ass for a second, and then slide easily to his thigh and the holster there. ‘Love you too,’ Finn adds, and he whips out Poe’s blaster as Poe spins towards them, Finn’s blaster in his hand. Several people on the train scream, but the three covert ops troops have already drawn their own weapons.
‘Stop!’ a man yells at them from one of the seats. ‘Galosian is a sanctuary city, there’s no political violence here!’
‘Want to bet?’ Poe asks, grimly, as the three First Order agents spread out slightly to cover each other. He and Finn have ridden the train enough that Poe knows they’re about to go into a tunnel; the lights will dim – they still have so long to the final stop – this might be their only chance – consciously, though really having no idea what he’s doing, he tries to broadcast his thoughts to Finn:
Finn – hear me – when the lights dim, we take them.
Finn whips his head around to stare at Poe, eyes enormous. ‘What?’ he asks, aloud.
‘Fuck,’ Poe says, anger and terror and grief all at once – Finn is not going to be safe. There will be no quiet life for the two of them. Whatever comes of this, Finn is a marked man, and he, Poe, is marked alongside him, because no matter what happens, he will be beside Finn, no matter the cost – no cost is greater than losing Finn –
The lights dim and Poe shoots the ceiling as Finn shoots a window. The light panel in the ceiling goes out completely and a sucking wind starts to howl and tear at them. People are definitely screaming now; a continuous sound – or is that the brakes? – as Poe and Finn each take down a trooper in the pitch darkness. One remains, but he is blind, and fires without care into the room, his blaster shots illuminating the scene in strobe-like bursts, his movement arriving fragmentary and a second too late, the light showing where he is, not where he will be –
‘How did you know we were here?’ Poe yells at him, trying to distract him.
‘The Guardian of that stupid temple,’ the man yells back, something like triumph in his voice. ‘We applied pressure. He told us everything.’ He fires again, almost hitting Finn, who dodges out of the way. ‘Two Resistance fighters, recruiting in Galosian? Stupid! We own this planet!’
‘They weren’t recruiting,’ someone from the back of the car cries. ‘We swear, we didn’t know anything about it!’
The trooper ignores them, and shoots again, firing rapidly, all of it directed at Poe.
And then Finn does something extraordinary, the climax of a time of extraordinary observations for Poe. First the General, saving herself in space; then Luke Skywalker, facing down every weapon in the First Order; then Rey, lifting the rocks; and now:
Finn raises one hand and seems to grab the blaster fire, drawing three rapid beams of it towards himself and then shoving his hand forward to send it shooting back as sure as thrown daggers into the body of the last trooper.
‘You –‘ the man rasps. ‘You’re a-‘ and then he collapses forward, dead, as the train emerges from the tunnel.
‘You’re a Jedi,’ someone yells at Finn.
Poe can hear the shocked sounds of everyone else, dimly, but he and Finn only have eyes for each other. Finn’s are enormous. Poe is certain they are a mirror of his own. Finn looks at his hands, then back up at Poe, his mouth open slightly. Poe realises that the train is slowing. He reaches for Finn and grabs his arm. ‘We have to get out of here,’ he says, meaning the train, the spaceport, the fucking planetary system, the galaxy if he could. Adrenaline is pumping through him, but he knows it won’t last long, and they still have so far to go.
‘Ok,’ Finn says, still looking stunned, but he lets Poe tug him through the opening doors of the train. A station master is running towards them, yelling. Poe gestures at him with his blaster and the man stops and backs into a wall. Poe regrets frightening him, but there is no time.
Into the hangar bay, and there is the ship, and thank the Force it’s not surrounded, which had been Poe’s first fear. BB-8 has it ready to go, of course. Poe drops into the pilot’s seat, giving BB-8 orders as calmly as he can. The guns aren’t particularly well located on this model, they hadn’t been planning to need them – stupid, Poe, you should have known better –
‘Don’t,’ Finn says, his hand landing on Poe’s shoulder. It’s shaking. ‘Don’t blame yourself.’
‘That,’ Poe says through gritted teeth, ‘is really fucking unnerving.’
‘Sorry,’ Finn says, and he slides into the co-pilot’s seat. ‘I can just – suddenly I can hear –‘ He stops, perhaps realising that this is not the time. ‘Can I do anything?’
‘Be ready to go to the guns,’ Poe says, and Finn starts to stand, ‘but not yet,’ Poe adds, voice rising as he prepares to burst free from the hangar bay. He clicks the comlink. ‘Tower?’
‘Get out of here,’ says a woman’s voice. ‘Now.’
Poe doesn’t wait to question if she’s a friend or foe. He’ll deal with it in a moment, whatever it is, whatever is waiting for them. Poe is a great delegator in a tight situation: survive this moment, then worry about the next. ‘Strap in,’ he snaps at Finn. ‘We won’t use the guns if we don’t have to. They don’t know what our ship looks like.’
They rocket into space. Poe wonders how much time they have – did the third trooper trigger an alarm? A Maxima-A class heavy cruiser is in orbit, its black body blotting out Bujal’s pale yellow sun.
‘BB-8,’ Poe calls. ‘Plot us a hyperspace route to Neles.’ BB-8 beeps concernedly. ‘Then put us just outside the range of the debris,’ he snaps. ‘Do it.’ He rolls the ship around, letting its weight manoeuvre them around the gravity well of the system. Bujal has twelve planets; surely one of them will provide cover. BB-8 beeps a query: where exactly does he plan to exit the system for hyperspace?
‘Asteroid belt,’ Finn says suddenly, leaning forward in his seat.
‘I see it,’ Poe snaps. ‘What’s the cruiser doing?’
Finn toggles the radar. ‘Moving,’ he says. ‘Towards us.’
‘Got it,’ Poe says. How they know it’s them… did Tower turn them in?… but the First Order will have been monitoring Tower comms so they’ll have known at least when they were leaving. He dives the ship around the plane of the asteroid belt, heading in towards the star, hoping to at least distract them visually with the glare. It must be a hot star, if Bujal 8 – which is far away from the centre of the system – is the inhabitable one. That’ll mess with their instruments.
BB-8 squeals at him: solar flares. Poe flips the ship around – they are trapped in the system, he needs a clear route to hyperspace – ‘What’s our hyperspace status?’ he asks BB-8, even though he knows the droid would have told him if the calculations were done. This is a complicated one. BB-8 ignores him for a second, then gives him a bearing. He swings the ship to it just as he sees what looks like five or six TIE/fos drop out of the aft hangar bay on the cruiser. Poe checks the bearing, confirms with BB-8, and then presses the lever forward into hyperspace. Beside him, he hears Finn exhale, but he keeps his hand on the lever – Neles is close. BB-8 beeps and he pulls back and drops them out of hyperspace.
The ruins of the star mine drift ahead, orbiting a massive dying red giant. They look like tiny slivers against its burning face. The automatic sun shades in the ship nearly obscure them.
‘Where are we?’ Finn asks.
‘Tell you in a minute,’ Poe says. He pushes the ship onward, closer to the slivers, which are coming into focus now as vast, jagged sheets of metal. He grits his teeth; this ship isn’t meant for these kinds of manoeuvres. He runs through the specs in his head. How hard can he push it?
‘Poe!’ Finn says suddenly. ‘The cruiser!’
‘Did it follow us?’
‘It’s – yes – it’s about to.’
Poe blinks and then feels the slight shock wave pass through them as the gravity of the much larger ship appears on their four o’clock. He shoves the stick around and dives away from it, heading closer to the debris. He corners through it, looking for a big one – thinks of Han Solo at Hoth, one of the most incredible escapes of the Rebellion – and then drops them onto it, cutting the engines. ‘BB-8, all systems power down.’
BB-8 beeps in alarm: all systems?
‘Not you,’ Poe says, equally alarmed. ‘You’re not a system.’
‘You’re family,’ Finn says, very kindly.
With a much happier beep, BB-8 powers down the ship. Poe becomes aware of the creaking of the metal they are attached to; through the window, he can see that its surface is pitted and scored, strangely fluid looking in places as if it has been melted and re-frozen a hundred times.
‘Did you sense it coming?’ he asks Finn as he peers upward through the glass. He can see Finn reflected in it. ‘The cruiser?’
‘I…’ Finn gets an abstracted look on his face. ‘I guess I did. I saw – I saw a shape. In my mind’s eye. Just a second before it appeared.’ He looks scared. ‘Poe…’
Poe isn’t ready to talk about this. ‘This is Neles,’ he says quickly. ‘It’s an old star mine, destroyed in the early days of the Empire by an incredibly heroic – and incredibly dead – band of early Rebels.’
‘You knew about this place?’
Poe nods. ‘I’ve been thinking about ways to escape them if they tried to track us through hyperspace. All the irregular metal here will destroy their ability to scan for us.’
‘What are we going to do?’
‘Well, we can try to wait them out. Unfortunately, with the ship powered down, we won’t be able to see them on our radar, but I doubt they have any idea of how valuable we are to the Resistance, and they’ll get bored and leave.’
‘And if they don’t?’
‘We go on to another way station type of hyperspace jump. Try to wait them out there.’ Poe shrugs. ‘It’s a plan I’ve been thinking about for a while, but I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not great.’
‘No, it’s good,’ Finn says. He seems to try a smile. ‘It’s sexy how smart you are.’
Poe snorts and stands to look out the window. All he can see is the dull glow of the star around the side of the metal. ‘We have to watch where we are in the orbit,’ he says. ‘I think this thing goes in close and it could get real hot.’
‘Poe,’ Finn says softly. Poe’s stomach clenches and he can’t bring himself to turn. He feels Finn’s hands on his waist and he lets Finn tug him close, down, into his lap.
‘This can’t be comfortable,’ he says, squeezing himself into Finn’s arms and the confines of the co-pilot’s seat, swinging his legs over the armrest and wrapping his arms around Finn’s shoulders.
‘It is,’ Finn says. ‘Well – maybe move your blaster.’
‘That’s not my blaster,’ Poe deadpans.
‘Yes it is,’ Finn says, unbuckling it and letting it drop to the floor. ‘Oh, Poe.’
Poe leans his head against the back of the seat, beside Finn’s. ‘What’s it like?’ he asks softly. ‘To – to feel the Force?’
‘I didn’t know I could,’ Finn whispers. ‘It was the strangest thing. It was like – when you thought that at me about the tunnel – it was like I woke up. And suddenly things seemed like they were more… focused. I mean, I’ve had an inkling – but – I saw everything, just a second before it happened. The blaster aimed at you. You getting shot. Three times. If I hadn’t – but I had to. So I did.’
Poe turns his head slightly and presses a kiss to Finn’s neck. He still smells the same. Still sounds the same. ‘It was incredible,’ he says, truthfully. ‘It was stunning.’
‘Poe,’ Finn whispers. ‘I’m scared.’
‘Me too,’ Poe says. ‘Let’s wait a few hours and see.’
‘Not about that,’ Finn says. ‘I mean, sort of about that. But more about – about what this means.’
‘Yeah,’ Poe agrees. ‘Me too.’
They wait in the reddish semi-darkness, not speaking, just holding each other, until BB-8 chirps that the orbit is swinging them around to be much closer to the sun.
‘I think-‘ Finn hesitates. ‘I’m not sure. But I think they left.’
Poe pushes himself up – his legs are numb – and tells BB-8 to power up the ship and plot a course out of hyperspace. Carefully, he nudges their nose out of the orbit ring. There’s no sign of the cruiser. They jump to a new location in space and Poe once more hides them, this time on the uninhabitable surface of a moon made entirely of metal.
‘After this one, I’m running out of ideas for places to hide,’ Poe says, leaning back in the pilot’s seat and reaching for Finn’s hand.
‘How long should we wait?’
‘Another hour? I’m thinking they didn’t know we would be valuable enough to wait for.’ He looks upward, at the swirling stars overhead. ‘We have a better view of the system from here.’ Poe runs his fingers down the veins in the back of Finn’s hand. ‘Seems like you can tell if they’re here, anyway.’
‘I’m not sure,’ Finn says quietly. ‘I need to talk to Rey. And – and General Organa, too.’
‘She’ll know what to do,’ Poe says reassuringly. ‘We’ll go back to Yavin, get a clean ship, and make contact with her.’
‘It’ll be great to see your dad,’ Finn says.
‘Yeah,’ Poe agrees, thinking that he has a lot to discuss with Kes. ‘How are you feeling about the other news? That you’re from Bujal 8?’
‘Mixed up,’ Finn says. ‘Truthfully, I’d rather just think of Yavin as my homeworld.’ He raises their joined hands and kisses the back of Poe’s. ‘Because you’re from there.’
‘You are more than welcome to do that,’ Poe says, turning his head to look at Finn. ‘Yavin has accepted lots of Imperial and First Order refugees.’ He’s trying hard not to think about how Jedi aren’t supposed to love. He’ll talk to the General; she’ll know what to do. She’s a Force user, and she was married to Han Solo…
‘But I do want to fight for Bujal,’ Finn says. ‘I want to stop this garrison.’ He hesitates. ‘You know how they arrive pre-built, and then stormtroopers finish the job?’
‘I’ve been thinking,’ Finn says. He hesitates and looks at Poe, then grins. ‘I think we should go down there and lead a stormtrooper rebellion.’