Poe has nightmares once it’s all over.
There’s no rationale to when they come. He’ll have a few good nights in a row, then be hit with terror after terror for a solid week. He doesn’t know what makes them better, what makes them worse, only that in the time since defeating the Final Order, uninterrupted sleep has become a precious commodity. He doesn’t know if they’ll go away.
He wishes he could ask Leia.
Rey often finds herself alone in the forest.
Like she’d do in the desert, she sits, helmet on, and stares up at the trees, wondering what stories they would tell if they could speak. She wonders if people will ask her to tell her story years on, and if so, what she will tell them, where she will start. She considers all the fragments and heartbreaks and victories. She wonders if they add up to something .
She wants, desperately, for it all to mean something.
Finn, after everything, feels like something is missing.
He wakes, day after day, with longing burning a hole in his chest. He goes about his day, doing whatever it is generals do—he and Poe are still figuring that out—but at night, he lays in his bed, the feeling near-tangible, entangled with his heart. The war is over. They earned that. Yet there’s a little voice that whispers, You haven’t finished yet. You haven’t discovered everything you were supposed to discover , it says.
He tries to sleep when that happens. He doesn’t always succeed.
Here’s what nobody tells you about winning the war: it doesn’t end after the final battle. There is no happily ever after, no storybook placed back on the shelf, no flourishing ribbon. They celebrate, of course, until the moon rises high into the darkened sky. Rey senses planets and planets across the galaxy rejoicing, giving thanks. She senses it as profoundly as she felt the old generations of Jedi with her. It sweeps through her, as powerful as one of the tidal waves from when she fought Ben or Palpatine’s lightning. Perhaps on another night, she would’ve crumpled under the feeling, but Poe and Finn stand on either side of her—she’s alive, she’s alive, she’s alive , and not only that, she’s surrounded by people she loves. People who love her.
Not even high lasts forever.
Because she can sense something besides joy—the whispers.
What now? people ask.
When will we feel safe again?
Who will lead the galaxy?
What will we be without Leia Organa?
How can we prevent this from happening again?
It echoes in her mind.
What next, what next, what next? Both lightsabers hang at her hip. A ghost of a kiss lingers on her lips. She thinks she’s mourning Ben, or at least the idea of him. She doesn’t think she could have loved him as he was. She imagines him five, ten years on, growing and learning and repenting, and their paths colliding again; she imagines finding him before Snoke. Yet her role was never to save him, was never to be a dictator’s echo. She is who she chooses to be.
She still doesn’t completely know who she’ll choose to be.
The festivities end.
Finn climbs a tree.
He doesn’t quite know why he chooses to do so. All he knows is that he’s alone, there’s a perfectly good tree in front of him, and he wants to be closer to the sky. So he goes upward, branch by branch, the bark digging into his palms. He remembers the climbing courses he did alongside his fellow Stormtroopers, gloves covering their hands. He’s glad he’s gloveless and he can feel everything. The wind against his face. The leaves rustling in his ears. The fullness in his chest, like if he feels anything else, he’ll explode.
He holds a leaf between his thumb and index fingers, then closes his eyes. Its journey, from blossoming to drying, unfolds in his mind, and he feels every step of it.
He feels the Force, as he’s felt it for months.
He exhales, and the leaves flutter in the air for a split second longer than they should.
The branches underneath him crackle. Rey and Poe climb upward, Rey quite nimbly, Poe favoring his injured arm. Finn offers him a hand. Poe’s callouses from flying are rough against Finn’s palm. He always notices that when he takes Poe’s hand, which is more often than one would expect. Poe grunts his thanks and sits on his right; Rey sits on his left. Finn puts an arm around each of them, listening to their breathing. None of them speak. They don’t have to.
I’m Force-sensitive , Finn could say. He wants Rey to know first.
He thinks of how he first met Poe, strapped down, bleeding, freshly tortured and in agony from having Kylo Ren invade his mind. With the Force.
He doesn’t know if he could bear Poe fearing him.
Poe wishes he could live in this tree.
He stares out at the stars, Finn’s arm heavy around his shoulder. Poe curls into him and exhales. Generals should not cuddle in random trees under stars. He doesn’t know much, but he knows that. He can’t bring himself to care. Not after the bloodbath he just witnessed.
His breath hitches.
Finn’s arm tightens around him, and Poe wishes it was enough to keep his demons away. I want to live in this tree. He wants to live in this night forever, because once the sun rises, he’s a general , and people will be looking to him for decisions. For where they should go in the future. He bites his lip, scrunches up his nose, and wonders what the hell Leia was thinking when she put him in charge. She could have brought more people through the battle alive. She could have brought allies faster.
Poe looks at the sky and sees Snap’s X-wing exploding.
“We should sleep,” Finn murmurs. “We should go to bed.”
“Finn,” Poe whispers. “I think I’ll fall out of this tree if I try to climb down.”
“ I can climb down,” Rey says. Instead of climbing, she Force-hovers down.
“I’ll help you.” Finn balances on a branch, then offers a hand. Poe takes it. He wonders if Finn notices his callouses—if he does, he doesn’t say anything. They descend together, hands intertwined, and Poe expects him to let go once their feet are firmly on the ground, but he doesn’t. If anything, he tightens his grip as they all return to their quarters.
As they walk through the hallways, Poe says, “I don’t want to sleep alone.”
So they stumble into Rey’s room and collapse onto her bed. As soon as Rey’s head hits the pillow, she’s asleep. Poe doesn’t take his boots off, but he feels strong hands unlacing them, pulling them off his feet.
“Lazy, lazy,” Finn chides, then wiggles between Poe and Rey. He turns so his nose is an inch or so away from Poe’s. They stare into each other’s eyes until Finn’s flutter closed. He waits until Finn’s breathing evens before speaking.
“I don’t know what I would’ve done,” Poe whispers. “Had you died.”
He doesn’t sleep.
Days rush by in a blur.
Everyone wants to talk to Rey. They hug her, cry into her shoulder, thank her profusely. It becomes very evident, she feels, that she has spent fifteen years isolated on Jakku, with only memories for company. Words don’t come easily to her. She’s a doer, a woman of action. She isn’t meant for speeches and heartfelt gratitude. They don’t seem to care.
She misses the solitude, eventually. Three, maybe four days have passed when she decides enough is enough and sneaks out to where the X-wings are at night. She sits atop Poe’s, staring out at the stars, wishing Luke or Leia would appear to tell her what to do next.
Guide me , she thinks. Be with me .
She wonders if Ben’s ghost will come to her.
Be with me.
She only senses her own heartbeat.
Her eyes flutter closed as she lays back, the metal cool against her back and arms.
She sits up and finds dark eyes peering up at her.
“Rose,” she says. The other girl’s cheeks scrunch up as she smiles.
“Tired of being the center of attention?”
“I’ve never had so many people who wanted to see me ” Rey admits. “I… I liked being in the background. I liked learning .”
“My sister was always better at talking to people than me.” Rose hums softly, leaning against the X-wing. “Want to help me make repairs on the X-wings?”
“I won’t talk too much. A lot of the ships need some work, so I’d love the help, and you seem like you need a distraction.”
Rey manages a small smile and hops down from the ship.
Rose hands her a toolbox.
Poe hasn’t slept in three days.
He’s been in constant meetings, meetings that demand his full attention, meetings about the future of the galaxy, about the role the Resistance will play in this future, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Everyone looks to Poe for opinions. Statistics. Arguments. Policies. He’s exhausted.
Every time he closes his eyes, he sees ships exploding, blood pouring from wounds, bodies. He hears Rose telling him that Finn isn’t safe.
“I think that’s enough for tonight,” he says in his latest meeting, a virtual one with a host of foreign diplomats. They agree. When he signs off and finds himself alone in the command center. He exhales. He presses his steepled hands to his forehead, almost like he’s praying.
He’s so, so tired.
He stands. The room spins around him. He sits back down. Maybe he’ll spend the night here. He remembers the nights he spent here talking to Leia, strategizing, reminiscing.
No. He’ll go to his quarters.
He stumbles into the hallway, blinking rapidly. His arm is hot, where the trooper blasted it. He wonders if it’s infected, if someone will have to cut it off, if he’ll still be able to fly one-armed. He’d get a tricked-out prosthetic. He’d also get Rey to chop his arm off with her lightsaber. He imagines coaxing her to do it and laughs aloud.
Gods, he’s exhausted.
As he staggers through corridors, he hums an old lullaby his father sang to him as a child. It’s a sad, haunting melody—much too sad for a child’s lullaby. He misses his parents. He misses Leia. He misses his friends. Everything aches .
The world blurs around him. Someone calls his name. A strong but gentle hand cups his face; a thumb basses over his eyebrow.
“Poe,” Finn murmurs.
He closes his eyes. Blood and fire flood his vision. He moans softly.
“Oh, Poe.” Finn pulls him to his feet. Poe leans into him.
“I’m sorry,” Poe murmurs.
“Are you drunk?”
“I’m sorry,” he repeats. “I’m sorry I didn’t save everyone.”
“Poe, when did you last sleep?”
Three days. “Drunk,” Poe mutters. “ Suuuuuuuper drunk.”
Finn knows that Poe is not drunk.
How? someone might ask. How can you know?
Well, he might answer, I can see his red eyes and the dark circles, so dark they’re almost purple, and I can see how he’s trembling and dizzy. I can see how he closes his eyes and his breathing almost evens before he drags himself back to wakefulness .
The truthful answer is that he knows Poe, almost as well as he knows himself.
He gives up on helping Poe walk and just carries him.
Poe’s head lolls against Finn’s collarbone, curls brushing his jaw and stubble rough against Finn’s neck. Poe always seems larger than life, but here in Finn’s arms, he feels small. Human. That’s okay. Finn has never been in it for the myth. And like this, the hole in his chest feels smaller, more manageable.
I’m Force sensitive .
Finn can’t tell him.
He brings Poe to his bed and takes off his boots, again.
“Meetings,” Poe moans. “Finn, I’m so sick of meetings . I want to fly. Let’s go fly.”
“Okay,” Finn whispers, pulling the covers around him. “We can go fly, General.”
A wild grin splits Poe’s face. “Let’s fly, General.”
Finn has a thousand things he wants to say to Poe. A thousand . He wants to ask him if he ever thought, when they escaped the First Order together, that they would become this —Resistance fighters, friends, generals, the type of people who could sleep curled up on the same bed together. But Poe’s eyes are closed, his chest is rising and falling.
“Sleep,” Finn whispers. “You deserve it.”
Poe dreams of fire.
He runs through the flames, searching.
He finds what he’s looking for in a horrible moment.
He falls to his knees besides Finn’s charred corpse. A scream tears from his throat. Fire licks at his hands, blisters his skin, as he reaches for Finn, but he doesn’t care. He holds him.
Finn turns to ash in his arms.
Poe wakes up drenched in sweat, a sob swelling in the back of his throat.
There’s a pain in Rey’s chest that isn’t from any physical wound. It feels like a constant hammer to her heart. A three-syllable beat.
She whispers the name to herself alone in her quarters. Palpatine . She hates it. She hates how it feels, hates how it sounds. She wonders if Ben thought the same thing when he whispered Skywalker to himself alone in the dark.
She hates Ben. For what he did. For leaving her. For both, simultaneously.
Here’s what they don’t tell you about grief: it’s a complicated, sour thing, born from rage and ruin. It runs in your veins; it threads your ribs. It demands your attentions. It ravages.
She grieves alone. She knows she could turn to Poe and Finn, but she’s always been an intensely private person. Han. Luke. Leia. Ben. Her parents. She grieves them. She grieves for a lost part of herself, for everyone who died.
What now? she wants to shout to the sky. Who am I now?
She misses scavenging. A part of her misses Jakku (a very small part). She keeps waiting for the next battle, for Ben to pull her into their shared space, but neither come (they never will). She repairs ships with Rose, spends time with Poe and Finn, takes longs walks, screams at the stars (she spends more time than she’d like to admit doing that).
You are a Palpatine .
Ben said her parents were nobody.
Startlingly, she wishes that was true. She wishes she earned her way into this narrative instead of her grandfather pulling the strings from beyond. Leia would say that she did.
Leia is not here.
Finn wishes, sometimes, he was still the man who could steal a ship and run away. Before, when he thought Poe was dead and Rey was just an aquaintance, he could’ve done it. Now, the guilt would wrap around his neck and choke him before he could shift into hyperdrive.
People want his opinions. All. The. Time.
Stormtrooper rehabilitation programs. Peace negotiations. Jobs for First Order defectors. Trials, punishments, witnesses. It comes with being a general.
The bags under Poe’s eyes grow darker. Rey becomes quieter.
The temptation to fight the guilt and run tugs at Finn.
It’s the part of him that was starved for years—the part of him denied individuality. Sometimes, when he sits with the others to eat, even between Rey and Poe, and someone mentions that they’re all together , he has to pause. Remind himself to breathe. Together does not mean without identity , he’ll say to himself. Together does not make you less human.
I am Finn , he tells himself. I am a general. I am a Resistance fighter. I won. We won.
He still fears himself, sometimes.
He fears who he could have been.
He fears who he will be.
He tells Rey as much one morning, when Poe is still fast asleep. Her face crumples, and he almost— almost —regrets saying so. He knows that she suffers from the same issue. Palpatine , she told him once it was all over, in the cover of darkness. Rey Palpatine .
She wanted, more than anything, to know who she was, where she fit in the story. He knows that. Now that she has the answer, though, she doesn’t seem happier.
He’s okay without a surname, a history. He likes the one syllable that defines him. Finn.
“Our choices define us,” Rey says quietly. “Not our history.”
She doesn’t sound fully convinced of her own advice, but Finn, after hearing that, stumbles across buried knowledge.
He realizes: Rey cannot answer every question he has.
He realizes: the Force burns in him, and he wants to explore it, but at the same time, he’s terrified of it, terrified that there’s more darkness in him than light.
He realizes: he doesn’t know who he is without a war.
Poe categorizes his nightmares.
One: Kylo Ren tortures him. He screams. Pain shreds him. He pushes Ren away, but he pushes into Poe’s mind, rifling through his memories like they’re nothing .
Two: Leia comes to him, a corpse. She stares at him lifelessly. They’re trapped in a room together. Poe’s teeth fall out. His eyes bleed. Leia just stares.
Three: Rey leaves for good. He is alone.
Four: X-wings explode. He screams Snap’s name. It’s never enough.
Five: Finn. Finn. Category five is the worst. He sees Finn tortured, Finn’s bloodied corpse. He sees him suffocate, drown, bleed out. He never saves him.
Poe rarely sleeps. Some people notice. Others don’t.
They take to playing chess at night. They sit at a small, round table in Poe’s quarters, pieces illuminated in gentle lamplight. Poe likes looking at him in this light. His dark skin shines, and when he feels confident, a smirk plays across his lips (Poe lets him win sometimes, just to see that smile).
Tonight, Finn says, “I think you’re cheating, but I don’t know how.”
Poe isn’t cheating. He doesn’t think so, at least. He’s exhausted. He moves a pawn.
“Poe,” Finn says. “I’m worried about you.”
Poe’s worried about himself, too.
He grins, the same smile that gets him… pretty much anything he wants.
“The only thing you should be worried about,” Poe says, “is losing tonight.”
The worried crease between Finn’s eyebrows remains, even when he wins.
Rey thinks about titles a lot. Finn and Poe are generals. She’s the only Jedi—although she’s sure there are others out there, unknown. She doesn’t like the weight her title carries. The last Jedi. There have to be more.
She can’t be alone. Not again.
She doesn’t confess this to Finn or Poe. It’s Rose who hears her whispered concerns as they continue repairs on the X-wings. She knows what Jedis do—they lead isolated lives. She knows what general do—they lead , period, and spend the time between wars fighting private battles behind closed doors. She wonders aloud if this is all the time she’ll receive with these people, if life will whisk them away to lonely corners of the galaxy.
“Hmm,” Rose says. “Seems like you’re thinking a lot about things you can’t control and not very much about the X-wings.”
“You’re in control, you know,” Rose says. “Nobody’s controlling your life. Not Kylo Ren, not Palpatine. Not even the Skywalkers. Finn’s controlling his life, too, and Poe’s doing the same. The three of you can make your own futures.”
“And you.” Rey puts down her tools to look at her. “You’re important to me. To us .”
Rose smiles. Rey feels thankful. Yet she still feels her worries nestled near her heart, impossibly heavier, even after saying them aloud.
The weight persists throughout the day. Increases, even. At night, she finds herself with Finn and Poe in the same tree they climbed the night the Resistance won.
The night the last blood family you had died , a voice reminds her.
The night Ben died .
She hates that she mourns him.
Poe dozes, his head lolling onto Finn’s chest. Finn’s careful not to move too much. He cards one hand through Poe’s dark curls, jaw tight.
“He isn’t doing well,” Finn whispers. He opens his mouth, like he’s about to say more, but closes it abruptly and exhales. “How are you?”
Rey wants to turn it and ask about him . Of the three of them, he’s seemed the steadiest. She can’t tell, even with the Force, what is real and what’s an act. She felt how he clutched her and Poe the day they won, felt his chest shake as he sobbed, felt his tears splash against her neck. You are not okay , she wants to say. I should be asking you . She wants to say, Answer honestly. Tell me if you’re coping with all this.
She’s a coward.
She can’t bring herself to bear his pain.
The least she can do is not add to his.
“As well as can be expected,” she whispers. Before she can stop herself, she blurts, “I thought winning would be feel better than this.”
Finn sighs, pulls Poe closer to his chest. “So did I.”
Here’s what Finn doesn’t tell Rey: he is nowhere near okay, and asking her makes him feel better about his lack of control.
Here’s what Finn doesn’t tell Poe: he knows about Poe’s nightmares, and has plenty of his own.
He can’t believe that Poe doesn’t know that Finn knows. Finn’s room is right next to Poe’s. The walls on their base are thin. Poe screams when he has nightmares, screams and sobs and begs and paces. Finn lies awake and listens. He contemplates going to Poe’s room to help him, but his mind greets him with various scenarios.
Scenario one: Poe feels guilty for waking Finn up. He suffers in silence.
Scenario two: Poe becomes angry that Finn has been listening. He draws away.
Scenario three: Poe has somehow heard Finn during his nightmares (Finn taught himself to suffer bad dreams quietly while in training). He turns the tables.
He doesn’t like any of them.
What do you dream about, Finn? Poe would ask.
You, Finn would say. I dream about Ren torturing you with the Force. I dream about him doing worse. I see you dead or dying. I see your blood. I hear your screams. I feel it in my heart when your ship falls from the sky. I see you turn away from me when I say I have the Force; I see myself holding your body. I see your lips, your hands, your thighs.
What else? Poe would ask.
I remember them , he would say. They tell me I’m not human. They tell me I am worth nothing. They torture me. They tell me nobody will love me, only the Order. They tell me I cannot have another life. They tell me I should feel nothing. But I do. I feel. I feel. I feel.
Tonight, Finn doesn’t sleep. He waits. He listens to Poe scream.
Then, he stands and goes to him.
He enters without knocking. Poe’s sitting on the edge of the bed, hands pressed to his temple. He looks up when Finn enters. He swipes at his red-rimmed eyes.
“Let’s play chess,” Finn says.
Poe blinks twice, then replies, “Okay.”
They set up the board in silence. Poe makes the first move. Finn pays more attention to Poe than the game, even as it progresses. Poe’s curls fall in his eyes as he thinks. They play in silence, back and forth for awhile.
“I think you’re cheating,” Poe finally says.
Finn’s move. “I am not.”
Poe’s move. He scoffs.
Finn’s. “You don’t seem like you’re sleeping well.”
Poe’s. “Is anyone?”
Finn’s. “I’m not worried about anyone. I’m worried about you .”
Poe’s. “No use worrying. I’m sleeping enough so I won’t die.”
Finn’s. “Is it good sleep?”
Poe’s. He bites his lower lips, then makes a bad move. “Good enough.”
Finn makes an equally bad move. “You deserve better than good enough .”
Poe is quiet for a few moves, then says, “Do you ever think about why we’re the ones who made it through? Out of all the people who fought? Why did I live while they died?”
Finn Forces himself not to react.
“I asked them to fight. I sent them out with a promise I barely believed myself. I’m…” Poe makes one more move, then blinks. “Checkmate.”
“Checkmate?” Finn echoes. He looks down at the board. Poe has won. “What were you about to say?”
Poe shakes his head, then turns to look out the window. “Don’t worry about it. Thanks for the game, Finn.”
Finn recognizes a dismissal. He respects it. Yet the Force pulls at him, pulls him toward Poe .
Poe, who never wants anything to do with the Force.
“Poe,” Finn says softly. Poe doesn’t turn. “Whenever you’re ready, I’ll be here.”
Poe looks at his own lap.
“I’m lost, too,” Finn whispers. “Without the war.”
He leaves without looking at Poe.
I’m lost, too.
Wait , Poe wants to say as Finn leaves. Wait.
What was Finn supposed to wait for? An emotionally stunted pilot who couldn’t come to terms with his own guilt and trauma? He’s always prided himself on being there for the people important to him—on being a man. Responsible. Strong. Caring. More than anything, he’s a carer. He looks out for the ones he loves. He protects and fixes.
Something is hurting Finn.
And he can’t help him because of his own nightmares.
I’m lost too.
He wants to hold Finn.
He wants to feel normal again.
Here’s what nobody told Rey about the dark side, not even Luke Skywalker: sometimes, it’s indistinguishable from the light.
She feels everything deeply, especially with the cover of the forest. Despite a lack of events to train for, she runs her training course over and over. And over. And over.
And so on.
She thinks, if she put her mind to it, she could burn everything. Between the Force running through her veins and the lightning in her fingertips, she knows she could. She has to choose not to day after day. She thinks of Poe and Rose and Finn. C-3PO and BB-8. Her friends. On bad days, she chooses goodness for them.
She wonders, sometimes, if she belonged on Kylo Ren’s side.
She wonders what she’s supposed to do.
She wonders if Luke would be disappointed in her.
Eventually, Poe’s mental aches become physical.
Old wounds don’t heal properly—bruises, cuts, blaster wounds. Especially blaster wounds. His arm causes particular issues. He never sought medical attention, and he doesn’t want to now. It aches, the skin hot and irritated, but he doesn’t say anything. Sometimes, he presses his thumb against the inflamed area. The pain grounds him.
He hides it well, even from Finn. Especially from Finn.
They’ve taken to playing chess together every night. The games keep Poe grounded. Finn always goes back to his room after. Poe wants, more than anything, to grab his hands, to lead him to the bed, to hold him and be held. He wants to ask, Can we take this further?
He’s afraid of what would happen if Finn said no.
He’s afraid of what would happen if he said yes.
The Force calls to Finn.
He sits cross-legged in the forest late at night (or perhaps early in the morning) with his eyes closed and hand extended. His eyes flutter shut. A pile of leaves sits in front of him. He reaches forward with his mind, too, and connects with the photosynthetic cells.
He lifts .
When he opens his eyes, he sees the leaves hovering before his eyes.
A breathy laugh escapes his lips. He’s doing it. Without training. On his own terms.
He thinks of Rey lifting the rocks to save them. He thinks of Poe flinching away from Ren, his memories invaded and shattered.
He loses control and drops the leaves.
He wants it. He wants it so, so much. Almost more than anything he’s ever wanted.
But he also wants Poe.
Here’s the other thing about grief: it breaks everyone eventually.
Rey breaks a month after the battle.
She’s running the training course, because of course she is, when she trips. She slams into the ground, twigs dragging across her palms. She looks at her bleeding hands.
A scream tears from her throat.
The trees tremble around her. Roots roar from the ground, clawing at the dirt and leaves, forming a cage around her. Her screams turn to sobs, and before she truly registers what’s happening, she’s curled into a ball, weeping. Her very soul aches. She feels the weight of the past months crushing her, standing on her throat.
Rey raises her head.
“Leia,” she whispers.
Leia’s ghost shimmers, shadowed by the trees and sun. She smiles gently at Rey and kneels. Her hands wrap around Rey’s; she helps Rey from the ground and brushes away the dirt on her clothes.
“You did so well, Rey,” Leia says. “I’m so proud of you.” Rey only cries harder. “That’s okay.” Leia pulls her into an embrace, running her hands over Rey’s back. “Cry all you need to. It’s okay. You’ve earned it. It’s okay.”
So she cries. She sobs for everything she’s lost, everything that was and could have been. “I’m sorry,” she manages. “I’m sorry about Han. I’m sorry about Luke. And I’m so sorry about Ben. I thought I’d save him. I thought I could save you.”
“Oh, none of that,” Leia says. “We’re okay, Rey. You did just fine.”
“I really don’t think I did.”
Leia swats her shoulder. “Do you really not believe me?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, believe me. We’re all so proud of you. So proud.” She smiles. Tears come to her eyes. “We’re all together. You gave that to us. Han and I have our son. Enough about us, though. You, Rey, deserve to be happy. You deserve to be loved .”
“I don’t know how to do either of those things,” Rey whispers.
“You’re already so, so loved.” Leia’s smile widens. “Accept their love. Accept how happy you can be in this life. It doesn’t always have to be war.”
Rey closes her eyes. “Leia…”
No response. Lips brush her forehead.
She opens her eyes.
Leia is gone.
The ghost of a kiss lingers on her temple. It doesn’t always have to be war. The words work their way into her blood.
She sits down hard on the forest floor.
For the first time, perhaps, she feels she can start to move past this.
Poe feels like he’s falling apart.
His head throbs constantly. He grapples at three, four hours of sleep per night. His blaster wound is toned angry red. Leadership and memories have not treated him kindly.
When Finn comes to his door after two sleepless night, Poe’s heart flutters.
“Here to get your ass kicked again?” he asks.
Finn does not smile.
“We have an issue,” he says quietly. “We’re needed.”
Poe follows him without protest.
When they come to the command room, everyone stands. Captains. Commanders. Team leaders. Jessika and Snap are standing apart from the others, not meeting Poe’s gaze.
“Jess?” Poe says. “Snap?”
“General,” Jessika replies. “We checked in on Drexel’s Stormtrooper rehab site.”
“That’s…” Poe wants to say exactly what I told you to do , but with everyone’s serious expressions, he surmises that something is very, very wrong. Finn is stiff by his side.
“We noticed that it looked a little… empty,” Snap says. “We did some digging, and…” His eyes flick to Finn. “We found…”
“He’s been exterminating the Troopers,” Jess finishes. “Exterminating them instead of following the reformation protocols. Right under our fucking noses.”
Poe’s blood turns to ice.
“Why?” he whispers.
“He, um, made a video.” Snap opens a file, and a hologram of Drexel appears. A man Poe thought he could trust. A man he put in charge of helping the First Order’s victims.
“No matter what Commander Dameron decrees in his game of pretend,” Drexel drawls, “Stormtroopers cann’t be reformed. They cannot join a functional society. They cannot be human. It is not in their nature. I have seen this through my time at this facility.”
Poe senses Finn’s flinch.
“It is unacceptable that Dameron chooses to waste precious resources on this emotional endeavor. We cannot humor bleeding hearts. Stormtroopers are harbingers of war and torture. Like they animals they are, they must be put down and—”
“Turn it off,” Poe snaps. “Turn that shit off .”
“Poe,” Finn whispers. “Breathe.”
“What do you want us to do, General?” Jessika asks.
Drexel, Poe thinks. Killing former Stormtroopers .
That could have been Finn.
That could have been Finn.
Poe turns on his heel and leaves.
Finn leaves the meeting exhausted. Don’t execute him , he’d said. Just go capture him. We’ll give him a trial and go from there.
Because he is better than the First Order. He is human.
You are human, you are human, you are human.
He goes to Poe’s room, an all-encompassing ache in his chest. He doesn’t knock. When he walks in, he finds Poe sitting on the edge of his bed, head bowed and hands folded together. Finn kneels before him and tips Poe’s chin up. Tear tracks stain his cheek.
“That could have been you,” Poe whispers. “We trusted Drexel.”
And that knocks the breath out of Finn. Because it’s quintessentially Poe . He trusts. He believes that people are good. He puts his heart and soul into everything he does.
“We did,” Finn replies softly.
“Finn, I’m falling apart,” Poe says. His voice trembles. “I can’t eat. I can’t make decisions. I can’t think . My mind feels broken. I can’t sleep without nightmares. I’m so exhausted. My arm…” He unwraps the bandages.
Finn has seen the worst of war from both sides.
Poe’s enraged red skin makes him wince.
Blood seeps from the burn unenthusiastically, yellowed with pus. He’d been refusing medical treatment, Finn knew that much. He didn’t know how terrible it was.
Poe goes to wrap it again. Finn catches his hand.
“What are you doing?” Poe whispers.
“Trust me,” Finn murmurs. He cradles Poe’s arm, running his thumb down the hair on his forearm before spreading his fingers around the wound.
I’m Force-sensitive .
He weighs the risks and benefits. There are certainly risks. Poe could hate him
Yet even knowing that, he can’t stand seeing Poe in pain.
He closes his eyes and heals him.
The Force flows through his veins, through his fingers, into Poe’s skin and being. He senses the moment when Poe’s breath hitches (but that’s more from knowing Poe than skill with the Force). A tear trickles down Finn’s cheek. I could lose him .
“Finn,” Poe whispers. “Finn, you can stop.”
Finn jerks his arm away. He opens his eyes. Lowers them. He can’t look at Poe. He doesn’t know what he’ll find in his gaze.
“Will you look at me?” Poe whispers.
Finn can’t deny him anything. Not even this.
Poe wears a look of wonder as he studies his newly healed pink skin. “Since when?”
“Always, I guess,” Finn replies softly. “That’s what I was going to tell Rey. I didn’t want to tell you.” Hurt flashes across Poe’s tired face. “Ren hurt you with the Force. He invaded your mind, Poe. He tortured you. I couldn’t…”
I couldn’t bear if you were afraid of me .
“Come up here.” Poe exhales when Finn doesn’t move. “Finn, please.” Finn sits next to him on the bed. They turn so they’re facing each other. “Hands?”
Finn wordlessly extends his hands. Poe grips them tightly and holds them to his chest.
“What you can do,” Poe says, “Is beautiful. You can feel the Force , Finn. I know you would never hurt me.”
“But—” Finn starts.
“You…” Poe swallows hard. His voice is thick with emotion. “You would never hurt me.”
Poe lifts Finn’s hands toward his lips. He arches an eyebrow in question. Finn manages to nod. Poe presses his lips to Finn’s knuckles, lowering his eyes. His curls fall into his eyes.
Finn forgets how to breathe.
How impossible this is, he thinks. How wonderful. He’d only saved Poe because he was scared and needed a pilot, and now this lovely, lovely man is pressing his lips to his hands. His soft, beautiful lips. Poe lowers Finn’s hands.
They lean toward each other in the space of a shared heartbeat.
Finn kisses Poe desperately.
It fits , Poe thinks. I found you , he thinks. Despite everything, I found you .
“Poe,” Finn murmurs into his lips. “Poe.”
Finn knows what he’s doing—that doesn’t surprise him. What does surprise him, though, is how well Finn knows him . Already. He kisses the sensitive spots underneath his earlobe, along his jaw, on his collarbone. Poe shudders, almost overwhelmed.
I found you , he wants to say.
“Do you mean this?” he asks instead. He drags himself away from Finn. “I can’t… I can’t do this casually. I’m impulsive. I don’t like when people keep secrets from me, no matter what they are. I have horrible nightmares. I’ll always like flying more than I’ll like being on the ground. You should know all these things.”
“I already do,” Finn murmurs. “And I still like you. A lot.”
An electric pulse flashes through his heart.
Poe undoes Finn’s belt. His fingers slide against warm skin, coarse hair until Finn is in his hand. Finn moans softly, buries his face in Poe’s shoulder, thrusts his hips, arches his back. He’s beautiful, Poe thinks, but he can’t focus on that too much, because Finn’s undoing Poe’s belt, now, and his mouth…
Poe forgets how to breathe.
Finn’s lips are on Poe’s, now. They come together in pulses, hands and mouths exploring. Poe isn’t Force-sensitive, but gods , he thinks this is as close as he’ll be to feeling it.
“Poe,” Finn murmurs. “ Poe .”
Poe lets go.
Everything is better in the morning.
Rey wakes up with her head as clear as it has been in weeks. You have a future , she thinks. One that belongs to just you .
She goes to Finn’s room and bangs on his door. No response. She goes to Poe’s room.
When the door opens, Finn answers. He’s shirtless . She grins widely.
“Oh,” he says. “Uh…”
“Hi,” Rey replies, pushing past him. “Good morning.”
Poe scrambles to pull the covers over himself. “Wow, knock much?”
“I did knock.” She plops down on the bed. “I have an idea.”
“Are you not gonna…” Finn motions at Poe, then the bed, then the door, then Rey. She doesn’t know what he expects her to get from that.
“You slept together, it seems. I think a lot of people who were taking bets will be very happy. I’m very happy.” She scooches over so Finn can sit next to her. “I have an idea.”
She explains everything she’s been feeling recently. The loneliness. The grief. She’s never done this before, never laid out her emotions so plainly. She ends with telling them about seeing Leia, then says, “I want to look for other Force-sensitive people. Orphans, maybe. I’d go on short expeditions and have a training base here. I want to revitalize the Jedi. But I think we need to say good-bye to the past. I want to bury the Skywalkers’ lightsabers on Tatooine.”
Both Finn and Poe are quiet.
“And I want your opinions,” she says lamely.
“I agree,” Finn says. “We can’t hang onto everything we were.”
Poe exhales. “Are you sure burying them is the right thing to do? What if we need them one day? What if someone else finds them?”
“I’ll be careful.” She meets Poe’s gaze. “We can move into the future.” They’re quiet. “Hands?”
The three of them join hands. How lucky she is, Rey thinks, to have them. To have Poe and Finn and Rose and everyone else who loves her. Who she loves.
“Do it,” Poe whispers. “Let’s find the future.”
After Rey talks to them about burying the lightsaber, Finn’s in meetings all day—Poe’s in separate meetings. Finn keeps touching his lips. Poe kissed him there. And other places. And Finn wants nothing more than to kiss him again.
They find each other at night, outside Poe’s door.
“Hi,” Poe says breathlessly.
“Hi,” Finn replies.
Within a single breath, they’re tangled in each other, stumbling into Poe’s bedroom, collapsing onto the bed. Poe laughs into Finn’s neck, slipping his cold hands under Finn’s shirt, and this, this is what Finn has been looking for.
“Finn,” Poe mutters. “Finn, the door isn’t shut all the way.”
Finn closes it using the Force.
And that. He’s been looking for that, even before he knew the Force existed.
When they finish, they lay side by side, noses nearly touching. Finn cards his hand through Poe’s curls.
“This won’t fix everything,” Poe whispers. “I’ll still be a disaster, sometimes.”
“I know,” Finn replies. “I have nightmares, too.”
Poe’s breath hitches. He runs his fingers down the brutal scar on Finn’s back, where Kylo Ren’s lightsaber slashed through him.
“Tell me the truth,” Finn says. “Do I scare you because I can feel the Force?”
“No.” Poe’s hand comes up to cup the back of his neck. The Force isn’t this separate part of you that I set aside because it’s scary. Nothing about you could ever scare me. The Force is intertwined with who you are. I think that’s beautiful. You’re complete. I just see you.”
I just see you .
“I’m serious about you,” Finn blurts. “I don’t want this to be casual.”
Poe smiles. “I’m serious about you, too.”
“Do you ever think about how impossible it is? That we found each other in the middle of a war ? What are the odds, even? I’m…” Tears pool in his eyes. “I’m so thankful, Poe.”
Poe kisses him deeply.
Something inside him that he didn’t know was broken heals.
One morning, Poe visits Leia’s grave. He sits near the headstone.
“Hi,” he whispers. “So much has happened since you left.”
He tells her everything. About the meetings. Rey. The nightmares. His tears. He tells her about Finn. He has no idea if she’s listening. He hopes so.
“I’m not you, Leia,” he says. “I never will be. But I don’t think you meant for me to be you . I wasn’t supposed to be a replacement. I’m your legacy. I’m what comes next in the story. Me and Finn. He’s so good, Leia. He’s what I needed.”
He breathes in deeply. “I’m going to talk to someone. A Healer. About my nightmares. About how I was tortured. About everything. I think it’s time I’m honest. This war… it took its toll. But I can’t let it bury me. I have to keep living, because Force , I have so much to live for.”
Wind ripples against his face, as soft as an embrace.
He leaves with a soft smile splitting his lips and goes to Finn’s room. He’s just washed, his skin still glistening. Poe loves him. He loves him, he loves him, he loves him .
“Good talk?” Finn says.
Poe pulls him into his arms. They sink to the floor, pressed into each other.
“I’m thankful, too,” Poe whispers. “We’ll be okay. I know that now.”
Finn presses their foreheads together. “We’ll be okay.”
Rey takes the Falcon to Tatooine. Poe insists that BB-8 go with her.
“For company,” he says. “I don’t want you to be lonely.”
Before she leaves, she lingers on the ramp for a moment. Finn and Poe stand shoulder to shoulder, their hands intertwined. Finn lifts his free hand. Poe nods to her. Her heart swells.
“Come back safe!” Finn calls.
She grins. She will. She knows she will.
The journey to Tatooine is easy. Flying feels amazing. She lands smoothly, finds her location, and buries the sabers without trouble. Something in her settles.
So when a woman passes and asks for her name, the response comes immediately.
“Rey,” she shouts back.
“Rey who ?”
Rey smiles to herself. She’s… Rey. She can sense the spirits of the past Jedi. She can fight with a lightsaber, but truly, she’ll always prefer her staff. She’s one of the few people who can make Finn laugh when he’s sad. She can scavenge, climb, better than anyone she knows. She knows when Poe needs to race an X-wing and knows when he needs a shoulder to cry on. She likes helping Rose fix ships. She likes looking at the stars. Always at the stars.
“That’s all there is,” she says. “It’s just Rey.”
She doesn’t feel like she’s running from something, only toward something.
With a final grin, she returns to the Falcon, BB-8 on her heels.
She’s ready to go home.