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After the Bombs Subside

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“Can I come with you?”

Poe Dameron hadn’t meant to just blurt it out like that. He hadn’t even really meant to ask at all. He had far too much on his plate to jet off into the unknown for a break, even if he desperately wanted one. He regretted it the instant the words were out of his mouth, but it was too late. Finn and Rey had already turned their heads to look at him, startled into silence. For a moment, the only sound was the humming of the Millenium Falcon’s hyperdrive, and then both Rey and Poe were talking at once.

“I don’t see why not, but Finn will need to concentrate, and—

“Never mind, not sure what I was thinking, I don’t have time to—”

“Wait, wait,” Finn interrupted, hands out palm-forward. He and Rey had been talking over a game of Dejarik, and with their input paused, the holographic figures gestured menacingly at each other, one of the pawns clubbing another over the head before it could be dragged back into line by its fellow pieces. Poe, sitting on a nearby bench where he had been poring over his datapad, watched in some consternation. He was never quite sure how much sentience those transparent critters had.

“Poe, of course you can come, but why do you want to? Me and Rey are just gonna be...I don’t know, meditating? Making rocks float?” Finn glanced Rey’s way for confirmation, and the girl just smiled, her nose crinkling in an effort not to laugh. 

“No, it’s...you’re right, I don’t need to go. I’ve got too much to do already. The Resistance needs me, and...yeah, yeah, no, you two go ahead.” Poe knew he was babbling and forced himself to stop, shoving to his feet. Maybe he’d go check on Chewie, not that the Wookiee seemed to want or need any assistance as they made their way across the galaxy to Ryloth. The Twi’leks had tentatively agreed to host the Resistance base there as the war wound down and talks turned to establishing a new Republic. Poe had been looking over schematics for possibilities of where they might place said base, scrolling over maps and charts until his eyes felt rubbed raw.

He could see the concern on Rey’s face and confusion on Finn’s and he turned away toward the Falcon’s cockpit, his voice deliberately light. “Got things to do, places to be. Just thought Ahch-To sounded...interesting.”

“It really isn’t,” Rey swiveled in her chair to watch him go, brows drawn together. Her feet hung a few inches off the ground, her seat clearly intended for someone taller and, to judge by the strands of fur clinging to the upholstery, hairier. “It’s a few rocks in the ocean, covered with porgs and alien nuns. Though I suppose we’re the aliens, to them. It’s just a quiet place where we can train. And I should tidy up after...after Master Luke.”

“Yep,” said Poe, hating how falsely cheerful he sounded. “I’m good, don’t worry about it. I’ve seen rocks and oceans. I’m just gonna…” He paused at the entry to the cockpit, jerking his thumb toward it as he glanced back at his friends. He flashed them a grin before ducking inside.

Rey and Finn shared a puzzled glance before turning back to their game. “So, how long before I get a lightsaber?” Finn asked, nudging forward his Grimtaash piece to stun Rey’s K'lor'slug. The spindly creature leapt on its centipede-like opponent, bashing its head into the board with its huge hands until it lay still. Rey tsked, and reached for her Kintan Strider to retaliate.

“You just found out you’re Force sensitive a few months ago. One thing at a time. I don’t need you putting any more holes in the Caretakers’ buildings than I already have.”

 

After they landed on Ryloth, it was difficult to even catch their breath. Rey and Finn did their best to handle some of the socializing and schmoozing for him, but Poe was besieged with questions from Resistance members on one hand and Twi’lek representatives on the other as they toured possible sites for their new base. Striding through an abandoned Imperial hangar from before the first galactic war, when Ryloth had been a captured colony of the Empire, Poe signed an acquisition form on a datapad thrust at him by a Resistance engineer he couldn’t even name, while attempting to listen as his Twi’lek guide talked him through what would need to be renovated to make the hangar useful again.

“General Dameron, if you could also just sign here…” the engineer, a plump young Bothan, had to jog to keep up as the Twi’lek, a constantly smiling woman named Shan’Jora, showed Poe through the banks of hydraulic lifts meant to allow mechanics to get under low-slung ships to make repairs. They were in sorry shape, Poe noted as he scrolled absently through the form, signing with a flick of his finger wherever he saw a line. He couldn’t remember what he was actually signing for, or when they’d started doing a formal acquisitions procedure, or why he had to be the one signing all the damn forms, but if he insisted on reading everything, he’d never get anything else done. 

“General, if you’ll just look over here, you can see the problem seems to be some cracked tubing. Get that squared away, and at least a few of these lifts should be good to go.” Shan’Jora was like this about everything, Poe had quickly realized: a born saleswoman, determined to place everything in the sunniest light possible. He paused with the datapad in hand, idly tapping it with his thumb while he scanned the lifts in question before grunting out a non-committal response. Those lifts would need a hell of a lot more than some tubing replacements and new fluid before they’d be doing any lifting.

“Let’s take a look at the next bay,” he finally said, then registered the Bothan engineer at his elbow trying to interrupt. “Hm? Yes, uh...Lieutenant Grandov?” Poe forced himself to focus on the man’s rank insignia and name badge, his eyes feeling scratchy. He’d barely had a full night’s sleep since well before their victory at Exegol, and that had been some seven months ago. It was more than starting to wear on him. 

“Uh...may I have my pad back, sir?”

“Yeah! Yeah, of course, sorry.” Poe gave the man a smile, feeling his face heat as he handed the device back to its owner. The Bothan scuttled off with a backward glance and a hasty salute, which Poe waved off, turning back to his guide. “Sorry, still not...totally used to that. All of that. Where were we?”

Rey was doing her own quiet assessment of the derelict hangar, at Poe’s request, and watched the whole exchange from under the bulk of a rusting TIE fighter that still bore blaster marks from the war with the Rebel Alliance. The ship was likely older than all of them present, but Rey thought some parts might still be salvageable, as long as they were there. She had been about to ask Poe if she should start stripping it, but decided she didn’t need to heap any more questions on his shoulders. She could take care of the scavenging herself. After all, that was what she was best at.

She did thumb her comm to life, though, speaking quietly into it. “Finn, when Poe gets back to the ship, see that he has a rest, will you? And something to eat.”

“Copy that,” came Finn’s cheerful voice. “Will tackle him if necessary.” Rey smiled, and caught the beginning of Finn chiding a group of young recruits before he clicked off. 

 

“Hey, guys, I think that might be too heavy for you to—”

Finn winced as the recruits scraped the massive crate they were trying to carry along the corner of the Falcon’s doorway. The metal surfaces met with a harsh shriek, the recruit struggling in the lead almost dropping it on his foot as he flinched. Finn ran over, ducking under the ship’s ramp to retrieve a flatbed dolly and haul it over as fast as possible. The breathless recruits set down their burden with relieved gasps, wincing and rubbing at their arms.

“A little lesson for you all,” he said as they straggled to attention, recognizing him as a General despite his unmarked, rather bedraggled flight jacket. “Don’t try to be a hero when we don’t even have anyone to fight right now. Plenty of time for that later.”

“Yes, sir!” snapped the most eager of the youngsters, giving an extravagant salute. Finn had to grin at the effort. He was a pockmarked young human, skinny in the way of some of these Outer Rim worlds kids they were getting these days tended to be. Years of First Order blockades had left them less nourished than they should be. 

“Can anyone tell me what’s in this?” he asked, rapping the lid of the crate with his knuckles. The recruits, another couple of humans and a Rodian, looked at each other and then shook their heads. Finn, smiling widely now, unlatched the lid and lifted out a small metal ball. The Rodian took in a sharp breath, and her compatriots turned to stare at her. Finn pointed a finger at her, eyebrows raised expectantly. 

“Corellian spark grenades, sir.”

“That’s right, Private…?”

“Darmo, sir. Vhe Darmo.” 

Finn hadn’t known that Rodians could blush, but sure enough, the girl’s green cheeks were turning a ruddy brown. He stifled his smile, trying to look more stern as he nodded. “Private Darmo. Very good. Yes, Corellian spark grenades. Which, if you dropped a crate of them, would go…?”

“...Boom, sir.” 

“Correct, Private Darmo.” Finn watched the color drain from all their faces as he replaced the lid with care. “You’ll notice all the big, orange stickers saying ‘Caution: Explosives.’ And the cartoon bomb.”

“Well, we sure will next time, sir,” piped up the smallest of the humans, a girl with coppery skin and a dimpled smile. Finn thought she looked young, even for their latest recruits. 

“Carry on, Resisters. Carefully.” Finn waved them along to where other recruits and officers were unloading supplies, into their temporary harbor outside the capital city of Lessu. It wasn’t much, just a modest sized hangar and a small warehouse, both run-down, but the Ryloth Defense Authority had provided it free of charge, and beggars couldn’t be choosers. It was enough for the core fleet of the Resistance, such as it was—a handful of fighters, a few freighters, and the Falcon were about it—but they would outgrow it quickly, at the rate they were being contacted by new volunteers.

If he was honest with himself, Finn enjoyed the deference he received from the raw recruits. It was nice not to be on the bottom of the heap, sure, but mostly it was nice to be respected. To be listened to, and taken seriously. Even his friends sometimes seemed to think he was a silly kid, passionate but too impulsive. Poe was older and more experienced, and Rey...well, Rey was maybe younger than him, he’d never actually asked, but her powers made her seem so much wiser. 

But to the new kids, he was a battle-hardened veteran, known in some circles throughout the galaxy. He was General Finn, the stormtrooper turned Resistance hero, who had personally taken out the navigation tower at the Battle of Exegol. And soon, he would be a Jedi.

Well, maybe not quite a Jedi. Rey hadn’t yet quite worked out what she wanted to do to carry on the Jedi legacy. Luke Skywalker had been adamant that it was time for the Jedi order to die. Rey had rescued the Jedi texts before he could burn them, but she was still studying them, and for the moment, the fate of the Jedi hung in the balance. That was part of why their next stop would be Ahch-To. Rey needed time and space to study and plan. Finn needed guidance after his realization that he was sensitive to the Force. And they both needed some time away from the chaos of turning the Resistance into a legitimate political power. 

Finn felt a pang of guilt as he jogged up the ramp into the Falcon , scrolling over the to-do list on his datapad. If he and Rey were tired, then Poe, as the temporary leader of the Resistance, had to be about to drop. He certainly looked it, these days, and then there had been that odd moment earlier on the ship when he’d sounded desperate to come along. While they were criss-crossing the galaxy trying to raise funds and rally their allies, or weeding out pockets of First Order holdouts, Finn had kept an eye on his friend’s berth, noticing that the tiny cabin was always lit, no matter what hour. He wasn’t entirely sure when Poe was finding time to sleep.

He wished they could bring him along. But there was a critical shortfall of senior leaders left in the Resistance after first the destruction of the flagship Raddus and then the death of Leia Organa, and for now, Poe was pretty much it. He hadn’t even had time to fly in weeks, and Finn thought that was probably wearing on him worse than anything else he had to deal with. Maybe he could finagle some way to get Poe into his X-Wing within the next day or two, before he and Rey took off for Ahch-To. 

“Finn!” He looked up from his list in time to grin at Rose Tico before she barrelled into him for a hug. He slung his arm over her shoulders as she pulled back. She was dressed in her mechanics’ coverall, a swipe of engine grease on one dimpled cheek. Rose always made him smile, and it had been a couple of weeks since they had seen each other. 

“Hi, Rose. You and Chewie got the compressor problems sorted out yet?”

“Yep. Well, I think so. I’m not always totally sure what he’s saying, but Artoo seems confident.” The barrel-shaped astromech rolled by at that moment, moving from the cockpit toward the doorway. Finn gave him an absent pat on the head, to which he gave a friendly tootle, not slowing down as he turned to go down the ramp into the hangar.

“I don’t know how you understand droid-speak. Just a lot of beep-boop to me,” Finn confessed in a low voice, as soon as Artoo had passed. He heard a disapproving beep behind him and glanced back with chagrin to see BB-8 glaring at him, as well as a droid could glare with a lens instead of eyes. BB-8 in particular was quite good at it. Finn might not have been able to understand the series of beeps and whistles the little droid let out, but he got the indignant gist before BB-8 barreled past after R2-D2, bumping his leg along the way.

“Buddy, come on, I just...they’re good beeps!” he protested, as Rose laughed. Finn turned back to her, shaking his head with regret. “Well, now you’re gonna have to teach me.”

“Guess so,” was her cheerful reply. “You’re in trouble now. Hey, are you coming to that dinner thing tonight?”

“Yeah. You, me, Rey, Nien Nunb, and Connix. And Poe, of course. He wants us to look bigger than we are, you know? For all the Twi’lek bigwigs.” The state dinner with the Ryloth planetary leadership had been a cause of some anxiety within the fleet in the days before they’d landed. Formal clothes were in short supply, but they’d dredged up some old pieces of Leia’s from the Falcon’s storage unit, then found officers that fit them. The princess turned general had been petite, but Rose, Rey, and Major Kaydel Ko Connix had fit the bill. For the men, they’d been able to borrow suits from Charth Brethen, son of their Ryloth Defense Authority host, Yendor. Nien Nunb was having to make do with his dress uniform, the venerable Sullustan pilot too short for anything else that was available. Nunb was reluctant, as he was more accustomed to X-Wing dogfights than diplomatic meetings, but Poe had been adamant that they include at least one non-human and one veteran of the old Rebel Alliance, and Nunb was both. 

“Have you ever been to something like this before? I’m kinda nervous,” Rose confessed. “I spend too much time around rich people and I get itchy.”

“I know, Rose. And...yeah, kind of. Borrowed clothes from the same guy, even,” Finn recalled the party and auction he and Poe and a few others had attended in disguise on Corellia the year before. “The food, now, that was great. But the party turned into a blaster fight pretty quick, so let’s hope this one goes a little more smoothly.”

“A blaster fight? Well, probably better than riding a fathier through the window, right?” 

Finn chuckled at the memory of their escape from Canto Bight. It had been fun to see all those suits and gowns scattering, bowling each other over in their haste to get away from the chaos, all elegance and grace forgotten. “Maybe a little less messy. But not much. Poe jumped in a fountain with the host, that time.”

“Got it, keep Poe away from bodies of water tonight.” Rose mimed making a check mark on an invisible list, then waved as she went to follow the droids outside the ship. “See you later, Finn.”

“Later!” Finn continued into the depths of the Falcon, to check on how close they were to emptying all the supplies they’d collected out of the hold and over to the warehouse. Six hours to go until he had to stop and get ready for the dinner, and by the sounds of scraping and banging in the hold, another group of new recruits was about to do something foolish. Who knew that defeating the First Order had been the easy part?

 

Who knew the hardest part of the war would be the meetings once it was over? 

After his tour of the old Imperial base, Poe had been called to give testimony at a Ryloth Defense Authority leadership meeting, along with representatives from the official planetary government. He had brought along Major Connix and C-3PO, ostensibly to have the protocol droid record the speakers and provide cultural context and the Major to be a second pair of eyes on reactions. In reality, he was hoping Connix could give him a nudge if she caught him falling asleep, and that C-3PO would annoy him enough to keep him awake in the first place. 

So far, the latter tactic was working.

“You will note, General Dameron, that the Twi’lek often use their lekku to augment their speech. This is a holdover from their own indigenous language, Twi’lek’i, which is partially verbal and partially visual. Indeed, Twi’lek’i contains almost as many distinct lekku signs as it does audible words!”

C-3PO thought he was being quiet and discreet. He was not particularly either. Poe noticed eyes and, yes, lekku, those tentacle-like appendages on Twi’lek heads, turning their way, and cleared his throat. “Thank you, Threepio, I think I understand what—”

“It is really quite fascinating, and one of the more difficult languages for my processors to parse, of the seven million forms of communication with which I am programmed. And unfortunately, one I cannot speak, as I do not have the appropriate physicality. I would be honored if one of our hosts would allow me to witness and translate their native language, as a test of my database. Perhaps I could even expand my base of knowledge!” 

Poe elbowed the gleaming golden droid and immediately regretted it when it resulted in a clang that made more Twi’lek faces turn in their direction. Even the current speaker at the podium stopped his droning about mineral rights. Poe’s elbow smarted, too, but at least C-3PO did stop talking. For a moment.

“I say, General Dameron, are you all right? You seem to have accidentally struck me! May I render assistance?”

“That won’t be necessary, Threepio.” Poe flashed the Twi’lek council an easy smile, leaning back in his chair as he gestured for them to carry on. “Sorry, folks, my arm slipped. Please, continue.”

The speaker paused a moment longer, glaring at Poe, before continuing. Poe smiled back apologetically, but that faded as soon as the man looked away. Poe scrubbed a hand down his face as he breathed out a carefully quiet sigh, then met Connix’s eye. She widened her eyes marginally and lifted her brows, a facial shrug, before turning away to jot down a few notes. Poe wondered if he should be taking notes too. That would, presumably, require him to actually be taking in what the speaker was saying. That was proving impossible. It was like the Twi’lek’s words were drops of oil, bouncing right off the water of his brain.

The endless list of tasks to do, waiting on his datapad, itched at him. It would be rude to take the pad out to start planning his next few days, but as long as the council was discussing nothing that concerned him, he couldn’t concentrate on anything but worrying about everything going undone while he was stuck here in some damn cave, listening to a bunch of strangers quibble over where to put their damn lithium mine, and how to split the damn proceeds. Strangers he needed to make believe in their cause enough to take the risk of letting them set up a long-term base here. 

Poe realized belatedly that the mining speaker had stepped down and the room was silent. When Connix kicked him subtly on the ankle, he realized they were all looking at him expectantly. He must have missed his own introduction. Great, making an excellent impression already. 

Not for the first time, not even for the first time that day, he wished with every fiber of his being that Leia was still with them. 

With as light a smile at Connix as he could summon up, he clambered to his feet and made his way to the podium. He wished he knew what his introduction had been, or who had given it. C-3PO would know, but if he asked the protocol droid, he’d have to prepare to be told at top volume and at great length. Might as well wing it. He was pretty good at that.

The average Twi’lek was taller than he was, so he bought a moment to collect himself by adjusting the microphone downward. Then he ran a hand over his curls to make sure they were behaving themselves, took a deep breath, and began. This speech, at least, was one he’d prepared.

“I’m honored to be here today, addressing the true defenders of Ryloth. Most of you have already met me, but for those who haven’t, I am General Poe Dameron, acting commander in chief of the Resistance forces.” Poe always felt a little foolish saying that, like he was a child about to be scolded for fibbing. Shoulders back, head up, and use your outside voice, kid. He could almost hear Leia’s voice in his head, and the thought made him smile slightly, relaxing as he went on.

“I’ll be blunt, and I won’t take up more of your time than is necessary. We all know why we’re here. The Resistance needs your help. We need a home. Ryloth already came to our aid once, when Yendor allowed us to take shelter with you after the Battle of Crait, when our forces were badly depleted.” He scanned the room, taking note of who was nodding, who looked less than convinced, and who was tuning him out. Only a couple of the latter, but he needed them all on his side if this was to be decisive. On the far end of the room in the chairman’s seat, Yendor gave him a subtle nod.

“I know that your generosity cost you. Yendor lost his daughter, Hahnee, to the First Order’s attack on the Resistance. In the blockade that followed, many Twi’leks suffered, and some died. But Ryloth never gave in. You kept your independence. Even the First Order couldn’t break your spirit.” Now there were a few more nods, a few more looks of approval. Connix was watching intently, while C-3PO, silent for once, recorded.

“I also know that some of you here today don’t want us here. You think we’re going to bring more violence down on you, from those who are still loyal to the First Order, or that whatever new government rises from the ashes of the Republic will try to put you under its thumb.” Poe paused a beat, watching as some of the holdouts’ attention was sharpened. One woman leaned forward, her fingers steepled together and her brow furrowed.

 “I’m here today to tell you that if Ryloth is our partner in building this new galactic peace, we will always look out for her interests, first and foremost. I can promise you your freedom from interference. I can’t promise you freedom from danger, but I can swear that if Ryloth is attacked, the Resistance will answer. And we grow stronger every day.” His hand came down on the podium at that, for emphasis. 

“But we can’t get much stronger without a home. You want Ryloth to keep its independence, to be able to make its own destiny? Then let us start here. Let Ryloth be at the table from the very beginning. Not an afterthought, not really on the Outer Rim anymore. Right at the center of the galaxy. 

“And if you don’t let us? Well, we may be able to find somewhere else. Or we might not. We’re at a turning point here, my friends. The war is over, and sometimes, that means people start losing interest. They’ve got lives to get back to. Family, friends, nations, worlds.” His words sped up as his emotions began to get the better of him. Connix tilted her head to the side, eyebrows raising slightly, and he took a breath to compose himself.

“Right now we’re gaining recruits, yes, but we’re also losing veterans. We can’t hold onto our people if we can’t give them a home. Not a bunk in a ship, but a place where they can feel...safe. Secure. Where they can bring their families, and settle down for the long haul.” As he said it, he felt it, deep in his bones. He’d been with the Resistance for...how long was it now? Four years? Five? It felt like a lifetime. He’d been only a few years out of flight school and in the New Republic’s service when the fight had begun, and now he had more gray hairs than he cared to admit. Some of them rather premature, but still. It had been far too long since he’d had any sort of home outside of an X-Wing.

“And without the Resistance, and with it what remains of the New Republic, what happens to the rest of the galaxy? Chaos. Every world for itself. Or worse, the First Order manages to pull itself back together from the wreckage before we do.” He paused there, the heavy silence making his point for him before he moved on. Even the most skeptical of the Twi’lek present were unhappy at the idea of the First Order staging a return. 

“So this is a critical time. We need to find somewhere to put our heads before the fire goes out. I think Ryloth is the right place for it. I think you share our dedication to freedom, to respect for all species. You have a proud history of fighting for those ideals, even against terrible odds. I’m here to ask you to let us fight for them at your side.” He let his hands come to rest on the podium, looking from face to face, as he came to a close. A pause for a deep breath, and then he relaxed into a smile. 

“Any questions?”

There were, of course, many questions, most of them of the logistical variety. How long would the Resistance make its base on Ryloth? How could they guarantee they wouldn’t become an imperial force there? How many fighters and staff did they plan on bringing? When representatives from other world governments needed to come to negotiate alliances and an eventual new Republic, would Ryloth be responsible for their needs, for their safety? Poe was able to answer most off the top of his head, with Connix chiming in a few times with additional information. It all seemed to be going smoothly, until the woman he’d noticed earlier looking skeptical rose, clearing her throat and folding her arms, her hands slipping into the wide sleeves of her robe. She was elderly, if Poe was any judge of Twi’lek age, but still a vivid blue-green, her lekku patterned with a paler shade, like reflections on water. She stood straight, her voice clear.

“General Dameron. My name is Ula Riszaci. I fought for the Rebel Alliance as a gunner, in my time. I served with Amilyn Holdo.”

Poe felt the air in the room shift, a pressure that rang in his ears as all eyes turned toward Ula. He leaned subtly against his hands on the podium, his fingertips pressing down to keep him grounded. He knew what was coming, and he dreaded it.

“You spoke of the Battle of Crait earlier, and its aftermath. What you didn’t speak of, General, was your own part in creating the necessity of that battle.” The Twi’lek’s eyes were flinty as she stared him down, lekku tips moving in a way that Poe was sure C-3PO would be eager to interpret for him later. He didn’t need the droid’s help to tell she was unimpressed with him, though. “It is true, is it not, that you disobeyed General Organa’s orders to return to the flagship Raddus when engaged with First Order Dreadnoughts, leading to the destruction of the Resistance’s bombing fleet?”

Poe nodded, answering a beat later when he could trust his voice to remain steady. “Yes, ma’am. And because of that, that Dreadnought was destroyed.”

“And you were then demoted.”

He gave another short nod, voice clipped. The memory of Leia, something of a mother figure to him, slapping him in full view of the bridge crew would always sting. “Yes, ma’am.”

“And when General Organa was injured and Admiral Holdo took command, you led a mutiny against her?”

What could he say to that? You don’t understand? You weren’t there? We were trying to save the entire Resistance, save what Leia had built, save the lives of all our friends? He could feel sweat building at his hairline, and willed himself to breathe. “Yes, I did.”

“Do you know what we do to mutineers here in the RDA, General Dameron?”

“No, ma’am.” He could guess where this was going, though.

“We shoot them.” Her voice was clipped, gaze stony. He wished a pit would open under him and drop him into a Sarlacc’s mouth. A thousand years of being digested would be much better than whatever this was. Those words hung in the air between them for what felt like an eternity, the attention of the crowd turning toward him as they waited for his answer. But how could he answer that? He finally just nodded, voice less steady than he would like it to be, but not too badly shaken.

“General Organa would have been within her rights to do that. I’m grateful she didn’t, obviously.”

“And why, General, should we trust a mutineer? One whose decisions on that day led to many deaths?”

There it was, out in the open. He’d been bracing for it, but it still slipped a knife between his ribs and twisted. He bowed his head a moment in thought, still unsure how to answer. Finally he looked back up at her, taking a measured breath before answering. “Because Leia Organa did. If you trust her judgment...trust me. I’ve given my life to the Resistance. I’ve come close to giving my life for it, too, many times. I’ve lost...really, most…” 

Connix’s brow furrowed as Poe paused, head dropping again as a wave of fatigue washed over him. He realized, as if from a great distance, that his hands were trembling where they rested on the podium, and that he had forgotten to continue to speak. Swallowing hard, he forced his fingers to stillness and then met Ula’s eyes again. 

“I’ve lost almost everyone I’ve ever cared about. To this. This cause, this...idea. And everyone I still have, well, they’re here too. The Resistance is all I have. It’s my life. My family. Just like it was General Organa’s.” He’d almost slipped, there, almost called her Leia. He’d always been too familiar with the woman who’d been in and out of his life since he was a baby, his parents her comrades in arms. “She restored my rank. I was who she picked to succeed her in the event of her death, in the last few months of her life. So. That’s why.”

There was a heavy silence in the stone room for a moment, before Yendor rose. The elder statesman of the RDA, he commanded attention as he lifted his hands, lekku subtly shifting. “I think that’s enough for one day. General Dameron has to get ready for tonight’s banquet, after all. As do I. So, if there are no further questions…”

Poe returned to his seat to gather his things, amid the general subdued chatter of the council disbanding. Connix, seeing his bleak expression, murmured as they turned to leave, “I think that was overall a success, Poe. Could have been a lot worse.”

“Could have been better.” He waited until a few Twi’lek had left before making for the exit, not wanting to be seen racing out the door, but also not wanting to be caught in the corridor by Ula Riszaci, if she had any more she wanted to get off her chest. Yendor got a handshake and a word of thanks, a few pleasantries Poe wouldn’t remember two minutes from then. Then they were on their way, Poe’s head suddenly pounding fiercely. He needed a nap. He needed a drink. He needed to not be going to a party in what was now less than four hours.