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Cut it off or shut it down

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The walls in the Resistance base are really thin.

Finn is used to that, having lived all his life in cramped, impersonal stormtrooper quarters, so he knows how to peacefully coexist with the three people in rooms adjacent to his - he turns off his humming holoprojector at night, speaks quietly when using his comm and walks barefoot, even though the concrete floor is cold to the touch. His neighbours aren't nearly as mindful of the limited privacy though, so over the month he has lived there after leaving the med bay he has come to know them all, even though he never actually met most of them.

He shares the wall opposite the door with a Rodian pilot who likes romantic holos, has a friend called Katri and never turns off the light - Finn can hear the lightbulbs working even late at night. Behind the wall with the desk lives one of the assistants from the med bay, an older man with an affinity for classical literature which he reads to himself in the mornings before he exercises and leaves for breakfast. There's also someone living above him, but he hardly ever hears anything from them, apart from the occasional heavier footsteps or dropping objects.

His last neighbour, however, he has met before. The third wall, the one to which his bunk has been attached, stands between his room and the one belonging to Poe Dameron. Finn doesn't know if they had been assigned quarters close together deliberately or by accident, but he doesn't complain. Even though Poe obviously has no idea how to behave within walls as thin as these.

Finn can hear him pacing around sometimes, or playing music from his holoprojector, quiet but still perfectly audible. He hears how often he drops things and how horrifically bad his language gets when it happens, and he hears how he sometimes sings to himself in the evenings. His voice is clear and gentle, surprisingly different from the light, snappy way he speaks and Finn finds himself being as quiet as he can whenever he hears it. He usually lays on his bed, looking at the ceiling, and lets himself be calmed by the slow, melodious tones of Yavin ballads. He doesn't know their titles, but he can recite their lyrics to the last word.

But one night, when he's slowly drifting to sleep after a day in the training simulator, he suddenly hears a bang. He starts, jolting up in his bed and looks around frantically, but the room looks normal and he realizes that the sound came from the other side of the wall. Poe must have dropped something again, or slammed the door on accident. But this time Finn doesn't hear the string of curses that usually follow sounds like that. He lies back down and pulls the covers up to his chin. He's quiet for a few moments, listening for another bang, or the cursing, or maybe a song, when he hears it.

Crying.

He freezes. He swallows hard and tries to breathe as shallow as he can, leaning his head closer to the wall. The sound is quiet and fitful, barely breaking even through the thin barrier, but Finn cannot mistake it for anything else. He lies motionless and listens, not even daring to move. He wants to pull the covers up, shut his eyes, block it out, but he can't. He can't stop thinking about his own sleepless nights, about how good he is at crying in silence for that very reason and he can't take it.

He jumps out of his bed, throws on the first piece of clothing he finds and slips out of his room, even now mindful of the other residents' sleep. He walks up to Poe's door and knocks. He hears shuffling behind it, a muffled curse, and then a voice calls:

'One second!"

Finn suddenly realizes he has no idea what to say. He can't let Poe know he hears everything that goes on in his room; he wouldn't be comfortable hearing that himself, he wouldn't blame the pilot for wanting to change quarters after that. And a selfish part of Finn doesn't want to give up Poe's voice singing him to sleep. Should he just ask if everything is fine? He wouldn't get an honest answer, he knows that much. So what should he say?

The door opens and Poe stands in it backlit by the weak glow of a tiny desk lamp. He's wearing a black undershirt and his hair is a dark halo of tangled waves.

'Finn,' he says, surprise colouring his slightly raspy voice. 'Something wrong?'

Finn looks at his face, searching for the telltale signs. He can't see any redness around the pilot's eyes, but his eyelashes seem to stick together more than usual. Finn isn't sure why he's so well-acquainted with Poe's eyelashes, but he knows the look in his eyes very well.

'No, just...' he pauses, searching his mind for an excuse. 'Just wanted to talk,' he decides. 'Yeah.'

Poe blinks a few times.

'Okay,' he replies and takes a step back, letting Finn into the room and closing the door behind them. 'Bit late, but okay.'

He gestures towards the chair, but Finn sits on the bed instead and looks down at his hands, trying to think of a way to start the conversation. He can't seem to come up with anything even remotely clever.

So he decides to go with honest.

'I... heard you crying,' he says eventually and looks up. 'Wondered if everything was fine.'

Poe's face is still for a moment and then his eyes shoot to the side and he raises an eyebrow.

'Crying?' he questions, his voice back to normal now. 'I was asleep 'til you knocked, was it a dream?'

'No, I heard it,' Finn repeats, with more certainty. If he wasn't before, he's sure now - he's used that very excuse himself. 'I heard you. Is anything wrong?'

Poe turns to open the drawer of his desk, away from Finn. He produces a datapad and presses a few buttons on it.

'I didn't hear anything,' he waves his hand, looking down at the pad. 'Go to sleep.'

'You can tell me,' Finn says quietly. He feels himself crossing a boundary, but he knows he wouldn't forgive himself if he didn't.

'It's fine. Go to your bunk.'

'I'm not leaving.'

'Can I go to your bunk then?' Poe asks dryly, still facing away from him. 'This bed isn't wide enough for two people.'

Finn doesn't answer. He knows the joke is meant to dissolve the atmosphere, but he doesn't allow it to work. He can feel how tense Poe is and he knows that the pilot doesn't want to talk to anyone. But he also remembers how much he himself didn't want to talk to anyone and he remembers how bad it turned out for him in the end. So he waits.

Poe sighs and leans on the desk, pushing away the datapad he was probably just using as a distraction. He raises his head and looks up at the wall, his jaw tensing as he inhales deeply.

'I had a dream, okay?' he lets out eventually. 'Bad one. Got to me. It's fine.'

'I get dreams too,' Finn answers, trying to sound as normal as he can. 'I know it's not fine.'

'It is. Go to sleep, we've got a meeting tomorrow.'

'Poe, you don't have to hide this,' Finn says. 'I'm not going to mock you. You can...'

'I'm not hiding anything!' Poe snaps suddenly and whips around to face Finn. His eyes spark for a split second, before he meets the younger man's steady look and quickly turns his head away. He looks to the ground, then at the wall again and takes another deep breath. 'It's nothing.'

Finn stands up and takes a step towards him. He tilts his head, trying to look him in the eye, but Poe averts his gaze.

'Tell me about it,' Finn offers, slipping his hands into the pockets of his jacket in an effort to look casual. He only now realizes that it's the one Poe has given him.

Poe bites down on his lip and stares at the wall, but it's hard to turn away from Finn when he's barely a meter away from him.

'I'm...' he begins and clenches his jaw again. He swallows and exhales very slowly. 'I'm on Jakku,' he continues, locking his eyes on the floor. 'I'm sending BB-8 away, then shooting at the stormtroopers, then Kylo Ren appears and he keeps deflecting my shots. Then I try to talk to him, but I can't, 'cause my voice is gone and then...'

He trails off and his whole body tenses. He grips the edge of the desk until his knuckles go white and Finn notices a fresh bruise forming on one of them.

'Then he takes me away and I'm on his ship, and they put me in the chair, and...' Poe's voice trembles and he turns to the wall again, his breathing loud and ragged.

Finn takes another step forward and carefully places a hand on the other man's shoulder. He starts, but doesn't avoid the touch, so Finn gently pulls him towards the bed. They sit down and Poe leans forward, still staring at the floor, one hand squeezing the other, fingernails digging into the skin.

'Sometimes I don't know where I am,' he says. 'When I wake up. I don't know if I'm here, or on that ship, I don't know if I'm going to wake up again back in that chair 'cause the whole thing was a dream and you never came, and if they're going to be there, asking me... Asking...'

He bites his lip and suddenly starts breathing heavily, his hands locking even tighter together. His whole body is shaking and he lowers his head, pressing his thumbs into his forehead, gasping for air against an invisible hold on his lungs.

Finn reaches out and places a careful hand on his neck. This time the pilot doesn't start.

'You're here,' Finn says firmly. He feels the sweat sticking together the strands of hair under his fingers. 'On D'Qar. In your room in the Resistance base.' He leans down, close enough to feel Poe's frantic breaths on his cheek. 'Nothing is going to hurt you.'

Poe's eyes shoot up to him and Finn almost recoils at the cold, wild panic written across his face. He forces calmness into his voice.

'It's a dream, Poe,' he says. 'I get them too.'

The pilot looks at him, eyes darting around, as his breathing slowly returns to normal and his hands loosen their grip. There are red marks on his knuckles, where his fingernails were pressed into the skin. He turns his head away again and swallows hard.

'I'm sorry,' he manages. 'I... don't want to dump that on you.'

Finn wants to say that he would never think to mind hearing whatever that clear voice had to tell him. He wants to say that he knows how deep a dream can shake a person, how blurred the lines of reality seem until a strike at the wall makes them sharp again. He wants to say that the shaking, the tears, the panic, they are what comes with strength, not weakness. But he knows Poe wouldn't believe him.

He never believed it either.

'Do you want me to stay?' he asks instead. 'You can still try and get some sleep.'

Poe swallows again, looking back down at the floor.

'I...' he says. Finn's hand is still on his neck and he straightens his back slightly, leaning into the touch. He bites down on his lip and attempts to put the careless tone back into his voice. 'There really isn't space for two people on that bed.'

Finn feels his lips twitch upwards and he runs his hand up through the pilot's hair, tangling it even further.

'I can take the floor,' he offers. 'It's probably softer than that mattress anyway.'

Poe forces out a chuckle and Finn helps him lay down, feeling the shaking of the pilot's shoulders weaken and fade under his hands. Then he slides down to the floor and sits cross-legged by the bed, resting his back against its side.

'Hey, Finn?' he hears after a while.

'Yeah?'

'Thanks.'

He smiles and leans his head back until he touches the side of Poe's chest and feels the warmth radiating from his skin.

'No problem.'