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NAR SHADDAA

 

There are some things you have to shoulder, and keep going. 

 

Poe knows that it’s healthier to take time to process things, alright, he’s not stupid, but sometimes you’ve just got to shift your stance to accomodate the added weight and walk through the pain.  Smile, and climb in the cockpit, and talk to BB-8 about it later.  He’s as good as any of those med droids, anyways. 

 

Mental rehabilitation takes a back seat to a few more important things. 

 

General Organa hands him a mission on Nar Shaddaa, that’s top of the list.  She tells him to bring Finn along - Finn, who might be able to help make contact with a First Order informant, who still walks funny and can’t bend over without tearing something important - and Poe demotes the mission.  Finn’s first. 

 

Nar Shaddaa is a minefield of dangerous opportunities at the best of times, a cesspool of crime regulated only by the dubious hand of the ruling Hutt.  They call it the smuggler’s moon for a damn good reason - anything goes - slave traders thrive, the black market is the only market, bounty hunters are the closest thing to any sort of law enforcement you can find. 

 

Poe’s only ever been here alone before.  It’s a nice enough place to spend a weekend away, if you have a high tolerance for kyrf, a full spectrum of vaccines for inter-species venereal diseases, and a friend to drag your ass the hell off-planet if you’re gone for more than a few days. 

 

As far as missions are concerned, it’s best to get in and out as fast as possible.  Don’t go home with the Twi’lek girl who sidles up to you in the bar and tells you how flexible she is, don’t think about what that Aquar’s gills would feel like while he’s sucking your dick, just don’t

 

So there’s all that, and now there’s this mess, too.

 

Poe’s in the middle of trying to find where he left his blaster when the chime that tells him there’s an incoming transmission sounds.  BB-8 chirps excitedly and goes rolling off out of the room, leaving Poe dangling over the trapdoor of the storage hatch in his bunk, only one leg hooked over the floor. 

 

He scrambles to climb out, and makes it out into the passageway in time to hear BB-8 roll by overhead, bump into something, and adjust course.  Up the ladder into the cockpit of the Mandalorian fighter he had to commandeer after the y-wing they were assigned to blew a gasket, and -

 

“Accept incoming message,” Poe orders.  The comms system dings, just in time for Poe to get to the holo array, and then the face of some girl he’s never seen before pops up, and she says, “Finn?”

 

Her eyes find his face, and she says whip-quick, “You’re not Finn.”  Annoyed, like it’s his fault.

 

“Uh, no,” Poe says.  “Who are you?”

 

Her eyebrows draw together, and if he could see below her shoulders, she’d be crossing her arms and stepping back.  Who are you?” she retaliates.

 

Poe weighs his options.  On the one hand, she could be a spy, trying to figure out his location, or his mission, or distract him, or whatever.  On the other hand, she’s not being very sneaky, and she knows Finn.

 

“Poe Dameron,” he says. 

 

Oh,” says the girl.  Alright then.  I’m Rey.

 

Poe’s heard plenty about Rey - from what Finn tells him, she singlehandedly created the galaxy, expelled all evil from it, and saved the lives of everyone who ever lived, ever.  If she were calling him at any other time, he’d be thrilled to be meeting her, but as it is he’s kind of busy, urgently busy, desperately.

 

“Look,” he says, “I’d love to stay and chat, but we’re kind of in the middle of a situation, here - “

 

Where’s Finn? I need to talk to Finn.”  She’s on him like a fox, no-nonsense, and Poe can see why General Organa likes her so much, she’s feisty - and in a real way, not a playful girly way. 

 

“Finn’s, uh,” Poe says eloquently.  Really there’s no good answer to that question, except for maybe Finn will be here soon, hopefully, and then we’ll be flying away really really fast and maybe getting shot at.  “Hey, do you think you could use that Force thingy and figure out where I left my blaster?”

 

Rey scowls, “It doesn’t work like that.  Stars, you must be spending too much time with Finn.  Where is that laserbrain anyways?” Half a pause, and she keeps talking, “Look, I’m stuck on this planet, and Luke took Chewie and the Falcon to the other end of the galaxy on some sort of spiritual discovery journey, and I need you lot to come pick me up.  I’m sending you my coordinates, it’s kriffing freezing here, Finn would - “

 

“Uh,” says Poe, again.  He needs to stop with that.  “We’re kinda busy - “

 

“Where is that laserbrain anyways?” Rey demands.

 

“Finn is - uh,” there it is again, kriffing hell, “out.  Finn is out.”  Rey opens her mouth to accost him over that answer, but before she can get anything out he says over her loudly, “Gotta go bye!”

 

Poe ends the transmission.  BB-8 chirps admonishingly, and he looks down at him.  “What, you like her better than me now? Is that it?” Another chirp.  “We’re really busy.  We are busy.  We have to go get Finn, and we’re - kriff, we’re late.  We gotta move, BB-8, we’ll pick up a blaster on the way.”

 

He climbs down the ladder, turns around to catch BB-8 when he enthusiastically attempts the same, and then they’re chugging along down the passageway to the loading bay.  Poe hits a button on the bulkhead as they pass, and the ramp is already lowering by the time they get there, out into the open.

 

The Mandalorian fighter is parked on the back of a Besilisk-class freighter, a ship as big and ugly as they come, which itself is docked in one of the planet’s massive live cargo training ports.  As per their plan, BB-8 goes whizzing off towards an open maitenance hatch, and Poe starts to climb down the side of the beast.

 

There’s a big to-do going on at the docks’ main trading post, where all the individual landing struts converge at one eruption of lights and yelling, hundreds of lifeforms gathered around a single platform.  If Poe had the stomach to look close enough, he’d be able to say for sure - it’s a slave auction. 

 

Poe swings into the opening of one of the ship’s ventilation shafts, runs his hands over the edges of the grate in front of him, finds the set of screws with the manufacturer error, and pops the whole thing.

 

It nearly squishes him, but he dodges it.  The grate makes a hell of a racket when it crashes against the shaft anyways, but this plan only works if the ship’s owner has left only a skeleton crew, so if there’s anyone left to hear it he’s already done.  Few more paces into the shaft, and there’s a narrow dropdown.

 

On the other end of that, Poe’s in the brig.

 

He brings his wristband comm to his mouth.  “Where is he, BB-8?”

 

Three doors down to his right, one of the cells opens.  Poe jogs over, hops down the couple of stairs to the floor, and can’t help putting on a smile.  “Hey, buddy!”

 

Finn’s lying on his side on a metal bench attached to the wall, curled up with his back to the door.  He’s wearing Poe’s fighter jacket, still - there’s a big ole burnt rip down the middle that lines up with the scar on his actual skin, stitched carefully back together.  It’s taken some wear and tear, this mission.

 

He rolls over when he hears Poe, and he even looks surprised, kriff.  Like Poe would ever leave him.  “What the - Poe?“ he scrambles to sit up.  “Are you insane?”

 

“Not clinically,” Poe answers, even though that’s been debated.  “Come on, we’ve got places to be.”

 

Finn follows him out onto the gangway, sticking close to his side.  He’s still shaky, not quite a hundred percent after Starkiller Base, but he keeps up with Poe’s lead as he jogs for the blast door out of the brig.

 

“Where do we have to be?” Finn asks.  Around them, other prisoners are banging at the bars on their cell doors, yelling to be let out.  If there were time, and if Finn weren’t here and in danger, Poe would help.

 

“Rey called,” Poe replies.  “Says she’s marooned on some ice planet way way in the Unknown Regions.  Must think we’re some sorta taxi service or something, not so much as a how d’you do - “

 

“Rey called?” Finn asks, completely missing the point.  “Is she okay? Did she find Luke? Is - “

 

“You don’t happen to have a blaster on you, do you?” Poe diverts him.

 

“No,” Finn says.  “Why? Do you not have a way out?” Before Poe can answer, he’s going again, and Poe is starting to see why he and Rey get on so well, “Why can’t we go out the way you came in?”

 

“Laser grid,” Poe says.  They pull up in front of the door.  “They’re more worried about things getting out than getting in.”  He raises his wristband again, “BB-8, open the blast doors.”

 

“What are you doing?” Finn exclaims.  “There’re bound to be guards out there, we’re sitting tontons - “

 

The doors slide open, and - nothing happens.  There’s no one on the other side, just a confused-looking protocol droid missing one leg and sitting in a spinny chair, that turns to look at them and makes a sound that might be Huttese, backwards and scrambled.  Poe is - for the first time since Finn rescued him, since he found Finn on D’Qar - pleasantly surprised.  “Huh,” he says, “we might not need that blaster after all.”

 

Something shoots at them. 

 

They duck back behind the cover of the doorway, Finn swearing colorfully.  Poe thought Resistance pilots were creative with their curses before he met an ex-stormtrooper.  “What do we do?” Finn asks.

 

Poe considers.  “What’s shooting at us?” he asks.

 

“No idea.”  If circumstances were different, Poe might be able to really enjoy being crammed into a tight corner with Finn pressed up all against him, close enough that he can feel his jackrabbit heartbeat. 

 

“You got anything to throw?” Finn gives him an incredulous look.  “Nevermind, I’ve got an idea.”

 

Moments later, a boot flies through the guard room and hits the bulkhead behind the ceiling-mounted turret that’s firing at them.  It takes the other three items of their collective footwear to actually hit the damn thing, and it’s not Poe’s proudest strategic moment, but it makes Finn laugh, so it’s worth it.

 

It’s a strung-out, kind of hysterical kind of laugh, but Finn’s laughs are few and far between ever since he woke up on D’Qar, and the number one thing on Poe’s list of priorities - or maybe number two, after keeping Finn alive and breathing and not in a slave trader’s possession - is making sure he smiles. 

 

Finn’s got a face made for smiling. 

 

He must have a smidge of Resistance pilot crazy in him, for the way he’s smiling and laughing the whole way back to the Mandalorian fighter, the way he whoops loudly while they’re being fired at on their way out of the port, the way he turns to Poe as soon as they’re clear and says, “Thought you’d go back to base.”

 

Poe reaches over to the copilot’s seat and squeezes his shoulder.  “Not a chance, buddy.”

 

Finn’s been taught - Poe’s pretty sure, after some observation - that he’s expendable.  That no one’s looking out for him, and the second it’s too much of a risk to save him, he’s gonna be left for dead.  No one’s really taken the time to teach him different, except maybe Rey, and now Poe.  It’s not easy, it hurts, but.

 

Some things you just shoulder, and keep going.

 

ILUM

 

Rey was right.  This planet is kriffing freezing.

 

Poe’s never really been a fan of the cold, born on Yavin IV and stationed in the humid dust of D’Qar for the past five years, and he’s got a special hatred for it after everything at Starkiller Base.  This isn’t the soft, snowy cold of Starkiller and Hoth, either - this is sharp, piercing icicles of death and darkness kind of cold -

 

“You know, you’re real soft for a starfighter pilot,” Finn says, next to him.

 

They’re up to their knees in snow, the treads of their boots barely gripping the slick ice of the mountain underneath that, and Poe’s good temper is slipping a smidge.  “The cockpit is climate controlled,” he grits.

 

“It’s not that much further,” Finn says.  Poe looks up, at the tiny cave opening at the top of the slow craggly slope they’re climbing, and thinks that it really looks that much further.  “Man up, Dameron.”

 

Poe parked the Mandalorian fighter as close to Rey’s coordinates as he could get them, but this entire planet is a honeycomb of caves and mountains, and the closest he could get turned out to be a few klicks south of where they actually need to be, the flattest patch of land in the vicinity. 

 

“I’m the one who’s gonna be carrying your ass back down the mountain,” Poe replies.  “The med droid only let you come on this mission because you promised no strenuous activity.  This is pretty strenuous.”

 

“I can slide down,” Finn says, “you don’t have to carry me.”

 

He always latches on to the things Poe doesn’t mean.  Poe’d carry him down every mountain on the kriffing planet if Finn needed him to.  Before he can figure out how to say that in a cool way, Finn’s talking again - 

 

“Thanks for - uh.  They were gonna sell me to a Hutt, so.  Apparently Grakkus collects things that have got to do with the jedi, and the sith - and with my back, well - you know.  So thanks.”

 

It’s probably a good thing that they’re in the middle of climbing a mountain right now, because if they weren’t Poe would probably have to grab him and kiss his face until he forgets about the whole thing.  Maybe suck him off, because that is Poe’s number one tried and tested method of forgetting your problems, when you don’t have an x-wing to do barrel rolls in, and if there’s anyone who deserves to forget, it’s Finn.

 

But Poe doesn’t really think this is the time or the place for that, so instead he just says, “Yeah, well you’re not a thing.  So you wouldn’t have fit in the collection anyways.”

 

They make it to the opening of the cave.

 

It’s barely more than a big, gaping hole in the side of the mountain, no light getting in past the first few meters.  Not the most fun cave Poe’s ever seen, but not the meanest-looking, either, and when he glances over at Finn, the other guy’s got a small smile on his face, so that’s fine.  Everything’s fine.

 

“Is she meeting us out here?” Poe asks.  “Shouldn’t she meet us out here? Can’t she, like - Force sense that we’re here, or some mumbo jumbo?” He’s not to keen on going in there, is all.

 

“I don’t know,” Finn says, “maybe she’s stuck somewhere, or something.  What did she say on comms?”

 

“Just the fact she was sending a transmission probably means she’s not stuck,” Poe answers.  “I don’t think comms get any signal at the bottom of cave-ins.” 

 

They stand around for a few more minutes, shivering in the frigid breeze.  Then Finn says, “Kriff it,” and walks into the gaping cavern.  Poe doesn’t really have any choice but to follow him, and it’s too cold to stay out in the open anyways, so he cracks a chemlight and brings the green glow inside.

 

Poe can tell the tunnel floor is sloping downwards under their feet, carrying them deeper into the mountain, but they haven’t come across a fork yet, which means they’re probably not lost.  The locator on his wrist that was pinging with Rey’s coordinates isn’t getting a signal any more, so they’re on their own.

 

Up ahead, there’s another glow bleeding pale light into their radius of green.  The closer they get to it, Poe starts to see that there’s an enormous cavern stretching out from the tunnel in front of them, an enormous open space, the ceiling stretching up to what must be the peak of the mountain itself.

 

There’s illumination coming from massive stalacites hanging from the ceiling, and from smaller crystals embedded in the walls, giving off halos of blue, green, yellow, and purple light.  At first, Poe thinks it’s empty, but then he sees her - way down on the cavern floor, doing some kind of dance with a purple lightsaber and a blaster drone, buzzing around her head. 

 

“Rey!” Finn says, and goes running for her.

 

She powers down the drone, puts her lightsaber away, and rounds on Finn just as Poe’s getting down to their level.  “Where’ve you been, laserbrain?” she asks.  “I called ages ago, my rations ran out yesterday - “

 

“I told you,” Poe says, from behind Finn, “we were in the middle of something.

 

It’s a smidge dumb of him, he knows, because Rey’s the one who saved Finn’s life and Finn probably loves her more than he’s ever loved anything before, but it’s just - Finn feels like his responsibility, and here she goes and accuses him of - of negligence or something, when he was being held kriffing captive.

 

Finn isn’t even hearing him anymore, though.  “What are you even doing all the way out here?”

 

Rey smiles, and waves a hand around them.  “Lightsaber crystals,” she says.

 

Finn does a double take on the whole cavern, turns a full three-sixty back to Rey.  “Seriously?” and he’s smiling like a littke kid, he’s fascinated by everything.  Everywhere he goes, it’s the first time he’s been there outside of sims and holovids, and it’s -

 

It makes Poe uncontainably happy and really, really sad at the same time.

 

“Luke told me I had to make my own, but the moment we landed he sensed some sort of disturbance in the Force and had to go running off to Dagobah, of all places, and took the Falcon with him.  I mean that sleemo, really, he could have at least left me with Artoo - “

 

“Well,” Poe interrupts, because she sounds like she could keep going for a while, and he’s cold, “maybe we should get going and head back to D’Qar, then.” 

 

Rey shoots him a look.  “Dameron, yeah?”

 

“Poe,” Finn says. 

 

“Yeah, right,” Rey echoes, “Poe.  We’re not going back to D’Qar.”

 

Poe’s had a long couple of days.  He’s had to turn down a proposition from a Sorrusian, been beat up and thrown off a low roof by some angry Besilisks, been felt up by an Imzig, had a minor heartattack when Finn failed to come back from his meeting with their contact, and had to abandon a y-wing.  He really would like to go back to D’Qar and take a nap.  “Why not?” he asks, tiredly.

 

“We’ve got to get to Makeb,” Rey replies, “the sooner, the better.  I can feel the First Order’s presence, there, a kriffing lot of it.  We need to get over there, and figure out what they’re up to, and stop them.”

 

Poe forgets, sometimes, that these two are really just kids.  They’ve got big dreams and not a lot of sense, and even though he’s all for their brand of reckless improbable thinking when it comes to winning wars, this is not going to work for him.  “So we go back to General Organa, see what she thinks.”

 

“Back to D’Qar?” Rey exclaims.  “But that’ll take ages - “

 

“She’s right,” Finn says, “if the First Order is already mobilized.  It doesn’t take that long after they get trooper booys on the ground for them to have control of an entire region.”

 

“We can’t just go running in, guns blazing,” Poe argues, “there are only three of us - “

 

Finn cutts him off, “You came guns blazing into that Besilisk ship, and you didn’t know how many men there would be guarding it, and we got out okay - “

 

“That was different,” Poe insists.  “That was your life on the line.  This is just one more in a long line of First Order schemes, chances are it’s not going to win them the war - “

 

“Makeb feels bad,” Rey intones.  “Like, Starkiller Base bad.”

 

Finn opens his mouth to defend her, or agree with her, or something, but before he can, Poe says, “Can we do this back in the ship? I’m not too keen on freezing my balls off any longer than I have to.”

 

Poe and Rey do end up carrying Finn down most of the mountain, and by the time they make it to where the Mandalorian fighter is parked it’s nearly nightfall, and there’s the steady snow-fog of an oncoming blizzard moving in from the south.  Poe’s not going to take off until morning, not when he’s pushing fifty hours without sleep and the kids both still have their hearts set on running off to save the day.

 

“Look!” he yells over both of them, finally.  They’re in the ship’s cramped mess, BB-8 whizzing around their feet excitedly.  “We’ll go out to Makeb, see what’s going on, but then we’re going to call General Organa.”

 

Rey still scowls at him, but she nods grudgingly.  Finn says, “Okay.”

 

Poe leaves them sitting close together at the table over a game of laro, goes to his bunk, and shuts the door as soon as BB-8 rolls in after him.  The ship’s life support is working overtime trying to keep it warm in here, but there’s still a bit of a chill seeping in from the weather outside, and he’s got goosebumps.

 

BB-8 bumps up against his feet, and he looks down at him.  “Hey, BB-8,” he gives him a pat, “you wanna go running off after the First Order again?”  BB-8 bloops cheerfully, and spins in a circle.

 

Poe stretches out on his bunk, and closes his eyes.  “Keeping those two alive is a lot of work, you know,” he muses.  “Worth it, but a lot of work.  Maybe I’ll get some vacation days soon.  Take Finn with me.”

 

BB-8 chirps in agreement, and powers off.

 

MAKEB

 

Poe’s leg is broken.  He’s not happy about it.

 

It’s splinted and numbed courtesy of the pocket medkit he carries in his right boot, swinging like a dead weight from his hip.  He’s got a big stick that he’s using as a crutch, but it’s not really working as well as he’d hoped, and it’s poking him every time he takes a hopping step through the underbrush.

 

There’s no way this ends well.  First Order patrols are combing the dense jungle in teams of two all around him, there are dozens more troopers manning infrared turrets around the mining compound itself, and he doesn’t have enough information not to wander into their line of sight.  He’s gonna get shot.

 

He lost track of Rey sometime around when she said I’m going to get a closer look and jumped the fence into the compound, lost track of Finn a few minutes later when the alarms started blaring and he shouted I’m going in after her, and lost track of BB-8 somewhere in the ensuing running away, because he’s too short to see over the dense leaf coverage at hip-level.  He must not be nearby, or Poe would’ve tripped over him.

 

At least none of these particular stormtroopers seem too intent on taking his hostage.  They’re more trigger happy than the bunch on Jakku.  Poe prefers it this way. 

 

Priorities have done some major shifting in the past hour or so. 

 

Number one is still Finn’s safety, but Finn’s making that more trouble than it usually is.  Two is Rey, because she’s important to the Resistance and Finn loves her, and she might be growing on him a smidge.  Three is not dying himself.  Four is BB-8, because BB-8 can take better care of himself than any of the humans associated with him.  Five is getting them all off this kriffing rock. 

 

That would be easier if he could walk. 

 

The jungle of Makeb is dense and blindingly green, the kind of stuff better traversed with a machete.  Poe’s doing his best to slash his way through it with his stick, but that means he’s not moving super stealthily. 

 

There’s a noise from somewhere on his left, like radio feedback.  He freezes.  For the few meters that he can see on either side of him, there’s nothing, and then - a flicker of movement behind his left shoulder.  He breathes very, very quietly for a few heartbeats, but it seems like the patrol is passed.

 

Poe takes a pause.  He tests putting weight on his broken leg, and he can almost feel a phantom spike of pain through the anaesthetic, which is bad.  Glances down, and sees a bone through the gash in his knee.

 

“Pfassk,” he swears.

 

He staggers on around the perimeter of the compound, just hoping to run into something useful, until he comes across a stream cutting through the underbrush.  That, he can use. 

 

The best way to do it is to lower himself down carefully onto his ass and then slide down the muddy bank.  It’s not his most graceful work, he’ll admit, but it works.  He cups some freshwater into his mouth with his hands, and then starts levering himself back upright with his feet, his lower legs now dripping wet.

 

Standing in the stream, he can see a good deal further than he could up in the trees.  The water cuts a winding path through the landscape for a good hundred meters until it takes a sharp turn into the jungle, a wall of leaves at the end of his vision.  If he forgets the situation, it’s kind of pretty.

 

Suddenly, Finn leaps out of the treecover.  Wow, even prettier.

 

Only - Finn’s running full pelt, splashing through the stream towards him.  He looks panicked, and the second he sees Poe, he yells, “Poe! Run!” Kind of ruins the tranquility of it all.

 

Then something enormous and angry looking crashes out of the jungle behind him, and Poe gets it.  He starts hopping backwards as fast as he can, but he can’t quite convince his leg to turn around so he can flee forwards, his stick is slipping on the rocks underfoot, and kriff it’s gaining fast -

 

Finn gets to him first, collides with his midsection, and then Poe’s being carried over his shoulder.

 

Well, he’s not complaining about the view.  Until he looks up, and that big angry thing - some sort of trooper transport, built to smush its way through the trees instead of cutting, flanked by troopers on speed bikes.

 

Everyone is shooting at them.  It’s a good thing First Order goons are such innacurate shots - except for Finn, of course - because they’d have been dead about seventy million times by now, otherwise.  Poe finds the blaster holstered on Finn’s hip, pulls it out, and starts trying to pick turrets off.

 

“Head for the ship!” Poe yells.  He squints, takes a potshot, and knocks a trooper off a bike.

 

“Where the hell did we leave the ship?” Finn shoots back. 

 

“Three klicks northeast!” Poe replies, which is the best he can do.  “You doing okay?”  That’s a dumb question.  But two days ago Poe was carrying him, and he’s prepared to at least suggest that Finn puts him down, if it means that one of them gets out of this.  Finn won’t go for it, but what can you do.

 

But Finn yells back, “Great, how ‘bout you?”

 

Poe’s never wanted to kiss him so much, but the moment isn’t right.  “Peachy-keen, buddy!” he shouts back, instead, which is kind of the same thing as kriff, I love you

 

They shake the angry transport by jumping off a cliff into some sort of antigrav lake, which brakes Poe’s leg a smidge worse.  When they surface, the Mandalorian fighter is hovering above them, kicking up weird water droplet waves, and the troopers who were on their tail are smoke and rubble at the top of the cliff face.

 

Rey might be better at taking care of herself than Poe gave her credit for.

 

She lowers a loading clamp and fishes them out, but they only get a few minutes of peace before there are TIE fighters on their asses.  Poe lost his stick, but he uses Finn as a crutch to get into the cockpit, hauling himself up the ladder with just his arms while the whole ship shakes around them.

 

Rey’s in the captain’s chair.  “Get out of my seat,” he tells her. 

 

She turns around, takes one look at his leg, turns back around, and says, “You can copilot.  Finn, you need to go man the rear gun.  See if you can get BB-8 strapped in somewhere.  We’re in for a ride.”

 

Finn slides back down the ladder without a word.  On the deck below, there are a bunch of loud clanging noises as BB-8 slides around while they bank hard right.  Poe grabs the back of the seat in front of him to keep from going sprawling out onto the floor, while Rey gets everything prepped for hyperspace.

 

He frowns and lowers himself into the copilot’s chair.  “This feels weird,” he says.

 

Rey spares him a glance.  “I’m sure being dead feels weirder.”  She’s all ice when she flies, eyes narrowed to dangerous blue slits.  He likes that about her, even though two pilots in one ship is never going to work.

 

Seven TIE fighters stick with them all the way out of the atmosphere.  Finn does away with five of them, and then they’re making the jump to hyperspace, so it doesn’t matter about the other two.

 

Poe slumps back in his chair. 

 

He feels lightheaded.  There’s cool sweat on his brow, but he can’t tell whether there’s blood on the rest of him because he’s still wet from the lake, but the field numbing agent he used on the leg is starting to wear off.  Finn probably needs some real medical attention after running with Poe on his back through the kriffing jungle, he never should have let him do that, probably set his recovery back a ton -

 

Poe closes his eyes, just for a second. 

 

When he comes back around, he’s lying in his bunk.  The lights are on low, and his leg is numb again, re-splinted and wrapped in bandages, the leg of his pants cut away at the hip.  He blinks slowly, and his eyes find Finn automatically, hunched over in a metal chair next to his bed, staring at his hands.

 

He looks haggard, which is unacceptable.  It’s Poe’s job to make him smile, not - that.  “Hey,” he tries to say, but it doesn’t work.  Finn’s eyes snap over to him.  Poe clears his throat, and tries again, “Hey, buddy.”

 

Finn leans over to him, “How are you feeling? Are you okay?” He smells clean, like he just took a sonic shower.  Poe needs to regain better cognitive function before he does something dumb like sniff his neck.

 

“Me?” he asks.  “What about you? You’re the one who’s s’posed to be avoiding strenuous activity.”

 

“Are you kidding me?” Finn returns.  You’re the one who fell off a forty-foot wall.”

 

Poe laughs.  “I was hoping no one saw that,” he says.  “Balance has never been my strong suit.”  Finn doesn’t laugh with him, he just looks tired and worried, and that’s not right.  Finn’s supposed to look at the universe with wonder, he’s supposed to be done with all the hurt and the evil and the pfassk. 

 

That’s the weight Poe carries for him.  That’s the way it’s supposed to be. 

 

Finn fists one of his big hands in the front of Poe’s shirt, the other one squeezing his shoulder.  “Could you just - not die?” he asks, quietly.  “Maybe not get hurt ever, too.” 

 

Poe puts on his most charming smile.  “Tall order.”

 

“I know, it’s just,” that’s not moisture in Finn’s eyes, because if it is then Poe has to - he has to - he has no idea what to do.  “I didn’t have anyone, before I had you.  I mean, I knew other troopers, but none of them were really friends, and then - you know.  You came along, and you treated me like a person, and you.  I’ve got two people now, in the whole universe, and you’re one of them.  So just don’t.”

 

Poe doesn’t make these kinds of promises.  Death is something - well.  You mourn people when they go, you miss them, you give them the respect they deserve, but it’s all nerve burner right up until the end.  Flying right along the edge of life and death every day, you can’t be too heavy about it.

 

You could die, any time, but you know you’ll die for a good kriffing reason.  So you shoulder it.

 

But this isn’t like that.  Poe doesn’t know what this is, can’t put it in words.  But Finn, he’s different.  Rey might be different too, eventually, but for now - Finn feels bigger than all that.  Death, pain, promises, all of it.

 

So he says, “Yeah.  Okay, buddy.”