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step out into the sun

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“Let me guess,” the trooper said. “FN-2187 is in charge, right?”

“That’s right.”

The stormtrooper fixed FN-2187 with a stare. “No nickname. You’re one of those.”

“One of those what?” FN-2187 asked.

The stormtrooper laughed. He looked to be in his late twenties, perhaps, but there was something hard in his eyes, and the laugh wasn’t amused. “An outsider, cadet. You’re on the outside, and you’ll always be looking in and wondering why you don’t belong.”

[...]

The problem had to be with him, FN-2187 thought. That was the only explanation. It was what everyone had been saying all along, after all. He was different. Maybe he was so different he was broken. So he could work to fix it, to be a real stormtrooper, to be one of them. That was, he thought, what he wanted most of all. Not to be alone.

(Excerpts from Before The Awakening , ch.: Finn)

_______________________________________

 

The thing is, the Resistance base at D’Qar is dirty. Finn is used to spotlessness at every corner, white and chrome and nothing even an inch out of place. The walls here are rotten, filthy with slime and grot and Finn has an unhealthy desire to break out the rubber gloves and bleach and scrub, scrub, scrub until they're spotless.

Something within him tells him he needs to be doing something, anything, other than just laying here on the hospital bed. When he was a Stormtrooper he never had an idle moment. Whenever he wasn't in the shooting range, simulators, lectures, sleeping or eating he was cleaning. Sanitation, he told Solo and he didn't lie. He used to mop floors and clean dishes, and quite literally take out the trash. It's itching at him to lie here and stare at the dirty walls and not be able to do anything about it.

He’s never been in a hospital quite like this. Everything since he busted free and stole a pilot and a TIE fighter has been a step down in aesthetics and resources, but one hundred percent a step up personality wise and friendship wise. He sure as force didn't have any personality before the fracca on Jakku and his subsequent spiral out of his conditioning and into the hands of a rebel pilot. The best pilot in the galaxy, Poe’s voice informs him inside his head. Finn rolls his eyes. The best pilot in the galaxy is currently fast asleep and snoring, crammed into the small chair that's been dragged perpendicular to Finn’s hospital bed.

Finn’s been awake for the past half hour, staring at the grimy walls and floors instead of at Poe. He’d been waking up for short moments all day, painfully but thankfully briefly, and this is the first time he's woken up with Poe by his side. The pilot looks uncomfortable but deeply asleep, mouth hanging open and twitching, eyes running fast behind his eyelids. His hair is damp and curling against his temples, his ears, the nape of his neck. He smells of oil but his hands are clean, curled together under his chin. He looks sweet and content, cramped up as he is in the chair. It's hard for Finn not to stare.

He’s spent the first two decades or so of his life only ever seeing glimpses of folks’ faces. Everything was a sea of white and black, plastoid armour and expressionless masks. One didn't take off their helmet without express permission from a commanding officer, unless they were eating or sleeping. Finn used to covet those moments when he could see the faces of those surrounding him. He headed a fire team of four, thrown together in simulations and moulded into a unit. FN-2000, otherwise known as Zeroes, had dark skin like Finn knew himself to have, and a lighter scar curving down his cheek. FN-2199, Nines, had icy blue eyes and bright red hair, pale skin and tiny brown dots along the bridge of his nose and the tops of his cheeks. FN-2003, Slip, had baby smooth porcelain skin and flat brown eyes to match his flat brown hair. Finn hardly ever saw his own face. He used to imagine what everyone else looked like under their helmets. White skin, brown skin, every shade under the sun of skin, of hair, of eyes. He’d learned to identify alien species in his lectures, humanoid or not, but only ever saw them in simulations until his first mission, which was really the start of the end of his career as a Stormtrooper.

Staring blankly at the walls he wonders briefly why him and not Slip. Aptly named, Slip was always slipping behind, slipping up, slipping over. He did everything one could possibly do wrong bigger and better than anyone had before him. He was the constant exasperation of his fire team, Zeroes and Nines unrelenting in their irritation and resentment of him. Finn used to do his best to help him out and up, to cover his back so he wouldn't be punished or accidentally get himself killed. Slip was useless, and Finn, back when he was FN-2187, was promising. He had been pulled up in front of his peers, singled out as a bright star amongst the identical troops. Outstanding at sharpshooting, highly skilled at hand to hand combat, a fast thinker, a good leader, and proficient in first aid. He followed the rules and completed the orders asked of him. And yet. Slip was the one to shoot those miners. Finn couldn't even put his finger on the trigger, even with Captain Phasma standing over his shoulder.

Why was it Finn who broke, not someone else? Maybe it was the tightness in his chest when the Captain told him to leave Slip behind. Maybe it was the sinking in his gut when the more experienced troopers singled him out as the outsider, never belonging. Maybe it was the burn in his heart when he saw the fear in the eyes of the miners, the sweat on the brows of the negotiators, the lack of hesitation from his comrades to open fire from less than a foot away.

Slip had given him the nudge he needed. In his last moments he couldn't help but mess things up once more, smearing his red blood over the helmet of Finn’s spotless armour.

Everything from then on was dirty, gritty, and undoubtedly exhilarating. He’d heard whispers of the pilot they’d taken as their prisoner, supposedly the darling of the Resistance, about how he could swoop through the sky like the metal wings were an extension of his own body. Finn had been desperate, heart beating too loud in his chest, frantic breath clouding up the visors of his helmet, and Poe had been right there and his for the taking. He needed a pilot, and that’s exactly what Poe was. Turns out, he also needed a friend, a Poe gave him that too, along with a name and a jacket.

He’d expected Poe to be distrusting, maybe standoffish or insulting, and rightly so as Finn was rather upfront with his non-affiliation with the Resistance. But Poe had been all crinkly eyed smiles and whooping hollers as they zoomed through space in their escape, trusting Finn to be at his six and keep them safe and alive just as much as Finn trusted Poe to fly them away, out, to freedom.

Not to Jakku, that’s for sure, but Finn wasn’t the one at the helm and it was all he could do to hold on and not scream too loudly.

Watching the TIE fighter get swallowed by the carnivorous sands had been the most devastating moment of Finn’s life, worse than Slip dying practically in his arms or been ripped away from his family as a baby. He couldn’t remember his family, so that wound was practically non-existent, and Slip had barely been his friend, merely a person he’d been in closer proximity to than any other. Poe, however, had given him a name. He’d trusted him and laughed with him and named him, given him something that he’d never been afforded by any of the other ‘troopers. He’d always been apart, slightly off to the side, never quite one of the group. Poe had given him a link, a bond, and he’d truly felt it in the brief minutes they’d been together. He’d never had a name before, not even a nickname like Nines or Zeroes, and Poe had given him Finn.

Poe had been so stunning, drenched in sweat and stumbling, bleeding from his temples and his lip, dirty hands and face. His hair curling and eyes wide, darting around the rooms quickly. Finn had never seen a face like his before, so expressive, so enticing. Everyone else, whenever they took off their helmets, had been blank and motionless, nothing like the array of emotions that play across Poe’s face like an impressionist painting. Even now, fast asleep, he’s twitching and mumbling erratically, his brow furrowing and smoothing out in turn.

Finn sighs. Of course the first time he wakes up fully the only people he could possibly call friends are both unavailable.

He’s going to have to figure out what to do. Once he’s up again, which could be quite far in the future due to the lack of resources in the Resistance medbay, he’ll have to first scrub every inch of the base until it’s spotless and gleaming, and then find out where he fits in with this absurd operation. If he fits in, even. He’s mostly sure Poe won’t abandon him, and if word reaches Rey wherever she is that he’s become homeless he knows that she’ll come raging back and hit some people with her big stick.

Poe’s still asleep, breathing softly in and out and whistling through his front teeth slightly, and the rhythm is making Finn’s eyes feel heavy. He shifts, wincing at the lancing pain that shoots down his spine. He has no idea how often people get skewered by lightsabers but he really hopes it’s a one off thing and not likely to happen to him again in his life.

His eyelids are drooping and he can feel his muscles starting to relax, his vision blinking in and out as he slips into unconsciousness.

 .

When he wakes again Poe is still scrunched up in his seat, but alert, and grimacing at a hand held data screen. He hears a whir, and then a high pitched and frantic beeping, and Poe’s head whips around and a smile so big it crinkles up his eyes spreads across his face.

“Finn!” he cries, joy clear in his voice.

“Hey Poe,” Finn croaks. Poe scrambles around for a second and passes him a cup of water, pressing it to Finn’s lips. Finn gulps at it, shaking at the coolness as it slips down his throat.

“How are you doing buddy? They told me you had woken up a few times while I was up in the air so I came here as soon as I could, still in my flight gear.” He grins, sheepish, leaning in to whisper. “You had conked out again and the docs kicked me out after a while to take a shower.”

“I woke up again but you were asleep,” Finn murmurs.

Poe looks crushed. “Why didn’t you wake me up?” he whines.

“You were snoring and everything, I didn’t want to interrupt that.”

He hears a chatter and chirp and the orange and white little droid rolls into his view.

“Hey Beebee-Ate,” he says softly, twitching his hand in hello. The droid spins it’s little head around in excitement and the front panel pops open, revealing the lighter from before, lit up like a miniature thumbs up. Finn chuckles. It remembers him.

Poe’s biting his lip again, like he did when he told Finn to keep his jacket, looking between Finn and his droid with soft eyes filled with fondness. Poe’s eyes are so pretty, brown like Slip’s had been but warm instead of hard and cold. He thinks for a split second that if someone asked him his favourite colour he’d say the colour of Poe’s eyes. He can’t believe that up to this point he hasn’t had a favourite colour. He’s never had a preference either way. But now there’s the lush green forests of Takodana, the vibrant orange of Poe’s flight suit, the frightening blue of Luke’s lightsaber.

“...vryone’s wanted to talk to you but I told them to back off, I’ve got dibs now that Rey’s skedaddled-” Finn tunes back in to find that Poe’s talking. Babbling really. He squints at Poe, then at BB-8, and the little droid whistles lowly and shakes its head, spinning its black viewfinder in an approximation of an eye roll.

“Dibs?” he interrupts Poe’s monologue.

“Oh yeah,” the pilot puffs out his chest. “You’re all mine Finn, and ain’t that the envy of the whole goddamn Resistance. You’re a hero, everyone wants a piece of you!”

“A hero?” Finn stutters. A what? All he did was run away, and then lie because he wanted to run away with Rey, and in the process inadvertently did exactly what was expected of him. He got knocked out of the game in what felt like less than a minute against Kylo Ren and has been fast asleep through most of the Resistance’s scrambling to get things back on track after the destruction of the Republic planets.

“Of course you’re a hero Finn! You helped me escape capture, flew the Millennium Falcon and Han Solo home, infiltrated the StarKiller, found Rey, and held off that dick Kyle whatever until Rey could kick his ass to kingdom come!” Poe cries, elated. His eyes are shining, bright and round.

“You think that I did all that?”

“Well didn’t you?” he shoots back. Finn has no good answer to that. Nothing Poe has said isn’t true. He did, in fact, do all that.

“Look,” Poe licks his lips. “That run I was out on when you first woke up was to receive a shipment of bacta, so you’ll heal quicker. Well,” he scratches the back of his neck, “so everyone will heal quicker, not just you. But you’re the most important to me, so.” He shrugs. There’s colour high on his cheeks and Finn thinks it’s quite pretty.

BB-8 chirps and bumps against Poe’s leg, causing Poe to shake him off and mutter something down at the droid. Finn’s gonna have to learn to speak binary and learn quick if he wants to keep up with Poe and his little friend.

“With the bacta you should be up and running again in about a week, no lasting damage,” he grins.

Finn feels weak all of the sudden. A week? He’d counted on having more than that to figure out what he’s supposed to do. The smile drops off Poe’s face at Finn’s lack of response.

“Chin up, there’s plenty to do around here. You’ve got a hoard of information about the First Order that we’ve never had access to before, I know you can shoot, and Rey said you patched up Chewie quite well in a stitch. We can definitely use you,” he assures him, eyes kind and worried.

“I can clean at least,” Finn says finally, eyeing the still grotty walls. Poe laughs like he’s said something hilarious but Finn’s absolutely serious. He’s going to clean up if it kills him.

 .

And that’s exactly what he does. Once his daily baths in the bacta are over and he can stand on his own two feet without Poe’s arms supporting him around his waist every time he stumbles (and mostly he trips over BB-8. He’s simply not used to droids running circles around his feet, not used to having to look down for a little whirring body chirping at him. He’s no closer to understanding binary than he was a month ago, and doesn’t that make Poe smile smugly.).

He wanders around for a few hours after his release from medbay, Poe having left him to cohort with his other pilot friends that aren’t Finn. There’s a while until lunch, and that’s when he’s aiming to start to clean. If he can befriend the cooks, then he could probably borrow some gloves and industrial chemicals and get to work. Until then, he’s got a pocket of time to peruse his new, unless someone kicks him out, home.

It’s warm and cosy, with low ceilings and lots of dust. Everywhere is a sea of brown, and it feels like Poe’s eyes are surrounding him at every turn, which would be nice, if the brown didn’t translate in his brain to dirt. He doesn’t want it to feel like he’s back on the base with the rest of the ‘troopers, sparkling white and sterile, but he’s itching to make it just a little bit more neat. He’s used to living in zero clutter, but D’Qar on the whole is one giant mess and honestly it sets Finn’s teeth on edge. He’s so happy to be here, to be free with no constraints. He wants to help and honestly right now all he can do is clean.

Poe doesn’t know that this is his plan, but Finn is feeling a little bit lost right now and he needs something familiar. He knows how to scrub and mop and wipe until things are spotless and gleaming, and maybe he won’t quite achieve that here, but it’s a nice brainless task for him to throw himself into and maybe it’ll help lift people’s spirits a bit. Folks around here need to smile more he thinks. Poe almost never stops smiling, but he’s practically the only one. All the doctors and nurses are harried and rushed, everyone Finn bumps into on his wanderings spare a nod for him but their mouths are tight lines, and General Organa is stone faced these days, drained and grieving.

There are corridors and more corridors, little nooks and crannies stowed away, heavy metal doors everywhere. The base sprawls out and accommodates at least a few hundred people and feels to Finn’s feet like it goes on forever. Luckily he’s used to marching long ways, so it’s only his back that suffers, still tender even after all the bacta they used up on him. He’d protested but Poe insisted.

It’s strange having a friend. Finn feels like he’s latched onto the first person he found, like a leech, but Poe comes to him, seeks him out, calls him by his name like it’s not the most amazing thing in the world, as if it’s ordinary. Finn can’t help but feel like he’s bothering the man, but Poe persists. They’re friends in a strange way. Finn doesn’t know a lot about Poe outside of the fact that he’s a pilot for the Resistance and whatever he’s picked up from observing Poe’s habits. BB-8 could be a well of information to him if Finn could speak binary, but he can’t, and he should find someone who’s willing to teach him, really.

Finn and Poe are friends out of circumstance, only. They went for a wild ride together, thought each other had died, and then had been pulled back together, like binary stars orbiting the same centre of gravity. If Finn had found a different pilot, even though he’d probably still have ended up on D’Qar, he has no idea if Poe would have ever noticed him, given him the time of day. That other hypothetical pilot probably wouldn’t have trusted him, wouldn’t have given him a name and laughed with joy at the explosions Finn made, even though he's probably seen and made explosions himself a thousand times. That hypothetical pilot wouldn't have told him to keep his jacket. Poe is honestly one of a kind.

He sequesters himself away in a corner of the mess hall, hunching in on himself and wrapping Poe’s jacket around his waist rather than on his shoulders. It’s guaranteed to catch people's attention, he's learned. Him wearing Poe’s jacket always causes people to comment, to wink, to do a quick double take and raise a brow. If he wants to fade into the background then blending in with the walls is as good as it gets. Clad in his borrowed brown cargo pants that are a shy too short on him, boots that are too tight around the toe, and a black shirt that is way too tight on his shoulders, he blends in perfectly. All of his clothes have been gifted unto him by Poe, of course, but they don't scream Property of Poe Dameron, Resistance Pilot Extraordinaire quite as much as his sand battered jacket and its giant gash that's been hastily stitched back together stretching across the back. Poe laughed as he told him the tough leather of the jacket had spared his spine somewhat from the hot blade of Kylo’s lightsaber. Finn had rubbed his fingers across the fabric and swore to himself that he'd look after it better, as best as he possibly could. He’d never had belongings of his own, and even though it's technically Poe’s, he covets that jacket more than his name even. He’d take back FN-2187 rather than give up Poe’s jacket, any day.

He gets up when he spies a little person motoring across the hall, swallowed almost entirely by a giant stack of discarded and empty trays. They're weaving back and forth, the trays threatening to topple but never quite making it. Finn follows them, clutching his own tray in his trembling hands. Time to interact with more people. You can do this, he thinks. Stay calm.

The being slides the stack of plates across the dividing tabletop that separates the kitchens from the mess hall and Finn spies his chance.

“Excuse me,” he blurts and the being jumps, spinning around and staring up at him. It’s definitely humanoid, just very, very small.

“I was wondering if I could… help out,” he continues. The being blinks at him.

“With the… It's just a bit-” he waved his hands around. “Do you have cleaning supplies?”

The being clicks it's tongue at him, takes Finn’s tray right out of his hands, and then disappears around the divider. Well then. Okay.

Finn sighs, fiddling with the knot he's made out of the arms of Poe’s jacket around his waist. It was silly anyway, and he can live with tidying up only his quarters and leaving the rest of the base as it is. He scans the mess hall absently but he doesn't spot Poe’s head of curly hair or the white and orange droid.

He’s bumped out of his thoughts by the little being almost running over his foot with a cart. He blinks a little, stumbling, and the being clicks it's tongue again, gesturing at the cart. It's grey and bulky but there's a mop filled with frothy water attached to the front and a tray full of sprays and bleaches cradled on the top, ragged bits of cloth for polishing tied to its sides. It's dreary and kind of low quality but it’ll absolutely do the job and Finn is overjoyed.

He laughs and reaches out to shake the being’s hand, swallowing up its tiny fingers in his palm. The being looks a little alarmed but it bows, clicks again, and scurries off. Finn squeaks a little in his happiness and wiggles, wondering where to start first.

 .

BB-8 finds him nearly four hours later, sleeves rolled up and gloves on, scrubbing at a wall of the North corridor, humming out of tune to a song on the radio. After a bit of rummaging around the cart, familiarising himself with its limited contents, he'd stumbled across the radio and whacked the damn thing until it spit out some sound. He has no idea what language is coming from the garbled speakers but music is music and he's happy to fumble his way through the songs.

BB-8 spins around excitedly, whizzing off and chittering, bringing Poe with it when it returns.

“Finn, buddy, what are you doing?” Poe asks, his dark brow furrowed, eyeing Finn’s gloves carefully.

“I’m pitching in,” Finn replies, smiling as wide as he can. He likes the way it makes his cheeks ache, a sensation that he'd never felt before in all his years as a ‘trooper. “This is my home now and it's gonna sparkle.”

“Well, alright,” Poe says slowly, as if he's weighing up the benefits and losses of calling Finn out on his craziness. While high on the smell of bleach he’s managed to work his way through three of the main four corridors, and is halfway through North now. He’s planning on doubling back and starting the secondary branches of the South corridors, then East then West, if there's enough time. He thinks he's done a good job, scratching off the layers of mould and finding metal hull underneath, which now, if not sparkles, at least shines somewhat.

Poe bites his lip. It's a habit Finn’s noticed he does a lot, and it turns his already pretty pink lips a deeper shade of red. Of all the colours Finn’s been exposed to since he broke out of the ‘trooper base, Poe’s are by far the brightest.

“Tell you what, you wait here, I’ll be right back. Beebee-Ate, you see if you can talk some sense into that radio and get it to play some real tunes for us, yeah?”

BB-8 gives the equivalent of a droid sigh and obediently rolls over to the radio, leaning down over it like a mother scolding its child. When Finn looks up again Poe’s already around the corner and gone. Well. He gets back to scrubbing.

Ten minutes later Poe returns, changed out of his orange gear and stripped down to the same brown cargo pants as he gave Finn and a white t-shirt, another bucket of soapy water in one hand and a pair of yellow rubber gloves clutched in the other.

“I’ll take top, you take bottom,” he grins, cheery. BB-8 squeals and Poe shoots a wide eyed glance at the droid, before nudging it softly away.

“Uh,” Finn manages. “I’m taller than you, maybe I should take the top.”

Poe frowns. It looks ridiculous on him, childlike and silly. His face doesn't suit a frown at all. He has laugh lines around his eyes for a reason, after all.

Finn shrugs, suddenly wanting with urgency to erase the frown from Poe’s face. “I’m practically bursting out of your clothes,” he adds.

Poe’s eyes widen and he glances at Finn up and down like he's taking inventory.

“Oh wow, you actually are,” he murmurs. Finn grins. Poe clears his throat at the same time as BB-8 emits a high pitched hum, bouncing like it's laughing at them.

“Okay then, I’ll be bottom,” he gives in and Finn cheers, delighted. Poe smiles at him, the kind that shows all his teeth and crinkles up his eyes, laughing like he's never been happier. Finn hands him a sponge and he chucks it into the water, sending suds everywhere and forcing BB-8 to wheel backwards sharply, protesting loudly. Finn doesn't need to speak binary to guess what it's saying.

They work side by side for hours, folks passing by and whispering behind their hands as Poe sings at the top of his lungs along with the radio. Finn had almost choked laughing at him, head thrown back and arms stretched wide dramatically, looking like he was completely lost in the moment. He looked ridiculous, yellow gloves dripping and soap bubbles in his hair from where Finn’s own vigorous scrubbing had landed on him.

People sometimes stopped to say hello, and one or two brave souls joined in. Namely Captain Karé Kun bellowing sharp and out of tune as she dragged her fellow Captain Iolo Arana with her, him digging his heels in all the way. Finn knew them from the stories Poe would tell him about their runs together but had never really met them himself. He couldn't help but giggle when Karé failed to hit a really shocking note and Poe, Iolo, and BB-8 all reared back like they had been slapped. Karé just laughed and continued on her way, grabbing Iolo’s hand and whistling down the rest of the corridor.

They’d finished the main North corridor, the six smaller secondary corridors that branched off South, and are well on their way through East corridor’s secondary branches when General Organa trips over them.

“Oh Poe, what are you doing?” she gasps, and Finn thinks if the leader of the Resistance was the kind of person who gaped at things then she'd be doing so now.

Poe claps his wet gloved hand on Finn’s shoulder and grins brightly at her.

“We’re cleaning,” he declares proudly. The General obviously thinks they're insane, looking between them and BB-8 like the droid could have somehow talked sense into them, but her eyes soften somewhat.

“And why’s that?” she asks, looking like she's settling in for a long conversation. That makes Finn feel a bit hot under the collar, because he's only ever spoken to her once and that was when he was caught up in the adrenaline of things. Now he finds he's rather nervous.

“I’m not entirely sure, ma’am, but Finn was doing a great job and looked like he was having a jolly lot of fun, so I joined.” Poe’s still grinning.

The General shoots him a wry look.

“I’ve told you Poe, don't call me ma’am.”

“Sure thing, General.”

“Fine, Commander,” she spits like she's enjoying it.

Finn was fine while her attention was on Poe, but now her eyes are settled squarely on him and it's definitely unnerving. She's so small but she commands so much space. She, like Poe, sucks all the air out of the room just by being in it. Or at least that's what it feels like to Finn.

“Well carry on then,” she says finally, turning on her heel. Finn lets out an audible sigh of relief.

“And I expect to see you in the shooting range, Mr. Finn,” she calls over her shoulder, causing him to tense up. “I want to see what you can do besides making things jolly clean.”

Finn’s left stunned, blinking as she turns the corner and disappears. Poe claps his hand down on his shoulder again, leaving a soggy imprint on the fabric.

“She likes you,” he whispers and BB-8 whistles in agreement.

“You think?”

“For sure. She called you jolly.”

Finn’s face must be doing something funny because Poe laughs, scrunching up his nose. His eyes are shining. He bites his lip again.

“I’m going to get some snacks,” he announces, and then he's bounding down the hall like a bunny on a speedster.

BB-8 coos after him fondly, spinning around and peering up at Finn.

“Who even says jolly these days?” Finn asks the droid. BB-8 jumps and rolls into Finn’s knee over and over, chirping.

“Yeah, Poe’s pretty jolly himself,” Finn agrees absently, patting BB-8’s smooth metal head.

Poe comes back with water bottles and packages of the discs of sweet food that Rey likes so much jammed in his mouth. He skips down the corridor, drops his haul at Finn’s feet, then tugs him down to sit cross legged on the floor next to him. They have a picnic right there in East corridor, listening to the radio burble jazzy music and trying to catch flying pieces of what Poe explains to him are called biscuits from BB-8’s metal arm extension. Both Finn and Poe are useless at it, but Poe manages to successfully catch one once and almost smothers Finn in the enthusiasm of his hug.

In those moments Finn forgets all his worries and lets himself get caught up in Poe and all his wonderful colours.

Finn covers most of the base within a week. He spends his mornings chiselling layers of grit off the walls and then polishing, wolfs down a quick lunch and immediately starts bleaching everything in sight. Soon the entire place starts to stink of chemicals, which Finn has become entirely immune to but which others most certainly have not. They wrinkle up their noses as they pass by, but it also has the added effect of getting them to look up from their data readers and actually take in how clean everything is now. Finn’s received more than a few shoulder pats from passing personnel and every now and then someone stops to tell him how nice it is to have a bit of spring cleaning going, how refreshing it is to see shiny metal instead of dull mud.

Poe always joins him after dinner, with his little droid rolling behind him. After the first time he always shows up out of his flight gear, one white t-shirt after another, with a bright grin as he slops soap suds everywhere. Poe must have some sort of tracker on him because he manages to find Finn wherever he is, even when he's crammed into the tiniest, dingiest spaces on the base, scrubber in hand and bleach bottle clutched between his knees.

They work together for hours, Poe singing charmingly along with the radio and BB-8 adding its own trills and high notes whenever it feels like it. Finn’s not quite ready to go bellowing down the corridors like Poe is but he thoroughly enjoys watching Poe put on a show. Poe always brings sandwiches, or that inflatable bread stuff that Rey hates, or occasionally biscuits and crisps to keep them going. Once he brought a tube of purple slimy stuff that he sucked into his mouth in one smooth gulp. Finn had followed his lead, a little tentatively, and the flavour had exploded over his tongue like nothing he’d ever tasted before.

For two decades of his life he’d had the same bland meals day after day, nutritious but hardly tasty. Living here at the Resistance base is like living at a food market. They have all sorts of beings wandering about with all sorts of different dietary requirements and local specialities, so a kind of undercover black market where you can trade food for food and try something new has sprung up around them. Poe’s never mentioned it but Finn’s seen it go down, hunched over as he does in the mess hall, blending into the walls. People don't notice him there and he gets to observe all sorts of behaviour. He desperately wants to trade for some new food, something exotic and sweet, or tart and sour, something he's never tasted before, but he has no food of his own. Poe brings him everything and the mess hall provides three meal tickets per day and that's all.

When Finn decides to call it a day, he and Poe tip the dirty water in their buckets down the drain and go fill up a new one. BB-8 pushes the bucket and Finn and Poe dip their mops in and methodically wipe down the floors of every corridor from med bay to mess hall, swiping up the dirty shoe prints and little bits of mess that people inevitably leave in their wakes.

Poe chatters incessantly and it's so easy to get caught up in his wild stories. Once Finn almost snapped his mop in half he got so excited at what Poe was saying. It's so effortless to bounce off of Poe’s enthusiasm, his wide eyed wonder at everything, his zest for life and everything that comes with it. Finn’s never been allowed to express himself like this before and it's like breathing in clean air for the first time in his life, filling up his lungs with sweet oxygen and feeling it rush through all his body.

When people see him with Poe they're far less likely to come up and chat. They walk past and wink rather than interrupting Poe’s story, which Finn thinks is nice. He likes to listen to Poe’s voice and watch the way his face and hands move, so expressive. When people see him in Poe’s jacket they clap his shoulder or shake his hand, telling him he's doing a great job, to keep up the good work because everybody’s benefiting. He’s still wearing all of Poe’s clothes because neither of them having gotten around to informing anyone that Finn needs a bigger size. It depresses him a bit because when he puts Poe’s clothes on in the morning they smell like the pilot, like motor oil and sweetness, but by the time he's done scrubbing at the walls and floors all day they just smell of bleach.

He doesn't usually see Poe during the day, since Poe is either training with his squad or out on a run somewhere, patrolling the skies and picking up supplies. No one’s sent him on any proper missions recently, Poe’s told him in a dejected sort of voice, because they're all still scrambling for order after the Republic planets went up in smoke. Finn doesn't like to think about all the people that died that day, all the people on this base who would have died if Finn hadn't found some guts at the last second.

Once Finn was polishing one of the doors to yet another branch of small dingy corridors when Poe came strutting down the hall in his orange flight suit, helmet under his arm as BB-8 under his feet, his friends Jessika and Snap flanking his sides. They were laughing and skipping, Jess leaning over to poke Snap in his sizeable belly while Poe giggled when they spotted him. Poe almost dropped his flight helmet in his haste to rush to Finn, tackling him into a big bear hug. Poe’s arms always come up from underneath him, wrapping snug around Finn’s waist like he's going to lift him clean off the floor. Finn loves Poe’s hugs with every fibre of his being. He’d never been hugged before Poe.

“We’ll leave you two alone, shall we?” Jess had called, snapping a sloppy salute in their direction. Poe had rolled his eyes but kept his arm wrapped around Finn’s waist. Snap pretended to take a picture with his fingers, cooing that they were so adorable, BB-8 whistling in an approximation of a laugh.

“They’re just jealous that I don't run and jump at them in corridors,” Poe had whispered in his ear, winked, and then swaggered off to join his friends.

“He’ll see you tonight for your date!” Jess called, and yelped as Poe smacked her lightly around the back of the head.

That stuck in Finn’s head for some reason. Snap pretending to take a picture reminded him that he doesn't have any pictures of anybody, nothing to look at and smile. He has his own memories, but all the good ones have happened very recently. He’s acutely aware that any time Poe goes up in the air could be his last, and desperately wants a photo of him smiling just in case he forgets what it looks like.

He mentions it to Rey when she vids him that night. She calls when she can, which is about every other day, and after she's done checking in with General Organa that Luke hasn't flung her off a cliff and expected her to use the force to stop her fall she always calls Finn. Rey always has so many stories to tell about all the things she's getting up to with Skywalker, everything she's learning that she can do, and she recounts it in a breathless sort of voice with her eyes shining. Finn tries to soak up every second of her in these moments, missing her terribly, even though they'd only known each other for a day. Like Poe, their friendship was born from a near death experience. Unlike Poe, his first impression of her was to run away, terrified that she'd knock him out with her stick. Finn gets the feeling that Rey doesn't trust easily, having been alone for so long surviving in that horrible desert on Jakku, so he's so proud that she persists in being his friend.

“You could probably make a camera,” she muses as she munches on some sort of dried fruit.

“Out of what?”

She rolls her eyes. “There are scraps everywhere, Finn, you just have to look.”

Finn peers around his quarters, which are small and empty. He has a bed and a desk, a metal rack full of empty hangers for his nonexistent clothes, and a sink in the corner with a mirror above it. The only things that show a person lives there is the folded up pair of pyjamas Poe gave him on his pillow, his boots by the door and toothbrush on the sink, and Poe’s jacket, draped over the desk chair.

“Maybe your room isn't the best place to start looking,” Rey gently pokes through his train of thought. “Ask Poe,” she says decisively. “Or even better, ask Beebee-Ate.”

Finn moans. “I still haven't picked up a word of binary.”

“When I get back I’ll teach you,” she promises.

Finn perks up. “When you get back? When are you getting back?”

Rey winces. “Not for a good couple of more months. There's so much to learn, and I’m still so new at this, and Luke is a great teacher and I want to learn everything I can from him,” she says all at once in a rush.

Finn’s chest feels tight, but it's not like he was expecting her to say, oh I’ll pop back home tomorrow.

“Keep your mind busy. Build the camera, put in some shooting time at the range like the General suggested, find someone to teach you binary. Time’ll fly Finn, it always does.”

“I thought it only flies when you're having fun,” he says petulantly, pouting.

“Well, aren't you having fun?” Rey retorts.

And Finn actually… is. His life now is so far from what he was doing over and over as a Stormtrooper, the same things every day with no emotion. Now he gets to look at people’s faces, eat food that actually tastes like food, laugh at Poe’s bad jokes and warble along with the songs on the radio. He’s never done anything like this before, never been allowed to, never even wanted to. He couldn't miss something he didn't know existed, but now he's doing it, he can never imagine going back, not for anything. He has his freedom now, and he's enjoying it with an enthusiasm he honestly didn't know he was capable of.

“I think I am?”

“You sound unsure,” says Rey carefully.

“I definitely am,” he confirms, thinking about Poe’s loud laughter and BB-8’s dizzy whistling.

Rey grins, the dimple in her cheek popping beautifully. She’s so sweet and lovely, and when she smiles it's like the sun emerging from behind a giant cloud. Poe smiles all the time, and so Finn does too, can't help it when he's around him, and whenever Rey flashes him a grin it's automatic for Finn to return it giddily. His chest feels bubbly, knowing that his best friends are happy.

“So now you have a plan,” Rey nods decisively.

“Find parts for a camera, build the camera, put in some time at the range, and learn binary. Quite a full schedule,” he grins.

“I’ll be back before you know it,” she waves. “May the force be with you, Finn.”

Now he's finished cleaning and is relatively happy with the overall state of the base, he gets straight on with the little to-do list Rey and he had come up with. He’s just on his way to find Poe, meandering down the corridors that lead to the giant hangar bay and the runways outside, when the General loops her finger in the collar of his jacket and drags him sideways.

He yelps, flailing and confused, but General Organa keeps up her quick march and hauls him down a narrow passageway. He can hear the hasty stitches Poe had put in along the back of the jacket to hold it together starting to snap and twists around to bat at her fingers without thinking. She shoots him an unimpressed look but drops her grip on him, silent and expectant, and Finn mutters an apology as he hobbles to keep up.

“Mr. Finn, did I or did I not say I wanted to see you in the shooting range some time soon?” she questions as she types in a code to the door to what is presumably the shooting range.

“I- Well-”

“And did I not say that over a week ago?” she tuts.

“I just-”

“What’s your surname?”

“My what?” Finn asks, dumbstruck.

“Your surname,” she repeats. “The name that comes after your first name. I am Leia Organa, that over there is Calebo Crane, and next to them is Endo Magoro. So what’s yours? For the log book, you see,” she explains and gestures to the notebook with people's names scrawled in.

He can see now that all of them have at least two names, if not more. He spies Poe’s name among the lot, the Dameron after it, and feels a little lost. He’s only got Finn, nothing else.

The General hums at him, eyes narrowed shrewdly, and just writes down ‘Finn’.

“We can get you a surname after, once we add you to the service personnel and set everything up for you. Don’t think I haven't noticed you're borrowing Poe’s clothes.”

Finn feels his skin get hot, fingering the hem of his- Poe’s - shirt.

“The whole damn base has noticed,” she mutters and Finn’s head snaps up. He thought he was blending in. He’s been wearing the same clothes as everybody else and yet still manages to be an outsider. His heart sinks.

General Organa thrusts a blaster gun at him.

“Chop chop, I haven't got all day,” she motions for him to stand in the right place and points at the paper figure at the end of the room. Finn squints. Is that- ?

“It's in poor taste, I know,” the General sighs. “But they're all we have I’m afraid. Aim for the chinks in the armour, I’m sure you know exactly where to hit.”

Finn’s arms feel a bit heavy but he swallows and raises the blaster until it's aimed where he wants it. He breathes out slowly, relaxing his shoulders, and squeezes the trigger. The blast hits the Stormtrooper right in the black of its stomach.

“Fantastic,” the General cheers. Finn had almost forgotten she was there for a second. The other two people in the room stop to clap and Finn blinks a bit, startled, but smiling. Okay then.

He shoots off more rounds with the blaster gun, not a single one going where he doesn't want it, and the General switches the blaster with a bowcaster, then a ray gun, a ray rifle, and a long range proto blaster. Out of the hundred rounds he shoots, 98 of them are dead on the mark.

“Hell yeah!” he whoops, caught up in the elation of the feeling.

General Organa claps, smiling in a way that makes her look decades younger. She’s so dainty, like Rey, he thinks. Her hair is all braided and pinned up and her eyes are the loveliest shade of brown, like Poe’s but darker.

“What a great job, Mr. Finn. With your experience in breaking in and out of places you'll make a fine Pathfinder.”

Finn feels the corner of his mouth twitch pleasantly. His chest feels like it's expanded to accommodate something new, a bit more pride in his abilities. The General thinks he can fit in here, that he has a place and things that he's good at that will benefit the Resistance. He suddenly wants to find Poe and tell him everything, tell him how great this is, how he's on his way to being somebody, a true and proper person, someone who can help.

“Of course, right now we’re still trying to sort out how the Republic is going to be run, so you'll be grounded just like everybody else,” she sighs. Finn’s giddiness pops like a balloon. There's something he's found he can do, but can't quite do it yet.

“I can do first aid,” he blurts, desperate to be useful.

General Organa stops where she's disassembling the guns and putting them away in their proper places.

“Emergency first aid or simple patching up?” she asks.

Finn ducks his head. “Both. I was pretty good at it back when… Well, you know. And I patched up Chewie just fine even though we were being flown through space like we were on a roller coaster, not a freighter, and he kept trying to kill me.”

General Organa cracks a smile. “He’s pretty feisty isn’t he?” she laughs.

“I’ll tell you what, you can shadow some of the nurses for a few days, get a feel of how things run in our medbay, and if you're happy then we’ll put you down as emergency services until you can hit the ground as a Pathfinder, how about that?”

That sounds perfect to Finn. He must be glowing because he feels like his skin has just popped up a thousand little light bulbs all fervently burning in their happiness to finally have a place.

“That would be so great, I won't let you down,” he gushes, wiggling a little on the spot.

The General smiles gently up at him, eyes fond and soft. “I have no doubt in my mind that you won't,” she says firmly, and turns on her heel to leave.

“Uh- General?” he calls after her hesitantly.

She comes to a halt and peers round at him, face open. Finn decides to just go for it.

“You don't happen to know anyone who’ll be willing to teach me binary, do you? It’s just,” he shuffles uncomfortably, “Poe’s always got Beebee-Ate with him and I can't understand a word the little thing says and I really want to learn so I-”

“I get it,” she says gently, putting up a hand to stop his babbling. She smiles like she knows something he doesn't. “I can teach you,” she continues, “if you'll do something for me in return.”

“Anything,” he promises, stunned.

“You can meet me after hours in the staff room with the squishy chairs, do you know the one?”

Finn nods aggressively. He knows the one. Poe likes to drag him there and sit with him, tell him stories as Finn hugs the cushions. He’s never felt anything so soft before in his life, other than the worn out leather of Poe’s jacket.

General Organa nods at him like she's decided something important, but Finn’s too giddy to care what.

“Stop in at the medbay and find Dr. Kalonia, she’ll set you up with a data reader so you can study up and assign you some trial shifts to get started. I’ll see you later,” and she's gone.

Finn stands staring into the air for a moment, before scurrying off to the medbay as he was told.

Poe finds him hours later, completely sucked into the data reader in his hand and surrounded by crumbs from the sweet biscuits he'd eaten rather than get up and go to lunch. BB-8 beeps loudly and zooms over, almost knocking Poe down with the force of its enthusiasm.

“Buddy! Hey, we’ve been looking for you,” he exclaims, draping himself over Finn and digging his chin into Finn’s shoulder. His breath is hot on the bare skin of Finn’s neck.

“What’s got you all holed up? Folks’ve been asking to see you, you know, and I hate to disappoint them. What’s all this?” he reaches out and pokes at the data screen.

“It’s my itinerary for next week, I’m gonna be shadowing some nurses in the medbay.”

“Well shit, Finn, if you were looking for things to do you could’ve come to me! I’d’ve been happy to set you up with something.”

Finn shrugs shallowly, not wanting to displace Poe from where he’s plastered against his back, but Poe squeezes his shoulders and moves away. Finn puts the data reader down, sighing, and turns to look at him.

“Why’re you so serious all the sudden, pal? What happened to the Finn who was whooping and hollering in a stolen TIE fighter, huh?” Poe asks, a concerned crease between his eyes. BB-8 coos and Poe shushes it, keeping his eyes fixed on Finn.

“That Finn was high on adrenaline from a very near death experience,” he explains.

“High?” Poe waggles his eyebrows. “We can get you high again, I’m sure one of the other pilots has something around…”

“I’m not taking your space drugs!” Finn all but yelps, and BB-8 beeps loudly and headbutts Poe’s shins, hard. Poe doesn’t even flinch through his laughter.

“Yeah, what they said,” Finn nods to BB-8.

“How do you know they weren’t saying my space drugs are the jam?” Poe quips. His eyes are practically sparkling with mirth, his smile stretched wide across his face.

Finn grumbles darkly, still sore that he can’t speak binary yet. BB-8 reassures him by firing up its lighter like a thumbs up again, and Finn reluctantly smiles, shooting a thumbs up back to it.

“But really, what’s up?”

Finn drags his attention back to Poe, stood there in the low light in his orange flight suit, hair damp with sweat and eyes fixed on him. There’s a million other things he could be doing right now, but he’s stood here next to Finn, asking him if he’s okay.

“I’m just,” he scrubs a hand roughly through his short hair. “I’m just trying to find where I fit in. With all this, you know? It’s hard, I’ve never had to decide things for myself before, I’ve never had to think about what I want to do. And now I’m kind of… lost.”

Poe stares at him for a second, before the look in his eye becomes determined. He holds his hand out to Finn, wiggling his fingers, and Finn takes it, slightly confused because Poe’s not said a word. Usually it’s hard to get him to shut up, a total motormouth he’d heard Jess call him. Not that Finn would ever want Poe to be silenced. He enjoys listening to his voice, soft and feathery, and all the stories that he tells. He likes hearing his name fall from Poe’s lips, liked it the first time and every time since. So it’s a bit disconcerting to him that the pilot isn’t saying anything now.

BB-8 lets out a series of high pitched beeps, spinning itself in tight circles around their feet. Finn realises they’ve been stood there holding hands for a little while now, and when he looks up Poe’s biting his lip again, like he’s seen him do it so many times before. He smiles, his teeth pressing down on his bottom lip harder for a second, and when he lets go there’s little indentations left behind, slightly redder than the rest of the flesh. Finn always notices when Poe’s colours change.

“Come on, buddy, let’s find you a place,” he winks and starts to walk out of the room.

Finn trails behind him, their hands still connected. Poe’s hands are large, with thin fingers covered in calluses from flying. He’s told Finn that he repairs a lot of the damage to his X-Wing himself, so his fingernails and skin almost always have smudges of oil clinging to them. Rey’s hands were rough, from the sand Finn guesses. Poe’s hands are strangely soft, if you ignore the calluses. Finn’s seen him moisturise them after pulling off his flight gloves with his teeth. He doesn’t know why he does it, but he sure appreciates it now, his fingers twined with Poe’s so closely.

Poe leads him to a window in the wall where a bored looking Dressellian sits, hunched over to accommodate its enormous size.

“We need like, all the forms,” Poe announces, bouncing on his toes. BB-8 whistles and bounces too, making a clanging noise that echoes off the metal of the walls. Finn’s scrubbed his way through this room before and is pleased to see that it’s still shiny.

The Dressellian blinks at Poe’s grinning face, then at Finn, and shuffles off to find forms, whatever they may be.

“You couldn’t be more specific?” he hisses at Poe. Poe makes a gesture with his hand like he’s calming him down, shushing him.

“He knows who you are, don’t worry,” and while Finn’s feeling a little alarmed at that easy statement the Dressellian comes back and slaps down a small stack of datapads. Poe scoops them up, asks if there’s a stylus they can use, then steers Finn over to where the Dressellian points its long finger to. He plucks a stylus, clicks it on and off a few times to check it’s working, and then drags Finn over to a pair of seats in the corner.

“Now,” he says, spreading the datapads out on his thighs. “We’ll start with the easy info first, stuff like your name and your birthday, and then move on to the harder stuff, okay?”

Finn nods blankly, and takes the datapad and stylus that Poe presses into his hand. There’s a blank space on the pad where he’s to write his first name, any middle names, and a surname. He carefully prints out ‘FINN’ in capital letters and then scrolls down to fill out another question.

“Woah, hey buddy, you’re just gonna go with Finn?” Poe questions.

Finn shrugs. “I don’t have another name,” he says lowly. BB-8 whistles a sad sounding sigh.

“Well now you can choose one! Go on, any name in the galaxy and it’s yours. Go ahead,” Poe smiles, dazzling.

Finn stares quizzically down at the datapad. Any name in the galaxy. He wonders, briefly, what his family name would actually be. If his parents had picked out a name for him when he was born, after a relative or chosen for its meaning. But it doesn’t matter now.

He slowly, carefully prints out ‘DAMERON’ in his neatest handwriting. When he’s finished, he looks up at Poe’s face, hoping it’s okay. Poe’s biting his lip, his hand clenched on his thigh, knuckles white. BB-8 beeps loudly, and Poe’s face breaks into a beautiful beam, like his mouth can’t contain his joy.

“I’d be glad to have you,” he says softly. His eyes are affectionate and Finn feels warm all through his body.

He fills out his species: human, as far as he’s aware. Current address he fills out with the base’s coordinates. Previous addresses he leaves blank because what the hell is he supposed to write? Oh yeah, I lived on a First Order Star Destroyer for the majority of my life, but let’s just forget about that forever shall we? He wishes he could forget.

He gets to date of birth and looks desperately up at Poe.

“What?” Poe peers over at the datapad. “You don’t have a birthday? Wait, you don’t have a birthday?” he repeats. His mouth has dropped open in a perfect O, slack jawed as he is in his surprise.

“Buddy, you’re missing out. Birthday’s are the best.” BB-8 whirs its agreement.

Finn looks dryly between the droid and his friend. “I wouldn’t know, having never had one and all.”

Poe rolls his eyes. “Well choose one then, and we’ll throw you a big party.”

“Can we put a hat on Beebee-Ate?” Finn asks, biting the inside of his lip. Poe throws his head back in laughter making his curls bounce as BB-8 beeps a series of loud protests and rolls furiously into the legs of their chairs, chirring in its annoyance.

They both giggle for a good minute, Poe with his nose scrunched up adorably. This is a moment that Finn would want to photograph, if he had a camera. For now he lets his chuckles die away as he clicks the on/off button on the stylus over and over.

“I don’t know what day to choose,” he mumbles.

“Okay well,” Poe starts, rubbing his mouth. “I don’t know if you guys used it or not where you come from but we’ve got a brand new calendar system now. Year 0 used to be set at the fall of Palpatine, but the New Republic Historical Council changed it to the destruction of the Death Star at the Battle of Yavin, so now everything’s shifted to BBY, Before the Battle of Yavin, and ABY, After the Battle of Yavin.”

Poe’s eyes have gone a little hazy, lost as he is in his explanation. Poe knows so much about everything that happened, and his point of view is so different to what Finn’s always been told. He was conditioned from the bias of the First Order, whereas Poe’s parents were part of the original Rebellion and fought through the war. Poe’s grown up surrounded by the Republic and the Resistance, has wanted to be a pilot in order to fight the Dark Side since he was six years old. Finn used to watch the propaganda videos the First Order rolled out about how the populations were suffering under the hands of the Republic, how they were going to help bring order to the galaxy and rid it of the government that wanted to quash its progress. He feels dirty, squirming on the inside, that he ever used to believe any of that bullshit.

“There’s five days in a week, seven weeks in a month, which makes up ten months in every year. The first day of the first week is called first Primeday, then the second day is first Centaxday, then first Taungsday, first Zhellday, and first Benduday. When you move into the second week it becomes second Primeday, and so on and so forth. We’re in year 34 ABY now, the third month, and it’s the fourth Primeday, so you could put that down if you wanted.”

Finn licks his lips. “What was the date when I met you? I mean, I broke through my conditioning and started on this whole crazy journey so that seems, kinda, significant?”

Poe nods like he’s proud of him. His lips curve up. He reaches out and puts his hand on Finn’s knee, palm warm over the fabric of Finn’s borrowed trousers.

“It was the seventh Zhellday of the second month, 34 ABY,” he says slowly, pronouncing every word like it’s precious. “Of course, you weren’t actually born in the year 34 ABY. Do you have any idea what kind of age you are?” he wonders, as if he’s thinking out loud.

Finn draws his eyebrows together and thinks hard. He must have seen it in a file somewhere. Then again it wasn’t often he got to look in his own file. Classified, of course. The number 23 pops into his head, unbidden, and he decides to roll with it.

He does the mental math and prints ‘MONTH 2, ZHELLDAY 7, YEAR 11 ABY’ carefully on the datapad. Poe fake punches him in the shoulder.

“Nearly a decade younger than me,” he grins wolfishly.

Finn perks up. “Oh yeah, old man? When’s your birthday?” he asks, unable to stop himself.

“Watch it kid, it’s coming up soon! It’s the fourth month, second Benduday, year 2 ABY,” he clicks his fingers like they’re miniature guns. BB-8 trills happily below them, feeding off their enthusiasm.

“I expect a surprise birthday party,” Poe continues.

“How can you expect a surprise birthday party if it’s a surprise?”

Poe rolls his eyes and BB-8 beeps like it’s laughing. “Stop being a smart ass and get on with filling out the rest of the forms,” he grouses, but his eyes are crinkled up at the corners.

They spend the next half hour or so with their heads bent together, trying to fill the forms out as best as they can. It turns out that Finn knows next to nothing about himself, which isn’t surprising, so most of the spaces on the form are left blank for lack of a better option. He thankfully knows all his medical information, having just been sprung from the hospital and all. In the space for Defining Characteristics Poe writes ‘Charming Smile’ and Finn adds “Mole on Left Buttcheek’, making Poe choke on thin air.

They finish up as best as they can and hand the datapads back to the Dressellian who grunts at them and waves them away, its huge brown wrinkled hands creating a gush of cool air that makes Finn blink rapidly. Poe says something in Dressellese that makes the guy crack a smile. Finn really needs to get on with learning some new languages if Poe’s gonna be walking around and switching it up at the drop of a hat. Which reminds him: he needs to meet General Organa soon.

He peers at the big clock on the wall, a rectangle with panels that flip over automatically with the passing seconds, minutes, and hours. He’s got enough time to grab a quick meal, return the data reader to Dr. Kalonia, and mop the floors before he has to meet her after hours.

Poe’s chattering away alongside him, almost skipping absently as he throws his hands about enthusiastically, BB-8 rolling loyally by his side and making strings of beeps occasionally.

“I thought you could sit with me and the other pilots tonight,” Poe’s saying, turning his body towards him and spreading his hands in a hopeful gesture.

Finn bites his lip. “I’m not planning on eating for long,” he says, “I’ve got things to do.”

Poe’s shoulders droop and his hands drop back to his sides, sliding into the pockets of his orange flight suit. “Of course, of course, another time then.”

“Tomorrow, for sure,” Finn promises earnestly, and Poe looks so elated that even his curly hair perks up.

“It’s gonna be so great, buddy, everyone’s been dying to talk to you properly. I kept telling them to back off and give you a little time but they keep pestering and nagging me, begging to talk to you.”

“What, seriously?” asks Finn, dumbfounded.

“Of course!” Poe crows. “Why would I lie? You’re the talk of the entire base! The General’s so tight lipped about Rey and Skywalker that no one has anything new to gossip about but you. Plus, you’re awesome, but I already knew that so it’s not like it comes as a surprise that you’re all anyone can talk about.” He slings an arm over Finn’s shoulder, surreptitiously standing on his tiptoes to reach. “You and me, pal, we’re hot commodities,” he winks.

“Oh, because standing on your tiptoes is so cool,” Finn teases.

“Hey!” Poe shakes his shoulder and flicks his hair, pouting. “It’s not my fault you’re taller than me. Pick on someone your own size.”

Finn laughs, bubbles bursting in his chest. He feels so happy he could fly. He’s only ribbing Poe a little because it’s fun to trip up the pilot’s swagger, and Poe knows that Finn think’s he’s the coolest thing in the world aside from Rey.

Poe drops his arm so it’s around Finn’s waist and slumps back down to flat feet and his hand worms it’s way into the pocket of Finn’s- Poe’s - jacket. Finn wraps his own arm around his friend’s waist in return, fingering the bunched up elastic of Poe’s flight suit. They walk down the corridor side by side, BB-8 following behind like it doesn’t want to interrupt.

Poe holds his waist all the way up to the door of his quarters, before fishing his hand out of Finn’s pocket, somehow looking awkward as he leans against the door.

“Well,” he starts, flexing his hands on his thighs.

“Well?” Finn echoes in question, a bit confused.

Poe’s eyes dim a little before he clears his throat and opens the door, tapping BB-8 over the threshold with his boot.

“You’re all signed up now,” he says with his head down, eyes on the droid. “As soon as your trial period is over in the emergency services you’ll be added to the official personnel rota and receive a paycheck.”

“I get paid?” He didn’t think he’d be getting paid anything. Maybe he can buy a camera, and some things to put in his room, things that will be his. He can use the money to buy food to trade for new food, things he’s never tasted before. He’s looking forward to being officially a part of the Resistance even more now.

“Yeah buddy, go as wild as you can on the scraps we get thrown. It’s not like I’m in it for the paycheck but man, budgets are tight, so don’t expect anything much.”

Finn hadn’t been expecting anything, so any amount of money is exciting to him.

“I’ll see you for mopping later, yeah?” Poe looks up at him through his eyelashes.

Finn’s brain stops working for a second. “Uh, yeah. Wait, no, I can do it myself, no worries,” he stutters. That was a weird moment, he thinks. He wants to keep his lessons with General Organa a secret for the time being, so he can surprise Poe and BB-8 later.

“What are you keeping from me?” Poe’s eyes narrow, his brow furrowed, looking at Finn playfully with only a hint of genuine suspicion.

“Nothing,” Finn says innocently, hoping the tingling in his cheeks doesn’t show on his face.

Poe hums, obviously not convinced.

“I’ll find out sooner or later,” he croons, laughing. He reaches out and claps Finn on the shoulder, then turns into his room and closes the door.

Finn stands there for a minute, though he doesn’t know why. He hears a thunk that could be BB-8 hitting something come from the other side of the door and almost knocks to find out if the droid is okay, before dismissing the notion as silly and carrying on down the corridor.

He’s got lots to do, and as much as he wishes he could spend all his time with Poe, he’s realistic enough to recognise when a dream is just a dream.

 .

He’s early to his meeting, as Dr. Kalonia let him keep the datareader she’d given him and sent him on his way, calling that she’d meet him bright and early tomorrow in the medbay. When he pushes the door open to the room the General had specified he can see she’s already sitting on one end of the purple squishy sofa, cross legged, holding something in her cupped hands.

“Ah, Finn,” she gestures for him to approach. He does so hastily, settling down a respectful distance away from her on the other end of the sofa. She rolls her eyes and scoots closer, opening her palms up and revealing what’s hidden in them.

“This is Penny,” she says softly.

In her palms is an absolutely tiny droid, about the size of a baby bird. It’s shaped like BB-8, but is dark blue and has little white dots all over its body.

“Designation P-E-N dash E,” the General continues. “She’s an engineering astromech, they use them to get to the places where hands can’t reach.” She points to the dots along its body. “These are for grip, so she can climb up walls without falling off.”

The little droid beeps quizzically, staring up at him with a wide black lens.

“She?” Finn asks, eyes fixed on the droid. PEN-E clicks on a flashlight on and off near its lens and whirs slowly, rolling in the General’s palm.

“She insists,” laughs the General and PEN-E beeps along with her.

“She’s for you,” and the little droid spins around again to peer up at Finn. General Organa motions for Finn to hold his hands out and then tips the droid into his palms. It’s body is cool on his skin, and it’s heavy, and Finn is completely enraptured.

“She’s unfortunately defective. Can’t tell a wrench from a spanner,” PEN-E interrupts by beeping loudly, spinning her head around to stare down the General.  “She’s incredibly sweet though, so none of the engineers were willing to send her for repairs. She’s very fond of humans. You’ll get on well, I think.”

Finn strokes a fingertip over the top of PEN-E’s head. PEN-E rolls into the gesture, making a series of mashed up beeping noises, and proceeds to roll her way up Finn’s sleeve and onto his shoulder.

“This is so great,” he murmurs. His own droid. Hopefully they’ll bond like Poe and BB-8 have. And she’s even small enough to fit in his pocket, so he can carry her around everywhere if he wanted. If she lets him.

“I’m glad,” the General smiles. “The more you converse with Penny, the faster you’ll pick up binary. Now,” she pulls out some datapads and stylus’ from her pocket. “I don’t expect you to suddenly become fluent just because you’ve got your own droid now. We’ll be learning the basic binary alphabet, and Penny will help you learn which sounds signify which words. You’re already able to pick up the general context from what tone a droid takes when speaking, correct?”

Finn nods. “I can tell when Beebee-Ate is sad or happy, or when they’re mad, even.”

“Does Beebee-Ate get mad often?”

“Poe and I like to tease them sometimes. But I won’t,” he hurries to assure PEN-E, who’s perched on his shoulder like a little bird, inspecting the side of his face. “I won’t tease you, I promise,” he says earnestly.

“You and Poe make quite a pair,” the General murmurs under her breath.

“Partners in crime,” Finn jokes, smiling widely. He likes being associated with Poe. Having other people recognise their friendship just makes it feel more real to him.

“Partners in something, that’s for sure,” she sighs, and Finn doesn’t understand, but lets it go.

She hands him a datapad filled with zeroes and ones, and starts to explain the binary alphabet, teaching him gently how to put strings together and correcting his mistakes. He can hear the whir of PEN-E’s lens zooming in and out to read what’s on the datascreen, and while at first he was distracted by the little droid’s weight and presence on his shoulder, it eventually becomes soothing background noise.

He fills in page after page of exercises in binary until he’s starting to get most of the answers right. It’s both simplistic and complicated to base an entire language around only two different letters, or numbers, he should say. His hand gets tired of printing out zeroes and ones pretty quickly, his eyes blurring and his mind often losing track of where he is and what word he’s on, but then PEN-E will beep encouragingly and he finds it within him to carry on.

“Not bad,” the General says after about an hour of exercises. “I’ll send over some more for you to complete before we meet again next week. In the meantime Penny can help you learn the different sounds- oh, wait. You don’t have an individual personnel account yet, do you?”

Finn smiles. “Actually, I just set one up today,” he says proudly.

“Well let’s find you then,” the General winks and pulls up personnel records on her datapad. Finn’s brain scrambles for a second, suddenly realising that the leader of the Resistance and actual royalty Leia Organa is going to read that he has a mole on his left buttcheek.

“Finn, Finn, Finn… Ah, found you. Finn… Dameron?” her voice goes up at the end and she turns to look at him, her eyes amused.

“Well,” he shifts uncomfortably. “Poe said he was glad to have me and I just… Wanted to be official, I guess.” To belong properly, he doesn’t say. To not be alone. To have a home. To be a real person.

“This is certainly official,” she hums.

She scrolls further down the page. “Charming smile,” she reads out, and then eyes Finn carefully. He can feel his skin go hot on his cheeks. “I’m not going to argue with that,” she says simply and carries on scrolling.

She finally comes to the end of the document and puts her datapad down, sighing. “Lots of blank spaces, Mr. Dameron,” she teases.

Finn almost chokes on his spit. Mr. Dameron. He’s Finn Dameron. Now he hears it out loud it makes the oddest feeling explode in his belly, and he ducks his head to hide whatever emotion is playing across his face. He can hear PEN-E chirping something and the General laughing in response.

“I think that’s enough for today.”

Finn looks up and the General has already risen, elegant as she is, and is looking down at him on the sofa.

“Look after Penny for me,” she says, and the little droid warbles happily.

“Thank you,” he replies sincerely. “You really didn’t have to, General, but thank you.”

“Leia, please,” she smiles at him with kind eyes. Finn’s chest feels tight.

“General,” he insists. There’s something within him that just can’t call her by her first name. Too much respect, too much history, maybe. She’s a legend. He couldn’t possibly reduce her to just Leia.

She laughs brightly. “You take your cues from Poe, I see. Alright then, Mr. Dameron, I shall see you at the same time next week.”

And then she’s gone, leaving Finn in stunned silence on the squishy purple sofa. PEN-E beeps hesitantly, twirling her head around to look up at him. Finn hastily picks her up and cups her in his hand, leaning in to whisper.

“You and me are gonna be spending lots of time together.” PEN-E rolls backwards a little, looking up at him quizzically. He can hear the mechanical whir of her lens zooming in on his face. He tries to smile reassuringly.

“I’m nice, I promise.” PEN-E chirs in response, high pitched, and then spins her head around to look at the door and then back to him.

“Yeah, bedtime, I think,” he whispers.

He’s reluctant to leave the softness of the sofa, but the lure of sleep is too high. With his datareader in his pocket and PEN-E in his palm he sets off for the door. On his way out, before he can think too hard about it, he swipes a soft cushioned pillow for PEN-E to sit on. He knows the charging socket is above his desk and wants her to be comfortable while she catches the droid equivalent of sleep. It’s bright pink and fluffy, and when Finn dangles it in front of PEN-E’s lens she makes a bright sounding chirrup which Finn takes as approval.

“I’m Finn, by the way,” he says to her when he gets to his quarters, setting her down on the pillow and leaving her on the desk. She spins around on the pillow, exploring its texture, before turning to him and whirring slowly.

“Finn,” he repeats, pointing to himself and PEN-E makes the same whirring noise, starting low and ending high.

He laughs, delighted. PEN-E whirs it again and again, until she can say it as fast as he can. He reaches out and pats her little head and she buzzes under his palm, happy.

He starts to get changed into the pair of pyjamas that Poe lent him. He wonders absently if, now that he’s on the personnel roster, he’ll be assigned his own clothing. He’d like to keep one or two items of Poe’s, he thinks. Poe’s sewn his name into the labels on his shirts and on his socks too. Finn likes to rub his fingers over the letters when he can’t get to sleep.

“Okay, next name,” he announces as he pulls the sleep shirt over his head. It’s a faded blue colour and on the front there’s a logo of a restaurant Finn’s never been to, a cheery The Best in the Galaxy! scrawled in loopy yellow font across the chest. Poe must have had it some time because the picture is cracked like it’s been through the wash over and over.

“My best friend, she’s called Rey,” he says and repeats her name carefully. PEN-E stares up at him for a moment before whirring out a slightly different string of sounds.

“That’s it,” he encourages. “Rey. She’s not here right now, so you won’t meet her for a while. She’s training with Luke Skywalker. She’s going to be a jedi, the best jedi in the galaxy.”

PEN-E beeps excitedly and flashes her torch light on and off. Finn laughs.

“You like that?” he asks, and PEN-E rolls around in tight circles, buzzing loudly. “She’s the coolest person ever, and she’s my best friend. She’s gonna come back and show me how the force works. I don’t know much about the force,” he says, thinking of Solo’s indignant face framed by the fluffy lining of his snow jacket. He sighs. PEN-E beeps curiously, bringing him back to the present.

“But I did use a lightsaber once, do you know what that is?” He presses his fists together like he’s holding the handle of Luke’s lightsaber and swishes it around, making a zooming noise with his mouth. PEN-E squeals, little lights flashing on her blue body. Finn laughs.

“It was blue, like you,” he smiles and PEN-E rolls forward so fast she drops right off the pillow.

“You’ll like Rey for sure then,” he mumbles and PEN-E repeats the sound for Rey’s name enthusiastically. He shuffles over and picks her up, placing her back on the pillow. She vibrates and bumps against his fingers.

“My other best friend is called Poe,” he whispers. “He’s a pilot, and he’s got a droid just like you, but bigger and more orange. Poe and Beebee-Ate.”

PEN-E trills out a soft noise. “Poe,” repeats Finn gently. PEN-E whirs lowly, again and again, and Finn smiles.

“Now, Beebee-Ate,” he says, and PEN-E beeps in what must be the binary for the other droid.

“Finn, Rey, Poe, Beebee-Ate, and you’re Penny,” he whispers. PEN-E beeps and rolls herself across the pillow over to the socket.

“You’re right, time to sleep,” he sighs, padding over to the bed in the corner and climbing in, pulling the blankets up to his chin. He listens to PEN-E powering down and closes his eyes.

Finn, Rey, Poe, BB-8, and PEN-E, he thinks. General Organa, too. Snap, Jess, Karé, and Iolo. Doctor Kalonia. Luke Skywalker. Han Solo. Chewbacca. C-3PO and R2-D2. Maz Kanata. Kylo Ren. General Hux. Captain Phasma. FN-2000, Zeroes. FN-2199, Nines. FN-2003, Slip. The names of everyone he knows. It’s a short list, he thinks.

He turns and punches the pillow, trying to get comfortable. He needs to talk to more people, he decides. What had Poe said about everyone wanting a piece of him? That he was all anyone could talk about. Well maybe they could talk to him rather than about him.

He’s only really heard stories from Poe before. Rey’s still tight lipped about her history, and he’s never actually spoken to Skywalker, relying on Rey to tell him about the man. Since he can’t speak binary yet he’s never managed to have a full conversation with a droid, not even C-3PO, who spends most of its time following General Organa around and talking to itself. Han Solo is dead, and so is Slip. He doubts if he’ll ever speak to any of the remaining members of his fight team, considering Nines had been the one to call him a traitor and get shot by Solo.

He’s never going back to the Star Destroyer. He wants to stay as far away from Kylo Ren as possible. He still has dreams about the unstable slice of Ren’s lightsaber, the way it seemed to spit and hiss, fizzling and shaking. It was hot and cold at the same time, burning his skin. He rubs the spot on his shoulder where Ren had pushed the lightsaber into him as he screamed, trapped against the rough bark of a tree. There’s a scar there, lighter that the rest of his skin, to match the scar that drags all the way across his back in a smooth swoop.

He shakes himself out of his reverie, stretching for a minute to try and move the tenseness out of his limbs. Thinking about these things just before he goes to sleep leads to bad dreams. He knows from experience. He tries to think of nicer things, happier things, that will hopefully inspire pleasant sleep.

He thinks about what Poe’s face will look like when Finn shows him PEN-E. His eyes would go all wide and his mouth would drop open, Finn knows. He’d probably call PEN-E ‘buddy’ and BB-8 would beep indignantly and they’d all laugh.

With the thought of Poe’s smiling eyes warming his heart, Finn drops off to sleep.

 .

He wakes up groggy but well rested the next morning. Slamming his hand against the data reader on the desk tells him that he’s got fifteen minutes to get ready to meet Dr. Kalonia in the medbay and he groans lowly, loathe to get out of bed so soon after waking up.

He swings his legs onto the floor, hissing as his bare feet touch the cool concrete, and scrubs at his eyes. He forces himself slowly through the motions of pulling his pyjamas off, and fetching some clean clothes from the dwindling pile in the corner that Poe had given him. When he pulls that day’s black shirt over his head it smells of Poe, of his friend’s sweet scent and motor oil, cocooning him in familiarity and safety. He splashes some water across his face in an effort to be more alert and brushes his teeth quickly.

He’s just jamming his feet into Poe’s borrowed boots, which really pinch his toes and he’s reminded again to find out if he’ll get his own items of clothing soon, when he spies PEN-E sitting atop of her cushion, still powered down and plugged into the wall. He shrugs Poe’s jacket on, thinks for a moment, before reaching out and tapping on her metal head with his knuckles. Nothing happens. He tries again, a little harder, but still she is silent and motionless, not even vibrating.

“Penny,” he whispers. “It’s time to wake up, Penny.” He taps her again. Nothing.

He straightens up, hands on hips, and contemplates how best to go about this.

“If you don’t wake up I’m going to leave you here while I go visit Rey and Luke Skywalker,” he threatens, and PEN-E bursts into life, chirring shrilly in a strange combination of the sounds for Finn’s name and Rey’s, plus some more beeps that he doesn’t understand.

He chuckles. “I thought so,” he scoops her up and deposits her safely in his jacket pocket. “I’d like to sleep all day too, but there’s work to do, so don’t be so stubborn next time, okay?”

PEN-E lets out a sad whine, burrowing into Finn’s pocket and not coming out for the entire journey to medbay.

It’s quiet when he arrives, people shuffling about and trying not to make noise. Finn can’t blame them. It’s so early that his eyes haven’t even adjusted yet, so he’s left squinting in the fluorescent white light that pervades the medbay. He spots Dr. Kalonia standing with a humanoid in blue scrubs and hurries over to her, not wanting to give a bad impression if it turns out that he’s a couple of minutes late.

“Right on time,” she smiles at him and he sighs in relief. He needs to get a watch.

“This is Azul Ferran, the nurse you’ll be shadowing today. Ferran will sign you in and you can start your shift in doing some stock intake for us, and when someone comes in that needs tending to Ferran should come and fetch you and you can learn how we do things from him.”

Ferran nods his head in Finn’s direction, and Finn hastily nods back. The man has almost entirely white eyes, like that of an Arkanian, and it’s slightly freaky for Finn to look at. He’s so used to Poe’s warm brown eyes that Ferran’s seem cold and distant in comparison.

Dr. Kalonia leaves them then, winking at Finn, and strides off to check on someone in a secured room. Perhaps they’re in a coma, like Finn was, separated from the rest of the ward. A medibot whizzes past and almost clips Finn on the elbow and he turns to glare at it.

“Hm,” Ferran reaches out and touches the stitching on the back of Finn’s jacket. “This will have to go. It definitely doesn’t look hygienic. I think there’s some scrubs in your size somewhere…” he mutters and Finn scowls. He gets the feeling that Ferran is insulting his taste in clothing. Finn’s fashion sense is just fine, thank you. His jacket is one of a kind and belonged to the best pilot in the resistance so Ferran can shove it.

“Name?” Ferran huffs impatiently. He’s got a datapad and stylus in hand, obviously wanting to sign Finn in as fast as he can and then get rid of him.

“Uh, Finn,” he replies. Ferran raises an eyebrow. “Finn Dameron,” he clarifies. He’s hardly used to having his own first name, let alone a last name, so it’s strange to hear it come out of his own mouth.

“Dameron?” Ferran repeats, thick eyebrows raised high on his forehead, making it wrinkle. “As in, Poe Dameron, Black Leader?”

“That’s the one!” Finn says cheerily, smiling genuinely.

“When did this happen?” Ferran’s eyes are wide and intense, staring at Finn like he’s suddenly the most interesting thing in the galaxy, whereas before he couldn’t have cared less.

Confused, Finn slowly replies, “Last night?”

Ferran sighs heavily. “Kids these days sure do move fast, don’t they? But I suppose it’s desperate times, so I can’t really judge. Is he happy?” he questions.

Finn is now even more confused. He reaches into his pocket and strokes the top of PEN-E’s head, hearing her burble nonsense noise, and it calms him down a little.

“I think so? He smiles a lot, if that’s what you’re asking.”

Ferran hums slowly, looking Finn up and down like he’s evaluating his worth.

“As long as he’s happy. Poe’s a favourite around here, so don’t go treating him wrong.”

“Poe’s my favourite too,” Finn hastily assures him.

“I would hope so,” Ferran says cryptically, before returning to his datapad and scribbling something on the screen. “Sign here,” he says and thrusts the datapad and stylus at Finn, who fumbles to catch it, the stylus spinning in his butterfingers. He looks around and shrugs, pretending like he’d meant to do that.

There’s a dotted line where he’s to sign, but Finn’s never had to sign his name before, so he has no idea what to put. Ferran’s tapping his foot impatiently, so he quickly scrawls ‘F. DAMERON’ as neatly as he can, handing the datapad sheepishly back to Ferran.

“I’m not quite used to the new name yet,” he explains, feeling shy.

“I’ll bet. If it only happened last night then no wonder. Well, it’s official now. Finn Dameron, welcome to the team,” Ferran says pleasantly, and Finn smiles, surprised at the kindness in Ferran’s words.

Ferran has him change into a pair of blue scrubs and Finn surreptitiously fishes PEN-E out of his jacket pocket and deposits her in the pouch at the front of his scrubs, along with his datareader and a stylus. He sets to work documenting the inventory in the cupboards of the medbay: which supplies need topping up, what they need desperately and what they can probably wait for. He moves and shifts things around, finding medicine in the wrong draws and returning it into the correct ones, placing everything in standard alphabetical order until he knows where everything is like the back of his hand. Slow and methodical, he takes his time and makes sure everything is perfect and fully accounted for. He doesn’t want to screw up on his first day and be back to square one, with nothing to do and no place to belong.

He can see Ferran scurrying around out of the corner of his eye, whispering to all the other nurses and pointing unsubtly in Finn’s direction. The nurses always look at him, raise their eyebrows, and then giggle with Ferran, before running off and finding someone else to giggle with. He figures it’s just folk gossiping inane things about him, like Poe said.

Only a few people come in that morning, and all with minor injuries. Ferran fetches him every time and slowly walks him through their treatments, which would be nice if Finn didn’t get the feeling he was being patronising on purpose. Ferran always introduces him too, pointing and saying, “This is Finn Dameron,” and the patients always reply with, “Oh? When did this happen?” and Ferran always winks at Finn and whispers, “Last night.” The whole thing is very confusing.

He takes his lunch break and shrugs back into his black shirt and jacket, careful to take PEN-E with him. The little droid had been happy to whizz about the stock room with him, beeping and whirring, but now seems tired, so Finn strokes her head and smiles down at her as she vibrates. What’s weird is that as he walks down the corridors, people smile at him and call out. Usually they just walk past, buried in their datareaders, or just stare at him as he walks by. He gets a thumbs up from a podgy looking man in engineering gear, hands covered in black oil. Finn bemusedly gives him a thumbs up back and the man chortles.

He takes his jacket off when he gets to the mess hall, tying it around his waist as he always does in an effort to blend in. Finn is used to eating his food in silence, and while he’d love to sit and chat to Poe, their meal times never seem to line up. But still, he stands out. People keep on coming up to him and shaking his hand. “Finn!” they cry, “Finn Dameron! Congratulations!” and Finn smiles and nods and pretends like he understands what the hell going on.

His whole day from then on is just plain weird. He sits and contemplates seriously about whether he’s slipped into a new dimension, a parallel world maybe. Could he get Rey to use the force to change everything back? That would be nice, he thinks, as another person claps his shoulder and whoops in his face joyfully. He doesn't like being left out of the joke.

He’s drained by the time he clocks out, and leaves the medbay, a small chorus of “See you tomorrow Mr. Dameron!” and “Say hi to Poe for me, Mr. Dameron!”’s echoing behind him. He slumps back to his room and tips PEN-E out of his pocket and onto the floor, crouching down to pat her on the head affectionately.

“I’m going to take a nap,” he says to her slowly. “And when I wake up, hopefully things will be less strange.”

He shrugs off his jacket and places it carefully over the desk chair, then flings off his boots and wiggles his toes, which ache from a long day of being shoved into shoes the wrong damn size for his feet. Exhausted, he lets himself flop face down onto the bed. He hears PEN-E beep curiously and turns his face to see her halfway up the wall, staring at him.

“Wake me up in an hour, okay Penny?” he mutters and only stays awake long enough to hear her whir an affirmative.

 .

It’s an hour later and he’s no more well rested when PEN-E beeps loudly and rolls her body against the metal leg of his bed frame, making it clang loudly.

“What the-” he starts, flailing a hand out to tap against the datareader on his desk which obediently tells him the time.

“Oh shit, is it dinner time? I promised I’d meet Poe,” he rolls out of bed and jams his feet into his borrowed boots, not even taking the time to complain about the way they pinch his toes, and grabs his jacket off the chair, lifting PEN-E up as he pulls it on.

“Now you be good, yeah? Poe’s my best friend, and I want you two to get along.” PEN-E lets out a miffed beep, like she’s saying, excuse me? I’m always nice , and Finn huffs out a short laugh before scooping her up and sliding her into his pocket. She whirrs the sound for Poe’s name over and over, spinning her head around to look up at him.

“You and me both, buddy,” he replies nonsensically, and then he’s out the door and hurrying to the mess hall.

He nods quickly at the handful of cheers and cries of his name that are flung his way as he rushes down the corridors, but he doesn’t have time to stop and chat. It confirms to him though that he’s definitely still trapped in this weird world where people keep congratulating him for no real reason and he resolves to whine to Poe about it until it goes away. Misery shared is misery halved, right? Or at least he thinks so.

He spots Poe right away in the mess hall, his head of curly hair standing out to Finn in any room, and he’s leaning lowly over the table and hissing something to his pilot friends. It’s Jess who spots him first, and she whoops, shaking Snap’s arm and pointing excitedly in his direction. Poe’s head whips around and his eyes widen, but a smile appears on his face like always.

“Finn!” he cries, and suddenly the entire room of people is staring at them and jeering. Finn, at this point, is completely lost and starting to fray at the edges, meeting Poe’s gaze and hopefully begging with his eyes for an explanation.

Poe hurries over and clasps his hand firmly around the back of Finn’s neck, dragging him in for a quick hug, but he’s pulled back before Finn can even raise his hands to return it.

“I gotta talk to you, buddy, real quick,” he says lowly, and grabs Finn’s hand to haul him back out of the mess hall. His pilot friends cheer loudly, Karé yelling something about keeping it decent, and Finn barely has a second to process it before Poe’s yanking him away and into a deserted side corridor.

“I can explain,” he says quickly, running his spare hand through his hair.

“Well good,” Finn snaps hotly, “Because I’ve had a really fucking weird day.”

Poe winces, his grip on Finn’s hand increasing a fraction. “Okay,” he licks his lips. “I’m just gonna come out with it. Okay?”

Finn nods, impatient. “Okay,” Poe repeats again, but his eyes look strained.

“We’ve established that it’s okay, so please just get on with it, whatever it is,” Finn says slowly.

“Everyone thinks we’re married.” It comes out in a rush, all at once, and Finn has to repeat it several times in his mind for the words to sink in.

“Everyone thinks we’re what?” he yelps, and Poe quickly claps his hand over Finn’s mouth to stifle the noise, smiling stiffly at an officer as they walk past.

He squeezes Finn’s hand, and Finn squeezes back twice as hard, making Poe wince.

“Would you just chill out?” he hisses and Finn raises his eyebrows, looking down to where Poe’s hand is still clasped over his mouth. “Oh, sorry,” he mutters, taking his hand off and running it through his hair again.

Finn takes a deep breath. “Why does everyone think we’re married?”

“Because last night you put your name down as Dameron, and everyone knows we spend a bunch of time together, so they just assumed,” he looks stressed. “I don’t know, okay? Gossip travels fast on a base like this, and you didn’t exactly clear it up for anyone.”

“Excuse me, all anyone was doing was calling me Finn Dameron, which is my name, how was I supposed to know?” he huffs.

Poe stares at him for a second, eyes wide, and then laughs. “Finn Dameron. Well I’ll be damned. It suits you, you know?”

“Well I’ll keep it then, shall I?” Finn quips. Poe laughs harder and Finn is helpless to resist joining in, bending his head close to Poe’s and sharing his joy.

They sober up quickly, though, their laughter dying out.

“What are we gonna do?” he asks, hoping his friend will have all the answers. All Poe does is drop his hand and start pacing, making tight turns and not saying anything.

“The thing is,” he sighs. “The thing is, I’ve never seen the base this lively before. It’s really, weirdly, boosted everyone’s morale.” He stops and peers at Finn with an unreadable expression on his face, before resuming his pacing.

“So you’re saying we should just go along with it, so we don’t disappoint everyone?”

“Well yes, exactly, sort of.”

“That was concise,” Finn snorts. PEN-E beeps in his pocket.

“Oh, shut up- wait. What was that?” he asks, looking confused. PEN-E beeps again. “That- did you hear that? What was that noise?”

Finn sheepishly reaches into his jacket pocket and lifts out PEN-E, cradling her in his palms. “Poe, meet Penny,” he says softly, and the droid spins around to train her lens on Poe’s face, whistling the noise for Poe’s name slowly.

Poe looks delighted. “I’m Poe, that’s me, oh my god Finn, it’s adorable,” he gushes. His eyes are bright and the smile on his cheeks are pushing the corners of his eyes into little crinkles.

“She,” Finn corrects, but he’s not even sure if Poe hears him, cooing as he is as PEN-E. PEN-E rolls forward onto Finn’s fingertips and Poe places his hands out, palms up, for her to roll onto.

“Oof, she’s heavy,” he grumbles but he’s still smiling widely. “Aren’t you a clever girl?” he murmurs and PEN-E beeps loudly, flashing her lights on and off in excitement. She whirrs and whistles, chittering what sounds like nonsense to Finn, but Poe laughs ecstatically.

“What’s she saying?” Finn questions eagerly, wanting to join in.

“She says she is a clever girl, and she resents you telling her to be on her best behaviour around me. I’m sure you’re always good, aren’t you?” he pats her little head and she spins around happily, making little buzzing noises.

“She’s lovely, Finn, where did you get her?”

“General Organa gave her to me. I’m trying to learn binary,” he explains, scratching the back of his neck. “The General’s teaching me and Penny’s supposed to be helping, but all she’s done most of the day is sleep.”

“You didn’t say you’re learning binary! Buddy, that’s so great!” he crows, reaching out and placing a hand on Finn’s shoulder.

“It was going to be a surprise,” Finn shrugs ruefully.

“So that’s what you were keeping from me,” Poe drawls. “I told you I’d find out sooner or later,” he sticks his tongue out at Finn, which Finn can’t let go unnoticed, and so sticks his own tongue out in reply.

Poe giggles, scrunching up his nose. “We’ve gotta introduce this little guy to Beebee-Ate,” and PEN-E beeps loudly at that, obviously excited.

“I think maybe we should sort out the other situation first?” Finn gestures between them.

“Huh? Oh, yeah, damn,” Finn sighs. He bites his lip, looking up at Finn from under his eyelashes. “So What’d’ya say? Wanna stay married to me for a bit? We’re already best buddies, it can’t hurt to get a little closer,” he winks.

“You’re not the one who’s gonna be stuck married to you,” Finn groans, already giving in.

“Is that a yes I hear? Come on, Finn, you gotta say it. Do you wanna be married to the best pilot in the galaxy?”

Finn silently says goodbye to his sanity. “Yes,” he sighs, and Poe whoops loudly, punching the air and pulling Finn in for a close hug. They both forget that he’s still holding PEN-E and only her frantic beeping prevents her from being dropped unceremoniously on the floor.

“This is gonna be so great buddy, everyone’s gonna be so buzzing and we’ll receive great gifts and get to hold hands all the time,” he babbles. Finn beams indulgently, feeding off of Poe’s excitement. Poe’s almost vibrating in his giddiness, bouncing on his toes and staring up at Finn with wide sparkling eyes. How could Finn possibly deny him anything?

“Come on,” Poe clutches Finn’s hand again, still cradling PEN-E and dragging them both back into the mess hall. “I wasn’t joking when I said the guys were excited to meet you.”

Finn’s chest suddenly fills with nervous dread, but he keeps his eyes on Poe, who’s smiling widely and and striding into the mess hall with all the confidence in the world, their hands joined together. Poe’s wearing another one of his white t-shirts and the muscle of his biceps strain as he tugs Finn along behind him. Finn focuses on the shade of Poe’s skin, warm brown like his eyes, to stop himself from shaking with nerves. He wants Poe’s friends to like him, and it’s even more important now that they’re pretending they’re married.

Force above, what the hell has Finn gotten himself into?

Poe’s pilot friends stir up a racket when they reenter the mess hall, drumming their hands on the table and stamping their feet. Everyone’s staring at them. Finn feels his face heat up, but Poe just squeezes his hand and pulls him forward.

Jess stands up and shushes everyone, rubbing her hands together and smiling widely. “I’d like to introduce,” her voice booms across the room for everyone to hear, “Mr. and Mr. Dameron! Everyone give it up for the happy couple!”

The room erupts in deafening cheers. A couple of people walking past stick their heads into the room in confusion. Finn kind of wants to melt into the floor.

“Alright, alright, shut the hell up, all of you, mind your business,” Poe commands, but he’s got a silly grin plastered on his face. Finn bites his lip and holds onto Poe’s hand tighter, feeling like his skin is too tight. He doesn’t know how Poe’s smiling as naturally as he is, but it makes him feel a lot better to see his friend seemingly happy.

They settle down onto a bench on one side of the table and Poe carefully tips PEN-E onto the surface and watches her whizz around, exploring, with that silly grin still tugging at his lips. With all of Poe’s pilot friends gathered on the other side of the table Finn feels like he’s at some kind of awful interview. They’re all looking between him and Finn with eager smiles on their faces, apart from Iolo who seems more interested in his pot of strange gloopy looking stuff to pay any attention to Finn and his imminent death at the hands of his fake-husband’s best friends.

“I can’t believe you went and got hitched and didn’t invite any of us,” Karé shakes her head.

“It was kind of spur of the moment,” Poe explains, sheepish. His eyes are big on his face and he’s pouting at his friend across the table. It’s very convincing, Finn thinks. Poe squeezes his hand where they’re still joined between them under the table.

“Here,” Jess says, and pushes a tray filled to the brim with brightly coloured packages and steaming hot food across the table. “We put something together for you. I pillaged my own stash of goodies for this, so you better be thankful.”

Mashed potatoes,” Poe whispers in awe, digging eagerly into a pile of white fluffy stuff and moaning in ecstasy. PEN-E beeps, peering inquisitively at the stuff on the tray.

“What’s mashed potatoes?” Finn asks before he can stop himself.

The table falls silent. Even Iolo stops scooping up his gloopy stuff to stare at him.

“You’ve never had mashed potatoes?” Snap gasps.

“Oh my god, Finn, you’ve been deprived,” Karé insists, grabbing Poe’s fork from his hand and shoving what’s left of the mashed potato into Finn’s open mouth.

He struggles for a second before the taste registers and he swallows in surprise. It’s smooth and creamy, like nothing he’s ever tasted before. Everyone’s staring at him in anticipation, including Poe, who doesn’t seem mad at all that his food and fork have been stolen and shoved into someone else’s mouth. They’re married, or fake married Finn guesses, so sharing stuff is supposed to be normal, right? Poe’s a good actor. He didn’t make a sound of protest; he didn’t even blink.

“It’s good,” he says finally, handing the fork back to Poe, who shoots him a dashing smile and goes back to happily eating from the tray.

Karé nods like she’s satisfied with his answer and gestures to the rest of the tray. “There’s a Datooine flapjack in there somewhere,” she says.

“And I put in the last of my stash of Whip Towers,” Jess adds, and Finn nods, pretending he knows what the hell a Whip Tower is.

“Have a Gorba melt,” Snap says, pushing a blue package towards him. “I nicked them off the Falcon before she flew off.”

“I wish I could fly her some day,” Poe sighs wistfully. The others make noises of agreement. Finn doesn’t mention that he’s already done it, and that it was kind of a shitty ride overall. Having the gun jam on you, and then almost dying from poisonous gas, only to then nearly get eaten by a carnivorous Rathtar was not his idea of a fun time.

Jess rolls her eyes and elbows Snap. “Why are we talking about freighters when we could be talking about the beautiful and inevitable union of our Commander and the Prince Charming who saved his life, hm?”

“There’s really not much to say,” Poe insists and then his eyes go wide and he chokes on a groan, grimacing. Jess is smirking across the table. Finn has a sneaking suspicion she probably just whacked him in the shins.

“Let your husband speak for once, would you?” she chides, and turns to Finn.

“Um,” he manages, “Poe’s right, it was nothing interesting.” He shoots a wide eyed glance at Poe who winks at him and squeezes his knee. In the excitement of the mashed potato he’d let go of Finn’s hand, and it’s only now that Finn notices how cold his palm feels without Poe’s settled gently next to it.

“Look at that loyalty,” Karé shakes her head. “It’d be admirable if I wasn’t so annoyed that I wasn’t invited to the wedding. Honestly, we’re gonna have to throw you a proper bash to make up for it, or even have you redo your vows so everyone on the base can hear ‘em.”

“Were they beautiful?” Snap bats his eyelashes.

Jess snorts. “Knowing the Commander they were poetry. You know what a giant softie he is.”

“A true romantic,” Iolo pitches in, and Poe blushes a pretty pink high on his cheeks.

“You don’t think it’s a bit soon?” Karé asks, and Jess smacks her around the head.

“No,” replies Finn automatically. He knows Poe better than he knows himself, trusts Poe with his life. He has no doubts when it comes to his friend.

“Really?” comes Poe’s voice from his side and when Finn turns to look at him he’s biting his lip again.

“Really,” he says firmly, reaching out and squeezing Poe’s thigh the same way he’d done to him earlier. Poe beams at him, and it’s like sunshine is pouring out of his skin and warming Finn’s whole body up. He wants, with a sudden fervour, to take a picture of this moment.

“Aw,” Snap coos, clutching his heart. Karé pretends to wipe a tear from her face, turning to Iolo and whispering, “That’s the kind of love I want, just look at them.”

“You two are gonna be disgustingly cute, aren’t you,” Jess states flatly. “Just for that I’m taking back my Whip Towers. I need compensation in advance for all my teeth falling out from all your sugary sweet love clogging up the air.”

Finn’s chest feels tight. He’s suddenly hit with the knowledge that he’s never been in a romantic relationship, let alone kissed anyone. He doesn’t know how to be disgustingly cute, or even if Poe expects that from him. But he knows in his bones that Poe would never push him into doing something he didn’t want to do, or wasn’t ready for, and steels himself for an awkward conversation about his complete lack of experience in these matters.

PEN-E beeps and rolls gently into his hand, like she can sense that he’s wandered off into his own head and wants to bring him back. Karé’s currently wrestling Jess’s hands off some brightly coloured packages, telling her that she donated that food, that it’s a present for the happy couple. Poe’s laughing softly, reaching out to absently pet PEN-E as she rolls past to inspect the discarded wrappings on Snap’s tray.

“Who’s this little guy?” the pilot asks.

“This is Penny,” Poe says proudly. “She’s Finn’s,” and he shoots a grin in Finn’s direction.

“Already adopting kids?”

Jess snorts. “Poe comes with a child already. Where is Beebee-Ate, by the way?”

“They’re in the command room, waiting on Rey’s transmission,” Poe explains.

Finn perks up. If Rey’s vidding the base at the moment then she’ll be calling Finn soon. Poe obviously notices his interest and rolls his eyes fondly.

“Take what you want from the tray, you can take it back to your room and chat to her now if you want.” Finn tamps down on the urge to throw himself bodily at his friend.

“Wait, you’re not sharing quarters?” Iolo pipes up. Everyone stops what they’re doing to stare at Finn and Poe. Even PEN-E twirls her head around to look at them.

“Um, we’re waiting?” Poe says uncertainly, looking strained around the eyes.

Iolo blinks. “You got married within a month of knowing each other but are waiting to share a room?”

Iolo’s eyes are oddly coloured, showing his Keshian heritage, and while Finn knows it just means he can see a broader visual spectrum he can’t help but feel that Iolo’s eyes are penetrating him somehow, reading all his secrets like they’re written down in a book and he’s leafing through the pages.

“Finn’s shy?” Poe offers and Finn glares at him. He is shy, and definitely inexperienced, but he doesn’t want everyone to know that. Poe catches his eye and shrugs helplessly, his brown eyes huge on his face. Finn couldn’t possibly stay mad at him.

“Well that’s something I didn’t need to know,” Jess states, pushing away from the table and picking up her tray. Snap follows her, winking at Finn as he goes.

“Go on,” Poe nudges him with his elbow, nodding to the tray still half full of food. Finn grabs a couple of things, some crinkly packets, a few fruits that look interesting, and a pot of the gloopy stuff Iolo had been eating out of curiosity, and stuffs them in his pockets, scooping up a beeping PEN-E and cradling her gently in his hands.

He gets up to leave but hesitates, realising that Karé and Iolo are still at the table and watching them with mild interest. His heart thumps, hard, but leans down and presses a fast kiss to Poe’s hair, inhaling his clean scent and straightening up as fast as possible.

“See you later,” he mumbles, and scarpers as quickly as he can.

“Boy, he really is shy,” he can hear Karé murmur behind him as he hurries out, his heart still thudding in his chest.

 .

“I’m in serious trouble,” he groans and hits his head on the desk when he answers Rey’s vid call mere minutes later.

She looks alarmed. “It’s only been two days,” she says. “Finn, are you alright? Do I need to come over there? Because I will, just say the word and I’ll-”

“No, I’m just being dramatic,” he says quickly, and Rey’s shoulders visibly drop from where they were tensed up, practically by her ears.

“So what trouble are you in,” she asks, a furrow between her brow.

“I got married,” he whines.

“You got what?” she cries.

Finn unsticks his forehead from where it’s plastered to the desk once again.

“To who?”

“To Poe,” he whimpers.

“Back up, start from the beginning,” she commands, “Because I am totally and completely lost, and you don’t look any better, to be frank.”

So Finn starts from the beginning. He tells her about the shooting range with General Organa, volunteering to be a medic until there’s a mission where he can be a Pathfinder, signing up to be a real member of the Resistance and taking Poe’s name.

“And now because of that everyone thinks Poe and I got married and everyone’s so happy about it, it’s insane how many people have smiled at me in the corridors, and Poe says it’s been a morale boost so we just decided to go with it and now I’m fake married to Poe Dameron,” he sobs. “Rey, what am I supposed to do?”

Her eyes look wide and a bit scared. “Um, well, I don’t know really.”

I don’t either,” he cries. “That’s the problem. I don’t know how to be in a relationship, and definitely not a relationship with the best pilot in the galaxy while all his closest friends and ninety percent of the entire Resistance base watch us.”

“Excuse me, I think I’d easily rival Dameron for best pilot in the galaxy status,” she interjects.

“That’s really not what I’m concerned about right now,” he says flatly.

“I really don’t know, Finn,” she says miserably. “I’ve not really had to think about this kind of thing before.”

“Neither have I.”

“There’s got to be data out there somewhere about this sort of… situation. Maybe do some research?” she suggests.

Finn looks at his datareader sitting innocently on the corner of his desk next to the pile of food he’d taken from the tray and PEN-E, whose nuzzling into the pink cushion next to her charging dock. That thing contains all sorts of information, so surely it can teach him something to make him feel less like he’s a fish floundering out of water.

“I’m sorry Finn, I have to go,” Rey’s voice calls him back to the present.

He sighs. “I miss you.”

“I miss you too,” she smiles beautifully, the dimple in her cheek showing. “I’ll try and check in with you more often, so you can tell me your woes as they occur.”

He moans again and thunks his head down on the desk. Her cheerful laughter tinkles over the speakers.

“May the force be with you, Finn,” she signs off, and he lifts his head up fast enough to see her wave goodbye.

Sighing, he pushes back from the desk and wanders over to pick up the datareader, pulling of his shirt as he goes and settling down on the bed. PEN-E beeps, and he looks fondly over at her.

“I think I can skip my binary exercises this once,” he says to her and she whirrs in response. “I’ve got slightly more pressing matters to attend to.”

He clicks on the datareader, pulls up the search programme, and types in: How to be a good husband.