“It's disgusting,” Pava announces. “Make it stop.”
Snap's not in the mood to humor her today. One of the fuel cells on his bird isn't operating, and for the life of him, he can't find the short in the panel. “Go away.”
“It's sad, is what it is,” Halo contradicts through a mouthful of sandwich. “I mean, the guy is wearing his jacket.” It's a bit garbled through the food and Halo's accent, but Snap catches enough to guess the words. “And Commander is just like...doing what? Not him, that's for sure.”
“Wow, I so don't want to be a part of this conversation,” Snap says pointedly, but neither of them move. Well, Halo passes the sandwich to Pava when she holds out her hand, and she takes a bite. Which to Snap, is pretty disgusting on its own.
“What's in this?” Pava asks.
Halo shrugs. “I got it from the canteen. Couldn't read the label. Smells alright.”
“Yeah.” She takes another bite, and then holds it out to Snap. “Want some?”
“I'm not eating after either of you. I don't know where you've been.” He shakes his head to himself. “And what I do know, tells me I shouldn't.”
“Boo,” Pava says, and pokes him in the back of the head. “You're cranky today. Why don't you just let the flight crew do this? It's only their jobs. Besides, you don't know what you're doing anymore.”
She's right. He hates her. “I hate you,” he says aloud, but starts putting his tools away. Maybe there will be food in the canteen without Pava and Halo drool, and legible labels.
“Cranky,” Pava whines after him. “You're a cranky old man.”
It says a lot about what his life has become that he hears the running boots and just braces himself for Pava to throw herself on his back like the pain in his ass she is, and lock her legs around his waist. “Pava, I am not your pack droid. Get off me.”
“Onward, noble steed!” She commands instead. “Hup, hup.”
Frankly, he's tired, and arguing with Pava when she gets a stupid fucking idea in her head is just too much to try right now. So he starts walking, Pava preening at getting her way, while Halo ambles on beside them, finishing the sandwich.
“Oh no,” she says after a bit and he really doesn't have to ask why. They can see into the canteen now, and the Commander is sitting at one of the tables beside Finn, who is, true to form, wearing Dameron's jacket.
It is sort of sad the way the Commander has his arm oh-so-casually draped around the back of Finn's chair. What's worse is the way he looks at him. “Alright, yeah, it's getting disgusting." Even he can't deny it, at this point.
“Snap, make it stop. Blind me.”
“I'd rather gag you,” he says, but it's more habit than actual annoyance.
“I don't get it,” Halo says, crossing all four of his arms across his torso. “Does giving away your squadron jacket mean something else now? Are we missing something?”
“Nah,” Pava replies, finally getting off Snap. She's lucky she doesn't weigh much. “Dameron's just missing his guts, is all.” She starts walking over to their table before Snap can restrain her, not that he was really going to try. If she's annoying the Commander, her attention is off him.
He does follow though, and Halo too. Not like they have anything else to do right now.
Finn lights up when he sees them, like he always does. Alright, even Snap has to admit the kid is pretty cute. Not his type, but still pretty cute. Dameron, on the other hand, makes a face that hints maybe they all should find a different table. Snap graciously ignores it, and sits down beside Pava, Halo on the other side.
“So, what are we up to?” Pava asks. “Anything new and interesting today?”
“I went to the next island over with Poe, to get supplies for the greenhouses,” Finn answered, sounding way too enthusiastic for something so mind-numbingly boring. “We went to the shore for a bit though. I've never really seen the waves like that.”
Snap can feel Pava's vicious excitement. “A supply run, Commander? For the greenhouses?”
Dameron is a good commander. Easygoing, fun, and caring. However, Snap knows that smile. It's the smile of a commanding officer deciding what way best to make your life miserable. And since he doesn't want to listen to Pava whine about whatever punishment she's going to suffer, Snap decides to save her from herself.
“You like plants, Finn?” he asks, and that gets Finn off and running about all the apparent different plants they have in the greenhouses. Frankly, Snap doesn't care, but it makes the kid happy to talk. However, it does make Dameron look at Finn with the sort of expression that makes Snap want a drink. A strong one.
Yeah, Halo might have a point. This is just sad.
So Snap tells Dameron that once the meal break is over and they're running through the duty roster for the week one more time.
“Can I ask how that is any of your business, Captain?” Dameron asks, not looking up from his work.
“I'm worried it's going to turn into a distraction, sir,” Snap replies.
“Pava is always distracted,” Dameron dismisses.
“I meant for you, sir,” Snap clarifies.
Dameron looks up at him now, and it's less a conversation with his superior officer and more of one with his friend. “What do you mean?”
“If the base was attacked, what's the first thing you would do?” And the correct answer is that Dameron should immediately take command of the situation, find his squads, and get to the hangars, while securing the location of the General. But he takes too long to answer, and Snap feels a bit bad for even bringing it up. “Not saying you wouldn't do your duty.”
“Fuck,” he curses. “I'm so screwed.”
“You have got to handle this, before it gets really bad.” The fact it could get worse makes him want to roll his eyes, but it could. “Alright?”
Snap congratulates himself on being the only sane being in the squad and on a job well done.
He's forced to re-evaluate when two days later, Pava comes up to him, and demands, “What did you do?”
He has no idea what she's talking about until he looks past her and sees the Commander working on his bird with BB-8. Only it's the sort of working someone does when they're pissed off, and even the droid is quiet for once. Huh. That does not seem like a man in love. “What happened?”
“The Commander finally found the time to get Finn his own room in the barracks,” Pava says, sweetly seething. “Got him all moved out and on his own and everything.” She shakes Snap again, as best she can, being half his size. “What did you tell him?”
“I didn't tell him to do that!” This is not his fault. This is completely not his fault.
“Finn looks like his little heart got stomped on. He wouldn't even come down to the flightline, and I all but begged, Snap, I offered to let him fly my girl, and he still said no!” Again with the shaking. “You broke it, you idiot!”
“I told him to get himself together and handle it,” Snap contradicts. “Maybe we had it wrong, maybe Finn wasn't interested in him like that.”
Pava falls back on her heels, looking a bit confused. “But I was so sure.”
“Well.” He tries to think of another explanation, but that's about the only one that makes sense. “I don't know. Maybe Dameron fucked it up somehow?” Now that he says it out loud, that does sound plausible. Dameron has a bad habit of tripping over himself when it comes to Finn.
Pava swears. “Well then, we just need to -”
Snap holds up a hand. “No. Alright, I told you I didn't want to be a part of this in the first place. We should have minded our own business.” And if he's honest, he feels pretty damn guilty. The Commander has been happy, really happy, ever since Chewbacca and the Jedi girl brought Finn back, badly injured, but alive and stable. He had sat by Finn's bedside like some moonstruck idiot until Finn woke up, and then he'd somehow been even worse while helping Finn through his physical therapy.
Honestly, for a time there, Snap had just assumed they were a couple, especially after Dameron arranged it so Finn would share quarters with him. Dameron had always been a complete asshole about sharing quarters before. They were tight on room around the place lately, with all these new recruits showing up, but Finn could easily have bunked with one of the enlisted. Anyone would have been happy to budge up the space for him.
Only then they were all out drinking, and Finn was under Dameron's arm, like he always was, wearing Dameron's jacket, and some local had been trying their damndest to get Dameron to come home with them. And Finn had said, in that earnest sort of way of his, that Snap swore had Pava looking at him like he was the softest, fluffiest, cutest little pet ever, “I can get a lift with someone else, if you like them.”
Dameron had protested, waved the whole thing off, and Snap had just stared at him over his beer, unable to full express how disappointed he was in his commanding officer.
Halo and Pava had somehow managed to have the tact to wait until they were back at the base and Finn and Dameron were off to their room before Pava had asked, “Wait, so are they not....?”
“That just makes all of this worse,” Halo had said, and Snap had pushed them both off to their own bunks to sleep it off.
Oh, he is so involved in this stupid mess now, and he made it much, much worse.
“Damn it, Pava,” he says now. “I didn't want to be in this. Why do you keep dragging me into this shit?”
“Um, I'm like half your weight,” she contradicts, poking him in the belly. “How am I dragging your fat ass anywhere?” She tries to poke his belly again, so he slaps her hand. “We should have just left it alone. They would have gotten there in the end.”
She always makes him feel terrible when she makes that sad face and admits he was right. “It was getting pretty pathetic,” he says, meeting her halfway. “So if we try and fix it, you think we'll manage, or just make it worse?”
“Snap, I offered to let him fly Elsie,” Pava says, gesturing at her parked bird.
“Yeah, by the way, the crew chief would again like me to suggest to you that a pin-up on the side of your ship is not professional.” The Elsie in question has been removed multiple times, and yet somehow has reappeared. “What is it with you and that thing?”
“I dated Elsie Moon,” Pava replies, and Snap wants to ask, he really wants to ask, just out of morbid curiosity, but Pava cuts him off. “Not important. I offered to let him fly her. And he still said no. Finn has been wanting to go up as the first pilot for forever, now. Whatever happened, I don't think anything could make it worse. Not even us.”
“Alright,” he agrees, wishing he had just minded his own damn business. “We'll talk to Finn tonight, see if we can work out what went wrong.”
Something went very wrong, Snap realizes, really, really wrong, because they find Finn outside with some others around one of the fire pits in the big gazebo, and it's cold enough they can see their breath, but for the first time since Snap can remember, Finn is wearing a different jacket.
“Finn!” Pava greets, loudly and way too high-pitched to be done right beside Snap, and rushes forward to hang off him.
“Hey, Jessika,” he says, hugging her back and then letting her cling.
“He's not a plush toy,” Snap reminds her, not that she listens.
Halo emerges from the group right by the fire, and picks Pava up in his long arms. “Pava,” he says, voice more chirp than Standard, which means there is alcohol somewhere.
“Aw, Halo is drunk,” she says gleefully, patting his scaly cheeks. “Halo, take me to the glorious source!”
“'Kay,” he agrees, and carries her away, towards a barrel full of ice.
Once they're out of earshot, Snap says, “Like the jacket. It new?”
“Uh, no,” Finn says, tugging on the lapels and looking down at his boots. “I got it awhile ago. Figured it was time I gave Poe back his. Now that we're not bunking together, easy to keep our clothes straight, you know?” He keeps trying to smile, and oh sweet -
Snap ruined everything. “Yeah, uh...what, uh...what brought that on?”
Finn shrugs. “I don't know. I've been bunking with him for awhile, you know. Think I was starting to get on his nerves.”
It's a good thing Pava is still with Halo, because Snap doesn't think he could have stopped her from saying something really stupid in response to the very idea that Dameron was in any way tired of having Finn around. “So, you gave it back? Too bad, looked good on you.” That sounded casual, right? Completely casual. “Did you two have a fight, or something?”
It feels like he really is kicking the small, cute, fluffy thing Pava seems to think Finn is, he looks so heartbroken.
“Um, no. I don't think so. Just told me he had found a room for me, and there was a job in medical if I wanted to try there.” Medical. Medical who never really had any reason to interact with the pilots. “I like it, so far. It's different, but it's good-different.”
“That's great,” Snap says, clapping him on the shoulder and convincing himself not to just go get drunk with Pava and Halo. He so wants to, because suddenly he knows exactly how Dameron interpreted what Snap had said to him. “Hey, tell Pava and Halo I'll see them later. And try to keep Pava from playing the fire-jumping game.”
Finn stares at him. “What?”
“Pretty much exactly what you're thinking,” Snap replies. “Last time, she almost needed skin grafts.”
“Good to know,” Finn says, still looking a bit pole-axed.
He doesn't get drunk like he wants, and instead goes right to Dameron, who is still on the flightline, but he's doing busywork. The bird is fine. When Dameron sees him, he clearly knows that Snap knows he's just stalling.
“Sir, permission to speak freely?”
Dameron waves a hand. “Pava doesn't even ask.”
“She's Pava,” Snap replies quickly. “Hey, did you know she dated Elsie Moon?”
Dameron looks surprised. “What, really?”
“Huh.” Dameron sits down on the ground, leaning back on his hands. How he does it in the cold, Snap doesn't know. “I'm betting that's not what you want to speak freely about?”
Snap shakes his head. “Sir, when I said 'handle it', what I meant was...” He sits down too. Damn it, it's fucking cold. “Sir, when I think about it, I've served with you for what? Eight years now?”
“All that time, and I can't remember you ever having someone who was more than a two-week thing.” Because he can't. He really can't. “I know it's harder for us. I mean, you were around for the divorce.” And it still stings just a little bit, to think about Bel, and how they left him so easily at the end. Bel accused him of loving the sky, space, his bird, and the cause more than he loved them, and it hadn't been true, but he didn't know how to convince them. Still didn't. Didn't know how to say that he loved them, loved them so much, but the sky and space called to him, and so did the cause, and he would have died for Bel, but in their mind, just be willing to risk that sort of thing was too much. “But I think Finn could handle it. He got you out of that ship before he ever even knew you. Boy's had some steel up his spine even before they fixed his back.”
Dameron shakes his head. “It's not that. It's...” He rubs at his eyes. “It's him. He calls himself Finn, and you know why? Because I called him Finn, because I couldn't call him... FN-2187. And you want to know what's really fucked up in this?”
Snap doesn't think this is a little thing, so he prompts, “Poe?”
“The reason he defected was because...see, apparently the First Order makes them squads of four. And there was this one in his they called Slip?” Dameron looks so wrecked, and Snap knows why when he says, “They called him that because he kept slipping up. And no one in the group even really liked Finn? He didn't have a nickname and all the rest of them did. But he just kept covering for Slip. Because you've met him, he's Finn. He can't help himself. Apparently though, his CO told him to stop or there would be consequences. And he did. And that first mission...he didn't cover Slip's back. And I killed Slip.”
That is a lot more than Snap was expecting. “I didn't know.”
“He defected because of Slip. Because they were ordered to massacre the village and he couldn't kill innocent people. Because he was scared.” Dameron waves his hand. “And he just talks about this, like it's so easy to talk about being scared. Like it doesn't matter that I killed his squad member.” He breathes out, hoarse and wet. “Snap, he looks at me, and I feel like I could do anything, could be anything, just because he thinks I can. I want to do anything he thinks I could. He knows I killed Slip. I killed his friend. And he still saved my ass and got BB-8 back here, and found Rey, and then he just came back to me -”
Snap nods. “You're scared.”
Dameron looks at him. “I can't be what he thinks I am.”
“Poe, you already are what he thinks you are.” Above them are clouds. “It's going to snow.”
“He's wearing this garbage coat from the pull closet. He's going to freeze.” Snap doesn't how to say what needs to be said, so instead he says, “Bet he'd be a whole lot warmer with your jacket on.”
Dameron laughs. “That alright by you?”
“Doesn't matter, sir,” Snap says. “That alright by you?”
“Oh damn, you all like him more than you like me, don't you?”
“I am still loyal, sir,” Snap promises cheekily. “But I cannot say the same for Pava.”
“He still thinks she might not like him,” Dameron says.
“Oh,” and Snap has to laugh, “Poe, sir, forgive me, you are so screwed.”
“Yeah,” Dameron agrees. “Yeah. I'm in love with him. And I bet he thinks I hate him.”
Snap nods. “Poe, for the love of my sanity, I need you to tell Finn. Otherwise Pava and Halo are never going to leave me alone.”
“Wexley, I just...”
“Bel made the decision. They decided to leave, and I let them, because I knew that was what was best for them. I loved them. I love them. And they know it. But I would never try to make the decision to be with me for them.” He misses Bel. He misses Bel so much. “You don't get to make the decision for Finn. You say how you feel. You get it out there. And you let him decide what he is willing to take on.”
There's a bit of a lull in scheduling, but for awhile after the conversation, the Commander seems lighter, seems easier. Snap doesn't ask, because it's not his place. Pava and Halo clearly want to ask, but Snap keeps them on leash, using a whole lot of blackmail. He knows when things need to go slow, when it's not okay for outside forces to intervene.
The next time they go on a real mission, there's Finn on the flightline, and there's the Commander, pulling him in for a proper kiss, and Pava cheers like an idiot and so does Halo, the assholes.
Before they leave, Snap messages Bel, reminds them he loves them, has always loved them.
When they come home, Finn is waiting for Poe, and Poe kisses him like Finn is air.
And there's Bel, waiting as well, in their medic uniform, looking just the same and not at all.
“Hey,” he says.
“The base put out a request for medics,” they say.
“On the flightline, specifically?”