The first time Rey meets Poe - after that short and awkward introduction in the briefing room - is on the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, with fire raining down upon the ship from all directions and explosions rocking it violently.
“What are you doing here?” Rey asks, shocked to see the squadron commander of all people here at this time. Shouldn’t he be with the Starfighters, defending the base against whatever was attacking them?
“Those look like X-TIEs. What are smuggling ships doing in our base?” Poe replies in lieu of answering her question. Another explosion rocks the Falcon, nearly knocking both of them to their feet. “I came here looking for BB-8, stop stealing my droid,” mutters the pilot with a sour look at Rey.
Rey is indignant. “I didn’t steal him, he followed me here! Keep better track of your - ” she trails off as it dawns on her what they’re facing.
Smugglers. Han Solo. That’s the only explanation. “They’re after the Falcon. Long story. We need to get this ship away from the base right now!” Rey cries as she side-steps the frantically beeping BB-8 to reach the controls.
Poe beats her to it. “Man the guns, I’ll fly this thing outta here.”
“Are you out of your mind? You’ve never flown this ship,” Rey shouts angrily after him. She doesn’t care if he’s the Resistance’s best pilot, this is her ship.
Poe turns back in his seat, already strapped in and starting up the controls. “This isn’t the time, Rey, trust me, I can fly anything. Just man the guns!”
Rey runs to the gunner bays, fuming. “Alright, Black Leader, let’s do this.”
Between the two of them, they take down half a dozen of the enemy ships, and the remaining few are shot down by the belatedly mobilized Resistance Starfighters.
She grudgingly admits to herself that Poe was the better pilot.
Not that he’d ever know, of course.
The second time, they are in General Organa’s office, trying their hardest to resemble battle-hardened Starfighter pilots instead of two schoolchildren about to be chastised for their mischief.
Their behaviour isn’t helping. Poe and Rey pointedly avoid looking at each other as they report on the skirmish. Smugglers seek to settle a score (Leia glosses over with whom. It’s too soon for all of them), attack on the Falcon, while the ship, along with one Starfighter squadron, take down the smuggler fleet.
“Surely the Falcon could have handled a dozen X-TIE fighters on its own? They’re just ships cobbled together from salvaged parts. Why did you request backup?” Leia inquires, bemused.
Poe and Rey glance at each other for the merest fraction of a second. Poe steels himself, and explains. “We had a slight delay in taking off since Rey and I had a… disagreement as to who should fly the ship, General.” Rey grimaces at the reminder.
This piques Leia’s curiosity. “A disagreement? Surely the answer should have been obvious to you, Commander. It’s Rey’s ship, and she has greater experience piloting it than you.”
At this, Rey’s countenance lights up with a faint, but distinctly complacent smile, while Poe’s darkens.
“General, I thought it would be more effective if the more experienced of us manned the guns as neutralizing the enemy ships was of the highest priority.”
Rey bristles at that and turns to Poe. “That is not what you said. You just swaggered over to the controls saying how you can ‘fly anything’ and ordered me off the cockpit.”
“I outrank you, Rey, and I expect my orders to be followed,” Poe snaps, finally looking at her.
“Not on my ship,” Rey reminds him, eyes turning dangerous. “If you’d engaged the inertial compensator a second before you did, we could have outrun the fleet and shot them all down.”
“The inertial compensator that was malfunctioning.”
“A malfunction which I could have fixed had I been there because I know the ship better than you!”
As amusing as it is to watch the two youngsters, Leia decides to intervene.
“Commander Dameron, Rey, I think I get the picture. Your immediate action to repel the attack is noted and commended. You’re dismissed. Although… I’d recommend you work on your communication skills”
She watches as the pilots leave, steadfastly avoiding each other’s eyes, Rey looking victorious, and Poe, exasperated. She is painfully reminded of a time long past aboard the same ship, of countless clashes of words as they hurtled through the stars with reckless abandon.
Some things never change.
The third time Rey meets Poe, they are in the Resistance hangar, winding down with the other pilots. They are all making the best of the rare reprieve from the constant cycle of missions, reports, and training. Someone’s opened up a crate of Ryll beer. The hangar reverberates with conversation, laughter, and even a few snippets of song.
This easy camaraderie is still foreign to Rey. Still, she makes an effort, listening to the others’ talk, and occasionally chipping in with a few comments herself. She is about to grab a beer and call it a night, when she catches someone mentioning the Millennium Falcon.
“…and for a rusty, century-old piece of junk, it’s still pretty nippy,” she hears Poe, probably regaling the others with the story of their escapade.
She moves over to the little crowd around their commander, and retorts “And it’s my piece of junk, so watch it.”
The pilots erupt in laughter, and even Poe cracks a smile good-naturedly. “Still, I flew it, didn’t I? Told you I could fly anything, even an old relic like that,” he remarks, leaning towards her with a smug grin.
Rey rolls her eyes and leaves the little group to their merry-making. She is almost at the exit when Jessika Pava, her fellow pilot in the Blue Squadron, joins her. “Don’t let him fool you, the Falcon’s the only thing he’s been talking about since it got here,” Jessika remarks conversationally. Rey says nothing and fixes her with a look.
She tries a different route. “Do you have any idea how similar you are to him? How you’re both stupidly brave and reckless, incapable of obeying orders, not to mention your freakishly steep learning curves - ”
Rey scoffs. “At least I don’t have grand delusions about my piloting.”
“No, he really can fly anything. He is that good,” Jessika insists with a hint of awe in her voice.
Rey has had enough of hearing about the Resistance’s golden boy and his virtues. “Am I the only one on this base who thinks he’s just an insufferable know-it-all?” she asks.
At this, Jessika looks at her with an odd expression, laced with equal parts amusement and pity. Rey is suspicious. “What?”
Jessika claps her on the back and turns towards her quarters. “You’ll figure it out.”
The fourth time Poe meets Rey, it’s after an exhausting battle against First-Order TIE-fighters at the edge of the Ileenium System. It was hardly a full-scale attack – more likely a fleet of recon ships looking to cause trouble– but the Resistance corps was still low in numbers. The fight had been gruelling, but they had made it out with no pilots lost.
Poe finishes the debrief as quickly as possible, and pulls Rey aside. “Rey, what in the world did you think you were doing?”
Rey is utterly unfazed by the severity of his tone. “I breached the enemy TIE fighter formation from the starboard side, took down two of the fighters, disabled the L-s9.6 laser cannon of two more, and destroyed the solar array wings of….”
Poe’s patience ran out some hours previously, somewhere in the outer reaches of the Ileenium system.
“You know what I meant. You cannot go off on your own without consulting the rest of the squadron, I don’t care how good you think you are. Keep that in mind.”
“Understood, Black Leader,” she utters, her defiant gaze never faltering. Poe turns back and returns to his X-Wing, where he sees Iolo and Karé hovering, looking amused, evidently having observed the exchange with interest. BB-8 rolls up to him, beeping in confusion.
“What?” he asks gruffly.
“What’s your problem with her?” Iolo inquires, his casual tone failing to mask his obvious curiosity.
Poe bends down to give a quick hug to BB-8. “Did you see what she tried? I don’t care if she’s the descendent of the last Jedi himself, but some things are just too dangerous, especially for a rookie.”
“She’s hardly a rookie, Poe. And coming from the master of recklessness himself! Go easy on her,” counters Iolo, exchanging a glance with Karé.
“She hasn’t seen battle like us, and that damn well makes her a rookie in my book,” Poe mutters, straightening up. They still need to debrief General Leia. He motions for the other captains to follow.
Iolo doesn’t seem to want to let up. “Stop treating her like a kid, Poe, she’s proven herself plenty as it is.”
At this, Karé laughs out loud, shaking her many elegant braids in her mirth. “Wait, that’s not the problem, is it?”
“What now?” Poe says with a resigned sigh. He has a feeling he’s not going to like this.
Iolo’s eyes widen in understanding. “You don’t see her at all like a kid. And you don’t like that.”
“As usual, I have no idea what you’re talking about, Iolo.”
Karé smirks at him. “No, I think Iolo’s right. You always were a bad liar, Poe.”
Poe has had enough of back-talking subordinates for one day.
“That’s enough, both of you. Let’s finish the debriefing before the General has our heads.
The fifth time Rey meets Poe, he is at Finn’s bedside. BB-8 peers from his side, uncharacteristically quiet, with a sad dip to his head. Rey watches from the entrance, unwilling to intrude on the scene.
Poe studies his friend’s unconscious form with somber eyes. He then lays his hand on Finn’s shoulder, with a soft smile. “Hey, buddy, heard you’re getting better and better. You have to wake up soon. BB-8 says he misses riling you up.”
At this, BB-8 beeps in agreement. If he’s aware of Rey’s presence, he seems to be content to feign otherwise.
Poe squeezes his shoulder once last time and walks over to the medical droids. He listens attentively while a droid explains Finn’s current condition, eager to catch every last detail.
Such concern for a friend he’d known for so short a time, Rey muses. This is a side of their brash, headstrong commander that she’s seeing for the first time.
Poe turns to leave and notices her standing by. “Rey,” he nods in acknowledgement.
“Poe.” She offhandedly wonders whether this is the first time she has addressed him by name.
BB-8 rolls up to her, beeping happily and demanding an update on the Falcon’s repairs. “Chewie and I finished everything today. Including the inertial compensator,” Rey replies, with a glance at Poe, who looks amused but says nothing.
On a whim, Rey decides to play nice. “You can take the Falcon out for a ride, if you want, now that everything’s in shape. Although, I can’t guarantee it won’t break down.”
At this, Poe’s eyes light up, and he looks down at BB-8, who’s beeping excitedly. “What do you say, buddy?”
Later, as they strap themselves into the pilot’s and co-pilot’s seats, Rey explains all the modifications she’s made to Poe, who has the grace to listen to her for once.
Once she’s done, Poe turns to her with a smirk. “Not bad for a Jedi knightress.”
Rey bites back a retort, and instead looks at him coolly.
“If you ever call me that again, I’ll set Chewie on you.”
After that, Poe loses count of their meetings. The days all meld into one long blur of missions, debriefs, and training. They come under attack again and again, they fly heedlessly into the heart of danger, they disagree on strategy, technique, orders, and on the rare occasion, they admit they’re both wrong. Nothing changes.
Until she has to leave.
Their final meeting takes place outside the hangar, after a briefing with General Organa. And true to form, it starts with a disagreement.
“Rey, why weren’t any of the squadrons told of this?” Poe demands, catching her by her arm to halt her in her steps, earning a glare. He doesn’t care, infuriated as he is that they were not informed of Rey’s imminent departure in search of Luke Skywalker.
“We already went through this at the briefing, Poe, I can’t put this off any longer, and I persuaded the General to let me fly in the Falcon instead of an X-wing,” Rey explains wearily.
Poe had heard all this before, and he presses on. “But what about the diversion tactics we planned? You know as well as I do that the Falcon's a target just sitting here. You won’t cross the rim of the system without the First Order at your tail.”
“Do I need to constantly remind you that I can handle myself?” Rey snaps half-heartedly. She seems genuinely disappointed in him, and that shakes him back to his senses.
“No, you’re right,” he replies with a sigh. If she’s surprised at the concession, she hides it well.
Poe steps back and collects his thoughts. They are at war, and when each hour of their days is a struggle for survival, there’s little they could ask of another. To be safe? To take care? For them, every far-flung corner of the galaxy is a danger, every new face a threat.
He realizes he’s still clutching her arm, and that she’s made no effort to move, choosing instead to fix him with a conflicted stare. He throws caution to the wind, and leans into kiss her.
“Just… come back.”
She watches the General, the droids, and Poe receding from view as the Falcon soars. Her sadness at leaving behind her new home is shot through with a curious sense of elation at what the future might hold.
She’ll be back. She knows it.