For all the eye could see were endless swaths of stars in the black sea of the galaxy. They twinkled as far and bright as on D’Qar, but soaring past the specks of light and dust in an X-Wing transported Finn elsewhere. He wasn’t just a trooper evading the First Order, but on the cusp of a new era of his life, lost in an ocean of curiosities. Over the comlink, Poe laughed, a breath of static. It threatened to snap Finn out of his daze and thrust him back into the present: mission completed, reconnaissance gathered, en route back to base. But Finn was so weary from the mission, limbs taxed and mind fuzzy. All he could do was sit back, read the monitor’s transcriptions of his astromech droid’s observations, and take in the stars.
“See that green light up ahead, to your left?” said Poe. Finn murmured in affirmation, spotting the unmistakable glow of the planet closest from their present location. “Before my mom passed, the whole family went there on vacation. I got bit by six different bugs. My parents almost collapsed from panic, thinking that was it for me.” Poe clicked his tongue. “That was right before my mom went on the secret ops mission to check out Snoke, before the Order became…”
Finn calculated the dates of all these events in his head, attempting to shift in his seat but getting nowhere due to the seatbelt’s secure hold. “Must have been on my birth planet then.”
It was dead silent on Poe’s end, just BB-8’s gentle chirping filtering through the comm, an octave higher than Finn’s own astromech droid. “Buddy, I’m sorry. I forgot about—” Poe trailed off, muttering a curse.
“Poe, it’s fine.”
Yet, regardless, the reminder of the different lives they led before arriving at this point in time rendered the stars less bright and mystical. They flew on, silent long enough for Finn’s mind to drift again, the stars beginning to glitter anew.
“Nine years,” said Poe, and nothing more.
“I’m nine years older, you’re nine years younger. You’re a whipper snapper.”
Finn fiddled with his center stick. “Doesn’t mean much. You’re from Yavin IV, I’m from a First Order training outpost. That’s the bigger deal.”
“Oy,” growled Poe, switching to the jokingly serious voice he often directed at Snap when the other pilot attempted wild spins during mind numbly dull patrols. “Act your age, cadet. I’m supposed to be the disenchanted one.”
Finn smiled despite himself. “Yes, sir.”
They flew through space for awhile longer, then Poe cheered. “Oh, ho, Finn, look! My 6 o’clock, your 2 o’clock. That huge rock, see it?”
The “huge rock” was a massive asteroid which Finn suspected had once hurled through outer space before slowing to a near halt at its position a short ride from their X-Wings. “I see it,” said Finn, then focused on the data about the asteroid flashing across his monitor.
“Comes from the Outer Rim. Blasted off a moon, the kind with oceans for all the eye can see,” said Poe. “Its only landforms are mountain ranges.” The data confirmed this yet lacked Poe’s finesse. “Before my dad joined the Rebellion, he wanted to study geology. He had a bunch of books about those rocks. I bet it’s hollow, a cave with a crystal clear lake on the inside. There’s a slight opening on the south side. See it?”
Finn lurched forward, squinting. The asteroid just looked like a chunk of rock that had seen better days. “Yeah, I see it.”
“Wanna go in?”
Finn sputtered, slapping the side view port and rolling his eyes. “Are you kid—? Do I want to—Yes, Poe. Yes, I want to go inside the secret lake.”
Chuckling, Poe steered Black One toward the asteroid. “All right, all right. If you say so.”
The sliver of space was more of a glorified crack than an opening, and its mouth too slight for the starfighters to fly through. They parked the X-Wings on the flattest available surface, an excellent test for Finn to practice landing in zero gravity and staying firmly planted. R4-N7, Finn’s droid, slipped out as soon as Finn jumped down from the cockpit, and they navigated the asteroid’s rocky surface, listening to stones crunch beneath their boots and rollers while Poe and BB-8 bickered over the topic of the hour. Finn patted his trousers, the Resistance’s dark grey standard issue, and felt for his blaster. It wasn’t necessary for the lake, but Finn felt naked and vulnerable without it. Call him cynical, but while the First Order had eyes and ears everywhere, blasters existed only where they were wanted.
Finn stopped with his ankles shoulder apart, arms tucked at the small of his back. Poe peered over his shoulder at him, a languid stare that trailed over Finn from head to toe. At Poe’s crooked smirk, Finn forced himself to stay still and stoic despite the heat burning his face.
BB-8 chirped, and Poe translated. “Beebee-Ate’s going to patrol the asteroid. He thinks it’s suspicious.” Poe hoisted himself up, hands pressed against his knees, and Finn narrowed his eyes, noticing Poe ducked his head, casting his grimacing face in shadows. “Over the years, I learned it’s best to indulge him.” Then BB-8 blurted out a rapid fire string of binary, too quick for Finn to sparse, and R4-N7 started rolling over to him.
“Whoa, whoa,” said Finn. “What’s that? What’s he doing?”
Poe scratched his stubble. “R4-N7 is going, too. So it’s, uh, just us. At the lake.”
The hairs on Finn’s neck prickled. “We’ll be alone?”
They were never alone. Finn and Poe shared a room, yet their schedules never aligned. When Poe flied out, Finn was sleeping. When Finn lived out his life as a jack of all trades at the command center, med bay, and research center, Poe was either sleeping, eating, or repairing BB-8. The last time they had a genuine moment alone had been in the gym when Finn’s back was still a wreck. Poe had whispered encouraging words when Finn’s muscles shook from the exertion of lifting weights not even a quarter of what he was capable of lifting as a trooper. They worked out long past reasonable hours, sacrificing sleep and precious, solitary detox hours. Eventually their bodies couldn’t keep up with the demands, and those moments became a figment of the past. This mission was the first time in over a month they had acquired a moment, yet they had spent the entire time in separate X-Wings as BB-8 and R4-N7 recorded their conversations or connected their comlinks with the command center. But the lake was private; without the droids, intimately private. All at once, Finn was more aware of Poe’s jacket stretched across his back and the way those standard issue grey trousers hugged Poe’s hips.
The quartet split off into pairs, and the silence following the absence of the droid’s cooling systems had Finn feeling parched and antsy at the gravity of being alone with Poe after so long. If he stretched his memory, he vividly recalled their last genuine moment alone consisted of Poe’s massaging away the tight knots in his shoulders after one of his muscles had nearly pulled, warm hands sliding over his sweat soaked skin as if Poe had drenched him in self-heating oils.
“Finn?” said Poe. He paused before the cave opening, smiling tentatively. “You all right there, pal?”
Straightening, Finn slipped on an overly eager grin. “More than all right. I’m feeling good—great. Fantastic.”
A smile teased at the corner of Poe’s mouth. Huffing, Poe shook his head and started for the cave entrance. The mouth of the cave was a tight squeeze, its only light source the stars. Poe plunged first into the darkness and swore as soon as he got down. “Watch out! There’s a sharp drop.”
Finn stepped off to the side, starlight illuminating inside the cave, and examined the walls for spots to put his feet. He then climbed down, back pressed against the rock wall. As he neared the bottom, Poe reached out, settling a hand on his waist—which ought to have frightened Finn, as Poe had disappeared entirely in the darkness, location unknown. The touch jolted Finn’s already electrified nerves, shocking him as if he had dove head first into a frozen lake. Besides, Poe’s hand was close to regions that were already aching for him. The surprise didn’t help keep Finn in check.
Once Finn got back to solid ground, he backed away from Poe, and didn’t miss the echo of Poe’s hand slapping his thigh. Odd, Finn thought, but he pushed it aside. Reaching for his blaster, Finn switched off the safety lock, a red swell burning inside the weapon as it readied to fire. It provided meager light, enough to expose rocks on the ground.
“We won’t need that for long,” said Poe. “The geoformations are bioluminescent at the lake.” Peering down a tunnel, Finn saw a second light source emerge, a blue glowing speck at the end of a seemingly infinite distance.
As the crept through the tunnel, Poe’s arm kept wisping past Finn, the back of their hands brushing, and Poe never mumbled an apology or shuffled away, which Finn had quickly noticed was the typical response among people in the Resistance. Rather, as their hands kept brushing without attention brought to it, Poe began to linger. In the First Order, troopers were always in their uniforms, rarely presented opportunities for an awkward touch when passing cups or other items. Finn disagreed with the First Order more often than not, but he appreciated that the First Order was always clear with him about the boundaries in his relations with superior officers, peers, and those beneath him. Finn didn’t mind the accidental touches with Poe now—in fact, the mere plausibility of the act captivated him, particularly when it involved Poe—but it certainly was a faux pas in Finn’s conceptualization of the Resistance.
The longer Poe’s hand brushed against his, fingertips lingering beside his, the more Finn detested the ambiguity of the moment. Finn liked Poe. He missed him. A hypothesis lurked here, an implausible one, in Finn’s opinion, yet a hypothesis he’d like to test. He’d also like to hold Poe’s hand, and if that was Poe’s intention right now, Finn would prefer to skip the ambiguity and rush into the actual hand holding. Gripping the blaster tighter, Finn shook his head, working up the courage in the face of being wrong about Poe’s intent. The next instant that Poe brushed past him, Finn twined their fingers together, stilling Poe’s hand and trapping it in his grasp.
When Poe didn’t jerk away but continued looking down at the floor lit up by the blaster, dodging rocks, Finn’s stomach quenched. Briefly, he wondered if BB-8 gathered intel on the asteroid only to detect other lifeforms—or if this solitary promenade had been a construct.
Soon the tunnel opened up, and the shock of the lake’s beauty had their grip on each other slacken, hands close to falling to their sides had Poe not startled and squeezed Finn’s hand.
Cracks in the ceiling bled starlight into the cavern, crystals glittering on the walls and the lake surface sparkling. The clear water dove deep, yet the cave’s brightness exposed the boulders and rocks closest to the surface, the lake darkening as its depth increased. Surrounding the lake was a beach of smooth pebbles. Bending a knee, Poe snatched a stone and tossed it over the lake, the stone hopping three times before it sunk.
Finn grinned. “That’s amazing. How’d you do that?”
Poe peered up at him, smiling just as wide. “It’s easy,” he said, tugging his hand. “Look for flat, smooth, round rocks. Then try to align yourself with the lake, and toss it.” Poe demonstrated, the rock skipping twice now.
Finn sorted through the rocks, the correct shapes escaping him when they seemed to simply appear out of thin air for Poe. Tapping his knee, Poe presented a stone to him. “Try it out,” said Poe. They fretted, however they made a concerted effort to hide the fretting, when they realized Poe held Finn’s dominant hand. Luckily for them, troopers were forced into becoming ambidextrous, so Finn got into position with his other hand. Poe huffed, biting the corner of his lip, then leaned into Finn, settling their hands on his knee. “Don’t forget, you want it leveled with the water’s surface,” Poe whispered, close to Finn’s ear. “Try to be firm, but not too much or else it’ll just sink.”
Finn tried to complete an honest attempt, but Poe’s proximity distracted him, dulling his concentration minutely. He flicked the rock, yet the second it touched the water, it plunged, never to be seen again.
Poe hummed, rubbing his thumb over Finn’s knuckles. “That’s a shame.”
The cave started to feel a bit too small, Poe too near, everything happening quicker than he preferred. Finn liked Poe. He wanted this. But he also… needed to get away. Good things never lasted, not in the galaxy’s present state of affairs.
Finn jumped up, hand slipping out of Poe’s grasp. It was warm and sweaty from being held for so long. Pressing the hand against his thigh, Finn stared at the pond, ignoring Poe’s bewildered expression. “I have to—” Make out with you. “—to go to the bathroom.”
He started off toward some massive boulders near the walls, nodding at Poe’s customary reply of acknowledgment. Despite the fact that he had not heard nature’s call, he found a private spot and waited until it seemed like he’d done the deed.
A minute had passed with him gently tapping his forehead against a boulder, then he heard it: blasters drawn and Poe’s chuckling.
“Hey now, you don’t need the big guns to impress me,” said Poe.
A rumbling voice snapped out words in an alien language, but Finn filtered it out completely, focusing instead on the blasters—of which Finn counted seven, as the aliens charged them up and readied for firing—and maneuvered himself around the boulder, peering around the edge and scanning the lake. As suspected, seven blasters and their accompanying seven slender, tall blue aliens surrounded Poe, who had his hands up. By the look of their dress, they were all smugglers. Poe had his back to the lake, the smugglers having emerged from a tunnel on the other side of the cavern. The leader trailed forward, cloak swaying behind her, and the four others marched behind, blasters directed at Poe’s head.
“Sorry for squatting in your house,” said Poe. “Promise I didn’t mean to, Madam…?”
The alien snapped out a garbled mess that sounded akin to “Pomfy.”
“Madam Pomfy.” Poe smiled sheepishly. “A pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
Swinging back around the boulder, Finn pressed his back into the cool rock and checked the load on his blaster. Using it as a flashlight lowered its charge to 30%, only six blasts left. Finn might’ve been a good shot, but even he had to admit the odds were against him. Then, of course, BB-8 and R4-N7 chose that moment to roll in. An alien shouted, BB-8 bleeped, and Poe sighed. “I know, BB-8,” he said. “You were right, as always.”
This could work, thought Finn. Then he steeled himself and darted out from behind the boulder. He aimed at an alien and shot, knocking them out cold. Everyone jolted. BB-8 spun around, head twirling and chirping out ecstatically once he realized it was Finn who fired. Finn glared at the aliens, training his blaster at Pomfy.
“All right, this is the deal,” Finn snarled, heart beating normally as he had managed to trick himself into believing he had a foothold. “The orange one is a bomb. Let us escape with our loot, and we’ll let you keep yours. Otherwise I’m hitting the detonator.” Finn patted his jacket pocket to accent this. “Your choice.” BB-8 swiveled. Finn glanced at him briefly, a quiet fury ordering BB-8 to not cause a scene, then regarded the aliens again.
BB-8 rolled over to the leader, craning his half-moon head back and directing his black view port at the alien. Silence pervaded the glowing cave. Then one of BB-8’s ports snapped open, the electric stinger shooting out bolts; however, the aliens didn’t flinch.
“Your threats fall on deaf ears,” said Pomfy in Basic, head tilting and smug, “FN-2187.”
BB-8’s electric shocker blew out extra sparks, beats between the shocks like pulses. Finn squinted, blinded and seeing green and purple spots, but Poe stared at BB-8, enraptured, and Finn noticed he was mouthing words. Code, realized Finn. Buying BB-8 time, Finn pointed his blaster at the rocky beach. “On your knees, Pomfy.”
Pomfy sneered. “As I said: deaf ears. Your BB unit is famous throughout the galaxy, but not as famous as the defecting stormtrooper who destroyed Starkiller Base, or—” She spun around, examining Poe. “Or the infamous Poe Dameron, who stole information on the First Order, broke out of the Finalizer, and still lives to tell the tale. You three, and the red droid, I suppose, would look fine in my bounty. The way I see it, FN-2187, you and your ‘bomb’ aren’t the ones who ought to be cozying up to making threats.”
Finn smiled. “Funny you should—”
“Finn, heads up! He’s diving in!” yelled Poe. Finn barely registered the interjection before BB-8 threw out wires, latching onto the ceiling, and swung up and over the lake before falling into the dead center, a massive explosion and waves of water left in his wake.
Chaos broke out. R4-N7 shocked an alien, the smuggler crashing unconscious into the lake. With his teeth, Poe tore a hole into the sleeve of his coat, a pill slipping out. Then he swallowed it down dry. He tackled an alien, both diving head first into the water. A plan had been devised, one entirely lost in Finn, yet the Order had conditioned him for occasions like this: impromptu, chaotic plots that, if they involved vanquishing evil and deep trust in his comrade, were well worth the effort of diving into head first and blind. Although, Finn suspected the conditioning had aspired for an alternative reaction out of Finn. But, in that case, he wouldn’t have been known as the galaxy renowned, defecting FN-2187.
The shots rained out of the blaster, neither a single breath between firing nor a shot out of place. Water sprayed as smugglers fell into the lake, and soon only Pomfy and Finn stood on the beach, R4-N7 near with sparks shooting out of him. Circling one another, they pointed blasters at the other’s chest, neither daring to move first.
“You should have taken my offer when you had the chance,” said Finn.
Pomfy’s lip curled. “I’m not the one with the second rate blaster.”
Finn aligned the target over her heart, blaster set to stun. “You’re not.”
He fired, Pomfy following with a blast a nanosecond later. Finn rolled, sparks soaring past his shoulder and smoldering a line over his jacket. Pomfy was hit, but quick reflexes let her dodge the line of fire and acquire only a hit to her shoulder. Finn rolled onto his back, blaster pointed out between his knees, only a single blast left. R4-N7 sped up behind Pomfy, shocker emitting sparks. Finn fired, hitting her hip. Pomfy hissed, slapping a hand to her waist, and fired. Finn rolled to the side, rocks blooming into the air as a blast hit where his head had once been. Before Pomfy had the chance to deliver a kill shot, R4-N7 knocked into her hip, toppling her, and he drove into her until she fell into the lake. R4-N7 plunged his electric shocker into the water, a frission sending ripples along the surface, and soon a second answered back—BB-8’s shocker, Finn presumed.
Finn dug his fingers into the rocky beach, stunned and hyperventilating slightly from the abrupt battle, but then he remembered that above the lake’s surface, it was only an unconscious blue alien and R4-N7 beside him. His heart leapt, breath caught.
“No, no, no...” Finn scrambled toward the lake, careful to avoid any water, heart pounding. “Poe!” R4-N7 swerved his head toward Finn, bleeping. “You know I can’t understand you.” Yet the droid still bleeped, frequency rising in excitement. Finn watched the water as it began to still, helpless. “Why can’t a lake just stay a lake?”
R4-N7 chirped, beginning to shake from leg to leg. Ripples emerged toward the eastern edge of the lake. Finn gripped his blaster, waiting, but the effort was all for naught. Poe burst from the lake, BB-8 bobbing up behind him, and started swimming to shore. Finn scrambled up, slipping over the rocks, and stumbled his way into a hasty dash toward the shore closest to Poe. He skidded over stones as he slowed and fell to his knees. Poe dragged himself to shore, clothes dripping. His hair was a bit frizzy from the electric shocks, but otherwise he was no worse for wear. He collapsed on the rocks, BB-8 rolling up beside him and opening a port, air blowing out and drying his clothes.
Finn lost any sliver of restraint, blurting out exactly what came to mind. “You moof-milking, arrogant… sarlacc fucking flyboy, what the hell was that?”
Poe waved his wrist, the hole in his sleeve exposed. “Experimental studies. You get 200 credits a pop for taking a pill. Karé, Pava, and I placed a bet.”
“Two hund—” Finn closed his eyes, calming his breath. “Poe, you jumped into an electrified body of water.”
“Technically it was just water when I jumped in.”
“Are you safe for touching? Will I die?”
“Pill was supposed to repel the electricity.”
Finn grumbled, but slipped over the rocks to him, sprawling over Poe’s soaked chest. Taking Poe’s cheek onto his palm, he muttered, “Arrogant, sarlacc fucking…”
Poe cupped the back of his head and coaxed him down, and Finn closed the space between them with a kiss. He nipped at Poe’s lips, and Poe wasted little time, deepening it until their tongues were touching, the kiss quickly becoming wet, evolving as whims overcame them. BB-8 bleeped, and with a disgruntled groan, Poe broke away—but slowly, and hesitantly, as Finn had his lip caught gently between his teeth. Finn licked his tingling lips as Poe spoke.
“Sorry for ruining it, but according to Beebee-Ate, they’re gonna wake up soon.”
Finn peered over his shoulder, spotting the ripples in the lake. Glaring back down at Poe, he said, “Next time you recommend going into an asteroid for secret lakes, I’m jumping straight to hyperspace.”
Poe grinned. “Yavin IV has some secret beaches. Remind me to never bring you to meet my dad.”
Mumbling expletives, Finn kissed him briefly, hastily breaking away once Poe tried to evolve it, and broke for the tunnel, R4-N7 hot at his heels, port open with a flashlight.