They're not fooling anyone.
She remembers being young and reckless, desperately in love. It makes a person stupid, strings of irrational moments coalescing into something resembling sense. If you can call it that. Certainly she spent a good portion of her youth guided more by passion than reason.
Not that they see her that way. To them she's Leia Organa, dedicated general, a figurehead for the Resistance. Once upon a time, though...
Poe, certainly, is old enough to know better.
She's known him a long time, though she doubts he remembers. She knew his parents; met him as a bright-eyed, inquisitive toddler, half swallowed by a mop of unruly hair. He was impulsive then and it seems he's impulsive now. Boys don't tend to change.
"You wreck one of my fighters..." she says under her breath, knowing he can't hear.
She watches him fly out over the water, the base on Secor II offering an unobstructed view of the horizon. He takes the next turn sharp, barrel rolling once, twice before shooting out over the lake, x-wing low enough to kick up spray. Leia doesn't need eyes to know Finn is standing at the end of the flight deck, watching the display with rapt attention. Idiots, Both of them.
She's worried about her starfighter, and her pilot, but she doesn't begrudge them this: Han did something similar once, pushing the Millennium Falcon to its limits just to prove he could. Oh the swagger in his walk. She'd delighted in rolling her eyes, barbed comparison to her brother sliding past her tongue. Finn on the other hand does nothing to hide his enthrallment. She almost doesn't blame Poe for showing off.
Did she ever look at Han the way Finn looks at Poe? Or Poe at Finn for that matter? Probably, though she's not sure she's ever seen two people so obviously caught in each other's orbits. Is Finn even aware of the sweeping bank of mountains framing Poe's flight? Does his gaze extend to Secor II's rolling green hills; its dense tangle of forest? She doubts it. He's too busy watching Poe's return run, pure joy radiating from him in pulsing waves.
Leia watches too, though not, she suspects, for the same reason. Poe's return hugs the water, his wake shattering the mountains' reflection. He shakes his wings, Black One dancing over the waves. From the shore, Finn lets out a bellowing woop. She can almost picture Poe's smile.
Poe's heading straight for them, several of the deckhands growing tense at Black One's low approach. Finn doesn't flinch. He stands resolute, watching her approach with eager anticipation. At the last second Poe shoots up and over, so close the air ionizes, static building in Leia's hair. She shakes her head.
Oh, Poe, she thinks, you are far, far too old for this.
He doesn't bring her around this time, instead continuing his upward climb until he's made a complete loop, Black One temporarily suspended before she shoots back over the lake, cockpit hanging over the water.
Leia knows exactly what he's trying to accomplish. She knows, too, he doesn't have the room for it. Because the thing with Poe is: he's a good pilot. Amazing. Best of the best. But he's an idiot. A distracted, hopelessly in love idiot showing off for his boy and that never once ended well.
A single roll is all he needs to right himself, but he's too close to the water, Leia moving long before his wing hits the water.
She's halfway across the deck when it catches. Black One hangs, indecisive, but even the Force can't stop physics. She ends up rolling, end over end, one of her wings breaking apart on impact. A kilometre out, it's terrifying to behold.
Her deck crew are trained for precisely this scenario, all her pilots taught to ditch in the lake. Poe didn't have time to eject, which means, provided it's intact, he's in the cockpit. Otherwise, he's in the water, and either way, time is of the essence.
She reaches the docks in time to watch the first hovercraft depart. It speeds out over the water, a second being prepped for launch. There's a zodiac waiting for her, one of her pilots--one of Poe's--sitting at the motor, one of her deckhands already on board. He extends a hand. Leia climbs on board, but before she can settle--before they can follow the hovercrafts--shouts from the far end of the dock draw their attention.
It's too early for the first hovercraft's return--and she can see it moving steadily towards Black One's location--so she's tempted to ignore it, except...
"Idiot," she says when she spots him.
Finn's halfway out the bay, swimming towards the crash site like he means to rescue Poe single-handedly. And honestly, any other day she'd be glad they found each other. Today...
The second hovercraft leaves the dock. Leia directs her zodiac towards Finn.
And of course he foils their first retrieval attempt by swimming around the damned boat, like it's just another obstacle in his way, like swimming out to a crash site is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. She admires his tenacity, really she does, she just doesn't have time for his bullshit.
She didn't have time for Han's bullshit either, especially after Ben, and now... Well, now she's got an idiot to rescue.
She has Snap bring them around a second time, this time signalling to J'Kae Gse--her deck hand and quite possibly the strongest person in the Resistance--who without a word reaches into the water and plucks Finn out with about as much effort as Leia uses to pick up a spoon.
Finn kicks and thrashes, but J'Kae merely sets Finn down on the floorboards, holding him there with three of his four arms until Finn stills. Leia leans over to offer a disapproving stare. Finn's expression falls.
"Poe," he says, breathing hard. He sounds terrified.
He also sounds like he drank half the lake, Leia unsurprised when he doubles over, rolling onto his side as great, racking coughs seize his lungs. Leia waits for him to finish before setting a hand on his shoulder. He glances up at her, his expression pleading.
"Finn," she says, because she suspects he needs centering. "We've got this."
She gestures out over the water, to where twin hovercrafts are now engaged in rescue and retrieval. Finn pushes himself up onto his knees to follow her gaze. He looks unconvinced.
"It was a water landing," Leia continues, shifting her weight against the rocking of the boat. They're coming around now, the zodiac bringing them back to the docks. "And unlike you, he is wearing a survival suit."
The water on Secor II is exceptionally cold. Poe will be fine, but Finn is shivering, almost uncontrollably. J'Kae hands her a thermal blanket, which she immediately sets around Finn's shoulders. He still looks like he's thinking about jumping back in, especially now that they're moving away from the wreck, so she leaves a hand on his shoulder, half reassurance, half warning. Finn deflates.
And maybe that's because one of the hovercraft is headed back to shore, further out, but at about the same pace so that by the time they arrive the craft has covered half the distance. Finn tracks its progress with the same intensity he watched Poe fly.
The second craft is still out there, likely working on Black One's recovery. At least, Leia hopes that's all it is. She's not sure Finn would survive another outcome. Not that she can blame him. She knows loss, better than most.
Snap steers them towards a side dock, away from the hovercraft slips, leaving enough room for them to maneuver. The dock is now crawling with personnel, deckhands working to clear room for the medics, mechanics waiting to assess the damage. A flutter of pride swells in Leia's chest, though it's gone as soon as it came, the gravity of the situation leaving no room for ego.
The second they stop moving Finn leaps from the boat, rescue blanket billowing behind him. It dislodges midway to the hovercraft's landing point, Leia stepping over where it pools on the deck. Finn elbows his way through the deckhands and mechanics, giving only the medics room. Leia's half afraid she'll have to follow him back into the water, but this time he stops at the end of the dock, tracking the approaching hovercraft with purposeful intent.
Poe isn't immediately obvious, and Leia's heart sinks at the implication. She's no longer worried solely for Poe--though he is her best pilot, someone she cares for. Finn is the wildcard here. She has no idea what he'll do if Poe doesn't make it back.
The hovercraft is close enough now she can make out the features of its pilot, but more importantly, she spots the flash of orange that is Poe's survival suit. They come around, angling for their slip. Only then does Poe come completely into view, a wet BB-8 resting at his side. To Leia's utter surprise and relief they both look unscathed.
Poe is wet too, dripping curls framing his face, his cheeks flushed with cold, but otherwise he seems fine. He's laughing at something one of the deckhands has said, though Leia suspects it's self deprecating. She doesn't hear his response, but whatever he says makes the deckhand clap him on the shoulder and shake his head. Poe runs a wet hand through his hair. He hasn't noticed Finn.
He freezes the second he does, his smile vanishing. Leia can't blame him. Finn looks gutted, utterly terrified; desperate like he doesn't actually believe Poe's alive. He's barely moving, his arms hanging useless at his side, hands clenching and unclenching in tight fists.
In one swift motion Poe stands. He catches Finn's gaze, his expression utterly unreadable. Finn must see something Leia's missed because his shoulders slump forward, tension draining from him like someone's cut invisible wires. Leia half expects him to end a puddle on the floor.
He's still shivering, practically trembling, though Leia can't tell if it's relief or the cold. He hasn't moved, standing stock-still, staring at Poe like Poe's the only thing keeping him upright.
As soon as the hovercraft is close enough, Poe leaps onto the dock. He's running before his feet even reach the ground. Finn practically sobs when Poe reaches him, his hands coming up to clench in Poe's wet flightsuit. Poe gathers Finn into his arms, pulling him impossibly close so that Leia can't tell where one begins and the other ends.
It strikes her then this is a private moment, meant only for them. She can't bring herself to look away. She watches, heart clenching painfully in her chest, as Poe brings their foreheads together. His words are barely a whisper, but still she hears.
"I'm okay. It's okay. I'm so sorry. I'm okay. It's okay..." over and over again.
Finn doesn't answer, but his trembling increases. His hands, still clenched in Poe's flightsuit come up to wrap fiercely around Poe's shoulders. He crushes Poe against him, no sliver of space remaining. He's still shaking, somewhat violently, but he seems comforted by Poe's words, spoken now against his lips. They're not kissing, their faces just pressed together, nose alongside nose, cheek against cheek.
Leia brings a hand to her cheek, surprised to find it wet. Across the dock, Poe cups Finn's cheek, thumb stroking against the damp he finds there.
"I thought..." Finn says, voice thick with emotion. A lump forms in Leia's throat. She swallows against it.
"I know, I'm sorry, but I'm okay. I'm okay."
Poe's hands are in Finn's hair now, Finn mirroring the gesture, tugging a bit at the wet strands clinging to Poe's neck. Heat spreads across Leia's cheeks. She's intruding, she knows it, but still she can't bring herself to look away. There's something so raw, so pure in the way they cling to each other. And this, she realizes, is why she's fighting. This is everything the Resistance is; everything the Rebellion was. It renews her purpose, her pain insignificant in the face of the greater cause.
Standing in the middle of the dock, Finn and Poe are an island unto themselves, the deckhands and the medics and the mechanics all careful not to intrude on their space. Finn's hands are still in Poe's hair, but Poe's have fallen to settle on Finn's shoulders. He only then realizes Finn is wet.
"Finn..." he says, comprehension dawning. He pulls back, not far enough to separate them, but far enough to take in the water running down Finn's neck, the clinging fabric of his still damp shirt. His eyes grow wide. His expression grows soft, intimate.
"Don't you ever do that again," Finn says. He sounds furious. Poe nods. His hands come up to cup Finn's cheeks. He pulls Finn forward.
"I promise, I won't," he says against Finn's lips.
This time they do kiss, soft at first, though it soon grows wet and desperate. It breaks the spell Leia was under, giving her strength to turn away. The ache in her chest, present she realizes from the moment Poe crashed, dislodges. New tears spill over her cheeks.
Oh Han, she thinks, his passing the lesser of her wounds.
But Poe and Finn are young, and Force willing they'll have a lifetime together. It's something to fight for, anyway, renewed purpose when it seemed all hope was lost.
That's something she could use more of, she realizes. Han is gone and Ben's not coming home. She knows that now, but so long as there is something worth fighting for, she'll keep trying. Force willing it'll make a difference in the end.
Leaving Finn and Poe behind her, Leia heads back to the zodiac. Poe will be fine, Finn too, but she still has a starfighter to retrieve, a war to win, and later, after they're done with their reunion, a pilot to discipline. For the first time in a long time, Leia lets herself smile.