All the way back, Finn’s thinking, gotta make it strategic. There must be something, just gotta find that angle, spin it so it sounds like I know what I’m doing, like I thought this through. Had a plan. He’s breathless with the weight and the rough terrain or he might be saying it out loud, but it’s loud enough inside his head. Be strategic. This was not fucking strategic.
Because that’s something they always say: Poe, the General, Admiral Statura, Rey even. When they’re staring at holoprojections showing destroyers, planets and moons, troop numbers, key worlds, deciding where to focus, strategic is the word you want to hear. You don’t want to blow it up and run, you want to have a plan. And somehow, Finn’s ideas are perceived as plans.
Once he said, “You know any First Order trooper could tell you this, don’t you?” and General Organa’s face did a lot of things in a very short space of time, none of which he knew how to read.
“If that was true, we would all be dead by now,” she said.
“Even if they knew what you know, they wouldn’t know what to do with it. Not everyone can pick out the important parts,” Poe added. “But you can.” He had his Serious Commander face on.
Finn had looked from him to the General and back again and didn’t push it.
This mission started strategic: all the planning was strategic, the execution was strategic, everything was strategic up until about seven minutes ago. Poe was back at the little transport already, loading up everything they’ve scavenged, balancing the weight down to the last gram to make escape trajectory and hyperspace before the First Order reinforcements get here, while Finn grabs the database. It’s heavy, he’s stronger than Poe - it’s a good plan. It’s digging into his back as he runs.
Only about seven minutes ago - eight now, he’s got to move faster, Poe will be ready for take off by now - Finn took out the tiny base, killed three Stormtroopers and found a cage. Inside the cage was a very small child with his fists clenched around the bars and a trooper cadet processing tag on his ankle, and Finn couldn’t leave him.
The boy was howling, making the same sound over and over again. Finn doesn’t know the language they speak here, but he’s been with the Resistance long enough to recognise a child calling for their mother. Stormtrooper cadets don’t call for their mother - kids adapt to survive, and you don’t keep calling for someone who’s never coming. You keep quiet and conform because you’re too small to do anything else. This kid still thinks his mother is coming, so maybe she is. Finn dropped to his knees in front of the cage and really, really hoped she was.
First he smiled and said, “Hey, hey, it’s ok, they’ve all gone, I’m gonna get you out of there and we’ll find your mom, ok?”
The child just howled louder, real tears and snot all over his face, and honestly, Finn can’t blame him. He’d do the same. Perhaps he did do the same. He doesn’t remember.
Careful as he can, he shot the lock off the door, all angles of ricochet accounted for, and as soon as the door swung open the kid flung his tiny hot body damp into Finn’s arms and clung to him, arms so tight around his neck he struggled to breathe. He hasn’t done anything to earn this trust except not be a Stormtrooper, not be hidden behind white duraplastic, and he’s never been so glad of anything in his life.
That’s when he decides, really. Finn puts his arms round the kid and feels his ribcage rise and fall with shuddering, syncopated breath as he cries. Finn can hardly hear it over the sound of the alarms going off. He has to get the database and get out of here now.
“Hey, I just need to get something over here,” he says, rubbing the kid’s back, fighting a weird urge to kiss the sweaty curls jammed under his chin. Genetic memory that humans have around young, maybe: he’s never held a crying child before. “Stay there a second then we’re out of here ok? You and me. We’ll find your mom.”
The kid doesn’t let go even a little bit. If anything he clings even tighter. Fuck it, Finn thinks. He stands, and the kid barely weighs a thing as he scoops him up, adjusts him on one hip. Finn can grab the database with one hand.
“I’m gonna get this box from over here, see,” he says. The alarms are screaming in his ears but he pitches his words low, calm, friendly. Rising intonation like a rhyme that ends well. “I came to get this, then we’re going back to our ship to find your mom.”
This is how Poe talks to kids - Finn’s seen him. The kids on D’Qar love Poe. He sits on the ground with them and makes his voice gentle, lets them up into the cockpit with him, produces wrapped processed sugar from his pockets. Finn doesn’t have anything except ammunition in his pockets. The sound of his voice will have to do.
The sound of his voice can’t carry the kid or the database. Finn has to do that, and by the time he crests the hill to see the shuttle, he’s sweating and breathing hard. The kid’s still wrapped around his neck half choking him, little legs clamped desperately around his waist like he thinks Finn will drop him or leave him behind.
He can see Poe standing by the shuttle, looking out for him, but he can’t spare a hand to wave. Think, dammit. Make it strategic. Poe’s waiting, Poe expects him to be smart, Poe admires him for it, maybe even likes him for his keen tactical thinking. I fucked up all the weight and velocity calculations by bringing this kid and we might not make our rendez vous, because - but all he’s got is, because he’s tiny and he was crying. The Resistance are never going to listen to him ever again.
Poe takes three strides around the side of the shuttle towards him, relief written in the line of his shoulders.
“Finn! I was just about to come after you - ” and then he sees the kid.
“Poe,” Finn gasps out, finally stopping and hitching the little boy higher in his arms. He’s got nothing, there’s no point even trying to justify this. “Is there room?”
Poe looks at him for just a fraction of a second before he blinks and smiles. All Poe’s smiles reach his eyes, but this one seems to go even further.
“We’ll make room,” he says.
His hand comes down warm on Finn’s shoulder, then he’s taking the database from him, ushering him into the shuttle. Finn hasn’t told him anything about the processing tag, about the family that might still be alive, and Poe’s already murmuring, “Hey, buddy. You gonna come flying with us? This ship’s really cool, look, you’re safe in here - ”
Finn has to swallow hard. He’s just out of breath, he tells himself. He’ll train harder.
BB-8 whirrs and beeps at Poe as she recalculates the weight.
“20 kilos? Easy. Hey, kid, you wanna sit up there while me and Finn take this ramp off?”
The child doesn’t answer - maybe he’s too young to talk, Finn doesn’t know. He doesn’t need words to make it clear he isn’t letting go of Finn, though. Poe just squeezes Finn’s shoulder again, right next to where the boy’s head is pressed close under his jaw, and jumps down to do it himself.
They’re still 6 kilos over with the ramp detached. They’re almost out of time: even if they make the weight, if they don’t leave on time, they’ll miss the intercept point, run out of fuel, drift dead in space. Finn stands there like an idiot not doing anything but hold the boy, while Poe throws out the instruction manual (“Could write this myself”), spare fire extinguisher, and all the junk that successive Resistance pilots have left in the cockpit.
BB-8 whirrs, weighs, flashes red and beeps desperately.
“3 kilos is nothing,” Poe declares, and he’s sitting down to unlace his boots, dropping them one then the other to the ground. One of his socks is blue, the other red.
BB-8 recalibrates, beeps again, even higher in pitch. The red lights flash faster. It’s really not helping the sense of rising panic.
“Uh,” Poe says, looking around him wild-eyed.
“Mine,” Finn says. “I’ll take off mine. Here, you hold-”
He tries to pass the boy over to Poe; if he won’t sit on his own, at least Poe can hold him, but he starts to wail, clings so tight Finn can’t prise him off without hurting him.
“Hey, hey, don’t cry, buddy!” Poe’s saying. “It’s good, you’re good, you stay right there, I don’t blame you - sit down, I got it.”
And before Finn can say anything Poe’s crouching at his feet, unlacing his boots for him, waiting for Finn to sit down before pulling them off and dropping them out the door next to his own.
BB-8 flashes a symphony of green light as she beeps triumphantly, and Poe’s leaping into the pilot’s seat while the door’s still closing, gunning the engines, grinning from ear to ear as he takes them up and up and up, on time and just barely below the maximum weight limit.
He hasn’t even asked what they’re going to do with this kid.
Which is good, because Finn doesn’t have an answer. He doesn’t know how they’ll find the family; he doesn’t even know if the family is still alive. There’s no strategic value in the tiny human who’s finally let go of his neck and is falling asleep in his lap, except that he won’t grow up to be a Stormtrooper. Finn knows better than anybody that one Stormtrooper more or less doesn’t make any difference to anything.
He hardly dares look over at Poe. Instead he watches the glow like sunset as they leave atmosphere, looks down as the boy’s face relaxes into sleep. A baby, really, who trusted him blindly because there was nobody else who could help, falling asleep in exhaustion. Finn’s never held a sleeping child before.
The light changes to the clear white luminescence of space, and he feels rather than sees Poe get to his feet, step away from the controls.
He’s not expecting the fierce hug Poe gives him, arms coming round his shoulders from behind him as he sits immobilized by the sleeping child. He’s especially not expecting the kiss Poe presses to the corner of his mouth, the rasp of his stubble and the soft place where his lips touch skin.
“I fucking love you, you know that, right?” Poe says, and he never in a thousand years expected that.