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The Best Kind of Game

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Poe Dameron’s love affair with General Organa began simply enough: he made her a cup of tea. 

It was a strictly friendly gesture. The General was out of his league, no matter what fantasies he’d nourished in his boyhood or how sexy her competence was or what incredible aim she had -- and, well, it didn’t bear thinking about. The point was, she wasn’t available. He made her the tea for one reason only: she had a cold, and it was a nice thing to do. He deposited the steaming mug next to her work station in the Command Center, and she picked it up with an absent thank you that reminded him she used to be a princess.

 But the next week, when it was his turn for the cold, she put a cup of tea next to his data pad in the officers’ lounge. After that, it got to be a habit between them: no words, no big gestures, just a cup of caf or half a cookie and maybe a friendly clap on the shoulder if somebody was having a bad day. He liked it. They both did. It was one steady, reassuring certainty in the middle of the war.

 And then the General pranked him. Honest to god pranked him with a shot of engine room hooch in his tea. Or maybe it was paint thinner. Possibly mixed with hyperdrive fuel. He hacked and sputtered in the middle of a briefing like a twelve-year-old who’d busted into daddy’s liquor cabinet.

 Admiral Statura shot him the kind of glare usually reserved for new recruits who forgot to take the parking brake off their X-wing before they tried to fly into space. Across the table, the General’s eyes were gleaming.

 For one wistful second, he thought she was exactly the kind of woman he could love. Then he turned his mind to more important considerations, like getting revenge.

***

“You’re gonna get her back, right?” Finn asked while they were eating lunch.

 “Not even a question, buddy,” Poe shot back in between bites of mystery meat.

 Never let it be said that Poe Dameron didn’t give as good as he got. Not that it would be easy. The General would be on her guard now, of course. He’d have to lull her into complacency with a few ordinary cups of tea, make her think that she’d cowed him into submission. And then what? He couldn’t just spike her drink; repeating somebody else’s prank was lame.

 Snap slid a tiny, wrinkled red pepper across the table. “Silesian chili,” he said, looking deadly serious. “Genetically modified. It’s my last one. Use it well.”

 Poe slipped the pepper into the pocket of his flight suit, careful not to touch it with more than the tips of his fingers. “I’ll do right by it. I promise.”

 

***

The opportunity came two days later, when the General returned from a mission freezing cold and soaking wet. He cut a few slits in the pepper’s skin and hid it in the bottom of a cup of caf. The General smiled when she took the warm mug from his outstretched hand -- and then she vanished into her office.

 Of all the shitty luck in all the galaxy. Here he was, pranking the great General Organa, and he wouldn’t even get to see it. Nobody would. He’d failed. Hell, she probably wouldn’t even drink it; she’d probably smell the waves of heat coming off the pepper from half a parsec away. Cautiously, he pressed his ear against her office door. Silence.

 And then heavy footsteps in the corridor. Poe looked up into Admiral Statura’s frowning face. “Commander, I am shocked to have to tell you this, but eavesdropping on the General is not acceptable behavior. Don’t let me catch you here again.”

 Poe slunk away in defeat.

 

***

General Organa found him in the mess hall at 22:30, hunched over a cold plate of textured vegetable protein and brown sauce, which was the kind of thing you had to eat if you couldn’t figure out how to make time in the day for actual dinner.

“I’ll have you know I downed that caf in one gulp. But don’t worry, Dr. Kalonia assured me that the lining of my esophagus will grow back eventually,” she said, sliding into the seat next to him. Her voice was awfully hoarse, and Poe instantly felt guilty. She was tired, she was cold, she’d probably thought her friend was handing her a nice hot cup of caf…

 But her eyes were dancing, and a smile was tugging at the corners of her mouth. “Thank you for not treating me like I’m made of glass.”

 "Who the hell treats you like you’re made of glass?” he said.

 The General only rolled her eyes and left.

 That was the day Poe started watching the General. Strictly speaking, it wasn’t a good idea, not after that one time he’d let himself think he could love her. Still, he couldn’t help himself: he wanted to know who the fuck thought Leia Organa, genocide survivor and Hutt slayer, was weak.

 It didn’t take a lot of watching to realize she was always alone. Not alone alone -- there were always aides and lieutenants and planetary leaders trailing behind her, but they all hovered at a respectful distance, and nobody ever made a joke. It didn’t used to be that way, and for half a second Poe wondered why. But he knew. He’d known since he was eight years old and his mother didn’t come back from what was supposed to be her last mission, cleaning up the last remnants of the Empire somewhere on the Outer Rim. People were funny about grief. They didn’t know what to say, so they didn’t say anything at all. Or they said too much, words flowing out in a cascade of verbal diarrhea that made you wonder whether they were nosy assholes or just the most awkward person who’d ever had the misfortune of existing. And then they talked about you behind your back, speculating with your best friends and distant cousins whether you should go to therapy or get a dog or maybe take up playing hover hockey to get your mind off things.

 He couldn’t fix any of that, but he didn’t have to keep his distance, and he knew he could make her laugh.

 So he did something really classy: he got BB-8 to hack her autocorrect and replace innocuous words with the names of colorful sex acts and quotes from her old campaign speeches. And since there was no point pranking the General if you didn’t get to see her reaction, he started watching her even more. He got to know the way she ducked her head when she didn’t want anyone to notice she was smiling, and the way her lips twitched when she was fighting back a grin. He saw exasperated eye rolls and furrowed brows and even a moment of panic when she pressed send on a message that had turned into a proposition for an anatomically improbable sex position.

 At the end of the day, she put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed just a little too hard. He thought idly that she kept her fingernails very neat, and the scent of something floral trailed behind her that made him want to breathe in deep -- although of course he didn’t. That just would have been creepy. When she leaned in close and whispered, “I’ll get you, Dameron,” he got a little jolt that probably should’ve warned him he was in trouble right then.

 But self-awareness had never been his strong suit where women were concerned, and anyway he was pretty distracted when BB-8 started rolling after him in the corridor, chirping “The Song That Does Not End” in slightly out-of-tune binary.

 “Stop it,” he muttered distractedly. He was juggling three or four data pads, trying to figure out which one contained the Black Squadron’s latest duty roster.

 [This is the song that does not eeeeend!] BB-8 trilled. Somehow it was even more annoying in binary.

 Poe gave up on the data pads and turned to face BB-8, fixing him with his most fearsome stare. For a laidback kind of guy, his fearsome stare was pretty good.

 [It goes on and on, my friend] BB-8 warbled. The song paused for a moment and he added, [Poe is my friend!] before he kept going again.

 Poe got down on one knee so he was close to BB-8’s sensor-eye. “Buddy, I’m really going to need you to stop that,” he said slowly and carefully.

 [Some people started singing it not knowing what it was] BB-8 whistled, rolling slowly backward until he was just out of arm’s reach. The volume grew louder. [And they’ll be singing it forever just because THIS IS THE SONG THAT DOES NOT END!]

 Poe blinked. He was assembling quite the crowd. “Not funny anymore, BB-8,” he said in his very best commander voice.

 [Poe must say the password] BB-8 announced solemnly, and Poe knew he’d been had. It took him till the end of his shift to figure out the password was all the dirty words he’d programmed into the General’s autocorrect, and he ended up shouting them in the men’s ‘fresher next to the mess hall just after chow time.

 When he came out, the General was leaning against the wall in the corridor, one eyebrow cocked and a smile ghosting around the edge of her lips.

 “Everything alright, Commander?” she asked, her voice carefully neutral.

 “Absolutely, General,” he said. He was actually kind of horrified when he realized he’d pranked the leader of the entire Resistance, but he held his ground, cocky grin and all.

 “Is there anything you need to say to me?” she asked, arching her eyebrows.

 Poe nodded. “That was a pretty good one.”

 “Anything else?”

 Under the intensity of the General’s gaze, Poe could feel warmth creeping along his cheekbones -- and other places. “I am hopelessly outclassed, and I was wondering if you’d be kind enough to grant me a truce,” he said, because if this went on much longer, he was going to embarrass himself.

 The General’s eyes were gleaming when she held out her hand, and Poe let himself wonder if he was the only person who could make her smile like that these days.

 “Truce,” she said gravely, and when they shook on it, he thought she squeezed his hand. “You’re a good friend, Poe,” she added quietly.

 He pulled his hand back reluctantly and turned to walk away, then spun on his heel before he’d even taken two steps. Dinner time was over, and the corridor was empty now.

 “Is there anything I can do for you, General?” he asked.

 Something in her face went soft. “Please,” she said. “Call me Leia.”

 

***

He almost went to bed picturing the exact expression on her face when she’d asked him to use her first name, but BB-8 reeled him in.

 [The General is Poe’s friend!] he warbled happily from his charger.

 “You’re right, BB-8. She is,” he said firmly. And if General Organa -- Leia -- considered him a friend, he was damned lucky. He didn’t even need to think about more.

 Not that it was easy. The thing was, he’d started seeing a lot of the General, whom he still couldn’t quite think of by her first name. At briefings, in the corridors, in the mess hall -- she was just there, catching his eye so they could laugh at an inside joke or shake their heads at some puffed-up planetary leader. More than once, she was waiting on the landing pad when he was coming in from a night flight, and they both walked back to the officers’ bunks bleary-eyed with exhaustion.

 Because he’d been watching her for what felt like forever, he saw things that other people didn’t see: dark shadows under her eyes, the way her jaw contracted when she was trying to suppress a yawn, the brief moments when her eyes drifted shut before they snapped back open again. Later, in the darkness of his bunk, he wondered if he saw those things because she let him see, and the thought left a strange warmth in his chest, along with a determination to do a little more than refill her cup of caf.

 So he called her assistant and demanded an appointment. ASAP. That day, terribly urgent matter, deeply classified, no questions asked.

 When he strolled into her office, she shot him a glare so icy it made his balls want to crawl into his stomach. For a small woman, she was awfully intimidating when she stood up behind her desk with her hands on her hips.

 “Poe Dameron, the message you left my assistant was bantha shit, and you know it. What’s worse, you think I don’t know it. What do you mean, your very urgent shipment of fusal wash was never delivered? I might not be some hotshot pilot, but I am well aware that fusal wash is the airstream from exhaust port of an X-wing’s engine -- and for the maker’s sake, what are you smirking at?”

 Poe slid into one of the chairs across from her desk. “I know that you know,” he said, trying and failing to suppress his grin.

 Leia only looked more exasperated. “Then what the hell are you playing at?”

 “Nothing.” Poe shrugged. “I don’t have a crisis. Hell, I don’t even have a problem. I don’t need anything from you at all.”

 She stared. “You demanded an appointment with me because you need nothing?” she said slowly.

 Poe stared back. “Yes. You can do anything you want to do right now.”

 She sat down heavily in her chair. Her mouth opened and closed. Finally, she managed to get out a “thank you.” Then she put her head down on her desk and went to sleep.

 

***

After that, taking care of the General -- he still had a hard time thinking of her as Leia -- got to be a game. The best kind of game, because it was one he could always win. There were a thousand things he couldn’t do in the war: he couldn’t always hit the target, he couldn’t stop pilots dying by the dozens, he couldn’t even get Jessika Pava to stop bending her undercarriage on nighttime landings. But he could almost always find one small thing to make General Organa happy, and that was enough for him.

 Once, on a day of enforced R&R, he decided to make her soup. He was a damned good cook. He was damned good at a lot of things actually, but cooking was pretty high on the list, and he hadn’t gotten a lot of chances to put that skill to use since he’d joined a secret paramilitary organization.

 He bargained with the cook for a few leftover carrots and mushrooms, got Snap to pick up a packet of noodles, and chased down his very own goddamned chicken...well, not exactly a chicken. A chicken sort of thing that the cook swore would probably taste good, once they figured out how to pluck it.

 Really it was a lot of work -- those feathers were sharp, and he had to stew the meat for almost six hours before it stopped tasting like rubber -- but in the end, it was worth it. When he put the soup on her desk, she closed her eyes and inhaled, and a slow smile spread across her face.

 “You are entirely too good to me,” she said with a happy little sigh.

 “No,” he said, “I’m really not.”

 

***

That was the day Finn and Snap dragged him off for an intervention. Snap tried to deny it, but all the signs were there: they were alone next to the secret still in the hangar bay, and also Finn had said, “Buddy, this is an intervention. We are intervening.”

 Poe tried to weave around them and escape, but Snap pushed him down into one of the ratty armchairs ringed around the still. “You are not going anywhere,” he said, shoving a drink into Poe’s hand. Then he spun to face Finn. “And as for you, we talked about this. You don’t tell the intervenee that you’re intervening until they’ve already had at least two drinks.”

 “What is this even about?” Poe asked. He was refusing to try his drink, even though it was his day off, and he really thought he should finish it with alcohol.

 “General Organa. Not gonna happen,” Snap said firmly.

 “Yeah, have you even considered the danger you’re placing yourself in by making advances on a superior officer? Sure, she might have her way with you for a little while, but when she’s done, you’re going to wind up mining tillium on some penal colony,” Finn added, crossing his arms over his chest.

 Both Snap and Poe stared, and Finn sighed. “Let me guess. It doesn’t work that way here.”

 “No,” Snap and Poe said together.

 Finn gestured grandiosely toward Snap. “Okay, then, Snap will explain the problem.”

 “The problem is, you have a thing for unavailable women. It’s not healthy,” Snap said.

 Poe sputtered. “That is not at all what’s happening here.” Snap and Finn just looked at him, so finally he tipped back his drink and drained it in one long gulp. With moonshine burning its way down his esophagus, he admitted, “Okay, so that’s exactly what’s happening. Does everyone know?”

 Snap clapped him on the shoulder. “Subtle is not your middle name. But it’s okay. You’re not the first idiot to fall for the General.”

 Finn settled down into the chair across from him. “Why are you wasting your time chasing someone you can’t have? People of every species and anatomical configuration are throwing themselves at you. I mean, why did you stop talking to Aryn? The one with the big, well, you know,” Finn said, cupping his hands near his chest.

 Snap seized Finn’s wrists and pulled his hands down. “We’re not twelve. But the man poses a valid question.”

 “Aryn?” Poe asked. He didn’t want to think about Aryn, the girl he’d tried to have a fling with on Kathar Prime. “Last time I saw her, she’d named our kids. We were gonna have four of them. She had it all planned out.”

 Snap wrinkled his nose. Finn shook his head sadly and said, “Big mistake. She definitely should’ve let you name the kids. You’re really good at naming people.” He paused. “That’s not the problem, is it?”

 “Not really, but nice try,” Poe said.

 “Back to the topic at hand,” Snap said firmly. “Do we need to go down the list of reasons why you can’t have General Organa, or can we just agree you’ll be a sad drunk tonight and move on tomorrow morning?”

 “Sad drunk tonight, sure,” Poe agreed, tossing back another shot. “But I think you know me well enough to know I’m not moving on tomorrow.”

 Finn nodded. “Sad drunk tonight, repeat as needed,” he said solemnly. “We’re here for you, buddy.”

 

***

Poe liked to think that if Snap and Finn hadn’t intervened, he wouldn’t have been so blindsided by what happened next.

 His comm chimed near the end of his shift, and he smiled in spite of himself when Leia’s name appeared on the screen.

 “Please tell me you have an urgent need for a bucket of fusal wash,” she said. The vid chat wasn’t on, but judging from her voice, she was exhausted.

 “Frankly, General, I don’t know how you expect me to keep doing my job in these deplorable conditions,” he said, loudly enough that Jessika Pava looked at him strangely from the other side of the hangar bay.

 “Well, Commander, if you’re so dissatisfied, I demand that you come discuss it in person.” Leia’s voice was tinged with amusement, and Poe ducked his head so nobody else would see him smiling.

 “I’ll call your lieutenant and schedule an appointment immediately,” he said. And because he couldn’t help himself, he added, “You have no idea what you’re in for.”

 He could practically hear her smirking on the other end of the line when she said, “Oh, I sincerely hope I do.”

 Poe could feel the heat creeping along his collarbones and up to his neck, but he shook his head before any impure thoughts invaded his mind. What was he doing? Flirting with the General was worse than inappropriate; it was disrespectful. She needed a friend. He was her friend. That was it. He’d pick up a couple ration bars on his way to her office. They tasted like cardboard, but she probably hadn’t eaten today, so it was better than nothing. Hell, he hadn’t eaten today, so a quick bite with a friend was exactly what he needed.

 Leia’s office was messy as always, but half the overhead lights were off, which was different. There was a bottle of Corellian brandy on her desk, so she must have really wanted to unwind. Good booze was a perk of being friends with the General.

 “Two ration bars, straight up,” he said, dropping them on her desk. They hit the metal surface with an ominous thunk. He fished around in his pockets and came out with a couple white packets. “Oh, and I brought the glucose gel from my ration kit. Makes ‘em taste a little better.”

 Leia cocked an eyebrow and slid a shot glass across the desk to him. She didn’t seem particularly interested in the ration bars. “You are misusing emergency supplies, Commander Dameron.”

 “Hate to tell you, but Snap sold all his emergency glucose to make cocktail mixers,” he said, sliding into a chair and cracking open one of his ration bars. “I’m practically a saint compared to him.”

 Leia knocked back her drink in one smooth swallow, which Poe most certainly did not find sexy. She was doing the whole cocked eyebrow thing again, which Poe also did not find sexy.

 “You? A saint?” she asked.

 “Hey, I have my virtues,” he said, reminding himself sternly not to flirt, even though it was practically his default state of being.

 “That you do,” Leia said, and for just a second, Poe let himself believe she was eying the ripple of his biceps underneath his t-shirt. She stood up and came around her desk. “For one, you always give me everything I need.”

 Poe swallowed. The alcohol was going to his head. Not flirting, he told himself. She was a superior officer, recently widowed, and his very good friend who deserved better from him than cheesy come-ons.

 He shifted awkwardly in his chair. “Yeah. I want you to, uh, have things,” he said. “Um, things that you need.”

 Smooth, Dameron. Way to guarantee she won’t ever be interested.

 But Leia only raised her eyebrows.

 “Anything?” she asked. She was leaning against the edge of her desk, close enough that he could smell that floral perfume again.

 “Yeah,” he said quickly. “Anything.”

When she leaned down to kiss him, her teeth tugged on his bottom lip and he gasped into her mouth. She pulled back to look at him and her eyes were like two burning embers.

 “What if I needed you to get down on your knees?” she asked.

 He pushed back his chair and did what he was told.

 

***

Afterward, they were lying on an emergency blanket on her office floor, their legs still twisted together. Leia’s head was on his chest, and her hair was spilling down over his stomach. Both of them were breathing hard. Poe kept sneaking looks at the soft curve of her hips and her surprisingly muscular thighs. It was the only way he could make himself believe that he’d actually just had sex -- really, really good sex -- with General Leia Organa, former princess of Alderaan, his former boyhood crush, and still the most amazing woman he’d ever met.

 “In the morning, I’m going to think this was all a dream,” he confessed.

 She snorted softly against his chest. “Out of curiosity, were you ever going to make a move?”

 “No,” he admitted. “I have this thing where I try not to sexually harass my superior officers.”

 “Funny you should mention that. I have a thing where I try not to sexually harass my subordinates.” She propped herself up on an elbow and looked at him carefully. “This probably isn’t the best way to ask, but I’ve never done this before. Am I sexually harassing a subordinate?”

Poe pried his eyes up from her chest, where her impossibly glossy hair was spilling over her breasts. “Did I seem less than enthused? Because if I did, I think you should probably let me do it again so I can clarify the misunderstanding.”

 Leia smiled. He liked the way it made the skin crinkle around her eyes. “So this could become a regular arrangement?”

 Poe nodded and pulled her back against his chest. “Like I said, I want you to have everything you need."

 

***

He didn’t tell anyone about the arrangement, of course. That would be a total dick move. Snap and Finn noticed anyway. Maybe it had something to do with the way he would start whistling without even realizing it. Sometimes BB-8 would join in, punctuating the tune with happy little burbles and chirps. Or maybe it had something to do with his increasingly frequent appointments with the General, which he’d tried -- and evidently failed -- to attribute to official business.

 They cornered him on the way back from her office and shoved him in a supply closet. Actually shoved. Poe tried to fight back, but Finn had crazy hand-to-hand combat skills from his storm trooper days, so he lost.

 “You’re safe, buddy,” Finn announced. “Nobody can hear us.”

 “Nobody can hear us in my quarters,” Poe said, trying to shift around the broom handle that was stabbing his spine. “I have my own room now, remember? Perk of the job.”

 Snap sighed. “And you could kick us out of it, so that’s why we’re here.”

 “Don’t pretend you don’t know what this is about,” Finn said, waving a finger in Poe’s face.

 Poe batted it away. “I don’t have to pretend. I actually don’t know why my best friends just assaulted me in the janitor’s closet.”

 “We’re your best friends?” Finn asked, his face radiant.

 “Of course you are,” Poe said. “Now can I go?”

 Finn looked ready to let him out, but Snap stood squarely in front of the door. “You’re hooking up with the General. We’re talking about that.”

 Finn nodded eagerly. “Yeah, come on, give us all the details.”

 Snap shook his head. “There is one and only one relevant detail here. You are making a terrible mistake.”

 Poe managed to catch Finn off-guard and stomp on his toes. He slipped around him, which still left him facing Snap, who’d blocked the door controls.

 “Last I checked, I’m an adult. This is not your business.”

 Snap shook his head. “This is so my business. You know why? Because I’m gonna have to clean up the mess afterward, when you eventually remember that having casual sex with someone when you really want a relationship is the worst possible decision you could make. I repeat, worst possible decision.

 “So what is it you want me to do? Stop being friends with her? I’m not going to do that,” Poe said, crossing his arms over his chest. “So what if we are hooking up? Friends with benefits is a thing.”

 Finn rejoined Snap in front of the door, limping slightly. “No, man, we’re not telling you to give up a friend. We wouldn’t do that. We’re saying you should tell her how you feel or quit hooking up. If you’re really friends, she’d want you to be honest.”

 

***

So maybe Poe hadn’t thought the whole situation through, but he wasn’t going to stop sleeping with Leia. Yeah, his feelings went deeper than casual sex, but a war was no time to act on them. He might be dead in a week. Hell, he might die tomorrow. If he survived, it was because he killed people. Lots of them, sometimes, just with one press of a button. He needed to have sex and be kind to a beautiful woman; it made him remember who he was.

And anyway, whatever Snap and Finn thought, she wasn’t using him. She gave back as much as she got.

Once, when he hadn’t come out of his office for almost twenty-four hours, she made a bullshit appointment to see him and dragged him up to the roof to watch the sunset. 

“Why are we doing this exactly?” he grumbled, thinking about the mountain of work waiting on his desk.

 Leia nudged him in the ribs with her elbow. “So we don’t forget what we’re fighting for,” she said.

 Sometimes, even when he hadn’t seen her, she seemed to know he was having a bad day. A bar of chocolate or a bottle of booze would show up in his inbox, usually with a filthy joke written on an actual sheet of flimsy. When he landed at five a.m., bleary-eyed and barely awake, he realized he couldn’t remember the last time she hadn’t been waiting for him on the landing pad.

 Being a commander got lonely sometimes, in a way that Snap and Finn did not and could not understand. Leia got it, and he needed it more than he could say.

 

***

The whole situation came to a head because of a honey melon and a list of dead pilots.

They were in his office for once, both crammed on the cot he kept in there for the nights he couldn’t make it back to his quarters to sleep. She’d arrived a few hours ago under the guise of some bantha shit appointment and thrown a fluffy blanket at him. It was soft and smelled like her perfume and didn’t have any holes, which meant it was probably the nicest thing on the whole base.

He stared at it uncomprehendingly, and she said, “Go to sleep.”

He opened his mouth, but she shook her head. She patted the cot and said, “I don’t have a crisis. I don’t have a problem. I don’t need anything from you right now. Except that you go to sleep.”

 Wordlessly, he shuffled toward the cot, careful to keep the blanket off the floor. He had a vague memory of Leia running her fingers through his hair, and then he was asleep.

 He thought he’d only been out for fifteen minutes, half an hour tops, but the chronometer on the wall said it was more like six. Leia was still sitting on the corner of the bed, leaning over him in a way that made him feel strangely protected. She looked like she hadn’t even moved, but she must have, because there was a datapad in her lap, and a little round fruit in her hand. While he watched, she slid a utility knife out of her pocket and sliced off a piece. It was sweeter than anything he’d ever smelled, and when she put a piece in his mouth, it practically melted on his tongue.

 He swallowed slowly, letting the juice run down his throat. He thought maybe he could stay here forever, but he glanced at the chronometer again and bolted upright, trying to fight his way out of the covers.

 “You let me miss take-off and half of patrol?” he asked, staring accusingly at Leia.

 She pushed him back down with a gentle hand on his chest. “You’re not safe to fly. How long has been since you’ve slept? Two days? Three?”

 Poe slumped back against the pillow, avoiding her gaze. Leia passed him another piece of the melon, and he stared at the translucent sliver of fruit in his hand. “Have you really been here for six hours?”

 Leia slipped a slice of the melon into her mouth. The juice dripped down her fingers, and she licked them absently. “It might be more like eight,” she said, shrugging. “I wasn’t really keeping track.”

 Poe blinked. “Why?”

 “You left this on the control panel of your X-wing,” Leia said, smoothing a sheet of flimsy between her fingers.

 Poe ducked his head. He knew what it was. It had started out as a neat list in block letters. Now it was wrinkled and worn, with words crammed into the margins at odd angles. He doubted anyone else could read it. Hell, he doubted he could still read it. But it didn’t matter; he’d memorized the list long ago.

Flat Top.
Nails.
Kanga.
Frog.

 And more and more names, spilling down the page. He used to try to remember other details too -- faces, voices, stories, home planets -- but now the list was too long, so the call signs were all he had.

 “How did you get that?” he asked, wishing suddenly that the cot weren’t so small. He needed space, room to breathe.

 “Snap and Finn were worried about you. They brought it to me,” she said. “Is this everyone who died under your command?”

 Poe clenched his jaw. He didn’t want to talk about this with anyone, but especially not with Leia. He was supposed to be the one person in her life who never caused problems.

 He plucked the flimsy from her fingers and slid off the end of the cot, turning on the lights as he went. “I’m alright,” he said, which was too big a lie. He shook his head. “I mean, I’m not entirely alright, but it’s not your problem. I know you’ve got a lot on your plate. You can go back to work.”

 Leia’s mouth opened and closed. The hurt on her face transformed to anger remarkably quickly. She took a step forward, and Poe stepped back reflexively.

 “Not my problem?” she asked, her voice low and dangerous. “Your emotional well-being is not my problem? You think what, you’re just some kind of sex toy?”

 Poe shrugged stiffly. “Well, it’s not like I’m your -- I mean, we’re not even exclusive.”

 Leia raised her eyebrows. “We’re not? That’s news to me. I don’t know about you, Commander, but I’m fighting a war here. I haven’t found the time to seduce a whole harem of lovers, but if you have, please share your scheduling tips.”

 Poe managed an awkward laugh. “Alright, alright. It’s exclusive, but I know I’m not your, uh, boyfriend.” Just saying the word sounded ludicrous. General Organa did not have boyfriends. He was sure of it.

 She sat down on the edge of the cot and stared at him disbelievingly. “You're not living up to your reputation, you know.”

 Poe frowned, feeling a touch defensive. “What reputation?” he asked.

 Leia rolled her eyes. “Rumor has it you’re quite smooth with the ladies. But you weren’t ever going to make a move on me, were you? And apparently you never got the many messages I was trying to send you.” She sighed. “Not that I’m going to win any prizes for emotional health where relationships are concerned. But I really thought we’d tacitly agreed we were having a relationship without any awkward formal declarations of feelings.”

 “Oh.” Poe sat down on the cot beside her. The chocolate. The sunset. The visits to his office when he was having a bad day. “I can see how most sentient beings would have been able to pick up on a sign or two...or six.”

 Leia shifted closer to him on the thin mattress. “Well, those sentient beings would first have to believe their feelings were important enough to be reciprocated.”

 Poe flopped backward onto the cot. An idea was tickling the edges of his mind. Something about how taking care of other people made it easier to pretend his own feelings didn’t exist. “Do I have to submit to a full psychoanalysis, or can I just say I’m ready to stop being an idiot now?”

 Leia laughed softly. “Mostly, you have to stop doing this,” she said, tapping the sheet of flimsy in his shirt pocket. It rustled softly under her finger. “If this helps you go forward, have at it. But if it doesn’t, let them go. They thought this was a cause worth dying for. Respect that decision.”

 Poe slid the list out of his pocket and stared at it. “I can’t just get rid of it.”

 “Take it from someone who’s lost a lot of people. Letting go of someone is not the same as getting rid of them.” She took the list from his hand and slipped it into her pocket. “I’ll keep it somewhere safe. I promise.”

 She lay down next to him, propping herself up on one elbow. “And Poe, if you need the official declaration, this is not just about sex. It was never just about sex. I probably should have said something sooner, so I’m saying it now. I care about you.”

 Poe grinned. Probably like an idiot. “Glad to know. But you’re not going to stop using me for sex, right?”

 Leia shook her head. She reached behind her and pulled out her a hairpin, and her hair cascaded down, whispering across his cheeks and neck. “Not on your life,” she said.

 Poe turned off the lights.