The problem, or one of the problems, with ejecting out of a kettle of doom whizzing through space at dizzying speeds was that you just never had a chance to really enjoy it.
It all happened too quickly: the roaring whoosh as you were spit from a metallic coffin into too much atmosphere; the split-second you and your internal organs seemed to separate and hang in suspense before whatever earth beneath you growled vengeance, its gravity slamming you back together and downward; the collision, the bounce, the skid, the roll; the gasps desperately difficult to manage when you hit ground, a plume of soil or sand settling over you like some dirty shroud.
It should be disconcerting, Finn thought, to have this much experience surviving dire emergencies. Someone nearby was laughing, and that didn't even seem strange.
Maybe a little. He untangled himself from the wreckage of his mangled seat and struggled into a standing position. Being upright proved challenging; he tipped forward and caught himself on his hands, the movement slow as if he were tripping in a dream. Everywhere was faded, and he'd expected the sand to be hot.
Not sand, he realized, his palms pricked with cold. Frost.
You knew it wasn't going to be sand. Focus.
"Where are we?" he asked aloud.
"Not Hoth," a voice called back.
"Wanna place a wager on it?"
"No." A sputtering laugh, the sound of something being dragged along the ground, and a *bonk* noise clean as a drum beat. "Ow."
By the time Finn stood up, dusted off, and was certain his limbs were in working order Poe had met him halfway between the points where their two seats had landed.
Poe grabbed Finn's shoulders and grinned, awestruck. "Not a scratch on you." His expression turned serious. "Don't throw up."
"I'm not-- I'm fine," Finn said, though he had to think about it for a second.
"I was talking to myself," Poe said, rubbing a hand over his face.
"Welcome to Libumeg. We've got fresh air and three days of rations. Cheer up," Poe said, which galled Finn because Poe was obviously jaunty enough for the both of them.
Finn smiled in a manner he knew made him appear deranged but game. "Are you bleeding?"
"Only from this one leg."
"Try not to die."
"C'mon. Where's the trust?"
"Where'd we leave the TIE?"
Poe waved a hand in a southerly direction. "Over there somewhere?"
A small explosion shook the earth for a second. Black smoke began to climb in a tower north of where they stood.
"Or there," Finn said.
Clouds on the west horizon were roiling like a witchy soup in an impossibly large caldron. The frosted marsh grass mashed under Poe's boot was starting to turn red. Finn had prepared for much to go wrong on this rescue; he wasn't sure it was in any way gratifying to have worst case scenarios come true.
"Bags, then shelter," he said, turning east, wishing he could will some sanctuary into existence.
An hour later, he conceded his powers of creation left much to be desired.
"I can doctor myself," Poe said for the ninth or tenth time.
Finn ignored him for the ninth or tenth time. A crack of lightning caused him to pause in the middle of reading the instructions for the nullicane spray. He looked up at the cave's spiky ceiling. With the thunder's reverberation the rock seemed to chatter for a second like a mouth full of loose teeth, but did not otherwise seem in danger of collapsing and burying them alive. Seated at the cave wall, Poe had closed his eyes with his cheek against a smoother patch of blue stone that, when you weren't looking right at it, appeared to glow from deep within.
Finn didn't have time to be unsettled by this. To his relief Poe had opened his eyes and seemed less pained.
"Our rooms on Starkiller were about this cramped," Finn told him.
"This isn't a room. It's an eerie hole in the ground accidentally crafted by indifferent nature."
"Better than the Order's completely on purpose prison style quarters."
"Well, yeah. You slept in something this small regularly?"
"Not often." No Order bed Finn had slept in had been large, private, or anything other than a creep-crawling memory he occasionally feared his subconscious would never shake.
"Seems like once would be enough." Poe smiled ruefully.
Finn felt bad for making him think about the Order; one of Poe's best qualities had proven to be how un-nosy he was. He let Finn talk about what he'd been through when Finn needed to, and didn't pressure him to say more than he wanted. Poe's present lack of joking about the desultory weather or any of the harrowing exploits that led them to this moment proved how exhausted he must have felt physically, if in no other way.
Finn scooted closer to him, his knees protesting the crumbly cave floor. He reached out to touch Poe's forehead. The contrast of his cold fingertips against Poe's skin made it difficult to gage if Poe was running a fever. If he was, yikes, to add to the long list of yikes currently happening.
"This isn't Hoth?" Poe asked.
Finn hoped it was a good sign Poe was coherent enough to be coy. "Libumeg. Said so yourself. We're nowhere near Hoth." He knew Poe knew that.
"Mmm hmm," Poe said.
"No walkers, no wampa attacks likely." Finn put aside the nullicane to wrestle with their square thermal blanket until it gave up and went pliable in his hands.
Poe sniffed in a phony way. "I'm not worried about it being Hoth or not being Hoth."
"Not when there are so many other things to worry about, right?"
"Right." Poe, abnormally compliant, allowed Finn to cover him with some of the blanket. "You need to stop agreeing to these retrieval assignments," Poe murmured. "Let someone else save my dumb ass next time."
Though what Finn was about to say was true, and had been true on each of the last two rescue missions involving Poe, Finn didn't want too much of himself to spill out in the telling of it.
"Assignments? Buddy, I volunteered," he said in the lightest tone he could muster.
"Well, that's your first problem," Poe commented.
It really isn't, Finn thought, swallowing every feeling he knew wasn't a priority at the moment.
To distract both of them he fiddled with the zipper on Poe's jacket and zipped him further into it. Fever or not, losing body heat could be bad, especially if they had to ride out the night in the cave.
Okay, okay. Focus.
He switched his attention to the disarrayed medpac contents on the ground around them. Irrigation bulb first? Then nullicaine spray, and wound glue? Or wound glue and then spray? Or would one of these bacta-patches work better than anything? Who had decided including this dusty bottle of Nourishing Vita-Caps was necessary? Was this spray bandage really going to be the color of an exsanguinated Hutt hide, as the packaging insinuated? Should he use another antibacterial wipe to clean his hands again?
Finn carefully rolled the torn pant leg up just above the gash oozing down Poe's left shin. A ragged cut, deeper than he would've liked to see, but not life threatening, if he could get it disinfected and sealed.
He began to wipe away the tackiest streaks of dark red. The wound didn't immediately start to weep further and Poe didn't as much as twitch under Finn's ministrations, which was a mixed blessing: he could endure the doctoring, but Finn was sorry he had to.
It was a hard life they had signed up for, Finn sometimes remembered with astonishment. Freezing rain was making the Libumeg flood plain more treacherous. If the SR team didn't show up it was going to be enough of a challenge to manage repairs to the fighter using whatever tools were stashed in the emergency bins without adding potential hypothermia to the equation.
But no need for anxiety. The team was bound to find them soon. All Finn had to do was keep everyone alive for another day, or two or three at most. Easy.
The small fire Poe had built nearby crackled in counterpoint to the fizzling rain outside. Surrounding the circle of stones keeping the fire contained were his and Finn's bags, muddy boots, and sloughed off pieces of wet wardrobe and supplies grabbed quickly from the wreckage. If their socks and overcoats could dry out in the next hour they could double up on the spares they were already wearing and it would be easier to stave off frostbite.
Poe bent his leg, leaned forward awkwardly to inspect the gash, and began picking at it.
"Hey, no," Finn said.
"I can help. Grab that nullicane for me."
"If you want to help, let me do this, please. Keep away from the massacre." Finn presented his fiercest glower, which did not phase Poe.
"This is the very definition of a flesh wound. Doesn't even require stitches."
"It might if you keep poking at it." Finn caught Poe's hand and definitively moved it aside. "Leg down," he said, trying to sound like he was even a little bit in charge.
Poe gave him a rebellious sort of look, the kind that had probably caused his former superiors to want to smack him, but afterwards straightened out his leg again and relaxed, as much as a person could relax against damp luminescent limestone. Finn nodded a thank you.
After spraying nullicane on the entirely of Poe's exposed leg, he slowly used the glue to pull the edges of the wound together. The spray bandage gave Poe's leg the appearance it was mutating into one long trail of slug slime. Down the center of the closed cut blood leaked out in tiny beads but scabbed quickly. Finn was reasonably convinced Poe would not need to have anything amputated when they arrived back at base.
Neither of them had made a sound, save breath, in many minutes when Poe suddenly sat up.
"You okay?" Finn asked, startled.
"Yep," Poe said, all cheer. "I'm gonna tell you something, and you have to promise not to repeat it."
"Okay." Finn's pulse roared in his ears. A Revelation in An Icy Cavern, which was how those dumb holoflix Snap enjoyed would put it, was among the things he wasn't exactly prepared for, but if this was where it was going to happen, so be it. Finally.
Poe wasn't waiting for a more detailed answer anyway, or hadn't needed one at all. "We gotta get a new hobby."
Finn opened his mouth to respond, and closed it.
"'Cause this one," Poe continued, undaunted, "where we steal TIEs and crash them? It is rough."
He leaned back against the wall, flew his hand around, complete with convincing explosion noises, and let it flop onto the thermal blanket Finn had half wrapped him in. Those holoflix special effects crews didn't know what they were missing.
Poe was shivering, and smiling, and Finn's chest felt too tight for breath.
Oh, stars, he thought, watching Poe. I am going to go crazy in this cave.
He made himself put away the medpac. He wiped his hands clean for the fifth time. He scooted further into the crook of the cave wall and put an arm around Poe's back. Poe leaned into him without hesitation, like it never would've occurred to him not to. The tightness around Finn's chest was increased by the warm weight of Poe against it.
He snagged the strap of his bag by the fire with his foot and slid it over. He fished out a bottle of water and four generic peppermint denta-blobs, and he and Poe shared the least satisfying dinner Finn had eaten since his last meal on the Finalizer.
"Wish I knew for certain the team was going to be able to track us by morning," he said.
"They will. That slice you made? They got the distress message before we set her down. Positive."
"Wish I knew for certain that Order squadron isn't going to get here first."
"They won't. You scrambled, I jumped, it's gonna take 'em a week to figure out which system we landed in."
"Crashed," Finn corrected.
"Disembarked with gusto," Poe pronounced. He sounded sleepy but certain.
Finn wanted to share this faith. Since he'd joined the Resistance not once had a rescue gone according to plan -- at least not any he knew about -- but the Resistance had also never failed to retrieve anyone, not in the last year anyway. And Poe had been lost and/or made a lot. Like, way outside the average. He was either the worst spy ever or an outstanding one.
There was a memory drive inside Finn's bag that confirmed the latter, so perhaps it was more like Poe had either dreadful or fantastic luck, depending on how you viewed it.
"I'm imagining Pava's response to the distress message," Finn said.
Poe hummed. "Probably something like, 'Mayday? That must suck for you.'"
"She wouldn't be wrong."
Finn had a pang of guilt about saying it; the situation did suck to a significant degree. He didn't like Poe getting hurt, and it was no comfort that this time the injury was pretty minor. Some deranged part of him was still...
Force, he didn't want to think it...
Finn had ambitions in this war that were larger than himself and Poe, yet he liked knowing he was capable of outsmarting an adversary with many of the techniques they'd taught him. Thwarting the Order and their cronies was more satisfying than he could've ever fantasized.
A former Stormtrooper turned Resistance general-in-training had interrupted an assassination. The best pilot in the galaxy had stolen a terabyte of intel. They were safely off the grid for a period of time well within mission perimeters and were unlikely to become combat casualties in the next 12-24 hours. They were collectively awesome.
Finn liked rescuing people. Especially this specific person.
He liked the way Poe felt tucked up against him.
The last 72 hours were a blur Finn wasn't interested in clarifying or having clarified, at least not before they were back at base. Poe would have to give his own account. Finn would too, eventually, for the official record, but the only outcome that mattered to him tonight was resting beside him.
"I lied, before," Poe said.
"I like stealing TIEs with you. It's one of my favorite things, actually."
Finn smiled, ducked his nose into Poe's messy curls. "We need to work on sticking the touch down."
"We crash. I'm not sure it counts."
"No fatalities so far."
"The first time you thought I'd died. I thought you'd died."
Poe made a snortling noise. He drummed his fingers on Finn's arm, like he was tapping out something in code.
"I'm not sure crashing counts, is all," Finn repeated, wondering how to decipher the message.
Later, if he'd had to, Finn might have claimed shortness of breath had made him say what he said next. He and Poe were in a cave in an ice storm on a hostile planet; they had literally fallen out of the sky in an enemy vehicle. He wouldn't, couldn't be held accountable for any of his actions. He suffered from temporary brain-mouth disconnect.
"Poe," he started.
Poe pulled back to be able to look Finn right in the eyes. Maybe it was the lack of oxygen affecting his perceptions, but Finn could've sworn the faraway dreaminess in Poe's face vanished at that exact second.
"Are you in love with me?" Finn asked.
He half expected a disavowal. He didn't get one.
"Yes," Poe said.
The word blossomed in Finn's mind like a miracle until he noticed Poe's expression change to one decidedly not of joy.
"Okay." Finn pressed forward, working on some masochistic hunch. "Would you have ever said anything if I hadn't asked you point blank?"
A pause, Poe's eyes bright but desolate. He held Finn's gaze. "No."
Had Finn believed there was too little oxygen before? It was nothing to the sensation spreading through him now, one of complete deprivation.
He didn't think Poe had been putting himself in harm's way only so he would rescue him. That part was simply Poe being brave, all instinct and empathy, and Finn was certain Poe would've been like that any week of any year, whether Finn was around to help patch him up and haul him back to safety or not.
But beyond that, Finn had known, he'd known for months, how Poe felt about him, or he'd known some fragment of it. He'd known Poe had pledged himself to him in some way that seemed permanent, unspoken, unobtrusive, unshakable.
Poe asked for nothing, never made any sort of move -- the guys on base were always talking about people and their moves, cue demonstrative eyebrows -- on Finn that seemed predatory or even importuning. Poe had been a good friend, a good man.
Finn had waited, therefore, for what he assumed was a plan Poe had devised, some right moment, some precipitating event. Not a grand declaration or anything, just a gesture that everything Finn thought they might be to each other was clicking into place, and they would be able to be together in a new, different, desired way.
He was just realizing how much he'd wanted that, a reason to tell Poe how he felt too.
He'd forced Poe's hand, and Poe was anything but happy.
Since he'd already ruined their relationship Finn kept going, pushing at the ache in his shoulders and stomach, not out of cruelty but because he needed to know. "Why didn't you want to tell me?"
Poe seemed to discard a number of responses before saying, quietly, "I know people think I'm reckless sometimes. And maybe I am about some things. Not on purpose. But." He looked down, shrank back. Finn missed his warmth instantly. "I never wanted to be reckless with you."
"You haven't been," Finn said, hearing the confusion in his voice echo in that corner of the cave.
Poe was staring at his chafed knuckles -- fuck, why didn't I check his hands for injuries, Finn thought -- but he looked up after a moment, as if to meet him halfway to some inference Finn was scarcely able to suggest.
Finn made what felt like a wild guess. "You haven't been reckless with me. You aren't being reckless with me."
He picked up Poe's right hand and rubbed a soothing thumb across the knuckles. Poe was watching him with an expression venerating and simultaneously heartsick.
Finn's eyes burned. "I feel the exact same way about you," he told Poe.
"Exactly the same."
"Oh." Poe smiled the smallest smile. "Oh."
Finn understood the shaky, almost desperate hopefulness in the smile, in Poe's voice. An identical feeling was loosening the stiffness around his own lungs.
"Well, good," Poe said. He scraped his left heel around on the cave floor like he'd experienced a sharp pain, which he likely had, but did not look away.
"So," Finn said.
"So. I'm really glad you rescued me."
"Me too." Finn almost laughed, but only because he felt like crying for some inexplicable reason.
"We should probably talk, when we're home." Poe sounded shy.
A shy Poe Dameron was nearly too much for Finn's brain to take.
"Yes," he said, smiling slowly. "In the meantime, mind sharing this for the next few hours?" Finn tugged at the thermal blanket until it unfurled the rest of the way like a metallic apparition in the space between them.
He was still trying to better drape Poe and himself with it when Poe answered him, his mouth on Finn's soft until it became clear neither of them needed the kiss to be gentle. Finn abandoned the blanket effort to deepen the kiss instead, hungered, mere degrees from desperate, Poe twisting in his arms to chase him back against the wall. Finn dug his fingertips into Poe's scalp, and the hitch in Poe's breathing, the low rumble of pleasure he made in his throat with Finn's tongue in his mouth, shot through Finn more quickly than adrenaline.
We're still falling out of the sky, he thought. We're learning how to land.