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Levelling Up

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The General told him to take a seat, and Finn did, gingerly. Partly that was because he was still not used to maintaining anything other than command rest in front of a superior officer; partly it was because the welt of scar tissue that slashed across his spine ached if he moved too suddenly. And let's face it, Finn told himself, partly because it was the General. He'd seen her reduce a grown Falleen to tears, and he hadn't even thought that species was biologically capable of crying.

"You wanted to see me, ma'am?" Finn asked. He laced his fingers together in his lap, trying not to fidget. His trust in Rey's ability to take care of herself warred with his knowledge of all the ways in which life could take a sudden turn for the worse; he knew that Poe had promised him that he would always have a place in the Resistance, but Leia Organa wasn't a woman to suffer fools gladly. Finn sat up as straight as his sore back would let him.

"Yes," the General said, setting her datapad to one side. There were dark circles under her eyes and her skin had a jaundiced tinge in the office's poor lighting, but her hair was coiled in neat braids and she was still one of the most present beings that Finn had ever met. "There's something I want to discuss with you—oh, don't give me that look."

"What look, ma'am?" Finn said, fighting back a bright burst of panic that had his breath hiccuping in his chest.

"Like I just kicked your prized Loth-cat," the General said.

"Oh, we were never allowed to have pets, though some of the other troopers would name the dianogas on the sanitation levels," Finn said, then pulled a horrified face because he could hear the words coming out of his mouth but he couldn't seem to stop talking.

"Uh huh." The General's voice was sand-worn, rough and warm, and she sighed as she leaned back in her seat. "It's not anything bad, Finn. I want to make you an offer."

"An offer," Finn repeated carefully. "Is this about whether I'm going to take the post with logistics? Because I told Admiral Statura I'd think ab—"

The General waved a hand dismissively. "No, not that, I already know you're going to take it."

Finn opened his mouth, then closed it. There was probably no point in having the same argument he'd already had—and lost—with Poe and BB-8.

"This is something more personal," the General said. "You know where I'm from?"

"Yes," Finn said. He'd heard the story of Alderaan from the First Order and then again from members of Rogue Squadron. Poe and Jessika had made it all sound much less inevitable, much more immediate, than his instructors ever had: the loss of a people as much as a planet.

"But you don't know where you're from." The General's gaze was serious, keen.

"No," Finn said. The word caught in his throat. Sometimes he did think that he remembered something. There were mornings when he woke up and could have sworn that his fast-fading dreams were really memories—that gentle brown hands had once clung to him while a familiar voice called out a name, high and panicked. The dreams never lingered.

"There are still some Alderaanians left, you know," the General said. "Not many of us. No one who was on the planet. But diplomats, traders, students at off-world universities… enough of us to settle a planet in the Outer Rim and call it New Alderaan. I haven't always seen eye-to-eye with the Council there, let's put it that way, but they still regard me as the head of state."

"Okay," Finn said slowly. "Is this… I have no idea where you're going with this, sorry. Is this you saying you want me to call you Queen-General? General-Queen? I mean, that's fine with me, I'm just not really clear on all the etiquette for something like—"

The General shook her head. "I'm saying that I still have certain powers. I don't use them much, but I have them." She opened one of her desk drawers and pulled out a sheet of thick, creamy paper, a fine-tipped brush and a block of ink. He'd never seen so much real paper before. Except for a few blank spots, the page was mostly covered with a curling, cursive script that Finn couldn't decipher. "One of them is the ability to confer Alderaanian citizenship to those individuals who I think have earned it."

Finn felt his jaw drop.

"You don't have to accept it," the General said, folding her arms on the desktop and leaning forward. "This is just an offer. There are several members of the Resistance who are stateless or who have had their citizenship stripped from them. They've chosen not to do anything about it until the First Order's been defeated. You'd still belong here regardless, just like they do—you don't have to be a citizen of the Republic to help defend it. But if you choose it, you can join us, too."

Finn thought of the way Poe would sometimes stand outside and point up at the night sky. "Yavin 4's that way, buddy. We'll get there one day—show you the sights." Poe always knew that there was one star with special meaning for him. Was that so far-fetched to want for himself—to have?

He blinked. "You—you think that would be okay?"

"I think," the General said very firmly, "that you have earned it."

Finn said, "Yes. Yes, please. I'd like that." He swallowed around the tightness in his throat as the General wet the ink and picked up her brush. Finn watched as she wrote out the date, and the name he'd chosen, and the fact that a whole world full of people out there was willing to choose him, too: a new hope written in careful characters with a steady hand.