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Hello, My Old Heart

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It came apart so quickly, in the end.

The enormous fleet of 14,000 strong came for the battle and stayed for the party, flush with victory and promise, but within two weeks nearly all of them had returned to their homes and their lives and whatever else they put on hold to take down the Sith fleet at Exegol. Finn didn’t know why he was so surprised - why would that many people suddenly enlist in an army, a half-dead barely-functional group of guerrilla fighters living in makeshift tents on a jungle planet in the Outer Rim? After the immediate threat had been neutralized? And yet it was still surprising to see the numbers drop, a sudden void in what had felt like a new beginning.

Poe acted unbothered, though his temper was even shorter than before, and he threw himself (and Finn) and into making plans for a new base and new recruits, carrying on, same as it ever was, to mop up the last of the First Order still holding on to their spoils in the far-flung pockets of the galaxy. No one seemed to have the heart (or the courage) to tell him that there wasn’t any point in that. Finn certainly didn’t.

There were a scant few enlisted pilots left, and next to no supplies after their hospitality of the civilian fleet, but the best part of running with such scrappy fighters was how often they chanced upon unique ideas and unusual opportunities.  Rey was off on a mission of her own, and she’d taken BB-8 with her (a fact that didn’t seem to sit well with Poe, even though Finn had been standing right there when he promised Rey anything of his he had to give), and then Lando took Jannah and her crew on a search through the stars, and in the middle of Poe’s briefing on the three systems they’d chosen for closer inspection to locate a base, the New Republic sent a message from their hastily-formed new headquarters on Ganthel.

They were grateful for the Resistance: their bravery, their tenacity, their victory in the face of impossible odds. Surely the Resistance already knew that without Snoke, or Palpatine, or Ren, or Hux, the remaining leadership had turned on each other like warlords. Surely the Resistance knew that, just this week, the Republic had destroyed a rogue Dreadnought and two Destroyers with a single squadron of X-wings, after the First Order captains had disabled each other’s ships in an internal battle for supremacy. Previously occupied systems have regained their freedom. The Resistance should be proud. This was a propitious day: the war was over. 

In gratitude for their service, the Republic offered generous terms to the extensive number of AWOL pilots who had abandoned their posts to join the Resistance: reinstatement at their previous rank, minor discipline in the form of a letter to file, a short probationary period for re-training, surely you understand how this benefits everyone to move on and rebuild. 

Most of the pilots on the list were dead, some only recently (Poe’s face still fell into dark shadow whenever anyone mentioned Snap), but four remained: Jessika Pava, Kare Kun, C’ai Threnalli, and Poe.

“What happens if you don’t take the deal?” Finn had asked, even though he knew. 

Poe, jaw-clenched and red-faced, hadn’t answered. He knew Finn knew.

Rey returned, briefly, and left again. Poe and Finn discovered that, after Crait, the General had taken on an immense number of loans to pay for supplies and new ships, using only the force of her name and mythic presence as collateral, but now the creditors were starting to send polite inquiries since surely, now, since the war was over? There were donations and contributions here and there, but the debts far outstripped the generosity. 

Finn wasn’t even sure an official decision to disband was properly made or issued. Time and inevitability were flowing, and they all flowed along with it. Slowly, in a trickling stream that turned into a river, the remaining Resistance soldiers and support staff and medical personnel shuttled off Ajan Kloss and back into the world, wondering what to do next, regaining their lives. 

Once the pilots left for Ganthel, things became very quiet.

Eventually, there were only Connix (whose loyalty to General Organa demanded she see it through to the final, endless end), Finn, a handful of droids, and a list of equipment to sell. 

They were long days, nearly as long as his monotonous shifts on the Finalizer , but Finn found himself enjoying this new form of monotony. Even if he was working on an endless task, it was at his own pace, and he found that his muscles liked stacking crates instead of manning guns. His brain liked making lists and doing sums, rather than the constant anxiety of life-or-death decisions and battle tactics. And in the hours he spent cataloging and packing and shipping and subtracting, he could ignore the gaping maw of impending uncertainty that, once the last crate was packed and the last droid sold, he had nowhere else to go.

Finally, finally, after a long day of chasing numbers that didn’t quite add up, Finn stumbled to his cot (he’d moved it into one of the storage caves, after the tents were sold) and collapsed onto it face-down, groaning a little as his muscles relaxed.  He kicked his feet, gently at first and then more frantically, to try to remove his boots without having to sit back up and untie the laces, but they remained firmly stuck to his feet. He swore into his pillow, then slowly, blearily, sat back up on his cot to untie his bootlaces. 

He had just thrown the left boot as far away as he could manage (he knew he would regret that in the morning, but he wanted to throw something and it was better than throwing something on the sale list), and was gleefully anticipating the comfort of his lumpy, hole-ridden, dust-covered bed when his videocomm signal beeped.

Finn opened one eye and looked at it. It sat innocently on the crate that served as a bedside table, and then beeped again. “Don’t answer it,” he told himself. “Don’t do it. Don’t. Why are you doing this?” as he saw his hand reach out, unbidden, without permission, to answer the comm. “Why do you do this to yourself? What’s wrong with you?”

“Hey, sorry, is this a bad time?” 

Finn looked up and blinked. Suddenly, there was Poe. The signal was poor and full of static, and the faded blue light never captured his features well, but he seemed to be more amused than offended at hearing the last of Finn’s tirade toward himself. 

Poe was sitting down, fully facing the camera, at an empty desk that Finn assumed was in his barracks. A small, empty glass sat beside his hands, half out of view. His hair was cut close to his scalp, a little longer than the last time Finn had seen him but still regulation length, no more wild curls. He was still wearing his uniform, but unbuttoned and lightly hanging on his shoulders, more like a light jacket over a plain shirt. His gold bars were barely visible that way, but Finn caught a flash of metal on his collar as Poe adjusted closer to the lens.

“Poe!” Finn beamed. “How are you?”

“I know I’m comming a little late,” said Poe, sidestepping the question. “I took a chance you’d still be up, but you look beat to hell. Did I wake you up?”

“No, no,” said Finn, rubbing his face with his hands. “I’m awake. I’m awa-” an enormous yawn split the word in two. 

Poe laughed. “Sorry, buddy. Get some sleep. We can talk another time.”

“No! No, I’m fine,” Finn insisted. He adjusted the comm screen on the bedside crate so he could sit more comfortably at the edge of his cot. “It’s good to see you.”

“Good to see you, too, pal,” said Poe. He leaned back in his chair and, surprisingly, it was the movement that caught out the hollowness of his eyes, and something dark blooming on his left cheekbone. He looked exhausted, and a little thin. Finn opened his mouth to point it out, but Poe continued on. “How are things? You still on track to leave for Rey's Temple next Primeday?”

“Uh-huh,” said Finn. “Just some loose ends and random stuff. And a really annoying droid.”

“Oh man, poor Threepio,” laughed Poe. “What are you going to do with him?”

“I don’t know!” said Finn. It had been A Conundrum, really, the last one to solve. “Do you want him?”

“Hell no,” said Poe. Then his eyes widened, “Wait, he’s not right there, is he?”

“No, he’s not here,” said Finn. “He powers down in the command center. Likes to be the first one up every morning.”

“Ugh, I remember," said Poe. "Damn. Does Rey need a protocol droid? Maybe he can help with local customs when she's out hunting for baby Jedi."

"I asked her," said Finn, "and she probably could use something like that, but she also reminded me how much time Jedi spend meditating…"

Poe laughed, and mechanized his voice with Threepio’s particular lilting cadence. "Master Rey, I am familiar with all 8,000 known meditation practices across the galaxy, which I will recite to you now, but not in geographic or aurebesh order, it will be in the order in which they were developed in history, according to the High Republic's calendar of course, which in turn was modified from the Corellian Symposium…"

“Stop!” Finn’s laughter echoed through the stone roof of the cave. “I get enough of that here!”

"Poor Threepio," Poe shook his head. "The droid’s a damn war hero, of three different wars, and nobody wants him. It was probably my responsibility to take him, Leia looked after him for years. But protocol droids aren’t exactly standard issue for grunt pilots here."

"I know. It's okay, we'll find him a good home," said Finn. "Connix will probably take him, she's talking about setting up some kind of consulting business on Coruscant. Or maybe he can work for someone’s office in the new Senate."

"I think he’d like that," said Poe. "How is Connix? How's the base? Looks pretty empty."

"Yeah, there's not much left," said Finn. "It's just Connix, me, and a few droids. Rose and Beaumont left last Benduday." After much convincing, and promising to visit, and promising he would eat, and promising he would look after the droids, and promising she was a hero, and promising she wasn’t abandoning the Resistance, and promising he would write, Rose finally agreed to go home to what remained of her family. She had clutched her medallion until her knuckles turned white as she walked onto the transport, D-O trailing beside her, and had commed him every day with reminders and memories, until finally she let a few days lapse. Her next comm was full of apologies, but there was a lightness in her eyes that Finn had never seen before. He was happy for her. He missed her.

"At least you get dibs on all the good stuff."

Finn chuckled. "There's really not any good stuff left. That was kind of the point of selling everything."

"All the sugar in your caf, then, just for you."

"We ran out of that a while ago. It's fine," Finn added hurriedly when he saw the shadow cross Poe's face. "I'm starting to like it bitter. There’s just no point in ordering more supplies when we’re down to the last days here. We have enough to get by. Still better than ration bars and energy gel."

Poe sighed, and rubbed his temple, just above the dark patch that Finn thought, if he squinted through the static and the flattening blue light, looked rather like a bruise. A large one. Possibly with a darker gash in the middle, scabbed over, across the bone. 

“Hey, Poe, what’s that on your-”

“I’m sorry you’re having to deal with all this, buddy,” Poe cut over him. “I shouldn’t have left.”

“Uh, you didn’t really have a choice,” Finn shrugged. 

“There’s always a choice. I could have-”

“Stayed to do the boring logistics stuff, which you hate? Which you’re kind of bad at?”

“Hey! I’m not that bad-”

“And then, spend the next five years sitting in a cell waiting for your court martial? That’s stupid,” Finn cut him off. “You did exactly what you told all the other pilots to do. They wouldn’t have gone if you hadn’t.”

“Yeah, well, it’s different-”

“It’s not,” Finn cut him off again. This old familiar dance, this argument they had every time Poe commed the base. He wished he could say he was tired of it, but truly, it was the only other thing that really made him feel useful anymore. “You still had six years in. Six years, where you still get to fly X-Wings and show off all your hotshot bullshit, and get paid doing it, and hang out with Jess and Kare, and not get shot at every day? Versus, I don’t know, what would you do instead? Smuggle weapons for the Hutts on the Outer Rim in some junk freighter, or transporting bilaberries and frozen nerf until you get arrested by some bounty hunter? And then sit in the court martial cell for five years? Come on.”

Poe sighed, shaking his head. “I know.” He reached off-screen and opened a nearly-empty bottle of dark-colored liquid, pouring the glass full. He tipped the bottle toward Finn, an I’d-share-if-you-were-here sort of offering, before he recapped it and drank half the glass in one swallow. “You’re right. I know.”

“Show of good faith,” Finn reminded him. “The Resistance was only ever about beating the First Order, not about sowing discord among the democratically elected-”

“I know, I know. Okay,” Poe cut in, sighing out a laugh. “Okay. Thank you, General. It’s still not fair that you got stuck doing this part.”

“I’m good at logistics,” Finn shrugged. “I can stack crates and check off lists. Plus, it’s got a nice balance to it. Even if I wasn’t here at the beginning, or maybe not fully here in the middle, I made it through to the end, right?”

“Right. You’re right.” Poe rubbed a hand over his face, and drank the rest of the glass.

“How’s Jess?”

“She’s a pain in my ass.”

“And Kare?”

“Her too.”

Finn laughed again. His cheeks were starting to hurt from smiling, overuse after a long period of seriousness. “They letting you fly anywhere fun yet? Or is it still just transport convoys?”

“Still boring,” said Poe, looking down and to the left. He fidgeted a bit, and then continued, without looking up, “I’m actually getting a bit of leave soon."

“Really? Already?” Finn perked up. “That’s great!”

“Yeah, it was supposed to be next month, but it...moved up.” Poe was still looking away, edgy and evasive, but Finn knew he’d blurt out everything he was avoiding sooner rather than later, so he let the silence fill and waited. “So I’m getting a few days. I’m going to Yavin.”

Finn blinked. He had been about to ask if Poe wanted to meet him at Rey’s temple on Kamparas. Having his two best friends, together, in the same place, one more time...He was starting to suspect the aching in his stomach was not, in fact, soreness from sudden bouts of laughter but that other type of ache he got in the silent, empty days after talking to Poe. “Yavin? Oh, to see your dad?”

“Yeah. He’s been bugging me since Exegol. Well, before that, really. I haven’t gone home in a while.”

“Home,” Finn tested the word. It was such a comfortable word, which surprised him, given how little experience he actually had with the concept. How could a word convey comfort, if you didn’t really know what a home was? “That sounds nice. I’ve never been to a home. Not that this isn’t a kind of home,” Finn rambled hurriedly, rushing ahead of Poe’s worry like escaping a wave. “Like, I’m fine here. I’m totally fine. Just, you know, a little house? Where just a family lives? That kind of home? That sounds nice. You should do that.”

Poe went suddenly, strangely quiet. He glanced up at the comm camera, met Finn’s eyes for the briefest of moments, then looked away again. “You could meet me there, if you wanted?”

“Really?” 

“Yeah. It’s sort of on the way to Kamparas.” Poe shrugged, still refusing to meet Finn’s eyes for more than a brief glance. “It’s not much...my dad’s house, I mean. We’re not-- it’s nothing fancy. But Yavin IV is pretty, and it’s warm, and you’ve probably never been on a real vacation before.”

“I’d love to,” said Finn. “I really would. That sounds great.” It really did. “But you sure your dad won’t mind? I don’t want to get in the way of your time together.”

“Nah, he won’t mind,” said Poe, and Finn didn’t entirely believe him but also didn’t entirely care. “You sure Rey won’t mind you delaying your arrival?”

“No, why would she?”

“Well, it was only supposed to be two months, and now it’s nearly six…”

“It’s fine, she’s got more than enough to do setting things up for her students,” said Finn. “And I’m not really good at meditating.”

“Well, I’m sure she misses you. And I’m sure you miss her.” Poe was looking away from the camera again, at the bottle hidden off-screen.

“Of course,” Finn shrugged. “But I miss you, too.”

Poe smiled, a soft little one. “I miss you too, buddy. Really? You’ll come?”

“Yes!” Finn laughed a little. He hadn’t had anything to be excited about in a long time. “What’s it like?”

“Kind of like Ajan Kloss, it’s a jungle, but the animals and trees are different. There are a lot more flowers. It rains all the time, so there’s a ton of rivers and waterfalls.”

“Sounds great. Sounds awesome,” said Finn, bouncing his foot a little with excitement.

“You really want to go?”

“I really, really want to go. Yes.” Finn grinned. “Yes, I do.”

Poe smiled again. “Okay, so, how do we get you there? I’d offer to come pick you up, but that’d add a whole day of travel and I only have four. Can I charter you a shuttle?”

“Oh, you don’t have to do that,” Finn started to say before he realized that, well, he had no idea how else he would get there. He was learning a lot about the way galactic trade patterns and bulk sale of off-market goods took place, but there were plenty of banal, everyday tasks in civilian life that he still had no idea how to navigate. “I mean, I guess. If you don’t mind?”

“I don’t mind. I’ll take care of everything. Just be ready to go on Zhellday, okay? That’s when I’m shipping out. I’ll send you the exact pickup time when I book it.”

“Okay.” Finn’s cheeks were definitely hurting now, from all the smiling, but he didn’t mind. The stomachache was letting up, too, turning into something lighter and bubblier. “Okay, great. Thanks, Poe.”

“I’ll see you in a few days, okay?” Poe was smiling widely too, now. “Get some sleep. Tell Connix I say hi.”

“Okay. Bye, Poe.”

“Bye, Finn.”